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Marketing a series

Chime85

Sage
I'm working on a large project where the story spans over a couple of books (either two or three, we'll see once editing is done.) I'm also seriously considering going down the path of self publishing.

I know many mainstream publishers release these stories in parts. LotR, Robin hobbs works etc, but is this a good idea for self publishing?

My marketing idea for this is:

Release the first part as a promo for two weeks for free then put it up to $2 (or $2.99 as another threadd suggests)

Second part, the same stratagy.

After (assuming a two parter), releasing a single collection of the full story as well as the individual parts. If both parts come to the best of $6, the collective article could be released for say $5 as well as the individual parts


Again, I know many mainstream publishers practice this, but would this be damaging for a self publisher?

To clarify; it's a single story.It is not a set of seperate but close storys with the same characters (ie; harry potter)

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PaulineMRoss

Inkling
I'm reading a book right now that's like that - a two parter marketed as two separate books, for technical reasons (a limitation on the ebook creation software, apparently). Half the reviews for the first part are grumbles about the lack of closure! So be warned, people do expect a 'book' to be a complete story, even when clearly labelled Part 1 or Volume 1 or whatever.

I would say, try to market it as a single book, and if that's not possible, charge a normal price for one of the parts and make the rest of it permanently free.

Good luck!
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
Release the first part as a promo for two weeks for free then put it up to $2 (or $2.99 as another threadd suggests)

I don't think it's a good idea to have a list price for "Free." You have a quality product (right?), and you should list it as such. The biggest advantage of a sale isn't the reduced price; it's having another reason to talk about your product. Having a new book is already enough to talk about. Open at your normal price and run a sale a few months down the road when the news has gotten stale and you need another hook to talk about.

And don't make it free. People are skeptical of free.

As for whether you should release as one volume, two or three, that depends. You can have a cliffhanger - they'll hate you for it, but they'll still read. But it has to be a literary conclusion. A cliffhanger counts. But you can't just cut it off in the middle. You have to build up to an ending point, and the next book has to open with the appropriate buildup. So be sure to figure out where those endpoints are, and edit your books to match.
 

yachtcaptcolby

Minstrel
And don't make it free. People are skeptical of free.

I think people are skeptical of books that are free in perpetuity. Occasionally running a promotion where the first book in your series is free could be a great way to get people to buy the rest of it.
 

PaulineMRoss

Inkling
I think people are skeptical of books that are free in perpetuity. Occasionally running a promotion where the first book in your series is free could be a great way to get people to buy the rest of it.

And there are some very successful self-pubbers who would argue that having the first in a series always free is a great way to draw people in. Lindsay Buroker's done well with that strategy.

Personally, as a reader I hate the 'occasionally free' system, because I always see a free day AFTER I've paid full price :-(
 

Devor

Fiery Keeper of the Hat
Moderator
And there are some very successful self-pubbers who would argue that having the first in a series always free is a great way to draw people in. Lindsay Buroker's done well with that strategy.

I say people are skeptical of free, but there are ways to overcome that skepticism and turn it into an advantage if you have a quality product and know how to market effectively. But that takes a concerted effort and you need to have a lot of material out there. For the most part, your best bet to start off marketing your first book is to focus on branding your work as a quality product to overcome the missing reputation that will hold you back when you solicit reviews, which is what people should be focusing on. And quality products, standing by themselves from a first time author, aren't usually free.
 

pmmg

Vala
:zombie:

I'm reading a book right now that's like that - a two parter marketed as two separate books, for technical reasons (a limitation on the ebook creation software, apparently). Half the reviews for the first part are grumbles about the lack of closure! So be warned, people do expect a 'book' to be a complete story, even when clearly labelled Part 1 or Volume 1 or whatever.

Just looking at this old one. I had not considered this. For those writing a series, is it proper to fit a disclosure, such as book 1 of 5, on the cover somewhere? Or do you think this is implied for most fantasy stuff. Would you want to say 'stand alone' if the story was not part of a series?
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
For those writing a series, is it proper to fit a disclosure, such as book 1 of 5, on the cover somewhere? Or do you think this is implied for most fantasy stuff. Would you want to say 'stand alone' if the story was not part of a series?
If series wasn't mentioned at all, I'd assume it was a standalone. I don't think you need to say book 1 of 5, but it's a good idea to say book 1 if that's what it is.
 

pmmg

Vala
I am thinking that many stories have a book one and done know it. Such that, the story became so popular it spawned a sequel after the fact. So there must be many covers that are a book on that dont state it. As a reader, if you read a book that was to be continued but did not know it going in, would you feel deceived?
 
I am thinking that many stories have a book one and done know it. Such that, the story became so popular it spawned a sequel after the fact. So there must be many covers that are a book on that dont state it. As a reader, if you read a book that was to be continued but did not know it going in, would you feel deceived?
Two sides here I think.

If it's a complete story which spawns a sequel, then the book itself will end in a satisfying way. All the important conflicts will have been resolved, and the characters will be where they need to be. Even if at a later point someone finds out that there are sequels they won't feel like you've only given them a partial story. It will simply be a sequel to a complete book.

