Story Cartel Just Doesn’t Add Up for Me

Story CartelShort version: unless greater benefits roll in over time, I didn’t get anything from Story Cartel which I couldn’t have done just as well myself, without spending $25.

Update: maybe it was me —> Read more

Big Ol’ Nonsense Alert

Stop the presses and hold everything. Fellow writer Libi Astaire pointed out a line in the drawing rules I’d missed:

Every reader who downloads a book gets one entry.

They are rewarded for downloading your book, whether or not they have any intent on reading it, any interest whatsoever.

This violates my primary principle of free: it is not a price, it is a strategy.

“Here, download this” is not a strategy.

The founders of Story Cartel are authors. And they may be good at marketing their service. But they have a long way to go to be good at marketing our books for us.

Long version:

Your genre or network may deliver completely different outcomes, so this isn’t a sweeping condemnation of the tool. It does what it claims to do. My book was exposed to a wider audience, and I got reviews. It just didn’t add enough value to offset the cost.

During the experiment, I got two 4-star reviews from Story Cartel readers. In the same time period I got two 4-star reviews plus one 5-star review from my own network.

Some folks responded to my email to the 23 addresses Story Cartel provided. At least a dozen, more than half, didn’t participate in any manner beyond downloading the book. No review, no response to my two emails, nothing.

One old friend tried to download, couldn’t sort it out, and bought a print version instead. There’s a sale which may have been triggered by Story Cartel, but was consummated because he’s been a friend for 20 years. (I offered him a free copy, but he graciously wanted to reward me for my effort.)

The page for the book disappears after the giveaway, so there’s no long-term benefit to having it.

If the one Story Cartel reviewer really does read my other books, from a purely ROI perspective, they’ll have to buy (or be directly responsible for recommendations turning into sales) of at least a dozen books to reach break even point. That’s math, not real marketing. The impact could be far greater than the money I spent.

I re-read Story Cartel’s FAQ and sorted out the drawing/prize/entry thing I was confused about. Each month, they give away, erm, stuff. Books, Kindles, other things not clearly spelled out anywhere I could find. Some quick math tells me any individual review has far less than 1% chance of winning anything. With the small chance of winning and the vagueness of the offering, it’s not likely quality fans are lining up to leave reviews based on that.

What Will I Do, Then?

If I’m not using Story Cartel, what will I be doing?

I’ll be using their method, just not paying them for the privilege of using their tools. Give away some copies to people who’ll promise to write an honest review. Not a challenging concept.

I already have a website, so paying them for a download page for my book makes little sense. And I can gather and track much better data on my own than what they provided. I’ll also be directly engaging with folks who know me and care about my books.

There may be some residual benefit from the exposure, those other downloads, and if so, I’ll point it out — if I can see it and measure it. One challenge of marketing is that if you can’t source the return, you can’t tie it to the investment.

We’re pondering another experiment to get reviews. I do believe in reviews, honest reviews from real readers, and it’s worth giving away a few more copies to get them.

But Story Cartel didn’t add enough value to convince me to go that route again.

12 thoughts on “Story Cartel Just Doesn’t Add Up for Me

  1. Interesting. Thanx for the input. I posted my book ‘Treasure of the Mayan King’ on GoodReads for FREE and I received 31 reviews. I have 50 reviews on Amazon so far, the first five were from people I knew and the rest just flew in…..again posting it was FREE. So I have a total of about 81 reviews.

    Each book and each author will experience things differently…I get it…but your conclusion is basically what works.

    As I mentioned on your previous blog, it shouldn’t be impossible for an author to find FIVE people to give you FIVE reviews so your book can qualify to get on other Websites that promote your book for FREE.

    At this point…you may have noticed how many times I used the word FREE. And I believe that is the key! If you are going to invest any money, invest it on a sure thing. I paid $6.00 for the paperback copies I sent to my readers. But I was practically guaranteed a review.

  2. Here is how it works:
    One book to your wife (or mother)
    One book to a best friend
    One book to an acquaintance
    One book to a customer (who likes you)
    One book to a fellow author

    What is so magical about the number five??? That is the minimum number of reviews required to post your book on other sources.

    If you can’ find at least FIVE people in your life….well I don’t know what else to say.

  3. Hey, while you’re here, why not give us a list of the places you’re posting your book that require 5 reviews.

    I want that list, and I’ll bet our fellow authors here want it too.

  4. Yes, good point…and for $9.99 plus shipping and handling….LOL, just kidding….let me ask my co-author…check back later.

  5. What really got me about Story Cartel is that they took your posting down rather quickly. That’s disingenuous of them. Remember, we are talking about ‘electronic bookshelves’ here, so they wouldn’t get like…full right??

  6. Okay you authors…try this..get 5 reviews and post it on ‘Addicted To E-Books’. Let me know how that works for you.

  7. It’s part of their process, and one of the limited benefits of the service is that while your book is live it isn’t buried among a million books that can no longer be downloaded. After all, if it’s not free anymore, why leave it live at a free book site?

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