Category Archives: Discoverability

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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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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Birth of a Book: Waterspell 4

Intense! The first four days of January 2022 were intense. I’ve been glued to the computer, shepherding Waterspell Book 4: The Witch into the catalogs of every major bookseller, and several less-famous stores, too.

It’s been extremely gratifying, seeing the book appear in store after store. There’s now a Universal Book Link (UBL) that takes readers to their preferred bookseller. Book 4 has a page at Goodreads now, too.

What’s next? I still need to flesh out the book’s detailed listing at Amazon, as soon as Author Central will let me. And I’m waiting on the printers to send me a proof of the paperback edition.

Once the Book 4 paperback is proofed and ready to print, I’ll begin the process of updating each of the earlier paperbacks with a repaginated interior. Printing and shipping costs being so high these days, I took the opportunity to make a handful of minor text edits to the existing paperbacks, while also repaginating them to slightly reduce the page count of each. It may not make a great difference in printing/shipping expenses, but the end-of-line hyphenation definitely looks better in the repaginated editions.

Also in the near future, I’ll be scheduling a new promotion at BookRaid. I’ve already got a one-day ad scheduled for The Fussy Librarian, for January 18.

Happily, though, Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock continues to rank quite high in its category at Amazon: #49 in Fantasy Adventure Fiction, #82 in Epic Fantasy, and #85 in Sword & Sorcery Fantasy. It’s building momentum, which I hope will carry readers through the entire series, drawing them in due course into the finale, Waterspell Book 4: The Witch.

Now, I think I’ve earned myself a nap. Followed by an online grocery-shop. I’ve been too busy to bother with mundane things like trips to the supermarket or the post office or the gas station. Book publishing takes tremendous amounts of time and effort! #ifyouknowyouknow

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Counting the Days ’til Book 4 Goes Live

It’s nearly January! I’m champing at the bit, ready to start the New Year with my long list of new publishings and refreshed publishings:

1. NEW Waterspell Book 4, both ebook and print, becoming available for pre-orders in January.
2. REFRESHED Books 1-3, ebook and print editions, going up at Amazon, Google, Smashwords, Lightning Source, etc.
3. NEW Complete Series Boxed Set, Waterspell Books 1-4, available for pre-orders in March, I think.
4. NEW Complete Series Audiobook Boxed Set, to be published in Spring 2022.

If I was better at social media, I would know just how to tease the new Book 4 with a tantalizing and intriguing Cover Reveal. Even without that, though, I’m pretty pleased with the success of my marketing efforts for the series-starter, Book 1: The Warlock. It has made it onto an Amazon Best Seller list.

To feed my need to be doing something ahead of January, which will be a flurry of publishing activity, I’m using this week to make my lists and check them twice, ensuring that every file and graphic is in readiness for January 1. I seriously doubt I can wait any longer than that, to get Book 4 out there and then begin the painstaking process of refreshing the Original Trilogy, in every edition and format. I’m committed to publishing wide, but it does take organization and forethought to ensure completeness and consistency across multiple publishing platforms, booksellers, and databases:

Yep, I think January is going to be busy! I can’t wait.

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Two Months Out: Laser-Focused on the Plan

Two months? Have I messed up the countdown? In November, you may recall, I was Four Months Out.

Coming Soon: Waterspell Book 4 

The fact is, things are going so well, I’ve moved up the release date by a full month. Waterspell Book 4 will be available for pre-orders not later than January 18, with the book to be officially released on February 18. Hallelujah!

Amazon bestseller: Waterspell Book 1

One reason for the accelerated plan is that Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock has hit the Amazon bestseller lists! All of my promotional efforts have paid off. My inexpensive promotions at Bookraid, ManyBooks, and especially The Fussy Librarian have produced the following results:

Amazon sales chart

The short little lines at the bottom of the above graph were the products of my ongoing advertising via BookBub, before I wised up and quit wasting my promotional dollars there. I have found BookBub to be overrated and WAY overpriced. Clicks there were costing me about 60 cents, whereas the cost-per-click ranges from under a penny to about 3 cents, max, at the other sites.