The other side is that it's easy to change the cover. If at some point you add a sequel, just add the series name to the cover (which should be relatively cheap if you can't do it yourself) or get a brand new cover (which is more expensive but might refresh the novel if it's been out for a while). Upload to Amazon, add a series name and a sequence number and your done. All new readers will see that it's part of the series. And all the people who've already read it will either not see it (if they're not paying close attention to you), or they'll be happy a story they liked is getting a sequel.
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
I am thinking that many stories have a book one and done know it. Such that, the story became so popular it spawned a sequel after the fact. So there must be many covers that are a book on that dont state it. As a reader, if you read a book that was to be continued but did not know it going in, would you feel deceived?
I wouldn't feel deceived in the situation you mentioned; I'd feel happy.

But if an author plans to continue, it would be good to know. In this case, I'd want to be sure that the story was complete in itself. I hate novels that end on a cliff-hanger. I've stopped reading series for that reason.
 

TWErvin2

Auror
If you have a book title, plus a series title, the reader will know it's a series. Sometimes Book 1 is also included.

It's better for each book to have an overall story arc, but that does not mean a larger story arc to be covered in the series or trilogy cannot carry over to future books for resolution. But a satisfying ending of the first book, and the second, etc. is important to most readers.
 
No marketing guru here, just an avid reader and aspiring writer - but from my perspective why would you offer it up for free first? Who’s advice is that on??

I regularly trawl Amazon for 99p/99cent deals, and I’ve found some gems in the past, but point is I don’t think I ever download freebies unless they are classics. I think I bought Canterbury Tales recently for 49p so I even paid for that.

And also as a creative who likes to earn money to live - don’t sell yourself short! You’ve created something, why would you just give it away? Fear of not being good enough? Fear of customers only being interested in your work if you give it away? What you’ve seen others do? Who cares what ‘Bob from the internet says’.

On the subject of disclosing the series - I don’t think you need to be explicit, there are plenty of authors who bank on readers waiting for a sequel that hasn’t even been written yet. You could make out that is the case or just omit the information. I wouldn’t be mad as a reader if that were the case.
 
just an ... aspiring writer
Don't sell yourself short. If you write then you're a writer. You might be an aspiring author (i.e. someone who wants to publish a book). But there's a crucial difference.
but from my perspective why would you offer it up for free first? Who’s advice is that on??
It's a common marketing tactic. A bit like giving away free samples, it gives people an easy way to get to know your product. There are two reasons to do so (actually there are lots, but two big ones I know of).

The first is Kindle Unlimited. If you are Amazon exclusive and in KU, then you can get paid per page read. If you have a free book, many people using KU will still borrow instead of "buy" the book, which means you still get paid. Being free also helps you rank higher, both in your categories, but also in also bought, which will get you more buys and borrows. A few months ago Will Wight gave away an entire 9 book series for free. I happened to pick it up, which means he'll probably not get any money from me for a long while. However, when he was asked why he did so, he answered that he actually made the most money this way. By being free (for a limited time), he shot to the top of all fantasy book rankings and occupied the nr 1, 2 and 3 spots for a while in them. KU borrows more than made up for the lost revenue.

The other reason is discoverability. Having a free books makes it easier to be found by people. Now, free books tend to have low read-through rate (somewhere between 1-3% is considered good). However, you can participate in newsletter swaps and promo's, there are paid newsletter services like bookbub, and so on, which can get you a lot of downloads. Of course, this in itself doesn't make you money. However, if you have a long series, then you might make 5$ or 10$ for everyone who reads beyond the free book, which can make the whole thing very profitable.

It should be noted that I don't really like giving away books for free either. I don't do it (partly because I don't have series that long and I'm not in KU). But it is simply a tool in the marketing toolbox of the author. And like any tool, if you use it properly then it can get you good results.
 
Ah, I understand a bit more of the why and where you’re coming from with the promotional tactics - though it hurts my brain - when I used to sell on Etsy I sort of got sucked into a similar thing. They suggest that you make the postage and packaging free, which enables your product to be made more ‘visible’ to potential buyers, and they would also encourage sellers to pay for adverts, which again, promised higher visibility. But they do this because they will actively shadow ban sellers that didn’t do these things, and so I didn’t make really any money from that so I left. I wasn’t prepared to pander to that algorithm if you will. But it’s a double edged sword, I suppose you have to accept that is part of adding your work to a saturated market.

I’ve been looking into self publishing that doesn’t cost the earth, such as Amazon too but I also like the idea of building a more authentic audience/fan base if at all possible. I’ve looked at Wattpad, which allows for writers to upload stories for people to read but also actively engage with. There is also a function to notify readers that the story is incomplete or ongoing, which I suppose has its own appeal or marketing angle.

