SPS-351: How to Boost Your Book Sales – with Clayton Noblit

If you’re looking for book promotion services, you may not be aware that BookBub is not the only game in town. Clayton Noblit talks to James about all the different services and features Written Word Media offers to authors, including promotions for both free books and bargain books, and a new membership program for authors who do a lot of marketing.

Show Notes

  • On making a hasty escape from the path of a hurricane
  • How Written Word Media serves authors
  • How book promotion services work
  • Which authors do these services work best for?
  • Is it better to do a promotion for a free book or a bargain book?
  • On the different strategies that authors use for book promotion
  • What is a ‘series page’ and why does it matter?

Resources mentioned in this episode:

PATREON: Self Publishing Formula Show’s Patreon page

MERCH: Check out our 2022 hoodies and t-shirts in the SPF Store.


SPS-351: How to Boost Your Book Sales - with Clayton Noblit
Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show...

Clayton Noblit: Like our authors, we try to be extremely responsive to our readers is both of these groups of people make our business alive and successful. And so we're committed to helping both of these groups get what they want.

Speaker 1: Publishing is changing. No more gatekeepers, no more barriers. No one standing between you and your readers. Do you want to make a living from your writing?

Join Indie bestseller Mark Dawson and first-time author James Blatch as they shine a light on the secrets of self-publishing success. This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Hello and welcome to The Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blatch.

Mark Dawson: And me, Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: We're back in our sheds Mark. They let us out last week.

Mark Dawson: Well, they let me out. You had a slightly more difficult escape from certain death or...

James Blatch: I was in a Roland Emerich film.

Mark Dawson: You were? Yes you were. So you probably should fill those listeners in who don't know what you're talking about.

James Blatch: Yeah, so we went to NINC last week in Florida. Beautiful beach near St. Petersburg. And I stayed on, unwisely, for a writer's retreat. It was actually a fantastic writer's retreat. One of the best things I've done in my writing career was to hook up with Lucy and Cecilia and Nathan and Boo, who wasn't there. But somebody called Ian who wasn't invited to our writer's retreat, invited himself. I'm talking in code.

Ian was a hurricane, and it was that funny thing where we could see, so you and I were looking at these maps midweek. And Nathan, who's a local and a qualified flying instructor sort knows the weather, he's like, "These things bubble up all the time and they never come in here," and he explained why they never come in there. And then every day the spaghetti tracks called the various variations of where it might go, continued to persistently showing it going into Tampa Bay.

And by the weekend you were getting on a plane and you were saying to me, "I think you'd need to be making plans." And so later that day I moved my flight forward by one day. But it was still going out of Miami. And then what happened, I think from Sunday, Monday, Tuesday was just hours talking, looking at the hurricane, seeing preparations being made on hold to the airlines. All the flights disappeared from Tampa, then Tampa itself closed.

It was quite clear the hurricane was going to cause a lot of damage and disruption. And in fact, it was coming into Tampa Bay right over St. Petersburg, exactly where we were up until the day before when the storm slowed down from 12 miles an hour to nine miles an hour. That meant its landfall mark, moved about 40 or 50 miles south, which was actually good because Tampa and St. Petersburg is the most populated part of that area.

Obviously, it's not great. It was terrible for Fort Myers and we're just starting to see the devastation it's caused there. But obviously, it could have affected a lot more people had it come in were originally thought it was going to. Anyway, I filled up the car with Lucy Score, Cecilia Mecca, Mr Lucy and I filled up this car with water and snacks, a lot of Doritos. And we headed out along with a 100 000 other people, and stop-start took us 11 and something hours to get to Atlanta. We drove north. And the whole time we were driving North, Mark, on the other side of the road were these power workers coming in from all these other states. But I survived.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, no, it was weird because I was looking. Obviously, I got home safe and sound and I was looking at webcam footage of beaches in the area. So including at the trade winds where the conference was held and what was a bit weird being in the UK watching as they cleared all the cabanas off the beach. There must be 500, they put them on tele handlers and moved them somewhere safe. And then, there's a huge inflatable slide which they deflated and then removed. Because obviously, they'll be worried that it was going to be blown away.

The only thing that was left on the beach was the little cabana booking hut, where I'd been two days before. And it was weird seeing St Peter, I think got away with it. It was stormy, but I don't think it would be anything that you wouldn't have seen in a place like this.

A lot of rain but not that windy from the looks of things. Then, as you say, looking and watching the footage as it hit Fort Myers and places like Sarasota where, I'm trying to think, some friends who we met at the conference from Sarasota. So hopefully they're all okay. But yeah, it was pretty crazy. And then going across the country and now it's reforming I think. And it was going to get up to hurricane strength again and hit the...

James Blatch: Carolina's-

Mark Dawson: ... next part of the country, yeah.

James Blatch: Yes. So yeah, got out into the Atlantic. The Atlantic is cooler. So someone was telling me it's not going to get us. It was the Gulf, the warm waters of the Gulf gets it up to that stuff. I mean it was two miles an hour less below the category five. Which is the highest category. And without getting into the politics of all of this, you are advised to evacuate. But a lot of people, older people are less mobile. A lot of people don't have the resources or money to evacuate.

And one of the last things I saw, and it will always stay with me, so we left, we drove out of St. Petersburg at this stage the storm was only just potentially might be south of it, but still might be over the middle of St. Petersburg and St. Pete's and Tampa. And I saw this old man sitting outside a small wooden house very close to the ocean where our house was, staring in a concerted manner at his phone and we drove off in our Tucson or Yukon car and there would be lots of people like that who just have to batten down the hatches and hope they survive. And a wooden house with one story, with a 10-foot surge would be destroyed. So that's presumably what's happened in Fort Myers and what people are having to deal with now.

