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SPS-393: Reach More Readers with WWM & Hello Books – with Ricci Wolman

Marketing your book on multiple platforms can be a hasstle, taking up much more time than needed and feeling like navigating 3-4 themeparks at a time. This is why Ricci Wolman created Written Word Media. Today she joins us with some insight on promotional marketing, and how to do it hassle free!

Show Notes

  • How Booksy leverages affordability and email marketing.
  • Hello books and its operations.
  • Written word media membership levels.
  • Free and 99 cent promotions.
  • Tips and tricks for promotions.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT:

Reach More Readers with WWM & Hello Books – with Ricci Wolman

Speaker 1: On this edition of the Self-Publishing Show,

Ricci Wolman: We're all in on this industry. We're all in, in on indie authors. And we think the future is really bright. From here,

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 Blach 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. It is the Self-Publishing Show with me, James Blach

Mark Dawson: And me Mark Dawson.

James Blatch: We're starting to record these for the summer. So although this one I think will go out in a couple of weeks, we are in that area now once a year where we record in the future at some point. You're going to be an older man during this recording process when these go out.

Mark Dawson: Well, I've be an older man tomorrow. True? Yes. Well, it's not my birthday yet. My birthday is, no,

James Blatch: Actually that's much later, isn't it? Some point in the summer you're going to be celebrating becoming 50 even though you've got like nine months till 54 months. Yes,

Mark Dawson: That's very true.

James Blatch: We all get older. Yes. Listen, we've only got really a couple of things to talk about for this episode. We have a, an headline interview with Ricci Wolman, our new business partner, or part of our new business partner on Hello Books. We're going to be talking all things Hello books and written Word Media, why that? I know a lot of people are interested in how that venture came about, that merger and all will be revealed in a moment. We do still have tickets on sale for the digital conference, which is looking excellent by the way. We're pulling that together now. That's going to be relaunched on August the third and fourth. Still a chance to grab a ticket for that to go to Self-Publishing Form com four slash digital. You get all the sessions that you missed at the Self-Publishing Show live in London, plus a load of value added things and the value added things are really good.

So they're much more sort of practical sessions that we couldn't do on the main stage. So like how to build an author website and building author brand and stuff like that. And meanwhile, we're starting to think about next year. We sort of left hints that we may not do it next year cause we, you know, we're in the middle of myd down to organisation. But the truth is, of course, we really, really want to put on the show for next year, and we'll make an announcement in two calls about that. Okay? So, hello books. Mark. Hello books. Mark. Hello, bookmark. Hello Bookmarks. There's a left wing book shop in Cambridge in London called Bookmarks. Even Walk Past It. It's an Oxford Street. I, I always walked past it, but you can go into it. Bookmarks with an x clever title. Anyway,

Mark Dawson: Where are you going? This, this is, this is A Ramble even by your standards.

James Blatch: It is by my standards. Hello Books. So Hello Books has merged with written word Media merged into kind of the technical side of things in the background, but we have not merged our audience. It's very important. Hello Books Audience is the Hello Books audience of Authors and Readers. We're continuing to build that. Mark and I are the ones who are doing that, but the operational side, sending emails has been merged with Wwm and it just means that it gives authors an opportunity Mark at the same time as choosing Alo book Exploration to stack their deals, which is kind of what we all do anyway. We just haven't have to go all over the place to do it at the same time with other offerings.

Mark Dawson: Well, it's much more than that. So that's one thing that it offers. I mean, first it, it is enabled us to do things that we, we wanted to do for ages, but ha weren't able to do because, well, it would've been expensive and time consuming for us to do it. So things like allowing authors to pick their dates 12 weeks in advance, which we couldn't do before. Reintroducing 99 cent deals, which we had, we did before then took out for free. So we now offer free and 99 cent. We offer, we will be offering wide stores soon. So the ability to have books on Apple, Cobo, Barnes and Noble, Google and Amazon, and run deals on all of those. That will be something that we we're going to be rolling out quite soon. And as you say, stacking is also something that we can do now, which enables authors to book with one or two clicks promos on places like First Librarian, hallow books, free books e Bargain Books, e e-Reader iq.

And, and really to aggregate a fairly large audience in the hundreds of thousands sometimes and in a convenient, and I think pretty cost effective way. So it's been, yeah, it's been fun. I, I'm, it's, they're, they're great. I've known Ricci for a long time and I've known her husband Ferrell for quite some time as well. And met Ferrell in Vegas slash year 20 books and just got chatting about ways we might be able to work together. And it was one of those things we were thinking about doing some stuff and wondering how we were going to get those features added to Hello Books in a way that we could manage. And just turns out that Ferrell has done all of that before, and, and Ricci have done all that before with, with their their sites. And it was a very easy decision to make to, to work with them. And it's been a lot of fun. They're really good. Their team's excellent. We have kind of weekly catch up meetings that where we talk about our plans for the future, how things are going, making sure that authors are getting the performance that they would expect from the deals and that readers are getting the books that they want. So it's, I mean, I, I haven't really got a bad thing to say about it. It's, it's been it's been really, really fun to work with them.

