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Are Book Promotion Sites Right For Me? Reaching More Readers Podcast, With Dale L. Roberts And Holly Greenland

Are Book Promotion Sites Right for Me? Reaching More Readers Podcast, With Dale L. Roberts and Holly Greenland

This month on the Reaching More Readers podcast, Dale takes the lead, advising Holly on the best ways to identify the right book promotion sites to reach your readers and make sure you don't get scammed along the way. Take a listen if you've ever considered a book promo site but didn't know where to start or which one may be right for you.

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Listen to the Podcast: Book Promotion Sites

On the Reaching More Readers podcast, @selfpubwithdale takes the lead, advising Holly Greenland on the best ways to identify the right book promotion sites. Click To Tweet

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Show Notes

About the Hosts

Dale L. Roberts is a self-publishing advocate, award-winning author, and video content creator. Dale’s inherent passion for life fuels his self-publishing advocacy both in print and online. After publishing over 50 titles and becoming an international bestselling author on Amazon, Dale started his YouTube channel, Self-Publishing with Dale. Selected by Feedspot and LA Weekly as one of the best sources in self-publishing of 2022, Dale cemented his position as the indie-author community's go-to authority. You can find Dale on his website or YouTube

Holly Greenland is a self-published author, content writer and strategic communications consultant. She has worked in marketing and communications for nearly twenty years, including at the BBC, UK Parliament, and award-winning agency Social & Local. Holly is currently completing a Publishing PhD with Kingston University in London, investigating the factors that increase the likelihood of indie author success. Find out more about Holly's writing on her website or connect on LinkedIn.

Read the Transcripts to the Podcast: Book Promotion Sites

Dale L. Roberts: I'm Dale L. Roberts, an award-winning author, self-publishing advocate, and a YouTube creator with over 50 publications, and get ready for this, Holly, 1,400 videos across two channels on YouTube.

And of course, you guys have already heard me allude to my co-host here, the awesome Holly Greenland. Holly, share a little bit about yourself.

Holly Greenland: I have not got that many videos on YouTube, but I have worked in communications and marketing for getting on for 20 years, frighteningly. But I really love writing, I've got a couple of self-published books. At the moment, I'm very focused on a PhD at Kingston University in London, where I'm looking at self-published authors and what makes them successful and what we can learn from that. So, that's one of the reasons I'm really interested in all things self-publishing at the moment.

Dale L. Roberts: You guys ever have the opportunity to sit down and chat with Holly or even book her for a podcast interview, I highly recommend you do it. She is so awesome, easy to speak with.

Honestly, you and I were put on a blind date a few months ago, blind date to a certain extent, I don't think our spouses would appreciate that type of verbiage, but we ended up, hitting off really well and this has just been really awesome, and I think we're now going into our fifth month of reaching more readers.

So, I'm ecstatic to talk a little bit more about today's topic, which is free and premium book promotion websites, which ones are good, which ones aren't, and you and I were just having a chat about this off the record and I found it very interesting, because how many publications are you at this point?

Holly Greenland: So, I've got two books. They're both the first in a series. One is a murder mystery adult, and one is a middle grade fiction book. I've got some others in the pipeline, so I'm ready to get going once I actually submit my thesis, if that ever happens this year. So, I've been revisiting all of the things I was doing first time around.

I was really lucky first time around, had some good success, but I've got some more things coming up.

One of the things that I keep coming across are these book promotion sites. Places that I can go to get promotion, reach more readers, exactly what we want to be talking about, and I do find it a bit of a confusing landscape, which is why we were having a bit of a chat about it offline. Just because I want to get my head around, what are the options out there? How do you know that they're legit and that you're not being scammed, because I think as a self-publisher, you've always got your guard up a little bit because there's so many people out there who are potentially looking to either give you great service or just take your money. So, you've always got your guard up, and that's why I would love to hear your view on it, and I've got a few questions I will be asking you, I think, as you tell me more about it.

But yeah, book promotion sites, what are they? Are they for me?

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, it is so overwhelming. It seems like there are a dime a dozen; there are tons out there.

The very first thing is, I almost always will say rely on referrals and recommendations from peers within this industry. Someone who has actually walked the walk and talked the talk.

Don't worry so much if they are a part of an affiliate program, because if they have the stats and the data to back up the results that they're saying that they have, then fantastic.

For instance, Holly, if you were to come to me and tell me like, hey, XYZ.com does fantastic book promos for nonfiction authors, you should probably go check this out, Dale. I'm going to believe you, Holly. I'm going to go into this.

