Author Topic: A Mini Guide to Launch Promo Services - Sites You Can Use for New Releases  (Read 13551 times)  

Offline Nicholas Erik

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Last updated May 1, 2017.

This is a brief guide to promo services meeting the following criteria:

A) they can be used to launch your new book
B) they do not require previous reviews
C) they aren't ridiculously priced for the results they provide

You can also use these sites for older books that have few/no existing reviews. If you want more (real) Amazon reviews, I wrote a mini guide to that here.

This is not a complete list (assembling one would be impossible and overwhelming), but it includes the major options, along with my personal, unfiltered commentary.

I'm normally a big proponent of pursuing either pure ROI or mailing list sign-ups when shelling out for advertising, but launching is different. You essentially want to build a massive sales pyre, then hope that Amazon's algorithms come in with a flamethrower to ignite the whole thing. Do this, and your book becomes "sticky," in the parlance of the boards. Thus, services that wouldn't make sense in other contexts become useful, because more sales during the launch window = a better chance of catching the algorithms' notice.

Why Should I Even Launch?

The launch is kind of like "free money" on Amazon. Your book isn't DOA if you don't hit it, but they provide certain advantages (emails, visibility lists, algorithm benefits) that make getting off on the right foot a good idea. Dumping the same amount - or more - into a promo stack six months down the line just won't have the same effect that it does in the first month of release.

What's the line where Amazon starts magically pushing your book? This question can't really be answered, but it seems that you need to sell 250+ copies in a week for the algorithms to pick up and notice (note: this was originally estimated as 100 copies; I now believe it's much higher for most genres). There are obvious exceptions to this rough rule - and KU borrows skew this - but that's a solid benchmark to aim for. I sold 110 of a space opera and 150 of an urban fantasy book and didn't get sticky, so the "sticky threshold" is dependent on the competitiveness of your sub-genre - I'd say aim for the Top 20 of your sub-genre, preferably Top 10. You can reverse-engineer how many sales it will take by looking at rankings of the top charting books. More important than the pure # of sales seems to be the quality of the also-boughts. Thus, advertising in lists that cater to your genre can be a huge boon to your fledgling book's prospects. E.g. 50 sales on a "general" promo site might not be as good as 30 on a genre site.

That's just speculation based on analyzing all the major launches coming through KBoards + my own data. Amazon's algorithm is a black box, so it's kinda hard to determine what's going on. As a brief aside, if you're launching to nudge Amazon's algorithms, stagger your promos. Their algorithms seem to like consistent sales across a number of days, typically 3 - 10, rather than massive spikes on a single day and then nothing. Sometime after day 3 is when the also-boughts tend to kick in. If it's gonna happen, the heavy-lifting from the algos kicks in a little bit after that.

How Much Should I Spend?

This can get expensive. I've seen some authors spend as much as $500 - $1000/day on ads during the launch window. This isn't strictly necessary by any means, but it's important to keep in mind that many of the authors - be they trad pub or indie - dominating the high ranks spend a fair amount on advertising. Of course, there are others who spend basically nothing. Building a robust (or other platform - e.g. Facebook) can cut down on your launch/marketing expenditures significantly.

Promo Sites w/ No Review Requirements

These aren't offered with any sort of ranking.  I'm merely listing them out here with approximate prices that are (relatively) current as of 10/10/16.

Mailing list (free): some of you don't have one, but this is the best way to rocket up the charts + launch your latest books. 15 - 25 sales from your list in conjunction with some of the sites below can push you up into the top 1000, with a little planning and luck. Learn how to get your first 1,000 email subscribers in this free step-by-step guide.

Bargain Booksy ($25 - $70): I usually get around 10 - 25 sales from Bargain Booksy @ $0.99. Lead time = 3 - 5 days.
FKBT ($25): sold 12 of a YA box in 2015, a genre that's typically a tough sell. Lead time = 4 -6 weeks.
Sweet Free Books ($7): good results, especially on a price-rated basis. Lead time = 2 - 5 days.
BKNights ($5.50): will muck with your also-boughts, but usually good for 5+ sales, depending on your placement. Lead time = 5 - 7 days.