Ranked in order of their cost-effectiveness, based on my results:

  1. BookRaid
  2. The Fussy Librarian
  3. ManyBooks

BookBub is totally off my list now. I won’t bother with them again. Nor will I continue with Story Origin, which has also proven to be ineffective, for me anyway. Some people may have the time and interest to work through the complexities of Story Origin’s interface, but I think my time is better spent elsewhere. I’ll fulfill my obligation to support the December 2021 “Passing Through Portals” promotion sponsored by Story Origin, but I won’t continue with a $10 monthly account there.

Passing Through Portals

That’s my monthly promotional report, shared for the benefit of any authors who might profit from my personal experiences with paid book advertising. Ads in selected (and selective) newsletters are working for me.

Social media? Not so much. My friends give me wonderful support at my personal Facebook profile, but my efforts to “go viral” via my public accounts (Bookstagram and Facebook author page) are generating only modest interest. As is this blog. But I have things to say, so I’ll keep posting!

Many thanks to all of the readers who have downloaded Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock, vaulting it onto the Amazon bestsellers lists! I am deeply grateful to you. ♥

 

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Passing Through Portals: Fantasy Review Copies for Readers

First, let’s define it: A portal fantasy is a story about a character who gets transported (perhaps voluntarily, perhaps not) into a fantastic or alternate world. They pass through a portal of some kind (a wardrobe? a tunnel? an interdimensional hole?) and find themselves in a reality that’s different from the world they left behind.

“As anyone who reads science fiction and fantasy can tell you, life is full of doors … appearing unexpectedly, leading to unexpected places. Other worlds, other times. Narnia. An alien planet. The Bronze Age.” James Davis Nicoll

During December, you’re invited to explore a couple of dozen portals and doorways, via “Passing Through Portals,” a month-long promotion sponsored by StoryOrigin and 20 or so participating authors, myself among them.

You can pick up a free review copy of Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock. And while you’re there, please check out all the other titles, also free to download and read, in exchange for honest reviews.

Enjoy your otherworldly travels!

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Four Months Out: Focusing the Plan

The past 30 days have been highly productive and educational. I now have a much better idea, and a better plan, for spreading the word about the original Waterspell trilogy as well as the forthcoming Book 4 (and the forthcoming boxed set). My promotional efforts are paying off, and I’m learning what works and what doesn’t.

Today, November 18, with the official launch of Waterspell Book 4 just four months away (it should be available for pre-orders in only two months, on January 18), I’ll try to summarize what I’ve I learned.

BookBub vs. BookRaid

Hands down, BookRaid.com is better! I’ve found that BookBub is overrated and overpriced. Comparing my continuously-running BookBub ads with my one-day BookRaid ad:

• BookBub got 273 clicks at a cost of $160 = $0.58 per click
• BookRaid got 715 clicks at a cost of $62 = $0.086 per click

That’s right: A one-day BookRaid ad attracted nearly three times as many clicks, and cost me less than 9 cents per click. BookRaid advertising maxes out at $60. No matter how many clicks an ad gets, the advertiser will not be charged more than $60. It’s a Canadian company, and my credit card charged me $1.80 foreign transaction fee, so the actual, final cost came to $61.80. Divided by 715 clicks, however, that’s less than 9 cents per click, compared to the nearly 60 cents per click (!) at BookBub. What a bargain BookRaid is!

Particularly in light of the great results. My BookBub ads had been running almost continuously for weeks, and they were barely moving the needle at Amazon. In fact, almost no Amazon (Kindle) customers were even clicking on my BookBub ads; those ads mostly attracted Google Books and Apple-Canada readers. (I love my Google Books and Apple-Canada readers! Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that Amazon rankings count for so much in the crazy world of publishing.)

On November 5, Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock ranked #17,977 at Amazon:

#147 Fantasy Adventure
#289 Sword & Sorcery
#305 Epic Fantasy

But then on November 7, following my one-day BookRaid ad, my Amazon rankings were:

#446 overall
#4 Fantasy Adventure
#8 Coming of Age
#8 Sword & Sorcery

The numbers also improved at Barnes & Noble: from 124,953 before BookRaid, to 71,283 after.

