Book industry veteran Anthony Wessel founded Digital Book Today in 2010. While some of the people behind the promotion sites we’ve been featuring on IU over the past few weeks are authors, Wessel’s perspective on the book world comes from seven years as a sales manager for Borders/Waldenbooks. He’s been immersed in the e-book world full time for the past four years.
From what I’ve found, DBT is a tidy, reputable site with a good following. As of November 2013, they boasted 17,000 – 21,000 weekly visits, over 15,000 likes on their Facebook page, and 5,700+ email subscribers. They don’t review books, but Wessel and company offer a range of promotional opportunities, free and paid.
Recently I asked him a few questions about Digital Book Today and e-book marketing in general.
Concerning his readership, he said that the majority of his customers follow the normal book industry trends: overall fiction, romance, sci fi, mystery, suspense, chick lit, thrillers, et cetera. They don’t see a lot of non-fiction e-books. But they’re following the e-book market, which is dominated by fiction, compared to a traditional bookstore where non-fiction plays a much bigger role in sales.
Unlike some other sites that have cut back on free promotional tools for authors, DBT continues to offer several free features that they started with. One of those freebies is an author interview. In August 2012, a few months after I published Drawing Breath, DBT ran my author interview. Not only were Anthony and staff great to work with, but I was happy to see them tweet the feature at respectable intervals for about six months after its original appearance. Kind of a refreshing change from another opportunity I invested in, where the site owner and his followers tweeted me into spam-handed oblivion. The DBT author interviews stay up on the site, listed in alphabetical order, and now number more than 230. The interview feature requires pre-approval, but the standards are high: 25 reviews, a 4.0+ rating on Amazon, and for now, fiction only.
Another free feature is a Weekly Featured Great Reads program, which provides a dedicated blog post, tweets, and a display ad for each book for seven days as a way of giving back to the Indie community. So far, DBT has featured over 900 books. As they do each December, they will be highlighting eight books every Wednesday from their 2013 submissions list for this feature.
They also publish guest blog posts submitted by authors, like this one by IU alum Rosanne Dingli. These are articles that authors have already published on their own blogs—general interest articles for readers, meaning nothing about writing, publishing a novel, or about a specific book. Wessel wrote that his best response in 2013 came from a blog post that was ultimately picked up on Reddit and resulted in over 5,000 views. In the articles, DBT provides links to the author blog, book, and book cover.
Their most popular feature, according to Wessel, is being one of the three Featured Free Books on their daily blog post of the Top 100 Best Free Books List. This same blog post is mailed out to DBT’s subscribers.
He wrote: “It’s a great way to get a jump on downloads on the first day a book is being marketed as free. Getting a few hundred downloads (hopefully early in the morning) separates a book quickly from the books that don’t have any marketing. Just like that the book is on an Amazon book list and the snowball starts rolling downhill. The downloads build. Readers see what other books an author has written. Ultimately good things start to happen.”
Finally, I asked him what advice he’d offer an author new to marketing and promotion. For one, cluster your promotions: a concentrated effort of three to five promotions on multiple sites over the course of a year has more impact than single ads or promos on single sites. Choose the social media sites that you enjoy, because otherwise, it will be apparent to readers that you’re calling it in. And, of course, keep writing.
[In the interest of full disclosure, I won some prize money and free advertising on the site as part of a book contest. I derived zero direct sales from the free advertising.]