With ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ nearing the end of its first 90-day run in Amazon’s KDP Select, I had three more free days to use up. I chose Wed to Fri 3rd/4th/5th December for no good reason, other than I’d picked a weekend last time, and it seemed a good idea to try something different.
The first 2 free days, back in October, were a modest success, with almost 800 downloads with only one paid promotion site (Bknights, $20), although resulting in no additional sales or reviews. This time, I thought I would experiment by paying a little more to promotion sites, and see if the combined effect helps. Each promotion site features the book on a combination of bulk emails to subscribers, websites and Facebook pages, Twitter accounts and so on. My expectations weren’t high; I hoped for 2,000 downloads overall.
Here’s what I booked:
Day 1: BKnights ($20), BookButterfly ($35)
Day 2: Genre Pulse ($30), PixelScroll ($15)
Day 3: PixelScroll (free extra day), Ereader News Today (ENT) ($15)
Total cost: $115
Day 1: 1,041
Day 2: 731
Day 3: 2,650
Wow, that worked well! All the promotions produced noticeable bumps in downloads when the email went out or the website ad went live, but Bknights and ENT were particularly impressive and long-lasting. Day 3 was also helped by the fact that the book was picked up for promotion on FreeBooksy, something I’d have had to pay $100 for otherwise. Lots of sites and email lists will do this: mention a free or discounted book that they think will interest their subscribers, but some of these unsolicited mentions produce more dramatic effects than others.
All those downloads got me to #65 in the free bestseller list on Amazon.com, to #2 in free epic fantasy, #3 in free swords and sorcery and (most amusingly) #5 in the fantasy sub-genre of romance, so for a while ‘The Plains of Kallanash’ mingled self-consciously amongst a swathe of cover images of werewolves and shirtless men.
So what is the value of giving away books for free? The main objective is to get the book into the hands of readers, of course. For new authors, this is vitally important. Hopefully, some of them will read it and perhaps leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads, or tell their friends about it.
What I didn’t expect was that the day after the free promotion, there would be a whole heap of sales of the full-price book. Presumably, lots of people read their emails a day late and clicked to buy without realising that the book was no longer free. A few returned it later, but not as many as I’d expected. The following day produced a few more sales (and borrows). The book ended up ranked at around 6,000 overall in the paid Kindle store for a while, and in the top 100 of a couple of sub-genres, having been ranked at 660,000 before the promotion.
Other side effects: some new reviews, Goodreads readers and ratings, and my very first ever fan email: “Thank you for the wonderful read”. Awww. And the rush of sales blasted me past my second milestone: 100 sales. The increased rate of sales and borrows, while slower now almost two weeks later, is still above pre-promotion levels.
So the take-home message is: promotion pays, even when you’re giving the book away, but only when you get into the thousands of downloads. And the unexpected rush of paid sales actually covered the cost of the promotion. For anyone with multiple books to sell, a modest promotion, whether free or discounted, should more than pay for itself.