James Blatch: Yeah, it has been. And I'm enjoying being freed up at the operational side was the side I built by hand in the first place. And it, it took a reasonable manual labour to make it work every week, cranking a handle. Obviously we knew we would automate a lot more of it as time went on, but this has been, as you say, a fast, fast track to that. And it's freed us up to run the ads, which I'm, I'm quite actually quite enjoying doing, finding new readers so that we, we authors have new readers to download our books. And believe or not, there are hundreds joining every day. So there are lots of readers in the world who don't really know about a lot of them, don't know about these sort of services, like Hello Books and Book Bra and so on. So it's a race to get them signed up on Hello books before the others.

Yeah, so that's it. Well that is a taster of what we have coming now because I have an interview with Ricci Wolman herself. As you say, as Mark says, one half of the ownership, I guess, of written word media, I'm not a hundred percent sure there's probably, ownership might go a bit winder than her and far, but they are the main two people behind Wwm and the brands associated with that, such as Bargain, Booksy and Three Booksy. So let's hear from Ricci and then Mark and I will be back for a quick chat at the end of the interview.

Speaker 1: This is the Self-Publishing Show. There's never been a better time to be a writer.

James Blatch: Ricci Wolman. Welcome to the Self-Publishing Show. I, I don't know, have we had you on? We Might, yes. We've had you on very, I think very early days of the show.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, it's been a while ago. Definitely Pre pandemic, so at least four or five years.

James Blatch: Yeah, we've been going a long time. And so is written Word Media and Bargain Booksy and Free Booksy and all these good titles. And now Hello books. So we've got lots to talk about together.

But why don't you just introduce yourself to to the listeners, Ricci, a little bit about you.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, I'd love to. Thanks for having me on James. As James said, I'm Ricci Wolman, I'm the founder and c e o of written word Media written word Media is a marketing hub for authors, and we are best known for our promo sites which you may have heard of. Free Books, bargain, Booksy, red Feather, romance, new in Books, audio Thicket and now Hello Books on the platform.

James Blatch: Yeah. Which is exciting. And the, the keenly observant will notice that you don't sound like you are from the United States of America.

Ricci Wolman: That is correct, James. Although I have lived here for the better part of my life in the us I was born and raised in South Africa one of the British Commonwealth countries. So I have a lot in common with you all.

James Blatch: Yeah. on that side of things, what,

what took you to the States and how old were you? Do you mind me asking? I I'm Nosy.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, no, I would love to share. I came over to the States when I was around 17. I came for college went up in the northeast here in the US and then just stayed on from there. Met an American and we moved down to North Carolina. Have two beautiful children. And this is home now.

James Blatch: Yeah. You won't, don't think you'll ever go back to RSA?

Ricci Wolman: Unfortunately, no. A lot of the family that I had there is now in the US or other parts of the world. My grandparents passed away a few years ago and that was the big draw that I used to go back for. So will still visit and I'm trying to plan a trip to take the kids out there. We were hoping to do it and then the pandemic hit, so we gotta figure that out moving forward. But this is where we'll be for the foreseeable future.

James Blatch: And my last question on this largely irrelevant topic that I'm just interested in,

Are you Afrikaans or English? And will your children learn any Afrikaans?

Ricci Wolman: They will not. I am, English was my first language. I did take 12 years of Afrikaans during my schooling in South Africa because I straddled the pre and post of hard, hard era. I was actually in high school when Nelson Mandela was released. So incredible time in history. And but yes, Afrikaans is not my native language. And although I do have some words here and there that my kids have picked up, probably not a language that will be in their repertoire.

James Blatch: No, it's quite a hard language. Well, I mean, ya everyone says ya are in South Africa, whether English or South African, aren't they for Yes. Which is the only, yes.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah. And I still do that and my kids teach me endlessly about it, but then sometimes they slip and they do it too. There. You, you go know. Ya is a great, it's a great word. It is. One to keep. Yeah.

James Blatch: Bri Bry and ya I should say they're the two barbecue.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah. Bry and ya.

James Blatch: Yeah, there we go. It's all And Bucky,

Ricci Wolman: Bucky is a, is a track, so driving a back around. That's a good one too.

James Blatch: Yeah. Excellent. Okay, well let's talk about author related stuff now because that's what the show's all about. Although everyone's always interested in us, I think as well, so we have a little chat here and there, so,

so Free Booksy Bargain Booksy, you started this and this was just you a a few years ago, not as an author at the time, but someone who saw the market changing and developing saw an opportunity?

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, so it's almost 10 years ago now, about nine this year. I will be celebrating a decade next year. My mom was an author and that's really how I came to it. I was helping her self-publish her book. She had put her book on Amazon. She Amazon had recently rolled out K d p Select and Free Days. She had set the book for free. I am a marketer by, by training. That is what I've been doing for the past 20 plus years. And so I said, oh, this is a great marketing tactic. Set her book to free. And she got zero downloads and I was floored and I thought, how could this be? And realised that discovery, regardless of the price of your book, was a real challenge for authors. And through that Free Booksy, which was our first promo site, was born. And from there, written word Media has grown.

