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How a Simple Cover Change Drastically Increased Book Sales

The Importance Of ‘Getting It Right’ Before Spending on Marketing

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The Importance Of ‘Getting It Right’ Before Spending on Marketing

By Simone Leigh

If there’s one thing to take away from this article, it’s “get your covers right”. And do it before you pay for advertising.

Oh, and write in series. If you can (you’ll see why in a moment).

Oh, and remember – we all get some of this marketing game wrong – at least at first…

Let’s jump in.

 

 

Introduction

Firstly, a proviso. Nay, a confession:

I wish I’d done this four years ago when I first started writing for my living.

Secondly, a bit of background…

I first started writing in my current genre – Erotica, Erotic Romance and now, Erotic Thrillers – about four years ago.

My target was to earn my living as a writer. I had been writing before then, in a completely difference genre – Dog Rescue – with little success. I enjoyed writing the books, got good reviews from my few readers, but next to no income from it

Cutting a long story short, I took the Your First 10,000 Readers course, learned about the value of ‘Magnets and Marketing’, changed genre, and hit my stride. The course paid for itself within three months and I hit my First 10,000 Readers soon after that.

I achieved this using short story magnets of around 5,000 words, followed up by further short stories, around the same length, written in series, to give readers ‘somewhere to go’ if they enjoyed the permafree first-in-series.

And I achieved that very quickly.

[Edit from Nick: if you’d like to get some more indepth training on some of the things Simone talks about here, we’re running our next live marketing workshop on August 20th. Grab your free seat right here.]

My home is in Spain, where you can live well on not-a-lot, so I never needed to earn huge amounts to have a comfortable life here. For the past four years, my writing has paid the bills and I’ve put most of my effort into building up my back-catalogue. Any reader who discovers me and enjoys what I write, has plenty more reading to go, and lots of ways of paying me extra royalties.

  • Rule Number One for any business: Make it easy for people to give you money.
  • Rule Number Two: Make them want to.

Hence: Reader Magnets; ‘Try Before You Buy’; Free adverts in the biggest shop window in the world – the Amazon store. Plus of course, for those who publish ‘wide’ (like me), all the other eStores: iBooks, Nook, Google Play, and of course, your own website.

 

 

Now Roll Forward to The Present

I’m a one-man-band. I always have been. I do all the work to publish a book myself: writing, formatting, publishing and… book covers.

From first starting out in 2016, budget being an issue, I made my own book covers. I used the skills I had at the time, doing the best I could at the time. And I was pretty pleased with the outcome… at the time…

I used then, and still use, Photoshop Elements for the main design work. However, over the years, my design and craft skills have grown. In addition, other services have become available and very affordable. For example, I use Book Brush to produce my 3D mock-ups, headers for FB posts, Instagram and other social media memes.

One eye-opener of a recommendation came from Nick Stephenson with Pixaloop – adding motion to an image: dead easy to use and dirt cheap. And there’s others too now. My current favourite is ‘StoryZ’ – a photo animator available on my Android tablet.

In short, I’m much better now at designing my book covers and artwork than I was four years ago. My recent titles reflect this. I hold them up against other similar books in my genre/categories and they look good.

But that’s my recent covers.

Over the last year or so, I was becoming increasingly aware that my older book covers looked a bit naff compared to:

a) What I produce now

And

b) The Competition.

Given that a number of my magnets were wearing those older, not-really-cutting-it covers, I decided to update some of them and republish. And while I was at it, I’d update the innards too.

Now, for me, this has been a lot of work. For every title I republished, I had to:

  1. Redesign the cover.
  2. Update the back matter.
  3. Republish to
        • Amazon
        • Draft2Digital
        • Google Play
        • Smashwords
        • My own website
        • Book Funnel
        • Prolific Works

And this is while I am trying to get some actual writing done for my current WIP.

Was it worth it?

Hell, yes!

 

 

The Results

Here’s a ‘Before and After’ on one of the titles: ‘Bought By The Billionaire’ Box Set One (BBTB BS1)

It’s a compilation of six short stories, written in series. Part One of the compilation, ‘The Master’s Maid’, is the very first story I ever wrote in this genre. I never had it down as high literature. Certainly, it’s far from being the best piece I ever wrote. But it appeals to a certain audience.

The two covers use exactly the same original stock image, but I redesigned the titles using my four-years-improved skills.

And I went on to do exactly the same for all the other books in the series: short stories 1 to 12, plus Box Set Two.

BBTB BS1 above, is my magnet for the series. Free Download, published wide.

Here’s the result from Amazon for the series follow-up, paid, books in the series.

Screendump 90 Days Sales for

Paid Books (Amazon Only) in the ‘Bought By The Billionaire’ Series

And for comparison, here’s the same screen but for the unpaid/magnet books in the series, so you can see where I was running promos.

Screendump 90 Days Downloads for

Free Books (Amazon Only) in the ‘Bought By The Billionaire’ Series

The graphs tell a story: It’s hard to see on the scale, but there was an increase in the free downloads with the new covers.