Mark Dawson: Yep. I hope Florida is okay, I'm sure it will recover quickly. I mean America's obviously well-resourced and will be a little different. Like Cuba, which got a hammering the few days before. So, it was an interesting experience, that's for sure. As I explained, my kids were like, "Daddy, do we have hurricanes here?" And I'm like, "Not really." "Do we have tornadoes?" "Not really." "Do we have earthquakes?" "No." So I think kind seeing that kind of thing on the news, that just makes them a little worried that we could have the same thing. But I mean England is, and the UK is in a fairly temperate part of the world as comparison to others.

James Blatch: Little bit benign around here. Although I have experienced the hurricane, you probably have as well. In fact, in your part of the world-

Mark Dawson: Yeah.

James Blatch: In fact, I drove-

Mark Dawson: In 86, yeah.

James Blatch: 86 or 87?

Mark Dawson: 86.

James Blatch: 86. I drove across the Orwell Bridge. That was a hurricane that we didn't know was happening because the weather forecast got it wrong. It happened overnight. And I was driving, I got to the Orwell Bridge and it was weird because the whole bridge was in darkness and looking to your left, the whole of Ipswich was in darkness. And that was our first inkling that had been a serious storm.

Mark Dawson:87, you're right.

James Blatch: That was 87. And yeah, we ended up, I was going to a conference in Felixstowe and it was done by candlelight, for 24 hours, until the lights came on. And I've also heard an earthquake, lying with our windows open in Huntington a few years ago. Would've been in the 2000's, mid-2000's. And I heard this cracking of thunder, but it was a beautiful clear night. I could see up through the skylights, didn't think much of it. And the next day there'd been this earthquake probably about 60 miles north in the Midlands. And I think I heard it, heard this strange noise. So we do get those things, but not on a scale that they get them elsewhere in the world. Nothing to write home about.

Mark Dawson: No.

James Blatch: And our thoughts go out to the people in Florida clearing up from Hurricane Ian. I tell you, it's an innocuous name, Ian, for somebody who-

Mark Dawson: It is.

James Blatch: ... carried so much danger. All right.

Okay, so we went to NINC last week. And last week you would've seen the live recording of the week. I have to say we were hoping to have a packed room, but it was the last afternoon of the conference, in fact, most people had gone home at that stage. It was the last thing on the conference on Saturday afternoon. People have flights to catch and people were tired. They've spent all week in the hot sun, all week sitting in lecture theatres being talked to. So we didn't have the biggest audience but the audience there were the best people at the conference, without question. And it was really fun. We spoke to, about two guests didn't we? And so you had that last week. Back in the studio this week. But our guest today was with us in NINC last week. We'll talk more about him and his organisation in a moment. But first of all Marcus, I think we have some Patreon supporters to welcome.

Mark Dawson: We do. And they're both from New York, it's Michael Robbins and Bruce Beck.

James Blatch: Again, I'm going to call out here and say, I don't know if they are both from New York. I think Michael Robbins might not have a location. And Bruce Beck is from New York. I mean it is slightly ambiguous the way it's written here. So I have to asked Catherine to really spell it out so we know. But...

Mark Dawson: Yes. Well, she says, "Michael Robins and Bruce Beck from New York." So yes, I agree. She should really... "Michael Robins," comma or no location specified. And Bruce Beck from New York. So, if Michael is in New York, then excellent. If he isn't, then sorry. But you can just blame Catherine.

James Blatch: It's a big place. He might be from New York.

Mark Dawson: It is a big place. That's true. Yes. But anyway, thank you to Michael and Bruce for exporting us on the podcast. Much appreciated.

James Blatch: Also, I want to give a shout-out to Catherine and the team who turned around that live recording very quickly. And John Stone did a fabulous job with the edit and it's a miracle really, that we managed to get this stuff done. Sort of five-camera shoot and really there's just two or three of us hacking around with these cameras and the feeds are not brilliant. Look, the focus, we haven't got camera people for each camera. So the focus is not crystal clear. But John did a really good job where he could and we got that amazing shot of Tom as a gazelle leaping through the audience. And then John, is the wildebeest, going the wrong way, with the camera, is one of my favourite.

Mark Dawson: That's unfair on wildebeest, actually.

James Blatch: It was my favourite moment.

Mark Dawson: A sloth, confused sloth maybe would be, yeah.

James Blatch: As we speak, John is on his way to Benedum. Which is, I don't know how... Jersey Shores, is that the equivalent? What's the equivalent of Benedum? Maybe also the Atlantic City, is it? He's away-

Mark Dawson: It's possibly. Yeah.

James Blatch: He's gone somewhere to drink and party for the weekend so we may not survive at his age. That's quite a lot to ask.

Mark Dawson: Wow. It's been nice knowing him.

James Blatch: Let's see if he's back next week. Good. Okay.

So our guest is Clayton Noblit from Written Word Media. I have to say one of my most enjoyable times last week was a casual spur-of-the-moment afternoon drinks and snacks at that bar. What's it called? The outside seating of The Flying Bridge.

I was with Clayton and Emma from Written Word Media. I think Kinga was there from PublishDrive. Who else was there? A couple of other people were there. Oh yeah, a guy from NINC actually and his wife. And honestly, we just laughed. I think probably helped by lubrication such as margaritas. But we had a very, very good laugh and a really enjoyable meal together.

