Today's an exciting day for me!
I just received the first nine copies of the Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western limited edition hardcover!
If you're coming into this article cold, let me catch you up. Bodacious Creed is my latest novel. In 2013 I ran a Kickstarter for it. People who backed it for $65 or more were promised a limited edition hardcover as one of their rewards. It took four years to write, edit, and polish this 120,000 word novel, and I'm proud of the resulting story. Now that it has been released, I'm preparing to send out the rewards.
Since running the Kickstarter, I've discovered that these hardcover editions are also great for promotion. I think other writers should give this a shot, so I'm going to share how I do this, including what back-end software and what printer I use.
Promoting With Hardcovers
Back when I ran the Kickstarter for Bodacious Creed, I simply figured that a limited edition, signed hardcover would make a great reward for higher tier backers. A couple of years later, as I was writing the book, I learned something critical to book marketing.
Your mailing list is your most important marketing asset.
So, I started slowly growing mine. I give away free fiction and more to my newsletter subscribers, to encourage people to join. I never share the email addresses, and I send out about two messages a month about steampunk, writing, and (usually at the very end) letting people know where they can purchase my novels.
I later ran across the idea of doing giveaway contests to bring in new subscribers. There are various platforms for this, but the one I like is KingSumo. This is back-end software for Wordpress, and it cost me $200 out of pocket, but it was worth it. More on that shortly.
KingSumo allows you to create giveaway pages on your Wordpress site. Back to my limited edition hardcover. I've decided to print only 25 copies of it. That will fulfill the backer rewards, plus give me some extras for future giveaways (I've already run two).
When I'm ready to run a new giveaway and get an influx of subscribers, I set up a new giveaway contest using KingSumo on my Wordpress site. Information includes the value of the book, how long the contest runs (and it will show to the second), and how many winners there will be.
Once I have the page up (and you can learn how to do that from KingSumo if you get the software), I share it on relevant Facebook groups and on Twitter. Don't post to too many groups in one day. I don't know what the limit is, and it seems to vary, but if Facebook decides you're posting too much, it will restrict your group posting privileges for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. But get the word out.
Oh yes, you will need a Wordpress site! Make sure the site you use allows you to install your own extensions. If it doesn't, you won't be able to use KingSumo. I purchased jonfesmire.org and post my contests there.
Is it worth the $200? Absolutely.
Another way I've seen recommended to bring in newsletter subscribers is through Facebook ads. However, you'll be spending between $2.00 and $5.00 per subscriber that way, if not more. With my first KingSumo giveaway, I paid $200 for the software, $15 for the domain and a year of hosting, and $50 for what I decided to give away on that one, which was one copy of the Bodacious Creed: a Steampunk Zombie Western hardcover, and two trade paperback copies of my fantasy novels.
On my first giveaway, I got about 200 new subscribers, which comes to about $1.33 per new subscriber. After that, it will only get cheaper. For my second giveaway, I got about 150 new subscribers, and the prize was just that limited edition hardcover. Let's call that $25. That's 17¢ per new subscriber!
And I know there's got to be a way to get the word out to more people and increase the number of people who sign up for my mailing list next time. So, totally worth the money.
Creating the Hardcovers
What printing service will you use for your hardcovers? I checked out two, Lulu Press and Nook Press.
Back in the day, when Lulu was new, they were the place to go to publish your print books. Unfortunately, their prices are comparatively high. I checked how much Bodacious Creed would be as a 6x9 hardcover with a dust jacket, and let's say it was too much.
While visiting a Barnes & Noble, I saw an advertisement for Nook Press, so i decided to check that out. I learned that their hardcover prices are cheaper for authors. And the editions look amazing, as you can see from the photos above.
With Nook Press print books, you'll have two initial options. The first is to publish a book for retail sale on their site. The second is to print one for personal use. If you want to sell the hardcover as well as do giveaways, choose the first. Also choose the first if you plan to give away only nine or ten. You're allowed to order up to ten proof copies of a book intended for retail sale before you have to put it on sale, so if you want to do limited edition, you'll have to order those and no more. You can order up to 250 books if you choose the personal use option, but the copies will cost you about 50% more. Still, those copies will cost less than if you set up the book to the same specs on Lulu.
I also recommend ordering a bunch at once. When I first uploaded Bodacious Creed, I ordered a single copy. I'm glad I did, for two reasons. First, I needed to see the quality, to make sure I had chosen the right printer. I definitely had. Second, as it turned out, the book needed further proof reading, and I needed to make some changes to the cover, including fixing the look of the title, doing some color correction, changing the back so the bar-code didn't cover anything, and adding text to the front and back inside flaps. Once I had all those corrections done, however, I ordered more copies and love how they look. Anyway, shipping per copy is much less when you order at least several.
One last thing. I recommend using Google Chrome when you upload your interior and cover files to Nook Press. In Chrome, you can see in-window proofs. The one for the cover shows guidelines, so you can be sure all elements fall where they should.
I hope this helps other writers grow their email lists. If you found this helpful, feel free to comment below or drop me a line on my contact page.
I don't have a contest running at the moment, but there will be more. To be notified when, please...