Category Archives: Books and Readers

Book Promotion Sites: Ranked

Six months ago, in November 2021, I ran my first paid promotion for my novels. My first effective promotion, that is. I’d been experimenting with BookBub but getting nowhere. After concluding that BookBub is overrated and overpriced, I went looking for better, cheaper alternatives and found BookRaid. My single-day November 2021 promotion at BookRaid was far more successful than my ongoing, daily BookBub ads had been to that point, persuading me to drop BookBub entirely.

Waterspell by Deborah J. LightfootSince then, I’ve also run promotions with The Fussy Librarian, ManyBooks, Bookorium, and Freebooksy (Written Word Media). Additionally, I’ve done three smallish Reader Views giveaways of paperbacks, finished one big Goodreads Giveaway of Waterspell: The Complete Series (Kindle edition), offered a 50% discount on the series at Google Books, and made ARCs of the boxed set available free, for the month of April, on NetGalley. Looking ahead, I’ve scheduled a Book Barbarian promo for July 12. (Book Barbarian specializes in SF/fantasy titles.)

Which of these has worked best?

The Prize Goes To …

The hands-down winner (to date) is Freebooksy. At $170 (!) it’s the most expensive promotion that I’ve run, but:
You get what you pay for, as shown in this chart:

Book Promotion Newsletters and Giveaways comparedNot only did Freebooksy outperform all other newsletters by an astonishingly wide margin, notice that even Day 2 of the Freebooksy promo (when folks were opening their email late, on the day after) brought in more orders than The Fussy Librarian did in total. Evidently, Written Word Media has a vastly greater reach than any other book promotion service that I’ve tried. I also appreciate them promoting the entire series (not just Book 1), and continuing to list Waterspell on their website:

Waterspell fantasy series by Deborah J. Lightfoot

My Freebooksy promotion thrilled me by making Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock a No. 1 bestseller in a pair of Amazon categories, and vaulting it to a very respectable second place on yet another Amazon bestseller list:

Waterspell by Deborah J. Lightfoot is an Amazon bestseller

Freebooksy, obviously, must top my list of book promotion sites that truly deliver. I’ll save up to run another promo with them in six months or so. The $170 price tag becomes less of a shocker when I consider that The Fussy Librarian charges $50 for a one-day listing, Book Barbarian is $55, BookRaid is $60, and a one-month NetGalley listing is $50 (when arranged through a NetGalley co-op). A Goodreads Giveaway (if you get it on sale) is $99. A ManyBooks promo is $29.

While there’s no fee to put a book in the Reader Views giveaways, each paperback that I mailed out cost me $10 for the book plus at least $4 postage. I sent out 10 books (one to Canada for a whopping $21 in international postage), bringing my total Reader Views out-of-pocket to about $160 (spread over three months). I’ve no idea whether any of the recipients reciprocated by leaving me a review anywhere. I have no direct evidence that any of them favored me with a review or even a wordless, anonymous rating. Sadly, none of them communicated with me, despite the contact-info sheet that I included with each copy. In future, I’ll think twice before doing another unfiltered, unvetted giveaway of pricey paperbacks.

Book promotion sites rated for effectiveness

The not-knowing about their effectiveness is why I’m giving both Goodreads and Reader Views a so-so C for their giveaways. It’s been nearly two full months since Amazon sent all of the winners at Goodreads their free copies of The Complete Series. So far, only one of those recipients (that I know of) has reciprocated by rating the Waterspell series at Goodreads.

Waterspell by Deborah J. LightfootNetGalley gets a B-minus from me because the reviews there, although they are excellent five-star reviews (like Aria’s pictured here), are far fewer in number than I had anticipated. I was hoping (too optimistically) for 40 or 50 reviews. To date, I’ve received six. I’m deeply grateful for those six highly positive reviews (thank you, Aria and other readers!) but I’m somewhat disappointed that so few of the individuals who requested and received an advance reader copy (ARC) have posted their reviews.

ManyBooks gets a C average from me because my two promos there have not moved the needle very much. They’re nice people to work with though (they gave me a badge!). And they’ve certainly outperformed BookBub (ridiculously expensive and ineffective), Bookorium (useless and now defunct), and my experimental Google Books discount, which has not attracted even one taker. Half price doesn’t appeal? Huh. The 50% discount code expires on May 31. I guess I’ll extend it for another two months, since it’s not costing me a dime.

