Do Free Book Promotions Work (Part II)

25 October 2015

From author Andrew Updegrove:

Two and a half weeks ago, I posted a report on the initial results of a free copy promotion I ran, using four of the more effective book newsletter services. That campaign was successful in the near term, resulting in 4,360 copies of my second book being downloaded. In the conclusions, I noted:

I’ll need to collect further data before I can report back on whether a trial of this scale, duration and impact had the desired effect. The real test will be whether a week from now my base line of sales and page reads steps up from the base line before the sale.

And the answer is?… [drum roll]…No on sales, yes on reads.

. . . .

For a free promotion, an author may want to achieve one, or more likely all, of the following:

  • achieve more visibility and buzz for the promoted book
  • get a large number of people to read the book
  • get more reviews for the book, especially at Amazon
  • boost the sales momentum for the book
  • sell additional books, often in the same series, to the readers that download a free copy

The types of data you would use to measure success is rather obvious, although an author’s real-time access to the information they need may be limited, depending on their platform:

  • Daily sales, and the sales trend, of the promoted book following the sale
  • Daily sales of other books by the author, especially if they have been promoted in the back matter of the promoted book
  • Kindle page reads, if the book is enrolled in the Kindle Library and/or Amazon Prime programs

If your books are enrolled only in Amazon Select, then your monitoring will be quite simple. The best measure will be your Kindle Author Dashboard report, which provides charts and figures for the number of copies you’ve sold and the number of pages that have been read as they are read. Strangely, the Kindle dashboard also updates much more quickly and more often than your books’ Amazon ranks are calculated and posted (the lag seems to be at least six hours). That said, it still takes some hours between the time that a copy of your book is sold or a page is read before the results show up in your dashboard

If your books are in other distribution channels as well, then you will only be able to assemble your comprehensive results as they become available, either site by site, if you have uploaded them yourself (e.g., at Apple iTunes, Google Play, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and so on) or in a single dashboard, if you’ve used a distributor, like SmashWords or Draft2Digital. The speed at which sales figures make their way to these distributors will vary, as will their own times and frequency of updating your account.

. . . .

Either way, one take away from this chart is that running a sale (or a discount) on Wednesday – Friday, rather than during the weekend itself, is a good idea. That way your book will be top of the mind when the opportunity to settle in with a good read arises. Another reason to do so is that I was informed by one of the best services that downloads are lower on Saturdays and Sundays, presumably because people are otherwise occupied, and less likely to be on-line then.

Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove

Here’s a link to Andrew Updegrove’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Do Free Book Promotions Work?

10 October 2015

From author Andrew Updegrove:

For years now, the prevailing wisdom in self-publishing has been that periodically pricing a book at free for a few days is a great way to build an audience. More recently, many authors are reporting that giving away thousands of free copies of a book has almost no ongoing positive impact on sales. Which view reflects reality?

The evolving consensus seems to be that while massive giveaways worked well in the past, they don’t work now. Multiple authors have reported that their giveaways have resulted in few, if any, reviews, and also that it was difficult to ascribe many (and sometimes any) downstream sales as a result of their free promotions.

. . . .

On the other hand many writers (and often the same ones) are reporting good success from repricing a book, usually the first one in a series, to free on an ongoing basis (or on “permafree,” as it’s come to be called). The value they see is that a reader will find that they like what they’ve read, and will then go on to purchase additional copies in the same series.

On its face, this seems to be a contradictory statement – a book that is offered free under one type of promotion produces results, but does not when it is offered for free under another. Can this make sense, and if so, why?

The reason can likely be found in the very different circumstances under which the free copy makes its way onto the reader’s preferred reading device, so let’s take those processes apart and see how they differ.

In the free mass download example, the author will typically sign up several services that send out daily emails – often to more than 100,000 subscribers – offering several free and/or discounted eBooks, or perhaps several in each of multiple genres. While authors can sign up with some of these services without charge, most require a payment which can vary from $15 to several hundred dollars for one day’s inclusion in a daily email (you can find out more about free promotions in my last blog entry).