James Blatch: Yeah. And you've accumulated some brands along the way. And we'll talk about the Hello Books merger in a second. But the core products is basically that the brands effectively are slightly different audiences. And in one case we've read further a different genre, but the core product is,

and we should explain to people who perhaps don't use the service yet, what the service actually provides for an author.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, I'd love to. So we're talking now about promo sites. So those are the five that we have in Hello Books as well. There are others out there that people may be familiar with, like BookBub or FAI Librarian. And what these promo sites do is they leverage the power of marketing. Email marketing is still the most efficient way to market a product. And so the, the brands like Hello Books and say Bargain Booksy. What we do is we go out there and we accumulate an audience of readers. We get their email addresses, we find out what genres they like to read and on what devices. And then once we have a critical mass of readers, we then say to authors, okay, we can help get your book into the right in front of the right reader. And so authors will come and say, I want to run a promo on Bargain Booksy or Hello Books, and they will pick a day and on that day their book will go in the email and be sent out to the audience of readers who are most likely to purchase or download the book.

So as an example, James, if you signed up for Bargain Booksy and you said, Hey, I love to read science fiction books. And then an author came to us and said, Hey, my science fiction book is going to be 99 cents next Thursday. Next Thursday James, you would receive an email that only shows you that science fiction book for 99 cents. You are going to be thrilled because it's exactly the type of content you want. And so you are then going to go and download the book, discover that author, and hopefully purchase more of the books in their back list new releases or series.

James Blatch: Yeah, and that's the key thing I think for authors here, is that this is reader discovery and if you've got a, a set 3, 4, 5 plus books, that's how this really works because you get your, a bit like drug dealing, you get them hooked on the first one, first one's free, and and then they read through the series. Hopefully

Ricci Wolman: That's correct. And you know, most of these these promo sites are predicated on discounting the book. And the reason is is that everyone loves a deal. It's part of our human d n a, right? You want to get a deal. And so if you're putting your book in front of a reader and they don't know who you are, it really lowers the risk for them to say, Hey, this book is free today. What's 99 cents? Or it's 1 99 and they're then more likely to pick that up. But now you've used it as this lead magnet, as a way for them to get familiar with you so they can go on to read the rest of your catalogue. To your point.

James Blatch: Yeah. And perhaps a more wholesome analogy than drug dealing is supermarkets that use bread as lost leaders and they still do that. And so you do occasionally still hear authors saying, no, you shouldn't discount your books because you should value your, your creative here in a certain level. But actually this is incredibly common throughout the rest of industry is to get people in the first place, as you say, a low risk entry into your potential products.

Ricci Wolman: That's exactly right. You know, in software, the analogy is the free trial, which we've all become so familiar with. Hey, get one month free, and now you're on a monthly subscription. Right. And how many, how many monthly subscriptions do all of us have? Yeah. Getting our credit card now, but that first month was free. And so I understand the objection. You've spent a lot of time writing a book pouring your, you know, heart and soul and hard work into it. But instead of seeing it as a devaluation, think of it more as an investment in the future of this book and the other books to come.

James Blatch: Yeah, and I'm doing it now. So I've written my third book on Novella specifically for this purpose. I've taken out of Kindle Limited, I've made it free on some other sites, but I've put it onto Book funnel. And I am one of the users of your services not just for Fuse books, for, for, for myself as well. So audience building, which is going to stand me in good stead in the future.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah. And it's great. One of the reasons this partnership, which we'll talk about soon is so exciting, is that Mark was one of our first customers almost a decade ago, and you've been a customer. And so it's a thrill for us to actually be partnering with people who have used and understand our service so well.

James Blatch: Yeah. Well let's talk about Hello Books then we can talk more specifically about the products available to people. So hello books, people will be familiar that Mark and I I mean I think I was the main driver for this for a year or two before we started it. Simply from the basis, once I discovered Bookhub discovered the world of indie marketing, I was really surprised at how little visibility there was in the reader world. I've got friends who read nonstop on the Kindle, nonstop, never heard of Bookhub Bookhub's, a whale in our industry, never heard of bargaining books are free books. It just felt to me like the market penetration was about 5% and 95% of readers just didn't seem to know you could join an email list and get genuinely brilliant books send you for free. So I felt probably like you did with your different brands, that there's, there's scope and there's room here for multiple firms doing more or less the same thing.

So we started Hello Books and I think you became interested Ferrell, we should probably say who Ferrell is, became really interested in a, a collaboration. Do you want to talk about that then?

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, so Ferrell is co-founder and my husband, we run the company together. His official title is c o o and we started chatting with you all back in December about how we could collaborate on helping out with growing hello Books and bringing it into the, the written word media family. The vision that we have at Written Word Media is that we're trying to build the most epic theme park for authors. And so we have a bunch of rides in there that authors love, excuse me, which are the five promo sites that we've talked about. We also have Reader Reach, which is managed Amazon and Facebook ads for authors. We have a distribution deal with yonder, so we're slowly putting more and more really cool rides into the theme park. And we thought, hey, you know, we've built some great rides but there are also other people out there who've great built great rides and one of them is Hello books. And authors are having to come to our theme park and then drive off to the Hello Books ride to take advantage of it. So we said, wouldn't it be cool if Hello Books could be a ride within the Linwood Media theme park? And that was the beginning of the conversations back in December of last year, which has in that, in, in that actually happening. And now we do have Hello books, the Ride Inside the Redwood Media Theme Park, which I think is going to benefit authors and readers incredibly.

