I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Buck Flogging. We took a deep a deep-dive into book marketing, Buck Books, and what it takes to be a successful author today. Hint: Some of the answers aren't what you think.
It's been awhile since I talked with Buck Flogging. During that time, you created Buck Books, a major promotional website for authors. Can you tell us a little about how it came about?
Rob Archangel (of www.ArchangelInk.com) and I [Matt Stone] had just started Archangel Ink, and we really wanted to have a marketing solution to help our authors get a guaranteed 100+ paid downloads at launch. I had seen Bryan Cohen put together a group 99-cent flash sale in March of 2014, where dozens of authors dropped the price of their books at the same time and then drove traffic to the same page. I took that concept and beefed it up a bit, and we launched our first event just two months later. We sent three books to the top 100 of the entire Kindle store and scooped up our first 1,750 subscribers. The rest is history.
What kind of books do best on Buck Books?
Nonfiction outperforms fiction by a long shot. Our best-performing categories are typically health and fitness and self-help. Most of our subscribers like books that have the potential to help them improve their lives in some way. This differs a lot from other book promotion sites, where the subscribers want to read stories and biographies of interesting people and stuff about politics and the like.
Can you share a success story or two?
Our authors are still getting an average of 100 or so paid, 99-cent downloads when they get promoted, plus extra sales from the boost in rank after the promotion, plus a boost in KENP. Our biggest success stories, however, came with our events. We've sent multiple books to the Wall Street Journal Bestseller list and even sent a book all the way to #1 in the entire Kindle paid store once. We created the Buck Books Wall of Fame to showcase some of those successes. http://buckbooks.net/wall-of-fame/
Other than Buck Books, where would you suggest authors promote their books? I know, it's like asking you to throw yourself to the wolves, but I gotta know. If he didn't have Buck Books, where would “Old Buck” promote his books?
BookBub is still a much bigger place to get your book promoted. Buck Books is peanuts compared to the results you'll get if you score a promotion there. I'm not aware of many other sites that can do anything special for you. For example, I tried promoting a free book of mine through Books Butterfly recently to the tune of $400. I noticed no results whatsoever, and they have no tracking on free books, so...
Lately, I think the best marketing solution for authors, especially nonfiction authors, is AMS ads. I recently launched a service for authors called BookAds (clever name, I know), to outsource this to a pro for a small fee. All our clients get a positive R.O.I. on their ad campaigns or their money back. http://BookAds.co
What if an author just said the hell with book promotion websites? What would his book sales look like then? Is email alone enough?
Almost all books fail no matter what, and it gets harder every year. People who "get lucky" are becoming more and more rare. Building a following, and ideally an email list so you can actually get in contact with that following, is still the most effective tactic to focus on. But the biggest list in the world won't sell a bad book. I've tried a dozen times, but I've never been able to outdo the success of my first major Kindle release. The biggest mistake I see these days is authors focusing too much on marketing and not enough on creating something marketable in the first place.
Most of your books are free. Is that a viable strategy for most authors? I guess what I'm asking is it best to make your money on the front end (royalties), or the back end (Products, seminars, and courses)?
It's generally much better to focus on selling real products and services at premium price points on your own website than it is trying to write and publish books on Amazon alone. It's MUCH easier to sell something for $1,000 to one person than it is to sell something for $1 to 1,000 people.
The most important thing I took away from you guys the last time we talked was the idea that you should just get out there and contact people. That little piece of advice was like a whack on the side of the head. It changed the way I conduct my business. Is it just me, or have you heard from other people who feel the same way?
Yes, spending your time building relationships with people who have built a following of your ideal customers is by far the most effective way to accelerate your success. I got around 20,000 new email subscribers in the last two weeks and just launched my latest book to #1 in nonfiction in the Kindle free store, and it was done by creating something cool for people with an audience to promote. We reached out and contacted nearly 300 people! It's a scary thing to go out there and mingle with successful people if you aren't successful yet yourself, and you have to have a thick skin that can handle three rejections for every one success, but a single email exchange with the right person can build a business. It doesn't have to be the "Oprah" of your niche either. There are lots of small and medium-sized authorities in every niche that are perfectly friendly, responsive to emails, and desperate for more collaboration and cooperation.
Any Closing advice you care to share?
If I could recommend anything to anyone trying to make an internet-based living, it's to create a site with a product or service that can make several dollars per site visitor or more. As Russell Brunson says, "The business that can spend the most money on advertising always wins." Those who have the most advertising power are the ones that make the most money per site visitor. I started out blogging and making around 10 cents per site visitor, thus needing 1,000 visitors to make $100, and having no ability whatsoever to advertise. I now have sites that make as much as $15 per site visitor, and I need only seven visitors per day to make $100 (and on 1,000 visitors I make $15,000, not $100). If you make that your target and work on creating THAT, even if you only get halfway there, you'll still have massive advantages over all other authors in your niche, as you can take a fan/reader/email subscriber and turn that into tons of money. You can use that extra money to outbid all your competition on ads, hire help, start a competitive affiliate program, and more.