That’s my report. If you’re an author who’s researching the best promotional sites and methods, I hope that my experiences will help you decide where and how to spend your advertising dollars. May your sales rankings skyrocket!

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Launch Day! WATERSPELL: The Complete Series

April 21, 2022: The 4-in-1 book bundle hits the stores! Before I had my first cup of coffee on Release Day, I was checking the downloads on my Kindle and Nook to be sure the formatting had survived the trip through cyberspace. Especially the complicated Table of Contents that I struggled with, before finally figuring out how to use Word Styles to achieve the hierarchy needed to list each individual book with all of that book’s chapters as subheadings. Evidently I was successful: The TOC in every edition looks good and makes logical sense.

Now I wait for ratings and reviews to (hopefully) appear. I’m especially interested in the results of my Goodreads Giveaway of 100 Kindle copies: Will that giveaway generate the new reviews I’m hoping for? Fingers crossed that most of the people who entered the giveaway are actual readers of epic fantasy. Past experience, however, tells me that at least some of the entrants (and therefore, some of the winners) are pirates who only want free books that they can turn around and sell under the table. It’s a shame that Goodreads attracts so many unsavory characters. Between its trolls and its thieves, Goodreads remains a sketchy proposition for authors, though readers seem to find it useful for tracking their To-Be-Read lists. Here’s hoping that my newest giveaway produces results that will raise my admittedly low opinion of Goodreads.

Far more rewarding (and fun) has been my experiment in offering ARCs (advance reader copies) at NetGalley. Going through a co-op made NetGalley affordable. And so far, I’ve been very pleased with the quality of the reviews The Complete Series has received there (excerpts pictured above and below). I’m thinking of trying NetGalley again to pull in reviews for the forthcoming audiobook edition.

Release Day always feels anticlimactic, after the flurry of pre-release promotion. I’ve done what I can to let people know there’s now a boxed set, and the 4-in-1 bundle is the easiest, slickest, most convenient way to experience the world of Waterspell. I hope readers find it and love it.

Where does this leave me? Besides tired? I’m truly worn out from this flurry of publishing and promoting. The end of all this effort, however, is in sight. Before too much longer, I will log off of social media; ignore this website (as I have often done in the past); and settle down to WRITE something new! The ideas are bubbling. I’m scribbling notes, in between the Instagram posts and my YouTube uploads. What a joy it will be to discover the story that arises from those scribblings! I was meant to write, not to spend all of my time waving a book over my head, asking people to “Buy this, please!”

That, however, is exactly what I’m asking: “Buy this, please!” (You can get the Boxed Set at a 50% discount at Google Books. Use this link to redeem the discount code: https://play.google.com/redeem?code=2WWF82J338R07)

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Simon de Deney: Masterful Narrator

Look what I found! A video from a few years ago, of my audiobook narrator, actor and voiceover artist Simon de Deney, reading a short story during a fundraiser for the Emergency Care Fund of the National Hospital for Neurology & Neurosurgery in London.

It’s a great story and an absorbing performance. Watch it here:


You can also enjoy Simon reading an excerpt from the forthcoming Waterspell audiobook (The Complete Series, a boxed set of four books). I’ve posted the excerpt on my very own, brand-new YouTube channel:

Much more to come! This being my first audiobook, I’m climbing the learning curve as I explore options for distribution: going wide, far beyond Audible. Barring unforeseen complications, Waterspell: The Complete Series boxed audio set should be available Summer 2022. “Stay tuned!”

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My NetGalley Experiment

When I first looked into NetGalley (“We Help Books Succeed”) I thought it was beyond reach because of the budget-busting expense. But then I learned about these things called “NetGalley co-ops,” which are group ventures that bring the cost down considerably. Going through a co-op (I am using Victory Editing), a writer can put a book on NetGalley for $50 for one month and start sending out ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) to all sorts of industry professionals, including booksellers and librarians.