James Blatch: Yeah. And if people are interested in the nuts and bolts of this, mark and I still own most of Hello Books you do now own a part of it, but it's more than just sticking a Hello Books link onto your website. You are taking over the operation side of it. Cause this is something you do so well. We had to invent, I had to write, literally write the email programmes and keep, which was a kind of always a bit of a sticking PLA until we could invest in our own IT system. But there's no point in inventing the wheel twice. And it's been a brilliant I think it was a brilliant idea from the beginning for, to leverage your very slick and very professional, I should say, operations side. And we've already started noticing the difference in one week readers starting to receive one email with a good selection of books rather than multiple emails for genres, which is where we were before. So already feeling the benefit Ricci

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, ex exactly. I mean you, you all have done an incredible job of building this audience, but you know, running the theme park, running a promo site is actually a lot more difficult than it looks. And we have been doing this for going on 10 years. So we have custom software, we have a team of people who are specialised in this, so we are really well positioned to be able to take the burden of those operations off so that you and Mark can focus on the audience building, which is the thing that you're great at and and really passionate about as well.

James Blatch: Yeah, I should talk about your team. It's quite a, quite, it's not just you and Ferrell now you've got quite a team.

Are you, do you have an HQ building or you all work from home?

Ricci Wolman: We are fully remote. We used to have an HQ pre pandemic. We moved remote and found that it was actually fantastic for the life, you know, work life balance of our employees. We are all based out of North Carolina in the US and we call our team members Wordies. And there are 15 of us total and our team is just incredible. We've been so lucky to be able to hire people who are passionate about supporting and indie authors who are passionate about the power of books. And as you've probably come to see James, everyone's fairly specialised in what they do and they do it really well.

James Blatch: Yeah. So are Mark and I Wordies now?

Ricci Wolman: You are Honorary Wordies.

James Blatch: Honorary Wordies. There you go.

Ricci Wolman: We will send you t-shirts.

James Blatch: I did say I'm looking forward to the staff picnic. I don't know when that is, but we'll we'll get on a plane

Ricci Wolman: For that. Well, we've got bigger, bigger aspirations. We'd like to just fly the whole team out and do a retreat in the UK so wouldn't that be fun?

James Blatch: That'd be superb. I'll, I'll search outta Castle for you. Okay, so let's talk about the products a little bit. So, so people understand the basic offering that you've got and now people can choose between if it's free, free Booksy, some of the other promotion sites including Hello books, if it's 99 cents Bargain Booksy, including Hello Books now and some of the other sites.

But really excitingly for authors, you've started to create products around multiple audiences.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, so we're calling those stacks and this has been something that authors have been asking for for a while, which is back to this idea of if you are an author who's running a promo, you generally are running your book on multiple of these promo sites and it is a pretty painful process. As we said, driving from one theme park or one ride to another, that doesn't sound so bad. But when you're actually doing a, creating a, a promo stack or trying to schedule your book on multiple sites on adjacent days, that can be really tricky. And you usually have a million windows open on your computer and you're waiting for one site to get back to you. And then if they don't have the date, you know, your whole stack is is outta whack. And so what we're trying to do with Stacks is say, Hey, you come to one place and we will book everything for you.

And hello Books we'll be is part of those stacks. We have something really exciting stacks with Hello Books in it. So let's just say you want to run you're running a free day and you want to get the most downloads possible. We now have what's called a triple threat stack where you'd come to written Word Media, you would say, Hey, this is the date that I want and I want it on all three sites. And we'd put your book in free booksy, see Hello Books and Fussy Librarian who is also a partner of ours. And so, you know, that is now going to save authors a tonne of time with some of the stacks that'll actually save you money as well. If you're a gold or platinum author with written word media, you'll get 10% off of that stack. And some of the stacks we're having in the future will have a built-in bundling discount. Again, not a novel concept that we have come up with a lot of the time, you buy a lot of stuff, you get a, you know, you buy a bundle, you get a percentage off. So we think that this is going to be huge for authors and we hope that they're delighted with it.

James Blatch: Yeah, and I think that this is, this is something I think our authors will be pricking their ears up at because it's a one-stop shop. We should mention BookBub who are the kind of the whale in this industry. They were probably around four years before you something like that. I mean it's, they're not that much older, but in, in this this universe we live in that's quite, quite a bit older.

Ricci Wolman: Yes it is. I mean BookBub, you know, does an incredible job. I think they were a couple years before us they were venture funded, they were, you know Josh who runs it, I think it's very smart, he took all that venture funding and just dumped it into Facebook ads. So he built a really big audience really quickly. And so a lot of authors, if they do get a book Bub, will then layer on promos with us. But one of the challenges for authors is that it's really tricky to get a book Bub. And so you of authors who apply for a book bub I think only 10% of them actually get it. And so our hope is that by making these stacks so much more accessible to authors, you can basically aggregate all of these smaller promo sites like ours to get results that hopefully start to rival those of a BookBub.

