KDP Select free days: Targeted advertising is the key to success; here’s a list of resources

This is a post by Novel Publicity President, Melissa Storm

As many of you know, I decided to take the plunge with KDP Select after much hemming and hawing. At the end of last week, I tested the waters with my first free days on Thursday and Friday, February 9 and 10. I promised to write-up my experiences and advice as a way to get you all to forgive my shameless and excessive self-promotion on those two days.

And now I’m back to report the findings! Was my sojourn into freebie-dom a success? Yes and no.

In terms of downloads, I did incredibly well. Amazon technically forbids disclosing sales numbers, so I won’t give you an exact figure, but I will tell you my downloads were in the 5 digit realm (i.e. XX,XXX new readers)! Farsighted also climbed as high as rank #18 in the Amazon US free store and rank #35 in the UK free store.

The most important question to many authors considering Select is this:  What happened after you went back to paid?

Well, I’ve been less impressed with that, but only because I set my expectations way too high. I know many authors who experienced a boom in sales (one who even earned over $1,000 in royalties the week following her free spot). My boom was not quite as large, but it happened.

When the free time ended, my Amazon rank disappeared completely for a couple hours. When it finally refreshed, it went straight to 75,000—my theory is that would have been the rank if the free days hadn’t happened, and I had gone 2 days without selling a single book. Slowly, the rank went up, settling at 10,000 by the end of post-free day #1. Needless to say, I was flabbergasted, and I’ll admit some rants were made and tears shed.

Why, I wanted to know, could I have one of the most successful free periods I’ve heard of, but then completely fail on the other end?

Just as I had lost all hope, the surge happened the next day, bringing me up to about rank 2,000 paid. I’ve stayed around 2-3,000 since. Most of the time, I hang out around rank 5,000 – 10,000, so this is a definite improvement. Any disappointment I feel is because I set myself up to expect that I would place in the top 500 and stay there.

Either way you slice it, I have many new readers and more exposure for my book. That was the point in the first place, so don’t let the tales of KDP Select authors making serious bank derail you from the real goal. I don’t know about you, but I never wanted to be a writer in order to get rich. Yeah, cash is super nice, but it’s just not the point.

I’m going to jump into the advice segment of this article now, but if anyone wants to continue to watch Farsighted to see how it fair post-free (it hasn’t even been a full week yet), you can follow it on Amazon US here and on Amazon UK here. Now onward!

As the title of this article states:  targeted advertising is the key to success

TARGETED. Spreading your advertisement in any place you can find is not the best idea. In fact, I had two major advertising fails during my promo, and I think you should know what they were.

 

My Advertising Fails

First, I spammed my social media followers. Friends told me, “it’s okay to do it for a short while as long as it’s not a normal thing.” Well, I can tell you my tweeps didn’t seem to appreciate hearing constant news of Farsighted all Friday from my various accounts. One even called me out on it. My Facebook friends were more understanding and even cheered me on as I went. I think this is because the nature of my relationships with people on Facebook is stronger than it is on Twitter. On Google+ and GoodReads, some people responded favorably, nobody complained, and my exploits were mostly ignored. Take what you will from that and adapt your strategy accordingly.

My second fail was the use of integrated advertising on a non-relevant site to promote my giveaway. I thought:  Oh, I can use Novel Publicity’s high traffic platform to really drive the downloads. So I used an integration code to throw an announcement, image, and link about the free days at the top of every page on the site, stating that this was the Novel Publicity President’s book – hooray! Welp, nobody cared. I had the ad up for just over a day. The site got 1,000 hits in that period. How many people clicked my link? 5. So it wasn’t worth spamming my blog followers either. Although, I can say I simply put a post about the freebie up on my separate author blog and received 300 hits and 7 click-throughs – far better success!

 

My Advertising Triumphs

If you want targeted advertising, you need to get your book on sites that cater to readers, specifically eBook readers. Luckily, there are many awesome sites that do just that. Some require you submit a request to be listed at no cost. Others require payment. Still others don’t accept submissions, and you’re left with the luck of the draw. I’d like to separate the ad sources I know about into these three categories. I’ll place a star next to those that are extremely effective.

If you know of any other sites that promote free books, please share!