Have you tried exploring those sorts of ways to promote your work? Or do you already have a fan base? You do what’s best for you, and if it’s only a week or two that it’s free then maybe there isn’t going to be much harm done.
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
I’ve been looking into self publishing that doesn’t cost the earth, such as Amazon too but I also like the idea of building a more authentic audience/fan base if at all possible. I’ve looked at Wattpad, which allows for writers to upload stories for people to read but also actively engage with. There is also a function to notify readers that the story is incomplete or ongoing, which I suppose has its own appeal or marketing angle.
If you chose to do so, you could self-publish on Amazon or with Draft2Digital dang near for free, apart from the covers. D2D, at least will even produce print copies of your book for free, though author copies run about $5 each, plus shipping. They'll even supply you with ISBN's, though you can't use them elsewhere. (If you use the D2D ISBN, you'd have to get another before publishing on Amazon.) Covers...well, my last one was under $200, which is dirt cheap.

The problem though, is there is a gargantuan pile of books vying for readers attention - Amazon has something on the order of ten million titles available, and I am fairly certain that 9.5 million or more of those books sold under 100 copies.
 
If you chose to do so, you could self-publish on Amazon or with Draft2Digital dang near for free, apart from the covers. D2D, at least will even produce print copies of your book for free, though author copies run about $5 each, plus shipping. They'll even supply you with ISBN's, though you can't use them elsewhere. (If you use the D2D ISBN, you'd have to get another before publishing on Amazon.) Covers...well, my last one was under $200, which is dirt cheap.

The problem though, is there is a gargantuan pile of books vying for readers attention - Amazon has something on the order of ten million titles available, and I am fairly certain that 9.5 million or more of those books sold under 100 copies.
Yep it’s the saturation aspect that would potentially make me think twice about releasing a book in this format, unless I already had a bit of a fan base or a way to promote me writing for either free or for very little money. And as OP has stated, it’s a marketing tactic to make it free at first. Although at this point in time even one sale would make me go whoop, then I’d hope that it would be read! 😉
 

ThinkerX

Myth Weaver
Yep it’s the saturation aspect that would potentially make me think twice about releasing a book in this format, unless I already had a bit of a fan base or a way to promote me writing for either free or for very little money. And as OP has stated, it’s a marketing tactic to make it free at first. Although at this point in time even one sale would make me go whoop, then I’d hope that it would be read! 😉

As I pointed out elsewhere, I joined multiple FB book groups for writers and readers alike. KDP gives a bit of a boost to new releases - not much, usually something on the order of a dozen or two.

With me...I went the D2D route, which is tougher to follow. I released the first book of my Empire series in May of last year - then realized I'd submitted the wrong draft. By the time I got that straightened out...well, suffice it to say I had a grand total of two internet sales in the first six weeks. Come July, I dipped my toes in the (expensive) world of Facebook advertising. Four weeks and several hundred dollars later, I'd managed to sell two dozen copies - most of them, weirdly enough, for book 2. August was more money spent at FB and elsewhere for truly dismal results - five copies.

Then, the advantage of pushing a series started to kick in. Somehow, I'd acquired a miniature fan club. Don't know who - but they bought six copies of book 3 when it was still on preorder, with no advertising other than a couple of ordinary FB posts. Sold another six after its formal release, again on the strength of dang near no advertising. So, that is what I started doing - I joined a bunch of FB book groups, and every few weeks I make an ordinary free post on them promoting one or another of the books.

I also started exploring book promotion outfits. This is fairly straight-forward - fill out the online form give them money (usually via PayPal) ranging from a pittance to a couple hundred bucks, pick a date, or sometimes a range of dates, and they'll promote the book for you. The good ones demand you have reviews first - and good luck getting them. In my case, the results ranged from complete flops to...near complete flops. Best one cost me $170 and resulted in 22 sales of $0.99 books. Ouch.

Still, I sold ten or twelve books in October - and because of the release of book 4, 34 in November. (Again, book 4 sold several copies on preorder.)

Since then, 18 internet sales in December (one to myself for quality purposes) and 17 so far this month.

The goal is to sell a hundred copies of each title within a year of its release date, or a book a day overall. Right now, well, book one, seven months out, is sitting at 42 sales.
 
Discoverability is an issue. In fact, I think it's the hardest thing in publishing, and no one knows for sure what works for a given book. It's not just for indie books either. Plenty of traditionally published books (as in, by a big publisher like Tor) don't earn out their advance, and plenty sell only a few dozen copies. It's a problem for everyone, and it's a problem on all platforms. It helps if you're the first one to use a platform. Plenty of authors did well 12 years ago on Amazon by simply publishing on there. Since then the market has become saturated. Same with Facebook ads, Amazon ads, Tiktok, paid newsletters, and so on. The early birds on a given platform often benefit the most.

Note that the platform doesn't really matter. All platforms suffer from this. My advise would be to pick a platform and learn that platform. Each has its own niche and interests and specifics, so it takes some time to get the hang of it. Don't believe Wattpad will be easier just because it's smaller. It's a different form whihc requires a different approach, that's all.
 
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