Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Author Solutions Introduces BookStub

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

Author Solutions has just introduced a new marketing service called BookStub, which it describes thusly:
Loyalty card-sized BookStubs display your cover on the front side and ordering instructions on the back side. Once you distribute a BookStub, the reader can visit your title’s detail page, add your e-book to the cart and check out with a digital copy of your title.
Basically, it's like a plastic business card, with a scannable QR code that enables would-be readers to use their cell phones or tablets to access your book's order page, and a promotional code that lets them download the book for free.

I have to say that this seems like a pretty cool idea. Freebies can be a really effective marketing tool, especially for authors with multiple published books, stimulating sales not just of the free title but of other titles by the author. Imagine being able to hand out these little BookStubs at conferences or conventions or other business events, or just to people you meet who are curious about your writing. Or leaving a few at bookstores, as an ongoing promotion. The novelty value alone would be a draw.

But...and you knew this was coming, didn't you? There's a catch. The price.

Author Solutions offers three package options for the BookStub program. The cheapest, the BookStub Launch Press Release, costs $1,199. For that, you get just 20 BookStubs plus a web-optimized press release. (In Author Solutions World, that's actually a bargain--the web-optimized press release costs $1,199 all by itself [yes, my jaw was on the floor too]. In the real world, though, it's a heck of a lot of cash for 20 plastic cards, 20 free ebooks, and a press release posted to PRWeb.)

Next is the BookStub Social Media Blast, which gets you 60 BookStubs, a press release, and a Facebook fan page (the example Author Solutions offers is totally bare-bones, with no cover image and virtually no optimization; it probably took half an hour--if that--for an ASI staffer to create the account and paste in material from the author's other websites). This package will set you back a cool $2,599.

The final package, the BookStub Virtual Book Signing, provides the most BookStubs--100--plus the press release, the fan page, and the opportunity to share a hosted online "event" with three other authors. The cost: an eye-popping $3,799.

Obviously, all this stuff costs something to produce and set up, and Author Solutions needs to make money. But the prices seem truly outlandish for what authors actually get--and why can't authors just buy the BookStubs by themselves, without the dubiously useful extras? Online press releases, for instance, are among the least effective of all book promotion strategies. And it's not hard to set up a Facebook fan page yourself; heaven knows the Internet is awash in free advice on how to do so.

I do think BookStubs are a nifty notion--but in my opinion, they'd need to cost a lot less to be worth an author's hard-earned cash.

25 comments:

Jennifer R. Povey said...

I really like the idea. And I plan, if I'm in a position to want something like this, to shamelessly steal it.

Michael O'Connell said...

I like the idea too but it isn't free if it costs over $1000. You don't really need them to give your book away anyway. If you are using that model, you are probably savvy enough to know how to make a QR code that'll take you to your site or your page on Amazon, ABE, B&N or where ever. I'd be happy to help anyone who doesn't know.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I'm with Jennifer. I like the idea of the cards themselves, but I know how to set up social media sites myself. I'm not handing someone close to four grand for the privilege of letting them do it for me. And I'm sure ten minutes of research online will uncover a dozen or two companies willing to produce the plastic cards for a substantially lower fee.

Suzanna said...

Do you even need a plastic card? What's wrong with using the current trading-card size book cards (see the Romance Trading Cards site for inspiration) and incorporating a QR code into the design that takes someone to the book's page on the author's website? An author should already have buy links set up on their page for each of their books, so it shouldn't take too much effort to set up. And it definitely wouldn't cost you anything near $1000!

D. Moonfire said...

I think the book cards are a cool idea, but it isn't that impressive. My wife uses ACI (e.g., a local printer) who will quite easily do double-sided business cards, trading cards, or even print it on plastic or metal and get the same result in about a tenth of the price.

And generating a QRcode is trivial to say the least. I banged up a generator in PHP for a local publisher in an hour.

The advertising might be helpful, but having an advertising mill isn't going to be that much more helpful than what.

Oh well, hopefully authors will go the DIY approach on this instead.

Dan Holloway said...

one of the very whizziest designers would do all the card layout for a fraction of a fraction and Moo will do rounded cards of unctuous quality for £25 per hundred

Diana said...

The double sided business card mentioned by Moonfire is probably easier, but n author could even do them theirselves if they wanted to. Cardstock is not expensive and with a color laserprinter or inkjet printer, you can run off as many as you want. If you know how to do the layout. Even the preperforated business cards that you can buy would work a lot cheaper than this.

Cool idea. Find a cheaper way to do it yourself.

Angie said...

It's a very cool idea, definitely, which Dean Wesley Smith came up with, produced, and used at WorldCon almost a year ago. At least Author Solutions is snagging ideas from smart people. [wry smile]

Angie

tbrosz said...

Amazon allows you to send a Kindle book as a gift, with one option being creating an e-mail of this gift and sending it to the recipient. I haven't tried this yet so I don't know if there's a code involved.

