While I regularly run discount promotions on my books, I haven’t run a free one in years. The reason? It’s mostly a road to nowhere when you only have one book. At most, you can hope that someone will read that book and recommend it to a friend. But with three now, well, it seemed like it was time to give it a try once again.
How well can a giveaway work? That depends on how much effort you put into it. The first time around, about 4,000 copies were downloaded, which was a pretty good result, as such things go. The holy grail of free promotions is to get your book accepted by BookBub, which has millions of followers on its daily book promotion email list. Those authors lucky enough to have a book accepted may move as many as 20,000 copies in a day through this avenue alone.
One result of that kind of success is that your book will likely make it, albeit briefly, to the top of one of Amazon’s many best seller lists. That’s not quite as hard as it seems, especially if you go far enough down the bestseller categorical chain, as in, say, Fiction>Thrillers>Cybersecurity>OnlyMyBooks. Okay, so I made that one up. But it is pretty easy to top a chart if you go this route. As an example, a few hours into this campaign, 158 copies of The Alexandria Project have been downloaded, taking it to a very unexciting #5,914 on the all free books list. But it’s doing much better on the more granular lists:
- #16 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Suspense > Political
- #16 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Technothrillers
Three hours later, total downloads had reached 459, the overall free rank had risen to 470, and and the >Political rank had risen to 3. Tomorrow, when the big push hits, it should hit #1 in that category immediately, and then start working its way back up the >Chain. My book probably won’t reach #1 in Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks, but it should have a decent shot at making it in Kindle Store>Kindle eBooks>Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, which would put it in front of a lot of people who in turn may decide to download it, compounding the effect.
Does getting to the top of a sub list lead to follow on sales? Not as much as one would hope, as far as I can tell. But it does have one benefit: many authors (without even blushing) will ever after refer to their “Number 1 Best Seller!” if their book spends even a single one hour slot at the top of a sub list.
So how do you go about achieving that wondrous result? If, like most of us, you can’t make it on to BookBub’s list, or don’t feel like paying $800 or more for the privilege, you have to try and work your way up to a big total bit by bit, by applying for spots on the same day on as many second tier services as you can, like EReaderNewsToday, Robin Reads, FKBT and so on. While some of these sites will list free books for free, most don’t, so the costs of going this route can run up quickly. And it’s very time consuming. For this campaign, I’ve reserved spots on a total of 22 sites, 20 of which will run the book tomorrow (one will run today and another will run the book on Thursday). Lining all those ads up probably took over six hours (you have to add all of your book data at each site) and several hundred dollars.
Will it be worth it? That remains to be seen. When I did this the first time, those 4,000 downloads resulted in virtually no follow-on sales at all. One reason for that kind of result is that there are so many books available for free that anyone can download as many free books as they want every day, most of which they’ll never get around to reading. And even if some meaningful number of copies of your book do get read, there’s no guarantee that any of those readers will recommend your book to their friends.
This time, though, the free book is the first in a series, and the first two chapters of the second book are at the end of the first book. Hopefully some of the readers of the free copy will like it enough, and be sufficiently intrigued by those first two chapters, to part with the grand sum of $3.99 to get a second helping. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, if you haven’t read The Alexandria Project yet, well, what are you waiting for? For the time being, it’s free right here. And hey – while you’re thinking about it, who not tell everyone you know?