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Indie Author Rising: Bookfunnel vs StoryOrigin

The two primary services for delivering Advanced Reader Copies, newsletter promotions, and reviews services for authors are BookFunnel and StoryOrigin. I have benefited from both services, but I definitely prefer one over the other. At this time, I’m using both, but this is by no means an exhaustive review of either service. As a writer, you will need to dive into these services for yourself.

Bookfunnel vs StoryOrigin: Price

StoryOrigin is free. No matter what else we say about this service, it is essential to note the incredible value authors are getting at this point. The creator is a programmer who is doing all the work himself, and he’s worked hard to design this platform. Of course, at some point, he will put a price on the service. Still, at this time, StoryOrigin is an excellent way to get your feet wet with platforms that allow authors to do newsletter swaps.

Bookfunnel has a few plans to choose from, and if your budget is tight, the twenty-dollar plan will get you started. Unfortunately, the twenty dollar plan does not grant you access to the best things about Bookfunnel. The secure ARC delivery and email collection are two of my favorite items, so go for the one hundred dollar plan as soon as you can.

The Importance of Having An Email List

Why use either one of these services? With social media and all the ways to connect with people, why have an email list? This is a question I hear often, and to be perfectly honest, I asked myself the same question. I quickly learned why a mailing list was crucial.

I started off with six people on my mailing list last year and knew that growing my list was paramount. I spent some time reading posts in writing groups on Facebook and took the advice of those that had come before me-newsletter promotions were one way to grow your list. Of course, there is a point where people will get tired of signing up for different newsletters because they clog up email inboxes, but readers want to receive information from writers that they enjoy reading. For example, I receive newsletters from several authors I discovered through newsletter promotions. Yes, I scroll through the authors’ list in the promotions I participate in and see if I fancy anything. Since I love mysteries, I will inevitably find a few books I enjoy. Like any other reader, I become interested in what the author has to say when they release new books, and I buy the next book they put out. I think this is something to think about before completely discounting newsletter promotions. Think about your own habits. Do you like free stuff? How about a good story? Are you willing to receive an occasional email with information that may help you enjoy more stories and get more freebies? Probably not, so don’t neglect this manner of building your email list.

Introverted folks won’t be thrilled about the idea of reaching out to strangers, but there are ways to make this less painful. One strategy that reduces the amount of unsubscribes is including a gift. Now, this gift doesn’t have to be tons of free books. Get creative. One of the ways to keep your newsletter stocked with freebies is to join newsletter promotions. Very few readers out there are like, “Um, I only read this one and only author.” Don’t be afraid to support other indie authors and provide additional reading material for your readers by sharing information about other books or pointing them in the direction of free books.

Bookfunnel vs StorOrigin: Certified Mail

I joined Bookfunnel for the newsletter promotions and certified mail. The certified mail makes it very easy to send out Advanced Reader copies of books to your Advanced Reader Team. After they download the copy, that’s it. You can also set a time limit, after which time the link is no longer active. This cuts down on the pirating of your book. I don’t worry much about pirating, but it’s nice to have a little security. For example, I give my ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) team two weeks to download. If they can’t get to it within that time, that’s fine. There’s no penalty or anything like that. My perspective is that they’re doing me a favor. If they read the book and review it, great! If not, well, the file will only be available for two weeks, and then it just dies in their inbox.

From what I can see, StoryOrigin doesn’t have this capability of sending certified mail to readers. You can upload your book for readers to review. Still, since StoryOrigin does not maintain a mailing list(I’m not sure if Bookfunnel does or not), I don’t know how well that service works. I have no idea how many readers are registered with the platform, but it makes me wonder where the reviewers are coming from. I did upload a book to Bookfunnel for reviews, last year and there have been zero downloads to date. I haven’t uploaded any novels for that purpose on StoryOrigin because I’ve learned that an ARC team is the best way to get reviews. But, for those who want to set up review copies on StoryOrigin for readers to find, here are a few curious things I found.

When you set up review copies on StoryOrigin, you’re asked if you want readers to download from Amazon using a pre-paid link or StoryOrigin’s site. I thought I would set up my perma-free novel for reviews on StoryOrigin. I figure it can’t hurt to have the book in all possible places for reviews. When I tried to list it, a box popped up and asked me to confirm that the book was NOT free on Amazon. I don’t know why that matters, but my guess is that you can’t direct readers to your perma-free copies on Amazon through  StoryOrigin.  This is interesting because if your book is perma-free on Amazon, you can list it to other places. Taking the reader to the very place where they will leave the review is a good idea. The only time this might be a problem is if you’re in Kindle Select because the downloads would move you up in the very competitive ranks of KU, and you would get page reads. Obviously, setting up a link for a book in KU for reviewers is a bit disingenuous, and I understand why StoryOrigin is making it clear that this is not allowed. The site explains that they are reading Amazon’s terms of use in the strictest sense, and that’s why you must purchase pre-paid links from Amazon if you want to direct reviewers to your book on Amazon. With that said, there doesn’t seem to be anything about perma-free books, which are free books that are not part of Kindle Select.

