Thursday, August 30, 2012


by H. W. “Buzz” Bernard

The most pressing question I had upon the release of my debut novel, Eyewall, was: How am I gonna promote the darn thing? Fortunately, my publisher, BelleBooks, had an answer.

 “We’re going to give it away.”

“You’re what?”

“We’re going to give it away.”

Holy crap, I thought. I spend 10 years and buckets-full of blood, sweat and tears to get something traditionally published and now it’s gonna be a freebie!

“Uh, that’s a little counterintuitive,” I told them.

“Trust us. You’ll see.”

Yeah, check’s in the mail. It was obvious to me that these people had gone down the rabbit hole. I took matters into my own hands, signing up for a “virtual” (blog) tour, creating a new Website, and developing a Facebook page for Eyewall. Well, you know how this turned out, don’t you? The giveaway for Eyewall on Amazon jumpstarted sales and, more importantly, reviews. The novel shot up immediately to number one on Amazon’s Kindle free list, then peaked at number eight on the paid list after it came off the freebie shelf. But the key here is the reviews Eyewall received, most of them glowing. It’s word-of-mouth that propels the commercial success of a book. And there’s nothing like giving something away to get people to give it a whirl. Or in the case of Eyewall, to take a ride into the eye of a Cat 5 hurricane.

A little sidebar here. BelleBooks, at the time of the giveaway, had been hemming and hawing over accepting my second novel, Plague. I had a contract in-hand two days after Eyewall hit number one on the freebie list. Ah, yes. The Doctrine of Unintended Consequences in action, in a positive way. Later in the year, Eyewall, on the strength of Amazon’s Daily Deal, in which a featured eBook sells for $1.99, rocketed to number one on the paid list.

It’s obvious to me now that BelleBooks was on top of the game. They knew precisely how to leverage the market in the world of eBooks and digital marketing giants. Lesson learned: Listen to the folks who’ve been around the (publishing) block a few times.

So, you ask, what fruit did my marketing efforts bear? The upgraded Website was a bit pricey, but it’s important that I--and you, as an author--have a professional, polished Web presence. It shouldn’t look like something built by your 10-year-old grandson. Looking back, the virtual tour did virtually nothing to nudge sales up, at least not when compared to the great freebie caper. The Facebook page didn’t cost anything, but now that I’ve got additional novels in the pipeline, I’m abandoning the Eyewall page in favor of an author page. For Plague, I’m updating my Website again, not purchasing any pre-publication marketing packages, and avoiding book signings. The in-store event that turned out best for me was the launch party for Plague.

H. W. “Buzz” Bernard is vice president of the Southeastern Writers Association. Besides being a member of International Thriller Writers, he belongs to the Atlanta Writers Club and Willamette Writers. His debut novel, Eyewall, was a number one best seller on Kindle. His second novel, Plague, comes out this month in trade paperback and eBook formats. He and his wife Christina live in Roswell, Georgia, along with their fuzzy Shih-Tzu, Stormy.

PLAGUE A brilliant but psychopathic microbiologist-turned-terrorist is about to unleash weaponized Ebola, the Black Death of the 21st century, on a major American city. Only one man has enough information to stop what could turn into a global plague. But he’s wounded, wanted for murder, and is being hunted by a German hit-woman. He doesn’t stand a chance.


Unknown said...

Buzz, thank you for sharing this.

I am going to share your post with my editor, to see if they will consider this for my next book.

One of my friends did very well with the promotion, to drive up ebook sales for his past books.

However, I am challenged that when I view many of the Amazon bestseller's list the books are under the free promotion or less than $2.99. I'm concerned that readers will be accustomed to the low price points and not one to buy at the market rate. I already see it happening with certain book clubs.

Buzz Bernard said...


There's no question that the right price-point ($2.99 or less seems to be the sweet spot on Amazon) sells books. But the key, at least for debut authors, is getting reviews. The more books you sell, the more reviews you get. Positive reviews sell books. (BTW, I didn't pay for any of my reviews.)

I'm not concerned about readers expecting low price-points. I believe if you write quality stuff, readers will buy it, whether it's at list price or on a Kindle Daily Deal. Also, I'm not averse to selling ten books at $2.99 as opposed to a couple for $12.95.

But again I come back to my point that for first-time authors, the key is getting reviews. Outlets such as Amazon and B& offer easy routes to massive numbers of readers.

Unknown said...

lol on the paid reviews. you made a lot of sense for me. :)

Vickie said...

Great blog post. Very informative.

Jenny Milchman said...

Interesting. I've been hearing a lot of debate about free. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Ruth Schiffmann said...

Wow, interesting story. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Martin Bodenham said...

An interesting post, Buzz. It just shows how, sometimes, acting counter-intuitively can bring unexpected results.

DonnaGalanti said...

Buzz, thanks for sharing your experience! I can say the same thing about blog tours - hit or miss. My publisher wont do "free" for an author with one book out, so I am stuck until I get other books out (soon!). I am so eager to try the free promotion to boost visibility and reviews. My reviews are climbing but from the effort of doing GoodReads giveaways and researching best-fit book bloggers to read and review. This all takes time, of course and a slow build. I'm at the $2.99 price point for ebook, but also wondering if less may work. There is a huge grouping of $2.99 priced books it seems. Wishing you continued success!