Submit your book at no cost:

  • ***Pixel of Ink:  http://www.pixelofink.com/authors-corner/
  • *Pixel of Ink – Young Edition:  http://youngedition.pixelofink.com/
  • ***eReader News Today:  http://ereadernewstoday.com/ent-free-book-submissions/
  • Authors on the Cheap:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Authors-on-the-Cheap/202517513144047
  • Digital Book Today:  http://digitalbooktoday.com/join-our-team/

Submit your book for a fee:

  • *Kindle Nation Daily:  http://indie.kindlenationdaily.com/?page_id=642
  • Week in Rewind:  http://www.weekinrewind.com/advertise/
  • Kindle Fire Department:  http://fireapps.blogspot.com/p/for-app-developers.html

Luck of the draw:

These are the sources that Featured Farsighted on its free days. The only exception is Pixel of Ink. I was featured on their smaller Young Edition site, but the big version is super influential – that’s why it gets 3 stars.

 

Friends, Fans, and Implied Endorsements

Make use of your fan base and your friends to promote your free days. I sent a newsletter to my mailing list, posted on my blog, and created a GoodReads event. People were pretty supportive. I received an overwhelming wave of support on Facebook especially.

Ultimately, the first day of my free period felt like a birthday. Friends and fans dropped by to share how much they loved my book and wish me well. IT WAS AWESOME. And I do believe that their endorsements and enthusiasm moved many more free copies of Farsighted then what I would have been able to do on my own.

In this section, I’d also like to discuss the sharing contests I did via my Google+ profile and the Novel Publicity Facebook page. I put up the photo of my book cover with a little advertising snatch and prompted my followers to share for their chance to win a $25 Amazon gift card (one for each platform).  You can view the Google+ post and results here, and the Facebook post and results here. 169 Facebook fans shared the advertisement with their friends, and many included personal messages. Even those who didn’t provided an implied endorsement. On Google+, 92 circlees shared also providing their implied or direct endorsements. I followed the comments avidly that day and saw many of my friends’ friends picked up copies. Score!

 

In Summation + A Quick Warning

So there you have it, my KDP Select free day experience and corresponding advice to you. I want to leave you with one other note before I press “publish” on this article.

When you offer free day promotions, you are reaching out to a whole new segment of readers. Some will just download your book because it’s free and never get around to actually reading it. Others will read it despite being out of your target audience – bear that in mind. As a result of the free day promos, you will likely receive some new reviews (but probably not as many as you’d hope). Some will be glowing; others might be pretty nasty. This is what happens when you reach outside of your target audience, and it sucks, but it’s okay. I’ve seen the bad reviews crop up for a number of my friends post-free, and they’ve happened to me too. Now that you’ve been given a heads-up about that and I’ve told you how common it actually is, hopefully they won’t get you down.

Happy free days everyone! If you have anything to add to this article, by all means, do.

 

Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityAbout this post's author:

Melissa Storm was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a sun conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Her first novel, Farsighted, won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category. She now writes most of her fiction under her real name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her her author website:  www.melstorm.com or via Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Melissa Luznicky Garrett

Great article, Em! This is pretty much what I experienced, but on a *much* smaller scale. I would love to have had downloads in the 5-digits, but I have nowhere near the influence as you (yet!). Still, I was very happy with the results, as I tend to set my expectations fairly low. Between my two books, the paid sales are consistently trickling in.

David

Curious about where you heard that Amazon forbids the disclosure of sales numbers.

I remember last year, JA Konrath and Amanda Hocking disclosed their sales numbers all the time — I think both actually used screenshots to show their sales.

Jane Cranmer

Hi Emlyn,
thanks for that, always really useful to hear how other writers are faring in “the real world”!
This self marketing/advertising business is so hit and miss isn’t it? I had an hour long BBC radio show devoted to me, my book and my music last week. It seemed to go down very well, lots of great feedback from listeners, but remembering this is a popular programme that goes out to thousands of households, just how did that translate into sales?
Well, I sold out on Amazon immediately (but bearing in mind this might have only been 3 or 4 books they had in stock no great shakes), I went into the best sellers list for my category, around #86 I think, for a few hours. But by the next day the fuss was over and it was all forgotten apart from some very nice feedback from listeners on my facebook page.
I think I actually sold more books giving a face to face book talk to the Womens Institute that night (and gained more followers to my author page!).
So, the fickle finger of fame continues to elude me.
However I’ve yet to get the book out on kindle, so we’ll see what transpires then.
In the meantime keep up the good work Emlyn, I love following your adventures in publishing! =)
Jane

    Emlyn Chand

    Thank you, Jane. Yes, promotion is definitely a wild ride. It requires A) a great product, B) targeted promotional efforts, and C) consistency and perseverance.

Dane Zeller

Emlyn,
No matter how you measure and describe the results of your promotion, this has to be good for long-term sales of your book. The cost to you was nothing, except for any lost royalties. Aren’t electronic bits wonderful?