Cross check any service that you're going to use, and this is my preferred way of things, ALLi's not paying me to say this. The Alliance of Independent Authors has what's called the watchdog list, and I believe John Doppler as well as Michael La Ronn, both spearhead this, and what they do is they vet various services and companies based on ALLi's code of ethics. Is this going to align with those code of ethics? Will this be a service company or brand that our authors can be able to trust?

This was a conversation I actually had with Orna Ross, the founder of ALLi, where it's crazy, they will push and pass on opportunities to be financially compensated for a better score, for a better recommendation, because she wants to keep things honest.

That is super, super big, and if you guys want a very simple link, I'm sure there's going to be a link inside of the show notes to that. Shout out to Holly, of course, Holly always gets the notes put together as well as our good pal Howard.

Howard, thank you so much for putting these things together.

But go into the watchdog list, double check those things.

The other thing is this, Holly, be very careful if you're ever cold prospected. Meaning that if you get some random phone call from some company that's, hey, we saw this and that, and we want to help you promote it.

Okay. First thing is, how the heck did you get my phone number? That's going to be the very first thing because it's not like you're making it publicly available.

By the way, side note here, Holly, you get the opportunity and I'm telling this to all listeners right now, go to whitepages.com. Look up yourself because you're going to be shocked, you're going to find yourself there.

I'd actually watched a YouTuber named Jack Gordon at one point or another that he actually reached out to numerous celebrities, literal celebrities. I think Mark Cuban was one of them, that he was able to directly call them from the information he found from White Pages. It's a simple process to get yourself removed from it, and within 24 hours you're going to be pulled off that. This is how some of these predatory companies’ prey on authors by going into that White Pages, oh, this looks like the person, let me go ahead and call them up and make them an offer.

So, first things first, ignore any cold prospecting. If you're getting something within your email inbox and you did not sign up for it, hard pass, because a marketing company that should be focusing on book marketing is going to focus on book marketing, not on marketing to authors, because if that is part of their process you got to start to question things.

So, one of the big ones in book promotions, everybody loves BookBub.

Holly Greenland: Yeah, I hear about this all the time. I'm a member of a lot of different communities and people are always talking about it, and actually one of the things people are often saying is, is it even worth me trying?

I think there's a feeling like it's so big.

Dale L. Roberts: I feel that on such a visceral level for me because honestly, I've been applying for years now and every now and then I forget about it and I've mentally just checked out on it, but BookBub deals are pretty good.

I've only ever heard of one person that didn't have a good return on their investment. Everybody else that gets BookBub, a BookBub deal or a featured deal, not talking about their advertising, if you will. The featured deals are stellar. I've heard so many great stories, but getting in there is another thing.

But I will tell you this, I don't know this for a fact, but I'm going to guess that BookBub's not called prospecting authors. They're probably too busy managing the workload that they have right now from all of the people trying to apply.

Holly Greenland: All the desperate authors getting in touch.

Okay, so these sites, readers sign up to their sites to get the promotions. That's how it's working, right? That's typically how it's working.

So, are some of these different promotional sites going to be targeting specific readers that I might prefer for my books, for example? Are there some for different genres, some for fiction, some for non-fiction? Is it divided in that way? Do you know what I mean?

Are there some that I should be trying more?

Dale L. Roberts: There are some that are very niche specific and then there are some that are broadly encompassing.

I hate to keep mentioning this one, BookBub has a number of different niches. We're talking dozens of different niches, and you can buy that featured deal, or get that ad placement in front of that ideal reader.

How they're getting that readership is through getting readers to subscribe through an email newsletter and knowing what their interests are and serving them with that, and this is where they've been so good at curating authors, the right books for their subscribers, because their idea is let's retain these readers, because the longer we can keep these readers, the longer we can keep these authors coming in and putting in deals.

So, they want to have a win-win situation. Readers get the books that they want. Authors get the readers that they want. It's a happy little marriage.

So, understanding where each service is going to be is going to take a little bit of exploration. Don't just throw money at the problem.

I think in our last episode we were talking about Amazon advertising where I was like, don't just throw money at the problem and say, oh, this is going to work. You've got to do your due diligence. Go through, review the website, figure out, how are they getting their readers? That's going to be the very first thing. How are you getting the readers? Because if they're just doing some, I don't know, these blind emails out to readers to subscribe to their stuff, or they're being bribed with a lead magnet of some sort that's broadly encompassing and has nothing to do with your niche, there could probably be a problem.

I really love, and this is not my wholehearted endorsement of the platform, but Written Word Media has a number of very niche, specific eBook promo systems that you can be able to tap into.

So, I think romance reads might be one of them, so if you happen to be a romance writer, you can tap into that one.

There's another one, Crave Books is fantastic. I've seen that they had a campaign going out to horror writers. The more you can study the site, where did they get their readers, how many readers do they have, and what's the niche and genre that they're serving; that makes all the bit of difference.

