Enclave File #1: The Plan (2014)
For a long time, I worked with and ragged on marketing directors at publishing companies around the country. There were a lot of things I thought they could be doing better.
One publishing company decided to call my bluff and bring me on as their Marketing Director. I can now implement the marketing ideas I have been suggesting for years. What’s more, I have negotiated special access for you to go behind the scenes with me and observe the work of a marketing director in a traditional publishing company. I hope it will dispel myths and reveal the “mysteries” of marketing.
You will find out what works and what doesn’t work, and most importantly, you’ll learn how the publishing industry works.
What is Enclave Publishing?
Enclave Publishing is the premier Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction publisher, which was formerly Marcher Lord Press.
It might sound like Enclave serves a terribly narrow niche and is seemingly too narrow to find an audience. But consider this math: If you are one in 1,000 on the internet, there are 2.6 million people on the internet who share your passion.
If only one in 1,000 people on the internet buys Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction, then there is a market of 2.6 million people on the internet who may purchase Enclave’s books. It’s still a niche, but it’s not small.
What are the strengths of a niche publisher like Enclave?
In the current publishing climate, niche publishers have a huge opportunity.
Readers who love Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction know about Enclave (formerly Marcher Lord Press). Typically, readers don’t know who publishes their favorite authors. Author name recognition is far more common than publisher name recognition. But Enclave has a strong brand and strong name recognition amongst its readers.
Enclave is extremely focused on the niche. We only publish Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction.
Enclave’s email open rates are twice the average open rate, which means the people on our email list regularly open our emails. The list is engaged and eager to hear what the publisher offers.
Challenges for Enclave
Enclave’s brand is strong, but they aren’t well-known within the wider reading community.
No Previous Marketing Director
In the past, Enclave has relied on great cover design and word-of-mouth marketing, which worked well up to this point. The new owner, Steve Laube, wants to take it to the next level by working on getting Enclave’s books into bookstores and in front of more readers.
Small Niche Publisher
While we have an engaged email list of readers, we are still a small company. We publish around 15 books each year, and we don’t have the marketing budget of a larger publisher such as Thomas Nelson.
Our new company name, Enclave, is just three months old. There is always some risk involved when a company changes its name. A name change is a good decision for the long term, but in the short term, we may lose some people as we transition to the new name.
Large companies sometimes spend millions of dollars to announce a name change, and even then, it’s not guaranteed to work. For example, Amway changed its name to Worldwide Dream Builders, but the new name didn’t stick, so they changed it back.
What are your first tasks as marketing director for Enclave Publishing?
Clean Up the Website
Enclave was using the WordPress plugin, MyBookTable, but they didn’t have it fully set up. I’ve gone through the website and made sure every page has the right information and correct links. When a web visitor clicks on a book page, I’ve made sure the link is our affiliate link. I need to boost sales so the company can afford to keep paying me.
I told our authors we would run a Goodreads giveaway for their books. We set it up and promised to deliver books to the winners if the authors would give away a book. Our authors were excited because it was easy for them, and it got the Goodreads numbers moving.
To make Enclave work, we need to build a community for the readers in our niche, and Goodreads is a great place to connect with actual book-buying readers.
Our initial results on Goodreads have been very encouraging. We’ve had many readers shelve books by some of our relatively unknown authors.
One of my concerns was that the Enclave authors would think I was hired to do their marketing for them entirely, and I was not. However, I do want to help our authors market their books.
Many publishers give authors a list of semi-helpful marketing tasks but don’t explain how to do them. A publisher might tell an author to start a Facebook page or a blog, but they don’t explain how to make such tactics work effectively.
I didn’t want to be that kind of marketing director, so I’ve started hosting weekly training calls for our authors. In each call, I teach authors about one aspect of marketing and then field their questions. My goal is to improve the skillset of our authors, so they are better equipped to market their books. I’m not doing the work for them. I’m giving them training so they can do the work themselves.
We established a Google calendar that features one of our books each week. Our email, blog post, and social media posts will focus on that book for one week. Each author has a chance to shine across our platform.
The goal is to keep everything working together. We’ve synced our various channels so that our communication is streamlined. If an author has a guest post or plans to blog about a certain book, they can put it on our editorial calendar, and we’ll focus our efforts on that book for the week.
As I mentioned, their email open rate is high, even for their boring emails. I want to split test some subject lines and write emails people want to read to see if we can increase their already high open rate.
Publishers often place ads for future books in the back matter of their recently published books. This passive marketing strategy works well for a focused niche publisher like ours because we only publish books like the one the reader has just finished.
Frequency of Email
The Enclave newsletter is published monthly. I plan to boost the frequency to weekly and see if readers like it. I think there’s a demand for it, but it might blow up in our faces. Time will tell!
We may be looking to price pulse some of our backlist books to revive those sales.
