Note from Jane: I am very grateful to Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) for today’s guest post, where he shares valuable insights about book marketing via NoiseTrade (not to mention email newsletters and ebook giveaways). If you’d like to share insights from your book marketing experiments in a guest post, please contact me.
First, a Bit of Background
In 2012 I was in-between book projects, and I had an idea for a short ebook on creativity, so I decided on a whim to write it, put a cover together with a high-quality image, and release it for free during a 3-day KDP Select offer. I even guest posted on this blog about it.
Thanks to several generous shares of the ebook by folks like Joanna Penn and the momentum of the Kindle bestseller lists, Creating Space landed on the “Creativity” and “Writing” bestseller lists (which, by the way, used to be listed next to the paid bestseller list) and spent a two days in the Kindle top 100 free ebooks. About 4,800 readers downloaded the ebook in three days (I didn’t know then that I should have probably used all five days at once).
After the promotion, I kept the price at $.99 since it’s short, and readers kept downloading it, typically noting its brevity as a virtue in reviews. However, I couldn’t stop thinking about those 4,800 downloads. Despite my ads and author information in the back of the book, I still didn’t have any way to contact any of those readers again.
While authors have successfully used free promotions to sell other books or to gain temporary exposure on bestseller lists (see Let’s Get Visible for more on that), I really wanted to find a way to offer at least a few of my books in a “pay what you want” model that relies on collecting email addresses as the primary form of payment.
That model existed—it just didn’t offer eBooks. NoiseTrade.
At the time, NoiseTrade functioned strictly as a music download website, and offered the precise model I’d been looking for: users pay what they want for an entire album (typically $0-$6), and then they enter their email address and zip code. They download the album and have the option of tweeting or sharing on Facebook about their new tunes.
It had been established as an alternative of sorts to Spotify by Derek Webb, who felt the paltry royalties of Spotify were not worth the same as an email address that could be turned into future sales. It made sense as a long-term strategy. Everything I’d seen about book marketing and marketing in general revolved around collecting email addresses (see Your First 1,000 Copies for more on that).
However, behind the scenes, Webb had been working on an ebook branch of his music website.
By the time I learned of NoiseTrade Books, it was 2014 and I had a book set for release in August. In May I decided to see whether NoiseTrade alone could catch some extra email addresses for my book launch.
I chose my self-published book A Path to Publishing as my experiment. I’d published it in 2010 and had pursued a traditional marketing plan, which I followed with several KDP Select free price promotions. Everyone in my network who was going to buy or download it had already picked it up. I pulled it down from KDP Select and kept the ebook priced at $2.99, which was still a great deal for a full-length book. A Path to Publishing would test the response of NoiseTrade users for a niche nonfiction book.
How far could NoiseTrade take me with my book marketing? I’m sharing my results and what I tried so that you can develop your own experiments.
I offer this disclaimer: I’m a writer, not a marketing expert. I have no way of knowing exactly how many NoiseTrade users ended up buying my ebooks on Amazon, but I did add some data from my email campaigns at the end of the post. If you’d have done something different, please mention it in the comments so everyone else can learn from my mistakes!
My Strategy for Using NoiseTrade Books and What Happened
For starters, I uploaded the A Path to Publishing ebook files to NoiseTrade and added the endorsements, description, and reviews. I set up an author profile, and hit publish. The book showed up right away on the site as a few users downloaded it. None left tips.
A few days later, a rep from NoiseTrade suggested I include my book in the NoiseTrade mailing list that reaches roughly 30,000 inboxes. There were three tiers on the list: the main featured book, a secondary ad slot, and then six book cover images on the third tier. He offered me half price on the third tier, which also came with a little over a week as a new and notable book on the NoiseTrade home page.
The price: $125. Why not? I know that self-publishing folks generally discourage spending money on advertising, but I wanted to see how far NoiseTrade alone could take me. Why not go all in? Or at least, go all in on the third tier?
[Update on 11/14/14: NoiseTrade currently offers an indie rate that starts at $50 for promotions, which includes a spot in their weekly email and on their front page.]
The first days of the promotion pulled in about 200 email addresses and $20 in tips. As of this writing, A Path to Publishing alone pulled in 325 email addresses and $42 in tips.
Satisfied that I could at least give my mailing list a boost, I expanded my offerings into Christian nonfiction by uploading an out-of-print Bible study guide. I didn’t buy advertising for the study guide, but fewer people in my network had seen my last free promotion for it back in 2009. By simply uploading the ebook and sending out a few social media mentions, it was downloaded 375 times and collected an additional $24 in tips a month before my book released in August.
While I didn’t make my advertising money back, I’d still collected quite a few email addresses. In early August my publisher posted on NoiseTrade a two-chapter excerpt of my new book, A Christian Survival Guide—a book with a tongue-in-cheek title that I’ll refer to as CSG. That pulled in an additional 325 email addresses before our big promotional push on August 18. We split the cost for another $125 promotion, but only made a laughable $4 in tips—clearly folks weren’t interested in paying for part of a book.
At this point, I had pulled in 325 email addresses for people interested in my publishing book and around 700 for my Christian nonfiction books.
I’m not great at math, but I can see that 700 downloads are not the same as 4800 downloads using Amazon’s Kindle Select—downloads that can get you into the recommendation engine for future sales. However, I had just beefed up my email list by adding two tidy little segments: one for publishing books and one for Christian living books. Would the NoiseTrade users open my emails and convert during release week?
