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Most books get the majority of their sales in the first few months after release. After that, they begin a slow slide down the charts. This is true for bestsellers and duds alike.
Price pulsing is a sales strategy that will breathe life into your backlist. It has worked for decades, and it still works today. When I was the marketing director for a traditional publishing company, I used price pulsing to boost sales by 500%.
Price pulsing is an advanced marketing tactic, but it’s also like money in the bank.
How to Revive Your Backlist with Price Pulsing
In this article, you’ll learn three different methods that will boost the sales of your older books. But to implement these tactics, you must have a book for sale on Amazon.
Before we talk about price pulsing and how to do it, we need to discuss marketing psychology.
Reader Procrastination Kills Book Sales
As an author, one of your biggest enemies is procrastination. Procrastination keeps you from writing today, and it keeps your readers from buying your book today. It’s detrimental to sales.
How do you fight procrastination? By introducing urgency.
Urgency is why you work harder right before your deadline than you do when you get the assignment. Urgency is also one way to convince readers to buy your book now.
Price pulsing works because it injects urgency into the book-buying decision.
What is a Price Pulse?
“Price pulse” is the 21st-century term for what our parents used to call “sales.” It’s a temporary discount. Your local grocery store price pulses using paper coupons in the newspaper. Ecommerce stores use virtual coupons for sales as well.
You can’t easily create a coupon for Amazon, but you can temporarily lower the price of your book.
On a line graph, the price increases and decreases look like a graphed heart rate or pulse, thus the name “price pulse.”
A well-executed price pulse will cause a sales spike and a higher sales rank. A good price pulse can boost your book to number-one category bestseller status. Higher rankings plus the buzz of new people reading your book can increase your sales for weeks after the price pulse ends.
The ongoing sales are due to Social Proof. Learn how you can use psychological marketing triggers by listening to our episode on Social Proof.
Price pulsing is a less extreme form of Free Pulsing. Free pulsing is when you drop the price of the book to $0.00 for a short time. Free pulsing works best for the first book in a series, and you can learn about that strategy by listening to our episode on Free Pulsing.
Price Pulsing is Easier for Indies
Indie authors have full control over their book pricing, which means they don’t need permission to use this tactic.
If you are traditionally published, your publisher may be price pulsing your book if they think it’s a winner. You may also be able to request that they work with you on a price pulse, and they might listen. They have all the decision-making power, so ask nicely.
If your publisher thinks your book is spent, they won’t invest the time to price pulse, and they won’t let you do it either. When this happens, you may want to approach them about buying back the rights to your book. Sometimes, you can recoup your money with your first price pulse.
Price Pulsing only works if you get the word out.
Every day, 1,000 new books are added to the millions of books already on Amazon, so a price pulse alone won’t impact your book sales. Right now, thousands of publishers and authors are price pulsing books. Without a promotion strategy, your discounted book will get lost in the noise.
To make a price pulse work, you need to let readers know about your sale. There are three methods for spreading the word.
Method 1: Use Your Own List
We’ve talked about the importance of growing your email list. A big email list is imperative for launching a book, but it also helps in unexpected ways when you’re price pulsing.
For example, every week on this podcast, I ask you to tell a friend about the show. Since my request has no urgency attached to it, you likely ignore it most of the time. The same is true if you email your list asking them to tell a friend about your book.
But imagine you send an email saying that your ebook, which is normally $5.99, is only $2.99 for the next five days. Now your subscribers have some urgency in telling their friends about your book. They only have five days to tell a friend!
Their friend will be thankful for the great book recommendation and the tip on a great deal.
Price pulsing can work, even if everyone on your email list has already purchased your book.
If you want help growing your email list, I have many episodes on the topic.
Here are three email-list-building episodes you’ll find immediately helpful:
- How Jason Porterfield Grew His Email List from 0 to 6,000 in One Year
- 8 Tools to Help Authors Get More Email Subscribers
- An Author’s Guide to StoryOrigin
The Promise of Discounts Can Help Grow Your Email List
A reader magnet is an immediate reward that can motivate people to sign for your emails. Readers may also be motivated to get on your email list if you mention that they’ll get exclusive discounts on your books.
In the backmatter of your book, tell readers that one of the perks of joining your list is that you’ll notify them about discounts. Readers love signing up for discounts.
Create a Price Pulse Rhythm
Last year, on my other podcast, the Christian Publishing Show, I interviewed an author who has written more than 70 books. She price pulses one book each week. I don’t typically recommend sending a weekly author newsletter, but if each newsletter includes a discount on a different book, then go for it!
But don’t worry. You don’t need 70 books to use this strategy.
The key is to stay organized, follow a schedule, and keep records on each book’s promotion dates. A price pulsing promotion schedule will help you plan your newsletter content for the next few months. If you’ve been wondering what to write in your author newsletter, email your readers about your current discount.
You don’t want discounts to be the only subject of your email newsletter every time you send it, though. Include some news in your newsletter to keep it interesting for your most passionate fans.
Method 2: Borrow a List
Do you have a small list? No problem! You can still price pulse. You will just need to borrow a list. There is a world of websites and email lists dedicated to helping authors spread the word about discounted books. You pay to be featured in these emails, but they often pay for themselves in days or even hours when people buy your book.
The biggest list you can borrow is BookBub’s list. Hundreds of thousands of readers have signed up with BookBub specifically to receive deals on ebooks.
But BookBub is not your only option.
There are a lot of BookBub clone sites. Here are some of the most notable:
- Fussy Librarian
- Ereader News Today
- Book Adrenaline
- Hello Books
- Ereader IQ
- Book Barbarian
- Book Gorilla
- Book Cave
- Book Raid
- Bargain Booksy
- Gospel eBooks
- Chirp (BookBub’s Audiobook Arm)
David Gaughran has a good roundup post about which sites are best.