Holly Greenland: Presumably then, these readers, they're those prolific readers, the enthusiastic readers who, if you do capture them through a promotion that you manage to get, maybe with a first in a series or something, you're hoping that there may then be some read through off the back of it as well, because they're going to be those enthusiastic, if they've subscribed to these kinds of sites, they're the kind of readers you want to find.

Dale L. Roberts: Absolutely, and here's the thing too, as well, when it comes to these paid book promo sites, there's going to be some people that are listening to this and saying, Dale, Holly, sorry, I don't have the money, I don't even have $5 to spend, where do I start?

What I would recommend is there are a lot of free book promotion services out there as well. Will they compare to something like a Written Word Media or a BookBub? Probably not, you're getting something for free, but how they function, some of these sites, I can't speak for all of them, they function on an affiliate program of some sort. It could probably be Amazon associates. So, if someone goes and buys your discounted eBook through their website or through their email newsletter of some sort, and they go through and they make that purchase, they get a percentage of that sale. So, it behoves them to showcase authors and not have to take from them.

So, I would say start out with those free ones first, Holly. Test them out. Take them for a test spin. Don't stack them, meaning that if you've got a single promotion on a day, that's more than enough, because you want to see how well a single service performs before you throw another service on top of it.

I mean some supplements work really well for people, and this is talking about health supplements here, folks. If you were to take Protein drinks and creatine and pre-workouts and a multivitamin, and all of a sudden, you're feeling sick, you don't know what the heck's wrong. What's going on? Of course you're going to feel sick, you've taken all these things. You don't know what is effectively working for your internal system.

So, the same thing is going to work for your book promos, whether it is free or premium book promotion sites. Make sure it works for you and also remember what might work for my specific brand and books may not work for Holly's brand or books.

So, there's been a number of times where I've been called out on the comments in YouTube where some people are like, I did a few Fiverr services, and they were like, I got this, and I didn't get a single buy. And I'm like, okay, so what's your niche? That's going to be the first thing I'm going to ask, and what's the timing and demand on something like, because what might work for me may not work for you.

This is all a trial-and-error system. I know it sucks to say something like that, and it is unnerving because here it's working really well for me. I put in, let's say $50 to $200 on a particular service and it had a good positive ROI, but then somebody else put that same amount and they didn't sell a single book. It can be super disheartening.

Another reason why you don't want to be stacking all these book promos at the same time. Does that make sense?

Holly Greenland: Yeah, and I suppose it goes back to some of the things that we often come back to with marketing as well, often it comes down to whether you've targeted the right people.

So, sometimes it might not even be the service. It might be how you've thought about your book and what you're offering right from the start. So, sometimes you need to take an indication if it doesn't work, of like, okay, do I need to look back at what I was actually doing? I was targeting this group of audience, or I was putting my book in this genre, it hasn't converted, but it was working for someone else. Is there something else I need to change here?

Because I often find with all of marketing, actually, that can really help if you think of it like that, rather than blaming the activity completely. Now, sometimes obviously you'll find that you've invested in something, it's just not going to work for you. But other times it's actually a way to learn, I think. So, maybe that's a way I can think about it as well, as a learning experience.

If I pick a few and then like you say, maybe if I focus on one of them to begin with. So, say I'm going to focus on murder mystery. Pick a couple that I think are going to be targeting the right audience, that fit with my budget, and then do them separate times or at least do the first one, see how that works. Maybe try another one if that one hasn't worked. Can you do them several times? If you find one that really works for you, do people go back and repeatedly use that, say, with different books or with the same book? Is there any etiquette around that?

Dale L. Roberts: Most sites will come with some type of a cycle, or like a minimum submission type thing. So, for instance it could probably be, you can submit your book every 30 days or every 90 days.

This is where you're going to want to deep dive onto a website again, doing that investigation, figuring out how often can I be able to submit a single publication.

If you start to have a deeper backlog of books, all bets are off. You could probably just, for instance, if I want to keep applying for BookBub deals, I've got such a deep backlog, I'd probably be busy for the next two weeks trying to submit to the featured deals.

All that to say, this is, it is going to vary. You're going to have to test out. I almost feel like we're almost slightly redundant because our first episode was this, where we're like, there's no one size fits all, and it's so true.

We could sit here and just endorse something and say, this has worked great for me.

So, what I would say for you, Holly, and anybody else that's listening is, let's say Holly is, her books are mystery. So, one of the biggest aspects of your business, and I don't think enough authors understand the value of networking with other authors, talk with other authors.

I know if you're an introvert, it probably kills you slowly inside to actually have to reach out to somebody, whether through social media, video chats, or in person conferences. But sometimes if you can just get past that discomfort, it's going to save you a lot of time and heartache.

