Last week I mentioned Athena Dean, who founded WinePress Publishing. She got in touch with me to tell me what she’s doing these days, and I thought you’d find it interesting. So today’s guest blog comes from Athena, who has helped coach authors through the daunting task of book production, publicity, advertising, and promotions as they try to find success with their self-published books…
The Power of Free: Promotion Your Way
Recently I canvassed some successful authors and learned that one-third of those surveyed absolutely hate promotion. Some called it their biggest frustration as a published author. I don’t blame them. For many, promotion can be a frustrating and a hard-to-measure endeavor — but it’s necessary if a book project is to achieve success. I think Bob Mayer and Jen Talty sum up the importance of promotion in The Shelfless Book: The Complete Digital Author: “Content is King and Promotion is Queen: together they rule the publishing world. Today, you really can’t afford one without the other.”
Contrary to the experience of many, promotion doesn’t have to be agonizing. Not long ago I got together to brainstorm with a couple of friends of mine—the Miller brothers, whose minds run on wired-to-promote tracks. For years the Miller brothers have dreamed of giving their books away for free in a format that could go viral and create visibility and a platform for their other books. As award-winning Warner Press authors of young adult fiction and technology, as well as design and marketing experts, they are passionate about getting their books—and the books of other authors—in front of the right audiences. My experience as head of a publishing company has been in coaching hundreds of authors through production, publicity, advertising and promoting of their book products. So when Christopher and Allan Miller and I started talking about implementing our ideas about how to make promotion easier for other authors, the light bulb went on. And it had to do with giving something of value away—for free!
The concept of giving something away to attract customers is nothing new. In his wonderful 2009 book Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Chris Anderson wrote: Most transactions have an upside and a downside, but when something is “free!” we forget the downside. “Free!” gives us such an emotional charge that we perceive what is being offered as immensely more valuable than it really is. Why? I think it’s because humans are intrinsically afraid of loss. The real allure of “free!” is tied to this fear. There’s no visible possibility of loss when we choose a “free!” item (it’s free). But suppose we choose the item that’s not free. Uh oh, now there’s a risk of having made a poor decision—the possibility of loss. And so, given the choice, we go for what is free.
The Miller brothers and I started talking about ways to utilize the power of free and the effectiveness of social media to distribute books instantly to fans and their friends. There is a recognized value in offering great stories for free to develop a relationship between the author and reader. We talked about how tying the power of free and instant with word-of-mouth recommendations from fans. What could be more powerful than removing the barriers of cost and access entirely? Or empowering loyal readers to share books with hundreds or thousands of friends with one click?
Out of our talks came the idea for a company whose backbone is a tool to help authors promote their books and connect directly with their readers. We came up with a way to give authors a tool that makes promotion fun, easy, and pays them for every page of their book that is read online. Now, in addition to traditional pay-per-book-sold models, authors have the ability to monetize their books in an entirely new way: pay-per-page-read.
I read a lot of Christian fiction, and 40% of all religious fiction is selling in e-book format, according to the Book Industry Study Group. Some traditional publishers have figured out that giving an e-book away for free (if it’s a great read) boosts sales of the printed edition. So on July 17, 2012, our new author-centric company BookJolt was launched. Bringing great content to the world through effective promotion is what BookJolt is all about. At the heart what we offer is the Free Reader. For now it’s called the BookJolt Free-Embeddable-Viral-Book-Reader-Widget or FEVBRW for short. But you can help us rename it on our website if you have a better name. [Editor’s Note: Good idea. I can’t see FEVBRW catching on. Fever Brow? Sounds like it’ll make you sick…]
The way it works is similar to the free games or apps that you download. They’re free because advertisements create revenue for the app developer. If you don’t mind the ads, you don’t have to pay. Sure, there are often beefier, more feature-rich versions that you can upgrade to for a small fee if you find the apps useful. But either way, the apps can be tried risk-free because of the ad revenue stream that exists. Our embeddable Free Reader works the same way. Think YouTube for Books! A free-to-read, easy-to-share, one-click version of the book that costs the author NOTHING (well, there is a modest set-up fee) and allows their stories to go viral. We are able to keep the cost to authors low because the shared ad revenue helps offset our production costs. And it will earn authors income as readers discover and enjoy their stories. The tool will also allow authors to have personal advertisements throughout the free reader version of their book, with hot links to all their e-books and print books for sale. A more advanced version will include immediate reporting and live interaction tools.
If you want to check out the Free Reader, click on this link. Click on all the buttons and take a good look around. Since we are in the final development stages, there’s a feedback button at the bottom of the reader. We want to hear from you! In mid-August BookJolt will begin a 30-day closed beta test to refine the analytics, work out the bugs, and make improvements based on our beta authors’ feedback.
In addition to our focus on promotion, BookJolt also offers independent publishing services for those who need help in that area. Those services are completely independent from the Free Reader. In other words, as a royalty published author, you can take advantage of the Free Reader without ever using any of our publishing services. What sets our publishing services apart is our commitment to offering our services à la carte, rather than bundled. We offer editing, typesetting, cover design, marketing consulting, sales and distribution, social media management, web design, and interactive picture book app development. Rather than a stock, one-size-fits-all option where typically there are elements that are unnecessary or overpriced but are included to increase the perceived value, we offer what authors need and want.
We’re excited about where we’re heading. As a team we are committed to being author-centric in everything we do. We’re convinced that if we, as authors, help other authors, and treat them as we would want to be treated, that we as a company will succeed alongside our BookJolt authors. And we’re looking for electrifying results from this exciting new venture as we explore creative ways to take the frustration out of marketing and provide other author services. If you are interested in being part of the thirty-day beta test, please email me directly at email@example.com. We are hand picking the content/authors for the closed period and will decide on which titles to include during the third week of August.