Ricci Wolman is the founder and CEO of Written Word Media. You may not have heard of Written Word Media before, but I’m sure you’ve heard of some of their brands, including Free Booksy, Bargain Booksy, and Red Feather Romance, all of which are very popular book promotion websites. Ricci has more than 10 years of experience building online audiences using data-driven customer acquisition techniques, and she has an MBA from Harvard University.
Ricci’s background is in online marketing, and specifically the part of online marketing that is data-driven. She is an expert at running ads and figuring out the ROI (Return on Investment) or figuring out how much it costs to acquire a customer, whether that’s getting a customer to give you their email address or getting them to buy something at your online store.
Ricci actually got her start with The Body Shop, a natural beauty company, working with their e-commerce division at headquarters. After helping build their e-commerce division and working for a couple other companies, Ricci decided to start her own consulting firm. She specialized in helping medium-sized companies acquire new customers.
When she started working in the online marketing space 11 years ago, everything was new. Facebook was new! Ricci remembers when Facebook came out with its first ad product, allowing people to pay for customers to like their Facebook page. She’s seen how sophisticated online marketing has become over the last decade, and she’s helped several businesses navigate the online marketing space.
The Birth of FreeBooksy
While she was running her consulting company, Edge on Marketing Group, Ricci’s mom published a book. Her mom asked for her help getting that book onto Amazon.
Once it was live on Amazon, though, it didn’t sell any copies, and her mother was very disappointed. This was around the time that Amazon launched their exclusivity program, KDP Select.
In the original incarnation of KDP Select, you could opt for exclusivity with Amazon and have the ability to give your book away for free for 5 days out of every 90-day period.
Ricci convinced her mom to opt into KDP Select and offer the book for free. The book still didn’t sell any copies.
Ricci was confused. She expected her mom to see at least some activity when the book was offered for free. So she dug into the data to figure out what went wrong.
She discovered that on the days her mother’s book was free, so were 5,000 other books on Amazon. Her mom’s book had a real discoverability problem, both when the book was priced and when it was free.
That’s when she decided to start FreeBooksy. Originally, FreeBooksy was a blog that picked 5 to 10 free books on Amazon every month and helped them gain exposure. Ricci also featured her mother’s book when it was free to try and give it some exposure.
FreeBooksy: From Hobby to Side Project
FreeBooksy started as a hobby and a way for Ricci to help her mom. It quickly became a side project because she used FreeBooksy as a sandbox to test out online marketing techniques for her consulting business.
She used FreeBooksy to test all of the major social media ad platforms as they came out.
Because Ricci spent the time testing ad platforms with the FreeBooksy brand, she began to build an audience.
When the social media platforms first started running ads, they were very inexpensive. Facebook’s first ad platform allowed you to run ads for a penny apiece. So you could end up spending $10 in a day and literally get hundreds of likes.
After Ricci built an audience, authors began to approach her, offering money to have their book featured on her Facebook Page and blog. That’s when FreeBooksy turned into a side business.
Ricci decided to focus on FreeBooksy and build Written Word Media three-and-a-half years ago, after the business grew to the point where it became her primary focus.
How Book Promotion Sites Actually Work
FreeBooksy has two types of customers: readers and authors.
How FreeBooksy Works for Readers
FreeBooksy gives readers an easy way to discover new books. There are literally thousands of books free every day on Amazon and it’s really overwhelming for a reader to wade through all of that and discover something they might like.
When a reader signs up for FreeBooksy, they give FreeBooksy two pieces of information:
- What genres the reader likes.
- What device the reader likes to read them on.
With these two pieces of information, FreeBooksy is able to come up with a highly personalized experience for the reader.
Every single day, FreeBooksy sends an email to its subscribers with a list of books that meet their criteria.
FreeBooksy subscribers are highly engaged because the emails give them a unique customer experience tailored to each individual.
FreeBooksy is able to help authors get their books in front of readers who will be interested in reading them. The fact that FreeBooksy’s reader audience is highly engaged means that it’s a very attractive opportunity for authors.
Ricci and her team have 3 to 6 slots per daily email promotion. She and her team have found that depending on the genre, readers prefer having 3 to 6 choices.
The email recommendations are a mix of paid advertisements and editorial selections.
The paradox of choice:
If you give your customer one choice and say “it’s this or nothing,” they generally become upset because of the lack of choice.
If you give the same customer two choices, they become happier. If you give that same customer three choices, they become happier still.
However, if you give that same customer 15 choices, they’ll be less happy than when they had two choices. Ricci and her team have found the best balance is to give readers 3 to 6 choices depending on the genre.
How the Written Word Media Sites Work for Authors
Here’s the process authors use to promote their book with one of Written Word Media’s book promotion sites.
- Choose your brand. The first thing you have to do as an author is choose which site you’re going to promote your book on. If your book is free, you’re going to use FreeBooksy. If your book is $4.99 or less, you’re going to use BargainBooksy, and if your book is a steamy contemporary romance, you’re probably going to use Red Feather Romance.
- Choose your timeline. Go to the appropriate website and check to see that the days you want are available. Occasionally the website(s) do sell out certain days.
- Submit your book. Once you’ve decided on available advertising days that work for you, you submit your book to the site; the team there will help you make sure your book cover and description will maximize book sales.
