Free e-book promo case study

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#1
Inspired by @jo zebedee 's wonderful paid promotion site breakdown, I thought I'd offer my own free e-book promotion incident as a case study in case anyone can find anything useful here.

First off, I'm trying to avoid shameless self promotion, but a little background is in order to understand this post. So let me get it out of the way now: My book is in the historical/ steampunk/ gunpowder fantasy genre and is put out on KDP. I have intentionally not included a link to it because this is just meant as background (though I am aware I have a link in my signature).

Being completely oblivious to and avoidant of marketing, and without any web presence whatsoever (facebook/ twitter), I at first watched the MSWL twitter handle/ site (here). I won't get into this site too much, but they have a "pub tip" tab which led me down a rabbit hole of blogs where I was advised numerous times to have a website. So I built one via Wix.

That complete and my marketing knowledge now utterly expended, I turned to google with a "ebook promotion" search. The two results I paid the most attention to were "How to get an eBook to #1 on Amazon" and "79+ Free Book Promotion Sites..."

You can read those two links if you'd like, but my major takeaways were I needed to find a sub-genre in Amazon I could break into the top 100 on by selecting on that was not too popular (from the first link) and to use as many free ebook promotion sites as possible (second link).

Finding a sub-genre to break into was not too difficult since my book fits into Historical Fantasy (I told you it was pertinent info), so that was the first one I picked. Though my protag could be considered Young Adult, after looking over those top 100 and seeing their sales rank (explained in that first of the two links), I decided my second sub-genre should be Epic. Yes, that put me up against GoT and LOTR, but it kept me from competing with Harry Potter, which I can only hope was the right decision.

My sub-genres picked, I then added "steampunk," "historical fantasy" and "gunpowder fantasy" to my search terms. Note: Two weeks later, after discovering this forum and reading up on better search terms (sorry, too lazy to go back and look up that thread) I have since added "strong female," "western," and "new."

And now, because this post is already WAY too long, I'll continue my story below in an answer to my own post. Because I firmly believe too much text cuts down on people actually wanting to read what I write.
 
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Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#2
Now to the actual marketing push. Modifying what I learned from the "How to get eBook to #1" link, I decided to go with a 5-day free giveaway of my book. All of these days were in a row to try and climb up the free ranks in Amazon and hopefully make a front page. So I made a list of all my friends and family, which is sadly only 35 people in total (I never claimed to be popular).

Then, from the 79+ link above, I joined 9 free ebook promo sites. These are mostly newsletters of fellow self-publishers that want to shamelessly self-promote, but what the hell, thought I. I should note that the dates that I signed up for were A WEEK IN ADVANCE from when I uploaded my book so they would have time to get it listed. These dates I staggered so there would hopefully be one announcement per day (alas, this was not to be, but we'll get to that in a moment).

I also joined the "wrote a book" and "fantasy self-promotion" subreddits.

Seven days before my free promotion, I sent out an email to all my friends and family, alerting them to my book and the fact there would be a free promotion for it. I specifically asked them NOT to buy it because I think that would be gauche of me, but 19 did (I may not be popular, but at least my friends/ family are kind).

My sister, bless her heart, then put a link to my book on facebook. As I am not on it, I don't exactly know how this went, but my wife said a lot of people commented.

The first day of my free promotion I was not listed in any of the free promotion newsletters I signed up for (this will become a theme), but my free downloads were pretty good (in my eyes at least) with 60.

Day two: Still no mention in the newsletters and so I sent an email out to all my coworkers, asking them to download the free book. I had held off on emailing them originally so I could stagger the download dates and try to keep them steady instead of a whole bunch one day and then none the next. There were only 13 of them on my list, but I still had 40 downloads.

I'm not going to drag the promo newsletters subplot out any further: NONE of them mentioning me in their newsletters, though one mentioned two books twice, one of which was in THE SAME EMAIL! (forgive the caps, but I'm still pissed about that). I have since unsubscribed to all of them, though I did find an alright steampunk series from it.