James Blatch: Yeah. And I think that's, that's where it fits into to my strategy and, and for B Fuse books and myself is you can apply for a BookBub probably not going to get it, but then you did have this painful process of going around the various other sites. But having that one stop shop I think is is fantastic. And we're excited about that. So in fact, I've got one coming up I've got, funnily enough I did, they did say Yes book Bub on this occasion. I have a featured deal later this month, but I then went and bought, I didn't buy the triple stack Because I have direct access to Hello Books, but I bought the free Booksy and Fussy librarian to go with that. So that's, that's a simple process. Probably took me five minutes and that's going to be a big day for this particular book Fuse.

Ricci Wolman: It sure is, it's going to be huge. And is that book is that wide or is it in KDP Select?

James Blatch: It's in select and it's but it's free. It's part of, it's five days free.

Ricci Wolman: That's amazing. One of the things that authors I think sometimes forget is that if you are in K DP select and you run a free day, you still get paid on your KU reads. So that is a little bit of a loophole for authors that are maybe uncomfortable setting their book for free. Any reader who picks up that book on your free day who is in ku, you will still get paid out. And so we do see authors in select who run three days see much larger payouts at the end of that month for that reason. Yeah.

James Blatch: And in fact, I can tell you my first feature did on one of my books, I was surprised to see my income go up sort of tripled actually on the day that the thing went out and it was free. But that's exactly what that was. Of course, visibility for the book and people going into kd, ku and reading it.

Ricci Wolman: Yep, exactly. It's, you know, we, we, we know their arguments are for select and, and against we're not a proponent of either of them, but this is if you are in select, it's a, it's a nice little loophole and a way to actually make a lot of money for, for free day. Yeah.

James Blatch: Now you've mentioned membership levels in written word media so silver and Gold, is it silver or platinum? Platinum and

Ricci Wolman: It's gold and platinum.

James Blatch: Gold and platinum. That's it. Can you just explain what they are?

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, so these are annual memberships that basically get you a v i p pass into the, into our, the written word media theme park. So you pay an upfront fee for gold it's $125 a year for platinum it's $250 a year and it's really an investment in, in your author business. And also a way to signal like, hey, we like the theme park that you're building. We want to be part of that. And what we do is we take a lot of those membership fees and we can invest it more rapidly into continuing to build out the park now as a thank you. What we have with membership is with that membership you get 10% off everything in the park. And then there are a bunch of other perks as well. We try and give back more value to the authors who have made the investment in membership than what they actually paid out.

One of those is beta access. So anytime we're building a new ride, we need a lot of feedback. So if you're a gold or platinum member, you get to try that out first. You get to give us feedback, you get to request specific rides. We also give our gold platinum members first first dibs on editorial slots. So sometimes we'll be sending out an email on any given day and, and we'll say, Hey, we're actually missing a fantasy book for today. And we'll go and we'll look at our members and see if any of them have a fantasy book that fits the price and device demographic that we need and we'll slot them in. So there's a lot of free promotion that comes from being a member. They're also savings on other third party vendors out there. We know as an author within your business, you need an email provider and you're probably using Book Funnel. And so as a member you actually get discounts across a bunch of other vendors who are not within, that are not directly a written word, media product that's just to name a few. There are a bunch of perks to being a member. We launched membership nine months ago. It's been going really well. Authors love it. So I definitely say if you're an author, check it out.

James Blatch: Yeah. Oh,

I'm loving your dedication to the theme park analogy, Ricci, you are, you are going deep with it, aren't you?

Ricci Wolman: I, you know, I love it. It's just, there's something, a picture is worth a thousand words. Yeah. I don't know if it's an analogy or metaphor. You're the author, so you can tell me which one it is. But we use it internally a lot. We use it externally when we're talking to partners and it just helps people get it right. You can picture what we're trying to do versus when I sit here and I say, well, we're creating a product and then we're licencing products and we're partnering with products, you're like, I don't know what all that means. But when I say, Hey, here's our theme park, you know, think about, you know, you said earlier, you, you all still own Hello Books, you know, it's still your brand, it's still your baby. Yes, we have a a, an equity stake in it, but it's akin to, you know, Harry Potter, right?

JK Rowling, she owns Harry Potter, she owns that brand and she she licenced it to Universal. So when you go to Harry Potter World, you're going into the Universal theme park because they know how to build rides. You know, JK Rowling probably didn't want to take on building her own theme park, even though I know she, there's the studio and but she still owns that brand. But it brings it to so many more people by putting it into Universal. And so the same thing with Hello Books and hopefully other partners down the road, is that there, they're great brands out there, but let's bring it into the written word media theme park so that authors, it makes it easier for authors to access them.

James Blatch: Yeah, no, I love it. It's a, it's a brilliant metaphor strike analogy, but I want to go to Hello Books Land when I go there and I think we should get polo shirts at some point, but anyway now let's talk about some advice for authors who are thinking about, because you see from the inside you are and I've seen this on the inside myself, now you have data coming out of your ears over at Wwm.

So first of all, free versus 99. Do you have any advice or any ideas for authors in trying to decide between those two types of offer?

