A Kindle Promotion Post-Mortem

by David Nova | 27 Sept 2012

I have to say, for an independent-writer-publisher there are few experiences to match the thrill of the Kindle DP Select Free Promotion Days: watching the download numbers increase hour by hour, in some cases minute by minute, cheering for your book to rise in rank of its genre category, being unexpectedly surprised when your novel reaches #1. In the span of 2-5 days you get to experience what a best-selling author experiences over the course of a few weeks, or even months. Of course, you have to ground yourself, remind yourself that yes these are free books, not real sales numbers, and that the ride will eventually end, and you’ll have to face being a completely unknown author once again … but it’s so worth it.

Let me back up. When you publish your ebook on Amazon you have the choice to enroll in the KDP Select program. Basically you are making your book exclusive to Amazon for three months (no Nook, iBooks, Smashwords, or Sony Reader). I foolishly declined, initially. I listed my ebook on Barnes & Noble. (Getting into Apple’s bookstore proved challenging.) What I learned is that readers are far more likely to stumble upon your book at Amazon, though it is still like finding a needle in a haystack. Forget the other platforms – unless a reader has heard of your book they will probably never discover it. After spending a few months promoting the book and buying some cheap online advertising I attracted a few new readers, but the book was very much dying in obscurity. Ultimately, it was good that I waited – I gathered a few nice reviews. I soon discovered the best way to market a book is to give it away for free on Amazon.

When you make your book exclusive to Amazon you are given the opportunity to make it free for 5 days in that three month period. I chose to use up all 5 days at once (some authors break it up.) To make the promotion successful you really have to do a lot of preparation – at least a couple of weeks in advance. There are several websites that will promote your free days, you just have to contact them in advance.  Here is a list of some. Use Facebook and Twitter to get the word out. There are social networks that will happily promote your free days.  Here is some more information.Go to Fiverr.com and pay people with large social networks $5 to tweet for you. Finally, if you are willing to put a little extra money behind your push, check out the promotional packages at Kindle Nation Daily. Just get the word out before your free days begin, then sit back and watch your numbers go up.

When my free days began at midnight my book was no where near any of the top 100 lists. My starting rank in free books was #5,404. By morning the overall rank was #485 and I was #12 in Contemporary Fantasy. By the end of the first day my overall rank was #116, #3 in Contemporary Fantasy, #8 in Fantasy. On the morning of my second day I hit my peak – my overall rank was an amazing #14, I was the #1 novel in both the Fantasy and Contemporary Fantasy lists. Kindle readers had already downloaded over 4,ooo copies. In the remaining 3 days my book gradually fell, climbed, and fell again in overall rank, but it remained in the top 5 free fantasy books. At the end of the 5 day promotion I had given away a total of 10,900 books! I was both shocked and delighted.

Some authors may gasp at the thought of giving away 10,900 books, but you have to keep in mind that Kindle owners who search for free books to download probably would not have paid for it anyway. Half may never get around to read it. But if 5,000 people read your book and like it they may buy your next book, (especially a series) They may write a review, and they may even tell their friends about your novel. That’s the kind of publicity you can’t buy.

Not everyone will have this experience with a KDP Select Free Promotion. My book description may have been different enough from the bulk of the teen-paranormal-romance fantasies to attract a high level of curiosity. Whether or not they actually like my book is another matter. The day following my promotion my book dropped back into obscurity and off the top 100 lists. Yet it is slowly gaining more sales, now with a higher price tag, at a much faster rate than I experienced before the promotion. Time will tell if the bump is only temporary. The quality of the book will determine if it continues to do well.

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