Exhausted of options, I just sat back and watched. Obsessively, because that's the only way I know to be.

Days 3-5 were 34, 41, and 48 free downloads, and I have to say it was rather heartening to click on the "historical fantasy ebook" link in Amazon and see my book at #13. That was the highest it ever got, usually floating around #20-25 and #35-50 in "epic fantasy ebook."

Then my promotion ran out and everything went flat. Where it's remained ever since. But the high, such as it was, was fun while it lasted.

One good thing I have to say about the free promotion websites though - I discovered this forum from someone's blurb on one of them.

So that's my case study with numbers behind it (approximately 240 total downloads, 224 of them free). I'd love for other people to let me know what I did well/ wrong and would be freaking ecstatic if someone else gave a case study so I won't feel so lonely and exposed here.
 
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Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
#3
Interesting read. Thanks for that.

One good thing I have to say about the free promotion websites though - I discovered this forum from someone's blurb on one of them.
I'm curious now. Which book was that?
 

Tanniel

Hired Nicomo Cosca, famed soldier of fortune
#4
I unfortunately have no data to add myself, but I am very curious about this topic and would love to read more case studies.
 

jo zebedee

Journeyed there and back again
#5
Very interesting, thank you.

What I'm currently looking at is targetted free promotion, and I'll see how that goes. So, for instance, we have a bookclub near me - I contacted their FB admin and they let me offer my standalone book to the members free (the kindle version)*. The bookclub like thrillers, and this is a sf thriller, set locally. Seven members took one, with one member leaving a review to date. I'm working with a marketing person in identifying key readers at the moment, with the view to doing much the same. Why do it this way?

1. As @Matticus Primal mentions - free promos on kindle often run out of steam. Also, your improved ranking doesn't transfer over to the paid charts once it ends.
2. Getting free downloads open and read is almost as hard as getting someone to part with two quid for your book, frankly.
3. I broke even on the book last month, having sold the audio rights. It is lined up for an anthology at the end of the year, so I'm happy for it to be quiet on the charts for a while. I know it's a good book - the reviews are mostly excellent, from a range of sources, and it got a Hugo nomination - so I don't have fear of putting people off reading my stuff by it.

For my trilogy, however, I might well take a different approach and go free on kindle for book one. Why the change?

1. Trilogies do well on free promos - people pick up book one, and then book two and three. However, I probably want to wait until book three is out to get the full effect of a free period.


So, um - it's really hard. so many possible models....

*Similarly, if any members here are interested in a copy, drop me a PM.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#6
Interesting read. Thanks for that.

I'm curious now. Which book was that?
I just went through all my deleted emails but can't find it. I swear it was from the Awesome Gang Newsletter and the fellow in question had a link to the fact he had made one of the top 100 on this site. So I clicked the link, which brought me here. Unfortunately, I have no more details than that.
 

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
#7
Very interesting, thank you.

What I'm currently looking at is targetted free promotion, and I'll see how that goes. So, for instance, we have a bookclub near me - I contacted their FB admin and they let me offer my standalone book to the members free (the kindle version)*. The bookclub like thrillers, and this is a sf thriller, set locally. Seven members took one, with one member leaving a review to date. I'm working with a marketing person in identifying key readers at the moment, with the view to doing much the same. Why do it this way?

1. As @Matticus Primal mentions - free promos on kindle often run out of steam. Also, your improved ranking doesn't transfer over to the paid charts once it ends.
2. Getting free downloads open and read is almost as hard as getting someone to part with two quid for your book, frankly.
You ain't kidding there.

1. Trilogies do well on free promos - people pick up book one, and then book two and three. However, I probably want to wait until book three is out to get the full effect of a free period.
Good point. I picked up the first of the Traveler's Gate trilogy because it was free and then bought the next two within the week. So I'll definitely run the free promo for book one of my series probably a week before book 2 comes out, and then again for each subsequent book.