Cary Bergeron is the founder of the book promotion service Crave Books. In this episode, we get into what it takes to sell a book today and how a book promotion service can get you in front of more readers.
Cary talks about three fantastic insights if you’re getting ready to publish your first book:
It would help if you got all three to convince somebody on Amazon, Kobo, or Google, or wherever they’re buying your book to hit the Buy button.
In this episode, we discuss:
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Cary: Yeah, put some teasers out there, you know? If you have a list or Facebook, maybe give a chapter away or an introduction away is a pretty good way to do it, you know? For giving that introduction or chapter away, you know, try to gain an e-mail so that when your book does come out, you can hit up that list. It’s a pretty good thing to do, you know, just without, you know, having a bunch of money or budget to work with.
Introduction: Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast with Bryan Collins. Here, you’ll find practical advice and interviews for all kinds of writers.
Bryan: How can you promote and sell more copies of your book?
Hey, content creators, it’s Bryan Collins here. Welcome to the Become a Writer Today Podcast. This week, I’m catching up with Cary Bergeron, founder of Crave Books. Cary runs a book promotion service, which I’m planning on using for my upcoming book. Now, in this interview, we get into what it takes to sell a book today and how you can use a book promotion service to get in touch or get in front of more readers.
Cary also offers three fantastic insights which are fantastic if you’re getting ready to publish your first book: Does it have a good cover? Does it have reviews? And does it have a good description? You need to get all three right if you’re gonna convince somebody on Amazon, Kobo, or Google or wherever they’re buying your book to hit the Buy button.
Now, when I self-published my first book, I actually spent hours trying to design a book cover myself in Photoshop. At the time, I was taking a series of classes in using Photoshop because I wanted to create images for Become a Writer Today. I spent about three weeks designing these book covers for my book and I thought I was happy with results but then I showed it to a designer friend and his reaction was, “It’s not so good.” I could have probably sold copies of the book with what I worked on but the painful truth was my time would have been better spent editing that book rather than tinkering around in Photoshop and Illustrator so I ended up taking out my credit card and hiring a book cover designer to create a better-looking book cover for this particular book in question.
That’s not to say it’s not a good use of time to learn about design because if you understand the basics of design, then you can communicate to your book cover designer what you want from your book. You can talk about things like font choices, color schemes, themes, imagery, and getting into source files which is always important if you’re getting your book cover.
When it comes to the other two things that Cary mentioned, book descriptions and book reviews, well, if you’re a writer, you can write a good book description. You just need to keep it snappy, keep it short, and potentially use a copywriting formula. My favorite copywriting formula, which works quite well for non-fiction, is problem-agitate-solution.
Present a problem, “Do you have trouble sleeping at night?” Agitate the problem, “You lie in bed tossing and turning. You wake up the next morning, you’re exhausted, bleary-eyed, and bloodshot.” And then present a solution, “Well, in this book, I’ll explain how to get a good night’s sleep.” That’s a rudimentary example of a problem-agitate-solution in action but you can apply this formula for your non-fiction books and it’s worked quite well for me for selling copies of my book.
If you are looking for book reviews, well, Cary offers a couple of tips in this week’s interview about how you can do just that but, basically, surely, there’s somebody within your social circle that you know on Facebook or that you work with who can write your review because if you can get three, four, five, or six reviews for your first book, then it’ll quickly snowball and you’ll start attracting reviews organically. And here’s the thing, I discovered that once I started attracting reviews organically, my book sales naturally went upwards because it was easier to convert people who clicked on my ads on Amazon. The other great thing about attracting reviews organically is the long tail effect.
It’s a bit of work to get that first review, it’s a bit of work to get five reviews and even ten reviews, but I looked at one of my books there recently and it had several hundred reviews and I’d long since stopped asking people to leave reviews for this particular book in question. So, put a little bit of work in upfront, get the wheel moving, and you will naturally attract reviews over time. You will sell copies of your book. The other thing is you need to have a good book in the first place so you don’t wanna get bad reviews and you need to make sure your book is also well-edited, has a good story, and is aimed at the right audience or at the right niche.
Now, in this week’s interview with Cary Bergeron, we get into how you could use a book promotion service to sell more copies of your book. I asked Cary all about how Crave Books can help me sell copies of my upcoming book, a story-driven memoir for young dads because this is one that’s outside my niche so it’s gonna be interesting to see if I could sell many copies of it upfront or if it’s gonna take me some time. My gut feeling is it’s gonna take me some time. And Cary also talks about some of the advice that I just covered about attracting reviewers, getting a good book cover, and how his service can help.
