What a publishing brand learned about audience engagement
How do we get a customer to return time and time again, especially following a significant investment in advertising to attract them in the first place? How is it possible to captivate a reader with your story/messaging in such a way so that they fear missing out if they don’t keep reading and returning for more? These are difficult questions, indeed. Let us take this to another level. What if you were to be executed if you failed to truly captivate that reader? However, when you have no room for error, the most difficult tasks often bring up the most effective solutions.
And it was an imminent death peril that led to creating the ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ story in the first place. For those who need a reminder of the story, let me refresh your memory.
The medieval shah created a bloody amusement for himself. After spending a night with his next lover, he had her executed the following morning. One of those lovers, Scheherazade, did not try to please the shah. Instead, she told him an interesting story. By the time the sun rose, the story had not been completed, so the shah had to spare Scheherazade’s life for one more day so that he could hear the next instalment of the story the following night. And so it went for 1001 nights until the shah married Scheherazade.
So, what was it that kept the shah waiting for the story to continue each night? It was that the story was yet to be completed, there was anticipation and intrigue, a longing for continuation and to find out what happened next.
How do we read books we find interesting? For one evening, two, or three. Usually, we find time to read in between other tasks. We make time for the book. Some people read until late into the night, desperate to get to the end to find out what happens, knowing they will wake the next morning feeling exhausted. But what if a story were available in parts to be read bit by bit? What if a complete book had not existed anywhere yet, and we were unable to truly know the identity of the murderer or how the massive plot twist would play out. It is this question of how to successfully encourage readers to return to a book that led us to the idea of selling ebooks via the ‘Bookscription’ model.
Booknet is a global self-publishing, literary social media network with 150,000 unique visitors to the website daily. We know this bite-sized way of publishing books, engaging readers and earning through writing works following our experiences in Latin America and Eastern Europe. Our original Russian division sold 15 million books in 2021 before being sold following the invasion of Ukraine by Putin. So, how exactly does it work?
Services where authors publish their ebooks in parts, usually uploading each new episode right after it is written, have been online for a long time. These services are very popular among readers, who like interacting with an author through comments and observing the process of a book creation.
However, as soon as the author becomes popular, with a loyal readership, they naturally want to start making a living through their writing. They usually either go in search of a literary agent, publisher, or self-publish on the likes of Amazon. This is the exact moment that author loses a significant part of their audience – a dedicated group of people who were happy with the way things were working!
For these authors and readers alike we created our ‘Bookscription’ book-selling model, which makes it possible only for those who had paid for that ebook to access each subsequent episode published by the author. The price for such a Bookscription, set by the author, is usually close to the price they would set for a complete version of that same ebook. That makes the reader very much like that shah, paying for an opportunity to receive regularly story updates from authors of your choice. This is the main feature of our literary service that distinguishes Booknet from dozens of other literary services provided for authors.
In our model, it is important to consider how regularly and for how long an author continues to publish an ebook. The optimal period of time, based on our experience, is two to three months, particularly for a mass-market, genre fiction book (Romance, Fantasy, etc.). What is fascinating is that an ebook can attract more buyers within the first two or three months on sale (via the Bookscription model) than it does within a year or two of being sold as a complete ebook.
And our experience shows that readers are willing to purchase an ebook that is published in installments more than the finished, full book. A good example is the record-breaking author on Booknet’s Spanish-language version, where the author sold 10,425 copies during the first 24 hours of sales via the Bookscription model.
Publishers should note that an incomplete story is a great opportunity for a reader to comment and discuss the content actively, and we’ve seen readers come back time and time again, at their convenience, to continue reading.
When it comes to newspaper and magazine publishers, a comparable feature would be opinion pieces that are often eagerly anticipated by readers. An opinion piece by a certain journalist/writer/celebrity can become a brand in itself, which incentivizes readers to purchase future editions. This is exactly how parts/chapters of fiction novels were published in the press in the 19th and 20th centuries. Perhaps, we should think about bringing back such a publication method yet again (and it may not be limited to fiction only)?
Almost all Booknet authors choose to sell their ebooks via Bookscription first, and then, within two or three months, as a complete ebook, rather than as a complete ebook right from the start – which of course is what traditional publishing has always done.
Naturally, the author’s ability to craft a captivating story in a way that keeps readers longing for each upcoming episode is crucial. Otherwise, readers may simply stop following the ebook, and there’s only a slim possibility that they may still finish their reading once the ebook is complete. In the case of Scheherazade, such failure to keep their ‘reader’s’ attention meant certain death. However, in the case of a Booknet author, it just may be more difficult to sell the next story.
And popular, commercial genres such as romantic fiction will always be successful – regardless of where the reader lives. Such a distribution model holds no influence over an audience’s genre preferences one way or another. If Latin American readers favor love stories and romance, they are certain to read books by authors in that genre. In fact, romantic fiction is a hot genre in almost every territory, and writers around the world are happy to cater to its many readers!
Booknet is an online literary platform where you can read books online and download books for free, as well as buy books of your favorite literary genres. Authors and rising talents regularly update our free library of electronic books with their new stories. Teen fiction resides side by side with romance along with mystery stories, science fiction, contemporary fiction, and thrillers.