The mind-boggling mystery of a successful free promo

Last week, and for the first time ever, I ran a free promo for both my books at the same time.

Free promo 7-11 aug

For the benefit of first time visitors, I will mention here that The Necklace of Goddess Athena is my debut novel (a fantasy) while my second one, The Lady of the Pier, is a romance. Now, I had heard the warnings that you’re supposed to promote one book at a time, but I’ve never been one to follow rules. As always, I am keen to try new things and explore all possibilities so was rather looking forward to this experiment. Also, another novelty I went for, was to let the free promo run for all five days that KDP Select allows me, all in one go.

As always, I announced the promo everywhere. Both books were to be up for grabs worldwide from August 7-11. I spent the usual 2-3 days before that, submitting them to free sites. I tweeted and FB’d about it adequately in advance too.

When the big day came, surprise number 1 hit me! As I had run two more free promos already for my debut novel since March (a total of 2,059 downloads), I had expected that the flavor of the month would be my romance this time, since this was its very first promo. Besides, it’s an ABNA Q-Finalist so I expected nothing short of a limelight to follow it throughout, starting from day 1. Little did I know!

From the very first few hours, it became clear that The Lady of the Pier seemed to be somewhat ignored compared to my fantasy adventure. I was proven right the next morning, when I got the totals for day 1. The Necklace had had nearly twice as many downloads. Then, the second day, somehow, The Lady took the lead and not just that, but it also performed beyond my wildest expectations.

On that day, both books ranked high on various categories (more on that later!) and they both did amazingly well with downloads. From then on, there was a steady decline for both books from day 3 to 5 but The Lady still did more downloads per day compared to The Necklace.

I’m still wondering about the mystery of that first day. Why did The Lady have such a slow start, or rather, why did The Necklace perform so spectacularly on day 1? Goes to show you can never expect the reaction of the general public! Whatever the reason for that is, it seems The Necklace is still way more popular than I’d thought.

Anyway, the most incredible thing about this promo is that it yielded far better numbers and rankings than I’d ever imagined. In detail:

used may14 f t blog

 

Day-by-day downloads for the Necklace and the total:

1727 + 631 + 261 + 125 + 80 = Total 2824

 

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Day-by-day downloads for The Lady of the Pier  and the total:

988 + 2309 + 699 + 384 + 264 = 4644

Grand total between the two books: 7468

As I said, the second day was quite amazing for both books. That day, all I did is check the rankings per hour and I got one surprise after the next. In detail:

The Necklace reached Amazon’s #1 in Mythology again and it stayed there for a couple of days. It also ranked at #2 in Fairy Tales again, but also #4 in Paranormal & Urban as well as #6 in Teens & Young Adult. The reason why it ranked high in more categories this time is because I had made changes to the keywords on KDP recently, since reading a very useful article. In case you don’t know, the keywords you use for your books on KDP determine relevant categories that Amazon will rank your books in during your promotions. Handy, isn’t it? (For example, I am guessing the book ranked in the category “Paranormal & Urban”  this time because in my keywords I had added “Urban Fantasy” and so on…)

During the promo, The Lady of the Pier reached #3 in Paranormal and also #4 in Historical Romance. Plus, it stayed among the top 100 in the Free store for a few hours starting at #67, then #64, and peaking at #59. As for The Necklace, the highest number in the Free store that it managed was #109.

By the fifth day, I was overwhelmed to say the least. But then it got me thinking. What the hell? How did I get these high download numbers? What did I do differently this time round?

As I always do when I run free promos, first of all I make sure to get a blog post or two among my author/blogger friends. This time I got eight friends to help me out, which was very generous and made me feel quite humbled. Still, it wasn’t a first as back in Easter I had done a free book tour with Fabulosity Reads, but if anything, the results on that promo were very poor, even with Wendy Ewurum’s amazing skills at blogging and social networking.

Although I had submitted my books to dozens and dozens of free sites, that wasn’t a first either. On the first (3 day) promo of The Necklace, with the same free sites, I had managed 1,576 downloads and on the not so successful one in Easter (2 days), a measly 483.

So how come did I now get 1,727 just for The Necklace just on the first day?

