How I used my KDP Free Promo Days to get over 24,000 downloads and to #1 in my Amazon categories, without BookBub…

Right, lovely writers. Seeing as I’ve spent hours… perhaps even days getting bleary-eyed, reading about other author’s successes and failures as far as this stuff is concerned, I thought it was my turn to give back! Here’s a breakdown of how things went for me when the holy grail of free book blasters, BookBub didn’t let me in and I was forced to look elsewhere for help in utilising those free book days on Amazon KDP.

If you caught my post on BookBub rejecting me, you’ll already know there are plenty of alternatives – so if you’re currently panicking, stop right there and get smart. By pulling my finger out and getting hard on the case for my August 14-17 free promo, I shifted almost 11,000 copies on day one and almost 7,000 on day two, without BookBub’s help. In the end I shifted over 24,000 copies in less than 4 days.

I was pretty amazed! And if I can do that, so can you.

Keep in mind first…

I already have an active blog which I try to write every other day. I have a relatively decent Twitter following (over 5000) and interact daily. My books are all on Goodreads and I respond to everyone who writes to me. I also had 80 or so 4/5* reviews on Amazon when Before He Was Famous went free and was selling between 20 – 40 e-copies a day. The objective of my promo was to raise awareness for book 2 in the series.

So, after I got rejected by BookBub, how did I set up my free ebook campaign?

  • Paid for a slot in their romance category newsletter, with a database of 27,500 subscribers ($75)
  • Paid for a August 14-17 slot in their newsletter, to reach 150,000 subscribers  ($100)
  • Paid for FREE Kindle Book of the Day ad August 16 & 17 with Indie Author News ($45)
  • Paid to submit my free ebook to over 50 sites around the net ($40)
  • Paid TheDesertGirl on Fiverr to submit my book to a few more free book sites, just in case any were missed! ($5)
  • Lined up interesting promo tweets to go out throughout my campaign. I used for this, pulling quotes from the book and adding photos and the word FREE (really big – you know – in case people miss it?) I used the hashtag #bookpromo in a few and they were always re-tweeted
  • Added an incentive to review the book at the FRONT and END of my epub file and re-uploaded before the promo went live. I asked people to email me the URL to their review by a set date in order to be entered into a draw to win a $100 Amazon voucher. These people would also then be added to my mailing list
  • Added the keyword ‘free ebook’ as one of my 7 allowed keywords in KDP to help boost SEO (did this when I re-uploaded the file)
  • Added a call to action to buy my next book at the end. The page for this was set up and ready thanks to Amazon’s new pre-order option for indie authors
  • Sent an email to my mailing list on day one of the promo to ask the people who’d already read it, to share my social media posts


6 hours later….

I targeted the US with my campaign only, yet I was operating on Indonesia time (where I live). I’ll try to make things clear! 6 hours after going up for FREE, my KDP reports showed 1319 downloads and my Amazon book page showed I had already made it into the top 100 in the Coming of Age category at #82. I was still at #2,360 in the Free Kindle Store. At this point however, the US was still asleep and none of the newsletters or posts I was a part of had been sent. I’d sent a few tweets, posted a few notices on Facebook and set a blog post live myself, so I’m guessing these downloads came purely from people seeing my own efforts, and browsing Amazon:7 hours later on KDP

10 hours later…

My book Before He Was Famous went out in the newsletter. I’m assuming this is one of the sites that was targeted by After the Freebooksy newsletter also went out (8am PST), and after a few more of my nicely designed tweets and Facebook posts to various free book pages, I was at #844 in Free Kindle Store and #41 in Coming of Age. I did notice that Freebooksy only sent ONE tweet. However, their Facebook posting had almost 100 likes. I also had a good few URLs come in as a result of my request for reviews in exchange for entry into the draw to win a $100 Amazon voucher.

8 hours later, #41 in coming of ag, #844 in free kindle

After some sleep in my timezone / day 1 of the promo in the US…

As the US woke up and I went to sleep, things really got moving. The newsletter went out. I’m also assuming the other services I paid to spread the word were working too, on various sites and Facebook walls. It’s virtually impossible to track them all as well as manage everything else – I’m only a human, but I woke up to see I’d had almost 9000 downloads. I also had the lovely surprise of being #1 in Coming of Age and #20 in the Free Kindle Store! At the 24 hour point/KDP spike, the number of downloads was over 10,000.