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Now, let’s go over to this week’s interview with Cary Bergeron.
Bryan: So I wanted to dive into Crave Books and how it can help authors sell more books, share their stories, and earn more money from writing but before we do that, could you introduce yourself and your background and how you managed to write so many books?
Cary: Yeah, sure. So, my background is digital marketing back in the day and we ended up getting into the Kindle platform around 2010, 2012. We were writing a whole bunch of books. We started in non-fiction, actually, and one of our books in non-fiction was the very first one in that genre, basically, in that category on Kindle at the time and then that spawned a whole bunch of competition and it’s still actually one of the best sellers in the category so that’s pretty awesome.
But in doing so and making so many books and getting them launched, we were trying to figure out how to promote them as well. We were trying to get on BookBub and, back in the day and still now, it’s pretty difficult to get on those sites and, you know, get a promotion, see the needle move on your sales, right? So we decided to create our own platform, our own e-book daily deal platforms.
Couple of ’em were just Kindle books, and we ended up selling those off and creating a bigger project for Crave Books which is an actual distribution platform now. We work with over 20 different partners to distribute author and publisher books, you know, across the web so it’s been pretty awesome.
Bryan: I have only used the book promotion service once for my first book and, to be honest, since then, I’ve concentrated on ads and e-mail marketing. How can an author get the best use out of Crave Books or a service like it?
Cary: The best thing they can do is just kinda sign up on the site so we have — to sign up, to load your books on there, to get an author page, it’s all free. You can put your books up there, you can do a little interview, an author interview, get some exposure. You can actually start connecting with readers through our site so the readers can follow different authors they like and then those readers are notified when an author, you know, changes a book, you know, edits it, you know, edits the details, not so much the storyline, but if they add a book or if they run a promotion or something like that, all the readers on the site are notified and that’s all completely free for an author so it’s really free exposure there.
And then, you know, in addition to that, if the authors want to really move the needle and get sales, then they can run promotions through our marketplace with those books that they’ve uploaded. So, we can run, like I said, 20 plus different variations and, right now, we’re expanding that on a monthly basis.
Bryan: Are those paid promotions?
Cary: Yeah. Yeah, they range from — I think we have some promotions for Twitter, for tweets, starting at $3 and then they go up to about — we have some romance, we have a romance deluxe package which is about $300 so it’s a pretty good range. It has a price point for everybody, you know, and a little something for everybody basically in there.
Bryan: Yeah, it’s interesting you mentioned romance books. I was talking to somebody yesterday and he was explaining that romance authors can make up to a million dollars a month selling their books on Kindle so I presume it’s the most popular promotion on your service as well.
Cary: Yeah, absolutely. Romance by far is the biggest genre, the most authors on our platform right now and, you know, romance authors — well, not authors but romance readers just consume books. They’ll go through a book a day or every other day and so for a romance author to crank ’em out and kind of stay ahead of the Amazon algorithm is pretty important. And if they can do that and they can get ’em ranking, then, yeah, a million dollars is not a lot for actually some of the romance authors we work with right now.
Bryan: Is the book promotion service that you offer solely focused on Amazon or does it also look at other bookstores?
Cary: So, we do offer other stores. So we got — we currently got Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Google, Apple, all the big ones in addition to Amazon in all the different countries, and then we actually provide an option for authors to include their own link so maybe, you know, some authors and publishers, what we’re seeing more and more is they’re actually selling books on their own sites as well because they’re kinda sick of the Amazon thing going on so we provide an option there where they can actually link the books back to their own website if they’re selling ’em digitally on their own so we provide that option as well.
And then we do all the audio options, so Audible, all that. We have a link for podcasts. There’s a bunch that the author can include with each promotion or each profile that they put on the site, yeah.
Bryan: So one question I have is about the types of authors using the service. I understand a lot of romance authors will be self-published. I’m looking here at your homepage and you have Chris Voss’s Never Split the Difference so are you also promoting traditional books, traditionally published?
Cary: As far as like print or traditional publisher that’s coming to the site, not indies?
Cary: So we do have actual traditional publishers we work with, yes. Yep
Bryan: Okay. Okay. So they’re obviously getting some good benefit as well. Yes, I hadn’t heard of traditional publishers using book promotion sites so that’s quite interesting to hear. Do you find that they use a particular package that you have or look for a particular type of service?