Ricci Wolman: I do James I would say free if you have written a series making book one in the series free is an in incre, incredibly powerful way to drive sales and read through of the rest of the series. So and none of these are hard and fast rules, but in general free is really great when you have series or you have other back lists. So you're putting this book up for free readers come in, but then there needs to be other things that they can discover in order for you to make recoup your investment. They have to be able to purchase other books that are actually priced. So if you're an author who only has one book I would say setting it to free in the beginning so you can go on reviews and get feedback and feed. The Amazon algorithm is great, but if you keep setting it to free in the future, you might see diminishing returns cause there's nothing else for readers to buy.

But then once you have another book in your catalogue and a third book in your catalogue, you can see how the return on the investment will go up because there's so much more for those readers to buy. So free is great for spurring activity across your back list. Spurring activity for series free is really good at getting reviews. And Free is really good at seeding the Amazon, apple Google Play algorithms. When your, your book first hits the shelves 99 cents is, is just a powerhouse. It's pretty much good for any scenario. Anytime you're trying to give a a book a lift, you're trying to give your back list a lift 99 cents is the price point aside from free that will get you the most demand, that'll get you the most sales. We do, we do put out a blog post every year. We run the data every year to look at the demand curve and it's exactly what you would expect. You know, you can see the highest sales at 99 cents and then they drop at 1 99 and they drop at 2 99 and it's kind of a downward slope. The higher the price, the fewer sales you're going to generate.

James Blatch: Yeah. And we certainly noticed the difference between Free and 99 in that sense in Hello Books. And we, we ran 90 nines in the old days, they're back now.

And that's something I do occasionally again, hear authors saying 90 is the same as free. You don't need to go free. But I do see, and you do see there is a significant difference in the number of clicks and downloads. You're going to get

Ricci Wolman: Significant orders of magnitude, right? Like a, a free book, let's just say you're in a hedge genre like mystery or thriller romance, a free book is literally going to get thousands of downloads. Thousands. and a 99 cent book is maybe going to get hundreds of sales if you're lucky. Some of them might get, you know, under a hundred depe. If you, I'm just saying if you're running the same experiment on only one promo site, if you run a free book on free Booksy in romance, you'll get thousands of downloads. And if you run it on Bargain Booksy, you'll get anywhere from 50 to 200 sales, all you know. And a lot of that is dependent on reviews and your cover and, and things that unfortunately we can't control. So there is variance, but it's, it's a, it's a market difference. We're not talking about, you know, a few, a few copies here and there.

James Blatch: Yeah. And I suppose there is some work for the authors to do. I can hear some authors shouting now saying, but the quality of a 99 cents buyer might be higher than the quality of a free buyer who owns Serially reads free books. But if it's a good first in series, that's going to work for a percentage of the people who get it for free. Although there is something to be said, I think maybe the 99 century people feel a bit more, they're more likely to read it for a start. And that's almost certainly true and potentially more likely to go on and read your series. But that's not to say that that over rides the benefits of of those big numbers of free readers.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, I think exactly as you're saying, you get thousands of downloads and then, you know, 10 or 20% of those people then go on to redder the books. It just comes down to the absolute numbers. But the same is true. People who purchase a 99 cent book, a hundred percent of them aren't going to go on to purchase your next book. It's, you do see a kind of a cliff where there's a drop off and only some percentage you're going to go through. So when we run the numbers generally authors come ahead on a free promo versus a 99 cent promo. Again, with the caveat of you have to have a catalogue, you have to have other things to purchase if you don't have other things to purchase. It's like, you know, letting a customer into a store, giving them a free candy, but then there's no other candy to purchase. So you do need to have other things that, that the readers can then go on and, and buy so you can make money down the road.

James Blatch: In terms of frequency. Ricci, do you have any advice for authors and how often they should do a promotion?

Ricci Wolman: Yes. So we actually have a rule pretty hard and fast rule at written word media where we will not allow you to promote within 30 days of a promotion. That's the minimum we generally recommend that authors promote. They can promote a title every 90 days is kind of best practise. The reason for that is we are constantly building our lists on our brands as you Hello Books is building the list. So if readers have seen your book running a promo a week later when they've all just seen your book, you're going to see much fewer sales and your return is going to be lower. But if you wait three months, we've had time to replenish the readers. And so now when you run your book, there are a bunch of readers who have never seen it before. So best practises run a primary every 90 days. That's per title. What a lot of successful authors do is that they will be running promos every month, but on different titles different series or different books within the series. And that's a good way to kind of keep your baseline of sales across all of your books up. But for any specific title, you don't want to fatigue the audience too much and run it too often.

James Blatch: Yeah. And of course the 90 Days fits in with those of us in Kindle Unlimited at KDP Select. That is the, the reset of your, your contract, which means you get another five days free. I guess you must see 90 days as being a fairly common application period.

Ricci Wolman: Yes, it is. And yeah, and it's, it seems to work. And, and again, also with the way that we replenish our audience, I think that differs from promo site to promo site. So I can only speak to us and, and to Hello books specifically. We, we invest a lot of the the revenue that comes in from authors into audience building, we're literally adding tens of thousands of new readers every single month. So that's best practise for our sites. For other sites, you might need to experiment if they're not adding readers as quickly, you might want to wait longer. But generally it's a good rule of thumb and as you said, it lines up nicely with the k e p select rules and timelines.

