by Anna Bell
My latest book hit actual book shelves a few days ago and it got me thinking about shelf life. There seems to be a buzz around my book at the moment, but when it leaves the supermarket in a few weeks, will that be it for my book?
In my Novelicious column last week, I was asking people about book marketing and author Carol Hedges commented about how her publishers only market a book for a few weeks and then it is down to her. It was something I hadn’t considered, but that’s true of my publishers, too. It made me think about my own marketing experiences with my print books and my self-published eBooks, and I realised they’re quite different.
For my self-published books, I behave in the same way my publishers did for my traditional books; getting reviewers involved and writing guest posts. The main difference though is the control you have over your self-published books as you are able to change their price and offer as many copies as you like for competitions. When I self-published my Millie and the American series, I was able to drop the price of the original, and sequels, when a new book came out in order to drive sales. I also made use of Amazon Countdown deals – offering a reduced price on my eBooks for a five day period. I have even, in the past, had charity days, where for every book I sold on a particular day, I donated my royalties to a chosen charity.
Yet, with my traditionally published books, I don’t have that ability to control prices or events. I have to wait until one of my books is featured in a promotion that I can publicise. For example, at the moment, Don’t Tell the Groom is one of the free books you can win on Sainsbury’s Comic Relief scratch cards. Don’t Tell Penny, too, is in Google Play’s Valentines Day promotion. It’s great when your book is featured in a promotion like this, as it gives you that talking point for Twitter and Facebook, and hopefully gets your book to a new audience. Yet, you can’t react to things. For example, if one of my self-published books was starting to drift in the rankings, I used to react and do a promotion.
Inevitably, I think my traditionally published books are always going to have a shorter shelf life than self-published books. I think that’s because with writing commercial fiction, there’s such an emphasis on having my books stocked in supermarkets and airports. Once they’re gone from there after a few weeks, it’s more about the eBook copies. Whereas, with self-published books, I’ve found that whilst it’s helpful to have an initial buzz, they actually grew in momentum as time went on.
What I do know, is that with both my traditional and self-published books, is that books written in a series help to boost prior books in the series. My paperback copy of Don’t Tell the Groom is doing really well on Amazon at the moment, and I wonder if that’s from people buying Don’t Tell the Brides-to-Be and wanting to read the whole series. I know that each time I released a Millie and the American book, the original Millie and the American Wedding had a boost in sales.
What do you think? Do traditionally published books have a shorter shelf life than self-published books?