Non-Fiction Book Promos

I was offered a deal with Garnet Publishing quite soon after finishing my first book Tearing up the Silk Road. In reality, virtually all the promotion was left to me, and as I received little feedback from the publisher, I had no real way of knowing what worked and what didn't (the only exceptions were sales at book signings and click-throughs from other sites to www.tomcoote.net). As I retained control of my second book Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves, having published it via Wicked World Magazine, I could easily follow sales of both the paperback and eBook through Amazon to see, in real time, the results of my various attempts at promotion.

Book Signings
Soon after Tearing up the Silk Road was published, I did a book signing at my local Waterstones in Worthing. In seven hours I sold eight copies. Apparently this was better than average for an unknown author (the bloke they had the weekend before only sold one copy all day). The staff were nice and they bought me a cappuccino from Costa. Other than that I had nothing else to eat or drink all day. I think I could have sold closer to fifteen copies if Garnet Publishing hadn't been asking £12.99 for it, when similar paperbacks generally sell for around £8.99. I felt embarrassed to tell people how much it was. If I had sold enough copies to pay off the (very) modest advance - which I haven't - then I would have earned around $5.00 in royalties for a day's work. Publishers tend to encourage book signings as it is a good way to ensure that the shops actually get your book in stock. However, two weeks after my book signing for Waterstones, I found that the only Waterstones that had it in stock were one in Liverpool, and the one in Worthing where I did the actual signing. When they sold that one, they didn't get any more in.

Own Web Site and Web Based Projects
As well as this site I also helped set up the digital magazine Wicked World and its accompanying blog. The idea was to provide an outlet for quality travel related articles that wouldn't normally be published in more mainstream magazines, and to help promote the contributors books and other projects. We never intended to compete with more 'click bait' oriented travel sites or advertising driven glossy aspirational travel magazines but instead intended to offer something a little more substantial. Although a lot of people were encouraging about the general quality and look of the digital magazine, few people were actually bothering to read it. The web site attracted far more viewers as it is easier to read on a laptop or mobile device, and the content shows up in search engines, but I doubt if it has directly led to many book sales.

Many people think that their web sites or blogs attract far more viewers than they do. Both www.tomcoote.net and www.wickedworld.net receive around 1000 unique viewers a week but if you drill down deeper into the stats, you find that the real numbers of actual human being beings properly reading the site are far lower: a large number of visits show as being less than one second as there is no second page visit to establish a time measurement; a suspiciously high number of user's enter on the RSS Feed; and the unique visitors total is around 50 percent higher than the total for entry pages(?).

Although the Wicked World Magazine project helped put me in contact with a lot of cool, creative people; helped develop technical skills in Wordpress (for the blog), InDesign (for the digital magazine) and Photoshop; developed some contacts within publishing; and got me some free 'for press' books, it certainly didn't lead to any significant sales for my own books. I also know that only a tiny percentage of those who visit my own site, go on to buy either of my books, although I do get around thirty more unique visits for every thousand eBooks I give away (at three percent, that is about the same as the number who will go on to read the actual eBook).

Other's Web Sites and Magazines
I don't know how much the book reviews for Tearing up the Silk Road helped sales, as I didn't have access to real time sales figures, but I could monitor click-throughs to my site from online articles, reviews and interviews: from an extract at www.gonomad.com I received two click-throughs, and from an article in www.wanderlust.co.uk I received no click-throughs at all. Even articles with a couple of hundred Facebook 'likes' only led to two or three click-throughs to my own site.

When I wrote articles for print magazines, to help promote Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves, there was no noticeable rise in sales to coincide with their publication. These attempts have, however, led on to a welcome part-time income as a writer of travel articles for various travel magazines (I can earn more from two or three articles than I did from a 100,000 word book).

Facebook Promotions
As an experiment I paid for a few Facebook Boosts to try and get people clicking through to a post about a free eBook promotion for Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves on the Wicked World Magazine Facebook page. I thought this might help promote both the digital magazine and my new book. Although the post supposedly showed up on several thousand Facebook user's home pages, hardly anybody clicked on it to read more. I experimented with aiming the Facebook Boosts at different sets of demographics but whatever approach I tried it was still a waste of money.

Twitter
I set up Twitter accounts for both myself and Wicked World and went about following people who might have similar interests. Some of those bother to look at the related web sites and most will follow back. Very, very few of these will ever go on to buy either of my books.

I know some people have found it to be a useful tool for promoting their self published fiction but I also know that they have invested a huge amount of time and effort into building up their twitter fan base. It's difficult not to feel that I could be doing something more worthwhile with my time.

