Episode 162 – Fake News, Buy Boxes, and Activating Fans

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Question of the Week: What are some ways you could activate your true fans to become evangelists for your books? How do you think your readers would react?

Are ebooks doomed? While that’s what CNN would like you to believe, Jim and Bryan are here to tell you otherwise. This week, after thanking their patrons The Ten-Year Turnaround, Hypercage, and Sell More Books with Less Social Media, the publishing powerhouses talked tips on working with experts, activating your readers, and getting your also-boughts working for you. News stories included EU antitrust proceedings against Amazon, Tor’s audio experiment, an incentive for authors published through Amazon imprints, buy boxes going to the lowest bidder, and fake news about ebook sales being down across the board. This week’s Question of the Week: What are some ways you could activate your true fans to become evangelists for your books? How do you think your readers would react?

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What You’ll Learn:

  • How authors can tell the real experts from the posers
  • How authors can activate their readers into true fans and evangelists
  • How authors can optimize their Also-Boughts and why it is important
  • What compromises Amazon is making to continue to sell in the EU
  • How a new publishing experiment at Tor Labs is shaping book production
  • What new resource Amazon is only giving to its imprint authors
  • Why new changes to Amazon’s Buy Box are upsetting publishers
  • Why reports about ebook sales dropping are dubious at best
Question of the Week: What are some ways you could activate your true fans to become evangelists for your books? How do you think your readers would react?

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  • Spider McGee

    As a long-time (now retired) podcaster, I see what’s going on. In some spots, Bryan’s audio must have been too low to hear so it was cranked way up in the final mix. This gives the impression that he’s broadcasting from the beach, though. Either that or Bryan’s actually *at* the beach, and he took the “night off” a little too far. Your family misses you, Bryan!

    • I thought I heard the waves crashing. #WritersLife

      • Bryan

        The only thing crashing was my microphone quality.

    • I was enjoying the mental image of a thunderstorm in a rain forest.

    • Bryan

      I wish I was at the beach!

  • Simon Goodson

    I’m going to take a lead from Joanna Penn and the others involved in the collaboration book by offering special first week of release bonuses.

    • I agree. That will be a big part of my plans going forward.

      • Spider McGee

        I have a question as to how that works. Let’s say you release the book with bonus material for a limited time, then issue a new edition for general release. Would only the people who originally bought the book get the special edition, or would everyone have access to it? I want to know if it’s viable to even attempt such a thing. If it’s doable, it could encourage people to buy it early. It could also enrage a lot of people…I see how that’s possible, too.

        • Using Jay and Joanna’s as an example, the book had an extra section at the end (I think) and a notice at the beginning on where to find it. After week one, they apparently replaced the book on Amazon with the permanent version, which didn’t have those pages.

          The only things in the actual pages were links to download the bonuses, so the book wasn’t any longer.

          My only concern would be Amazon thinking you’re trying to scam the page reads in KU by linking to the end of the book, but if your launch isn’t stellar AND enough people actually buy the book vs getting it in KU, then probably no sweat.

          Maybe Joanna or Jay will read and comment on that part.

          • Bryan

            I’m sure that if Amazon did flag their book, Joanna could get someone on the phone to deal with it. Even a quick email might get that taken care of.

  • Looking forward to the answers, sadly I have nothing to contribute.

    I actually think the fake news is aimed at authors, not readers. Readers probably don’t care (there was an article in the Singapore paper today saying that paperback loans were decreasing while ebook loans increased so clearly at least once country doesn’t really care) but I think authors who are wavering between trad pub (PRINT PRINT PRINT AND BOOKSTORES) and self pub (which has an ebook image) may look at them and decide to query instead.

    Also, this is completely unrelated, but I was wondering if you guys are going to address the box set bullying issue? I’ve been interested in hearing what you guys think ever since I saw the kboards thread, and I thought it was noteworthy enough for the news.

    • Bryan

      Hey Eustacia. I’ve been back and forth on the box set bullying issue. Apparently, both sides of this issue have been bullying each other. Lots of allegations flying around on either side. It’s a difficult story to report on, and we were worried that no matter how hard we tried to stay objective that there would be backlash. Hopefully the courts can settle everything there and we can all go back to writing :).

  • christopherwills

    Great podcast guys. Sad about the fake news, which I heard on the BBC – they should know better. I was in a Waterstones (UK bookshop) and was interested that a member of staff of long standing knew nothing about ebooks and Waterstones were not passing any information down to their staff. I would have thought that any decent company would tell their staff about their main competition that might one day put them out of business. I suspect the publishers are trying to convince themselves that all is OK whilst Rome burns around them. Also I agree with Eustacia’s comment that this could be for authors also. I suspect the publishers don’t want their authors to learn that they may be able to make more money by self-publishing.

    • Bryan

      Thanks, Christopher! “I suspect the publishers are trying to convince themselves that all is OK whilst Rome burns around them.” This always seems to be the case.

  • Trying to “activate” my fans sounds like a super dangerous thing to reveal that I’m doing. My readers aren’t automatons with a power toggle. Having said that, I understand the concept, which I think many savvy writers have been using with a special “VIP” list for folks who are “worthy” of ARCs and special updates.

    I am toying with the idea of running a points system, where reviews and shares and retweets earn my VIPs points, and those are either entries into giveaways, or redeemable for some type of experience or product.


    I’m with Jim and Bryan on what Amazon’s doing with these price prioritizing. Traditional Publishers have been trying to sell their print books with ridiculous eBook prices. Now they will have to rethink how they want to price everything (and how they want to deep discount their paperbacks through the back door).

    I see Indies worrying about it (because OMG the Zon is changing the rules again!), but there’s not much to worry about, as I see it, since we aren’t selling our print books in high enough volumes, or at deep enough discounts, that there will be a flood of our books competing for our direct sales in this situation. This hurts the Big Five a lot more than it hurts us.

    • Bryan

      I really should stop recruiting Automatons as readers. Yeah, the print issue is definitely more targeting Big Five than us. Thanks, RJ!

  • Blaine Moore

    I was at the Smarter Artist Summit a couple of weeks ago, and David Gaughran had some great advice on focusing on the reader journey (buyer journey) rather than the sales funnel which would work through activating your fans in a natural way. (He’s currently working on a book on the topic…not sure as of now if it will be in the next edition of Let’s Get Visible or if he’ll break it into it’s own book. Looking forward to reading it either way.)

    As for accessing your Nielson data, anybody that sells their paperback books on Amazon can do so easily enough. Just sign up for Author Central and add your books and Amazon will report your Nielson data for you. It’s under “Sales Info”->”Nielson Bookscan”.

    • Bryan

      That’s a great point on the buyer journey, Blaine. Thanks. Wish I could’ve made it to SAS to see ya. Sure, we can access Nielson, but most trad pub authors can’t. At least, not in a way that’s easy to understand. Thanks for posting!

      • Blaine Moore

        Can trad pub authors not claim their own books in Author Central?

        • Bryan

          Good point. They CAN claim their books. We’ll have to ask someone with a trad pub title or two to see if they can see their Neilsen data.

          • I have one book trad published, and I can see my Bookscan data via Author Central.

            I can claim both the kindle and the paperback, but it says only the paperback is in the stats.