- Watch the sales happen. On the day your book is scheduled to go out via email blast, you will see a spike in sales. Ricci’s goal is that you make enough sales to cover the cost of the ad within 48 hours of the email blast. That’s why ads with Written Word Media sites range from $25-$100.
The Top Strategies Ricci Uses to Build Her Reader Base
Ricci uses a variety of techniques to make sure there’s an active, engaged reader audience for each of her sites and services.
Ricci uses some paid advertising. She advertises on all of the major social media platforms that support advertising. She runs Facebook ads to build an audience. She also runs ads on Pinterest and Twitter.
Word of Mouth
There’s a huge word-of-mouth component because the users of Ricci’s email service love the service, and they tell their friends about it.
Authors should use the same mix of advertising strategies. Paid advertising gets traffic to your book page so that people know it exists.
It’s vitally important that you write a good book, so that when people do find your book, they like it and tell other people about it.
Building One Brand vs. Building Many Brands
One of the choices for Ricci early on was whether or not to build up one brand, or to diversify and build different brands for different types of readers.
BookBub is an example of a company that decided to invest all of its energy into building up one brand. Clearly, they have been successful.
However, Ricci still prefers building out different plans for different readers, because it allows authors the opportunity to target readers more specifically. At the same time, it allows for a more individualized approach to the emails being sent.
The one downside to building multiple brands is that every time you build a new brand, you’re starting from scratch.
How Authors Can Promote Their Books
There are quite a few techniques Ricci has learned that authors can use to maximize the potential of their books.
How to Launch a New Title
The first 30 to 60 days is the most critical time for launching your book and building an audience. This is especially true on Amazon because Amazon relies heavily on computer algorithms to generate visibility for new authors.
As of November 2017, Amazon’s current algorithm favors new books. Amazon will give your book a bit of a boost when it’s first released because it’s new. If you can leverage that in the beginning and drive your target readers to your book within the first 30 days, Amazon will continue to promote your book for you going forward.
“One mistake authors make is they release a book and send an email to everyone they know saying, ‘Please purchase my book.’ And that will definitely help your ranking, but what it can do is confuse the algorithms.”
– Ricci Wolman
What you want to do when you’re releasing a new book is define a target audience for Amazon’s algorithm. You want to promote your book to a group of readers who like the type of book you’ve written.
It’s fine if you want friends and family to purchase your book, but what’s more important is that you have more of your target readers purchasing your book. Defining the target audience for Amazon’s algorithms is one of the most important things you can do that will lead to success.
Using Book Promotion Sites to Promote a New Release
You can use the various promotion sites to help you gather your target reader. If you’re going to use book promotion sites, you should look at sites that use subgenres to market to specific readers.
At Red Feather Romance, you can place an ad for several specific types of romance, including (but not limited to):
- Sweet romance
- Steamy romance
- Historical romance
The more specific you can get with your reader targeting, the better.
If you’ve written a historical romance and you promote your book using a site that only emails to romance readers in general, you’re not going to have the results you want because romance is such a big genre with many subgenres.
Find Your Fans
- Identify your target reader. Who are the people who will read and like your book?
- Figure out where your target reader hangs out. Go where they are, whether it be a Facebook group or a forum. You can join these communities and find beta readers or people who might be interested when you do a free promotion.
Using Paid Advertising to Build a Fan Base
Facebook ads and Amazon ads can work to build a fan base. But again, you have to know who your target reader is, so your advertising ends up in front of the right people.
Use Email Marketing to Build and Cultivate a Fan Base
Email marketing is the most effective way of marketing online. You own the email address, and you’re not advertising on anyone else’s platform.
Even with dipping open rates these days, you are still reaching 20%-70% of the people who say they are interested in you. Contrast that with Facebook, where if you have a fan page, you’re reaching at most 10% of your audience.
As you grow your email list, every time you send an email, you will see a spike in sales. It becomes almost addictive and you have to find the right balance so that you don’t annoy people and cause them to unsubscribe.
As an indie author, you will find that email becomes one of the core drivers of your business. Used correctly, email allows you to have a spike in sales when you want to have a spike in sales.
Final Words of Advice
“Success is within reach but it’s not going to be instantaneous.”
– Ricci Wolman
The number-one factor in success for indie authors is how long they have been writing and how many titles they have in the marketplace. The vast majority of authors earning $100K a year are authors who have been writing books for the last six years.
Everyone starts somewhere. First, you have to get your first book out there. Then you have to get your second book out there. The key to success for indie authors is perseverance, just like with any other business.
You have to keep on keeping on until you’re successful.
Book Promotion Sites
https://www.freebooksy.com/ – a website that helps indie authors build an audience by facilitating free giveaways of ebooks.
https://www.bargainbooksy.com/ – a website that helps indie authors build an audience by advertising when their book is $4.99 or less.
https://www.redfeatherromance.com/ – a website offering the best new, discounted, and free ebooks in the romance genre.
https://www.newinbooks.com/ – another Written Word Media brand. This brand is aimed that new releases in the marketplace. You should also go here if you want to promote audiobooks, paperback books, or hardcover books.
http://landers.bookbub.com/ – BookBub is the leader in book promotion sites. They have very granular reader categories.
http://ereadernewstoday.com/ – another good book promotion site with granular reader categories.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
https://www.thebodyshop.com – the British natural beauty company where Ricci got her start.
https://www.writtenwordmedia.com/ – a blog that has monthly data-driven articles about the indie publishing business.
For more on how to promote your ebooks online, read on!