I wrote recently about how writers who use the powerful tool of Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to publish e-books online face an age-old challenge in a new form.
Your book is available to the whole world.
But how you bring it to the world’s attention?
This challenge is called “discoverability” – and it affects all of us. You can read more about it in part 1 of this post.
I wrote in that blog that I was trying out a range of promotional techniques for my Hotel Stories. I was able to experiment with different techniques for each.
The good news is that during the week of the promotion period, my free e-book sales rose to around one hundred times my usual paid-for sales. My paid-for sales rose to roughly six times average over the same period. Sound great? But there are catches. Let’s look at the numbers, which were surprising.
My hotel stories are a series. If you read one, you might want to read the others. So in the period 11-19 August I used the KDP free book promotion tool to offer each free for three days. The Two Rooms was available from 11-13 August; The White Blouse from 14-16 August; and Gents from 17-19 August.
I then did different promotional activities for each:
– For The Two Rooms: I announced the free book promotion period for the first two stories in a post on this site. I posted this on Facebook. I also went round 15-20 hotel school websites and posted links to this writing site, since I figured stories about a brilliant and occasionally homicidal female hotel manager might be of interest to hotel school students. Time spent on promotion (writing post, posting to Facebook, going round hotel school websites) around three hours.
– The White Blouse: as for The Two Rooms, but in addition I used around a dozen of the free e-book promotion web-sites which are listed at the Author Marketing Club. This process is time-consuming as you have to fill in a form for each “promotional” site. These are free, but the sites urge you to pay sums ranging from $5 to $50 to “guarantee” that your book will be promoted on their site. I did not pay. Time spent on promotion as above, but an extra two hours for the Author Marketing Club sites.
– For Gents, I simply put a short post on this site (since deleted). I did not use the Author Marketing Club promotional sites as for The White Blouse. Nor did I post anything on Facebook. But I did do some links to hotel school websites. Time spent on promotion – around one hour.
What worked best?
The book which “sold” by far the most free downloads was The Two Rooms. But this was not the result of anything I did. Rather, a user called “needle” promoted the book independently on a British site called Hot UK Deals or HUKD (my sincere thanks, “needle”). Stripping out the “HUKD” effect, the three all “sold” a remarkably similar number of free copies over the promotional period – around 70 times usual paid sales. The one which “sold” least free e-books was The Two Rooms, which was the only one I’d promoted on the free e-book promotion web-sites.
From this I conclude that filling out the forms on the Author Marketing Club-type free e-book promotion sites is, unless I am missing something, a waste of time. I also conclude that getting your work promoted on HUKD or similar sites is invaluable, if you can achieve this. NB HUKD does not permit you to promote your own products.
For all three books, free e-book sales peaked on the first day, trailed off substantially on the second, and more or less disappeared on the third.
From this I conclude that there’s not much point in a KDP free e-book promotion lasting more than a day or two.
The good news was that paid-for sales also rose to a higher-than usual level during the period of the promotion – around six times normal levels. Not enough to give up the day job, but great to see. I put this down to people who had bought one e-book free buying others in the series.
The bad news? Since the promotional period ended, sales have returned to their normal levels. There is at the time of writing no perceptible long-term impact from the promotion.
Fascinatingly, however, the free and paid for sales during the promotional period were enough to propel some of these stories into prominent positions on some of Amazon’s sales list. For example, on 17 August, in the middle of the promotion period, I saw that:
– the first book in the series, The Two Rooms, had risen to No.73 in the UK “Kindle Store Women’s Humor Top 100 paid” (sic) list. As these rankings change hourly, The Two Rooms may well have been higher on this ranking earlier without me noticing;
– at the same point the second book in the series, The White Blouse, had stormed up to No.18 in the UK “Kindle Store Women’s Humor Free Fiction” list;
– shortly afterwards, Gents was at No.14 in the UK “Kindle Store Women’s Humor Free Fiction” list and at No.44 in “Free General Humorous Fiction”.
Thus, free and paid-for sales during the promotional period were enough to drive the books into rankings on lists where more people might have seen them while browsing than would otherwise have been the case. In other words, they became more “discoverable”. This is good – even though the rankings change so quickly that the effect is short-term. It leads me to think KDP free e-book promotions would be worth trying again.
The specialised nature of Amazon’s Top 100 lists also underlines the importance of choosing your genre wisely when you publish your book.
My promotional efforts also produced a few other nuggets:
– comments on the “Hot UK Deals” website were critical of the fact that The Two Rooms was “a 21-page novel”. I was surprised: the web-site makes clear it’s a short story and nowhere describes it as a novel. Lesson: worth emphasising the fact it’s a short story a bit more on the web-site (I’ve done this);
– promoting the short stories on hotel management school Facebook sites produced a clearly identifiable smattering of people clicking on links to my writing site, eg from India or Switzerland. This is a reminder that targeted marketing is often the best;
– posting on my own Facebook also produced a good slew of responses. The more I look at Facebook as a marketing tool, the more I like it;
– free promotions get your book into new markets. For example, I had quite a few free downloads in Canada – hello Ottawa! – and a couple in Italy and India – my first in any of those countries;
– a promotional period is thrilling for you, as an author, if sales are good. It’s easy to spend countless hours not only preparing and carrying out your marketing campaign but also monitoring sales (“I’ll just have a quick peek at my KDP Sales Reports”). If you are to remain sane and retain time for other valuable activities – eg writing the next story – you need to focus hard on how much time you are spending both on the promotion and on monitoring its progress. The lessons in this post may help you do this.
I’ll stop there and go and write a bit more of Istanbul Rising. I’d be delighted to hear your feedback on this post. And if it inspires you to try out the Hotel Stories (you can read excerpts for free on this site, or buy them on Amazon) that’s good too.
NB there is a ton of material about free e-book promotions out there on the web, eg here or here. It’s all worth a look. But bear in mind the lessons above before you invest too much time; and pick and choose what promotional tools will work best for you; and what you have time for.
Happy reading, and to you fellow authors out there, happy writing.