Episode 94 – Echo, BookFunnel, and D&D

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Question of the Week: Have book promotion sites become less effective for you? If so, how do you plan to use them in your future marketing?

Using their +1 charm podcast mics, Jim and Bryan took on the latest in self-publishing news and tips. After giving props to their latest patrons, Spider McGee and his book Monkey Justice ( http://bit.ly/secretjim ) and John Keller’s How to Drive Your Next Car Deal ( http://bit.ly/drivedacar ), the dual dynasty covered tips on front matter, effective content, and BookFunnel. The Top 5 News included stories on international ebook-reading, a new feature for Amazon’s Echo device, Wizards of the Coast’s D&D self-publishing platform, the effectiveness of book promotion sites, and the parallel paths of trad and indie publishing. This week’s Question of the Week is “Have book promotion sites become less effective for you? If so, how do you plan to use them in your future marketing?”
What You’ll Learn:
  • When you should use an author blurb on your book
  • How to deliver free books to your readers
  • The six marks of effective content
  • How much ebooks usage is growing in Russia and Germany
  • A new way to hear your latest books with a friendly robot voice
  • How D&D is entering the self-publishing fray
  • How you should use book promotion sites as part of your marketing
  • Why traditional publishing and self-publishing may be intentionally different paths
Question of the Week: Have book promotion sites become less effective for you? If so, how do you plan to use them in your future marketing?

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  • Sandy Williams

    Ha ha. You guys should have put a warning in your show notes. I was listening to the podcast on a speaker in the kitchen, which is also where our Amazon Echo is. Every time Bryan said “Alexa”, Alexa tried to respond. Bryan even got her to start reading the book I started last night. #truestory 🙂

    • That’s hilarious.

    • Bryan

      What can I say? Robots love me.

  • Spider McGee

    My most recent book, though it has been on Amazon for a few months, has no reviews. It’s impossible to get on book promotion sites unless you have a lot of reviews (and pay), but it’s next-to-impossible to get reviews or paid downloads unless you’re on a book promotion site. I get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of downloads when I offer a free book, but that doesn’t translate to sales. It’s at the very least a catch-22, perhaps even a catch-23. So obviously I haven’t used the book promotion sites to see if they work. There is just so much stuff out there, it’s hard to keep ahead of it. I have no funnel, no email list, no nothing at this point. It may be because I write shorter fiction and not novels, but it may also be because my stuff isn’t very good. I doubt that last part, because I happen to know I’m a genius. But it’s all I can do these days to get out of bed at this point and see what sixty-ish rock star has just died. 2016, you’re not my favorite year yet. Not even close.

  • Here’s a comparison between Amazon Echo and Audible, using Ted Saves The World and The Martian. Notice the ad at the beginning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvfuQvLUFe4

    • Bryan

      Erik, that’s awesome. Thanks for posting that. The robot voice IS pretty friendly :). Always good to hear my own book in there too.

      • that’s the way my Kindle Touch sounds when it reads to me.

        I’m still surprised that it doesn’t give the proper mini-pause when it comes to a line break or paragraph break. That seems simple to fix.

      • My MacBook does a great job reading text as well. If programming can replace audio actors, AI can replace authors. Imagine having a list of options you get to pick before your AI creates your customized novel.

        Similar Authors: Bryan Cohen, Pete Bauer, Dean Koontz
        Genre: Thriller
        Protagonist Gender: Female.
        Location: Small Southern Town
        Words: 75000
        Multiple Twists: Yes.
        Surprise Ending: Yes.

        Hit Submit and Presto. Insta-book. It’s a-coming.

    • Crissy Moss

      Damn it, now I have to go listen to the Martian again.

      But that really does show how different it is. In a pinch it might be okay to let Alexa read to you, but I’d really prefer the actor.

      • Daniel Martone

        After listening to The Martian, I started on R.C. Bray’s other audio books. The Arisen series is very entertaining, especially if you like zombie stories… plus he does some amazing (and funny) voice work in them. I think if Will Patton ever gets tired of reading James Lee Burke’s books (and I hope that doesn’t happen any time soon), I think Bray may be the guy to take over.

  • I used to use email services regularly, but they take so much time to setup for what I get out of it that I only do it when I can afford to take a lot of time from my schedule. I’ll still use them around launches.

  • In my limited experience so far, yes they have. The shiny new toys have become scuffed and common. As Jim said, the more full their Kindles got, the less valuable such sites have become.

  • David R Bernstein

    This not related to the question of the week, but I had to think outloud for a bit here. This is in regards to the Alexa and text to voice news item. I feel what’s going to happen is that as the tech gets better with robot inflection, that is when Audible will have a huge growth in people publishing there. The reason being is there will be a formating tool that authors can use to highlight parts of their books to be read in different inflections. For instance, someone might highlight a portion of a line of dialogue to be read in an intense or frantic tone. The author can go through their books and mark it all up for publishing on Audible. The ability for text to speech to fully understand the varying inflections in a book will not happen anytime soon, but the ability to mark up the novel is just around the corner.

  • Why do publishers care which version they sell? Couldn’t they price ebooks and print books to make the same profit?

  • Crissy Moss

    I’ve done a few promotions… BK Knights, and Book Cartel. I’ve gotten a few reviews for them, but nothing fantastic. Oddly the only really good experience I’ve had has been from one of my audio books being put onto a website. I didn’t even do it, I think the narrator did, and I’ve had 20 sales and a bunch of reviews from that one sight on my short audio book, it was great.

