A Book Bomb is when you get as many people as possible to buy a specific book on a specific day, with the goal of pushing it as high up in the sales rankings as possible on Amazon, with the goal of getting it onto some bestseller lists, so that more new eyeballs see it. This is a great way to expose an author to new readers.
Lots of people do this, but the ones we do here on Monster Hunter Nation tend to work better than average. I love doing Book Bombs for authors who I think could use the boost. The most important thing about a BB is the author GETS PAID (as a devout capitalist I believe that every artist should put GET PAID in their mission statement). I started doing these to help friends in need, and it’s become a tradition.
I’ve had bitter cranks whine about how this is “gaming the system” because apparently authors are supposed to sit quietly while tastemakers and critics decide what should be popular. No thanks. I’ll game that system then, and appointed myself a tastemaking critic. But a BB ain’t cheating because these are all legit sales using actual money, being purchased by actual human beings, who will hopefully enjoy the book enough to leave a review and purchase the author’s other books. It’s about getting a critical mass of readers, fast, and trying to turn them into long term fans.
If you scroll down you can see an example from the one we did last week. They’re usually pretty darn successful. Even my less successful BBs will move several hundred books in a day, and the bigger ones will do over a thousand. To put that in perspective, I read that the average (i.e. crappy) book signing in America sells like 8 books. So one of my Book Bombs is like having a hundred crappy book signings. My last tour I probably averaged 100 people at each stop (scroll down past the last Book Bomb post and I put up pictures!) so even at this stage of my career, a BB can be like ten awesome book signings worth of sales, only in 24 hours instead of two weeks of travelling. (But only a fool does book signings to actually make a profit on the books sold there, the reason you go is to meet fans in person because that adds to long term success)
The more people who get enthusiastic about a BB and spread the word, the higher it pushed in the rankings. The higher it goes in the rankings, the more new people check it out. Past experience has shown that whatever number of books we manage to move during the actual BB, a roughly equivalent number of books will be sold over the next week or two, as late comers see the posts, or Amazon picks it up to send out in their emails.
So they’re pretty awesome for the authors.
However, here is the downside.
The reason BBs work is that, A. my fans trust my opinion, and I’ve never shafted them with a book I honestly didn’t think most of them would enjoy. And B. I don’t do them so often that the fans get burned out.
Because of that I have to actually have a chance to read the book, and it doesn’t matter if I personally love it, the book has to be something that I think my regular readers will like. The hard part here is that I’ve got a To Be Read Pile that is taller than I am, and reading uses the same part of my brain as writing/editing, which gets used all day, so I don’t read for fun that often anymore, and when I do it’s usually stuff that isn’t related to my genre at all.
Then because of B, I can only do a Book Bomb about every other month. Tops. The reason they work is because they are special events. Not, Larry’s Book of the Month Club, because sorry, I ain’t Oprah. (her audience was orders of magnitude bigger, so when she plugged a book, it wasn’t a thousand more copies sold, it was hundreds of thousands, or in some cases, millions).
I guess there is actually a C. I never Book Bomb myself. That just seems like begging. BBs are a chance for me to help others. I figure I’m famous enough you guys will buy my stuff when you feel like buying my stuff. (preferably during release week though, because I too like being on bestseller lists!)
Now here is the part of this process that really sucks. Every time I do a Book Bomb I get a deluge of requests from authors and friends of authors. I get a few requests every single week, but the week after I do a BB, I get ten or twenty requests for me to do a BB for them. That’s just what I get. I don’t actually know how many requests Jack (who maintains this blog gets all the CorreiaTech marketing related emails) gets, but I know it is a LOT, and he only passes on the ones he thinks might be a legit good fit.
That isn’t even counting the I don’t know how many FB posts I get from fans, whenever there is any outrage controversy in the writing community (which is about once a week) where people tell me “you should give this person a Book Bomb!” Not going to happen when I can’t do a fraction of the ones where the authors actually ask. (plus, it extra sucks when you’ve gone out of your way to promote the work of an author with differing political beliefs, and they later throw you under the bus when it becomes convenient for them, learned that lesson the hard way)
So I can only do about half a dozen BBs a year, AND I have to find the time to read them, AND think they’re a good fit for one of those slots, which means the odds ain’t good you’re getting one.
Sorry. I would love to help everybody, but I can’t. I’m just one moderately successful fantasy author with a slightly bigger than average internet following. So the authors who get picked are usually people that I know personally somehow, usually through us attending the same events. But even then, remember that I attend a lot of cons, so even of the authors I’ve met personally and LIKE, it’s still a ton of people to get through.
I’ve got a bunch of writers I want to do BBs for already, including people I’ve known for many years. Which is why I’ve done experiments like doing two books at a time (one regular priced trade and one bargain priced indy actually seemed to work okay, with the bargain impulse buy one getting WAY higher in the rankings).
I’ve had a few authors get really, really, really whiny about this after I told them I just can’t help them. Sorry. And for the handful of socially inept ones who got downright demanding and entitled to my time and access to the fan base I spent a decade building, oh hell no. They can go to hell (as you may have just guessed, one of these is what caused me to write this blog post this morning).
Will it always be this way? I don’t know. I have to keep changing how I run them, because I learn new things from each BB, and the system is constantly changing. Like I now launch them the afternoon or night before the official date, because Amazon has a delay on its rankings before sales start to register. Back when I started it was like Wild West crazy town of numbers jumping the hour after we started. And the participants really enjoy being able to watch the numbers climb, which means they tell more friends, which means the author GETS PAID.
Speaking of changing rules, Facebook totally screwed me on the last one. It was halfway through the Bomb when I realized how badly they were throttling back who could see my posts and all the shares. (they limit how many of your followers can see your posts, even though those people actually WANT to read your stuff, so that you have to pay them to “promote” you, bunch of greedy bastards who are already mining our data to sell to evil megacorporations anyway). So I switched gears and started putting up posts without outside links so they wouldn’t get throttled. Despite FB surprise screwing us, we still got Sakura to #1 in several genres and #147 of the millions of books on Amazon.
I might try doing these more often in the future, but I’m afraid oversaturation will make them less effective, which totally defeats the purpose. I’d rather do one thing right, than half-ass two.
Long story short, I love helping authors, I’m going to keep doing these, but I can only do so many, so please don’t get butt hurt if I don’t pick your book.