So, Holly would definitely benefit from reaching out to six or more other mystery authors and communicating with them and establishing a rapport with them.

So, then they can be able to say, Ooh, I had great results with this. Now, will that mean that she's going to get a return on her investment the same way that other author did? We can't say for sure, but we've removed some of the factors. So, what might work for my nonfiction books may not work for Holly's fiction books and vice versa. So, that's why we can just decrease the likelihood of losing a ton of money.

Going to the people that are within your niche and your genre, you're going to get a better understanding and also understand, oh yeah, you might want to avoid that one website, I paid $20, and I think I got five refunds.

Holly Greenland: That's just one of the good things about the self-publishing community, I think, is that there are all these groups that actually, it never feels, it certainly doesn't feel to me competitive in a way, there's a lot of people you can reach out to and people who want to help each other and actually see the whole community rise up in a way that maybe doesn't happen in some of the other ways that you can publish where people are, maybe, individual, lone ships.

So, that's a good point, if I reach out to some of the people, because I've got some good contacts in the murder mystery area, and I don't know if I've actually asked them directly, are you using any of these platforms, how's it worked for you, and that could be a really good starting point.

Dale L. Roberts: It really is, and actually, I think this is a pretty good point for me to go ahead and bring up as we start to wrap up today's podcast is, the Alliance of Independent Authors more recently, and you can share some more information about this, just rolled out a new self-publishing forum where we can actually get together and meet with other authors.

So, share a little bit more detail about that because I think that would be a great starting point for anybody considering using free or premium book promo websites.

Holly Greenland: So, we have just moved the forum over, so I believe the Facebook one will continue for a while because we know that a lot of people are still active on there, but we've just moved over to a new platform.

It gives a bit more functionality, a few more different ways that we communicate and discuss and raise questions and search for answers. So, it's a higher spec of forum but it is in a new area. So, you need to go in and log in there. So, some details have been released about that, but that might be something we could put in the show notes for this as well, just so that people know and maybe get some more social media messages going out around this one just so that people can hear about it because it's a really useful place for members to go specifically to go and speak to one another and learn from each other.

Yeah, and then for the original Alliance of Independent Authors, just Facebook page, which is generically open to everyone, will continue as well where people can ask questions much more broadly and hear from us, and we've got blogs going live, podcasts going live.

So, there's a lot of different ways that you can use ALLi to communicate with other authors and share your experiences, share your learnings and just connect up, really. So yeah, good opportunities at the moment.

Dale L. Roberts: Yeah, for sure. When I saw that you guys were putting together that forum, I thought it was just a brilliant move because Facebook groups have, hey, you know, I'm kind of getting off topic here, Facebook groups are starting to decline as far as effectiveness and trying to reach the audience, and I think it's frustrating to myself, if I'm going into a Facebook group, posting a question and not getting any type of answers, it's exasperating. I feel like I'm being ignored and it's not because nobody's paying attention, it's because Facebook has their algorithm, and unless you're actually saying something incendiary or posting a cute cat GIF or something like that, it's not going to get very much engagement, and that's really frustrating.

Thankfully you go to a forum, there's no algorithm to have to worry about when you want to be heard, and people be able to hear them, because I've got my own Discord community, and that's for the reason that I became so frustrated with Facebook.

But anyway, as we start to wrap up today's podcast, when it comes to free and premium book promo sites, proceed with caution. Start at the very base minimum level of just testing out some free sites if you are more cash strapped.

If you're looking into premium sites, do your due diligence, ask around, network with other authors, figure out what's going to be the best fit, and also remember this, do not invest anything that you cannot stand to lose.

The whole idea of marketing and promotion, especially paid marketing and promotion, is like gambling. You can't be assured of anything. Even if a website guarantees you that, you cannot be assured that you're going to be getting sales from those types of things.

So, listeners, please be careful out there. Ask around, make some friends.

Holly, last minute words.

Holly Greenland: Thank you, because now I feel ready. I feel ready to work out which sites I'm going to experiment with. I still think that there's some opportunities out there, but I need to, like you say, proceed with caution so that's been really useful, so thank you.

Dale L. Roberts: On behalf of Holly and the Alliance of Independent Authors, thank you so much for tuning in, folks.

Make sure that you tune in next week. You're listening to us on any of your preferred podcasting platforms, hit the follow, hit the subscribe, share it with somebody that might love it too, and make sure that you go and give your cat or your dog a hug today because they deserve it. I don't know why I said that, but it's just a good note to finish off.

Take care, folks.

Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is a novelist, nonfiction author, developmental book editor, and journalist. He is also the news and podcast producer for the Alliance of Independent Authors. You can learn more about him at https://howardlovy.com/


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