Cary: No, we haven’t — I haven’t dug down in the specifics that much on which ones they’re using but, you know, I know fiction is huge across the board. We’re trying to expand more into, you know, non-fiction options for the publishers but, right now, it’s mainly focused on those genres.
Bryan: So, gonna ask you for some book marketing advice for my own book. Hopefully, some listeners get benefit from this. But I’m in the final stages of getting ready to publish or self-publish a memoir about parenting. It’s aimed at young dads, all the things I wish I’d known when I became a dad, so it’s non-fiction. It’s gonna be a bit of a challenge to market it because it’s a bit outside my niche. Would Crave Books work for something like that?
Cary: Yes, absolutely. So, Crave Books would work because we’re both fiction and non-fiction. We do have some only — some fiction-only options and then we have some just non-fiction options. So, some of our bigger partners on the site will actually — if you run a promotion through ’em, you can break it down really on a sub-genre by sub-genre level so you can get pretty granular on that and you could get into the memoir lists that way.
Bryan: So, let’s say I’m getting ready for my first promotion. Is there anything I should do to get the most value out of it?
Cary: Yeah, put some teasers out there, you know? If you have a list or Facebook, maybe give a chapter away or an introduction away is a pretty good way to do it, you know? For giving that introduction or chapter away, you know, try to gain an e-mail so that when your book does come out, you can hit up that list. It’s a pretty good thing to do, you know, just without, you know, having a bunch of money or budget to work with. If you have any kind of budget to work with, then, you know, promotions are the next best thing, really the daily deal promotion sites.
And each site — I just wanna mention this, you know, each site kinda has their own list that works better with certain, you know, genres or readers or audiences so just because you, you know, you try one kind of daily deal site, you might not get the best results you want doesn’t mean they’re not working in general so you can move on, and a lot of those sites, and we do as well, if you run a promotion with us and you don’t get the results you are expecting or want, then, you know, we give you a refund. We’ll refund you, you know? It’s not like we want you to fail so — then you can, you know, try another site, you know? Try another one and you might hit with that list really well and then you keep that on your list of promotional sites to use when you launch, yeah.
Bryan: It’s good to have a playbook. Yeah, mostly I use Amazon ads and I’ve experimented with Facebook ads. What type of success have your clients or customers seen with their books?
Cary: Huge success. We’ve helped create best-sellers for the platform. We’ve had some, you know, to be honest, talking about memoirs, we’ve actually run a few that didn’t work well, you know? And we had a publisher in California and that’s kind of all they do is memoirs and we worked with them for a bit and it just wasn’t a fit and that happens so there was kind of a few things going on with that but it happens and, for the most part, you know, authors and publishers are having huge success right now with what we’re doing.
Bryan: When I sign up for a deal, is it something that runs for one specific day in an e-mail blast? Is that how readers hear about it?
Cary: So, what’s unique about our platform is it doesn’t have to be one day like that. If you run a promotion, you can actually string together all the promotions across all the partners that you choose so when you, you know, as an author, you log in, you’ll put your books and you’ll do all that then you go to the marketplace and you’ll see all the options that are available and so you select five different areas to promote your book in, say, you know, three daily deal sites, a blog network, and a social promotion, then you have the option to go in and specify what dates you want those so you can stagger them how you want based on what you’re doing and the time of week and any other promotions you’re running.
What we see authors doing is they’ll do five, eight, ten promotions and they try to do the slingshot effect where they’ll do one one day then the next day after that, they’ll do two promotions and three or four promotions and five and they’ll try to generate that slingshot action that’ll get you into the top 20 on Amazon for the genre that you’re in so that is actually a really popular technique on our site and we make it easy because once the book is added and all that stuff’s there, we handle all — everything. You don’t have to go to the sites and this site and that site and that site and submit all your info, it’s all in one place and it’s just done pretty smoothly.
Bryan: What type of budget would you need to get a slingshot campaign to become effective?
Cary: I’d say, for a good start, I would say probably $200 to $300.
Bryan: Well, that’s pretty affordable considering the price of an Amazon ad or Facebook ads, what you can spend on those platforms.
Cary: Yep, absolutely. So, with one of those techniques, and we’re actually creating some custom packages just for that, you could get in front of between 400,000 to 500,000 eyeballs on the e-mails we send out to so it’s not too bad at all.
Bryan: That’s pretty good. Pretty good. And so you must have spent a lot of time building partnerships with other book promotions services available to get in front of that many people.