I got to know Clayton and Emma a bit and I hadn't met either of them before so that was great. And Written Word Media, if you don't know who they are, you might know their brands, which is FreeBooksy and Bargain Booksy. And if your authors, like us, as most of you are, you I'm sure will be familiar with these organisations because they are very important for us. Frankly, if you don't get a BookBub featured deal, which is most of the time we don't get them, then we're into the realms of Hello Books and FreeBooksy and others.

In fact, I would always stack them up anyway, including with a featured deal. FreeBooksy is probably the leading one I would say, just below BookBub's. My feeling about that, I think does a great job, gives great returns. And this is getting your book to readers when it's on offer, when it's free or when it's at a bargain price. And if you've got a series, book one is the ideal book to do this with because you then get read through and you make profit from that. So very, very important for us as authors. And Clayton joined me a couple of weeks ago for this interview over Zoom before we got to NINC to talk about what's new, what's happening. So here it is. And Mark and I will be back for a quick chat at the end of the interview.

Clayton Noblit, welcome to The Self-Publishing Show from Written Word Media. We're going to be talking about book promotions, both free books and bargain books, and all that good stuff. I'm not prehistoric, that's the wrong word for you personally. But you are one of the more established players in the industry, we should say, in this field. So we'll get some of the history as well.

We haven't met, I don't think, have we Clayton?

Clayton Noblit: No, I don't think we have James. So yeah, excited to be here and speak with you today. And then I think I heard you were going to be at NINC.

James Blatch: We are.

Clayton Noblit: Okay. I will also be there. I'm not sure if this will air before or after that. So hopefully we'll meet in person there as well.

James Blatch: So we will, yes, I'm looking forward to that. I was going to say, I don't think we'd cross paths before, but it's good to have you on the show. So you should probably explain, first of all, I think what Written Word Media is, particularly for those who don't use the service, don't know about it. And then I'll ask you a little bit about you.

Let's start with Written Word Media.

Clayton Noblit: Perfect. First and foremost written Word Media is a book promotion company. What that means is we have email lists of combined over a million readers now and authors can pay to have their book emailed out to a segment of our readers that are most likely to buy or download their book. And so a lot of authors might have heard through us, through our promotion brands, FreeBooksy or Bargain Booksy, which are very popular and a lot of authors know those brands. And then we also run digital ads for authors' books. So you can pay us to run a Facebook ad campaign or an Amazon ad campaign for your titles as well.

James Blatch: They are quite well-known brands, I think, in self-publishing because they've been around quite a while, FreeBooksy and Bargain Booksy.

Clayton Noblit: Yeah. I think FreeBooksy goes all the way back to 2015, 2014. Our founder Ricci Wolman, her mom actually wrote a book and Ricci was running her own marketing agency at the time and she tried to help her mom sell more books and stumbled into this email marketing world around eBooks and that's how FreeBooksy was born. And then she moved over to FreeBooksy full time and then started rolling out other brands like Bargain Booksy. And yeah, since then it's been history.

James Blatch: We have had Ricci on the show before. And of course I've met Ricci around at the conferences and known her for years, but I don't think I knew that story. I think I assumed probably that she was the author at some point, but it was her mom she was marketing.

Clayton Noblit: Exactly. Yeah, it's a cool origin story for the company I think.

James Blatch: Yeah, no really good. Okay, well let's talk about you then. So you've come into this, Clayton from where?

Clayton Noblit: I've been in Written Word for almost four years now. I really stumbled into it, kind of out of dumb luck. I was actually working at a different company on the same floor of the same building as Written Word Media. I was working at a financial services company that was acquired. And none of us were taken along in the acquisition and so I was looking for another job and I had a coworker interviewing a Written Word for another position and he recommended me for some marketing work for them.

I lept at the opportunity because I've been a rabid reader my entire life. I've never published a book, but I was really excited to work with authors, and frankly working with authors is much more exciting than working with small businesses that are trying to manage the receipts, which is what I was doing before.

James Blatch: Yes, which is necessary work and we applaud those people who do it. But I agree with you, working in publishing is a more interesting endeavour, the arts I guess you'd call it. So you're a big reader.

Do you think there's a novel in you? Has the bug started to grip you?

Clayton Noblit: Oh man. Yeah, I've certainly thought about it a lot. I have enormous respect for people like yourself that actually write and publish novels. I think it's quite the undertaking. I do, I love stories and I grew up, my father is a great oral storyteller, so I think there's something in there I have yet to commit to putting anything on paper though.

James Blatch: Okay, well it sounds like you're doing a good job supporting us with these promotions. So let's talk about the promotion sense. So FreeBooksy and Bargain Booksy, and now of course we run Hello Books, which is a tiny minnow at the moment or growing fast I should say, and very good value, little plug. And you are a big organisation and above us all is BookBub, which is the granddaddy of this area.

They all work off the premise that you either give away or heavily discount a book in order to attract readers. And once readers understand who you are as an author and decide that they like you, your profit comes down the line on read-through of your series.

So the first thing which you say is probably best for people with series, would we say that's a fair description?

Clayton Noblit: Yeah. I think that's absolutely fair to say. I think authors that have series, almost any marketing they do tends to perform better, right? Because they have more things for their readers to buy. And I think that's certainly true with a brand like FreeBooksy, where you're promoting your book while it's free. That certainly helps if you have more books for the readers to buy.

