3 Marketing Success Stories from the Publishing Trenches
Every publisher represents a storehouse of interesting content that can be used to attract readers, capture email subscribers, and increase book sales. In past articles, I’ve written about these concepts and reasons why publishers should invest in inexpensive digital marketing tactics. Free content attracts readers who become email subscribers. Those email subscribers can be converted into customers as the publisher sends promotional email campaigns.
In this article, I’m taking a different approach by providing three success stories from my consulting clients who are publishing houses. These companies recently implemented new approaches and experienced quick results. All three publishers asked not to be identified, but they did give me permission to share their stories. Each success story is listed according to the common skepticism that I hear from publishers about digital marketing:
1. If publishers give away free content from their books, what do they get in return?
One of my clients created a sharp-looking, 30-page, mini ebook based on a popular backlist title. They setup an attractive landing page for people to download the ebook for free in exchange for their email address. Then, the publisher spent only $100 to promote the free ebook on Facebook.
The result was an amazing 1,400 email signups in less than 7 days! That’s a conversion cost of less than $.08 per email address. Due to this great result, the publisher is doubling down on the promotion by spending more money on Facebook ads and Google ads. However, some publishers skeptically ask, “Why is email important?” There are several benefits:
- Email enables publishers to know their readers and directly contact them (remember that retailers don’t share customer contact information).
- Email offers more reliable audience access with less corruption than Facebook.
- Email is less expensive than repeatedly buying promoted posts on Facebook, especially for large audiences.
Facebook may effective at attracting an audience, but email is better at maintaining and selling to an audience. The next success story helps explain why.
2. Does building a large email list really matter?
Why is email superior to Facebook at promoting books? It’s a much better channel to drive readers to your own ecommerce store. As book retailers struggle, more publishers are experimenting with direct-to-consumers sales. But, how do you get customers to come to your store?
According to one of my publishing clients, email has proven to be the biggest driver of traffic to their website store. See the graphic they provided below:
This chart represents a recent 6-week period showing the sources of customer traffic to the publisher’s website store. Starting near August 1st, you can see dramatic spikes shown by the light blue bars, which represent reader visits from the publisher’s weekly email newsletter campaigns. The red bars represent direct visits and the yellow bars represent social media referrals.
Note that these customer visits are going to specific book product pages on the publisher’s website. Since this publisher has their own ecommerce store, they can analyze which marketing activities drive direct book sales. As you can see, email is driving a lot more customer traffic than social media and other referral sites. But, website traffic is worthless if it doesn’t generate sales, which brings us to a third success story.
3. Does free content and email marketing lead to increased book sales?
Another publishing client set up a joint marketing campaign between their publishing house and an author with a large social media audience. The publisher purchased Facebook ads and the author conducted free video webinars. Together, they drove readers to a landing page that offered a free ebook based on the author’s two-year-old backlist title. Their coordinated activities, including paid and free options, produced these results:
- The publisher captured over 10,000 new email sign-ups in less than 30 days.
- Thousands of people downloaded the free ebook, which built awareness and demand for the author’s backlist title.
- The publisher sent four follow-up emails to the 10,000+ email subscribers to maintain interest and drive buyers to the retailers. (In addition, the publisher can now promote similar books to this active audience and get additional results).
- The publisher experienced a direct impact on sales for the author’s backlist book. Within two weeks, Amazon began placing larger orders for the title based on the new demand. All of these results happened in less than 30 days with nominal involvement from the marketing staff and minimal expenditures on advertising. The publisher continues to build upon these initial results and expand the campaign.
It’s one thing to talk about the concept of free content and email marketing. It’s another thing to see dramatic results from different publishing houses using similar tactics. If you’re a publisher who prefers evidence-based results over theoretical rhetoric, I encourage you to explore the power of free content and email marketing.
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Rob Eagar is a book publishing consultant, helping clients create three different types of New York Times bestsellers, including frontlist non-fiction, frontlist fiction, and backlist non-fiction. He is the founder of Wildfire Marketing, a consulting firm that has worked with numerous publishers and coached over 400 authors.