Marketing Tests: Free Book Promo Part 1

At the beginning of April, I went through the fun process of setting High Summons – the first book in my Warlock of Rochester series – to free. I’ll be breaking my analysis and summary of how I did this, what happened, and how I would do it better in the future into three parts. This is part one – how I did it.

Now, you’d think the how would be straight forward. For Kobo and Barnes & Noble, it was. I went into each account, set the book price to $0.00, and, within 24 hours, both were free on all versions of those websites (i.e. every country had the book for free).

Amazon – not so much.

I provided Amazon with all (and I mean ALL) of the Kobo links once it was free, and it still took over two weeks to get all the countries set. Several times, I’d post about it being free on Facebook in a promo group or free book group and get questions about when it would be free in XX country. After working directly with Amazon via their contact system, I eventually got it sorted, but it still took a ridiculously long time.

As a result, Kobo and Barnes & Noble (B&N) had a full 19 days free while Amazon varied by country with the longest, the .COM, being about 14. The bulk of my sales come from Amazon, and knowing the way the ranking algorithm works, action on Amazon would be better for me than Kobo or B&N.

Besides getting the books free, I wanted to do some cheap advertising, so for the first week after Amazon’s .COM had been included, I posted across social media, entered basic promo/free book listings, and created $1 a day, low CPC campaigns.

I’ve been running Amazon campaigns for a while, and I don’t find them useful for direct sales; however, they do move your book up in the search ranking which helps with indirect sales even when your search terms aren’t triggered. Because I had been doing this for the last month at $1 / day, ~$0.10 per click or less, I was in a decent search spot, so when I made the book free, I shot up to 2,000s in overall sales rankings (free, of course, because Amazon separates) by Day 3.  Day 5 was my best day with only Amazon campaign as my paid ad/marketing. I reached #832. More on that in next week’s blog.

Once I had a week under my belt, I applied to Freebooksy. Why did I wait this long? Because I wanted to have a solid ranking under my belt for a few weeks first. Amazon seems to benefit the long term sales over the short term peaks. You might jump to a high ranking one day, but if your sales aren’t close the next, you’ll get a swift nose-dive back down. Having created a solid 2,000s base, I had Freebooksy (Horror) be my final day of the free sale (April 19th).

Side note – as this was #IndieApril, I had the perk of people on Twitter and other social media platforms specifically looking to support indie authors. This meant I had key hashtags to use that would get active responses, and as the first book in the series was free, I did see some people deciding to get the free and then buy the rest. So – spoiler – you can make money running a free book promotion as long as you have other books in the series at a decent price.

As of April 19th, I reached #1 in my sub categories (YA Horror, YA Coming of Age, and YA Urban Fantasy) as well as top 200 (#167 highest) overall.

Following Freebooksy, I received an email from ENT (Ereader News Today). Between work and everything, I got distracted. Fortunately, they switched it to free (same cost on my end and theirs) as – again – Kobo and B&N changed immediately, but Amazon was again slow to change. I had some misplaced hope that switching within the record would override whatever they do on their end to allow the free (which I imagine isn’t more complicated than what Kobo and B&N already allow the author to do on their dashboard).

Come back next week for how this worked out!

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