We also run series promotions, which are specifically for series as well. And that Amazon series page is really effective where you can have one button to buy the entire series. So yeah, I think authors that have a series certainly have an advantage when it comes to email promotions.

James Blatch: I want to ask about the series promotion actually, but let's set out how the service works more precisely then. So Bargain Booksy and FreeBooksy, obviously the primary difference is your books either being given away free or for Bargain Booksy, you've discounted it, and they go to different lists.

Readers sign up for [the lists], and potentially they could be on both of course, but they do sign up for bargain books or they sign up for free books.

Clayton Noblit: That's correct. Bargain Booksy is for books that are priced between 99 cents and 4.99. They don't actually have to be specifically discounted for the Bargain Booksy promo. So, if your book is permanently priced at 2.99, you can run a Bargain Booksy without discounting it.

James Blatch: I'm sorry to interrupt you. Even if it's permanently priced at 4.99, you could run a Bargain Booksy?

Clayton Noblit: Correct. You don't have to discount, it just has to be in what we dubbed the bargain price range to promote on Bargain Booksy.

James Blatch: Yeah. Okay, that's interesting. I didn't know that. So I've learned something there. And I hope, I mean I can give away some of Hello Books discoveries and secrets. I don't know what's confidential, what's not. But from my perspective, hope I'm not talking out of turn here.

When we see the figures behind the scenes, bargain discounting simply doesn't work as well as free books. The numbers of downloads you're going to get with a free book are exponentially larger than bargain books. I mean obviously you're making money with each sale with bargain, so there's a balance here.

If I was just an author coming to you, and say, "Well I can do either, what do you suggest I do?" What would your advice be?

Clayton Noblit: It depends on your goals as an author. You're absolutely right that a free book generates many more downloads from different readers. And so that's going to spread your reach wider. But obviously you're not going to get any immediate revenue from those free downloads. The play is that these people will buy more books that you've published or leave reviews to help boost that initial book once you make it cost more than nothing again.

FreeBooksy is definitely going to get you a wider swath of readers downloading your work. Bargain Booksy, fewer downloads, fewer purchases, but you are making money right away. And so it's a trade off. We see a lot of authors maybe run a FreeBooksy for book one and then the next month they'll run a Bargain Booksy for book two, that might be priced at 2.99. And so that way they're priming readers with that free book. And then when those readers that have read the free book are moving forward, then they'll promote their second book at a dollar amount where they can actually make a positive return on their investment.

James Blatch: Sounds like a good strategy there. Good strategy tip.

And in terms of how people discount their books, why don't you explain the mechanics of that again for some people who may not have clicked on that particular tab in their KDP dashboard?

Clayton Noblit: This varies basically if you are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited or not. If you're enrolled in Kindle Unlimited, the KDP Select Amazon's exclusive programme, you have a certain number of free days or Kindle Countdown deals that you can run every 90-day period. And so you can either do a Kindle Countdown deal. Which is where you drop the price of your book for a limited period of time. Or you can run free days throughout your 90 day period. And a Kindle Countdown deal is really effective because it actually shows a timer on your book's page where this book is decreased in price for however many more hours, however many more days you're running the deal for.

And that creates a sense of urgency for readers they want to buy now to get the best deal before it goes back up in price. And so Kindle Countdown deals are really powerful and a lot of people will pair a Bargain Booksy promotion or another one of our brands like Red Feather Romance with a Kindle Countdown deal.

You can do this all in your KDP dashboard and you can also make your book free in your KDP dashboard by using one of your Kindle free days. And so that's another way that authors will discount their book for free and then run a FreeBooksy promotion and maybe include some Facebook ads, maybe email their email list as well about the free book.

James Blatch: Okay. Well, now when I do this I tend to use the five days, because you can go up to five days in your 90-day period. I'm exclusive in my books, so I block off the five days and then I stack up a load of promotions in those five days.

Do you see authors generally doing that or is it more common to discount for the day of your promotion? And maybe, you can imagine the authors saving up the other days to do later in the month on using somebody else's promotion?

Clayton Noblit: Yeah. I see authors doing everything. Everybody's trying all sorts of different strategies. I think what you're doing is probably the most common and authors will make their book free and then they'll run a FreeBooksy promotion and then maybe run promotion with one of our competitors, Hello Books perhaps, and gather all of these downloads in a very short period of time and hope to get their book as far up the charts as they can and get that effective, people that are just scrolling through Amazon, seeing their book at the top of the chart and downloading it, getting those halo sales. That's a really popular technique. We also see authors splitting it up and doing three days earlier in the period and two days later on. I think it's a lot of testing and seeing what works best for you and your titles.

James Blatch: How much does this cost, Clayton?

Clayton Noblit: It varies by genre. What we do is we target readers based on which genres they like to read. When you buy a promotion with us, you're only paying to reach readers that like your genre. So, for example, if you're a sci-fi author, you're not paying to reach readers that only like fantasy. We're only going to email your book to readers that have told us that they like science fiction. And because of this, our lists vary in size.

For example, we have more romance readers than cosy mystery readers, so a romance promotion costs more. Our promotions range in price across all our brands. I think our cheapest promos probably $25 now and then our most expensive promo, Limelight, that is $500. So it really varies. But on FreeBooksy we're talking anywhere from 40 to, I think 170 is our most expensive promo on FreeBooksy specifically.

James Blatch: What's Limelight?

