In the last couple of months I did a couple of Kindle freebies and I thought I’d share the overall results and my thoughts on the whole giving away books for free. Since I have a lot to say on this, I’m breaking this up into two posts. I hope you’ll come back for part two.
My first Kindle freebie was right at Christmas in 2011 and I just wrapped up a freebie (March 2012). I have some generals thoughts about the program and the results others are seeing as well. Also, I am focusing solely on US downloads.
Indie Authors – My First Time Giving Away Books
I enrolled my horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, and This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies (the first in the Reed Ferguson mystery series)last Christmas. I ended up with both books downloading a respectable number (Nephilim 3,164 and This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies 2,868). This wasn’t anywhere near what some others did, but it was still decent. I did not get into the Amazon’s top 100 list, although Nephilim did get to #6 on the horror bestseller lists.
Between Christmas and New Years I got a nice jump in sales, both books selling well (Nephilim over 300 copies in less than a week, This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies over 150).
My other books (Reel Estate Rip-0ff, The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, and Take Five) saw a tiny bump in sales.
I was a total noob and I didn’t have any advertizing around this, so this literally was a tweet, Facebook, and blog word-of-mouth effort.
DON’T enroll on Christmas day – my experience was that hardly any downloads occurred on Christmas day (my suspicion is that even though people got a Kindle for Christmas, they were too busy with family and fun to actually download any books). Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas were great.
I used up all five days at once – don’t do it. It just doesn’t seem as successful as two days in a row.
Indie Authors – My Second Time Giving Away Books
When I released my middle grade adventure series book, The Emerald Quest, I didn’t do much of any promotion, either free or paid (I was in a hurry to get the book out there, so I just went for it). I did get it listed on Digital Book Today (Anthony, you rock!) but other than that, I tweeted about it and wrote a blog post. I got a grand total of 603 downloads and no sales after the fact.
My theory on low downloads and lack of sales is that it’s a book targeted at kids, but parents were the ones downloading it (and probably not reading it since it was free – and thus they weren’t telling anyone about it). It got onto some bestseller lists but in weird categories (boats and transportation), too. I don’t know if it got into any kids’ hands. I’ve heard other authors of MG/YA books not see a lot of results from the free days, but if you are an author with great results with a MG/YA book freebie campaign, I’d love to hear about it.
Indie Authors – My Third Time (Attempt) Giving Away Books
Now here’s where things got interesting. I planned to do a short (one-day) freebie of Nephilim in March, just as soon as I could re-enroll it in KDP Select for another 90 days. I paid for two Social Media Buzz days from two different places. What ended up happening was I wanted to enroll on March 22 for the free day, then have two consecutive buzz days. Nice, right?
Ah, I hadn’t counted on Amazon…my enrollment period ended on 12:00 AM March 20 (so early on the 21st). I should be able to go in on the 21 at 0:01 AM and enroll for that day, right? Wrong. The first day I could select for a free day was the 22nd. But that’s when my social media buzz was running, the piece that would help my sales after I’d been bumped into the bestseller ranks (hopefully) on the free day. Ah, what an idiot I was (trying to schedule something right around the renewal date)…but I did learn something:
I’m not sure if the whole social media buzz works. Two days of buzz from two different sites did not garner any great sales bump (it was next to nothing). In theory, the buzz should’ve, regardless of whether my books were in the bestseller lists or not. Now, maybe it was the book (although Nephilim has been my bestselling book to that date with 40 great reviews) or the cover (but everyone says they think it’s a great cover). I don’t know, but I’d need more convincing to do the buzz again.
Indie Authors – My Fourth Time Giving Away Books
This past week I enrolled This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies for a two-day freebie. I had brand-new covers for it and the second in the mystery series (Reel Estate Rip-off), plus a new third title (The Maltese Felon), and I released A Reed Ferguson Omnibus (all three novels plus the short story Elvis And The Sports Card Cheat). I also have a lot more followers than I did last Christmas on my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Triberr. So a lot more social reach.
The results: This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies downloaded 10,612 copies in the two days. Not bad. I had scheduled a Kindle Nation Daily paid ad for the first day after the freebie, plus a few other social media buzz days in the next few days. I had knocked the price of This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies down to 99 cents just prior to the freebie days, and I left it there in the days following the freebie days. I ended up selling almost 400 hundred copies in five days. However, once the social media buzz was over, it’s been a slow sink (This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies sits around #6,705 on the Amazon ranking as I write this post). But I’m seeing a huge jump in sales of all my other books (except the middle-grade book, The Emerald Quest). What I really like is that I’ve seen the Reed Ferguson short story selling well (it wasn’t before). The other two books in the Reed Ferguson mystery series, and the omnibus, are selling well, too.
I think a couple of things resulted in the huge amount of free downloads:
- I got on Pixel of Ink – everyone talks about it being a great place to advertize your freebie, but it’s a crap shoot as to whether you will get listed. You have to alert them weeks in advance and there’s no guarantee. I got lucky here.
- Digital Book Today is great and growing and I was listed there as well, I know it helped.
- I found out after the fact that I got listed on a few other sites (I’m not even sure how, I don’t think I submitted to them so it was organic).
- I redesigned my covers and they look better and have a better film noir feel.
In terms of sales afterward, Kindle Nation Daily was big, but they had the price wrong ($3.99 instead of 99 cents). This was corrected at about 9 AM but who knows what sales I might’ve missed here (they were superb though with this and actually refunded my money for the mistake).
Digital Book Today is also great with paid advertizing. The social media buzz, I don’t know. In this case, it appeared to help, but the biggest sales were in the two days after the free days.
What didn’t work:
- The snafu with Kindle Nation Daily – I have no way of knowing if/how much this hurt sales.
- I should’ve lined up at least a few guest blog posts to help with sales.
- I didn’t get above about #1,000 on the Amazon bestseller rankings.
As you can see, my marketing efforts were across the board, and my success rate was across the board as well. I also think that the current state of freebies, in just a few months, is not even close to what it was in the first month or two after the program started. I think a lot of factors played into this, and in my follow-up post I’ll address this.
What are your thoughts? If you think I was a dummy in how I did things, I’m happy to hear it, just be nice :). What success have you had?