Other Sites w/ No Review Requirements, but Less Concrete Data on My End

Read Cheaply ($25 - $35): didn't separate this out for my space opera release; for a month old free UF novel I got 395 free downloads for $35. Lead time = 1 - 2 weeks
eBookBetty ($18): Formerly Betty Book Freak. I didn't separate this out, so I can't tell. But usually good for 5+ sales. Lead time = 5 days to 1+ week.
E Book Hounds ($10): didn't separate this out for my space opera release. Lead team = 1 - 2 weeks
Genre Pulse ($17 - $40): didn't separate this out for my space opera release; pricey, given results I've gotten in the past for other books. Lead time = 1+ week
Booktastik ($10): used in conjunction with Book Raid on space opera - 10 sales for the day, although I can't tell you the split. Lead time = 1+ week
ChoosyBookworm ($20): used in conjunction with Read Freely - 14 sales for the day, although I can't tell you the split. Lead time = 1 - 2 weeks.
Book Raid (price based on # clicks): Allows new releases with no reviews, although submissions are subject to approval. Lead time: 3 - 7 days.
ILVN ($70): for UF/PNR. Haven't used them for a launch, but they do accept new releases w/o reviews.


These have review requirements of sorts, but not for the new book itself:


ENT($30): they will accept new release books with no reviews with reasonable covers/blurbs. It helps if you have an established series with a few reviews. They will often accept books with few reviews (less than five), even without an established series.
BookSends ($25 - $50): BookSends will accept new releases if you have previous books with reviews.
Fussy Librarian ($10 - $20): need a previous book with 10 Amazon reviews with a 4.0 average
Book Barbarian ($35 for a free book; $20 for $0.99): previous book with 50+ Amazon reviews (fantasy/sci-fi only)

If you're launching at free (no reviews required):

FreeBooksy ($70): usually good for 1000+ downloads, often upwards of 1500.
BKNights ($5.50): usually pushes 100 - 400 copies; more if you happen to get picked up by some sites
Genre Pulse ($40 w/ newsletter option): I got 300 clicks on my link; pricey, but can push you towards the top 100

No longer recommended

At one point, these were on the recommended list, but they've been bumped off. Explanations below.

GenreCrave Book Blast (formerly Hungry Author) ($299 - $499): I no longer recommend this, as some of the sales are generated via gifting (read these posts - 1, 2, 3, 4 - for more details). The order page is deliberately vague about how the sales are generated; to put it bluntly, this gifting stuff does not thrill me for both ROI and Amazon TOS reasons (especially since I spent $1500+ on Book Blasts before I learned this).

To be clear, the owner/employees have always been gracious and fair to me, but I just can't recommend it after learning this information. I'm mentioning it because it's extremely popular (booked months in advance). As such, you might be considering it. Sales generated via gifting are worthless for also-boughts/sell-through/a tail. After reviewing my data in light of the thread above, it suggests that, wherever the sales are coming from, the readers are not high quality. The results have also been subpar on an ROI basis; I sold around ~150 copies each for two Mega Blasts ($499) and 75 copies for a standard blast ($299) all in 2017 - all urban fantasy books, which is GC's wheelhouse. Zero stickiness.

BooksButterfly ($70): got around 11 sales from this last time I used it on a space opera book (Sept 2016). The owner has always been gracious and professional with me, but there are numerous complaints on the forum about subpar customer service experiences. There's also some concern about the "guaranteed" sales for some of the site's promo packages, which raises red flags. Unfortunately, given the ROI and other factors, I would recommend steering clear.

Author Cross Promo

Patty's Cross Promo for SF/Fantasy (free)
Renee Pawlish's Cross Promo for Mystery/Thriller Authors/Thriller (free)
Other author cross promo (free): Patty's promos have been an integral part of many of the recent successful launches on KBoards. I think the reason is simple: quality, relevant also-boughts. Some authors have built their releases around these, and it's paid off well. Putting it around day 3 - 7 seemed to really ignite things.

EB Brown's Mega Mailing List/Facebook Freebie promos ($15 & $10, respectively.) - The first option is for building your mailing list. I've seen her promos be an integral part of people's launches. The latter option is for free titles, and for generating KU borrows + free downloads (you don't have to be KDP exclusive to join; obviously your book has to be free, though).

Cross promotion via another author's email list (free): this requires networking, but we saw Chris Fox do this to tremendous effect in DESTROYER's launch. The author should be in the same genre. Cold-emailing random authors who are selling more than you and offering nothing in return is a poor strategy. Effective networking takes time and is usually a byproduct of other organic interactions (re: normal, non-business stuff) over the course of a year or two. Being a real human being generally helps.

Pay-per-click options

Facebook PPC (variable): a potential money pit, but great for generating relevant also-boughts and often cheaper than the newsletter services above on a per sale basis. Minimum $5/day spend.

