A Blow by Blow Account of a Free Promotion

Yes. I want to show you the numbers for the free promotion I did for The Damsel Gauntlet, along with all the things I did to get maximum exposure for the five ‘free days’ Amazon gives titles enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

Just for clarification, you can check out what this free days business is about here. It’s a promotional tool. Some are for it, others against it, but I wanted to give it a shot.

Now, I wanted to get very nitty gritty with this post as I wanted it to be as useful as possible for people. But I do need to point out that I didn’t do this all in one sitting. I planned it out for over a month before these dates came up. This, for me, was the ‘big bang’ promo and I wanted to make as big a splash as I possibly could.

This included ad stacking. The practice of throwing everything at the wall and watching what sticks. The numbers are daunting. How would I know what worked and what didn’t? There’s no answer to that. Advice on ‘tickling the Amazon algorithm’ is to go for an upward spread over a sustained period rather than go for gold on one particular day. It was hard to guesstimate this when I couldn’t pre-determine which methods would get me the most in terms of results.

But what does giving away your book for free achieve?

Visibility. And sales on the rest of the series. Sure, the ‘top 100’ lists for free books are separate to the paid ones. But if I give away enough through paid promos, I start to gather organic free sales too. Now keeping in mind that a ‘good’ conversion rate between a free book and a paid one is actually as little as 2-5%, authors have to shift a shit-ton of books to make the endeavor profitable (or at least cover the losses).

Now, the dates I selected were from July 22nd – 26th

At that point in time, I had two other books in the series out and was a week away from releasing the fourth. I had something on the table past the first book. A lot of common advice is that a series won’t gain a lot of traction until at least the third one is out. I wanted to err on the end of the fourth being available and figured when people got around to reading The Damsel Gauntlet they could buy the next three and pre-order the fifth if they wanted to.

$AU$USNL22/07/2020My own newsletter send out
$86.67$55Book Barbarian 23/07/2020https://bookbarbarian.com/ad-pricing/
$113.92$75ereader iq and BS23/07/2020https://www.ereaderiq.com/authors/submissions/booksends/
$39.39$25Book runes24/07/2020https://bookrunes.com/submit-book/
$25.85$17Fantasy book deals 24/07/2020http://fantasybookdeals.com/submit-fantasy-book-deal/
$35.01$24Fussy librarian25/07/2020https://authors.thefussylibrarian.com/
$236.36$150Book Gorilla25/07/2020https://www.bookgorilla.com/advertise
$28.36$18Book Doggy26/07/2020https://bookdoggy.com/for-authors/
Yep. Those are some eye popping numbers.

My own newsletter and a giveaway

I know there are people on my mailing list who haven’t bought the book. They become useful when I’m playing a numbers game to get as many downloads as possible. But that’s not all I tried to achieve when hitting up my list.

Check out the actual email here.

Asking people to share the news and recommend the book on social media for their chance to win a signed paperback was a gamble. Probably more gimmicky than an effective sales method. But giving back to my mailing list and creating a bit of a buzz is a worthwhile effort, even if didn’t produce sales. Why? Every author is trying to create superfans. Including them in the hype makes them feel like they’re participating (and probably less narky that they spent good money on the book and now I’m giving it away for free).

I wanted to try and make sure everyone felt like a winner though, and had 10 of these ‘blessings (or curses) in a bottle’ to mail out. I did not know how much this would cost me in postage. But I felt the idea was good enough to warrant the spend, and slipped a note in asking them to take a picture of their message so I could share it with the newsletter.

On top of that, I have plenty of currency when it comes to offering the remaining people who shared review copies of the next book. It doesn’t cost me anything (except potential sales) and is a good way to thank people for the effort. And as this is more a ‘gift’ there wasn’t any heavy language in the book about ‘in exchange for this book please leave an honest review’. If they leave one, that’s just a bonus.

Social Media

Goes without saying, doesn’t it? I’m not a social media butterfly, but I did make sure I had posts lined up to let people know the book was free and pinned them to the top of my profiles. I made up some platform specific graphics and used hashtags to (hopefully) further my reach.

Newsletter swaps

The agreement between two authors that they will each share a title with their newsletter. I hadn’t really delved into many of these, but wanted to give it a try. As I’m on StoryOrigin, I have access to the features on that platform which provides tracking links etc and some kind of paper trail.

I also put together a Google Form and posted it on a few Facebook groups, but didn’t get a lot of traction there. Admittedly though, I didn’t push it all that hard once my StoryOrigin requests started filling up.

What can become contentious with these swaps is how many titles an author features in their newsletters. While one could solely include your title, if you are promoting fifteen, its not particularly equitable. I opted for four, and looked at peoples past campaigns to see how many they would typically feature in one of their newsletters. If the swap doesn’t hold up on either end, not only will you be unlikely to do another with that author, it could warn off others on StoryOrigin who are thinking of applying to your newsletter.

Organized my own sales promo on BookFunnel

I hadn’t done this before, but didn’t think it would hurt in the scheme of things and could potentially pay dividends. I’ve joined these kinds of promos before, and as with anything, chose the ones which my books closely fit with. The beauty of organizing my own? I could capture what my target audience is in the dates I’ve specified.