On a side note, once again my interest is piqued in how amazon calculates rank. My book went to #31 in a category. Great to have that honor, but I didn’t sell many books. Perhaps you could do a post on that subject.

Thanks for your informative article!

Harlow Coban

Hi Em, I read this with great interest since I’ll be going up on KDP Select next week. You offer some great advice. What resonated most with me is not to set unrealistic goals for myself, which I have a tendency to do. I’ll closely watch what happens with valium in one hand and tissue in the other. Thanks for sharing. I wish you continued success.

Steve Umstead

Not sure if my comment is being moderated or it got eaten – trying again:

Hi Em, thanks so much for posting your true and realistic results. I see more and more that people who have some success in KDP Select want to tell the world, while the ones who didn’t (which I’m guessing far outweigh the ones who did) don’t say much after the fact.

I’ve been a huge KDP Select opponent since the December announcement. As a businessperson, having only one outlet to sell a product, to cut off other suppliers/distributors to go exclusive, is potential business suicide. To me the drawbacks and risks are far greater than any possible reward. What happens if the day after someone goes exclusive, Amazon changes their algorithms and the book ranking drops precipitously and the author is stuck for another 89 days? Or Apple announces a magical 7″ iPad, and iBooks sales skyrocket? Or the Kindle Fire is found to have a manufacturing defect, and Nook Tablet sales take off? I’d never want to limit myself that way. I keep hearing people say, “what do I have to lose?” and that’s completely opposite of a good business strategy. They should ask “what do I have to gain?” and it’s NOT the magic bullet of success some KDP Select proponents make it out to be, by any stretch.

I had one of my books free for several days (unforeseen price match, NOT Select) and it turned out to be a terrible result. I too had 5 digits worth of downloads* and after I got it back to the right price, saw no measurable benefit to sales/rankings going forward, no rush of reviews (positive or negative), and no bump in sales of my other books.

* I did absolutely zero advertising/spreading the word about the book being free. I’m perfectly happy selling it at $2.99-$3.99. And still, 5 digits worth of downloads. This tells me there is a subsection of the reading public that does nothing but scoop up freebies, the vast majority of whom will never read the books. I mean 5 digits of downloads without ever mentioning it? People doing nothing but shopping the free lists (this also tells me those people will never BUY a book – so why give them one in the weak hopes it can lead to them buying another of my books for actual money?)

Glad to hear you’re hanging in there sales-wise. Best of luck going forward. The best thing any author can do is keep writing…

~Steve

Jeremy Rodden

I saw that you had the book at 2.99 coming off free. Carolyn McCray of the Indie Book Collective suggests coming off free at 99c to maximize paid download and ranking immediately after the free promotion.

At 2.99, you obviously make a bigger royalty but at a loss of paid sales. It’s a delicate balance between visibility over profits, but I know you of all people know how much more valuable long term growth is over a short term royalty grab. 🙂

Devin O'Branagan

I’m one of the five who downloaded it from Novel Publicity. Thank you for the gift. Haven’t read it yet as I was in the middle of another book, but it is next on my list. 🙂

I was going to offer my YA urban fantasy, GLORY, free to get it in the hands of new readers. A publishing associate suggested I wait until I release the sequel later this year and then offer GLORY free. Her reasoning was that people have short attention spans and the free book would more likely translate into sales with the sequel readily available. So, that’s my plan.

Thanks for sharing your marketing experience with your campaign. It’s given me good ideas!

    Emlyn Chand

    Awww, thank you for being one of my five, Devin. Everyone keeps telling me too that it’s not the best idea to offer a book for free when you only have one out there. But why not? I’ll do it again when Farsighted’s sequel comes out. Good luck with your freebie experience!

Renee Pawlish

Appreciate you sharing your results. I did a promo at Christmas (warning, don’t do Christmas day 🙂 and had good success, but I did not at that time have to promotion around it. It’s hard to sustain the numbers, but that’s where if you have more than one book, you can see sales in the other books jump too. It’s difficult to know what works and what doesn’t…

    Devin O'Branagan

    A friend of mine who works for a major publisher said that the Christmas season is the worst time to release a new book. I didn’t listen to her, and released my last one “just in time for holiday buyers!” Big mistake.

Suzanne

I signed up for KDP when I re-launched my novel, Mrs. Tuesday’s Departure. I have not yet scheduled my free days because I wanted to get all my ducks in order first.

Thank you for this very informative post about your experiences and the links to other sites. I hope I can enjoy your same level of success…..I just checked and your book is still doing very well on Amazon!

