How Doing Time in Facebook Jail Helped Me Rethink My Book Marketing

I haven’t posted a new blog in a couple of weeks. There are a couple of reasons for that. My new book, Frank Incensed, came out on April 24th and coincided with an author event in Jacksonville, FL. In addition to those events, I did a stint in ‘Facebook Jail’. For those of you that don’t know what ‘Facebook Jail’ (FBJ) is, it’s a term I may or may not have coined to designate the restrictions that Facebook can temporarily put on it’s users that aggressively try to market products or services through the various groups that are part of this social media giant. I was prohibited from joining or posting in groups until today, May 4th, 2015.

It’s my own fault that this happened. In previous blogs, I have talked about the automated software that I use to post to Facebook groups while I do other things (like work at my day job and write). The software, when used properly, posts to Facebook in a very natural way that doesn’t emulate the spamming behavior that other social media posting programs emulate. The software is great when used correctly. The behavior that landed me in FBJ was my exuberance over the release of my new book and my gradual pushing of the envelope using the posting software.  I belong to over 1,000 groups related to books and blogs. At the time I was put into FBJ, I was posting from two computers to over 800 groups on each. Bad idea. It caught up with me.

My first reaction was to get mad at Facebook and complain to them. Because they are a giant, multi-billion dollar company and have no semblance of living, breathing customer service, my complaints were basically just a venting exercise. I accused them of clamping down on small business just to drive entrepreneurs with limited budgets toward Facebook advertising. After several similar complaints from me, the parole board remained unmoved and my sentence remained in place until May 4th.

So, why should you care about this? Am I boycotting Facebook? Um…no. Am I going to lobby to have them change their policies? Not a chance. What I did do was take a long, hard look at my marketing strategy and I changed it. Before I talk about what I changed, let me tell you the results that I’ve had since the change:

  • My new book, Frank Incensed, came out on Amazon on the 24th of April with 19 four and five star reviews. This was six more than my previous book achieved over six months.
  • My giveaway on Good Reads of my previous book, Let Me Be Frank, resulted in nearly 1,000 entrants for the prize of 3 signed copies.
  • My two day free promotion of my first book in the Frank Rozzani Series, Frankly Speaking, that ran this past Friday and Saturday resulted in nearly 1,500 downloads.
  • My sales for the month of April are the highest of any month since I published my first book.
  • I’ve added a significant number of subscribers to my newsletter mailing list

These are very interesting results. At the time I thought my most vital marketing channel was unavailable, Then I read about an indie author from the UK named Mark Dawson. Mark is an author of thrillers and has published two series of books, the John Milton and Soho Noir books. Mark is an advocate of two broad strategies, cultivating a mailing list and using social media advertising.

You’re probably saying, “Whatever, I’ve tried those things and they don’t work.” Well, I thought so too until I saw that these strategies netted mark $400,000 in book revenue in one month. Based on that, I thought I would give some of his techniques a try. The results that I reported above show some measure of success…not quite at the Mark Dawson level, but stay tuned over the coming months.

I said these were broad strategies, so let me give you some insight into the specific things that I tried so that you can give them a try if you would like.

  • Targeted advertising for my book release: I ran ads on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. I know this sounds costly, but I set maximum budgets of $10 per day on each platform and ran the ads for three days.

Note: I attempted to run an ad for my book on Amazon and it was rejected. When I inquired into the reason, it was due to my book cover having “blood spatter” on it. I found this surprising since both the Kindle and CreatSpace publishing platforms accepted my book cover, but Amazon ads rejected it. When I inquired, I was told that each of those entities make their own decisions. It was disappointing, but I’m not going to change the book cover.  Here is what it looks like. What do you think?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]

  • I leveraged my mailing list. I sent out an email to my subscribers asking if they would like an advanced reader copy (ARC) of my new book. About 15% of my list graciously agreed to read the book and of those that received a copy, more than 50% reviewed the book on Goodreads or Amazon on the day of it’s release helping my ranking a great deal.
  • I used inexpensive Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads ads to promote my two free days for Frankly Speaking. When I looked back at the results, I surpassed previous free book days that were promoted through posting to groups.
  • My Twitter ads have resulted in an acceleration in the number of quality followers that I have picked up.

I will be posting more about this marketing journey as I resume my weekly blogs. Interestingly enough, my blog will be the only portion of my brand that I will continue to post in Facebook groups. I have seen good results from this. I will, however, be more judicious with how aggressive I am in posting. I don’t want to be a repeat offender.

For now, I recognize the methods that I was using, while they made me feel like I was accomplishing something, they really weren’t that effective. If you are an indie author that is continuing to send your posts out to a large number of groups asking people to buy your books, you need to ask yourself some hard questions and reexamine what you are doing. Sponsored ads from social media do get traction. Posting your book to groups where the only audience is other authors, might not get you the results that you need.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series was released on April 24th, 2015 and is available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback formats.

He has also published a well-received short story collection that is available on Amazon.com.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com

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Independent Publishing Statistically Speaking – Measuring up Against Traditional Publishing

Last week’s blog regarding the “snobbishness” of those in traditional publishing toward independently-published authors generated a great deal of discussion and healthy debate. I believe there are valid points on both side and that the best solution is some type of merger of the the two camps in the future. I’m not sure what that will look like, but it will be interesting.

