Which Book Promotions Work Best?

Last week I said I would report on the results of the free-book campaign I did for my mystery, Boxes For Beds, offering it free for 5 days via the Amazon KDP program. As Nick Stephenson  mentioned on his blog and I quoted last Monday, the jury is still out on what kind of positive long-term effect this approach has, but during the 5 days my book was free it had 39,312 downloads. Here are some stats for those who like numbers: 

The free days started on a Saturday, and Monday morning, before a BookBub feature went live, I had just under 1,000 downloads of the book. By noon on Monday the downloads had jumped to 4,975, with an uptick in downloads in the UK, DE, IN, and CA.

I purposely did not obsess all day with checking numbers, although it was a thrill now and then to pop in and see huge jumps. At 5:30 on Monday there had been  19,497 downloads with small jumps in the UK and CA. Still no downloads in France or India or Mexico or Spain.

Again I ignored numbers after that and didn’t check in until 10 Monday night. Downloads had jumped to 26,904, and I picked up a new 5-star review. That was sweet. The book also reached #4 in over all free books on Kindle, #1 in suspense and #1 in historical mystery.

Tuesday morning the downloads for the US reached 30,256, with big jumps for the UK and CA and IN. There were also downloads in all the other foreign markets except Mexico.

By the end of the free days on Wednesday last week, I had reached that 39,312 mark in the US, but downloads in other markets were not even in two-digits except for the UK and CA.

The main reasons authors do these free promos is to gain new readers and review, and hopefully spur sales of that book, and others, after the sale. I have read on author loops that some writers have seen sales of hundreds of books a week after a free event, and I think that works the best with a series. I have sold copies of this book, and two others steadily since last week, but only a handful of sales a day. There has been a huge jump in reviews, and most of them are 4 and 5 star reviews, so that has been beneficial.

Will I do it again? I don’t know. Some writers are having better luck with straight ad campaigns for their books. Stacy Juba had a special running for her books the same week I did my special. Here is what she reported:

I advertised the 99 cent sale for my Young Ladies of Mystery Boxed Set on E-Reader News Today, Kindle Books and Tips, Kindle Fire Department and Book Bub all within about 7 days of each other. I also supplemented the paid ads with a blogging campaign, Twitter campaign, posting on various Facebook pages, and highlighting it in my newsletter. I was very pleased with the results. The boxed set reached #11 in the Nook Store and #60 on the Paid Kindle List. Breaking the Kindle Top 100 Paid List and the Nook Top 100 were two of my goals. I also sold several books in the iBookstore. This was my second most successful ad campaign to date. My most successful campaign was for my book Twenty-Five Years Ago Today in March – that led to the book being ranked #5 on Nook and #30 on Kindle and resulted in over 100 new Amazon reviews since then. But the Young Ladies of Mystery campaign was very close.

I didn’t see much effect on sales of my other books, but my other books not included in the bundle are for children and teens. I made a nice profit on the ad and reached a lot of new readers, so it was a successful campaign and all of the advertisers were wonderful to work with.

The Young Ladies of Mystery Boxed Set is still only 99 cents and includes her adult mystery/romantic suspense novels Twenty-Five Years Ago Today and Sink or Swim, and her young adult psychic thriller Dark Before Dawn.  

Last spring, Terry Odell, romantic suspense author, tried even a different approach. She went with Nook First, and you can read her full report on her blog, Terry’s Place. Briefly, she was accepted into the Nook First program at Barnes and Nobel with a new book, Saving Scott, and it was exclusive for Nook for 30 days. (In the KDP program, the books have to be exclusive to Kindle for 90 days.) The book was not free and Barnes and Nobel did quite a bit of promoting. Following that, Terry reported that her book sold steadily at Barnes and Nobel and sales of all of her books increased at Amazon and Barnes and Nobel.

Terry writes several mystery series, and I think one key to her success – in addition to writing good books – is that she has series and offering a special on one book does spur sales in other books in that series. Her advice to other authors:

Things go up and down, and we can’t know why, and probably can’t do anything about it. It’s a marathon.  

Terry writes the Pine Hills Police Series, the Blackthorne, Inc. Series. and the Mapleton Mystery Series. She has a brand new book out in the Blackthorne series – my favorite of her series. Dangerous Connections was released October 21, and it is on my wish list.

Now, after all of this has been said, I found out my publisher put my short story collection, The Wisdom of Ages, free for Kindle today for three days. Since that book is with a publisher, I won’t have access to download numbers, but I do see it is already #85 on the list for anthologies.

As a reader, do you take advantage of free books? If so, do you buy others from that author if you like the freebie?

Authors, what promotions are working best for you? Do you do the KDP program or the Nook First?

10 thoughts on “Which Book Promotions Work Best?”

  1. I’m not into this well enough yet, but I’m sure a good variety is what will be most effective. I know folks who’ve done well with amazon free books and great sales afterword. I’m paying attention though, so thanks for this post – great information!

  2. Glad you found the blog helpful, Yolanda.

    That is the theory, Jeremy, do a loss-leader. And publishers have been doing this for a long time. I remember going to the American Booksellers convention years ago and coming home with bags of free books. Often I would go on to buy other books by the authors being promoted.

  3. Yes I do download free books from authors I know if it’s in the genres I like.

    Free books always rate a review from me. I think it’s a fair exchange for the author giving that book away. It just may take a while for me to get to it. If they are doing a special promo, I’ll try to read it right away.

    Interesting facts, Maryann!

  4. Hi Maryann, I do freebies and blog about it via other bloggers. My experience with KDP Select has been favorable, but I have a series, so they seem to work well.

    I do download free books by other authors I know in order to review, but will only do so if I can at least give the book five stars.

    Another thing I do is send the author an email if I see errors in the book (I just can’t seem to read without making bookmarks when I see something!) and hope others will do the same for me.

  5. D.G. I always try to leave a review, too. It really makes a difference for the author and I am glad to pay it forward.

    Jinx, I have kept up with your guest appearances on blogs sharing your success with the KDP program. Cheering for you in the background. I am much stingier with my five-star reviews. If I like a book I will always at least give it 3 stars, which to me indicates a good book, worth someone’s money and time, and I usually explain what kept me from giving the book a higher rating. I give four stars to books that I really enjoyed, but may not keep for a re-read. I am running out of reading years. LOL I reserve 5 star ratings for truly exceptional books.

    That review approach probably stems from when I was a reviewer and critic for several newspapers. It was a different era then. 🙂

  6. Marilyn, I know you use a different approach to marketing, utilizing blog tours. Has that been successful? I do see your name in lots of places and try to catch your posts when I can. You are one busy lady. I also took your suggestion a few years ago about art fairs. I go to some now, and have always had a good time and sold a few books. Can’t beat that. 🙂

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