Next morning #1 in coming of age

DAY 2 noon, over 10k downloadsSeveral hours after that I’d risen to #19 in the Free Kindle Store, although I noticed something else interesting. Remember I didn’t get accepted by BookBub, so I had no access to their 1,010,000+ subscribers in the contemporary romance category, and yet I was pretty close in the charts to two of the books they’d featured on the 08/14 newsletter: Maid for the Billionaire (Book 1) by Ruth Cardello was charting at #9, above me. And Deeper by Blue Ashcroft was charting at #11.

Later, however, I made it to #2 in Contemporary Romance, between both said BookBub newsletter highlights: day 2, #2 in contemporary, btwn 2 BookBubsI was also still #1 in Coming of Age. And I’d risen further to #12 in the Free Kindle Store. The figure of 10,132 downloads had updated on my KDP to show it actually peaked at 10,958 before dropping. Not bad at all – for any of us! My book didn’t reach half as many readers as these did (at least through our inclusions in any newsletters) but I still made it to the top 20 along with them.

Could I get into the top 10 of the Free Kindle Store?

Yes! By the time I went to sleep my US chart places were as follows:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9 Free in Kindle Store

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Coming of Age

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > New Adult & College

In the UK I’d made it to #51 Free in Kindle Store, #2 in Coming of Age and #4 in Romantic Comedy with no targeted advertising or publicity in this market.

Day 2 of the promo in the US…

I had a sneaking suspicion the best had already occurred but still, on day 2 (PST) I woke up to find I’d had over 17,000 downloads total, with another 6,619 happening overnight. I had another 100 or so occur throughout the afternoon.middle of day 3

I’d dropped to #15 in the Free Kindle Store but in a nice surprise I was now #1 in Romantic Comedy as well as #1 in Coming of Age: 

DAY 3 #1 in 2 cats!!Day 3 of the promo…

The updated graph on KDP showed I sold 6,729 before dropping (not 6,619 as above – I think there must an hour or so delay on KDP) and 3,106 more after that. I know the Indie Author News ad ran on the 15th – perhaps some of those downloads came from that, although I can’t be sure yet. They sent several tweets to support the ad. A few bloggers retweeted things, too. Then as I slept and the US went about their weekend, I had over 3000 more downloads and was still #1 in Coming of Age. By the morning of day 3 I was still at #31 in the Free Kindle Store and…

I had sold… well OK, given away, over 20,000 copies!

3258 moreWhile some lovely reviews came in along with even more support, I was disappointed to see the one 1-star review that had been lurking somewhere on the book’s page since May had now risen to the top and attracted almost 30 thumbs-up, suggesting the good people of Amazon in many cases scroll through good reviews (of which there were now roughly 90) and instead choose to focus on and believe the bad. In this case, amongst other weird claims, the reviewer accused me of calling a character Denzel “because you know, all black people look the same.” Denzel is not black in my book. He’s called this for another reason, which perhaps she didn’t catch?

Anyway – sigh – you can’t win ’em all (and you definitely cannot comment, because answering back to negative reviews is the unwritten author LAW, you hear me?) I have to suck it up. With extra recognition come the trolls I tell you, but we can’t hide under the drawbridge with them. Hell no, people. We gotta get back on our horses and keep on bashing down those doors! By the end of day 3 I was at #1 in New Adult & College Romance:

day 4, 1 in new adult and college

Day 4 of the promo…

The promo is set to end soon. KDP shows the previous number of downloads at 3769 (I swear KDP is screwing up my screengrabs on purpose right now!!) but there were 3084 more overnight.morning day 4

With five hours left of the promo and the US heading to bed shortly, things are slowing now. And I can finally stop refreshing my damn KDP page like a lunatic. A quick calculator add up tells me in all I have now sold… OK,… GIVEN away 24,578 copies of Before He Was Famous.

This isn’t a bad spot to end up in either:



If these were paid sales I’d have made more than half a million dollars… right?

But let’s not dwell on that (ahem).

So what about BookBub?

Well,…while it’s more than obvious that BookBub has the biggest reach, thanks to its INSANELY large subscriber base, and a place in their newsletter will almost definitely boost you higher in those charts than BookSends and all other paid sites will, it is still possible to ride high on Amazon without them, if you put the work and time in. I did it! Oh, and I should also note that although my book was submitted to Pixel of Ink, (another newsletter with a large subscriber base) it was not picked up or featured by them.

What would I do/not do next time?

Next time I will probably only run a 2 day promo instead of 4. As you can see, most of the downloads occurred in the first 24 hours, with just over half that amount again in day 2. I did read beforehand that 2 day KDP promos were best, but I was coming to the end of my 90 days on KDP and I thought I might as well use up those free days! Also… I wouldn’t have reached the 20,000 mark in a 2 day promo so hmmm. I guess it depends on your objectives. If you want a spike in the charts, then a 2 day promo will give you that, but if you’re after more readers too, and more people to review/buy your next book, then run that thing as long as you like!

