Snag free stories + stay up to date

G B Ralph, Author

My first free book promo debrief

My first free book promo debrief with orders chart, Duck and Dive book cover

The quick version

  • I made my first book (Duck and Dive) free for five days.
  • Promoted it via my mailing list (email newsletter), blog, social media, author newsletter swaps, book promotion sites, and paid advertising.
  • Total spend was USD 135.
  • Got my book into the virtual hands of over 1500 readers.
  • Hit the #1 spot in a bunch of free categories on Amazon.
  • My mailing list and the author newsletter swaps were the most effective free marketing.
  • The book promotion sites were by far the most effective paid marketing.
  • This was my first attempt and it’s been a useful experiment, giving me some great data for future promotions.

Keen for more juicy details? Read on, dear friend…

The longer version

Duck and Dive has been my crash test dummy for all things writing, editing, publishing, and marketing. So, in the spirit of crashing it into more things, I gave it away for five days earlier this month.

The free promotion is a tool available to those enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select programme (meaning you’ve committed to being exclusive to Amazon with that ebook, at least for 90 days) and I wanted to experiment with it. I scheduled a free promotion to run worldwide on all Amazon stores from 10-14 June. And being loosely scientific about it, I jotted down what I did as I went. After the promotion, I spent a few hours collating and analysing the results, summarising the outcomes, and considering my next steps. I’ve pulled together some of the key points into some kind of logical and presentable order below.

But if all that sounds a bit much and you’re just after a copy of the book, unfortunately it’s shot back up to an eye-watering 99p in the UK, 99c in the US, and an equivalent price everywhere else.

Background

  • Book title: Duck and Dive
  • Novella (~22,000 words)
  • First in series (The Rise and Shine series)
  • Genres: LGBT, comedy, romance
  • First released a year ago (I ran the promo as a first anniversary giveaway)
  • It has been exclusive to Amazon since release
  • Ebook only (I haven’t organised paperback or audiobook versions yet)
  • Sale price:
    • Immediately pre-promotion: 99p/99c/etc
    • During promotion: free worldwide
    • Post-promotion: 99p/99c/etc

Strategy

I adopted a strategy of attempting to stagger orders over the five-day promotional period, as opposed to a one day peak followed by a sharp drop off. Achieving consistent ‘sales’ appears to be the most common advice in getting Amazon’s algorithms to start pushing organically (jump to the end of this post if you’re after more resources and links).

Side note: the promotional period is from midnight at the start of Day 1 until midnight at the end of Day 5, and the dates are as per the Pacific Time Zone (as it is at Amazon HQ in Seattle). Scheduling posts with this in mind required an embarrassing amount of caffeine and brain processing power.

  • Day 1:
    • AM: Nothing for the first 12 hours
      • I didn’t schedule anything at the start so I’d have time to check the price had dropped as expected, and then chase the issue if it hadn’t.
    • PM: Mailing list email
      • It’s the most reliable place for me to get anything out, so I always prioritise messages to those on my mailing list (join here if you’re interested!)
      • Managed with MailerLite.
  • Day 2:
  • Day 3:
    • AM: Book promotion site: The Fussy Librarian (genre = Gay/Lesbian)
    • PM: Blog post
    • PM: Posts on genre-specific promotional Facebook pages
  • Day 4:
    • Two author newsletter swaps
      • Timing is out of my control, but the authors indicated they’ scheduled their emails to go out on this day.
      • Organised through StoryOrigin.
    • AM: Social media reminder posts:
      • Facebook and Instagram stories
      • Facebook author page
      • Twitter profile
    • BookBub advertising
  • Day 5:
    • BookBub advertising

Note: I also ran Amazon ads (with quite low bids) from three days before the promotion until three days after.

Costs

  • Costs excluded:
    • My time
    • Book production
    • Anything not directly related to this promotion or its marketing (e.g. website hosting, newsletter swap platform subscription, etc)
  • Costs included:
    • Freebooksy promotion cost = USD 30
    • The Fussy Librarian promotion cost = USD 18
    • Amazon ads
      • Amazon.com spend = USD 25.37
      • Amazon.co.uk spend = GBP 15.30
    • BookBub ads budget = USD 40

Total costs (approx) = USD 135 = GBP 96 = NZD 191

Promotional material

I’ve collated some of the images/creatives I used during this promotion:

Results

Units ordered

A total of 1545 orders were made for a free copy of Duck and Dive. The chart below is taken from my KDP dashboard, showing the distribution of free orders over the promotional period, followed by the breakdown by Amazon store.

Marketing effort

Below, I have summarised approximately how many orders I can attribute to each marketing effort, based on Amazon units ordered, website traffic data, post insights, guesswork, etc.