While some of these services produce modest numbers of downloads, others can produce thousands (at the top of the heap is BookBub, where an author may be rewarded with 8,000 or more downloads). The problem is that the readers that subscribe to these services are exposed to new books every day, 365 days of the year. Downloading a book can be done on a whim, so there’s nothing to prevent a subscriber from subscribing to several of the many services and downloading a book – or even multiple books – every day. If they don’t get around to reading your book by the time their Kindle or iPad starts pleading for mercy, it will likely get deleted with dozens of other unread books to make way for the new treats that are listed in that day’s email.

A reader that stumbles on a permafree book, however, will like do so as a result of visiting your website, receiving a recommendation from a friend, or in some other fashion that exposes them to one book at a time. When they do, there’s a better than even chance that they’re not a subscriber to any of the free downloads newsletters, too. So the chance that they’re already drowning in un-read self-published books is much lower.

So if all of the above is true, should you try the mass download route at all? Good question. I decided to give it a try to find out, and here are the preliminary results.

Link to the rest at Andrew Updegrove: Tales of Adversego

Here’s a link to Andrew Updegrove’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Why Free Book Promotions Still Work – Sort of

12 August 2013

From author Nick Stephenson:

On the 30th July I ran a campaign with the fine folks over at Bookbub. I shifted (or, more accurately, they shifted) a little over 60,000 copies of Panic, the first novel in the Leopold Blake series of thrillers, and the title hit the number 1 spot in the US Kindle Store, hovering around the top for five days. A lot of authors have been questioning whether a campaign like this will make any difference to paid sales since Amazon started penalizing affiliates for pushing too many free titles, so I’ve got some results to share with you that may or may not give you an answer.

First of all, here’s a breakdown of the effect the giveaway had on paid sales:

Panic (Book #1 in the Leopold Blake series) Paid Sales

Average sales per day before the promotion: 2
Average sales per day during the 7 days since the promotion ended: 28

So, nothing too spectacular there. But, what’s more interesting, is how my other title performed during and after the campaign. Here’s another breakdown:

Departed (Book #2 in the Leopold Blake series) Paid Sales

Average sales per day before the promotion: 3
Average sales per day during the 5 day promotion of Panic: 29
Average sales per day in the 7 days since the promotion ended: 54

On its best day, the 24 hours following the end of the promotion, Panic sold 55 copies. On Departed’s best day, the title sold 48 copies (again, within the first 24 hours after the promotion ended). Overall, I’ve made around $1,300 in the last 10 days. The Bookbub advertisement cost $140 (now $180).

. . . .

But what about other benefits? As well as increased sales, I’ve had the following:

Increased web traffic to my blog and author website – taking this blog up into the top 500k ranking on Alexa (which is nothing to be sniffed at).
60 signups to my “New Releases” email list
11 new book reviews (mostly 4 and 5 stars, a couple of bad ones)

. . . .

While I’ve had some solid numbers, the results are hardly “blow me away” spectacular. This is hardly surprising, considering the sheer volume of free books out there, but it does mean one thing for authors – if you’re going to use free books to help you gain exposure, you’re going to need to shift A LOT of copies.

Link to the rest at Nick Stephenson

Authors Use Multi-tiered Strategies To Gain Max Exposure In Book Price Promotions

29 September 2017

From Digital Book World:

Book price promotions are one of the most useful strategies independent authors have for finding new readers and shifting units. Price promotions are like sales: authors lower their price of their book to encourage new people to try it. However, temporarily reducing your book to 99 cents (or free) won’t matter unless the right readers know about your price promotion.

That’s where online book promotion services step into the picture. If you’re not familiar with sites like BookBub, they’re places where readers can find discounted and free books — and sign up for newsletters to notify them of the latest deals within their genres of interest. Getting your book featured by the most popular services is incredibly valuable, will almost guarantee a bump in sales and downloads. However, these placements are not guaranteed, and your promotion can always benefit from being featured elsewhere. In these situations, smaller promo services are worth considering.

Reedsy has released an evolving directory of Book Promotion Services. Authors can use it to search for prospective book promotion services, sorting by genre, advertising costs, and mailing list size.

. . . .

Rhetorical question: when you’re planning your price promotions, would you rather put all your eggs in one basket or try to get every last bit of exposure possible?