I don’t think that independent publishing is going anywhere anytime soon. With advocates like Hugh Howey and even traditional authors dabbling in the platform, it is here to stay. This blog will show how the numbers support this assertion. As I researched this article, certain encouraging, and some surprising, trends emerged.

For instance, from a July, 2014 article in Publishers Weekly, I discovered that the “Big Five” traditional publishers now account for only 16% of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists and independently-published books represent 31% of e-book sales on Amazon’s Kindle Store. This is an encouraging statistic. The article also reveals that independently-published authors are “dominating traditionally published authors” in sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller, and romance genres but and are also taking “significant market share in all genres.” Since my work is mostly in the mystery/thriller genre, I was encouraged to see this as well.

The article also had some interesting information around pricing. It said that $2.99 and $3.99 are currently the pricing sweet spots for most e-book bestsellers. Authors who price their books at these prices earn more than those whose average price is higher. Conversely, pricing books at 99 cents is not as popular as it used to be and does not result in higher sales as it once did.

Here are some other interesting items regarding pricing strategies. The article states that free books still work as a marketing tool, especially when an author offers the first book in a series for free. But, because so many of us are using this strategy, it has lost some effectiveness.

A strategy that Amazon has opened up for independently published authors is allowing pre-orders. PW states that this  gives authors a sales advantage. In fact, one contributor to the article states that pre-orders should be used in the same way that offering books for free was used in the past.

One thing that surprised me in the article is that Non-fiction books earn more at higher prices. In fact, it went on to say that non-fiction authors are likely under-pricing their work and should experiment with higher prices. This could be a result of the old adage, “you get what you pay for”.

This article, as well as others in my research, talked favorably about the earning potential for independently published authors. Publishers Weekly states that indie authors are earning nearly 40% of the e-book dollars going directly to authors. This is supported by an August, 2013 report in the Huffington Post which reveals that independently-published authors earn between 60-100% of the net profit (depending on who they choose to publish and sell through), compared to the 12-15% royalties they would earn through the traditional publishing business model. We know this to be true for publishing with Amazon which remits 70% of the selling price to authors whose books are priced at $2.99 or more (and 30% for those priced less than $2.99).

The growth in independently published books has been steady as well. An article published by Digital Book World in October, 2014 states that the number of  International Standard Book Numbers (ISBN) assigned to independently published authors increased by 17% from 2012 to 2013.

An article by Bowker in October, 2013 states that the number of self-published titles in 2012 jumped to more than 391,000, up 59 percent over 2011 and 422 percent over 2007. It went on to say that Ebooks continue to gain on print, comprising 40 percent of the ISBNs that were self-published in 2012, up from just 11 percent in 2007.

Perhaps the most telling statistics regarding come from The 7K Report written by Hugh Howey himself, arguably one of the most successful independently-published authors of all time. I’ve included some tables to illustrate some of the most important statistics. The first chart shows the percentage by source for books that are on the Amazon Bestseller List for the Mystery/Thriller, Science-Fiction/Fantasy, and Romance genres.

Graph 1

As you can see from this graph, 55% of the best sellers came from independently-published authors. The most telling fact is that only 28% came from the “Big Five” publishing houses.

The second graph shows a different picture. In this category, gross revenue among bestsellers, “Big Five” books actually dominate. This is likely due to the much higher average price for these books.

Graph 2

This graph shows that 52% of the revenue in these genres goes to the “Big Five” publishers with only 24% going to independently-published authors. It can also be said, however, that there is almost an even split between revenue to the “Big Five” and to everyone else.

This next graph, however, shows where the authors are earning the most money in terms of the percentage of revenue authors earn in each category.

Graph 3

This graph shows that only 32% of the revenue brought in by best sellers in these genres goes to authors with 47% of the overall revenue going to Indie authors. Again, this is an encouraging statistic.

So, what do all of these statistics mean for independently-published authors today, and what do they mean for the future? In all of the articles that I read as research for this blog, the trends for independently-published authors have pointed to an increase in market-share, readership, and revenue in the past six to seven years. Recognition for indie authors is increasing. Platforms such as Amazon, Smashwords, CreatSpace and others are making it easier to produce quality independently-published work.

Does this mean that everything is rainbows and unicorns for all of us? Not at all. As the spotlight swings toward independent publishing, like everything else that is recognized as successful, there will be those that seek to find the flaws. In my various blogs, I have talked about some of the flaws around the quality of independently-published work. I have made it my mission to work with other independently-published authors to help them raise the bar. There are plenty of readers out there for us, so let’s not compete. Let’s collaborate and succeed together.

I will continue to publish blogs on topics that I believe are helpful to indie authors. I learn something new every day as I try to become as successful as possible in this discipline that I love. Every sale of a book or comment that I receive on my blog is like a personal victory. It’s a great feeling and one that I want to share with fellow authors.

Your comments and criticism are welcome as always.

About Don Massenzio

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series will be coming out in April, 2015 and is available for pre-order.

He has also published a well-received short story collection that is available on Amazon.com.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com