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I recently received a comment on one of my posts, asking me to add Booksprout to Steve’s post on Instafreebie. As I hadn’t heard of Booksprout, I wanted to hear more about it. In response, its founder, Chris Leippi, kindly sent me this guest post presenting the service to you. 

Automate your ARC team, grow your newsletter, and send mobile notifications with Booksprout

Chris Leippi | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksAs a self-published author since 2013, there are a few regularly occurring author tasks that I always dreaded and a few things that I knew I could be doing better. As a fellow author, I imagine you can probably relate to at least one of the following:

  1. Keeping track of my ARC team and their reviews was a lot of work. I love them all, but after doing ARCs for over a year for each new release it started to become a task that I dreaded. All the back and forth to ensure that each reviewer either left their review or was followed up with was just too tedious for my taste. Not to mention that in the days before a book launch my time is better spent running around booking promotions for my new book!
  2. I wanted more subscribers and data on them. When I first started writing, I offered readers the choice of any book they wanted from my catalog in exchange for their email address. It worked great! I got to see which books were the most interesting to my subscribers and they got a better reason to sign-up in the first place. It was a win-win. Unfortunately, doing so became too time-consuming after a while and I had to stop doing it.
  3. I had no way to take advantage of modern day mobile notifications. My readers are all reading on some kind of phone/tablet, but I was still using email as my primary means of communicating with them. Unfortunately, there was no way for me to take advantage of mobile notifications and use them to push my new books.

As someone who dislikes repetitive tasks and always strives to improve on what I’m doing, I got to work building a set of tools that could help me with all of the above. As my girlfriend likes to remind me, I spent two years building tools to save me a few hours every now and then (and my response to her: it was totally worth it!)

How does Booksprout manage my ARC team for me?

Booksprout | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's booksBooksprout’s ARC Assistant was built to completely remove the burden of managing an ARC team from the author and hand it off to someone (or something) else. It will save you time without sacrificing your review rate (at the time of writing, it has an 80% review rate).

Ask yourself, what’s a better use of your time; chasing people down for their review or writing your next book?

Running an ARC is now a simple four-step process for authors:

  1. Add your book’s details and upload your ebook files to our website.
  2. Create an ARC for that book.
  3. Share a link to your ARC on Booksprout with your ARC team.
  4. Wait a week or so for them to have time to read your book, then click a button to request their reviews.

Throughout that simple process done by you, the ARC Assistant has been busy. For each individual reviewer on your team, it’s done all of the following:

  1. Verified that they want to participate in this ARC and recorded their email address.
  2. Created an ebook file and marked it with an identifier unique to them before sending it to their email, Kindle, or let them download it directly in their browser.
  3. It’s alerted them that their review will be due soon. This happens two days before you plan to publish your book to ensure a high number of reviews on release day.
  4. On release day, it alerts them that it’s time to leave their review on the sites you’ve required (like Amazon) and asks for proof of review.
  5. If they don’t review within two days, it follows up again and reminds them that they still need to write their review.
  6. It assembles all of the reviewer’s information, their review, private feedback, and proof of review on other websites so you can easily verify it.

The best part is that it keeps track of everything between ARCs. Next time, you can take advantage of that data and handle reviewers appropriately. If you don’t want to keep sending ARCs to people that aren’t reviewing, simply block non-reviewers. Then, anyone who has reviews outstanding won’t be able to download any more ARCs until they catch up on their reviews.

It can even purge pirates from your ARC team. If you find your ARC uploaded on a file sharing website, simply download a copy and use it to report the user who originally downloaded it. We’ll identify and block them. Problem solved!

What benefit does Booksprout’s ARC Assistant have over InstaFreebie or Bookfunnel?

Bookfunnel and InstaFreebie are great at distributing free ebooks to your readers. However, that’s about as far as they go and you have to take over. If you want to ensure high review rates, you’re going to have to follow up with them and make sure they leave reviews. You’ll also need to purge non-reviewers them from your team.

All of that takes time, which you could reclaim with Booksprout’s ARC Assistant.

How can Booksprout improve newsletter conversion rates and give me better data about my subscribers?

As mentioned in the intro, when I first started as an author I offered readers their choice of free ebooks in exchange for their email address. This made both of us happy because I’d get some great data on which books were the most interesting to my active subscribers and they’d get whatever book they wanted.

Well, it did make both of us happy for a time. That was, until I woke up every day realizing that I’d have to individually email out 5 ebooks to new subscribers! After a while of doing this, I had to stop. It was interfering with my writing time in a serious fashion.

Fast forward to 2017, when I decided to automate that original idea. Authors can direct their readers to a landing page (such as this one) and they can choose whatever ebook they want after they hand over their email address (or follow me in the Booksprout app, but that’s optional).

That email address is then automatically sent to my email provider, whether it’s Mailchimp, MailerLite, Aweber, or any other.

Now, next time I’m looking for ideas on what type of book to write I can take a look at which books my subscribers are downloading the most. If I see that 50% of signups have downloaded book #2 in a specific series, then I know which type of story most of my list wants more of. As someone who writes in series, this is more beneficial than sales data because most of the people who’ve bought my books never enjoyed them enough to join my newsletter. It just makes more sense to write to the readers I already have access to.

I’ve used this strategy to increase my sales on launch day because my newsletter subscribers are my biggest audience. Knowing what they already like makes it a lot easier to position the right book in front of them and makes them more likely to pay for it.

Sending Mobile notifications

I don’t know about you, but whenever that incessant white light starts blinking on my tablet I gotta check it. It’s relentless and impossible to ignore. That’s the kind of thing I want backing me up when it’s time to notify my readers of a new book.

But, for whatever reason, technology for authors seems to take a while to catch up with the times. Mobile apps have been all the rage for years now, and on top of that most of our readers are using Kindles, tablets, or phones to read our books.

Despite those facts, there’s not been an easy way for us authors to reach them where they’re reading. Our options were limited:

  1. Pay a developer to build an app for us (most of us don’t have this kind of money)
  2. Build one ourselves (shouldn’t we be writing?)

That’s where the Booksprout app comes in. It’s free and anyone can start using it to send mobile notifications to their fans.

Personally, I use it in conjunction with my newsletter. I try to get readers to give me their email address AND follow me in Booksprout. That way, I can be twice as sure that they’ve heard about my latest release and I’m not missing out on sales.

On the first day after launch, I send out a newsletter blast. On the second day, I use Booksprout to alert readers of my book again. Doing this keeps my book in front of them for longer and increases the chance of them actually going out and buying it.

What’s it cost?

  • Free Plan – Everything is included in the free plan, but there are a few limitations: only 20 reviewers can participate in an ARC and you can only export 50 emails per month from the giveaways.
  • Pro Plan ($10/m) – It’s an upgrade from the free version, with 50 reviewers per ARC and the ability to export up to 150 emails per month. On top of that, all ebooks downloaded through our website are marked with an identifier unique to the reader who downloaded it. That’ll let us identify and block pirates from your ARC team.
  • Bestseller Plan ($20/m) – It’s completely unlimited. Absolutely everything is included and there are no limits whatsoever.

Conclusion

Whether you’re a big or small author, Booksprout can help you save time and increase the power of your book launches over time. I’m also quite active with authors who use the service already and make constant improvements so that it can better suit their needs. If you’d like to see any improvements or have any questions, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

If you want to give it a try, you can sign-up for a Booksprout account here.

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