James Blatch: Yeah.

the other question I had is kind of dos and don'ts for doing a promo, but the, the big don't that I've got from my experience in Hello Books is make sure your book is actually discounted on the day that it's due to go out. I think that must be like the main thing. We, we can both feel needs, needs reinforcing, unfortunately.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah. That is a common, a common mistake. We, we do have what what we, we call reminder emails here at Ringwood Media and now authors who purchase Hello Books promos will get them as well. And we try not to be too annoying, but we will send an email, you know, a week before and the three days before the promo to say, Hey, remember to make sure that your, your book has dropped because it's, it's amazing how many authors forget to do that or there's some kind of glitch with Amazon and then the morning of they login and the book is not priced when they want it to be. So that is one of the challenges with running a promo.

James Blatch: Yeah. And something I notice being in the UK is I tend not to use the first, if I'm on KDP, tend not to use the first day free because actually it's a, a Pacific time midnight's kind 8:00 AM in the uk and that if people, depending on when your team, our team, et cetera, are checking prices that can also fall foul. So my tip is get your five days book, your promos on days two to the end.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, that's good advice. Yeah, it is here, it's 11:00 AM Eastern. So that's why, you know, the bargain books, the email goes at 1115 cause at 11 o'clock we're checking all the prices to see what dropped. We rarely do wish we, we wouldn't, we wouldn't aren't all on Amazon time, but that's way that it goes So yeah, giving yourself a day of buffer so you can kind of, you know, sleep easy knowing, hey, my prices are already dropped and all the promos that you've paid for and the marketing you've invested in is going to go off without a hitch.

James Blatch: Yeah. So Ricci, the future, I mean, you and I do feel that the industry is growing and we've seen that with Hello Books. And you know, again, you get the odd nay sale doom, the doom laden prophecies that the Indie bubbles burst. But that's not the impression we are getting. This is a fast, still a fast growing part of publishing. And you are, you are, you are driven by indie books as well as we We are,

Ricci Wolman: Yes. I would say percent of our customers are indie authors. That's our d n a, that's who we were born to serve and who we continue to serve. And it's just been incredible to watch the growth of indie authorship. It's continued to grow akin to the creator economy and software and technology has really enabled that. We don't see that stopping at any point. We're, you know, we're all in on this industry. We're all in, in on indie authors and we think the future is really bright from here.

James Blatch: Yeah. And I think in the northern hemisphere, this is the time where more eBooks get e e-readers get purchased because we can remember the old days. I mean, my wife reads like a book a day, so we'd go on holiday for 10 days. She, we wouldn't get the suitcase to the airport. Books are books are heavy. And I can remember the Kindle coming along. It was like she couldn't believe it. She was very against it. Not very against it, but, you know, kind of, I don't really like, I like a book. Everyone says everyone loves a book. I like a book. But having 20 books on a, something that you can hold in the palm of your hand. So I do think this is ati, certainly in the Northern Hemisphere. I think this is a time that next generation of people think about buying a Kindle device or another e-reader device.

Ricci Wolman: Yeah, absolutely. You know, people read more in the summer. We, we just had mother's Day here, father's Day is coming up, graduation, you know, and Kindle is still top of the list for gifts that go out at those times. People still love to read, you know, reading is, I know there's lots of doom and gloom headlines out there and the youth are scrolling, TikTok and reading is dead. But I have two, you know, kids, elementary and middle school and they read an absolute fortune and I look at the team that we have and young people that I mentor and reading is, is strong. So I think it's going to be with us for quite a while to come.

James Blatch: Definitely. Now we've got through the hello, hello books merger. We're into the sort of live stage a bit.

Do I ask what's next for Wwm? Do you have any, any, where do you see yourself in five years? Sounds like a job interview.

Ricci Wolman: and I haven't had one of those in a long time, James. So you don't well

James Blatch: We don't need one.

Ricci Wolman: You're going to be very good at answering that question, Yeah, I mean I keep going back to our theme park analogy, but we, you know, we want to be like the Disney world. Yeah, we, we, we have really grand aspirations and we want to build something that brings joy and delights. Authors being an author, running an author business that can be challenging. I, I'm an entrepreneur myself, I understand the highs and the lows. And so we want to be a bright spot in that. And so over the next five years we're going to continue to build this out, continue listening to authors as they tell us what they need. So that room word media can be a place of respite and a place of joy. Instead of just one more thing to slog through as part of what you have to do the gritty day-to-day of being an author.

James Blatch: Brilliant. Well I think we're all happy in this theme park, Ricci, that you've built you Farrell. So well done. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you for taking a chance on Hello Books. So delighted that we've a partnership that's breathing now after a lot of work in the background that people will never see. But there was a lot going on and yeah, looking forward to the future. Thanks very much for coming on.

Ricci Wolman: Great, thanks so much James.

