*All numbers used are exact from my notes. Any sales listed do not include borrows, and are limited to US sales only.*
Here is what I’m going to cover today:
- The Reason – My motivation for using the KDP Select Program
- The Game Plan – What I did to prepare for my free promotion period
- The Results – Sales and Amazon ranks
In the second post I’m going to cover:
- The Outcome:
- The Good – How my sales went after the promotion
- The Bad – Oh those pesky reviews
- The Ugly – People were pissed
So, let’s get right down to it!
When the KDP Select program came out and everyone was singing its praises, I was skeptical. I figured I would let it play out for a while before I ever considered using it. But as I approached the release of my second book, Reinventing Claire (in August of 2012), I wanted to offer my first book free during the blog tour celebrating the release of my latest book. Now, the only way to go free on Amazon is through the KDP Select Program. Since Amazon is (typically) the most used website for book sales, it seemed the best way to go free for my blog tour was by enrolling in KDP.
I had two goals I wanted to meet with my free promotion; one, to gain the attention of new readers and hopefully future sales for my second book. Two, to hopefully, “Please, God, please, let me hit the Top 100 free on Amazon.” I didn’t care if I only hit #99, just to be in the Top 100 at all seemed like a ridiculously impossible goal to me. But just to say that I did it all would have been awesome.
The Game Plan:
When it comes to marketing my work, I am not a fly by the seat of your pants kind of gal. I’m a research, spreadsheets, more research, notes, and plans kind of gal. I don’t go into anything without having researched it, and have a plan of what I’m going to do. That’s just how I am, this is my business and I approach it as such.
So my first step, of course, was research. I wanted to see what other people had tried, their success with it, and what kind of resources I had to help promote my upcoming free days. I didn’t want to just put my book up for free, sit back, and hope people would find it. I spent a few weeks reading articles and blog posts, searching for websites to submit to; basically how to make the most of my free days. At first I was discouraged, because at that time there was post after post on Writers Café how KDP maybe had run its course, free days just weren’t having the impact they first did. Damn, I thought, I missed my chance. After countless hours of reading, I had a pretty skimpy list of websites that would promote free days, and the same pieces of advice from every article I read, which was:
Twitter – use it to your advantage and tweet about your promotion
Don’t use all of your free days at once
Pixel of Ink
Now, here was my take on that.
Twitter, well, duh. That seemed like a no brainer to me. In fact I found it odd that there would people who wouldn’t automatically think of using the available social media to spread the word.
Don’t use all of your free days at once, they say, so that you can spread them out over the course of the 90 day period. Because it offers multiple chances to boost your Amazon rank, your sales, and your exposure. Its sound advice, but I had no intention of sticking with the program after the 90 day period. I was using all 5 of the free days at once. A wham bam, thank you ma’am promotion.
Pixel of Ink, again, duh. They’re one of the places with the biggest reach to readers. Heck yeah I would send my information to them!
Now stuck with this fairly lackluster information and itty bitty list of resources to contact, I knew there had to be more places to contact that might post about my free promo. I’m not much of a Twitter kind of girl, really. All the hashtags annoy me, and it seems like everyone is saying the same thing, “Buy my book!” But, I dutifully upped my posts and interactions weeks prior to the promotion. I followed a handful of new people, and directly contacted 7 people about the upcoming free days. To which I have noted that I didn’t receive a reply.
I use Mailchimp to send out monthly newsletters and blog posts to my subscribers. I whipped up a postcard-like email and sent them to everyone in my subscribers list. At that time, that totaled up to be 52 people.
I then took that same email and sent it to my husband, where I asked him to send it to anyone at his work who might be interested in. That, I don’t have the exact number of people he emailed it to, but I know it was less than 20.
I emailed a very small handful of friends I thought might be interested, about 10 people.
