Using Download Bonuses in Book Launches
There are lots of ways to launch a book. Some authors simply upload their files and alert readers on social media. Others form complex marketing plans that stretch months into the future. Both strategies can work well or fail. After all, marketing alone doesn’t determine a book’s success. A more important contributing factor is whether readers see it as a good deal.
You could write the best book ever, but nobody will buy it if the ebook is priced at $9.99 and your readers believe it’s only worth $3.99. Yes, authors in some genres can charge higher prices and launch to thousands of sales without a problem, but most must use other tactics to entice readers during launch periods. Running a launch discount is one way they do it. Readers feel they’re getting a steal when they get the chance to buy a book at $0.99 that would usually cost $4.99. But what if you don’t want to drop the price? In that case, the only other way to make your book seem like a good deal at launch time is to increase its perceived value. This is where launch bonuses enter the equation.
Launch bonuses, if you don’t know, are limited-edition freebies that come with new books. They’re used to pad out the perceived value at launch and give readers an extra incentive to buy immediately. In the past, traditional publishers have given away sheets of stickers with How to Train Your Dragon books and lipsticks with Sophie Kinsella novels for this reason.
As an indie author, you can use a similar tactic to get more pre-orders and early sales, even at a high price point. Choosing an effective launch bonus can be a challenge but, done well, it can make a huge difference to your unit sales and bottom line. Identifying effective bonuses and incorporating them into your launches might sound complicated but it can be simple. As you will find out in today’s blog post, there are steps you can take to streamline the process.
Ask Your Readers
Good launch bonuses are cheap to produce but attract readers. Striking that balance is challenging because most indie authors don’t have a huge production budget nor a team of assistants who can handle fulfilment in a cost-effective way. Hence, unless you’re a seven-figure author with these factors in place, it makes sense to stick with digital launch bonuses. Doing so, you can create more ambitious freebies and promote them heartily without having to worry about bulk-ordering products and shipping logistics.
A digital bonus may seem less attractive than physical swag, but many midlist indie authors still use them to pull in impressive pre-order numbers. The key is to find out what your fans want in advance, which you can do easily by asking them in your newsletter or on social media. Many readers won’t come up with ideas for you, so suggest ideas yourself and poll their responses for an accurate consensus to improve your chances of creating a successful launch bonus. Typically, you’ll find that readers want a free short story above all else. However, if you don’t have the time to write one, many will settle for behind-the-scenes content, concept art or a character interview. There are plenty of creative solutions that don’t require weeks of work.
Make More Than One
Polling your readers will probably reveal that they have more than one desire. While some readers love concept art, others might want adult colouring sheets and some an interview starring your snarky fan-favourite side-character. Yes, there will likely be a popular winner but it won’t raise the perceived value of your book for everyone. As a result, making more than one launch bonus, if you have the time, is worth it. If you approach production strategically, you may even be able to repurpose content without spending any extra time or money.
Say your readers want a deleted scene from your new book. You could locate an old draft and copy some paragraphs that got cut into a new ebook file. You won’t have to pay for extra editing because your readers will understand that it’s a cut scene that never made it into the final product. The juicier, the better. Many readers, for instance, would happily binge the dramatic death of a character that you later decided to keep alive. Similarly, you could use an early line art draft of a full-colour piece of concept art from your illustrator as a downloadable adult colouring resource. That’s two bonuses from one piece of commissioned artwork! Providing multiple launch bonuses in this way will give you extra things to promote and help you appeal to more readers.
Ensure They’re Exclusive
Few things drive a sense of urgency like a supply shortage.
“Sale Ends Sunday”
“The Holiday’s Most Elusive Gift”
You see this phenomenon in action all year round, but the effect is more noticeable at Christmastime when shoppers feel the pressure of a buying deadline ahead of them. Crowds flood stores and crash retailer websites on Black Friday, trying to make a purchase before coveted products return to full price. Parents happily pay three times what a games console is worth at the point where demand exceeds supply. When supplies are scarce, discounts deep and hype extreme, impulse purchase figures launch into the stratosphere.
As a creator, it’s difficult to manufacture this kind of mass hysteria unless you’ve got the clout of Beyonce or JK Rowling, but you can trigger a similar psychological response in individual readers. All you have to do is make your offer exclusive and time sensitive. Yes, a freebie bundled with a new release is a fantastic launch bonus. But readers won’t be compelled to impulse buy nearly as much if they know that free book is also available separately on Amazon or the bundle deal lasts forever. Knowing they can only get that freebie with your new book and that it will disappear forever after the launch week, however, will drive immediate sales.
Roll Them Out Slowly
Letting your potential readers know about your book launch bonuses once won’t necessarily be enough to close the deal. As with many marketing efforts, a lot of your audience won’t even acknowledge what’s on offer until they’ve seen it a few times. And many won’t decide they want it until they’ve had several points of exposure. Hence, showing them your offer multiple times is vital. Marketing studies suggest that each customer (in this case reader) needs seven “touches” to notice, trust and want a product. However, as online ads have desensitised many shoppers, you may need to present your offer even more times to some readers.
Having a selection of launch bonuses and revealing them gradually will give you more excuses to promote your offer. Authors who team up to hit the USA Today list frequently follow this philosophy and do exceptionally well as a result, rolling out their launch bonuses gradually over several months. Each new bonus adds to the offer, further familiarising readers with the book while increasing its perceived value. Announce all your bonuses at once and you’ll get some benefit but rolling them out slowly is the only way to gain the full effect. Readers won’t feel like you’re spamming them, either, because each offer will be slightly different and better than the last.
If you want to run an efficient book launch bonus push that doesn’t consume all your time, then you’ll need to automate fulfilment as much as possible. Fulfilment is a fancy term that means delivering what you promise. For your book launch, that includes the book itself (often fulfilled by the retailer) but also your bonuses. If you choose to create a physical bonus then that will entail bubble wrapping the items, sliding them into jiffy bags and sending them through your local post office – a lot of work. You can automate it by paying a fulfilment centre to take the order and handle the packing and shipping for you, but it’s expensive.
This is yet another area in which digital bonuses excel. Compared to the handling of physical freebies, automating digital fulfilment is cheap and easy. Depending on their content and file types, you can fit them into the body of your ebook file or upload them to BookFunnel where readers can download them by following a link in your book’s back matter.
If you can’t deliver your digital bonuses in these ways, you could alternatively use a fulfilment service like Zapier to send your bonuses via email to anyone who asks. All you have to do is set up an email address for readers to email, connect it to Zapier, include that email address in the back of your book alongside instructions for readers, and Zapier will do the rest. Just remember to remove the link or email address from your book after the launch period ends to maintain the sense of urgency and exclusivity for future launches.
Running book launch bonus campaigns does require some organisation and technical skill. However, your efforts don’t have to be expensive or complex from the beginning. One simple bonus, embedded in your ebook file, will help you stand out significantly in the crowded arena of book launches. Testing is essential but, done well, this strategy can enrich your connection with readers, drive community engagement and improve the efficacy of your launches.
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