Clayton Noblit: Limelight is one of our newer products that's actually exclusive to our premium members. You can become a gold or platinum member on our website. And if you do, you are able to schedule a Limelight promotion, which is where you are the only author featured in an email to either our Bargain Booksy list or our Red Feather Romance list. So it's a really premium showcase and you are the only book in that email. So you're not competing with any other titles for readers attention.

James Blatch: Is that a curated service? Or if I sign up to be a gold member, do I just get straight in without you double-checking whether I can write a book or not?

Clayton Noblit: We do look over the submissions and make sure that our audience is going to engage with them. And of course if we don't think you're a good fit, we will refund you. This is the case with all of our promos. We review the book that's submitted and if we think it's going to do well, we'll continue to run. If we have concerns, we'll reach out to the author, and if we think it's not going to work out well, we'll refund you, try to find you something else and really work with authors. We're trying to make this a good experience for authors and readers at the end of the day.

James Blatch: You've mentioned Red Feather a couple of times. I'm guessing that this is the brand you have for the spicy stuff.

Clayton Noblit: That's exactly right. It's actually expanded now to all romance genres.

James Blatch: Oh, okay.

Clayton Noblit: But it is romance only and the Steamy Romance category is very big on Red Feather and all of our brands frankly. But Red Feather is dedicated specifically to romance readers. And so it's another option where you can promote free or bargain books, but only if you have a romance title.

James Blatch: I mean romance obviously, as we all learn when you get under the covers a little bit to use a correct euphemism I guess, is such a broad spectrum. You've got Christian Sweet Romance at one end and Spicy Erotica at the other end, but they sit together in that broad brush of Red Feather.

Clayton Noblit: That's correct. However, when you purchase a Red Feather promo, you select where you are on the spectrum of romance. So, you're still targeting the readers that are going to be most interested and perhaps not offended by your work.

James Blatch: I wonder what that spectrum's called? We have to come up with a name. It'll have a bed sheets at one end, so everything happens underneath the sheets and a courgette. Is that courgette they use in TikTok, is the icon?

Clayton Noblit: Yeah.

James Blatch: Whatever it is. I think it's courgette. We will get a lot of emails now correcting me on that. Okay, so said I was going to ask you about the series promo. So I use your services for Fuse Books. I use Hello books, of course, I use Hello Books. But I also stack promotions like most people do. I apply for a BookBub first, and then I stack my promotions when I don't or do get that.

I'm a customer of yours and I've noticed the series promotions, but I don't think I've probably wrapped my head around whether I should be choosing at the same time as promoting one book. And perhaps you could just sell the service to me a little bit.

Clayton Noblit: Yeah, absolutely. So, a series promo is available on FreeBooksy. And what this does is when you have the first book in your series or any book in your series marked as free, you can run a series promo. And the series promo sends readers to your Amazon series page, not your book page. And your Amazon series page is something that I think every author should be looking at.

If you have a series, your series page is a really powerful tool. One, because there's less competition on that page. That page only includes your titles, it's a list as long as your series goes. And so it really showcases your titles in a way that just your book page doesn't. Where you have these lists of other titles by other authors down below. Another powerful thing about the series page is the reader can buy the entire series with one click. And so these are the simple things that make a huge difference in the world of digital marketing.

This one-click purchase, a reader can download the entire series and we find that that first book is free, especially if it's for a limited time. A lot of readers just go ahead and buy the whole thing because they're saving on it and they're ready to commit. And so the series promo is really powerful because we're sending readers to this page. And from there you tend to actually generate revenue with a FreeBooksy promo right away.

James Blatch: Okay. So, the series link goes out in place of the link for the individual book.

Clayton Noblit: Correct.

James Blatch: Okay. So I think I was a bit confused in whether it was a separate email or an addition to the email at the bottom that said, "Here's our series of the day," or something. But it is your promo, but you are choosing to use the series link rather than just the free book.

Clayton Noblit: Correct. Yeah. So you could not run a single book FreeBooksy feature and a series promo on the same day. Because you'd be promoting the same book. You would be paying double and frankly we don't want anybody to do that.

James Blatch: Yeah. Okay. Well, that's really interesting. I'll have to have a look at my series page, what it looks like and make sure that that's something that I can... Well, for my authors as well at Fuse Books, have to make sure that that's something we consider in the past. So I guess I'm going to have to test this. I'm going to have to test the series promotion. It's a bit more expensive, it's another 100 bucks I think? Something like that.

Clayton Noblit: Yeah, it varies. I think that most expensive promo 170 is a romance series promotion on FreeBooksy. So, it is more expensive. We find that we can't do just series promo after series promo because our readers do get fatigued with buying entire series. And so we do have to keep them somewhat sparse to make this effective for authors and to keep our readers satisfied.

Another tip for that series page is it's a great place to run ads too. So I would encourage if you're running Facebook or Amazon ads to test out running them to your series page.

James Blatch: Yeah. I guess if you've got 20 books in your series, it might not be so good because the bargain aspect of it, is diluted. Just getting one of those books free and paying for 19 might not work. But if you've got four or five books in a series that's 25% basically off, isn't at the serious cost if you've got four books?

Clayton Noblit: Correct. And another great thing about the series page is the reader can still just download that first book for free, should they choose. They're not trapped into buying the entire thing. Even if you have a 20-book series, a series promotion can be worth it, just for those few readers that do go ahead and buy the entire thing.

James Blatch: How is the company doing? As I say, it's been the mainstay as long as I've been around in Self Publishing and I've bumped into Ricci a few times, I know that things are going well.

Are you expanding? Is the team expanding?