Let’s say you’re planning a week free promotion with the aim of getting 50 reviews for your self-published book. You want to ensure that you’re getting a steady flow of downloads, as it will improve your rank in Amazon’s Free store much more than a one-day spike.

To “trickle-in” these new readers, you will arrange for your “Tier I” promotions (the ones with the greatest track record, with whom it is commonly more expensive to work) to run on different days, supported by promotions on Tier II, Tier III (and maybe Tier IV) sites. For example, the first three days of your Amazon Free Promotion might be supported by paid promotional placements as follows:


  • BookBub (Tier I) – from $55
  • Book Gorilla (Tier II) – from $5
  • Book Runes (Tier III) – from $25
  • Book Praiser (Tier IV) – free to list


  • Free Booksy (Tier I) – from $40
  • The Fussy Librarian (Tier II) – from $40
  • Just Kindle Books (Tier III) – from $15
  • Feed Your Reader (Tier IV) – free to list


  • Book Sends (Tier I) – from $10
  • BKnights (Tier II) – from $5
  • My Book Place (Tier III) – from $25
  • New Free Kindle Books (Tier IV) – free to list

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

PG says to feel free to share your experiences with these promotional sites in the comments.

KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts

15 April 2016

From David Gaughran:

Last month, Amazon was caught up in a crisis at least partly of its own making when bungled attempts to deal with a growing Kindle Unlimited scammer problem resulted in the sanctioning of innocent authors.

Amazon has since apologized, and has also pledged to beef up its response to the KU scamming mess – but questions very much remain about whether Amazon is taking the problem seriously enough. A quick check shows that some of the main scammers are still operating, under the very same author names and book titles that were reported to Amazon in late February and early March. Which is very disappointing.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with Phoenix Sullivan about the problem and she told me about something else she was witnessing – scammers taking over the free charts in the Kindle Store.

. . . .

Here’s Phoenix Sullivan with more:

. . . .

Over the Easter weekend, I was watching a carefully orchestrated promotional campaign of Steel Magnolia Press titles. By design, we’re back down to just the original founders of the micropress—Jennifer Blake and myself, with a couple of pen names and about 75 titles between us. Our catalog is currently exclusive to Amazon, meaning we’re all-in in Select and KU. Our promotions are planned to optimize visibility via a mix of Free and Countdown Deals and keep our back and front list afloat for a few weeks, then rinse and repeat.

For our Easter weekend promotion, we had 12 books sharing an ad budget of about $1300. Of that, $365 was allocated to our anchor ad—a BookBub placement for a free box of 3 of Jennifer’s backlist romances. Things were trundling along as expected on Saturday, and the anchor title hit #2 on the freebie list late afternoon. So far, so good.

But a curious thing was happening further up the Top 100 Free list. Two other free books of ours seemed to be garnering enough downloads for ranks that would put them in the Top 100, but they were sitting just outside that visibility. In fact, during the early evening, one of those titles lost a rank. Yes, a single rank, but at #107 with a good history of increasing downloads behind it, that was very telling movement.

Additionally, we had another book in the Top 100 that seemed stalled in the #70s despite increasing downloads that day.

A peek at the full Top 100 Free list revealed why. There were 22 books across 7 author names on the list that didn’t belong. Yet there they were, hanging together as a block, solid from #6 to #27. I saw books of two friends that a couple of hours before had been in the Top 20—and most importantly, on Page 1—shoved back to the #30s and Page 2.

. . . .

The majority of [the titles that suddenly appeared] were children’s picture books and cookbooks, with few to no reviews, keyword-stuffed titles (some with one or two misspelled words in the title), and blurbs that made it clear no English-speaking editor had touched them.

I’d seen this before periodically. A handful of freebies appearing high on the list out of nowhere, usually gone in 24-36 hours, most likely the result of click-farmed downloads.

. . . .

I went to sleep in the wee hours of Sunday morning—after firing off a letter to KDP Support—with our BB-backed freebie firmly ensconced at #2, only to wake up a few hours later to a front page of the Free list completely taken over, from #1 to #22, by those 22 books that didn’t belong.