Janet Boyer

Emlyn, has does one list an eBook for free via Amazon? When I go to my KDP Dashboard, I’m only able to list it for $.99 and above. I’d appreciate your insight on how to do this and how to schedule the times it runs free. Thanks!

    Kine Press

    Janet I hope you don’t mind us jumping in as it were! We are very new to kindle amazon and others – so just read it all! Put your price up to $2.99 and you automatically HAVE to allocate 5 days to free downloads! Don’t know if you can set your price to $0 (suspect not)
    Thanks for the article Em! Best of luck.

      Victor Brodt author and artist -JacktheDog

      Kindle will not let authors do freebie downloads so far. (they do sometimes for large publishers)
      I have used Smashwords in order to have a source where I can promote my books for free or discount. It has been valuable as a tool.
      We had 17,000 without the above promotions, we had worked for excellent reviews and had a good cover, perhaps the read inside helped too.
      Always glad to encourage; I think we should all help each other in all things positive.
      Wishing what every good dog already sees in you, the very Best!
      VictorBrodt.com or @gmail.com

Mohadoha

As Jane said, I always learn something from you Em! I did well over Christmas with the free downloads.. as it comes up on time to pick a new date, will keep this post in mind! Advice from the trenches can’t be beat.

Sally

Thanks for sharing your experience and insight, Emyln. Your article has come for me at a time when I’m thinking of doing an ebook giveaway via Goodreads. I’m not sure if it’ll work though because I’ve only recently joined and haven’t built a friends list yet.

Emlyn Chand

Thank you everyone who commented on this article. Unfortunately, the website decided to become overzealous about what it marks as spam roughly one week back, and of course, I didn’t realize it until people brought this to my attention. I’m closely monitoring the spam issue and am already being attacked by bots, but I really want to make sure your comments come through.

I was wondering why nobody commented on this article. I thought it was a pretty good one 😉

Ahmad Taylor

Very interesting article. I have been considering joining KDP recently myself. Still have not taken the plunge, but this is good info to have.

Hope your next freebie wknd goes better.

Patrice Fitzgerald

Great post, Emlyn. My experience with KDP Select was rather early in the game (Dec. 23rd) and so might have been the exception. I had about 8,000 downloads and was well-positioned to get very good sales during the big Christmas rush of new Kindle Fires. I’ve basically ridden that wave since, doing another three free days in the ensuing two months. I did make a ton of money in the seven days it was for sale in December. And this was on a single novel, which is a political thriller.

Most months before December I was selling about 10 books. Since then I sell around that per day. Lately it has calmed down — so I have put my book (which normally sells for $7.99) on sale this weekend for only 99¢.

My 90-day commitment will be over near the beginning of March, and I don’t think I’ll sign up again, so that I can have the freedom to make it available elsewhere.

Thanks so much for sharing your experience — it’s one of the fabulous assets of the indie community that we have so many people willing to reach out and help fellow authors.

By the way, I’d be interested in the language in the Amazon agreement which you interpret as forbidding revealing sales numbers.

sylvia hubbard

awesome resources and something i’ve been looking for as I prepare for another free day on my new book and my other book available.

sylvia hubbard

on my past days I’ve utilized all the groups and pages I’ve joined on facebook and I’ve been busy searching for other reading groups and pages. I may post on my own profile page and group there about twice a day at different times with socialoomph, buffer and seesmic ping (depending which one I can get to the easiest.)

I’ve also started re-utilizing the large subscriptions on yahoogroups again. I know this seems archaic but I’ve seen a bump in sales and large bump in free book downloads when i’ve posted to these groups again.

Laura Roberts

I’m going to give your free day suggestion a shot for my first (promoted) free day tomorrow! I’m looking forward to see how it works out for Rebels of the 512. And, if all else fails, I’m also promoting the book to my friends to see if they’ll write honest opinions for my Amazon page.

Tom Harris

Great post, Em, thanks for sharing your experience. Some really useful information on there as I’m releasing my debut YA Novel The Amber Room on April the 9th. Very interested to hear about what you said about the free days, I’d try and look at that as a success, just think of all those people reading your work. Good luck in your future projects. Such a cool post, I may just tag along for the long haul 🙂

dl carter

KDP does not work unless you are very lucky. More people have bonded themselves to Amazon in the hope of getting the attention bump than have actually had a good result. Your good result is unusual. Very unusual.

    Emlyn Chand

    I encourage you to try the advertising sources. You may be surprised! And also KDP was not my golden ticket. I put it on top of a very grounded and detailed marketing plan already in play.

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