Amazon Marketing Services (variable): same as FB: untapped potential for also-boughts/launches, but be careful with your budget (although it's pretty difficult to get Amazon to spend your money). No one has really cracked them - yet (or they're not sharing).

BookBub PPC (variable): not to be confused with their legendary Featured Deals. Like the other forms of PPC, these can get very expensive - but they also allow you to hit your target readership like a laser. Just watch the daily budgets.

Non-fiction

Buck Books: apparently they're second to only BookBub in non-fiction, and they will run new releases. It looks like you have to contact them to be considered, rather than entering a submission form. You also have a better chance of being accepted if you bought your cover from Archangel Ink. I'm unsure on fees/lead-time, as I've never used their service.

Things that seem to do very little that I've seen mentioned on KBoards:

Amazon follows (free): I acquired about ~1500 of these (based on # of entries) from giveaways for eBooks. When the emails went out, I saw zero sales. Organic follows might work better, but I have my doubts as Amazon is a bit unreliable about sending out the alerts.

BookBub follows (free): sent out to 166 followers. 1 sale that day. If you have more, it might move the needle.

Getting Reviews & Other Options

Already linked at the top, but if you missed it and want to expand your promo options, check out this comprehensive mini guide. Once you have more reviews, check out my curated list of promo sites.

Launch Threads

If you're wondering how you should plan your launch, these threads detailing successful launches - many into the top 1k - are incredible resources that I recommend reading from cover-to-cover. I do plan on doing a "Launch Blueprint" thread at some point, covering much of the information within - but I have to actually put together a few successful sticky ones in a row before I can do that.

Engineering a Bestseller (Domino Finn's UF post that kicked off the UF trend)

How I Got My Best Release Ever (J.A. Cipriano explains how he got his new UF series in the top 500)

Overnight Success: It Only Took Me 17 Years (Sonya Bateman's UF post about how she launched into the top 1000)

Funnel experiment: new release (Lady Gargoyle details how she hit the Top 100 in the Kindle Store with a standalone fantasy book, and via some clever cross-selling, revived a book in a completely different series and got it into the Top 1000.)

How I Sold a Load of Books (Finally) (Al K. Line details how he stuck in the top 600 with his new UF book Black Spark, after 19 releases that didn't do much)

Epic fantasy book launch pwtucker unveils how he got an epic fantasy book sticky around 1,000, and then doubled his sales/income with the launch of Book 2 in the follow-up thread

Slow-burn launch for stickiness (Aimee did a great job spacing out the launch for stickiness; great details + chart)

Can I break 1,000 launching Book 2? (Aimee returns for the sequel to HALF-WOLF with another great launch post...and spoiler, she broke 1,000)

Can you write a good book in 21 days? I'm about to find out. Destroyer is live. (Chris Fox's now-classic post on how he wrote the space opera novel DESTROYER in 21 days, then proceeded to launch it into the top 250...and get sticky in the top 1k for a month)

Coming Back to Life - The Launch Thread You Weren't Really Asking For (Rob Cornell explains how he launched a book, on a limited budget, into the top 3k and got it sticky around 5k at $2.99; I interrupt at random points with details on my own idiotic experiment that somehow got sticky)

YA Fantasy Launch - Can I Move Up From Prawny To... (Megan Crewe details how she launched a standalone YA novel into the top 1,000, launched with 50+ reviews and ran a killer pre-order bonus campaign that generated 500+ pre-orders)

My debut novel is knocking on the door of 1k (2017) (wingsandwords details how her debut urban fantasy novel broke the top 700)

Breaking down an Amazon Bestseller Launch (2017) (Six figure author Chris Fox details his latest Top 250 launch)

Hopefully this was helpful for those trying to structure a launch promo, but struggling with review barriers. If you'd like to qualify for more sites and not worry about reviews (here's a thread about promo sites that work), you can check out my guide about how to get Amazon reviews.

If anyone has anything to add, please let me know. This guide is purely for new releases that have no reviews. I realize that many sites have a low review barrier (5 reviews or so). These can often be added later during the first month of release, as organic and ARC reviews trickle in.

Nick
« Last Edit: May 18, 2017, 10:06:22 PM by Nicholas Erik »

Offline vault2008

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I'm priming the release of my first book and I think this will be very helpful. Thank you so much.

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Offline FFJ

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Thanks for the very helpful info, per usual.

Greatly appreciated.

Offline Ebooksforfreeinc.

