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Using "Challenges" for a Book Launch

I've been trying to think of better ways to launch my books, aside from the usual blog tour. So when I came across the idea of email "challenge" marketing, I was intrigued.

Basically, you set up a short, 5-day email course on a topic that relates to your product or service, sprinkle it with promos, and finish off with a final promo email.

Since I was using this to market my latest witch-themed, cozy mystery novel, I opted to create a free 5-Day Kitchen Witchery challenge.

Kitchen Witch Challenge

My goals for the challenge were twofold. First, to promote my Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery series. Second, to get new email subscribers (by signing up for the challenge, people joined my mailing list).

Challenge Design

I based the marketing and general "design" of the course on the case study by Zach Spuckler (at the bottom of his case there's also a free workbook, which was extremely helpful). However, I decided not to create a special Facebook group for the course, because I just didn't have the bandwidth to manage it.

Each email included a "lecture" in the body of the email plus a short (under 15-minute) challenge task and a link to a downloadable handout which I designed on Canva. My theory for the course "agenda" was based on three principles:

1) Each task in the body of the email should be super-easy to complete, giving the participant a quick win.

2) Lots of white space and short paragraphs, making even longer emails easy to read.

3) Putting the detail and "extras" in the downloads, so participants could save more complex tasks for later and didn't feel bogged down by the challenge.

Even though this was a 5-day course, it included a total of seven emails. First, a welcome email the participant received immediately on signing up. Then five days of lessons, followed by a "round-up" email, summarizing the course and pitching my Doyle Witch cozy mysteries.

Marketing the Challenge

First, I developed a landing page for the course itself, focusing on the benefits. Most web marketing focuses on how the product or service can solve a client's problems. But fiction writers aren't solving problems, we're fulfilling desires. I decided to focus on the desire to bring more magic into one's life and fun into the kitchen.

For the promotions, I used a 3-pronged approach of paid ads, promoting to my email list, and using "free" social media.

As you might imagine, Facebook was the biggest stressor. Nothing against Facebook, they actually have a fairly easy-to-use ad platform. But I didn't know what I was doing with my Facebook ad. I kept the spend to $5/day and targeted female cozy mystery writers over 32. Facebook predicted that left a net of over 400,000 people, which seemed big enough for me. I set the ads so that I only paid when people clicked through. The first 24 hours the ad ran, 914 people saw it, 18 people clicked at a cost of .29 cents per click.

Here's the ad:

Free Kitchen Witch Course

I also promoted for free on Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook. (Some day I'll figure out Instagram, but this wasn't one of those days). Tumblr is a younger crowd, but I'd like to expand to younger readers with this series, and those posts got a surprising amount of likes and reblogs. Pinterest is the new Google, and Facebook seems to be where a heavy amount of my reading audience hang out. Twitter, honestly, is more habit than anything else. Does it sell books? No idea.

And finally, I put promotions for the challenge (with links) in all the Doyle Witch books. Those obviously didn't pay any dividends prior to the book launch, but I expect they will later.


In the week of the ad promo, I got 177 Facebook clicks and spent $33. From this I got 38 new subscribers out of a total of 110 signups. I'm going to guess that some of those 38 came from my other social media outlets.

Most signups came from my existing email list, which is fine. I want to continue to offer fun content for my readers. This is a gross estimate, but I figure I probably spent $1/new subscriber on Facebook ads, if not a bit more. That's not out of bounds for Facebook advertising.

So, not a screaming success, but considering my half-assed marketing, I'm not going to call it a failure either.

What's Next?

A more dedicated marketer would experiment with different Facebook ads to see which resulted in more clicks and conversions, but my Doyle Witch book launch is done. I'm happy now to just let the 5-day challenge run as a way to connect with readers of the Doyle series and collect more emails.

I do plan on running another "challenge" next year for my Perfectly Proper Paranormal Museum series, and I don't think I'll use Facebook ads.

However, I will make at least one change to the emails within my next challenge. In my original challenge, I did NOT mention the book series or include clickable links to more info about the series in each email. Instead, I kept the promos to the last two emails in the series. Next time I create a challenge, I will include a book image with links at the bottom of each email.

Any ideas to market these free courses more effectively?

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