Book Swag – promoting full-price books for free

Scott MullinsYour blogger interviews Scott Mullins, co-founder of Book-Swag.com a new web-site which offers free promotion for full-price books.
Why are you launching the site?
I’m launching the site to see if there’s a way for writers to promote their books without having to pay out some big fee. Most writers don’t have the money to simply try out different forms of book promotion and more often than not they don’t have the time to do the vast amount of free promotional stuff, like social media, guest posting etc..
Also a lot of promotional sites require you to discount your book, but as the people working on Book-swag are writers ourselves we feel that this is disrespectful to authors. They’ve spent all this time writing, rewriting, editing, getting the book formatted, a cover designed. Why should they discount their book to ninety-nine cents? You wouldn’t ask that in other professions, so why do we ask that of authors?
As the site is free for readers to sign up and receive information on book recommendations and deals, and it’s free for the author to promote their books – http://www.book-swag.com/submit-your-book/ – the site will make its money through affiliate links with Amazon. For every book sold, as an affiliate, the site gets a percentage of Amazon’s commission. This way we can help authors without having to charge them a fee and they don’t lose any money on the sales because it comes from Amazon’s commission.
What is your business model?
At the moment we’re a small team of friends all working for free, we’re doing this out of our own time. We launch on the 1st July but any money we make will be pumped back into the site – hosting, email accounts, paying for coding, advertising etc). We’re giving it six months to see if the website book-swag.com 1200 x 628can become something that is self-funding while providing great results for the authors featured. After that, if the site is paying for itself, we will review everything. If it’s making money ninety percent of that will go back into the site and ten percent will be split across the team members to help compensate them for their time. 
How will you control the quality of the books which you promote – often sites have minimum requirements e.g. number of on-line reviews or star rating?
We start with the submission page – http://www.book-swag.com/submit-your-book/ – and from the information the author has submitted we try to get a sense for the author (do they have a decent website, social media presence etc). I and the other people who work on the site will look at reviews and comments on Amazon to get a sense of what the current readers think of the book, we also do a search for other online reviews and comments on Goodreads. After the initial submission, we reach out to the authors to get a sample chapter and check the quality of the writing and if it’s something we like. It goes a little on gut feel too, if we feel the author isn’t suited then it will simply be a ‘No thanks.’. 
How do you plan to promote the new site?
At the moment, we’re doing a pretty heavy outreach campaign within the writing, reading and publishing community. Asking them to get the word out any way they can, guest posts, back-links, social media shoutouts, hitting up their email lists. We’re trying to get on sites like Buzzfeed – https://www.buzzfeed.com/scottthewriter/27-websites-to-help-you-find-your-next-great-read-2e1d8– and anywhere else we can. We’re doing a bit of social media marketing, but as we’re a small team we’re finding this quite time-consuming.  A few weeks out from the launch we’ll be looking into spending about $1000 in advertising – Google AdWords, Big Writing Sites etc.
After that, we’ll be asking each author who is featured on the site to put a back-link on their site to ours and promote it to their audience. This way it’s a bit of a promotional ecosystem we help them get their book to readers and they also help potential readers find our site. And when I get the time I’ll be doing some outreach through press releases to news websites and writing magazines.
What’s your background?  Is this your first foray into online promotion?
This is writing bannerI’m a writer myself but haven’t written anything that I’ve attempted to publish as of yet. I spend my days working as a freelance writer and building websites for companies. Previously I created a site call thisiswriting.com  which started out as a personal site, then I started interviewing authors I had met online and it grew into multiple author interviews, guest posts, writing and publishing tips and other content about the writing world. The book-swag.com 540 x 810site gets around 5000 visits a month and I offer free book marketing through that site. People can check that out here – http://thisiswriting.com/free-book-marketing/
Anything else you want to tell people?
I think I’ve rambled on long enough, but I’d love for people to help us support authors by letting everyone know about the site, whether it’s friends, their family or a random stranger on the street.Every little bit is helping us get the word out about book-swag.com   
Thanks to Scott for the interview. I will certainly be using Book-swag to promote ‘Reconquista‘ and ‘The Village‘.