My listing for Waterspell: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) is scheduled to run through April 29. In just the first two days of it being on NetGalley, I’ve received requests from more than 40 interested readers, including several booksellers, educators, and institutional as well as school librarians. These are people who would not have known my series even existed, if not for NetGalley.

This experiment has only just begun. Proof of its success (or failure) will lie in how many reviews my boxed set gets, and the quality of those reviews. At this early stage, however, I’m thinking that NetGalley, accessed via a co-op, is a good investment. At the very least, I’m getting exposure in a much larger arena than Bookstagram and Facebook—and my cover art for The Complete Series is getting all thumbs-up so far! Not a single negative vote has appeared yet, which validates my choice of a traditional two-dimensional cover instead of the 3-D “boxed set” graphics that many writers are using (to their detriment, in my opinion, since those 3-D images hide the pretty cover art and make the books’ boring spines prominent).

Another useful aspect of a NetGalley listing is the space it provides for a Marketing Plan. Forced to actually think about it, I came up with this:

Goals

The magic number of reviews is 50. That’s what I’m hoping for: a total of 50 reviews at Amazon for The Complete Series.

Past experience with Goodreads Giveaways suggests that only a fraction of the 100 individuals who won Kindle copies of the boxed set will actually post a review. I may be lucky to get 10 reviews from that giveaway.

Which means I’m pinning most of my hopes on the NetGalley reviewers. I’m appealing to you, you lovely librarians and booksellers: help me out with plentiful reviews. They don’t all have to be 5-star (though a girl can hope and dream, and extend oodles of humble gratitude to everyone who is so kind and generous).

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For Google Books Readers: 50% Off

As a little experiment to attract more readers to my website and my Instagram, I’m offering the Google Books edition of WATERSPELL: The Complete Series (Boxed Set: Books 1–4) at a 50% discount via Google Play. Through May 31, just click this link to redeem the discount code.

Upon publication of the boxed set on 21 April 2022, you’ll get all four books in the series (Warlock, Wysard, Wisewoman, and Witch) for $4.48 instead of the list price of $8.95. Such a deal!

I’m also running a Goodreads Giveaway for the Kindle boxed set. Click below for more details. (The Goodreads Giveaway ends on March 31, but the Google Books discount continues through May 31, 2022.)

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Waterspell by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Waterspell

by Deborah J. Lightfoot

Giveaway ends March 31, 2022.

See the giveaway details at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

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The Boxed Sets Are Coming

The dates are set: April 21 is release day for the Waterspell ebook boxed set, followed by the audiobook set on June 1.

Waterspell ebook boxed set

WATERSPELL: The Complete Series (boxed set of four ebooks)

Other people’s schedules largely dictated my choice of these two dates. Goodreads is having a March sale on Kindle Giveaways. As long as I book a giveaway by mid-month, I get the discounted price, and those who enter and win will get their free boxed set in April on release day.

For the audiobook edition, I hope to tie my promotions to “Audiobook Appreciation Month” in June. My wonderful narrator, Simon de Deney, is now recording Book 4 of the series and should completely finish his narration this month. Then I begin the process (I hope) of uploading nearly 100 separate MP3s at Audiobooks Unleashed.

Waterspell boxed audiobook set

WATERSPELL: The Complete Series will be available as an audio boxed set, expertly narrated by Simon de Deney.

I’m still debating about NetGalley and Written Word Media. As I mentioned in my January planning post, Written Word Media is pricey. And I read that NetGalley reviewers can be even harsher than Goodreads reviewers. Not sure I want to spend $50 and get negativity from constipated reviewers. Maybe I’ll stick with the Goodreads Giveaway, and try a little advertising for the boxed set(s), too.

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Release Day! Waterspell Book 4: The Witch

Unpacking a shipment of your own new book is a thrill like no other! I’ve had the pleasure of opening a box of my latest, Waterspell Book 4: The Witch, which is now available in print (paperback) and all ebook formats. It looks great, IMO. But I’m biased. Now it’s a waiting game, putting me on pins and needles as I look for the first reviews to come in. I’m sure I could have done more, I could have sent out more Advance Reader Copies, I could have spent more on ads and promotion. But the reality, I know, is that readers won’t care about Book 4 unless they have read and enjoyed the original trilogy.