But there was an out-of-this-world increase on the paid books. My sales on the paid books in the series increased from 467 units (Amazon only) in the two months to May 23rd, to 4467 units in the two months following (July 23rd as I write this).

However, there is a further knock-on effect. I didn’t stop with my ‘Bought By the Billionaire’ (BBTB) series. I’m working through all my older titles, upgrading the covers.

It’s still work-in-progress. But I’m seeing the same effect with those too.

In addition…

 

 

Writing in Series

The two protagonists in ‘Bought By the Billionaire’ are Richard – the billionaire of the title – and Elizabeth – the hotel maid who catches his interests and goes on to win her white knight. Shakespeare it ain’t. Think ‘Pretty Woman’ meets ’50 Shades’.

However, when I was writing a later series, using different characters, I needed a property-owning billionaire as part of the plot. Since I already had one handy, I wrote Richard and Elizabeth into that next series.

The point of this is that I’m now receiving an increasing number of queries from readers who, having enjoyed BBTB, are asking, ‘Where can I read more about Richard and Elizabeth?’

And so of course, I can point them to my later series. These also start with a permafree magnet to reel-‘em-in. But in fact, the titles in my later series’ are much longer, cost more, and so earn more royalties.

 

 

The Consequence – Free Downloads Versus Paid Sales

If you read industry figures on ratio for free download to paid sales, depending where you read, you’ll typically see figures quotes of 100:1 to 50:1. I think you’ll find that for a salesman trying to shift double-glazing or time-shares. An author who has a quality magnet will, I think, hit around 20 or 30:1. This is, about 5%-ish

Over the four years I’ve been doing this, I reached that 5% figure about two years ago and was patting myself on the back for it. If I could get someone to download one of my freebies, I had a 5% chance they’d go on to buy something.

Hurrah!

However, I kept writing and making my series deeper

And with more follow-on titles from the magnets, my ratio kept improving. This is where I was on the two months before I upgraded the covers:

Now see what happened after I upgraded the covers…

The free download numbers are much the same – I’ve not changed my marketing and adverts.

But the paid downloads are up by over 130%. That’s the figure for all my titles together, not just the ‘Bought By the Billionaire’ series.

And before you say, “That’s all very well for you. You’ve been at it for ages. You’ve got lots of books’…  These are the equivalent figures for just the ‘Bought By the Billionaire’ series – I wrote the whole first two box sets in 2016, within about four months of starting out.

As you can see, the Free to Paid ratio isn’t far off 1:1

If I’d done the covers right in the first place, four years ago, I’d be a lot further ahead in the game now.

 

 

My Strategy

I should explain something – few of my paid titles remain very long in the Amazon top 100 charts for their categories. It’s simply too hard to compete against KU these days. My new releases hit the charts, but then sink over a week or so, smothered by the sheer mass of KU competition.

It’s different for the free books. My magnets are almost always visible in the free charts.

But until I upgraded the covers, I would, for example, run a promo on my free first-in-series, BBTB BS1. The paid follow-up (99 cents), Box Set Two, would sometimes move into the paid 100 charts for a couple of days. Then it would sink out of sight again until I ran another promo on the magnet.

However, as I write this, BBTB Box Set Two is in the Top 100 for its category and has been there now for two months. It’s been as high as Number 4 and as low as 85, but it’s never dropped from the chart.

The problem is, it takes a lot of 99 cents sales to make a living. 30 cents royalties don’t stretch very far.

But when that 99 cent sale leads to the follow-through to other, very deep, series, the numbers change entirely.

It’s not easy to make a paid promo on a 99 cent book pay for itself. Even a cheap promotion, say $10, needs to produce 34 sales to break-even ($10/30 cents royalty per sale).

On a free book leading to a 99cent book, if your conversion is, say, 5%, then you need 620 downloads of your freebie to pay for the promo.

I’m not going to start deep analysis of figures here. That’s been covered elsewhere and in great depth. Nick has material on the figure for a start.

BUT: If that 99 cent book leads to further reading: deep series – with common themes and beloved characters to draw the readers in, the break-even point changes completely. If the magnet(s) drawing the readers in are done right; an enticing cover, an intriguing blurb and a rewarding reading experience; the follow-on sales will come.

And I do wish I’d done my covers differently four years ago!

 

Simone Leigh is a writer of intelligent, romantic erotic fiction. Her recent erotic thriller, ‘Target’, won the Reader Voted #BestBook Award in the ‘Inks and Scratches’ Summer Splash Book Awards. If you enjoyed this article, please consider picking up one of Simone’s books over here at her website.

 

 

How to Get Results like Simone

Want to learn more about the strategies Simone used to boost her sales and audience? Join us for our next live workshop, “How to Go From $0 to $1k per Month With Book Sales” on August 20th. Click here to reserve your seat (and get the recording).

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