My understanding is that StoryOrigin is banking on the fact that the vast majority of authors are in Kindle Select. To be clear, you can still upload your book to StoryOrigin for reviews. You just have to use their platform to do so. I don’t mind doing that, but this practice can lead to piracy. Of course, that can happen no matter what, but uploading books for strangers to claim, read, and review doesn’t work very well for other reasons. For example, it probably will just languish there. StoryOrigin is not a review site, so readers are not coming there to strictly for review copies of books. 

Bookfunnel vs StoryOrigin: Newsletter Promotions

In my experience, the quality of newsletter promotions on Bookfunnel is relatively high. The instructions are clear and easy to understand. Because of the level of detail the promoters provide, you get an idea of whether or not the promotion is a good fit. Some organizers want you to have several shares immediately. In contrast, others ask that you simply share in your newsletter and on social media. A tracking link is provided to keep up with the number of shares you’ve provided. The dashboard on Bookfunnel is neat and easy to read. It keeps you well informed on how many times you’ve shared the link, how many times your book has been downloaded, the dates the promotion run, and the dates you’ve promised to share the link.

I’ve done a Newsletter sales promotion through Bookfunnel, but I didn’t find that productive. I did have a few sales, but I think it’s better to focus on the read magnet newsletter promotions. Remember, sales are great, but if you’re building a business, give yourself a two to five-year window to see profitability. In the meantime, what do you need to create a sustainable business? Acquire repeat readers. A reader magnet doesn’t have to be a book, but if you are going to use newsletter promotions to build your mailing list, you’re going to need a book. Some promotions will allow you to use an excerpt or short stories, but a great deal will require a full-length free novel.

StoryOrigin promotions are also good, but there are a few quirks. For example, the tracking link is a bit of a pain. When you’re accepted into a promotion, StoryOrigin sends you a tracking link. Unfortunately, that link will only record your click. Here’s what happens. You get the email, you want to make sure the link works, so you click it. You arrive on the promo page. Perfect. Everything works. You go back to your email or the StoryOrigin page, copy the short link, and start sharing. I usually create a Facebook post and boost it for ten bucks and attach my Facebook pixel, so I know that people are clicking the link. Still, the tracking link isn’t recording the clicks. I learned the hard way that the short link doesn’t record links. One this particular promotion, I had to grab an image because the art at the top of the promotion didn’t pop up when I shared either link. Instead, the StoryOrigin page shows up, which doesn’t really make readers want to dive in.

Bookfunnel does a nice job of alerting you when you have new subscribers to import. I’m not sure what happens on StoryOrigin in terms of subscriber importation. My mail service is integrated, but you don’t get a notification or anything like that when people sign up. Instead, you have to go to your author dashboard in StoryOrigin and check. Because I didn’t get any information beyond that, I just downloaded the CSV and uploaded it manually. Well, some of the new subscribers were already on the list. I thought maybe they had subscribed at another time, but that wasn’t the case. They actually had been imported, I suppose, by StoryOrigin. That’s the only explanation I can think of.

Bookfunnel vs StoryOrigin: Reputations and Newsletter Stats

Both services offer good support when it comes to informing authors about their peer’s email newsletters’ open rates. StoryOrigin shows the size of your list and the open and click rates. The stats are easy to find. They help writers decide whether or not they want to join a specific newsletter promo. There are also newsletter swamps between authors. For example, a gentleman requested a swamp for next weekend. I agreed because our lists are similar, and we write in the same genre.

Bookfunnel has reputations for authors. This is a snapshot of how someone behaves during a promotion. For example, if they only shared their tracking link once, they aren’t going to have a great reputation, and you might not accept them into your promo. There will always be people who make excuses and simply don’t pull their weight. It’s nice to know who they are beforehand.

More on Bookfunnel

Bookfunnel is worth the money, but if you can’t afford it, go with StoryOrigin for now. Eventually, you’ll have to pay for that as well, but both services are worth a fee. If you’d like to hear a more in-depth examination of Bookfunnel, Paul Teague did a deep dive on his podcast: 10 Things You Need To Know About Bookfunnel.

Until next time, happy writing!

Cheers!

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