My promotional efforts, therefore, remain focused on Book 1: The Warlock. It’s featured today, February 18, by BookRaid (with which I’ve enjoyed success previously); and on Saturday, Feb. 19, Bookorium (new to me) promotes it. After that, I intend to run only one ad each month, alternating between BookRaid and The Fussy Librarian (adding Bookorium into the mix, if that one proves successful).

Waterspell by Deborah J. Lightfoot: The Complete SeriesThe greater part of my attention must now turn to the two boxed sets: Ebook and audiobook. With Book 4 releasing (singly) in February, does it make sense to release the boxed set of ebooks in April? Is that too soon? Will that schedule give me time to promote the set? Research is needed, along with serious thought. The later in the year, the fewer the months during which the boxed set will carry the 2022 copyright date. With so much emphasis on “new releases,” keeping that 2022 date as fresh as possible, for as long as possible, seems to argue for publishing the boxed ebook set ASAP.

Then there’s the boxed set of audiobooks. Will it be most likely to find an audience during the summer months? Should it be released in May, hard on the heels of the companion ebook set? I think that might be best. But again, I should research and find out when audiobooks sell most strongly: spring, summer, fall, or winter.

Waterspell by Deborah J. Lightfoot: The Complete Set audio edition

Also washing around in the back of my mind are the words of my experienced beta reader, and the suggestions of my audio narrator. Both of them are telling me that I should write more books (or at least novellas) set in the world(s) of Waterspell. Hmm. Should I? Can I?

I think my spring, summer, and winter of 2022 will be busy.

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It’s Good to Talk Shop

Once upon a time I belonged to an in-person writing critique group. The group gave me valuable advice, and I benefited from participation in it. But times changed, and our lives changed, and the group drifted apart, gradually breaking up, or reformulating itself with new members in a different meeting location. I ceased to participate.

These days, I get feedback via email and text messages from my beta readers and reviewers. I also try to engage with other writers on Goodreads and Instagram. Writing is a lonely profession, but it’s not good to work in too much of a vacuum. Even the most introverted among us need to interact with our peers.

A Moment in Time by Martin DukesIt has been my pleasure recently to talk shop with Martin Dukes, author of the Alex Trueman Chronicles. It turns out that Martin and I have followed similar paths with our respective series: we were both away from our work for 10 years.

Coming back to a story after such a long break presents special challenges. I’m sharing our Instagram conversation here, for what it reveals about the issues involved and the concerns we both have as “long-haul authors.”

 


 

martin.dukes.wildest.dreams commented: Well done for writing four. How did this work for you? Has there been an obvious evolution in style during the series as you find your way with them? (Just going to Amazon now to get the first one ☺)

booksofwaterspell Thank you! I deeply appreciate your support and your interest. Books 1-3 of Waterspell are really the beginning, middle, and “end” of one continuous story. The new Book 4 is a coda, set five years after the events of the original trilogy. I’m not sure I would recommend that structure: A few readers have been really annoyed by Book 1’s cliffhanger ending. “Golly,” I think when a reader gets angry about it. “I’m giving you Book 1 for free, and several reviews have mentioned that it’s not a standalone, so why the outrage?” I guess I’m so accustomed to fantasy series that go on and on, it never occurred to me that readers would bristle at Book 1 ending on a cliffhanger. As to an evolution in style: I definitely became a more efficient writer. Rereading Books 1-2, I can see that they’re wordy in spots, and draggy in spots. Both would have benefited from a more ruthless paring than I gave them. By Book 3, I was writing more concisely. Partly, I imagine, because the scene had been thoroughly set (and described!) in Bks 1-2. But also because my style did evolve as I continued the saga. Many readers have commented that the series gets better as it goes. Oftentimes it’s the other way around (great first book, disappointing sequels) so I’m happy when readers say that I’ve avoided that trap, at least.

