This last year has been a year of firsts for me on many fronts. The most significant has been the publication of my first work of fiction, “The Last Verdict”. Not only was this my first foray into fiction, but it was also my first time publishing a book outside of the Christian market. As a hybrid author (that is, I publish with both traditional publishers and independently), I have a growing base of experience with marketing books. However, this shift has made me aware of how unique each genre is with respect to marketing.
For example, over the summer I submitted “The Last Verdict”, a legal thriller novella about death row, as a feature on Bargain Booksy. Bargain Booksy is a great service that puts out emails about genre specific books to voracious readers in those specific genres. After an initial mistake with respect to genre placement resulting in a low return, we refocused into a new category and the promotion went fairly well. (Note: Bargain Booksy reached out about my initial poor results and refunded my money without any request from me to do so. They are a great company to work with).
Later this summer, I attempted another feature for “Living Christ Together”, a non-fiction Christian book made up of reflection on missional life, theology and ministry. The feature failed miserably. While I paid significantly less to feature a book in the Religion/Spirituality genre, very few copies of the book sold, even with a significant drop in the price.
So why the difference?
I am still working through the details, but two important lessons have emerged from the topic:
- The Smaller the Market, the Smaller the Return: The Religion/Spirituality list had a mailing list of over 60,000 potential readers. Comparatively, the sub-genre in which I featured “The Last Verdict” had over 300,000 potential readers. Again, while I paid less for the smaller list, the potential just wasn’t there.
- Genre Specificity Is Key: When I initially featured “The Last Verdict” I did so in a broad Thriller category, resulting in low return. Interestingly, the more specific sub-genre I chose the second time had a larger mailing list (and thus cost more), but resulted in a very good return. With “Living Christ Together”, I realized too late that Religion/Spirituality is far too broad a category for effective marketing. While I assume more than half of the potential readers were Christian, a significant chunk of them were not Christian readers. Further, there wasn’t a differentiation for fiction vs. non-fiction or other sub-genre dynamics.
The most important thing I learned from this process is to watch for the details in any marketing opportunity. Specifically, I’ve learned that Bargain Booksy is not a great tool for Christian non-fiction at this time. Should they want to develop it further, expanding their list and developing better categories and sub-genre lists, I will gladly use them again for my Christian non-fiction. Until then, I won’t be.
That said, I will certainly utilize them for my fiction or non-religious non-fiction titles in certain genres. Bargain Booksy was effective and easy to use. They responded quickly to concerns and offered a refund for my poor results without me complaining or requesting one. I highly commend them to writers IF the book you want to feature fits well into the criteria we explored above.
What has worked for you in marketing? What has not?