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KDP Select Promo Success—Promoting the Promo

Welcome webA long, geeky post for the indie authors out there!

On November 1-5, 2013, I did my first “free promo” using KDP Select since July of this year, unsure what to expect. I wrote a post back in January 2013  about my first experience getting to #1 in the Amazon “Free” store, and the kind of results that brought me (quick answer: “Just This Once” reaching #85 in the Amazon store, and continuing sales since). But the marketplace has changed, Amazon has updated their algorithms, and those free rankings are harder to come by these days and don’t carry quite as much punch as they once did.

So I hedged my bets this time and promoted my promo. I’ve been asked for a breakdown of how I did the math to decide what promotions to do, and for my results. This is that post.

The Math

Based on the past few months’ experience, the difference between a “free offer” month and one without was double the number of book sales, so obviously, even with a book I wasn’t sure would have the same appeal as my past free books (Welcome to Paradise, not a New Zealand book, but an attempt to promote my second book in the “Kincaids” series),  doing another promo was a no-brainer. In fact, I felt stupid for having waited so long to do another one. (My excuse is that I was busy writing Nothing Personal.) In the past, I’d done a promo about every six weeks, but this time, it had been three and a half months.

In my experience, I got about 3% of the number of free books downloaded in increased sales per book after the free period. The past two times, that didn’t include the free book, or not to the same extent, due to recent algorithm changes. But I figured, if I got 10,000 downloads, with six books (besides the free book) out, that would be 1,800 additional books sold right there. Like I said, no-brainer—the last three promo periods had netted 92,300, 40,000, and 62,000 downloads.

BookBub

I knew I would pay for a promotion with BookBub, if they’d take my book—they’re very picky. They’d promoted me during two periods without my knowing in advance (or paying for it), and the results both times were tens of thousands of downloads on the “BookBub Day.” In July, I paid them $180 to be on their Women’s Fiction list, and on my “BookBub Day,” I got 40,000 downloads, with 62,000 overall during the 5-day period. This time, I paid $250 to be on their Romance list.

Because this was my big splash and the promos had always worked well, I decided to pay for a few more sites as well. I did the promo for the full five days, so I could ride the momentum and get the most possible bang for my advertising buck.

Costs and Payoff Data

  • Cost of promos: $500 (roughly)
  • Cost of 5 days of foregone royalties @ $3.99 book price: $335 (this book having been my laggard in terms of sales)
  • Total cost of promo: approx $850
  • Number of sales resulting from promo necessary to recoup costs: 315

Other Sites I Used

  • Bargain eBook Hunter
  • Ebook Impressario
  • Book Blast
  • Kindle Nation Daily (BookGorilla): This seemed to help continue the boost from BookBub, but was pricey: $150 for a “starred offer” or whatever it’s called (another curated deal). Still, was worth it for me.

Download Results

  • After Day 1 (Bargain eBook Hunter, EBook Impressario, & Book Blast ads): 8,000 downloads, around #25 in the Free Store.
  • Day 2 (BookBub ad): 40,000 downloads, #1 in the free store
  • Day 3 (KND):  20,000 downloads, still #1 till the end of the day, then down to #3
  • Days 4-5: Book stayed around #3 (Dropped once to #5, then back again to #3 until final hours, when it was #10.)
  • Total downloads: 86,000

Sales/Ranking Results

  • Welcome to Paradise (free book): pre-promo, around #11,000 in the Paid store. Three days post-promo: #1600.
  • Nothing Personal (Book 2 in the “Kincaids” series): pre-promo, around #1100. Three days post-promo: #311 (at one point during the promo, it got to #230).
  • Just This Once (Book 1 in the “Escape to NZ” series, permanently priced at 99 cents): pre-promo, around #1200. Three days post-promo: #550.
  • The other four New Zealand books: around #5000-6000 pre-promo; three days post-promo, in the 2000’s and 3000’s.
  • Overall Author Rank: pre-promo, around #1100. Four days post-promo: #321. (This means going from around 275 books/day to around 700 books/day—a big difference!)

Time will tell whether the “bump” continues, but it’s already been pretty big. It’s November 10, and I’ve already sold close to as many books as I sold in all of October.

Notes

I paid for all this promotion because I KNEW this had worked for me before. If I hadn’t known that, I certainly wouldn’t have done anything besides BookBub, which I would have viewed as an experiment.
I’ve also sent all my books on “book tours,” which was especially helpful when I was starting out and didn’t have that many reviews

Necessary for a Successful Free Promotion (or Low-Price Promotion)

Cover, title, subtitle, blurb, editing, formatting. To catch on during a promo, your book has to look professional—you shouldn’t be able to tell the difference between your book and a traditionally published book by looking at the book page or “inside the book.” Look at the Top 100 Free books in your genre to get an idea of what I mean.

Reviews. It’s better to do a free period once you have some reviews, like 10. I had 67 reviews when the promo period started, with a 4.7-star average, which is another reason it worked well. (I expect the review average to go down, though, as people who’ve never read me before find out whether they like my style or not. Not all of them will!)

Maximum information. I put a short excerpt from each book on the product page, so people wouldn’t have to click to “look inside” to see that the writing didn’t stink. Again, reducing the risk. The book may be free, but people don’t want to waste their time.

Why Give It Away for Free, Anyway?

As a marketer, it makes me kinda nuts when people, especially indie authors, ask this. The reason is, nobody knows who you are! You may have written the best book ever, but nobody’s heard of it. There are something like 1.5 million books in the Kindle store. Your big enemy is anonymity. Anything you can do to let people know about you is going to help you. And even if, yes, 350,000 people have got your books for free, as they have mine, there are millions more potential readers out there. You haven’t lost your audience. You’ve given them a chance to find you.

Caveats

I think the “free offer” thing works best if:

  • You write genre fiction (or cookbooks–they seem to do well too). Romance, mystery, thrillers seem especially good. But I’ve seen plenty of serious literature up there too.
  • You have a series, or at least three books.
  • You keep the price low after the book comes off “free.” (For my first book, it’s 99 cents. I make almost no money on that, but I’m mainly looking for exposure with that one. My other books are priced at $3.99, the standard “good-selling author” price in my genre.)

So there you go–all my stats. I hope they were helpful!

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Karen Vorbeck Williams
Karen Vorbeck Williams
6 years ago

Thanks for the above information. Wish I’d read it before I did a 3-day KDP Free book promotion. My question is this: now that the promo is over, how do I find out how well I did? How many people took advantage of the offer? Do you know?
Thanks,
KVW

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