If you’re like me, you’ve read dozens of blog posts promising to tell you the best strategy for how to “grow your author platform.” You’ve probably seen several online courses that promise to show you how to generate more sales for your book if you’ll only shell out enough cash for the course.
And if you’re like me, you’re tired of it. You want to improve your sales. You want to build your author platform. But you haven’t found anything that really works and you’re starting to feel like you’ll never figure it out until you buy someone’s expensive course.
The reason I’m starting this post with this dim picture is because I’m about to tell you about a strategy that has the potential to grow your author platform by leaps and bounds, which in turn has the potential to increase your sales. But I don’t want you to get the wrong idea: This article isn’t going to turn into a sales pitch. This strategy is something every indie or self-published author should know about, and I’m going to tell you about it with no strings attached.
The Basics: Time to Rethink Your Strategy
Let’s think for minute about how most indie authors approach getting more book sales. It usually goes something like this: You post your books for a price that you think is fair, then eventually become disappointed as you sell only a few books each month. To try and boost your sales, you run a sale, offering your book for 99¢ over a few days. During the sale, your book sells plenty of copies, but once the sale is over everything goes back to normal. You resign yourself to the fact that you will have to constantly run sales if you hope to make any money as an author.
But what if you could set up a system that can make your books more visible, increase your sales, and build you a mailing list of readers who are eager to hear about your new releases? It can be done!
Here’s how the strategy works: You give away one of your books for free. Inside that free book, you offer the reader another free book if they will sign up for your mailing list. In a lot of ways, it’s a more permanent version of running sales all the time. But instead of lowering the prices of your books frequently to gain attention, you’re getting new readers interested in you with a free book. That means they don’t have to worry about paying for something they may not like. Instead, they find out they like your books by reading the free one, then want to purchase more. And because they’ve joined your mailing list, they will be hearing more about your books in the future.
Why This Works
People love free stuff! This strategy works because you’re giving away two free things. Look at it this way: If you give away the first book for free, the reader stops there. They get one book, but they don’t have a compelling reason to sign up for your mailing list, so they move on to another book. But when you offer a second book for free in exchange for signing up to receive your e-mails, you’ve wowed a reader (“I got two free books!”) and convinced them to opt in to hear more about your books later on.
Now you have a group of happy readers who are all set to hear about your next release, the special sale price you’re offering, or whatever you want to talk about. That’s the power of giving something away.
Try It Before You Jump In
I completely understand that you might not be willing to go into this strategy completely just yet. And that’s fine. I have a kind of “lite” version of this strategy for you to try. You can give this a whirl, then evaluate the results to see if you think it will benefit you longterm. Here’s are the basic steps:
- Choose one of your books to be the free book. You’ll make it free on Amazon with a KDP promotion.
- Choose a second book to be the offer book. It helps a lot if this is a sequel to the free book, but that’s not totally necessary. This is the book you’ll offer to readers in exchange for signing up for your mailing list.
- Update the first book to include a page offering the second book if the reader subscribes to your e-mails. (Some people think this should go in the back, others say to put it in the front, and still others say front and back. I’ll leave that one up to you. Remember, though, that placing the offer in the back means the reader has to get there to see it!)
- Add a link to your mailing list’s welcome e-mail directing readers to a page on your website with a download link for the offer book.
- Set up a free promotion in your KDP dashboard for as many days as you can, sit back, and watch the results.
To really make this work for you, it would be smart to optimize your free book’s keywords and submit your promotion to a number of deal sites. You might even want to pay for a premium slot on a deal site or two so that you can maximize the number of readers who will download your book during this promotion.
Once your promotion has been over for a couple weeks, check the stats. First, find out how many books you gave away. Next, look at how many people signed up for your mailing list during the promotion and a week or two afterward. For those of you who like numbers, you can get your conversion rate (the number of downloaders that signed up) by dividing the number of sign-ups by the number of downloads. For example, if you give away 100 books and 30 people sign up for your mailing list, your conversion rate is 30 ÷ 100 = 30%.
Ask yourself when you last added that many people to your mailing list. Could you benefit from making this a full-time strategy? Read on!
Taking This Strategy Full-Time
It takes a little bit more setup to get this running for you on autopilot, but if you’ve made it this far, you’re probably convinced that it’s well worth the effort. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Just like you did before to try out this strategy, you’ll need to choose one of your books to be free and one of your books to offer for free in exchange for subscribing to your mailing list. Again, you set up your mailing list’s welcome e-mail to give new subscribers a link to a page on your website where they can download the second book for free. The difference here is that your free book is going to be “perma-free.” (This doesn’t mean you can’t ever raise the price again. Perma-free is the term for a book that is always free, not just free on a promotion for a limited time.)
How do you make a book perma-free when Amazon doesn’t let you set your price below 99¢? Well, you’re going to need to put your free book on at least one other e-book store—one that lets you give your book away for free. That way, Amazon will match the free price and your book will be free on their store as well. Putting your book on another store means that you’re going to need to pull your book out of KDP Select if it’s enrolled in that program.
This process sounds complicated, but it’s not! One of the easiest ways to get your book on a multitude of other stores is to upload it through Draft2Digital. I’m not plugging them because I’m getting paid; I just love the service. They add your book to plenty of stores, and they only take a small percentage of each sale.
Once your book is free on another store, go back to your book on Amazon and scroll down to the Product Details section. Click on the link to tell Amazon about a lower price and fill out the form. They should investigate and make your book free in their store before too long.
And that’s it! You’re all set up and you can now proclaim that your book is free. Sit back and watch your mailing list for new subscribers.
Keeping Subscriber Engagement “Fresh”
Now that you have all these subscribers, what should you do with them? Obviously, you’re going to want to tell them about your new book releases and any sales you might run. But it’s also important to keep your subscribers engaged, or “fresh.”
What does that mean? Well, if your subscribers don’t hear from you for a while, they will forget you exist. Then when you have the important announcement of a new book for them to buy, they will need a reminder of who you are and how they got on your mailing list. That’s why it’s important to continue to engage with these subscribers in the meantime.
How can you keep your subscribers engaged? One easy way would be to send out a monthly author update with details on your current project (maybe include a word-count so they can follow your progress), items of interest from your daily life, and so on. Monthly updates are a great way to remind your readers of your existence without committing to the chore of blogging every week.
I’ve written some other articles about managing an author mailing list. You might want to check those out for further ideas if you think you want to do more than just a monthly author update:
- Ideas for Building Your Author Mailing List
- Invite ‘Em In: Onboarding for Authors
- Show ‘Em Around: The Author’s Guide to Welcome E-mails
I hope you’re as excited as I am about the potential for growing your author platform with this strategy. Remember, if you’re not convinced it will work for you, go ahead and give the short-term version a try. It’s easy to try this method and prove the strategy without risking too much.