James Patterson Book Shots, Sachet Marketing and the Perils of the Look Inside Feature.

DeadHeat

I follow James Patterson with interest – not so much for the reading as for the presentation and innovation.

Patterson didn’t get to be the world’s biggest-selling author – bigger than Rowling –by hiding his books away from public view and sticking to safe bet formats.

His latest Book Shots project – titles of approx. 150 pages written for the new world of mobile consumers – is designed to chase reluctant readers for whom a full length title of 300 or 500 pages is a daunting prospect.

Stories at the speed of life, as they are cleverly branded.

But he takes that one step further still with his Dead Heat Book Shot, which with perfect timing is set in the Rio 2016 Olympics and released to coincide. And this is a 150 page standard Book Shot delivered in four parts, of just 35-40 pages each, and in the UK retailing at just 49p (a full Book Shot retails at £1.99 GBP).

Whatever we may think of the actual writing, we have to admire the packaging, marketing and timing.

Yes, we can all find things to complain about in the storylines, but Patterson isn’t pretending to be Shakespeare.

Patterson is writing for the twenty-first century mass-consumer that wants reading entertainment they can slot between the rest of their busy lives. Entertainment that can compete with binge-video streaming, music and games, or can be read while multi-tasking in the supermarket queue or waiting for the kids to come out of school.

Patterson – far more so than Rowling – is at the top of his game. His main focus is crime thrillers and mysteries – my preferred genres – so I’ll be buying all the Book Shots over the next few months and reading them not for entertainment (I like Patterson’s tabloid style, but not that much!) but to analyse as a fellow author and work out what it is that keeps Patterson so far ahead of his nearest competitors, year in, year out.

Serialising his short books like this is one great way of reaching new readers, adding new discovery points and standing out from the crowd. Just a shame that the Look Inside feature on Amazon stops before the actual story starts.

Serialising our self-published works came in for some bad press thanks to some indies trying to scam KU by chopping up larger books to gain the pot payout, but in principle serialising our work – not just new titles but existing works – is a great way of reaching new readers.

Why?

• we can keep down our up-front risk cost to the reader down – 49p is less of a risk than £1.99 to get started on the new Patterson four part series, and if we do like it we don’t pay more for buying the rest afterwards.
• if we are serialising old works then there is no delay for readers who do like the first to get the next. It’s just a click away.
• Patterson’s Book Shot in full is just one more title in his portfolio. Just one more discover point. By chopping into four and offering four separate parts or an option to buy the book in full Patterson adds five discover points. Five more chances of a reader coming across his works and getting hooked.
• it needn’t cost us a fortune in extra bespoke covers. Patterson uses the same cover for all four titles, just the edition number changes. And we can see, the volume number is big and bold to make sure it stands out on the thumbnail images.

Which is one lesson I’ve learned from Patterson’s Book Shots already.

For my Sherlock For Kids and Easy-English Sherlock series I use the same base cover design for maximum branding, but the thumbnails do need close inspection to see what is what. So I’ll be looking at some sort of additional cover feature to differentiate the covers in thumbnail viewing mode.

At a broader level I already have my flagship title Sugar & Spice available as a full book or in three parts, with the first free courtesy of StreetLib (the only way to get indie titles into Amazon at $0.00 without being price-matched or in Select). And I’m looking to extend that experiment to other titles.

Next year I’ll be starting on my full-length Classics For Kids titles, with a re-telling of the Sherlock full length titles, some Shakespeare titles and an easy-read version of my favourite Austen novel, Pride & Prejudice, releasing those as serialised parts.

Beyond that there are distributors who specialise in sachet-marketing for the mobile reader.

Juggernaut in India, Pigeonhole in the UK and Germany, and Tapas in the US immediately spring to mind.

I know one IIA Group member already has some titles on Tapas, and when the time is right hopefully will come along and share the experience. I almost signed up with Tapas earlier this year, but real-life got in the way. I’ll be trying again soon.

Going wide is about much more than just being in as many retailer as possible. It’s about making our products appeal to as many people as possible.

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This post first appeared in the International Indie Author Facebook Group.

Click HERE to see the original post and join the IIA Group, your guide to going global.

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