by Ron Vitale
Back in November 2011, I participated in the Indie Book Collective's Blog Tour de Troops promotion that consisted of several dozen writers who gave Smashwords coupons for a free ebook version of your book to readers who left comments on our blogs in support of U.S. troops. I had stumbled across a tweet advertising that the IBC promotion would be starting in a few weeks and I decided to sign up. The $25 entry fee would be put toward a Kindle that would be given away in a drawing to one random reader who had signed up for the IBC newsletter during the promotion or left a comment on one of the participating author blogs.
Once signed up for the promotion, I wrote a blog post for the promotion with mentions for the writer who came before me on the tour and the person to come after me. That way readers could easily visit the official IBC site and see the full list of all the authors participating or find books on an author's website. Having never participated in such a promotion before, I was warned to be prepared for the flood of traffic coming to my site. Thankfully, I listened. For the holiday weekend, I received a flood of comments on my blog with readers telling me such amazing stories about their loved ones who were serving in the armed forces. I wrote back to each and every one thanking them for posting on my blog and then sending them a Smashwords coupon for my book Cinderella's Secret Diary. To date, I gave out 114 coupons and 105 have been redeemed.
Did I earn any money from this campaign? No. So why did I participate? I learned two extremely important lessons from the IBC Blog Tour de Troops promotion: The event was a great way to network with fellow writers and also a wonderful way to interact with potential readers. I saw the $25 fee as part of my marketing campaign to help drum up interest about my book.
I found the promotion to be of such value that I signed up for the IBC's "12 Days of Christmas Blowout" that took place between December 12-24, 2011. For the Christmas event, 145 authors (with approximately 200 books available) came together to lower their books on Amazon for $.99. By working together using social media, blogs and the IBC's mailing list, we were marketed to tens of thousands of people. The cost? Option 1 was $25 and to be a premium participant the fee was $50. I chose the premium option to make certain that my book was highlighted at the top of the IBC webpage during the promotion in my genre.
For the first few days of the event, I had a hard time keeping up with my email. With 145 writers working together, there was a lot of discussion regarding the event. Day 1 I received approximately 60 email, day 2 more than 110. Whereas the Blog Tour de Troops event last November put me in touch with readers, the flood of email during the Christmas event was with fellow authors. My connecting with actual readers was extremely limited. With my book being listed on day 1, the first email blast that was sent out to those on the IBC mailing list, advertised that my book and those of around 12 others would be on sale for $.99. To help spread the word about the event, I also tweeted, put notices on my Facebook fan page and sent out a notice to my followers via a Goodreads event. And the other authors involved in day 1 did the same. What were the results? Mixed.
From December 12-24, I sold the following for my book Cinderella's Secret Diary:
Amazon Kindle version: 44 copies at $.99 each. For each ebook sold, I earned 35% ($.35) for a total of $15.40.
Indirectly, traffic from the event did drive up interest for the Nook version (also priced at $.99 during the 12 Days of Christmas blowout): 6 copies at $.99 each. For each Nook version sold, I earned 40% ($.40) for a total of $2.40.
Let's add everything up:
Blog Tour de Troops event (Nov. 2011): $25
12 Days of Christmas Blowout premium fee (Dec. 2011): $50
Total expenditure for two IBC events in Nov. and Dec.: $75
Total sales: $17.80
After all is added up, I was $57.20 in the negative. Not good. There are several ways to look at the data I'm sharing there. Email blasts via a newsletter do not necessarily convert to sales. If I look at the December 2011 event, I spent $50 and did not earn back the money I invested. I see 44 Amazon sales in 12 days as decent number, but that translates into very little profit when earning only $.35 per ebook sold. To complicate matters, Amazon launched their KDP Select program right before the December "12 Days of Christmas Blowout" promotion.
Looking at all the learned, the money I spent for the December IBC event did enable me to network with 145 writers. We quickly learned that replying to "all" on an email chain only created a lot of headaches for everyone. The IBC did set up a Yahoo Group approximately two days into the event to help foster better communication, but, in retrospect, that group needed to have been set up in advance of the promotion.
With working a full-time job, raising two young kids, I'm thankful that my wife was so supportive that I could come home at night and plow through the 100 plus emails. The Yahoo Group did solve a problem, but some authors didn't sign up to the group so they dropped off the discussion.
Yet in looking at the numbers, my book rose to #45 in books > Romance > Gothic on Amazon. I went from 164,871 on Amazon to around 12,700 for all of Amazon. That's a big jump for a small investment. But, remember, that jump did not translate into high sales.
However, the November 2011 Blog Tour de Troops event was a great way for me to reach out to readers and build up my mailing list, but I did not make any money from the event as I just gave out free coupons to be redeemed on Smashwords. Even with giving the book away, over 3 days, I only gave away 114 books.
Each promotion taught me something different and that's what I wanted to share here. With the November blog tour, I connected with readers, but not so much with writers. I would have liked to have had a forum (personally, I like Ning communities over Yahoo or Facebook) to discuss what I learned with my fellow authors. The same is true for the December 2011 IBC event: With so little time, being able to go back over posts in a Ning community forum would have been extremely useful. As a sidenote, I did set a Ning community up for all of the authors participating in the event but was asked by IBC co-founder to change the name of the group or to please take the site down. Because I couldn't change the name due to an inability to do that in Ning, I had to shut the community down after two days. Still, IBC did come through and create a Yahoo Group for everyone. With these bumps aside, better communication tools are needed to enhance collaboration among the many writers who participate in such large events.
Having a common forum to populate (marked private) that would be set up in advance, would allow each author to add to their profile:
- Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Blog listings
- Suggested tags for Amazon
- Links to their books
- Easy way to email individual authors
I will end on the following: Before signing up for any promotional tour/event, be certain you know what you're getting in return. Will you receive reports from the organizer on how many email blasts, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. will be sent out and anonymous data on access/usage? If gifts are being given away (free Kindle to a random reader or gift cards to readers), how can you find the list of the winners after the event? Will the organizers set up a group community for communication for the authors involved in the event or is that not in their sphere of responsibilities?
Knowing what you're getting into and what to expect in return, will allow you to know if an event is right for you. I learned a lot from the two IBC events I participated in. No, they didn't translate into amazing sales for me, but I met a good many readers and authors. Would I do an event like this again? Honestly, probably not. I spent a lot of time for very little return. Having better connections now with writers and readers, I could have coordinated a similar campaign on my own with fellow authors for no money. Now I know better and wanted to share this information all with you. Granted other authors had different experiences and their success rates--some were worse and some were better than mine.
If you have participated in a blog tour or a similar type of an event, please share your information here so we can all learn from your experience. Thank you.