Still, I bet it wouldn't be hard to order a bunch of these "gifts" of your book, and then figure out how to put the resulting gift e-mail results on cards of some kind.

Steven Saus said...

Excellent post. Worth noting if you find this idea intriguing: I detailed exactly how to do this (minus the QR codes originally, now updated to include that) using e-Junkie in April. I've been using 4x6 prints from WalMart and a sheet of labels (price per unit under $0.20).

The HOWTO: http://ideatrash.net/2012/04/how-to-sell-your-ebook-directly-to.html.

Hope that helps someone!

Dennis Latham said...

You would be better off standing on the corner naked and reading one of your books. When you get arrested, use the 1000 to post bail. You would for sure make the local news, and you would get much more publicity for a grand than you would spending money on 20 cards and a lot of useless hype they are selling.

Amy Atwell said...

So glad to see this post. I saw info on this program come across my email yesterday from either GalleyCat or DBW, and it sounded too good to be true. As you've shown, it IS too good to be true. A quick Google search of plastic cards revealed sources where you can buy 1000 cards for under $500. And I agree that heavy card stock might be all that's necessary. As an author of digital books, I would love to see indie bookstores implement a rack with cards such as these. Great for browsing. Thank you for being on top of these things!

Jim Kukral said...

Argh, another way to fleece an author. Seriously, it's a business card you could have made at Vistaprint or a million other places for about $20 for a 1,000 of them.

It's a good idea, but a poor model. Make the darn things free and use it as an upsell for your other services. Wait, that's probably what I would do.

Victoria Strauss said...

Thanks for all the suggestions on how to DIY this idea--especially to Steven for the instructions and links.

behlerblog.com said...

This is a fabulous idea, and something we're currently doing in house, and it will free to our authors.

And really, the costs are practically zero.

We generate the QR Code for a free download for an e-book d/load and insert it into a card, generated through Photoshop that includes cover art, ISBN, price, etc. Each code has a marker, to ensure it can only be used once.

We print them out and laminate them at Kinkos. Boom. You've just saved yourself a hideous amount of money.

Mags said...

Money aside, the QR code only works for devices that have cameras--smartphones, tablets, etc. Regular eInk Nook and Kindle, forget it--you have to sideload. You can use a bit.ly or similar tiny URL just as well. That being said, the QR code is free and works great. I gave out slips of paper with my book covers, QR code to the info page on my website, and a bit.ly as well as the regular URL at a book fair last week. I designed it myself, ran off copies (4 slips per page), cut it myself. Total cost about $15 for color copies, because I was in a hurry and low on toner.

Claire Ryan said...

This kind of crap makes me Hulk-angry.

Here's the same thing, step by step, using Moo cards for an author who knows nothing about design.

http://raynfall.com/476/the-diy-stub/

Twenty bucks for fifty cards, versus over a thousand for twenty cards and a 'press release' full of SEO targeted links for AuthorHouse.

My contempt for them knows no bounds.

Christine DeMaio-Rice said...

Absolutely correct. I've done this for a client for $100 (not including printing)

I don't think they got a great deal. I think they got the right deal.

Liana Mir said...

Jennifer, you wouldn't be stealing it. Dean Wesley Smith suggested these and offered the idea to everyone months ago.

The idea: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=4154

His implementation: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/?p=5343

Chloe said...

http://www.modernpostcard.com/products/postcard-standard $95 for 500 postcards and if you're real flush you can even have them hand delivered by a uniformed messenger representing the US Government for an additional 45¢!

Targeted marketing at its best.

If you don't have any friends who know photoshop or any of the other skills needed to do this, you're hopeless.

Being a writer is not the way to get rich it seems, but repackaging free and low cost product and selling to them does!

Maggie Dana said...

Bookmarks are another great way to promote your books and can include the QR code. My favorite for printing bookmarks is GOTPRINT: http://gotprint.net/g/uploadBookmark.do

They do an amazingly super job at an amazingly super price.

Doug Brunell said...

These are excellent comments. Sales on my book have been improving thanks to the bath salt mania and people mentioning my book in blogs and CL, but I'm always looking for new ways to promote.

Kel kel said...

I liked this idea right up until I saw the obscene price tag. Went over to VistaPrint and they're currently offering 250 cards for $10. Hmmm... might have to place an order.

Frances Grimble said...

I write my own press releases. I did once have one written by a PR person who works for authors and micropresses. I gave him a printout of the entire book, and lots of information about its audiences. Not one single sentence in his press release was usable. It was clear he had not read any of the information I sent him, not so much as the table of contents.

Anyway, I send press releases to publications well targeted to my books. But for several books, I also took advantage of all the free press release services on the net that I could find. You need to provide a publicity contact email in a press release. Every time I used these services, I was deluged in spam sent to that email address, which I use for no other purpose. That was the ONLY result of my use of these services.

I quit bothering.

Maia said...

I totally agree that anyone could carry out this thing on their own. Remember... you can't copyright an IDEA, only the very specific EXPRESSION of an idea! :)