Independent authors know how difficult it can be to find readers who will enjoy your books. You can advertise to a thousand people (or more) and only find one person interested in your book. The search for readers who would connect to your work can be frustrating, even at the best of times. I try to remind myself, that even though there are authors that seem ubiquitous and universally loved, like Stephen King, in truth, they aren’t. While I really enjoy a lot of King’s works, most of my family has no interest – which makes me a little sad when we have family gatherings, because I really want to talk about the new adaptation of IT.
If even someone as well-known as Stephen King can’t get everyone to try his books, how am I, and independent author with a small fan base, going to reach new readers? It’s a conundrum that all indie authors face, and there are a plethora of services competing for the limited funds indie authors have with the promise of helping readers connect with authors. Enter Voracious Readers Only.
What is Voracious Readers Only? They bill themselves as a service to help authors get reviews. From the Voracious Readers Only Evergreen offer:
“With the Voracious Evergreen Offer, our newest subscribers will be offered a free copy of your book soon after they join the list (spots are first come, first served)… once they request a copy, we’ll forward you their name and email address so you can add them to your email list and then send them the book.”
Unlike Instafreebie, readers who sign up for Voracious Readers expect to get free copies of your books, much the way ARC readers would.
This is a simple surface look at what Voracious Readers does. Under the surface it’s more complex than just offering readers a free copy of your work and hoping for a review. VRO does a lot to try to encourage readers to give reviews. I signed up as a reader to see how it works.
First, you get emails daily with new books on offer. The instructions say don’t worry about taking all the books – wait for one you like then click. I signed up for three categories, and indeed, while I didn’t find all the books were my thing, I found a handful in the first week. You have to opt in to receive the book, it’s not automatically sent to you with the initial email – more on that in a bit.
After you opt in, a couple weeks later, you get an email asking if you got the book okay. Then, another couple of weeks goes by, and you get a reminder to leave a review, and a suggestion that if you enjoyed the book, one thing you can do to further support the author is spread the word about them to your friends, or better yet, buy a hard copy of the book and give it to someone.
Additionally, once you’ve been a member of the list and gotten a dozen book offers or so, you’re told the offers will slow down, because authors can’t give their books away to everyone (they have to make a living, too) and that if you want to get first pick of other free books, leave a review and reply with a link. You’ll then be included in the VIP program, which gives you even more choice in your free books.
As a reader, Voracious Readers is a great program. It keeps you in a lot of books all for leaving a few reviews. But how is it for an author?
When I first received the pitch, I was dubious. We all get these pitches sent to us out of the blue in our emails. “I noticed you’re an author! Would you like to give me money? I promise this will be the thing that kickstarts your career to the big time!”
The difference with Voracious Readers is the creator of the service offered a free sample. He said if I had a book I was willing to send out for free, he would send my offer to some of his subscribers and then return their names to me if they opted in.
I decided to give it a try, and sure enough, in a week I had about twenty names of people to send books to. I actually wasn’t thinking at this point about getting reviews. I thought it would be a good way to get my books into the hands of more readers. Additionally, these readers not only opt in to get your book, they agree to be added to your mailing list.
I signed up for the paid service within days of sending my first batch of names copies of my book.
No, it wasn’t because I got a flood of reviews, it was something else entirely. Reader engagement.
I’ve been signing up people to my mailing list for close to a year now. I’ve signed readers up through Instafreebie, BookFunnel, Facebook, the back of my books, my website and even through places like AuthorReach. I get a lot of sign ups when I offer something free, but many don’t even download the book.
Voracious Readers engagement is simply amazing. Here are the statistics of the first 150 readers I signed up:
81% open rates. 50% clicks. That’s crazy. I suppose there might be some people out there who say, “Oh, that’s alright,” but if you’re like me, you see those numbers and your eyes pop out of your head.
I think part of the magic of this service is how readers need to sign up to get your book. First, they sign up to VRO. Then they are sent a flurry of books. In order to see those books, they already have to be paying attention to things delivered to their email. Then they need to open the email they get from VRO and choose to take your book. That means that by the time they get to you, they have triple opted in. These are dedicated readers.
There’s something else I want to mention as well. While I do get people writing me from my list occasionally, the vast majority of the people signed up don’t interact with me. Maybe they are just readers looking for a good deal, or maybe, like me, they are a bit introverted and find reaching out to be stressful.
The readers from Voracious Readers, however, are not only engaged, they are excited to be on my list. Every five names or so that I send a copy of my book to, I get an email back asking to make sure they are on my main mailing list, too. I’ve also started receiving more feedback from readers since I’ve been in the Voracious Readers service. They send me notes about how much they love the book and are genuinely enthusiastic readers.
Right now some of you might be wondering if this is too good to be true, if these are bots or something. I like to source my readers as well, make sure everything is on the up and up, so I asked Larry Froncek, the creator of Voracious Readers, where he gets his readers from.
The list is built via a two-step process thru Facebook. First, I target people who have overlapping interests related to ebooks, goodreads, kindle, etc. with a post that appeals to people who read a book a week or more. Those who interact with that post become a target audience for the VRO pitch (see VoraciousReadersOnly.com) that introduces the concept of getting free books from authors in exchange for being added to their list and helping to promote their work. I also get referrals from readers to their friends who are big readers and also book club members.
In a sense, when you pay into VRO for their service, it’s like a communal facebook ad buy where all the authors who participate get the benefit of those who subscribe. It’s such a simple concept, I’m surprised nobody organized something like this before. If indie authors pooled their resources like this, they could, in effect, rival the big publishers for the attention of readers.
So, what was my personal result from VRO? In the two months since I signed up, I’ve had more than 300 people ask for my book. I have noticed an uptick in reviews and ratings, on Goodreads, Amazon, and even iTunes. And I have probably a dozen new superfans who have absolutely loved my books.
You can put a value on lots of things, but when you’re someone who creates for a living, there is nothing like positive reinforcement to keep you going. When the sales drop and you’re feeling down, an email from an excited reader can pick you right back up again. If you’re having those impostor syndrome feelings, it’s readers who tell you how much better you made them feel during their convalescence, or how you brightened an otherwise dreary week that make you feel like becoming a writer was a no-brainer. There is no price you can put on a feeling like that. Finding more readers who love your writing is priceless.
I’m so happy with the service, I plan to add a second book to the listings. And, when my next book is ready to go, I think I’ll add it to VRO to supplement my own ARC readers. As a reader, I’d also strongly recommend the service. It’s a great way to get free books and support authors.