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

Submit your book for a fee:

  • *Kindle Nation Daily:  https://indie.kindlenationdaily.com/?page_id=642
  • Week in Rewind:  https://www.weekinrewind.com/advertise/
  • Kindle Fire Department:  https://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.

About the Author

  1. 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.

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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!

  8. 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!

  9. 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 😉

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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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