Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Skinny on Amazon Bestseller Campaigns

A recent posting on a writers’ forum asking about the Amazon bestseller campaigns got me thinking. The author asked if forum users thought she could create her own campaign without purchasing a pricey program that tells you how to do it.

These bestseller campaigns rely on a simple concept: Buy the book on a certain day and the author will give you lots of free electronic downloads – books, booklets, audio files, and so on – as a reward for purchasing on that specific day. You can create one of these campaigns without purchasing a system if you know the formula, have saved sample messages you have received from others who have employed this technique with success so you know what language generates action, and if you’re already a skilled marketer and copywriter.

Here’s the basic formula:

  • Set a sale date for your campaign a few weeks into the future
  • Compile a list of e-zine publishers or marketers with large mailing lists that already reach your target market; convince list owners that folks on their list would welcome a marketing message about your book
  • Scour the Internet for reports and other free products that should be interesting to your target audience and secure permission to offer them to people who buy your book on the designated day
  • Write a series of marketing/sales messages that need to go out to all of the lists
  • Create and implement a marketing plan to support your campaign
  • Create a Web page to house links to all of the free downloads
  • Have a system in place to get the URL for that Web page to everyone who buys your book on on the designated bestseller day

I understand the appeal of these campaigns to authors. Really, I do. But they’re not as effective now as they were when the concept was novel a few years ago. Let me explain a little bit why, and then I’ll explain why these campaigns make me uncomfortable.

They’re less effective because they rely on electronic mailing lists comprised of people who are savvy enough about Internet marketing by now to know how these things work. Unlike your Great Aunt Tilly, who might think that getting all of these free e-books when she buys a book on Amazon is a super duper deal, the people on these lists are a little jaded. Been there, done that. They have already received these freebies or others like them elsewhere in their travels and discovered that they didn’t have time to read or use them. The novelty has worn off. So…the return on investment for bestseller campaigns might not be as great today as it once was.

Why do these campaigns make me uncomfortable? Because they aren’t authentic. Campaign book buyers are often buying a book they have no interest in simply to get the freebies. They’re either interested in the free content or they are people who can’t resist a bargain – shucks, for $12.43 on Amazon, they get lots of stuff they didn’t have to pay for – “a $563 retail value!” If it works as hoped, authors end up selling their book to people who would never have bought it otherwise – which seems a bit like a scam to me.

Yes, I’d love to claim bestseller status for any of my books, but honestly, I’d want the buyers to make the purchase because they want to read the book. It’s a bit of a purist attitude, I know, and maybe it’s one that will cost me a few royalty checks at some point. And I’m all for adding incentives to make the purchase more appealing, but making those incentives available only on one day? That’s like admitting that your book won’t sell without them and I’m not willing to do that.

What do you think about these campaigns? If you've done one, what were the results?

No comments: