When ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ was published in September, I took the decision not to do any serious promotion. There were several reasons for that, not least the fact that I hadn’t got a clue what I was doing, so very likely I would be wasting both time and money. But the main reason was the received wisdom that promotion is pointless until you have at least three books out. Why promote a single book, the thinking goes, when you can’t offer an enthusiastic reader anything else? Once you have three, preferably in a series, then promoting book 1 leads to increased sales on books 2 and 3.
But I’d decided to enroll with KDP Select (it seemed easier to stick to Amazon until I had a better grasp on this publishing lark), so I had free days to use. And I’ve been active on Goodreads for years, so a giveaway there seemed a good idea.
Goodreads Giveaway 16th Sep-26th Oct
The purpose of a Goodreads giveaway is not, in fact, to give away oodles of books, hoping for people to read, rate and review. Since the only product that can be given away is the print version of the book, that naturally limits the scope of the prize (LibraryThing is the place for ebook giveaways). Publishers with big marketing budgets can afford to give away ten or twenty books, but self-publishers will probably want to limit themselves to one or two. What you hope, however, is that a lot of people will sign up for a chance to win the book, and along the way will notice it, add it to their shelves and (if you’re lucky) buy it. It attracts attention to the book.
The biggest signups are at the beginning (when the book appears on a list of new giveaways), and at the end (when it shows up on the ending soon list). I had almost 60 signups on day 1, then around 5-10 a day until the last few days, when numbers skyrocketed. Eventually 1,632 people entered the giveaway, with 264 on the final day alone. However, I discovered that the giveaway ended the moment the calendar ticked over to the last day (26th). I’d expected it to run right through 26th, giving Sunday browsers a chance to enter, and I could pop the winning copies in the post first thing Monday. I shall know for next time.
Was it worth while? For getting the book noticed, certainly. Over 800 people added the book to their to-read shelf. However, it’s only produced 8 additional ratings and no extra reviews. It’s hard to know how many people actually bought the book as a result. It was priced at $0.99 for most of the time, and free for the last day, so I’m sure a few picked it up, but there was no obvious spike in sales. Taking postage and packing into account, it’s probably cost me less than $30, which is not a lot for the number of people who now know the book exists.
KDP Select Free Days 25th/26th Oct
I chose the weekend of 25th/26th October for my first 2 free days to coincide with the end of the Goodreads giveaway. I paid $20 for a Bknights promotion on 25th, and the book was also mentioned on various lists, Tweets and websites which trawl Amazon looking for new free books. I advertised the free days on my blog, on Twitter, on Google+ and on Wattpad. I’m not a big Facebooker, so I didn’t post there.
The price drops to free at midnight Pacific time, or 8am UK time, so naturally downloads were slow to start with – just a few copies in Europe. Things started to pick up around 8am Pacific time, and then increased dramatically around 10am Pacific with around 120 downloads in the following 2 hours. This is around the time of the Bknights promo, so although Kallanash was placed well down the list, it was clearly very effective.
After that downloads dropped off slightly (yes, I checked every hour!), but the overall results were better than I expected:
Day 1: 532 downloads
Day 2: 252 downloads
Total: 784 downloads
Most (689 or 88%) were from the US, but there were 45 from Germany, 39 from the UK, 10 from Canada and 1 from Italy (Ciao e grazie, persone d’Italia!).
Most entertaining of all, the pace of downloads on day 1 weaseled me into the free bestseller charts, peaking at #401, and reaching #7 in the free Sword and Sorcery sub-chart, and #8 in the Epic Fantasy sub-chart. Which was all great fun to watch (and take screenshots of), but of course it doesn’t mean anything. Free downloads don’t affect normal sales rank at all, and only drive sales if they number in the thousands. The only thing that’s changed is that 784 extra people now have a copy of the book stuffed into a dusty corner of their Kindle. And maybe one or two of them will read it. Eventually.