In the olden days, authors used to try to get all the promo sites to list their books on the same day. That gave you the best chance to hit category-bestseller status. These days, Amazon uses a longer rolling average, so you may benefit from spreading your promos across 3-5 days.
BookBub is King
While BookBub is the most expensive promotional site, it’s the cheapest when you do the math on a cost-per-reader basis. BookBub introduces you to so many readers that it more than makes up for the cost. BookBub Featured Deals often pay for themselves in a matter of hours or days.
Because BookBub is so effective, it is difficult to get featured. Thousands of authors are vying for a limited number of featured-deal spots.
Many authors schedule on the smaller promo sites after they get a featured deal from BookBub. Once they have a promo date from BookBub, they schedule other promos around the BookBub Featured Deal date.
BookBub gets thousands of submissions for a limited number of spots. Sometimes they only feature five discounted ebooks in their emails. It may take several tries before your book is accepted.
Nevertheless, here are some tips to make your BookBub submission as competitive as possible.
Tips on Getting Accepted by BookBub:
- Offer a big discount. Discounting a book from $5.99 to $2.99 is less exciting than discounting from $9.99 to $2.99.
- Get lots of 5-star reviews. It’s easier to secure a BookBub Featured Deal once you have more than 100 reviews.
- Go wide with your ebook. BookBub is strategically reducing its reliance on Amazon. The more book stores and the more countries you support the more likely your book will be accepted.
- Submit every month. Create a recurring calendar event for yourself to remind you to submit your book to BookBub, or outsource this work to your Virtual Assistant.
- Make sure your book cover is on-trend. Buy the K-lytics report for your genre (Affiliate Link) to see if your book cover is on-trend.
- Get credible endorsements for your book.
- Submit your book to credible award competitions.
- Hit a (non-Amazon) bestseller list. (USA Today, WSJ, NYT, ECPA, etc.)
- Optimize your Amazon page.
Method 3: The Reverse Coupon
The final method is a photo negative of the first two. The reverse coupon is based on the same psychological principles, but instead of announcing the price decrease, you announce that the permanent price will increase on a future date.
The Launch Price Pulse
While the first two methods work best for books that have been out for a while, reverse coupons can work during your launch. Some authors sell their brand-new book for $2.99 for the first week, and then they raise the price to $5.99. The impending increase creates an incentive for core fans to buy the book during launch week.
A launch-week reverse coupon
- helps your book hit #1 New Release status.
- rewards your core fans and launch team members who buy your book on release day.
- increases the number of reviews you get during the first week.
- creates excitement around your launch.
The Price-Correction Price Pulse
You can also use a reverse coupon when you realize your books are priced too low.
Indie authors often price their books too low, but raising the price is scary. They wonder, “Will my readers get mad that I am raising the price?” I have good news! You readers won’t notice. People don’t check the price of things they already own.
If your ebooks are priced at $2.99 all the time, and you realize you could make a lot more money with a higher price, you may want to increase your price. However, if your readers expect your books to be $2.99 all the time, what do you do?
Offer a reverse coupon!
Schedule your reverse coupon to expire in one month. Announce the expiration date to your readers, and then send a series of emails reminding them of the upcoming price increase. Readers love the feeling of getting the best price before it goes up. Some of them may stock up on all your titles they haven’t purchased yet.
I use this tactic for my courses all the time. For example, Obscure No More is currently in beta release, which means the course is not yet complete. But as I complete the modules, I release them right away.
Authors who use the coupon code “beta” save 65% on the price of the course. Once the course is complete, that discount will expire. The core fans get the course at a massive discount while I am still recording videos.
To learn more about how to price your books, listen to the following episodes:
Reverse Coupons Protect You from Inflation
Inflation is high right now. I just heard a report from the Wall Street Journal that some countries have seen 20% inflation on food. Inflation in the United States is around 5%, the highest it has ever been during my lifetime.
Inflation means that the money you make from your book this year is worth less than it was last year. You are getting a pay cut if you don’t raise your prices. When you need to pass along a price increase to your readers, a reverse coupon is the kindest way to do it.
It is the golden rule of price increases. Raise prices unto your readers as you wish companies raised prices unto you. Don’t you wish your favorite companies gave you a month-long warning before raising the price on items you regularly buy?
Reverse coupons boost sales without the need to discount while simultaneously building goodwill with your readers.
If you want help building your email list and platform, I am creating a course to help you with every aspect. Obscure No More is currently a one-time purchase. You get all the training sessions that are already recorded, plus all sessions that are still in the works.
The following sessions are now available:
- Module 01: How to Start Building a Platform
- Module 02: How to Craft a Platform Strategy
- Module 03: How to Build Your Author Brand
- Module 04: How to go from Tech Timid to Tech Savvy
- Module 05: Search Engine Optimization
Students have seen incredible results after completing the Search Engine Optimization module. Several students have started ranking on the first page of Google for the first time. As one author said, “I feel like I am finally obscure no more.”
This fall, we’ll focus on starting a podcast. I will add sessions on how to record, edit, and grow a podcast.
Finally, Obscure No More students are invited to my monthly Office Hours video call, where I answer student questions.
But wait, there’s more! Several of my established courses are included with the purchase of Obscure No More.
- How to Get Booked as a Podcast Guest ($249 Value)
- The Art of Persuasion ($49)
- How to Craft Amazing Blog Posts ($49)
- How to Craft Amazing Author Websites ($99)
Total Value: $449
Michael Jack Webb author of Infernal Gates
Time is running out for Ethan Freeman, an ex-Special Forces Ranger, to stop a conspiracy to free The Destroyer and his horde of Fallen Angels.
You can become a Novel Marketing Patron here.
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