And on dates. A lot of these run for a month, which is fine, but I think the more effective ones are shorter. I set my dates for two weeks, with my free week being in the first half. I shared this around on Facebook to try and get some takers, but I’m not sure that it was necessary. People typically find these on BookFunnel itself (I do, at least).

Now I won’t go into my gene blending mistakes here, but with these promotions you can list three genres. I included general sci-fi/fantasy, mystery/thriller – supenatural, mystery/thriller cozy mystery. Plenty of the books in my ‘also brought’ section on Amazon are witchy cozy mysteries. They are most definitely their own thing. Which means that my books don’t qualify for their sales promos. But I can make them qualify for mine.

The other thing I did with this was change the header on my book while in the free dates, so those looking at it on BookFunnel didn’t have to click through to find that out. I figured I may get more uptake with that approach.

Then I put together a Facebook ad

Which had a $100 budget over the course of the free days. I also didn’t shut off my Amazon ads so they were in the background too (just checked, they amounted to 21 of the free sales overall… crappy).

I actually had quite a bit of success with Facebook and hadn’t tried them in a while as my last efforts were dismal. But I just want to add here that if you haven’t read ‘Help, my Facebook ads suck’ make sure you pick up a copy before you start dabbling. I read it after the fact and now realize I could have done a lot better if I knew some of the tricks outlined by Mal.

And here’s how it panned out (so far)

21st and 22nd – 7 swaps, and my own newsletter

  • 2 sales of book 2
  • 2 sales of book 3
  • 1 pre-order of book 4

23rd – 3 swaps, BookBarbarian and eReader IQ

  • 2 sales of book 2
  • 2 sales of book 3
  • 1 pre-order of book 4

24th – 4 swaps, Freebooksy, BookRunes, Fantasy Book Deals

  • 1 sale of book 2
  • 1 pre-order of book 4

25th – 8 swaps, *Fussy Librarian*, Book Gorilla

  • 3 sales of book 2
  • 4 sales of book 3
  • 1 pre-order book 4

26th – 2 swaps, BookDoggy

  • 1 sale of book 2
  • 1 pre-order of book 4

That’s a total of 6350 downloads!

*Fussy Librarian – I’m not sure if I messed this date up as I checked the newsletter on that day and didn’t see my book there, but it was on their website so perhaps went out a day earlier.

And I reached #46 in the overall free store in Amazon!

It’s probably too early to decide if this was successful or not.

Which is code for… not worth the money at this point. Since the promo the series has made back close to $300AU, some of this coming from a new release. But there is the long game to consider, and if people are reading through the entire series, I could absolutely make my money back and gain long term readers. All comes down the the elusive author crystal ball.

So far, I’ve had around 50 new subscribers to the newsletter list (some came through the landing page on the website at around the same time, so the numbers are a little unclear). I could absolutely see that continuing to climb.

One thing I will note (that doesn’t exactly fit the post) is that my subscribe rate on The Damsel Gauntlet is higher than the preceding book, Troll Hunter: Witch for Hire. The difference? Both have bonus sign up epilogues, but I’ve included the first chapter of The Damsel Gauntlet in Troll Hunter, which tells me those readers are more inclined to move to the next book rather than stop and subscribe. I’m now considering whether I’ll do the same in upcoming books.

Which leads me to the fact that my read through to book 2 so far has been under performing. All up I’ve only sold 18 copies of book two and had 1836 page reads ($62.80 AU) since the free promo for Of Hair and No Hair. With a 2% read through on the total number of free sales, I still have another 100ish books to sell. Which is a steep climb.

Conversely, the people who read book 2 generally move onto book 3, with 16 copies sold and 1200 pages read in the same time period. The 70 – 90% range here seemed to hold up. And actually, I’ve gained a lot of reviews on Goodreads (20) and Amazon (10) since the promo, almost all of them positive.

I knew from the outset though that this format of novelettes wasn’t going to suit everybody, and I would get people who feel cheated of at least half a book. That’s okay. This series was a way to learn the mechanics of self publishing, and I feel like I learned a lot from this particular promotion.

Like what?

My reader magnet which I made permafree a few weeks before the promotion has moved almost as many copies over four weeks. For a LOT less money.

Following the promotion I was getting a lot more traction with that title on Amazon. It began hovering at the #30k range on Amazon, but when I pulled the pin to go wide (see the post about that here) it took a nosedive, which tells me some of those pages read were new people picking up the books. It would have been interesting to track how the book did for a month following the promo, but unfortunately I’d already made the decision to go wide.

My original cover seems to do better with the market (okay, this is also based on how Troll Hunter performed) and I’ve swapped back to it. I’m going to embrace the ‘cozy mystery’ style, and even though there isn’t much by way of whodunnit in the Gretchen books, my also broughts section is always full of witchy cozy mysteries. I think it has a lot to do with the tone of the books and potentially the length playing better with those readers.

Facebook ads aren’t scary and are a better platform for my books at this point. With a sales ad running at 10 cents per click and a free book ad running at 5 cents, it has been cheaper than Amazon for me and I’ve woken up the snoozeville Gretchen Facebook page with a tonne of new page likes and comments.

And finally…Next time around…I’m writing something to market. There, I said it! Marketing a mashup is hard work.

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P.A. Mason - Author
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