How I Leveraged NoiseTrade Reader Emails
I experimented on the conversion rate of the NoiseTrade users by sending another free ebook, a brief guide on blogging, to the publishing list. What happened?
- 75% opened the email
- 25% downloaded the ebook
- 10 unsubscribed
That wasn’t bad. Mind you, these users were still downloading a free ebook. However, they weren’t unsubscribing in droves. What if I could leverage my NoiseTrade Christian nonfiction users looking for bargains to get more exposure for my upcoming Kindle promotion for my CSG book?
I don’t know if I played this right, but I decided to try to leverage their interest to raise my profile as an author in general and to then drive downloads/sales for my new book release during the promotional period on Amazon that my publisher had planned.
The week before release, I offered two ebooks for free via Kindle Select—one for each list segment. Each ebook is short and to the point with great reviews, and each had ads in the back for additional books. I merged my Christian nonfiction NoiseTrade readers with my existing mailing list, and I was able to drive a short ebook on prayer onto Amazon’s Christian Prayer bestseller list. The publishing list received a link to Creating Space, which also claimed the top spots in its categories.
On the following week, my publisher released CSG with a free Kindle promotion on Monday, followed by four days at $2.99 before increasing to $9.99. I once again sent the deals to my NoiseTrade and existing email lists, and well over 40% converted. Many e-newsletter recipients also shared my suggested tweet about the promotion. In one day my book rose to #194 in the free Kindle store, which didn’t seem bad considering about half of the titles under 200 were erotica or romance.
During release week the ebook for CSG took the top spot for the popular Christian Discipleship category on Amazon for about a week, and lingered in the top ten into the following week when the price rose to $9.99.
I don’t have the sales or download numbers yet for our promotion. I don’t know if my publisher benefitted from the ebook promotion. I do know that my new book got a lot of exposure and is being recommended all over the place.
The value of building an email list through NoiseTrade Books will certainly vary depending on your content and your goals. The upside is that it’s easy to get your work in front of people who are interested in ebooks and are giving permission to contact them in the future. In my experience, they generally want to hear from you.
However, you are also building an email list full of ebook bargain hunters. So you may not be able to convert a higher priced ebook in the future. I mainly needed those 700 Christian nonfiction NoiseTrade readers to download my CSG ebook while it was discounted. They gave me a huge bump that supplemented my guest posts and social media campaign during release week.
My Future Plans for NoiseTrade Books
I plan to follow the lead of authors who create brief, high-value nonfiction books, study guides, or short story collections to promote their full-length books. I tracked the most downloaded books on NoiseTrade for July and August, and I saw ebooks like 25 Marriage Hacks pile up downloads (I suspect it was the most for a 30-day period this summer) while drawing attention to the author’s forthcoming full-length book on marriage. For another example, Allison Vesterfelt had already published a book, but she drew additional attention to it by publishing a related ebook short on NoiseTrade.
In addition, now that I have three ebooks listed on NoiseTrade Books, I get a steady stream of new email addresses in addition to subscribers I gain through my website. Without any promotions running, I still pick up between one and six email addresses a day through NoiseTrade.
Should You Try NoiseTrade Books?
If you have a book coming out and you plan to do a price promotion at some point, then a short ebook project on NoiseTrade could give your email list a nice bump. However, it seems that, at least for now, NoiseTrade is mostly driven by fiction, business nonfiction, and religious/self-help nonfiction.
Like any marketing tool, your audience and topic will determine what will be most effective. I’m not giving up on Kindle Select, but I’m also glad I have an alternative in NoiseTrade Books that makes it easier to build my email list. (Below I’ve shared the specific results of my email sends.) If the marketing experts are correct about the importance of email, NoiseTrade Books may be one of the best new marketing assets for authors.
Email #1 (July 3, 2014): Sent to Publishing NoiseTrade List
Objective: Keep in touch, remind them that they’ll receive emails from me now. Emailed those who downloaded A Path to Publishing with additional ebook that regular e-newsletter subscribers usually receive.
- 75% opened
- 25% clicked through for additional eBook download
- 10 unsubscribes
Email #2 (August 12, 2014): Sent to Publishing NoiseTrade List
Objective: Drive downloads of my free Kindle Select ebook, Creating Space, and raise awareness of my other books on Amazon.
- 67% opened
- 40% clicked through
- KDP Select Promotion: 3,850 downloads
Email #3 (August 12, 2014): Sent to Christian Nonfiction NoiseTrade List
Objective: Exposure for my free Kindle Select eBook Why We Run from God’s Love, a book about prayer, and raise awareness about my other books on Amazon.
- 418 subscribers
- 2% opened
- 6% clicked
- 6 unsubscribed
- KDP Select Promotion that week: 1,500 downloads
Email #4 (August 18, 2014): Sent to Christian Nonfiction NoiseTrade List
Objective: Increase downloads and social media shares for the release week of my new book A Christian Survival Guide.
- 591 subscribers (the email list through NoiseTrade grew in a week.)
- 53% opened
- 18% clicked
- 12 Unsubscribed
Final NoiseTrade Stats for June–August 2014
- 1,015 downloads
- $70 in tips as of August 23, the end of release week for A Christian Survival Guide
Ed Cyzewski (@edcyzewski) is an editor and the author of Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction (Herald Press, 2020) and Flee, Be Silent, Pray: Ancient Prayers for Anxious Christians (Herald Press, 2019). Download his free eBook 10 Ways to Use Your Phone Less… and to Pray a Bit More at www.edcyzewski.com.