    I think it’s a lot harder to break into the industry than it use to be, but I might be a little bias.

  • I did a lot more promotions through the book email sites a year or more ago. I’ve been a little lazy doing them lately though. Part of it is that I was seeing a reduced return on repeat ads. Once someone had seen my book once on that list, they either downloaded it or they didn’t.

    The other reason is that it seems like such a short term thing. I’ve been trying to crack Facebook ads since September because once I manage it, then the same ad will drive people to the book over a longer period of time. And I’m more interested in a slow drip than a short term rush.

  • Nakeesha Seneb

    Brian, I’m guessing you’re not a Doctor Who fan. It’s pronounced dah-leck

    • Bryan

      I thought I’d heard it both ways :).

  • I disagree with Jim about the future of Audiobooks: robot voice may be great for non-fiction, but a real performer is always better for fiction.

    A performer can give each character a different voice, make finer distinctions of sarcasm and hidden meaning, and build to an emotional crescendo.

    A friend of mine was trying to listen to the rough draft of her latest erotica on a text-to-speech software for editing purposes, and even the best software sounded RIDICULOUS: all of the sexiness drained away immediately.

    Artificial intelligence will inevitably get smarter, but we are at least 25 years away from anything anywhere near a person in this respect, if not longer.

    If all of our AI research was poured into this area progress would be faster, but honestly it’s not that expensive to hire a decent actor with tools like Audible. You don’t always get celebrity quality, but there are plenty of people who are 80% as good for 20% of the price.

    If you’re committed to your books as an actual business, you’ll spend the money on a decent audiobook narrator just like you would on a good book cover.
    Paying for a narrator is the price of admission to this new market that in my opinion is absolutely taking off.

    Siri and Echo will have a ‘good enough’ service that will read you a book, but to experience a real performance the audiobooks will be better for a long time.

    Watch your next movie with the sound muted and subtitles turned on, and then tell me how close we are. 🙂

  • Daniel Martone

    Alexa might be fine for non-fiction books, but in order to pull off fiction audio books, you need performance. Performance is based on emotions and until we get true A.I., that ain’t happening. Once we have true A.I., we’d probably be able to replace all performers. They’d probably scan your favorite actors and you’d see them starring in films even once they’re dead. I know some actors have actually had their bodies scanned and voices sampled for precisely that reason. Of course it won’t matter… when this is all possible, the robots will just destroy us and and take over the planet.

    • Bryan

      I for one welcome our new robot overlords.

    • Spider McGee

      My hope is that the robots will run it better.

  • Abe

    Definitely feel like we need a response to this…


    Am not jumping to conclusions either way, but there seems to be some pretty clear proof on the Book Report side. I believe your podcast followers deserve an answer.

    • Bryan

      Hey Abe! Thanks for the post. I know that Jim hasn’t commented on this matter publicly. This seems appropriate given the fact that it is an ongoing legal matter.

      I believe Betsy and Ann put it well on the forum there: “In addition, just as with a vendor-customer dispute, we ask that the dispute between the parties be played out offline. And indeed, in cases where a legal suit is involved, I believe that would be appropriate.”

      “It’s not surprising that neither the OP, nor the owner of AMC have commented any further. If I was involved in a legal proceeding I wouldn’t discuss it in public either.”

      • Abe

        Thanks for the response Bryan! Very level headed. I AM still very interested in the outcome of this, but will respect the privacy of the situation while it is ongoing.

  • I’ve used several of the email book promotion sites over the last year. I found a few things:

    1) using just one at a time won’t get you anywhere. Even BookBub has better exults (I’ve heard…no direct experience) if you run a couple of smaller promotions before and after their promotion.

    2) I can’t expect to make my money back on the day of the promotion. For one thing, I’ve always discounted my book to 99c for the promotion, in part to get the ad and in part to drive downloads, so I don’t earn as much per copy. That said, I usually get close and I made #26 in my genre category once.

    The promotion emails I think are good for driving downloads and improving rankings, but I’m not sure you typically break even. I will probably do some more experimentation with my next book, playing around with timing the ads and extending them over a few days to see if I get better results.

  • Honoree Corder

    I think doing a hard calculation of true ROI on promo sites is in order before doing any of them. While BookBub is widely known as the go-to, getting a Bub isn’t always easy (I know, “logic bomb”), but “it’s just $30 or $40 or whatever” isn’t a true analysis. Take the time to calculate number of potential readers, expected purchase of other books in your series or by you they are likely to buy, etc. before you spend the money. I plan to use any sites that show a high enough ROI for my book business plan. Bryan makes a great point when he says that it’s not just the hard numbers, it’s also the exposure. I would submit it’s also important to consider how effective you’re using your front and back matter to build your list. Thanks guys, another great show. Bryan, will miss you next week!

  • Connie B. Dowell

    I agree that the smaller ebook promo sites are not much good for sales, but they are good for promoting free titles (or temporarily free). I’d hoped that free promotions would get me some more reviews (thus working my way up to Bookbub level) but it hasn’t. I have noticed email signups increasing after such promotions though, so that’s something.

  • I know this is so two weeks ago, but I just had my first user experience with BookFunnel. It was awesome on my Android (Kindle App).

    Here’s the link, which is for a giveaway that includes a free sci-fi book via bookfunnel


    • Bryan

      Loving this giveaway and BookFunnel.

      • I think it’s a very smart idea.

        I think more authors should find ways to band together with authors in the same or very similar genres to cross promote. One great way would be to have a web site for curating books that they like and recommend, then keep them around by splitting up the blogging and writing work for the site.