Marketing effort spend vs book orders table
  • Assumptions:
    • For most of the order numbers, I have made the big assumption that if the customer was interested enough to click the link to Amazon, then they followed through with the order (it was free after all). The analysed total of 1485 is 60 short of the actual 1545 orders recorded. I have attributed this discrepancy to inaccuracies in my assumptions, random discovery in Amazon’s subcategory Top 100 lists, and communications amongst readers that I wasn’t aware of.
    • Other than the initial sales prior to any marketing effort on my part (approx 80 orders in the first 12 hours), I cannot estimate how many orders were due to discovery on Amazon’s subcategory top 100 lists. Though, any orders from discovery from being high on top 100 lists can very roughly be attributed to the marketing effort that immediately preceded it. Note there may be a longer tail on earlier marketing efforts bolstering the subsequent effort’s numbers, but I can’t differentiate between them so have not considered this.

Reviews, ratings, read through, and page reads

I scored a handful of new reviews and ratings on Amazon (US and UK) and Goodreads soon after the promotion, and I’ll be keeping an eye on this in the coming weeks.

The chart below shows the number of units ordered (free and paid) from the start of the promotional period until eight days afterwards. This shows minimal read through to the second (Slip and Slide) and third (Over and Out) books in the series. I’ll monitor this, as I suspect many will have nabbed the freebie for now, and Duck and Dive could languish on people Kindles for weeks, months, or forever. So, we’ll see if people read it and then like it enough to check out the following books.

Chart showing books ordered during and following promotional period

The following chart shows the number of pages read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers. This covers the same period as the chart above but shows there’s a longer tail without such a dramatic drop. Again, I’ll keep an eye on this.

Note: KU is a service where you can read as much as you like from a huge selection of books for a monthly fee.

Chart showing pages read by Kindle Unlimited subscribers during and following promotional period

Rankings

Duck and Dive shot up the Amazon Kindle Free charts! I’ve picked out a few highlights:

  • US #1 Contemporary British Fiction
  • US #1 British Humor and Satire Literature
  • US #1 Two-Hour Literature and Fiction Short Reads
  • US #1 Two-Hour LGBT Short Reads
  • US #1 LGBTQ+ Short Stories
  • US #4 Gay Fiction
  • UK #1 Gay Romance
  • UK #1 Gay and Lesbian Short Stories
  • UK #2 Gay Fiction
  • UK #2 Comedy
  • UK #2 British and Irish Humour and Satire Literature
  • UK #4 General Humorous Fiction
  • DE #3 Comics (English Language)
  • DE #5 Fiction for Homosexuals (English Language)

I grabbed a LOT of screenshots, but I’ll only subject you to a few…

Results summary

  • Total spend = USD 135 = GBP 96 = NZD 191
  • Total units ordered during free period = 1545
  • Cost per unit ordered = USD 0.09 = GBP 0.06 = NZD 0.12

Conclusions

Some of my key takeaways from my first free book promotion and thoughts for future promotions:

  • Amazon US orders >> Amazon UK orders.
    • Consider focusing more of my future book promotion efforts on Amazon US customers?
    • Other territories may do better on other ebook platforms (e.g. Kobo etc)?
  • Mailing lists (my own and swaps with other authors) provided a solid number of orders.
    • Good results due to high relevance?
    • Consider swapping with more authors in future? Though, want to strike the balance between getting more eyes on my book vs diluting results for my fellow authors.
  • My organic social media efforts didn’t achieve very good results for the amount of effort required to produce graphics and copy and then schedule posts.
    • Consider using paid advertising / boosting posts?
  • Paid advertising (Amazon and BookBub) was expensive.
    • Though I am new to running ads, so I’m sure results could be improved a lot. More targeted? Better images?
    • Ads delivered by Amazon UK were 70% more expensive than Amazon US per order.
    • BookBub ads cost only 43% of Amazon US and 25% of Amazon UK per order.
  • Book promotion websites were excellent value for money
    • Freebooksy and The Fussy Librarian cost 5-6c (NZD) per order.
    • Per order, they cost only 7-9% of BookBub ads.
    • Freebooksy ran first, The Fussy Librarian a day later. So TFL’s results may have been bolstered by Freebooksy’s tail.
    • Consider running a campaign with a third book promotion site?
  • Series read through: limited so far. Will I see purchases of books 2 and 3 in coming weeks and months once people have had a chance to read the freebie?
  • KU page reads: ongoing. I’ll keep an eye on this.

And the big takeaway: This free promotion has hugely expanded the number of people who have a copy of my book. I am optimistic some of them will read it, tell other people about it, rate and review it, and go on to read the rest of the series!

Outro

I hope you’ve got something out of this! If you have any thoughts, questions or suggestions, please drop me a message – I’d love to hear from you. And if you’re a fellow author, best of luck with your own promotions 😊

Resources and links

Guidance

Services

Find me elsewhere online

  • Mailing list: this is my #1. Join for exclusive content, occasional short stories, and updates about future releases.
  • Website: read free short stories, buy my books, see what else I’m up to.
  • Books: you can buy them all!
  • Social media:
%d bloggers like this: