My results from offering my novels for free
This post is the fifty-fourth post in a series about writing a novel. You can check out the list of past topics at the end of this post.
Last week, I wrote about offering your book for free as part of a promotion. I have done this numerous times and wanted to share my results with you. But be warned that your results may vary as every book is different and every promo has differing variables that will change the outcome.
Now with my first three books, I never enrolled in Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select.
(For a refresher – KDP Select is a program where you sell your e-book exclusively on Amazon. Through the program, you can either offer your book free for up to five days or offer it at a discount using their Kindle Countdown promotion. Your agreement with Amazon lasts 90 days, and then you can choose whether to renew your enrollment in the program or not. If you renew, you get to use one of the promotions again for that 90-day period.)
But I have offered these first three books for free on Smashwords. Typically, I reduced their price on Amazon while offering them free on Smashwords through their coupon program, which only apply to purchases on the Smashwords website.
When I have done these promotions, I have typically advertised these on my blog, my Facebook page and on Twitter. Because my reach on these avenues is limited, downloads of my free or reduced-price books have been low to non-existent. The good thing is that these promotions have cost me nothing.
KDP Select Free Promotions
I have used this program for my short story as well as my last two full length novels.
The Search is my short story. It came out in September of 2012. I enrolled it in KDP Select for the first 90 days, so I had 5 free days.
My first free promotion, done 11 days after The Search was released, resulted in 119 downloads. I did this on a Thursday and Friday with very little promotion.
For my second free promotion which ran Nov. 29 to Dec. 1 (Thursday to Saturday), I did a lot more promoting. About three weeks before my promotion, I submitted my free book information to 14 different websites and posted it to various Goodreads groups and the World Literary Café free boards. (The World Literary Café is no longer in business.)
I joined the tweet teams on World Literary Café and posted it on my blog, which meant my tribemates on Triberr all tweeted about it for me. And I was featured on two different blogs that were both run by some great people who promoted my free book on numerous Facebook pages as well as through their own Triberr/Twitter connections.
My additional promotion paid off. Over the three days, I had 928 downloads. During this time, my short story rose to #280 on the free book list and #2 on the Young Adult/Fantasy free list. Also right after the promotion ended, I sold 2 more copies of The Search and 18 copies of my other novels. (I had 2 out at this time.)
The Heir to Alexandria
The Heir to Alexandria came out in January 2015. Again, I only used KDP Select for the first 90 days, so I had just 5 free days.
I ran my first promotion on March 10-11, which was a Tuesday and Wednesday, days that I had heard would be good for a free book promotion. Again, I used my blog, Twitter and Facebook to announce my promotion. Putting it on my blog meant that my Tribber team helped spread the word. I also listed the promotion on the Independent Author Network and World Literary Café’s free book sections. Many other websites won’t list your free book if you don’t have the required amount of reviews (typically 20 or more 4 or 5 star reviews) so I didn’t have a lot of other options.
Over the two days, I had 76 downloads. Disappointing.
So for my second set of free days, I decided to purchase a few advertisements. I spent $15 ($5 a day) to appear on Digital Book Today’s website. I also applied to be on E-Reader News Today’s email and website. (They must approve you.) For only $15, I would be on Wednesday’s e-mail list and on their homepage. So in addition to these and my previous efforts, this time my free days would also happen during the A to Z challenge when my blog would be getting more traffic.
Here is the breakdown of my second set of free days…
April 21 – 234 books
April 22 (day of E-Reader News Ad) – 1769 books
April 23 – 737 books
Total free books – 2740
During the free promotion and the week after, I received three new reviews and sold five copies of The Search, two copies of Summoned (Book 1 of my trilogy), one copy of Quietus (Book 2 of my trilogy), and five copies of my trilogy box set.
During the free promo, I also rose in sales rank. The Heir to Alexandria got as high as 82 on Kindle’s top 100 free list. It also stayed at number 1 in Epic Fantasy for a whole day.
Blood Bond came out in February 2018. So far, I have kept this book in KDP Select for three rounds, using a free promotion my first 90 days and then Kindle Countdown for my second. I haven’t decided how I will use my third. (I’ll discuss Kindle Countdown and my results in a separate post.)
This time I decided to do all five days at one instead of doing two promotions. I was hoping on building momentum. As your sales rank rises, the visibility of your free book does too.
Based on my other experiences, I knew I needed some advertising – whether free or paid. I did my free promotion from April 25 to April 29 (Wednesday thru Sunday). I bought an ad on Digitalbooktoday.com and applied for one on E-reader News but was denied so I went with Indie Author News instead. I also filled out forms to have my book featured on as many other websites as I could. As the promotion ran, I also did a free Facebook promotion for the last day. (Facebook business was trying to entice me to use them and gave me a $30 credit.)
Over the five days, I had 781 downloads. After the success I had with The Heir to Alexandria, I found this number to be disappointing. I think the difference was the E-reader news ad. I did sell 5 books in April and 11 in May.
Remember if you choose to run your own free book promotion that your results will certainly differ from mine.
#45 – Pricing your e-book
#50 – Marketing your E-book