Clayton Noblit: Yes, absolutely. We're actually in a really exciting time right now with Written Word Media. That the team is expanding. We've been growing over the past couple of years at an increased rate and we actually just launched a membership programme, which we're really excited about.

Our membership programme has three levels. The first level is free and so it's very easy for authors to come in and book a promo with us. And if you want to have a dashboard where you store your titles and make the checkout process a little easier, have access to all your receipts, you can become a free member. And you also get access to our Facebook group when you become a free member. And so that's a great option for anyone that wants to test out Written Word Media or become part of our community online.

We also have a gold plan, which is, for a limited time it's $100 per year. It will increase after a little bit here to $125 per year. And the gold plan gives you 10% discount on all of your promos. And your discount is capped at $200 per year. So for example, if you spend about $1000 with us, in one year, you will make back your membership fee and discounts. And if you spend $2,000, then you'll actually save an additional 100 on top of your membership fee.

And then we also have our platinum plan, which is $250 with a max discount of $500. So for authors that are spending more money with us. So you get the 10% discount on promos. You also get advanced access to our promo inventory for 14 days before other authors do. If you're in a really competitive category and want to make sure you get the dates that you need to promote your books, this is a huge advantage and this is something that authors have been asking us for, for a long time.

You also get access to Limelight, which we talked about earlier. That's exclusive for only our gold or platinum members. We're really excited about this membership programme. We rolled it out, I'll say just about two weeks ago now we started the rollout. And so it's been a really exciting time. We're really happy with the reception to it and we think it's a great opportunity for authors to grow their relationship with us and for us to help authors in more ways than just promotion. We hope to expand more and more in the future and become the marketing hub for authors.

James Blatch: Do you have an in-house IT team or do you go out to a company who's a regular contractor for you? This is a key question for people who run businesses, by the way.

Clayton Noblit: Our VP of engineering, Evan Caisson is a fantastic guy and he manages all of the technical stuff behind the scenes. And, this is a big focus for us. So every author I talk to, they say the hardest part of being an author is marketing. And it doesn't matter how many books they've published, how long they've been doing it, it's always marketing is the hardest part. And so really our focus is making marketing products that are easy to use and effective. And so our technical know how really helps us be able to deliver on that idea for authors.

James Blatch: That is exciting. Well, one of the reasons I think we wanted to start Hello Books, is because I feel that these services are very well known within indie publishing, but not particularly well known outside of that. My wife's quite a voracious reader. She'll take seven or eight paper in the old days, thank God for the Kindle. She would take seven or eight paperbacks on holiday and then be looking for more. But if I said to her, "Do you know what BookBub is?" She would look at me blankly.

So Mark and I felt that there's a huge market out there, a few companies who are working there, but there's a lot of market penetration to be done to use again, another business expression. Do you feel that?

Do you feel that we're not going to run out of readers, I suppose is what I'm saying. And even though more companies like Hello Books are coming along, there is still going to be more readers who will need servicing?

Clayton Noblit: Yeah, I think that's absolutely true. I don't think we're close to running out of readers in the world. Sometimes I hear people saying that young people aren't reading as much. That's not been my experience in the world. I have younger friends, I'm younger than a lot of people I hear saying that. I read a lot. I think so many people are reading in various different formats. I know a lot of people that read on a Kindle and on physical books. I'm not concerned about running out of readers anytime soon.

James Blatch: No, that's certainly how I feel as well. And more and more people, of course, even those existing readers, more and more are picking up an e-reader for the first time. Lockdown certainly accelerated that, but gradually everyone who reads at some point will start migrating, I think to at least some of their reading on an electronic device because once you realise how convenient it is, particularly travelling, you don't really turn back.

Clayton Noblit: Yeah. And then especially when you discover the indie world and frankly how cost-effective that is. People like your wife that are bringing seven paper backs on vacation, eBooks are much cheaper, especially if you're buying from indie authors. And so that's a big bonus for a lot of readers as well.

James Blatch: Yeah, much better than the environment, we should say as well.

Clayton Noblit: Indeed, indeed.

James Blatch: All that extra jet fuel, getting the aircraft airborne, all those books on board. Okay, so I was going to ask you what's lined up in the future, but sounds to me, Clayton, like you've just had your big revamp and announcements.

It's probably not thinking about a huge thing again in the future, but is there is something down the pipeline we can talk about?

Clayton Noblit: Nothing that we can talk about at this point. We're always thinking about expanding and offering more things for authors. But yeah, I think our big thing right now is this membership programme that's been in the works for a long time now and we're really proud and really excited to have this available for authors.

James Blatch: How do you measure performance? Because you don't naturally have access to the sales figures or the download figures. Do you have surveys? How do you do that?

Clayton Noblit: So, a lot of ways, we're very data-driven as a company. One way is after you run a promo with us, every author gets a survey that they can fill out about the results that they saw, what they expected, and how they feel about the promo. Because we want to make sure everybody has a good experience and if they don't, we want to make sure that we can try to remedy that.

And then we're also looking at statistics in our email clicks. I think this is a common issue that authors have with attribution. You're running ads to your Amazon page, it's hard to tell, especially if you're doing it not from Amazon. If you're running Facebook ads or something. The attribution's very hard to come to. And so we also have that issue. But thankfully authors share a lot of data with us. And like you said, we've been doing this for a long time and so we have a lot of indicators that we can look at to tell where performance is and where we need to improve and where we're doing really well.

James Blatch: Yeah, very important I'd say. The data does make things easy. We don't always get access to the data we need.

It's probably a company secret, but do you get a good response rate on surveys?