ManyBooks and Fussy Librarian

Pleased though I was with those numbers, I wasn’t done experimenting. I scheduled ads for the very next Saturday, November 13, benefiting from discounted prices at both The Fussy Librarian ($39, regularly $49) and ManyBooks.net ($19, regularly $29). With those promotions running simultaneously, I can’t say which was the most effective, but together they brought me great results. That Saturday morning, Book 1 was ranked #3256 at Amazon: #26 Fantasy Adventure, #51 Sword & Sorcery, #52 Epic Fantasy.

That day and the next, those numbers climbed:


My conclusion? Stop wasting money on ineffective, overpriced BookBub ads, and direct my promotional dollars instead to the lovely folks at BookRaid, ManyBooks, and Fussy Librarian.

Goodreads and Other Social Media

After taking Alessandra Torre’s free Goodreads webinar, I’ve got a somewhat higher opinion of Goodreads. I’ve tried to implement Alessandra’s great advice about interacting effectively and efficiently on that platform. Some of her advice is:

• Leave reviews for books you love (those you can honestly 5-star)
• Like/comment on other reader reviews of those same books
• Mark your current read as “Reading”
Leave your own review of your own books (no star rating, just your comments)
• Like/comment on the 5-star reviews that readers have given you
• Share a Goodreads review on your other social media

After doing these things, I’ve definitely seen more engagement with readers at Goodreads. To my absolute delight, several new readers have gifted me 5-star reviews there. These are the first new interactions I’ve had at Goodreads in ages. My effective promotion (via BookRaid, Many Books, and Fussy Librarian), combined with my more enthusiastic Goodreads participation, seems to be attracting new supporters to my cause. I’m deeply grateful. ♥

 

These new 5-star ratings have raised my overall numbers at Goodreads to 3.97. Alessandra Torre said the average rating there is 3.5 stars, so I’m feeling good about being “above average.” ↑ Goodreads has a reputation as troll central: too often, there seems to be more emphasis on savaging a writer than on appreciating the time and effort it takes to write a book. With Alessandra’s blessing, I’ll try harder to boost and appreciate the work of my colleagues, to share the love in this crazy publishing free-for-all.

As for my other social-media efforts:

Instagram is working well. I’m connecting with readers and authors there. So far it hasn’t brought me any new reviews (that I know of), but I enjoy interacting with Bookstagrammers.

My Facebook author page isn’t worth the space it occupies. Hardly anybody sees it.

My personal Facebook profile is reserved mostly for my private life, but when I get good book news, I’m thrilled to share it with my friends and feel their love.

The Facebook groups in which I’ve been active are getting less of my time now. They’re either not focused enough on my genre, or they’re actively hostile to authors’ promotional efforts. The latter has surprised me.

What’s Next?

All that I’ve learned this past month has helped me refocus my efforts. It dawned on me that, instead of spending my entire marketing budget on individual Book 1 and Book 4 promotions, I should instead plan to vigorously promote the next big thing on my to-do list, which is the boxed set of the complete Waterspell series.

When that’s ready, I can do a Goodreads Giveaway, and also investigate a $45 NetGalley option.

With that future marketing in mind, I’m taking a break from paid advertising for the next six weeks or so. Gonna save my money for a big push in early 2022—especially now that I know what works to move the needle at Amazon.

Book 1 Amazon rank 18 Nov 2021

Even today, five days after my dual ManyBooks/Fussy Librarian promotion, Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock is well ranked at Amazon. And now it’s got 39 ratings: one more than yesterday. People are finding it and reading it! I am feeling much encouraged. It may indeed be possible to relaunch this series, after Life with a capital L sidelined me for too many years.

 

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Free Book #1 featured at ManyBooks

The ManyBooks library is featuring Waterspell Book 1: The Warlock today. In anticipation of the 2022 release of Book 4, the series-starter remains free in all ebook formats. If you’ve been planning to pick up a copy, all of the quick-links to all of the booksellers are here:
https://deals.manybooks.net/ebooks/the-warlock-waterspell-book-1

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