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Price Set by Dice Roll and Other Book Promo Tools

Last week there was a bit of a furore in the publishing world after a Guardian journalist Ewan Morrison slated social media promotion by self published authors, basically saying that as a promotional tool Twitter and Facebook etc were overrated and authors should focus on writing books, probably. I know that was a rabid paraphrase, but do go read the article if you want specifics because it’s interesting and incendiary, which are two of the best things an article can be.

You can kind of see his point when you consider something like this: a ‘Tweet your book’ service run by some opportunistic sod capitalising on what Morrison refers to as ‘another tech bubble’. A one day Tweet plan, tweeting a link to your book to 60,000 (apparently) untargeted, unknown and by all accounts uninterested followers will set you back $29. This isn’t only a bad way to spend money advertising your book, but services like this undermine the value of recommendations on social media as a whole.

Happily, there are better ways to promote a book on social media. Harper Collins has recently released the eBook version of The Dice Man – a cult bestseller about ‘living by the dice’ (I don’t know what that is). To celebrate its release, they’ve done the ‘living by the dice‘ promotion where they roll a dice and the price of the book fluctuates depending on whether the dice roll was low or high.

This is a really cool example of agile pricing, and beneficial for HC, as they can see how changes in price and social media promotion actually affect sales. I haven’t heard any reports of it hitting 20p yet, but it’s currently sitting at £1.99, which is fairly low for a top book.

(In fact, is it just me or are we seeing publishers across the industry experimenting with eBook prices to find the sweet spot? I know last year there was a lot of chat about ebooks being more expensive than hardbacks, but I haven’t seen this for a while.)

But certainly not all innovative promotional tools are decent. Enter: Housefigure.

Perhaps the saddest example of Kickstarter-esque campaign ever, the still of the video pretty much sums it up: a guy sitting alone on a couch, surrounded by figurines, his mouth hanging open in what I can only assume is uncomprehending shock. The idea here is to make a social network for fictional characters, so you can create profiles for Oliver Twist and have him date Hermione, or something.

In terms of book promotion, I suppose it serves to create a platform for your character prior to your book. So if you have a really interesting character like a guy who only rolls dice to decide how to live, or … no, wait… anyway, you use personality quirks as a hook instead of trying to build interest based on writing style, which is apparently overrated anyway.

It’s little wonder with a t-shirt as the incentive to pledge $2999, that this hasn’t exactly performed above expectations and has so far reached $19 of its $75,000 goal. It concerns me that someone who wants to build a new social network has absolutely no conception of what people are already using social networks for. But it might be that knowing your market is overrated, too, and the news just hasn’t reached us yet.

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Felice Howden

Felice Howden had opinions before she knew what the word 'opinion' meant. She wrote for the publishing and ideas blog Socratic Ignorance Is Bliss, and has had short stories published around the place. She graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2008 with a degree in English and Philosophy, and now spends her time typing code and hatching brain eggs for the future of publishing in a major publishing house.

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