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Consider adding us to your list - we do not have review requirements either - we study the book itself if it has no reviews to decide whether to post it or not.  The book must be free or 99c though.

http://ebooksforfreeinc.com/

Offline Patty Jansen

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Consider adding us to your list - we do not have review requirements either - we study the book itself if it has no reviews to decide whether to post it or not.  The book must be free or 99c though.

http://ebooksforfreeinc.com/

Just a note: ONE popup for the whole site will do! And the same with those annoying moving sliders.

Online -alex-

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I'm getting closer to launching my YA PNR. So, thank you for this!

Offline juliatheswede

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Great guide, Nicholas. Thanks for putting it together. ENT told me they actually do new releases, and they featured my thriller Jan 1st of this year (the book had only been out 4 days). It did have two reviews,  but I don't think they expected that. Maybe the fact that I had other books out with several reviews made a difference for them to accept my book (much faster than normal). Anyway, it's worth shooting ENT an email and asking them if they can run your book.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2016, 09:04:11 PM by juliatheswede »

Offline BVLawson

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Julia, was the new release that ENT featured a freebie, discounted, or full price?


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Offline juliatheswede

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Julia, was the new release that ENT featured a freebie, discounted, or full price?
It was discounted from $3.99 to $0.99.

Offline BVLawson

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Thanks! I figured it was discounted - I'm still struggling with whether to launch my next book at a discount for all, for such newsletter subscribers, or launch it at full price (at several folks have done here in the Kboards).


Scott Drayco series named Best Mystery in the Next Generation Indie Awards & a Shamus Award Finalist
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Offline Nicholas Erik

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Consider adding us to your list - we do not have review requirements either - we study the book itself if it has no reviews to decide whether to post it or not.  The book must be free or 99c though.

http://ebooksforfreeinc.com/

I'll test your site during my latest new release ad lineup in mid-June. If the results are reasonable, then I'll add you to the list.

@BVLarson: if you want to launch at full price, most of these ad sites are out - or the results will be so muted that it's probably not worth buying the ad at all. Granted, the latter point hasn't been confirmed by me, as I've never run promo on a book priced over $0.99. Just evidence from the boards that suggests running a promo site ad for an indie book at $1.99+ doesn't work that well.

You need a fairly robust and responsive email list to launch at full price, or close to it (e.g $2.99). If you're interested in doing so, listen to Mark Dawson's most recent podcast, where he launched his 9th John Milton book, THE JUNGLE, at $4.99 - a $1 discount from his normal price of $5.99. He details all his strategies and what he did to launch the book into the top 100 on Amazon.

Note: his list is 50,000+ so that obviously helps.

http://www.selfpublishingformula.com/spf-013-how-to-launch-a-book/

Nick
« Last Edit: May 29, 2016, 03:55:22 PM by Nicholas Erik »

Offline AlexaKang

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Thanks Nicholas!

One question: FKBT "New Release" option, and other sites that may promote "new releases", what if your new release is a later book in your series? Do you ever promote that? The chorus/echo chamber everywhere is to not promote any book other than Book 1. So if a series say has 10 books, then that author will never be able to take advantage of the "new release" option for any promo sites. What do you think about that?

Offline Nicholas Erik

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Thanks Nicholas!

One question: FKBT "New Release" option, and other sites that may promote "new releases", what if your new release is a later book in your series? Do you ever promote that? The chorus/echo chamber everywhere is to not promote any book other than Book 1. So if a series say has 10 books, then that author will never be able to take advantage of the "new release" option for any promo sites. What do you think about that?

TLDR: which book you promote depends on whether your series needs to be read in order.

For FKBT in particular, the site owner generally will only promote the first book. There are exceptions, but that's the general "rule" on most sites if your series is told in a serial, linear style a la The Hunger Games, Game of Thrones or The Lord of the Rings. These books must be read in order, otherwise they don't make sense (or the reading experience is heavily impacted). I believe your series falls in this category. In that case, a promo stack on Book 1 w/ a link in the description to the discounted new release is effective (and notify your list, of course, of the new release).

The exception, of course, is where you have a series a la Jack Reacher, Robert Langdon (Da Vinci Code) Travis McGee or ...In Death. These are standalones that star the same character(s) - think Law and Order, right, where you can catch a one-off episode and be totally fine. In the case of Jack Reacher/Robert Langdon, the character remains similar over the course of the series. In Travis McGee and ...In Death, the characters change + grow, but these backstory elements aren't crucial to understanding the core narrative.