Take a moment to absorb that. Our title was contemporary romance with a BookBub list of 2.2 million subscribers. That was the only promo site we bought for it, and it garnered about 25K downloads on the US site that day. The book ahead of Jennifer’s was a cozy mystery off a list of 3.3 million subscribers. Both were books by recognizable authors with a solid number of reviews. Yet 22 other books that day managed more than 25K downloads each. Plus the #1 book had zero reviews during the time it was at #1 and no author recognition factor.

That it happened over a weekend, especially a holiday weekend, was likely not a coincidence. Amazon Support is short-staffed on regular weekends, and they move slower to catch and correct.

. . . .

When those gamers steal visibility, they are stealing profits from others, pure and simple. The two books of ours in the Top 100 Free were impacted by the loss of visibility by being knocked back from Page 1 to Page 2 and from Page 5 to Page 7. The two books that hit just outside the list suffered even more from not getting deserved visibility. Not in some abstract, esoteric sense or bragging rights sense, but quantifiable dollars. Ethical authors and publishers are the ones having to pour more and more of our profits into the system to stay ahead of the scammers in terms of visibility.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and thanks to Dale for the tip.

Here are links to David Gaughran’s books and Phoenix Sullivan’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Beyond $0.99: New tips on ebook price promotions

10 February 2015

From Gigaom:

The days when a single Kindle Daily Deal could catapult an unknown book up the New York Times bestseller list are probably behind us now. And big publishers are experimenting more and more with price promotions, so that a super-low price on a self-published ebook isn’t enough to help it stand apart. So as more and more and more ebooks are published, how have the mechanics of price promotions changed?

. . . .

It’s all about the shopping cart

The “cart” is an obvious feature of online shopping — but hasn’t always been a huge part of shopping for ebooks. If you’re reading on an e-reader, for example, you might be buying books one at a time. But Kobo learned the value of the cart at the end of the last year, when it added the ability for customers to buy several books simultaneously. In December the company ran a 3-for-2 ebook promotion for the first time, with great success.

“It was a price promotion, but it was really interesting because of what people were buying,” Nathan Maharaj, head of bookselling at Kobo, told me. “People were loading up on full-price ebooks, then often taking one that was already promotionally priced and dropping that in their basket, and that was the one they got free” — for example, buying a $14.99 ebook, a $15.99 ebook and a $2.99 ebook, with the $2.99 free. It wasn’t a “fight over how low can you go. This was completely different.” The promotion seemed to appeal to a different kind of customer — those who “haven’t been playing the cheap game very much.”

. . . .

Nonfiction is hard, but keep trying

Ebook price promotions are largely geared toward readers of fiction. “We’ve had some miserable luck with nonfiction” price promotions, Maharaj said. “My hunch is the nonfiction reader is differently oriented toward their reading material. Price is less interesting to them than, ‘Is this information I need now? Is this how I rule the dinner party? Do I need to master these concepts?’ … There’s a shift in emphasis in how the customer values it, but that’s a wild guess.”

At the same time, ebook price promotions are also less common for nonfiction. “If that’s your preferred area, it’s not a really good investment of your time to pay attention to things like daily deals and price promotions [because] the good stuff tends not to come up too frequently,” Maharaj noted.

Link to the rest at Gigaom and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Breaking Free – What Happened when I left KDP Select

7 June 2014

From author Nick Stephenson:

“KDP Select is evil”. “Free promotions are pointless”. “Nick, you’re an idiot”. These are things I hear on a daily basis, the latter usually being something I say to myself when I’m looking in the mirror. As for the first two, I talk to a lot of authors who have a strong opinion on the relative merits of signing up for 90 days of exclusivity with Amazon, and the words “shackled” and “dungeon” come up a lot. It’s the same for free days – half of authors think they’re a God-send, the other half would rather cut off their own limbs with a rusty spatula than offer their work gratis.

. . . .

The two main strategies for free books I see most often are:

A variety of titles signed up to KDP Select, with rotating free promotions on each book. This is pretty easy to do with the 5 free days you get to play with under the KDP Select contract.
Titles NOT in KDP select, and up on other vendors, with the first book in the series permanently free. This is also pretty easy to do.
There are pros and cons for both approaches, but last month was the first time I’d tried option number (2).

. . . .

