Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Buyer Incentives

Randy Ingermanson, author and creator of How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method, also publishes a free monthly e-zine for writers. In the December '07 issue he has an interesting article on launching your novel by building an e-mail database (includes an interview with indy Christian SF publisher Jeff Gerke.) I have some reservations about the e-mail database approach to novel launching and marketing, as I've been around that block before, but Randy makes a good argument for it.

For an incentive to tempt a book buyer, it has to be effective, personal and yet non-intrusive. To quote from Randy's article: Your goal is get e-mail addresses of people who are genuinely interested in what you are writing and who are willing to receive e-mail from you whenever you write a new book. I can honestly say that I've never bought a book because I received an e-mail from the author, the author's publisher, the author's marketing team, or a chain bookseller. But then, I've never signed up for any that I've received; they came in the form of SPAM which at the most I glanced at before deleting.

As incentives go, I lean more toward providing online free, original content that is available nowhere else. What writers do best is write, so why not use the greatest asset we have? It's also the type of marketing/launching strategy that any writer can afford -- all you have to do is write the story, turn it into an e-book, and park it on the internet. If the content is made available in those arid stretches between novel releases, loyal readers are more likely to click on the download link. Keeping free content available also creates a stock of stories for potential new readers to check out before they make a purchase.

The next hurdle is to find an effective, non-intrusive way to make a writer's free story stock more widely available, and I'm working on that.

What author-generated incentive(s) convinces you to buy a book? If you've got any good examples, tell us about them in comments.


  1. Being able to read a sample of an author's work has convinced me to buy books so I like the e-book idea. Giveaways are great too. I won a copy of Threads of Malice and loved the book. I've given six copies of it as gifts and I've bought Tam's other books too. Emails and postcards don't work for me because they don't tell me anything about the author's writing. Blogs can work too. I've bought several books because I've read excerpts from them on the authors' blogs.

  2. Anonymous9:12 AM

    Definitely free stories, especially for newbie authors which I have been hesitant to invest in their books - if I like their story and writing style, I'll buy the book.

    Word of mouth helps. If my friends (who know my taste and pet peeves) rave about a book, I'll buy it.

    Excerpts. If the author caught my attention in that first chapter - and I like their writing style - I'll buy it.

  3. Some author, I forget who, ran competitions on her blog where you could win copies of her books. I was lucky enough to win one, and then went out and bought the rest in the series;}#

    Seriously though, I guess that's much the same as making free material available online. I'd have bought the stardoc books sooner or later, having enjoyed your blog, but availability here in the UK isn't all that good. Having easy (and free) access to some of your writing was enough of a push to make me order more from Amazon.

    Of course, it helped that the first book I read was so good.

  4. So this self-appointed expert is telling novelists to spam readers? I don't think so!

    I buy books by novelists who do what you are doing--entertain and instruct with useful blogs that worm their way into my consciousness to where their authors become virtual friends. I have to buy books by friends.

    I also buy novels recommended by friends I know share my reading tastes.

    That's about it, though.

    Any stranger who spammed me about their book after reading one of my Amazon reviews or a comment I'd posted on a blog would be likely to go on my "forget it" list. It's happened.

  5. Anonymous11:00 AM

    Word of mouth promotions work best for me. If an author I know reccommends a book, I'm more inclined to remember the name of the author when I'm in the store and pick up the book that way.
    This doesn't always work -- sometimes it can come off as "Look what I'm promoting because my publisher wants me too..."
    It really depends on the initial blogger.

  6. Around the time of the SFWA elections, I started reading some stuff written by John Scalzi on his blog. I liked the way he wrote, so I bought one of his books. So that's count one for a blog :). I've also bought books by people who've friended me on MySpace, although I'm less likely to do that now that I haven't actually liked any of them....

  7. I think you're right on the money. I found your blog through agent blogs, and the entries really caught my interest. I'd seen your books on Amazon, but I'm pretty picky about what I read, so I wasn't sure I wanted to take the plunge. Then I saw the link for Free E-books, and I read your novella, Midnight Blues. I loved it. I found some of the back-and-forth dialogue on the first few pages so funny that I emailed the link to a friend of mine before I even finished the story. When I finished it, I knew I was going to buy a novel. When I read the teaser about the Gabriel novel, I knew I had to buy it. And I did. Right then. (Waiting for delivery.)

    I've been trying to come up with creative ways to market my own novel, if I can ever land an agent. ;-) I started a blog written from my characters' perspectives, but nobody gives a crap yet since no one knows who they are. Maybe it will pay off one day.

    Really, I just like it when authors put themselves out there. I like that this blog is here. I like that Stephanie Meyer has "outtakes" on her website. I like that Laurell K Hamilton blogs, even though it pretty much alienates her whole readership. I love Charlaine Harris, but her whole website has nothing. I completely agree -- little novellas, snippets of information, all that stuff is awesome, and I think far more effective than spam.

    Thanks again for the great blog.

  8. The two things that have earned your sales from me have been--besides your awesomely entertaining blog--your book give aways and free e-books. Those two things were something I had never heard of authors doing before, but it worked.

  9. Anonymous8:57 AM

    Nothing convinces me to BUY a book except reading the first chapter, unless it's in a series I've already started reading. :D

    Honestly, the only things that convince me to PICK UP a book, whether author-generated or not, is something that tells me what the story's about, and if it's something that sounds interesting to me, then I'll look. So email works, if I sign up for it, because I only sign up for emails from people whose work I'm already interested in, and then the email acts as a reminder.

    I'm probably not the best person to ask about this. I don't walk down the romance aisle for fear of buying all the books of authors whose blogs I read just to support them. :D

  10. I hate spam, infomercials, commercials and pretty much all forms of advertising, and I work from the assumption that the people I'm writing to feel the same way.

    On my site I have a monthly draw for free copies of my novels, and all entries roll over to the following month. I never use the emails for anything other than 'here's your number' and 'here's the link to the list of winners' - although occasionally I might tack on a piece of major news. If someone wants out, they just have to reply with 'Remove' and it's done.

    Aside from that I have a mailing list, and again it's used for the occasional bit of info on the series. (Maybe one message every two-three months.)

    Because my books aren't easily available outside Australia and New Zealand I occasionally point out a copy spotted on ebay, or a new online store with decent shipping rates ... that kind of thing.

  11. In defense of the poor, neglected "spam"...

    ...while I can't think of a time I've bought a book because of an e-mail (too many good authors...too many used book stores...too much cheapness), I know of at least one CD whose release I saw through an e-mail.

    This was a CD I really wanted, and the e-mail came out at a time when I really wouldn't have otherwise found out about it. I immediately started bringing it up enthusiastically in conversations with friends, sending out a couple of excited e-mails, etc.

    On the other hand, while I HAVE bought a couple of books after reading part of their Baen's Free Library digital incarnations, they were by authors I didn't already love and so I didn't really do much of that word-of-mouth thing.

    So I guess the point is that e-mails can be very good, but only for people who already love the author (but aren't all that interested in constantly keeping an eye out for new releases.) And they're particularly useful for writers who don't publish a lot, so that the revelation hits the fan like lightning from a clear sky.


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