In that case, you can promote the later books in your series. This is an underused tactic for indies, but one that works tremendously well. You see Wayne Stinnett do this well - he's run BookBubs for a number of the titles in his series. His Jesse McDermitt character draws inspiration from Travis McGee. Same with Mark Dawson and his John Milton character, which definitely draws on classic thriller characters like Jack Reacher.

Sites will run these standalone books as new releases, so long as you make it clear that they are standalones. That being said, by the time you have a series of 10 books, hopefully your mailing list is strong enough to launch without needing the 100 - 200 sales these sites typically provide - or you at least have a little extra money to devote to some heavier artillery (i.e. Facebook or BookBub ads).

If your book is a standalone, as defined above, you can run a heavy promo stack on Book 1 + a new release promo stack on the latest book, thus amplifying the effects. For example, I ran a BookBub in December on a 1 - 3 series box set and advertised the just-released 4 - 6 box set for $0.99 in the description + did a $400+ promo stack on the 4 - 6 box. Result was 1500+ sales the first month for the 4 - 6 box. This on a series not remotely written to market.

Nick

Offline Mark E. Cooper

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Because all my series are well along now, I am launching the books at full price.

Online Will C. Brown

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How do you book a launch-week promo if you don't have a link to your book yet? Its been a while since I published, so I don't remember when the ASIN is assigned.

Thanks for the guide!
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Offline Nicholas Erik

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@Mark: This is wise. The ultimate goal should be to build up your platform enough to launch at full price, or at $2.99+. Shelling out money for an algo-goosing loss leader is a useful strategy, but it should be viewed as a stepping stone to bigger + better launches. Mark Dawson's recent launch into the top 100 at $4.99 shows that early discounting isn't necessary if you build your platform over time.

How do you book a launch-week promo if you don't have a link to your book yet? Its been a while since I published, so I don't remember when the ASIN is assigned.

Thanks for the guide!

The book has to be live + available on Amazon's site for you to get a link to your book page. There are two options:

A) put it up for pre-order. This will get you a live Amazon listing with an ASIN, so you can submit your link to promo sites. There's a lengthy ongoing debate on KBoards about pre-orders vs. non pre-orders. Basically, if you can push a ton of copies (500+) Week 1, you're probably costing yourself sales if you put up a pre-order due to Amazon's ranking algos. If your list/platform are such that you need decent outside launch juice to push copies, the debate is pretty much a moot point. So the only reason not to put up an Amazon pre-order in such an instance is that the manuscript isn't ready.

B) do a soft launch, where you release the book but don't tell anyone. The instant it goes live - usually about 12 hours after you hit publish - you submit your link to every site for ads about 4 - 10 days in the future. This obviously precludes some sites, as they require a longer lead time. But you can submit to them anyway and see what happens. Then you would simply structure your launch as normal: day 4 you might announce on FB; on day 5, you might tell your list; on day 6 you might have promo site 1; day 7 promo site 2; day 8 your Twitter, and so forth.

Nick
« Last Edit: May 30, 2016, 02:23:38 AM by Nicholas Erik »

Offline LindsayBuroker

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Thanks for putting together the links, Nicholas! We mentioned your post and quoted you on our podcast on book launches this week. :)


Offline Nicholas Erik

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Thanks for putting together the links, Nicholas! We mentioned your post and quoted you on our podcast on book launches this week. :)

Cool, Lindsay! Your blog posts have been immensely helpful over the years. Glad I could be helpful in some small way.

@Book Club Promotion: I'm down to try your service for my upcoming release. If it delivers reasonable results, then I'll see about adding it.

Nick

Offline MaggieWay

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Wonderful guide Nicholas!! I made the mistake of trying to do a blast for my first book, with the other books still due to come. I'm hindsight I should have done the blast for book 1 with at least two or three books in the series out.

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Offline angela65

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Nicholas, just a big ole thanks for everything, especially your time. You've been one of the biggest helps on Kboards.

Offline Moticom

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Decent thread with great information. Thanks for all of this.

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Offline mmandolin

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Nice summary, Nick. Thanks as always for the excellent info.

I'd toss in Buck Books (especially for non-fiction) & SweetFreeBooks - both are pretty lax about reviews, although with Buck it helps if you've forged a relationship with them.

For those who are interested, here's a great example of "slow burn" launching: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,233074.0.html

Offline KL_Phelps

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good thread

Offline mmandolin

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Oh, yeah - another thing you can use if your book is in KU is Amazon Marketing Services.

Some people have started having good results with this service; I personally like it. It can have great ROI, particularly while launching.

Offline Sue Ann C.

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I'm still newish at self-publishing, so thank you for such practical info.

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