It’s now a month since my third book, The Mages of Bennamore, was published, so this is a good time to look at the state of play.
The previous book, The Fire Mages, was released in January with a long (13 day) promotion campaign, and it’s been selling well for four months. I’m signed up for Amazon’s exclusive Select program, which means readers in the Kindle Unlimited subscription service can borrow the books for free, and that’s kept things ticking over. However, sales + borrows had dropped to around 4 per day, and just 1 per day of my first book, The Plains of Kallanash.
So I planned a similar, although shorter, promotion for the new release – just 7 days this time, including sites that have done well for me in the past, like BargainBooksy, EreaderCafe, OHFB and ENT. I set the price to $0.99 worldwide for the duration of the campaign. I also set up a $0.99 discount promotion (an Amazon Countdown) for The Plains of Kallanash to start a week after the launch campaign finished, again using some of my most reliable sites from previous promotions. And on impulse I set The Fire Mages free for the final day of the launch campaign. With only two days’ notice, there was no time to set up any promotion for that, so I just blogged and tweeted and whatnot. But I had a piece of luck, and it was picked up by the semi-legendary Pixel of Ink. Result – an astonishing 4,000 downloads in one day, and a big bump in sales the next day. I booked two more free days, with some low-cost ads to coincide with the end of the countdown (and gave away another 1,000+ copies).
Week 0: 5 sales/borrows per day over 2 books [pre-release of book 3]
Week 1: 52 sales/borrows per day, over all 3 books [launch promo week]
Week 2: 50 sales/borrows per day [but sales are down, borrows are up]
Week 3: 79 sales/borrows per day [countdown promo accounts for 34, so actually 45]
Week 4: 53 sales/borrows per day
Launch promo: $245
Free day: $0
2 more free days: $13
The results have far exceeded my expectations. I had my first ever day with more than 100 sales, which was truly exciting, and the ‘tail’ from the promotion (higher sales after it ends) is excellent. Even better, the sales were spread over all three books. This is partly because they’ve all had their time in the promotion spotlight this past month, but also because they are connected stand-alones, independent stories but all set in the same world. That makes it easy for a reader who enjoys one book to hop over to the others. I’ve had several reviews that said explicitly that they planned to do that.
The royalties received during the promotions themselves didn’t quite cover the cost of the advertising, since the books were discounted, but a few days of higher sales at full price ($3.99) has more than made up for that. I’m still in the red for the cost of publishing the books (I paid for professional cover design and proofreading, amongst other things), but this last month has gone a long way towards paying off those costs.
The free days have been interesting. It’s the first time The Fire Mages has been free, and giving away 5,000+ books in a short time results in an influx of new readers, new mailing list signups and new reviews. And not all those new readers are a good fit for my writing. So, a few of those reviewing plain didn’t like the book. And although that makes me sad, it’s absolutely fine. People look for different things in a book, and you can’t please everyone. Those reviews will be helpful for other readers trying to decide whether to buy or not.
One interesting factor is that borrows have taken a lurch upwards. Almost as soon as the launch promotion ended, as sales dropped, I saw a matching uptick in borrows. I have absolutely no explanation for this, but it’s been sustained for three weeks now. Borrows can outnumber sales by anything up to 9 to 1 (more typically 3-5 to 1). I guess it’s price-related: high sales when the books are discounted, high borrows when they’re at full price. Whatever, I’m very happy to be in KU.
The bottom line is that promotion pays. It probably isn’t necessary to do quite as much as I did, and I got a bit dizzy keeping up with it all at times, but it’s been fun as well as surprisingly successful. Well, it surprised me, anyway. There are signs that things are beginning to tail off now, and the books are beginning to drop in the rankings, but it was nice while it lasted.
ETA: One point I should mention is that with each successive book, sales have ramped up quite dramatically. With just one book out, selling 50 in a week was cause for celebration. With 3 books, I’m selling 50 a day in the post-promotion flurry. So it really does help to have several books out.
For anyone interested in the blow-by-blow results of the promotions, and sales numbers produced by each site, it’s all in the first post of this thread at the Kboards Writers’ Cafe (no registration needed).