About a month ago I posted a piece on trying out the various book sale promotion sites that are available, and promised to report back on progress. Here are some preliminary findings, as well as an example of one I have running today at Free Kindle Books and Tips so that you can get an idea of what one looks like (perhaps you might want to invest $0.99 while you’re at it).
The early report back is that using one of these services can definitely produce results. Indeed, this is the only approach I’ve explored over a five-year period that actually, reliably works – assuming you’re using the right service (more on this below), and that you’re willing to pay the fees. So one question one might ask is why, given the terabytes of marketing advice you find on the Internet about book promotion, this approach isn’t mentioned more often, and placed at the top of the list?
That’s a pretty good question, and I’m not sure I know the answer. One guess is that so much of the book advice you find is simply an echo chamber rehash of all of the other stuff that’s out there, most of which had its origins in the first years of post-Kindle book promotion. The other is that any of the promotions that actually work cost money – anywhere from $20 – $150 a pop (and in the case of BookBub, the king of the mountain, much more).
So if you give your book away through a promotion, its expensive, and if you use the wrong service, it’s not only expensive, but you’ll get very poor results. Another element is that it takes time and effort to use these services. Any service that will give you a slot the next day will almost assuredly sell few, and more likely no, books. I suspect they won’t result in that many downloads of free books, either, judging by how few Kindle Unlimited downloads I got.
One reason many promotion sites have such dismal results is that they will accept anything, and therefore have very low credibility with potential readers. Another is that some services have far more subscribers than others. Not surprisingly, the more exclusive the service, the harder it is to get them to accept your book, and the longer you will have to wait to get a spot on their daily list. But because they actually screen the books and accept only those with great covers and reviews, they have higher credibility with their subscribers. They usually list fewer books each day, too, and may also allow subscribers to sign up to only see books in their preferred genre(s).
The result is that it when I did my research to select the services I wanted to try and filled out the on-line applications, the earliest dates I was able to get were spread out over a six-week period, and I wasn’t able to score a spot on the two top services (ENews Reader Today and BookBub) at all. Hopefully that will change when I get more reviews for my second book.
You can see easily see the credibility/waiting period effect in the chart below, which shows sales during the period that my first four promotions ran run. The first two ran on 8/25, and 8/26-27, and likely resulted in at most one or two book sales a piece. The third and fourth (which I had to wait for) resulted in sales of about 42 copies and 21, respectively. The upturn on the far right is showing the first results of the promotion that I’m running today.
So what about costs? The bad news is that if you use bad sites, you’ll be throwing money down a hole. On the other hand, if you use the right ones, have an appealing book, and discount your book rather than give it away, you may break even or make a little on the sale days. Authors using the best services usually report follow on sales for a few days afterwards, when their books are back to full price. Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, the good sites also limit how often you can run a book, which means that you can only run another promotion at each site after a number of months have passed.
I have three more promotions to go: one more with my book at a discount, and three when I’ll be offering it for free. I’ll report back in greater detail when my first cycle of promotions has run, and also give the names and costs of the various services I used. To see how the current one is doing, you can keep an eye on the Amazon sales rank of The Lafayette Campaign, which you can find here. The Free Kindle newsletter will go out later today, and it usually takes about six hours for actual sales to percolate through the Amazon system (and longer, I believe, for non-US). Based on past experience, that means that sales peak on the day of the sale, but continue meaningfully into the next day.