martin.dukes.wildest.dreams I’m surprised that anyone would object to your Book 1 ending on a cliff-hanger, unless it was not already apparent that this was the first in a series. From a writer’s point of view I’m sure such a device is useful in encouraging the reader to move on to Book 2 and a very normal strategy. TBF I could only see one such comment and your other reviews are universally enthusiastic. It’s constantly surprising how some reviewers will settle on one relatively trivial factor and use it as a yardstick by which to condemn the work as a whole! I’m interested to see that you recognise an improvement in your own writing style during the course of the series. I suppose sticking at it and writing them books in quick succession would help with regard to consistency. In my own series there was a gap of about 10 yrs between Books 2 and 3. I have tried very hard to keep things consistent but I’m sure readers will let me know if I haven’t! Did you likewise find that your characters matured and changed over time? (that is, assuming that some of the characters persist from book to book). For my own part, and since a central character is key to the series, I felt that there was a very real maturation as he aged with experience and as I came to know him better over time. Anyway, I wish you all the best with the series, which is evidently highly regarded and well-received.

booksofwaterspell A 10-year gap for you, too, huh. I’m working with the same: My original trilogy 2011-12, now the sequel in 2022. There’s a tension, I think, between achieving consistency but within a framework of growth, for both writer and characters. Like your main character, mine has matured, and her emotionally damaged “significant other” has (mostly) healed. One of my beta readers asked why I didn’t start Book 4 exactly where Book 3 ended (Bk 4 begins five years later). I replied that it wasn’t possible to pick up the story exactly where I’d left it. After my life took a sharp turn during those years, I wasn’t the same person who had written the original trilogy. My characters had also evolved. But I know those people and their story so well, I didn’t have as much trouble writing Book 4 as I thought I might. (Took me eight drafts, but that’s about right.) My beta reader commented: “Rereading the series, I realized your writing really hit its stride with the 3rd book. Not that there was anything wrong with the first two, but the 3rd had an ease about the writing. You’ve maintained that with this book.” I was relieved by her feedback. She confirmed that I’d achieved both some consistency and some growth, which is what a series should have, IMO. Regarding the grousing about Book 1’s cliffhanger: There’s more griping on Goodreads than on Amazon. But I served the story the best I could. If some folks dislike the structure, they have plenty of other books from which to choose!☺I’m looking forward to reading A Moment in Time. It’s up next in my TBR pile.

books of waterspell BTW, I love the cover of A Moment in Time. It’s great.

“It’s constantly surprising how some reviewers will settle on one relatively trivial factor and use it as a yardstick by which to condemn the work as a whole!” —Martin Dukes, author

 

 

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Bragging Rights

I just got word that Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock was chosen as one of the best books of the month for December on Manybooks.net. And I’ve been notified that Book 4: The Witch made the “hot list” of the most anticipated upcoming new releases at Kobo. 😊

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One Month Out: What’s Next?

Can it really be true? After planning this, for so long?

Waterspell Book 4: The Witch releases on February 18 in print, and in all ebook formats. It’s up everywhere, available now for pre-order from nearly any bookseller.

After a frantic two weeks in early January, setting up Book 4 for pre-release, then updating each ebook in the original trilogy to reference Book 4, and also refreshing the print editions of each book to ensure consistency across the Waterspell universe, I feel like I’ve been running a months-long marathon that, at the end, turned into a sprint. And the sprint ended as abruptly as if the finish line materialized out of thin air: one minute, I couldn’t even see it; the next second, I had crossed it. Every item on The Plan was checked off. I was done.

With Book 4, anyway.

Next Up: The Complete Series

As in: both boxed set(s):

Next will come the boxed ebook set. I’m thinking an April release for this, supported (perhaps) by a Goodreads Giveaway and a $50 NetGalley listing. Perhaps also with a Written Word Media promotion, although they are pricey.

Then, after the boxed ebook set is published everywhere and (hopefully) attracting notice, I can give my full attention to the boxed audiobook set.

Audio work is well under way, with the complete series now in the capable hands of an experienced, professional narrator. I’m delighted with his ongoing progress on what will be a 50-finished-hour project.

Looking into my immediate future, I feel almost relaxed. The sprint is over. The marathon continues, because marketing is an endless marathon. But compared with the frantic pace of the past few weeks and months, releasing and promoting the two boxed sets in Spring 2022 will be a leisurely stroll along an otherworldly shoreline. A stroll I’ll be happy to take … and happy to finally finish.

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