Results of FREE Promo

Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas, Scribe fans. It’s been an amazing year. Four YA novels and a short story published, and I’ve learned tons about the business. A huge thanks to all those who have read and helped spread the word about my books this past year. There is no way I could have done all of this without you. I’m truly grateful and humbled by the generosity of my writing community. You guys rock!

I just came off a two day Free promo for Heaven is for Heroes and On Thin Ice. Sales for both books had trickled to a slow drip over the last six months and I thought a run in the KDP Select program might breathe new life into my visibility through the holidays. As with all of my promotional efforts, it’s pretty much of an experiment each and every time since what works one day in publishing may not work the next.

In hind site, my biggest mistake was that I didn’t plan far enough ahead to garner a spot in any of the paid advertising sites like Pixel of Ink, E-reader News Today, Kindle Nation Daily, or one of the newer sites Book Bub, a site that I’ve heard is getting some impressive attention. Some of these sites take one to six months to get an ad, and some cost as much as $200 for a one day advertisement. Pricey, but usually worth it to reach the 10,000+ mark for downloads in a two day period. The consensus seems to be that two days is the charm, as downloads usually drop by day three and if you haven’t hit the top 100 list on Amazon, you’re not likely to beyond day three. The idea is that if you can get enough volume of downloads, it will affect your rankings and set you up for a nice bump in sales once the book goes back into the paid store. At least that’s how it used to work.

Amazon appears to be fond of changing the rules on us Indies as soon as we figure out how to make the system work for us. I’m sure you’ve heard or read about incidents of things like reviews disappearing arbitrarily, algorithms changing to favor traditionally published and higher priced books, and the shifty way they manipulate the rankings after a free promo. In other words, it’s beginning to feel like the cards are stacked against us.

For example, in March I did a two day FREE promo for Savage Cinderella. Granted, I was part of a group of 19 authors giving our books away and cross-promoting the event, clearly able to reach many more readers than going solo, but I had 28,000 downloads, made it into the Amazon top 100, and had an uptick in sales for about three weeks after the promotion, selling about 800 books that month. This week’s promotion didn’t do nearly as well, but I didn’t expect it to given I hadn’t advertised ahead of time and didn’t have the cross-promotion benefits. I did get several new twitter followers and a few new FB “likes” out of the deal and my books are in the hands of a few thousand new readers—always a good thing! Hopefully, it will translate to some postiive reviews.

Here are my results:

Heaven is for Heroes:

2,868 US downloads, 96 (UK), 25 (de), 3(Fr.), 1 (es.), 4 (It.), 1 (Jap), and 7 (Ca.)

Amazon Bestseller Rankings:

#130 Free Kindle store

#8 Kindle store>e-books>teens

#32 kindle store>e-books>fiction>genre fiction>romance contemporary

On Thin Ice:

825 US Downloads, 114 (UK), 22 (de), 2 (Ca.)

#453 in Kindle store

#14 Kindle store>Kindle books>teen>romance


Not bad numbers overall, considering there were no paid ads and I basically depended on Twitter and Facebook for advertising. I listed the books on half a dozen Facebook pages that allowed for promotion of free books, focusing on YA sites. I belong to several writers loops and had lots of help spreading the word (THANK YOU Wana Minions, CTRWA buddies, Authors Network and the WG2E Street team folks.)

I had low expectations of this promotion since it was a last minute decision and I scrambled to pull it together. I’ll see over the next week whether sales are given a boost, but I’m not anticipating that since the rankings dropped back to the pre-promo numbers as soon as I came off of FREE. It used to take a few days for this to happen, but Amazon’s new practices seem to expedite this process, making it that much harder for authors to take advantage of short term boosts in rankings. I was hoping I’d stay in the visible top 100 to catch those new Kindle owners after Christmas, but I’m thinking that’s not going to happen either. They’ll likely be loading up on the FREE books going up next week, the zillion .99 cent books that will be available over the next month, and the lucky ducks sitting on the Top 100 list that most people find as soon as they fire up their Kindles.

One interesting note is the number of downloads of Heaven is for Heroes verses On Thin Ice. On Thin Ice has been my best seller for several months, selling twice as many in the UK as here in the US, and outselling my other titles three to one. Heaven is for Heroes 72 dpi 600x900 WEBSITE USESince the only thing I did to change the game was to change my cover for Heaven is for Heroes, I’m wondering if that might be what gave the book a boost.

My favorite takeaway from this promotion is seeing downloads in Italy, Japan, and Canada, new markets previously untapped for me. Very exciting!

I hope Santa was good to you all and that whatever you’re doing today, you’ll find some downtime to escape into a good book. Merry Christmas everyone!

Any questions? Thoughts? Ideas?

27 thoughts on “Results of FREE Promo”

  1. Thank you so much for sharing this info, PJ. I found the difference between the 2 books to be very interesting. All of this marketing stuff is almost overwhelming, especially the way everything changes! I’m so glad to see that people like you are willing to share their info and learning with others.

    1. Glad it was helpful, Melanie. Most of us authors are not natural marketers, so the only way we learn this important part of the business is to share ideas and information with each other. I am so grateful to everyone who has so generously shared their experiences on the writers loops I belong to. I’d be nowhere without them, so I’m happy to pay it forward. Have a wonderful Christmas!

    1. Hi Natalie! It certainly depends on your perspective and expectations. I was hoping to get about 10k downloads and see a healthy spot on the top 100 list, so for that reason, I’m a bit disappointed. But I always try to take what is and make the best of it. Learning what to do differently next time is part of the process. I’ll definitely do a paid ad next time around and plan a little better, perhaps doing a cross-promotional event with other YA authors to maximize our reach. We shall see. Thanks for the support and encouragement! Blessings…

    1. Thanks E. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I’m satisfied with knowing that my books have reached new hands and new markets. Thanks for the encouragement and well wishes. Blessings back to you.

  2. As always excellent information and timely. My new book will be coming out in a week or two (first sel pub) and I’ve toying with when or if to do the free days and if they are worth it. You have given me much food for thought, Paula. Thank you and Merry Christmas!

    1. Thanks, Marian, and good luck with your new self-pub title. The Select program works best if you have more than one title in a series or several single titles since people who read and like it will be looking for more from you. Some people say Sunday to Wednesday gets the best download rate, and two days free at one time is about max for most people unless you have a perma-free title that is the first in a series. Many ins and outs to think about, but it’s best to recognize that you have nothing to lose in trying an experiment:-) Let me know off loop if you have any questions.

  3. Thanks for sharing your #s, and here’s hoping you get a boost in sales for the holidays!
    Free days on holidays are very hard because folks are not usually online as much as socializing or with family/events. Also, highest downloads are Monday-Wed (Sunday being worst typically).
    Another tip is to put your book on 99 cents after your free days to keep momentum going. Also, if folks don’t hear about the free offer till late, they won’t balk as much at 99cents instead of say 6.99.
    Anyway, just a few tips to make those tough free days work harder for you! Lord knows Amazon isn’t helping these days by cracking down on the freebie promos. My best to you!
    Christine 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for the tips, Christine! I have a few more opportunities to play with it over the next couple of months so I’ll be sure to take those things into consideration.

  4. Another informative blog, PJ. I’m hearing from a lot of friends that the ebook promotional landscape is changing almost too fast to fathom. Fortunately, hard work, consistent effort and new releases seem to keep the balls in the air and sales moving forward. Congrats on all the success this year. Wishing you and all the Scribes even more success for 2013.

  5. I’m hearing the same things, Tim. That will be my focus this year…”hard work, consistent effort, and new releases.” Sounds like a winning plan. We shall see! Thanks for stopping by.

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