In an effort to be more open with all you Everyday Authors, I’ve decided to write more posts detailing my personal experiences as an author. In this instance, I’m going to talk about a recent free campaign I promoted through a couple of services. Although my numbers aren’t anything to boast about (at least not yet, fingers crossed) I’m hoping to save the rest of you a little trial and error. On the flip-side, if you have any experiences you’d like to share about what worked (or didn’t work) while marketing your books, I’d love to have you write a guest post for EA.
This probably won’t be the most analytical breakdown of ebook marketing you’ll find, but I think it’s still a good overview, especially if you’ve been thinking about doing some ebook promotion yourself.
To end my six month KDP Select run for Out of Exile, the first novel in my Teutevar Saga series, I opted to go with the five days of free. Out of Exile has been in KDP Select since last September and now that I have a few more books in the series out, I wanted to end my exclusivity and branch back out to the other platforms (but that’s another discussion). During my first three months of KDP Select, I ran a free day on Cyber Monday, one on Dec. 17 and then the remaining three days Dec. 21-23.
For Cyber Monday, I only spread through word via a few tweets from my author account. The 17th was a guest post/cross-promotion with another author and for the 21-23, I put mentions out on my social media platforms the first and last day and also let my mailing list (around 20 subscribers) know about it. The end result was 535 free downloads.
On my second go around, I wanted to do all five free days together because I’d heard you get more traction that way, so I scheduled them for March 19-23. I also reached out to two promotion services: Ebook Booster$40)( and BKnights($20). BKnights is on Fiverr, but I not only paid for the five dollar promo for their website, but also got Facebook listings and in their email blast as well — I figured what the heck, it was only five more apiece for each. Ebook Booster, if you haven’t heard, charges you $40 dollars and then blasts you free book offer out to a bunch of other ebook promo sites for you. Since this way my first time attempting a promotion and I’d rather be writing than researching ebook promo sites, they seemed liked a good choice.
This is where the process gets a little murky. Without using affiliate links or even custom links when I submitted, I have no way of knowing where my downloads came from. Looking at Ebook Booster alone, I’m pretty certain I made it into at least seven sites (based on the email responses I got back from them) but can’t say for sure. My book was also low on reviews (8, with a 4-star average) so I know this decreased the number of sites I got into.
The second problem was this: I was lazy so I listed my book’s free days as the 19-23. This meant, as you can see in the graph below, that the majority of the promos all ran on the 19th (and I’m assuming a couple on the 20th) rather than being evenly spaced throughout the free period. Had I submitted Ebook Booster and BKnights for different days, I could have had a better idea of how each service performed for me.
Not only was I unable to measure each service’s effectiveness by itself, but by front-loading the promotions to the first day, my ranking was much more short-lived (if you didn’t know, Amazon’s algorithms shoot you down as fast as you go up, so it’s better to spread downloads/purchases out if you can). Even so, I still hit #2 in Western Sci-Fi and cracked the top ten in New Adult within the first few hours on the 19th.
Something strange happened next. I wasn’t ranking at all in Historical Fantasy, but by the morning of the 20th, I’d managed to crack into the top ten of the category. For some reason, however, my ranking in New Adult completely vanished, like Amazon took it out. I have no clue why/how this happened because Out of Exile is included in the New Adult category, but there you have it. I never received a ranking for New Adult the rest of the free run, despite it being a relatively small category.
As you can tell from the graph, sales took a drastic drop after the 20th and I have to believe that the resulting downloads that day were a result of my placement in the free charts. I sent out one tweet/Google Plus post/Facebook post on opening day and one again on closing, in addition to notifying my email list on the last day (to create a sense of urgency). At my peak, I was at #1 in Western Sci-Fi and #2 in Historical Fantasy with an overall ranking of #1129 in the Kindle for free books (really great for me!). Although there was a steep drop-off for the last three days of the giveaway, I attribute the smaller, less competitive categories Out of Exile is under for sustaining 40+ downloads/day.
Here’s the funny part. My total number of downloads after using Ebook Booster and BKnights’ ebook promotion services? 578. Yep, I only moved 43 more books and it cost me $60 to do so.
Before I make it seem like I got a raw deal and that these services are a waste of money, consider this: not did my book only have 8 reviews, but I also believe I saturated the Western Sci-Fi category with my first round of promotions in December. This meant that I was competing almost exclusively in the much bigger Historical Fantasy category since for some reason, I wasn’t allowed to play in New Adult. When you add it up, it cost me a little over 10 cents for each download I received. Obviously many of those won’t translate to reads, reviews or email sign ups, but I’ll give the first book in a series away for 10 cents any day of the week.
So what did I learn?
- If you’re trying to track effectiveness of a marketing tactic, don’t run multiple promos at the same time.
- It’s better to line your ducks up in a row so that you have sustained, even downloads rather than blasting everything on the first day.
- I was reaffirmed of the importance of selecting categories you can compete/chart in.
- Reviews matter! I need to work harder on building up a collection of positive reviews before I try any more promotions.
Going forward, I’ll probably hold off on Ebook Booster, at least until I have a more competitive title with a large numbers of reviews. For $5, though, you can’t beat BKnights and I’m excited to see my numbers when I run something with just them.
What ebook promotion services have you used? Were they successful or a bust? Tell me in the comments!
Derek Alan Siddoway ( D_Sidd) always thought he wanted to be a paperback writer. Instead, he broke into the self-publishing world in 2013 when he realized there had to be a better use of his time than writing queries to agents. Converted by the fellowship of indie authors, he never looked back. Now, he’s the Founding Father of Undaunted Publishing, a hybrid publishing house combining the best of traditional and self publishing, and the author of Teutevar Saga, an epic/historical fantasy series with a “medieval western” twist. Learn more at derekalansiddoway.com.