Next time I won’t use TheDesertGirl on Fiverr. The sites she wound up submitting to had already been covered by Although, it’s a cheaper option if you’d rather spend $5 than $40 and she was very speedy with my order. I do think it’s best to run all your ads on day one to encourage that mass frantic downloading that boosts you higher in the charts, rather than spread the ads out. I only did this with Indie Author News because they didn’t have space for my ad on day one. BOOK AHEAD!

The best thing about this campaign?

Most definitely the incentive for people to review me, which if you remember I added to the front and back of the updated epub file, and included in the book’s blurb on Amazon before it went live as free. I’m already seeing results. Most authors struggle to get reviews and this is the best way I’ve found to get reviews on Amazon, by far. Everyone wants to be a winner – what’s typing a few lines on Amazon and posting you that link if it means the chance at $100? I actually think I might carry this offer on; pick a winner every couple of months and see it as an investment in my career. Also, the more reviews you have, the more likely BookBub is to let you in next time, right? 😉

Of course, not every one of the 24,000 + people who’ve downloaded my book so far will leave me a review… some won’t even read it!

Most probably won’t buy my next book, but some will. And guaranteed more people will recognize my name and brand when I release both book two and book three before the end of this year. It’s creating visibility that’s important for us indies. If I can do it, we all can.

Good luck, scribblers! And if you have any questions, I’d be happy to answer them.

Becky x

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15 thoughts on “How I used my KDP Free Promo Days to get over 24,000 downloads and to #1 in my Amazon categories, without BookBub…

  1. Hi!
    I stumbled on this post through a Writer’s Digest article and found it wonderfully helpful! Thank you for sharing–I will definitely try a few of these technics here in a couple of months for my first book. Thanks again, and just so you know, you piqued my interest for your romance book and I just bought it!

    1. Thanks Leigh, I’m so glad it helps! Oh and thanks for picking up a copy of the book – hope you like it! What’s your book?

      1. About half way through your book so far–having a lot of fun! I’ll probably finish it up tonight and get a review up asap. I don’t suppose you have any tips on finding helpful beta readers? My book is also contemporary romance–working title Rum Drinks, Love and Other Mistakes. I’d like to have it out this December, but if you can believe it, I don’t know a single person who reads romance….Hard to believe, but true.

  2. Wow. Thanks so very much for sharing this Becky. The details you’ve shared are one of the reasons why the indie community rocks. I love how we are all trying to help each other, while we learn to help ourselves. So glad I stumbled on your name on the indiesunlimited blog today. Best of luck!

    1. Thanks for this Victoria, I’m just happy to help. I was so grateful for everything I read on this topic before I went about it myself, it was only fair to share my own experience. I definitely made some mistakes but it all helps me to know what to do next time. Best of luck!

  3. Good job! I’m a little surprised that you didn’t wait until Book 2 was on the shelf, ready to sell, so to speak. Why didn’t you wait?

    1. Rookie error, really Robin! I wondered whether I’d planned it all wrong the moment I booked the dates with BookSends to be honest but hey, it’s all trial and error. Luckily Amazon actually introduced the option to pre-order for self-published titles the day my promo went live, so I was able to add an updated file with a link to buy book two in the back, but yes, looking back I should have waited. It’s my first self-published book so the whole thing was an experiment really. Next time I’ll do the same thing but I’ll do the promo after a new book has already launched and (hopefully) when it already has some good reviews behind it!

      1. I’m almost done with book 3 in the series. My intention is to make #1 free and promote the other two on the back of the downloads….we will see!

  4. This is great. I’d love to see a follow up article on how many sales and reviews you received post promo…I ran one myself (nothing paid, all social media, free postings, etc) and got up to the #1 Free in Kindle Store and got some nice reviews but sales flat-lined after that. However, I also only had one piece published so if it is in a series, I can see how people might get hooked and (hopefully) buy the rest.

    Also, thanks for including those prices…I see a lot of article bragging (you definitely didn’t) about great book sales, marketing efforts, etc but they fail to mention how much it costs 😉

    1. Thanks Elizabeth – oh, nice job getting to #1, the highest mine got in the Free Kindle Store was #9 I think, but the day after the promo I had 72 sales and some great reviews are still coming through, thank goodness. The incentive definitely helped. And I did it all for under $300 which isn’t too bad for all that publicity at the end of the day… I guess that’s what it is. Good luck with your writing!

    1. Thanks so much Angela – it’s all a learning curve and the thing is, there’s loads more to learn every day. It’s literally never-ending! But exciting 🙂

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