Clayton Noblit: Yes, we do. One of the reasons I love working at Written Word Media is we have such a positive relationship with our customers. And I think that really comes down to our customer service team. When you book a promo with us, you can land on our homepage and book a promo within five minutes and never talk to someone if you don't want to. But of course, you can always email us at [email protected] or respond to any of the emails that we send you after you book a promo and ask us questions, ask for help.

Our team really goes out of their way to help authors, even if they haven't purchased a promo with us. We have authors reaching out to us that have never purchased with us, asking for advice on if they should be the exclusive to Amazon or go wide. And our team does the best that they can to help share information even though this isn't a customer. That's one of the good things about working at Written Word Media. And I think it shows up in the responses we see from our customers and how many of our customers come back again and again and again.

James Blatch: Did I hear you say earlier there's a Facebook group for authors?

Clayton Noblit: There is, yes. We have a Facebook group. So all you have to do to become a member is join Written Word Media and so you can be a free member if you'd like, so you don't have to pay us anything at all. You don't even have to buy a promo to become a free member. And once you become a free member, you'll get an invite to our Facebook group. That's a great place and it's just getting started now. You can get in early and become a part of the community.

James Blatch: Great. So finally Clayton, let's talk about readers. Obviously the lifeblood of an organisation like yours is the reader list.

How do you grow it, for a start? How do you maintain it and make sure that it's well serviced, you haven't got reader fatigue and all that stuff?

Clayton Noblit: So, once again, I think this comes down to data. We're always looking at reader engagement. And this comes down to people opening emails. Of course that has become less reliable in recent years. But other indicators like clicks and what people are clicking on in our newsletters if they visit our site. We monitor our existing readers and help do things to nurture them and make sure they're getting what they need. And we mostly grow our lists through PPC ads. So whether it be Facebook, Google Ads, or TikTok, YouTube, other channels or working with partners. We're always trying different methods to grow our lists.

Back in the day when Ricci first started Written Word Media, Facebook ads were really effective. The wild west of online advertising. And that helped us grow very quickly, very early on. Of course, Facebook has gotten much more competitive and so we've had to diversify. But most of our lists are grown via PPC ads.

James Blatch: I think we once heard from somebody at BookBub that they paid three or four cents per reader on Facebook advertising and I think probably it's more like 30 to 50 cents these days. I mean that's the difference, but yeah.

Clayton Noblit: Yeah, absolutely massive difference from the old days. But we can't go back and so we move forward.

James Blatch: Yeah, very good. I guess you have to run some support for readers as well, which is a whole different kettle of fish because you have a million of them.

As a reader, is there a human response available to me if there's something I don't understand?

Clayton Noblit: Of course there is. Yeah. So our readers respond to our emails all the time with questions about how to get a Kindle. We get that question a lot.

James Blatch: Okay.

Clayton Noblit: People have issues with the Kindle app or sometimes they're reading on Google Play, but want to move to Kobo or Kindle. And so we get a lot of questions around that as well. And so yeah, like our authors, we try to be extremely responsive to our readers because both of these groups of people make our business alive and successful. And so we're committed to helping both of these groups get what they want.

James Blatch: Yeah, very good. Well, despite the fact we're competitors, Clayton, it's like I say, there's a huge pool of readers and it serves them well. And the whale readers, I think are probably on everyone's list and download books because I do know. Well my wife is an example of someone who, when she's in reading mood, will read a book a day. And there's certainly people I think even crack that. Plus I'll tell you what, someone mentioned... I keep saying we going to finish. Let's finish on TikTok because that's something that's really interesting to me from an author point of view.

Is this somewhere that Written Word Media is active?

Clayton Noblit: We're not active on TikTok yet. But we're certainly investigating and gathering data points as we always do. I think TikTok... I know you've done a lot of experimentation there and so I think it's one of those things that I hear from authors. There's a lot of guilt around not being on TikTok or not having success on TikTok. So the thing I always say to authors is, "you don't have to do what everybody else is doing. Do what works for you and what feels good for you." I think that's really important for authors to keep in mind with TikTok.

James Blatch: Yeah. Absolutely.

Clayton Noblit: How are you feeling about Book Tok these days? Are you having any success on there?

James Blatch: Yeah, I am. When I put my mind to it and dedicate the time and keep my channel doing what I tell other people to do, which is really keep it focused on your core subject, it absolutely works for me. My problem is I'm stretched in about 15 different ways and I do find it difficult to dedicate that time to it. But a couple of friends who are just authors, rather than running three other businesses, are seeing incredible success on it.

We've got A.P Beswick, who's probably his interview may even have gone before this goes out and he's done brilliantly. Adam's done brilliantly on Book Tok with his fantasy series. In fact, he's suddenly gone to five figure months. So, Book Tok, I'm absolutely convinced is hugely important. But you're right, what works for you and TikTok is not going to work for everyone because there is a bit of personality involved in that.

That's not to say you don't have a personality or someone doesn't have a personality. But sometimes it lends itself to a particular environment or you are prepared to rediscover something in your personality that can work in that environment. But that's not going to be the case for everybody. I think it's probably where I am with TikTok.

Clayton Noblit: I think that's absolutely, that's a great way to put it, that it's not going to be... If being on TikTok excites you, then absolutely get on it. But if it fills you with dread then maybe it won't be the place for you. Book Tok, with the popularity of that, I wrote a blog post a couple months ago about how authors can work with influencers. So, even if you don't want to be the one in front of the camera, you can reach out to other people and try to have them promote your work for you. And so there are still opportunities even if you don't want to be the one producing the content.