I’m a huge fan of audiobooks, as are many younger readers. I plan to research ways to get our books into the audiobook stores to boost our discoverability.
Enclave File #2: The Results (2016)
What worked and what didn’t?
I coached authors on how to record a video of themselves pitching their books. It was a great way to help authors shorten and practice their pitches, but it was not effective for selling books. The posted videos didn’t spread and only received a few hundred views.
It wasn’t a waste because the exercise equipped authors to pitch their books in conversations and interviews, but the videos didn’t give us traction.
Cleaned up MyBookTable
Cleaning up the website and MyBookTable was a great success. It forced us to get every book on every platform. It was the impetus we needed to get our books reformatted so we could offer them on the iBooks store.
Our changes have made the Enclave website very browsable and discoverable.
We switched to a weekly format, and it didn’t explode in our faces. However, we found that sending weekly emails was a lot more work, which meant we spent more money to pay someone to put those emails together.
We weren’t getting a good return on our efforts because we didn’t have that much new content to publish every week. We have since reverted to our monthly frequency.
Some of our most popular emails were our cover reveals for the newest batch of books.
We Doubled the Size of our Email List
We used a combination of techniques to grow our email list and have since doubled the size of our email list.
A Contest Through KingSumo
We hosted a contest with a prize of 52 of Enclave’s Christian Fantasy and Science Fiction ebooks, a year’s supply, if you will. Since they were ebooks, delivering the prize didn’t cost us much, but it had a street value of $350.
It was a valuable prize, but the best part about giving away a supply of our ebooks was that it attracted the kind of readers we wanted to connect with. The only people interested in the contest were people who would find our future books interesting.
We used KingSumo, a giveaway tool that allowed entrants to gain extra entries when they shared the contest with a friend.
NoiseTrade [This service is now inactive.]
NoiseTrade was a paid service that allowed us to give away ebooks in exchange for people’s email addresses. It was particularly effective for us because their audience is younger, and our readers are typically younger. [While this service is inactive, other services have risen to take its place.]
Popup Sign-Up Form
We added a popup window to our website. When visitors came to our site, the form would pop up in the corner and ask, “Would you like a free book? Sign up for our newsletter to receive your free book.”
Using the popup form doubled our subscription rate. Not only did we double the size of our list, but we also doubled our rate of growth.
A good popup form doesn’t pop right away. We set ours to pop only after a visitor had spent a designated time on our website. When the form popped, it was displayed in the corner, and it offered something the visitor wanted. Once a visitor closed the window, it didn’t pop again, so it wasn’t terribly obnoxious.
Through the popup, we gave away our most popular book, By Darkness Hid, which has proven to be a most addictive book. Nearly 80% of readers go on to buy books two and three in that series by Jill Williamson.
Giving away the first book in an addictive series can be so successful that some authors choose to give away the book for free permanently. This strategy is called “permafree.”
Permafree was our biggest shift, and we had many discussions about whether or not to do it. We decided to experiment with nine books. Each was the first book in a series, and we offered them for free.
It was an overwhelming success. The sales of the second and third books in each series more than doubled. Sales went through the roof.
Then we combined the permafree strategy with BookBub Featured Deals.
BookBub is a service that curates discounted ebooks and sends a genre-targeted daily email to millions of readers. You can submit your book for a BookBub Featured Deal, and if the BookBub editors accept your book for inclusion in their daily email, you pay for the service.
BookBub Featured Deals are expensive, but after experimenting with many similar services, we discovered that BookBub Featured Deals were the cheapest on a per-sale and per-giveaway basis. We had a great ROI. They are expensive up front, but you reach so many more people that on a per-person basis, BookBub is actually the most cost-effective.
Not all of our books were approved, but the books that were always saw a spike in sales.
· We’ve doubled the size of the email list.
· We’ve doubled revenue.
Not all of my ideas worked, but enough of them worked so that overall we’ve grown. We now have a system for growing our email list, and it’s growing rapidly. In time we will connect with more readers.
Facebook’s ad platform has recently added an “and” feature that allows us to target readers who are Christians and attend Comic-Con. Readers who fall into those two categories are our readers, and this new feature helps us connect with them. They will be excited to learn about Enclave’s books, and we’ll be able to build our readership.
I’m optimistic about connecting with new readers.
Enclave Files #3: Update (2019)
During my time at Enclave, we raised sales by more than 500%. The growth was so strong that the company sold to a conglomerate. After the sale, Enclave no longer needed me as a marketing director because the conglomerate had its own marketing team.
Since then, the conglomerate has failed to secure venture funding, and ownership has reverted to Steve Laube. Steve asked me to return as a marketing director, but he asked during my season of pruning when I was deliberately eliminating things from my schedule. I’m still an avid reader of their books, but I’m no longer directly involved with their marketing.
Still, I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had to implement and test my theories and prove that they really do work. It was a great experience.