Facebook is where I put most of my effort. I started with a simple keyword search – ebook. Go ahead and try it, type ebook in the search box and see how many results pop up. On the pages you’ll quickly see that most authors do drive-by postings, quick blurbs to promote their books. But with FB timeline layout, those posts get condensed; only posts from the page itself are very prominent. I wanted to be prominent. So, I went down the list of results, in order, and started contacting the page owners. I sent a polite, short message basically stating that I was an Indie author, I handle all of the marketing/promotions myself, I had an upcoming free promotion, and would they kindly post a link to it on their page during the promotion. Most page owners were so happy that someone actually asked for a link to be posted, instead of the drive-by postings like usual, they were “…thrilled to post the link!” Happy with the replies I was getting, I broadened my search terms. I started doing searches like book clubs, Kindle, free books, books, readers, book lovers, etc, and kept contacting page owners. It was tempting to skim the list and only hit the pages with 2,000+ likes, but anything with over 1,000 likes was fair game to me. I simply went down the results list, and anything over 1,000 likes, I sent them a message.
I also searched on Google for actual websites that posts free ebooks lists. I simply typed Free ebooks, and from there I just worked my way down the list of results. The only websites I excluded were sites that only offered paid services (I didn’t spend a dime for this promotion), sites that were no longer accepting submissions, and sites that weren’t current. Aside from those exclusions, I just went down the results in order.
After all that, here is what I ended up with:
- Contacted via email – 82 people (this includes friends, my husbands co-workers, and my newsletter/blog subscribers)
- Posted to 2 Goodreads groups, and created 1 Goodreads event. Received no replies in the Goodreads groups, and received 5 yes responses to the event
- Contacted via Twitter – 7 people
- Contacted via Facebook – 37 pages, of which 75% of them replied to my letter and did post a link, 10% did not reply but did post a link, and 15% plum ignored me
- Contacted via websites – 22 websites
At the end of my hunt, my dream of hitting the Top 100 and getting more exposure was in the hands of 148 people. At the time, I would have bet you $500 that my efforts weren’t enough, that there was no way I could possibly have done enough to achieve decent results. But I had a book release to promote, so it would have to do. Within days, I would be blown away with the results.
Now, before I get into these numbers you should have my starting numbers.
- August sales prior to free promotion: 12
- Ebook Amazon rank: 154,362
- Paperback Amazon rank: 1,136,997
Pretty sad state, wasn’t it? The morning of the first free day, I was online all day promoting my free days and the release of my second book. My main focus though was my book release because the free days were, after all, just a bonus to add to my blog tour for my release. I should also mention that my blog tour was not a huge one. I set it up myself, had 5 stops (one per day), 2 of which had about 1,000 followers, the others totaled about 500 followers. By breakfast time, I broke into the Top 100 free on Amazon at an awesome rank of #67. I was beyond thrilled, loving the moment, giddily took a screenshot to capture the moment, and then braced myself for rank to start sliding down.
By mid-morning, I broke the top 20.
By afternoon, I was #2.
At this point, I was thinking FB pages and websites who share links for free ebooks must keep an eye on each other, because now places I had never contacted or heard of were sharing my link, and my name was all over Twitter. Because so many of the places I contacted were posting my link as promised all at once, I’m assuming other websites must have thought something like, “Hey, maybe this is important?” I Googled my name and my book titles, it was all over the internet.
Within the first two days, I had over 30,000 sales. I was contacted by different websites about writing opportunities, and I was even contacted by legit agents. You know, the ones who only months ago were still sending me those polite rejection letters. Yeah, those guys were contacting me. I couldn’t believe it. I still can’t. Every second I was getting downloads like crazy. I was even getting downloads from the UK. Prior to that point I had never, ever, sold a single book in the UK. Not one.
The third day, I was floating around the 50k sales mark. I was taking screen shots of my rank, because I thought for sure any minute now I would be yesterday’s news and sales would start plummeting. And they did start to slow down. Granted, they were still selling like hot cakes, but not as fast. So, I hit Facebook again. I now started contacting pages with anything over 250 likes, and pages that only offered paid promotions. Again, I simply went down the results list in order, and they started posting the link for me. For free. Again, sales picked up. That night, I hit #1 on the Top 100 list.
So, to recap, Facebook is awesome. Don’t discount taking a bit of time to simply send a letter asking for someone to post your link. The worst they can say is no, or not say anything at all. But for me, it was the driving force to hitting #1 and 73,000 sales. I think a large part of it play in the difference between simply the visibility on the pages. You won’t see “Other people’s posts” to that page in your timeline – but you will see what the page owner posted in your timeline. That’s a big difference in visibility.
Please, tune in tomorrow, when I’ll share the nitty gritty of the outcome from that amazing ride up the charts.