Speaker 1: This is the self-publishing show. There's never been a better time to be a writer. There

James Blatch: You go. Ricci Wolman did start by talking a little bit about her background. South Africa to the United States of America. We're very much at home in, I think it's South Carolina. It was in North Carolina. It's one of

Mark Dawson: Carolinas, no, North Carolina I think. North Carolina,

James Blatch: Yeah. R Raleigh sort of area. Yeah. Yeah. And they ha we are getting into the little quirks that they have behind the scenes. I don't know if I can, oh that's the only reason why not say this, but they have like cameras off on Monday and Friday for meetings. I guess they're all naked on Mondays and Fridays must be the only explanation for that. And and occasionally they all get in the office together, which is amazing in this day and age. So last time I had a Zoom call with them, I don't think, I think it was one you missed, they were all sitting around a table. They actually in the same room. Wow,

Mark Dawson: Okay. Yeah.

James Blatch: Who would've thought Yeah, in this day and age, but yeah, we don't see each other very often. Do we

Mark Dawson: Not like that? No, we don't. Even though it was, I don't don't know, probably there's, we're closer than they are I imagine. I don't know quite how far they've been travelling

James Blatch: Maybe, but we're quite a long way from each other. That's true. Actually I was in London last night. I went to have dinner with Jane Diamond and her husband James I think is his professional name. And Jane Diamond's a brilliant romance author who does billionaire, cowboy rockstar. Oh, I don't know. She does cowboy, she does rockstar, but she is a rockstar and she's been doing so well on the team. They're a team together. James does the marketing, so I had lunch with them, dinner with them last night. I took my wife down as well. It was really, really nice to catch up with somebody we've known quite a few years. Met them for the first time in Vancouver. But we had a chat about hello books and these book services that authors use all the time. Talked about their growth and how they manage that. So that was very interesting. And yes, I said, she said, do you live close to each other? I said, well, you are a couple of hours. The other side of Aries. Oh wait, you're quite close then. I'm thinking. Not really.

Mark Dawson: Wow. Couple of

James Blatch: Hours. The other side of London from an hour north of London. For me it's a long way. Yeah. I won't nip it over for lunch, but I will come over for like an event like a birthday party. As long as it's, as long as it's closely aligned with the actual birthday. Cause that's my rules.

Mark Dawson: Absolutely. Well we have to see about that. Yeah, no, it's I think distances, we've said this before, you know, for us a three hour drive is a reasonably long drive, but for, and lots of American friends is the trip to the shops. Yeah. . So

James Blatch: They would go out for dinner, wouldn't they? Three hours.

Mark Dawson: Yeah, absolutely. So a little different, but yeah, that's

James Blatch: Three hours from here gets you into another couple of other countries.

Mark Dawson: I could probably get twelves in three hours. Yeah. .

James Blatch: Oh, I think you can get into Belgium in three hours from

Mark Dawson: Here. Oh, Belgium. Yes. Yeah, probably good.

James Blatch: Yeah, France, Belgium, I, I mean that's something talking to Jane and James are over from Vancouver that they envy about Europe is all the different cultures and history and countries all within such a close range. I think it's amazing and it made me think, Jill and I sitting thinking we should go to more, you know, we've been to all the big western European countries quite a lot, but Eastern Europe don't do, haven't been very much over the years and there's a lot of Europe to explore on our tour doorstep.

Mark Dawson: Going to Poland in, in Warsaw, in in August.

James Blatch: Oh you are, let me guess you're going to go and see a rock band.

Mark Dawson: I am, yeah. Going to see Depeche mode again. So I'm trying to persuade my nine year old son that he really wants to come to Helsinki with me as well. But I'm

James Blatch: How how many times are you actually going to see Depeche mode? This, this year?

Mark Dawson: I don't know, probably five times I think all in something like that. And then yeah, maybe once more next year as well. So we'll see. But yeah, that's, that's what you do for a, you know, bandwidth and important part in your life when you get to a milestone age.

James Blatch: Yeah, that's true. Ageing rock stars. Yeah.

Mark Dawson: When you get to 60 next year we going to see Coldplay all over the world. It'll be you.

James Blatch: I'm not getting to 60 next year just to qualify that. I'm a young man by the way. I did a very pushed, pushed 5K this morning and was quite pleased with my time. So I feel in many ways I'm getting younger.

Mark Dawson: Mm-Hmm. Okay.

James Blatch: I might, I might need some filters on this. Okay. Alright. Do

Mark Dawson: You, do you have a portrait in your attic?

James Blatch: Yeah. A nice literary reference. There we go. Probably do, yes. Not of me, but of the young car Fisher. That's where it stays.

Mark Dawson: Here we

James Blatch: Go. Okay, here we go. Yeah, probably on that note might be time to wind this up. Alright, thank you very much indeed to our guest, Ricci, and thank you very much to Tom and Catherine and Stuart and Sarah, everybody else who helps put this podcast together. Mel, I think as well now yes, thank you to the team in the background. Thank you very much indeed for listening. We will be back next week. Don't forget, you can still grab a digital ticket for the conference to get all the conference material, everything that was said on stage and you get some brilliant bonus episodes, including some really good practical sessions for authors. So you can sign up at self-publishing formula.com/digital. That's it. Or the remains of me to say goodbye from him

Mark Dawson: And a goodbye from me. Goodbye,

James Blatch: Goodbye.

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