[T]his was another month where I had a free promotion with Bookbub. You can see clearly that, while immediate results were lower than before, the residual effect is lasting much longer (and has carried over so far into June). Overall, the total income from the promotion is about the same, but the sales increase is far more consistent. And this is a good thing – I’d rather have a bunch of sales spread across a month, rather than just a couple of days. It helps with boosting visibility with Amazon’s algorithms (which largely discount anomalous spikes in favour of consistent performance) and helps keep things going when I’m not actively promoting or advertising.

Next month’s figures will be more illuminating – I’ll be able to see just how long the sales boost lasts. I’m expecting things to drop off pretty quick, but, so far, things are looking good. More importantly, this strategy has really opened up the UK market for me, as well as Nook and iTunes (Kobo is a bit of a graveyard). I’m looking forward to my other 3 titles dropping out of Select, so I can get them up on the other sites too. The non-Amazon-US avenues are now accounting for roughly 50% of revenue, which is cool, as I’m less vulnerable to sales fluctuations in one market – I’ve got others to back me up.

Link to the rest, including sales graphs, at Nick Stephenson

Is Kindle Countdown the new Free? Keeping books visible in 2014

30 March 2014

From author and regular TPV visitor M. Louisa Locke:

For the past year there has been a good deal of hand-wringing over the question of KDP Select free promotions. Have they de-valued fiction, do they attract negative reviews, do they even work anymore? As anyone who regularly reads my blog posts knows, I have been a strong proponent of offering ebooks free for promotional purposes, and free promotions have been very good to me in terms of increasing my reviews and keeping my books visible and selling.

However, I also believe one of the distinct advantages we have as indie authors is our ability to use our own sales data to respond innovatively to changes in the marketing environment. As a result, in the past year I followed a number of different strategies to keep the books in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series visible, including beginning to experiment with the new promotional tool, theKindle Countdown, that has been introduced as part of KDP Select.

. . . .

Conclusions: 1) Free promotions are still very effective under certain circumstances. In fact, the BookBub-backed promotion of Maids of Misfortune in May 2013 was slightly more effective than the November 2012 promotion of this book in terms of total downloads, increased visibility, and long-term increase in sales. 2) This didn’t hold true with all books under all circumstances. For example, my free promotions without a BookBub ad had no significant effects on subsequent sales, and the first book in my series consistently did better in subsequent sales (not in total downloads) than the sequel. 3) Because BookBub is expensive, doesn’t accept every book, and now will only promote a book every six months, authors, myself included, need to continue to look at alternative methods of keeping our books visible. Which is where the Kindle Countdown becomes important.

. . . .

October 31, 2013, KDP announced its Kindle Countdown option for books enrolled in KDP Select. This confirmed my feeling that Amazon was systematically nudging indie authors away from depending on free as a promotional tool. I am not going to describe the details of the program, but I am going to report on the four Kindle Countdown promotions I have done so far and draw some conclusions about how they compare to KDP Select free promotions. Since I was experimenting, each Kindle Countdown I did went for a slightly different number of days and used different combinations of promotional ads. However, in all of them I kept the price at 99 cents throughout the promotion. The data also just represents sales in the US store, since my sales in the UK store remained minimal in all the promotions (even the one that was backed by BookBub).

. . . .

1. Based on post-promotional sales, free-book promotions are definitely superior to a Kindle Countdown 99 cent sale (at least at this point in time). Not only did the KDP Select free promotions increase the sales of the promoted book, but they also increased the sales of the other books in the series. In comparison, Kindle Countdown promotions had weaker and less consistent effects on post promotional sales of all books.

. . . .

2. Kindle Countdown promotions—like free promotions––do have a positive effect on increasing the number of reviews. But again, as one would expect, the difference in volume between the two kinds of promotions will have an impact. Nevertheless, I must note that my Kindle Countdown promotions produced a greater number of reviews than I anticipated.

. . . .

3. While Kindle Countdowns are not as effective at this point in producing sales after the promotion, at least you make some sales (and money) during the promotion. For people who have used free-book promotions and then had negligible post-promotional sales, this can make a Kindle Countdown a less risky proposition.

Link to the rest at M. Louisa Locke and thanks to Carol for the tip.

Next Page »