Cary: Yeah. So we launched in October of last year and that was what we’ve been working on, it’s one of the things I’ve been working on since then is getting on partners and I actually just had two phone calls before our podcast here today about that so we continue to bring on more and more and that’s one of my focuses because the more options we have, the easier it is for authors to promote, the more they’re gonna like using the platform and it’s just — the space has needed it, the industry has needed what we’re doing and it’s just — it’s exciting.
Bryan: Yeah, it’s great to have a service like this. Some of the other services that I used few years ago, it’s hard to tell whether it was having any effect and even if I could trust the service, but your one looks really professional and something I’m planning on using.
I’m also curious, Cary, is there anything I should do with a book or anything a listener should do with a book before they run their first campaign? Should they have a set amount of reviews and have the book already selling or can they start from scratch? A lot of authors struggle to get reviews when they’re coming out of the gates with their first book.
Cary: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, yeah, reviews are huge. I’ve seen it done either way but a lot of authors have success I’ve seen and we’ve had success with our books, we’ll get a few reviews in there first so we try to get at least five reviews per book. It’s pretty — I don’t wanna say it’s pretty easy to get five reviews but everybody knows, you know, a friend or family member or somebody with an Amazon account that could, you know, get a review here and there.
There’s enough I think Facebook groups, free Facebook groups, where authors can join to probably get a couple reviews and if you can get up to five and then, you know, after that, ten is a really good number as well because readers do look at those, the reviews, you know? They say don’t judge a book by its cover but a professional cover is a huge one. We’ve had that feedback from our readers.
They wanna see a cover and the description, number one and number two, and then number three are the reviews so those are the top three things that our readers have told us that they look at. Book covers, descriptions, and reviews. And, actually, on that note, we’re working on a review service that we’re gonna be launching by the end of the year too so it’ll be pretty exciting and authors will be able to get reviews through what we call our book club.
Bryan: Good idea. Yeah, when I was trying to get reviews on my first book, I had a spreadsheet full of people to contact and I went through them one by one. Took hours but I got some reviews out of it. If there was a service that could do it or help, that would be certainly beneficial for authors. So, you have a lot of readers on the list as well. How did you find or go about building or attracting so many readers to the list?
Cary: Yeah. So we get our readers through two ways: SEO searches and Facebook ads. We run a lot of Facebook ads based on genres and interests and get them on our list. That’s the best way we found to build the list. There might be other ways but Facebook ads, number one, search engine optimization for our blog posts and different lists that we have that are reader-centric so they’ll find us on Google, click it, and then come over and kind of opt-in for our daily deals lists and those sort of things.
Bryan: Interesting. You mentioned that you’ve written some books in the past as well. Do you still write today or are you mostly focused on growing Crave Books?
Cary: Focused on growing Crave Books. I’m done with the writing. We do have some writers on staff who continue to write books but in more of a ghostwriter fashion at this point, yeah.
Bryan: Okay. Okay. And do you believe things are getting easier for authors today thanks to your services like yours?
Cary: I believe so. I see a lot of authors kind of being sick of Amazon and what’s going on in their ecosystem there and just looking for other alternative ways to make sales and to, you know, spread their brand and their name in the industry. So, you know, going wide is I see a bigger and bigger thing, particularly over the last year or two and, I mean, there’s Facebook groups now that are just talking about going wide and staying wide and things like that. And a lot of authors, I think I mentioned earlier, a lot of authors and publishers we’ve run into in the last, I would say six or nine months, are actually selling books through their own website more and more as well so I think it’s good, yeah.
Bryan: They’re relying on their own lists to do it rather than on Amazon to sell it for them. So, what will be the number two platform after — or number three, I guess, after your own list? Is it Kobo or one of the others?
Cary: As far as, you know, like the number three place to kind of promote with?
Bryan: Yeah. Or to sell your book, so if I’m selling on Amazon, I’m selling on my list, what would you say is the number three?
Cary: So, what we’ve seen, obviously, is Amazon, number one, then there’s like Apple and Google, two and three in a row.
Bryan: Okay. Okay —
Cary: We’ve surveyed our readers and that’s what they like. Kobo and Barnes & Noble aren’t really — I don’t wanna say it but they’re not on the radar as far as what the readers we’ve surveyed are looking for as far as where they’re gonna buy the book and so that’s where the authors should look first to where they’re gonna put their books where the readers are at, yeah.
Bryan: I spent a lot of time creating audiobooks, found out it works very well for non-fiction. A lot of non-fiction readers like to listen on the go when they’re at the gym or on the way to work. Do you find that that’s the same for genre fiction, for romance, science fiction?