Now, after considering all possibilities, I’ve come up with three possible explanations:

a) The joint promo of two books could have been a factor here. After all, The Lady is a romance – an extremely popular genre – plus the mention that it’s an ABNA Q-Finalist must have also been an advantage. Perhaps my two books helped each other here, attracting readers who love either fantasy or romance but wound up getting both books just because they were freebies, who knows? The other thing, if I can add it on the same count, is that my number of followers has increased a lot since the last promo. Back in March I had just over 4,000 Twitter followers whereas today I have around 9,200 – more than double. That’s a lot of extra eyeballs.

b) The books have reviews on Amazon (The Necklace had 20 last week, The Lady had 10) and most of them 5-stars. I didn’t have that advantage back in March. Enough said.

c) The last possibility may be related to an amazing opportunity I was given just before the promo started. My author friend Nikki Anne Schmutz from Utah, got the position of  chief editor in the new online magazine Community Orange. Well, when she asked me if I’d like to contribute with travel articles a month or so ago, I jumped at the chance. I submitted a couple and she chose my report on Zagori, Greece for the first issue (read the magazine here).

community orange 1st issue

A couple of days before the promo started, Nikki said they had advert space left and I could put up an ad for free if I wanted to. Thanking my lucky stars, I sent her my banner for the promo and her generous publisher added it at the bottom of my article.

When my Amazon stats started to give me one after another jolt of surprise, the first thing I did is contact Nikki, asking her what she thinks. Did they have a large readership, even though it was a first issue? Could it be it was her readers who had downloaded so many of my books? You can imagine my amazement when she advised that their site had already had about 19,000 hits! Way better readership than I’d expected. I guess I’ll never know for sure, but my instinct says I owe a lot to Nikki, Community Orange magazine and the amazing timing.

comm orangeStill, even this successful promo didn’t yield more than a measly total of eight actual book sales following the fifth day. I have a good idea about this devastating result and I did foresee it from the third day when the decline began – I let the promo drag too long. Had I pulled the plug on the second day when both my books ranked really high, or even on the third day, I would have had substantial sales for sure. Still, I had pre-announced the dates and I wasn’t going to be one to lie to the world. but I now know for next time! You see, a good strategy is not to pre-announce the duration of the promo, sometimes not even the promo itself as it tends to kill sales.

So next time I think the experiment will involve a totally new strategy; an unannounced free offer that not even I will know when will end. The announcement will hit the social media in a Wham!-bam! sort of action. Then, I’ll monitor the stats and act accordingly. Let’s see what happens next time when I pull the plug at the opportune moment!

Despite all that, and the fact that the amount due in my pocket is even less than 20 bucks, I still see the whole experience as highly beneficial. If anything, I now have a few thousand readers out there reading my books! Hopefully they’ll enjoy them and maybe a few hundred of them will respond to my request at the end of the book to post a review. Reviews equal future sales so in reality, my cashing in on this successful promo is just a matter of time. How’s that for positive thinking? Yep, that’s me. Always having my eyes focused on the silver lining, rather than the dark and gray bits.

Going back to my conclusions…..

The essence of what I’ve recently learnt–especially since reading the remarkable book “Let’s Get Visible” by David Gaughran–is that the business of trying to run a successful promo on KDP Select is partly a game of luck, partly a matter of meticulous planning, but sometimes all it is, is just a sand box of trial and error. And on that score, I’m always game. Maybe it’s the troubleshooter in me after years of computer support that makes puzzles such a fascinating affair for me.

See you next time, and hopefully, by the end of the next promo I’ll have more food for thought for all you fellow indie authors  kind enough to drop by!

By all means, if you have any insights on the mind-boggling subject of what works and what doesn’t during promo, please share it here and let us all benefit! Thank you 🙂

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17 responses to “The mind-boggling mystery of a successful free promo

  1. Most interesting, and thank you for sharing that experience. I’m currently building my review platform on Amazon.com. .co.uk and on Goodreads. I haven’t yet run a freebie of any kind, having deliberately priced my books at 99p because I wanted them to be within the price range of as many children as possible; but I WILL get round to doing it at some time, and your story is most enlightening.

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    • Thank you Robin for stopping by to share your status of things. If you intend to run a free promo later, keep an eye on this blog as next month I will post my singing and dancing list of free sites where I submit my promos(plus a lot of FB pages). You could try it and see what happens, it covers dozens and dozens of resources. Thanks again for commenting and best of luck with your writing and marketing efforts 🙂

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  2. First of all, wonderful results, congrats! This is wonderful! 🙂

    Second, thanks for sharing the numbers and all. It makes for a remarkably honest and useful post. May I ask where you promoted the post (you just mention “in all free sites”)

    Third, I agree: Nicky’s free ad was a godsend, and the timing could not be more perfect!