Radio Interviews
The only radio interview I've done is for Australia's Radio Roaming. I don't think this led to any new sales at all but I was flattered to be asked to do it.

Goodreads Paperback Giveaways
To help promote Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves I ran a number of free paperback giveaways through Goodreads. This is quite an expensive way to go about promoting you book, when you have to pay not only for each paperback but also for international P&P. It did earn me a few more reviews on Goodreads and Amazon but as far as I could tell, made no difference to book sales. Other than the cost, the big problem with this approach is that a lot of people, who would never actually buy your book, will enter the giveaways just to get something for free. Although Goodreads don't really approve of it, it would be better to simply contact the kind of people who might like your book, directly, and offer to send them a copy in the hope that they'll review it (although I'm not sure this makes much difference, anyway).

Amazon KDP Kindle Giveaways
If authors agree to make their eBooks available exclusively through Amazon KDP, then they can make their Kindle books free for five days every ninety days. When Amazon first started doing this, a number of 'indie' novelists did very well out of it. However, as so many people are now doing it, it has become far less useful as a promotional tool, and it only ever really seemed to work for the modern equivalent of pulp fiction (thrillers, horror, fantasy, romances and mummy porn). The only non-fiction books that seem to do well are lightweight humour, cook books and guides to getting rich by selling eBooks.

If you make your eBook free and don't bother to promote it with anything more than a few tweets, Facebook posts, or free adverts on eBook giveaway sites, then hardly anybody will read it. If you're lucky a few hundred people will download it as its free but only about three percent of them will ever actually read it. If you want it to make any difference at all then you will need to be getting thousands of downloads and to do this you will need to pay the bigger eBook promotion sites. The most popular of these is BookBub but the percentage of their subscribers who are interested in 'literary fiction' or even 'non-fiction' is tiny, compared to those who prefer thrillers or romances. They don't even have a category for Travel. If you apply for one of their expensive promotions, and your book looks too serious or literary, or simply doesn't have many Amazon reviews, then they will probably turn it down as not suitable for their readers. A quick look at the demographics for all such sites will reveal that the vast majority of their members are middle aged American women. If you don't think that middle aged US housewives, with time to kill, are necessarily going to 'get' you, then this might not be the right way to go.

Not surprisingly, I was turned down by BookBub but have paid for promotions with Kindle Nation Daily ($99 for around 1000 free downloads), Book Sends ($75 for around 800), EReader New Today ($20 for around 1000) and FreeBooksy ($40 for around 600). I also did a $10 promotion with eBooks Habit (virtually no resulting downloads), a $20 promotion with Free eBooks daily (again, virtually nothing), and a cheaper Kindle Nation Daily promo ($29.99 leading to around 200 downloads). Another $19.00 was wasted on 60 Tweets through eBooks Habit with no noticeable results at all. Each of these promos resulted in between one and three extra sales and a couple of extra reviews. Unfortunately, as with the Goodreads paperback giveaways, there is a risk that people will download it because it's free, when it's not the kind of thing they would like or understand enough to ever actually buy.


Update (March, 2015)
My most recent $99 Kindle Nation Daily promotion only led to around around 200 free downloads, whereas less than a year ago, it resulted in over 1000. Other authors seem to be reporting a similar decline. At the time of this update it appears as if most of the people who download free eBooks have far too many (unpaid for) books on their Kindles to ever actually read. This applies not only to non-fiction books - which have always been far harder to promote through free Kindle giveaways - but also to more popular varieties of 'pulp' fiction. At the same time, many small independent publishers appear to have been put out of business by the deluge of free eBooks.

 

Full Length Books

Tearing up the Silk Road

Two Globes A 100,000 word travelogue detailing a journey from China to Istanbul, through Central Asia, Iran and the Caucasus.

Click here to view more details and the original book blurb for the back cover. You could also check out some of my initial ideas for book cover designs, view the final printed cover and check out the slide show.

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com

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Voodoo, Slaves and White Man's Graves

My second full-length travel book revolves around an overland journey through Benin, Togo, Ghana, Burkina Faso and Mali.

The book is now available in both print and eBook editions. Check out the West Africa Photo Gallery to view some pictures from this journey or view the full print version of the book cover.

amazon.co.uk | amazon.com

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Free eBooks

Turkmenbashi's Land of Fairy Tales

A Short Break in Libya

To Camels from Cows: Algeria Overland

All of these short eBooks are available for free in a variety of formats for use on such eReaders as Kindle, Nook and Sony Touch. After downloading the books in Kindle, Epub, RTF, PDB or PDF format, they can then be copied over to the eReader of your choice.

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Contact Me

If you would like to get in touch, then you can me email me at tom@tomcoote.net