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 BookSends.com for a slot in their romance category newsletter, with a database of 27,500 subscribers ($75)
- Paid freebooksy.com 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 ebookbooster.com 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 Canva.com 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
THE RESULTS ARE IN
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:
10 hours later…
My book Before He Was Famous went out in the freediscountedbooks.com newsletter. I’m assuming this is one of the sites that was targeted by ebookbooster.com. 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.
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 BookSends.com 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.
Several 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: I 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.
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:
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!
While 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 of the promo…
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 ebookbooster.com. 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.