James Blatch: Yeah, that absolutely is happening with a lot of our authors. Staying focused is a very important part of it. I've just had this particular weekend, I've done a terrible thing, which is I was at the Grand Prix at Monza, in Italy. In fact I literally got back today and I did a couple of TikToks from there, which have done pretty well. So, I think about 16,000, 17,000 views in my one from yesterday. And it's actually a disaster to do that when you are trying to stay on channel about military aviation and your military thriller books. So I'm literally not the person to follow the moment, just do what I say. No what I do.

But I will be back. By the time I'm presenting at NINC, hopefully I'll have a few more Book Tok successes to talk about. But anyway. Okay, all right. We can't have a conversation these days without talking about TikTok, but it is something that I think is grabbing the attention at the moment and certainly it's moving the needle on sales for quite a few authors. So that's why it's got our attention. So I thought I'd ask you where you are with that as well.

Clayton, thank you very much indeed for coming on. You probably should tell us where people can find these services and what needs to be in place for them to take part in a promo?

Clayton Noblit: Yeah, absolutely. So, they can just go to and everything you need is there. You can book a promotion with us. There's a contact us page where you can send us a message if you have questions about running a promotion or even not running a promotion, just anything at all, feel free to reach out. We also have a blog on our website with tonnes of information about book marketing and that post that I mentioned about working with influencers is on there. And so yeah, is a great place to go for all things self-publishing and book marketing.

James Blatch: Super. Well, Clayton, our best wishes to the team. I look forward to sharing a drink with you on the beach in St. Pete. Very soon actually, next week, week after next, wherever it is, soon.

Clayton Noblit: Yeah.

James Blatch: Yeah, until then, well, we wish you success. From one rival book service to another, we wish you success because a rising tide raises all ships.

Clayton Noblit: Indeed. I don't feel like we're rivals, James. So we'll have to get used to that. Maybe we'll be angry at each other at NINC. But yeah, thank you again for having me and hope you have a great rest of your week.

James Blatch: There you go, Clayton, a very nice guy. Very fun to meet him, last week and have a chat. Did you get to meet Clayton?

Mark Dawson: Only briefly. I had a quick chat, but not for as long as you did.

James Blatch: I think there were quite a few people at the conference who I've seen were there and I didn't speak to, didn't even see. Which is a shame and there's only 400 people there. But James was saying for instance, I didn't spot James at all, but I knew he was there. He's coming to Vegas. So we're back to the States, aren't we soon? They don't hurricanes in Nevada, do they?

Mark Dawson: I don't think so.

James Blatch: Tornadoes, they get tornadoes in Nevada, probably not.

Mark Dawson: I don't think so. Yeah, a fairly safe part of the world. You have nothing to worry about James. I see you've got PTSD now after-

James Blatch: Do they get earthquakes in Nevada and California? Where we going?

Mark Dawson: I'm going to say, well, Nevada, no. California, absolutely.

James Blatch: Yeah. Maybe Nevada. I don't know. Well, they set off all those nuclear weapons underground in the 50S. May have done some... It's probably some mutants about to emerge from that.

Mark Dawson: Well you'll be right at home then.

James Blatch: Thank you very much. Okay, look, that was it. Thank you very much indeed. You and I are off to see some football on Sunday. Oh, he's frozen.

Mark Dawson: I've frozen. Yeah.

James Blatch: We can still hear you. You can still say. So we'll have to see football. And for most of our audience who are in the United States, it's actually football. We're going to see that hand-egg one, people throwing the ball. Who are we seeing? Who are we watching?

Mark Dawson: The Vikings and the Saints? Is it?

James Blatch: The Minnesota Vikings and the New Orleans Saints. And I think the New Orleans Saints are one of those sides that people either hate or are fanatical fans of, aren't they? Isn't it one of those? They're not Raiders, no?

Mark Dawson: No, not really. They're not.

James Blatch: I've had people say to me they hate the Saints. Maybe it's just people who had it in for them. Okay, well I might support the Saints because I've been to New Orleans a couple of times. Although I have also been to Minnesota, so that's a bit confused. I don't know, have I been to Minnesota?

Mark Dawson: You've been to Minneapolis.

James Blatch: Which is in Minnesota, isn't it?

Mark Dawson: Yes.

James Blatch: Yes. So Minnesota's a state. So the whole state's got football.

Mark Dawson: I think they play in Minneapolis, so yes.

James Blatch: And yeah. Okay. Maybe I'll support Minneapolis and then, Minnesota. Oh, I'm confused. I'll tell you what, let's just have a drink and watch the game. I'm getting bogged down in this. There's a way of doing that. We'll let you know who won. You can probably look it up online. They might report it somewhere. Thank you very much indeed.

Again, to our team in the background for all the sterling work they do in getting this podcast up and out. Appreciate it and thank you to everybody who came along and said hello to us in NINC last week. We had fabulous drinks evening on the Friday night. Some of which I can even remember. And we'll be back. We'll be in the US in November and I'll let you know where and when we're going to meet then if you want to come and say hello to us in Las Vegas. Fabulous Las Vegas. That's it. All that remains me to say, it says goodbye from the frozen hymn.

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Yeah.

James Blatch: I should say you are frozen with a big grin on your face.

Mark Dawson: Well, you know...

James Blatch: You're always a flattering freeze. But it'll have to do it for this occasion. Bye-bye.

Mark Dawson: Bye-bye.

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