    Finally, I love your conclusion: “trying to run a successful promo on KDP Select is partly a game of luck, partly a matter of meticulous planning, but sometimes all it is, is just a sand box of trial and error.” Couldn’t have put it better myself! 🙂

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    • Thank you for the kind words Nicholas. Re the free sites, I have a list of around 50. I will blog it sooner or later but I need to add a few more to it first! Some of these sities allowed me to advertize only one book so I had to choose this time. Also, what I forgot to mention in the post, is that I also submit to about 40 FB pages and groups every time. Oddly, on this promo I wound up submitting on FB on the 3rd and 4th day and still had great numbers from day 1, which once again proves that the impact FB makes for promo is minimal. I probably won’t even bother with FB next time if only I can repeat this success… I hope! Another thing I didn’t mention is that on the March promo I had spent 5 USD to advertize on Sweetfreebooks.com but as they no longer respond to submission requests (they have even ignored my emails in the last 2 promos!) I no longer advertize there so I don’t pay a cent now.

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      • Thanks for the fascinating insight! I’m not terribly surprised about Facebook; it seems good at letting people know that you’re written a book, but not much else.

        I’m looking forward to the list with the 50 sites, although it’s amazing how fast these come and go – like sweetfreebooks…

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    • I have only done a countdown deal once. It was part of a major joint effort, led by Leeland Artra whom I admire and regard a marketing wizard. Still, for all his efforts and meticulous planning, all I got out of it for pricing my book at a meagre 99cents was 8 copies sold! I was so discouraged! At least with a free promo, you can split it in half wheareas with the countdown deal you lose the other days if you use them in part. Also with the free promo you are bound to do high numbers which win you visibility high in the ranks. I will stick to free for now because of these reasons. Maybe I will do a discount deal again later. For now, I am bursting at the seams to do the trick I mentioned on this post and pull the plug when I think the time is right to ride that wave of visibility. Woot! Should be a very interesting experiment and I can’t wait.

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  3. Effrosyni! What fabulous results! You knocked it out of the park! Gosh. Do give us a list of those FREE sites on which you promoted. That is an excellent proven resource. I am impressed that you read David’s book. It is my indie bible, along with Martin Crosbie’s. I had to smile when I noted you have added that gem after THE END. Watch those reviews start being posted! KCDs are a harder nut to crack. Here is a link to the results of a successful KCD: http://bit.ly/1pLf9Sl. I have the list of sites I promoted on. I’d be glad to share the list with you. I think you would do better because you have a larger audience than I do. Message me on FB. Just tick my name. It will take you to my page.
    JackieWeger

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    • Thank you for your kind and enthusiastic comments, Jackie! They mean a lot coming from you. I read D. Gaughran’s book based on your recommendation/requirement on the eNovel Authors At Work site, so thanks for the tip! I will message you on FB with the list soon, will be glad to! Since the promo I found even more sites on the Free Author Marketing Tool and a bit later I will incorporate these too on my list, then I will blog it and share it with everybody. I will alert you on that post too so that you get the new update as well. Your comments made my day! Thank you so much for dropping by, Jackie! Gosh, I love your posts and the sound of your snake gun, LOL 🙂

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  4. Fros, the outcome of this is truly fantastic! Congrats!!! As for two-book promos, I’ve heard these can be quite effective. I greatly appreciate the stats you’ve shared as well as David Gaughran’s book. In all honesty, I’m not surprised about your experience with FB. More and more I’m getting the sense FB doesn’t provide the ROI of an author’s precious time. Once again, congrats and best wishes, sweetie! xoxo 🙂

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  5. I always like to touch base on this blog. Do you mind if I hit the caution button? Danica said she has heard two-book promos and be effective. Hearing something does not make it so. But, if one can name the author and books, I can look up the promo on a free chart provided by KND. When we do promotions, we can experiment in such a way that we have results in hand to know what worked or did not. There are a few FB sites on which readers pop in between one and four in the afternoons. That is the ideal time to post a FREE or 99 cent book. I have bought books that intrigued me on a FB site–we authors do buy books, but most sites are author top heavy. That said, there are rules and some sites do move a few books. You can find an article on Facebook Protocol here: http://enovelauthorsatwork.com/facebook-protocol.
    Hope this helps.
    Best.

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    • Thanks for the tips and insights Jackie! I found out only yesterday about the KND (Kindle Nation Deals?) and their free online tracker on one of your posts. Thanks! I’ll blog about it in September to share the details actually. I am grateful to you. You always share the most handy info 🙂

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