Cary: It’s interesting you mentioned that, so we put a lot of our books up there, about 130, it’s a mixture of fiction and non-fiction and our non-fiction books have, hands down, done better in Audible format and I think it’s just because like what you’re saying, you know, you just wanna listen to it on the go, you’re at the gym, you’re in the car, in traffic for a half-hour, you pop in a non-fiction, you learn something or try to, you know, learn a new tactic or improve your skills in an area or pick up knowledge in something. It’s just — it’s perfect for that and so we’ve seen nonfiction so much better in audio format than fiction, for sure.
Bryan: Makes sense. Makes sense. If somebody’s listening to this and they’re thinking, “I’m gonna give it a go,” should they use their existing book or wait ’til they have a new one?
Cary: That’s kind of up to them. Me, personally, when I try a new service or something online, I just — I usually just jump in and do it myself and I’ll see what the results are, if I like it, if the interface is friendly and easy to use. I generally don’t wait for that. If it works out, then I keep at it. Otherwise, I don’t, you know, and so that’s what I would just recommend is like if you have any books in your library, give it a shot. If you don’t, obviously, and you’re writing your first one, then that’s a different story but I would suggest just try it out. Try us out and see how it is, yeah.
Bryan: And does the person using the service have to go in and change the prices to $1 or whatever it is on Amazon and so on or is that separate?
Cary: Yeah. So we don’t connect with an API to anybody’s Amazon account so if they’re gonna run a promotion for like, you know, free or maybe their book’s $2.99 and dropping it down to 99 cents so whatever their price structure they’re comfortable with, however they wanna run that, they would have to make the change in their Amazon account and then change on our site accordingly. If you don’t change your prices and it’s not that big of a deal, you can just keep them the way they are.
We do have a feature where we have — it’s a quick edit option, actually, so if you — after you’ve added your book and your information on our site, you can always go back and edit that however you’d like. But if you’ve added your book and you’ve run a promotion, we have an option where it’s a quick promotion so it’s actually just one click and you can promote your book and, basically, after that click, there’s one other option, it’s like is the price still the same or not and you can change the price within another click and so within two clicks — there might be three actually by pressing the Checkout button, I think, but three clicks, you can run a promotion that you’ve already run in the past pretty quickly and adjust the price on the fly so that’s pretty awesome.
Bryan: Sounds good. It sounds like it would save a lot of time. And does the person have to provide any sales copy for their book or descriptions or do you take that from the page where it’s already published?
Cary: Yeah. So, we are able to pull in book information with Amazon ASIN numbers so we’re pulling the title, the image, the descriptions, all that, that can be done. As you’re adding your book, you can use that feature or you can just do all your stuff manually, depending on how you wanna do that. And then we’re working on ISBN integration as well so there’s different services that pull in information with ISBN numbers and we’ll be doing that by the end of the year as well.
Bryan: Sounds good. So, Cary, if somebody wants to get started, where can they find more information about you or Crave Books?
Cary: Yeah, so they can just go to cravebooks.com and you can sign up for an account there. You know, our platform is meant for connecting readers, authors, and publishers and we have a growing network of sites that we can promote to. Everything’s free unless you wanna kind of run a promotion across those sites so we do provide free exposure.
We’re on Facebook. We actually got a Facebook group. You can search Crave Books on Facebook and join our Facebook group where we talk with authors and publishers in there and give ’em insights as to what’s kind of happening on the site. One of the cool things we do there is we’ll provide book covers that have gotten the highest amount of clicks per genre through our site from the previous week so authors can actually see really high performing book covers so if they wanted to do a book cover in their genre or redo their book cover, they can see that information. So we provide some pretty exclusive info like that in our Facebook group.
And then, you know, anybody can e-mail me if they want, firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m always available and I’m here to help wherever needed.
Bryan: Thanks, Cary.
Cary: Thanks, Bryan. Appreciate it. Thanks for having me.
Bryan: I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. If you did, please consider leaving a short review on the iTunes Store or sharing the show on Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you’re listening. More reviews, more ratings, and more shares will help more people find the Become a Writer Today Podcast. And did you know, for just a couple of dollars a month, you could become a Patreon for the show? Visit patreon.com/becomeawritertoday or look for the Support button in the show notes. Your support will help me record, produce, and publish more episodes each month. And if you become a Patreon, I’ll give you my writing books and discounts on writing software and on my writing courses.