Promoting your book used to be so easy. You'd book a date, set your price to free, and watch the downloads pour in. You could always count on 2500 to 5000 downloads for a three-day giveaway - without having spent a nickel on promotion. When the giveaway ended, you would see a nice bump in your paid sales - many times, several hundred paid sales would follow.
That was then. This is now.
Today, if you set your book to free and don't promote it, you're lucky to get 100 downloads.
The rules of the game have changed. Every time you think you have it figured out, someone goes and changes everything—again.
One of the biggest challenges author’s face today is figuring out which promotion sites are going to give you the biggest bang for your buck. It’s not a sure thing that you will break-even—think about that carefully before you decide to drop three or four hundred dollars promoting your new book.
Everyone wants to feature their book on BookBub, but BookBub is expensive, and they're choosy—really-choosy. To get featured on BookBub, you need a lot of high-quality reviews. You need to meet their rigid editorial standards and have an expensive, professional cover design.
Even some of the smaller book promo sites choose which books to promote based on the number of reviews your book has and its star rating. If your book isn't at least four star or better, you better keep looking, because a lot of sites won't feature it.
Too bad, they aren't as exacting when it comes to producing results.
What happens when you spend $25 or $50 and only get fifty downloads or two sales? Shouldn't authors know which sites payoff, and which ones don’t?
Maybe I'm crazy, but when I plunk down my hard-earned cash for a book promo, I expect results.
To put it in sexual terms, I want a happy ending!
I just finished running a five-day KDP Free Promo for my book History Bytes. It got downloaded over 5,000 times, grabbed the number one spot in the history category for three days, and ranked 37 overall in the Kindle free store. Not my best promotion, but not bad.
I shook things up a bit this time.
Normally, I run one or two ads on the first day to kick off a two or three-day promotion. This time I did things a little differently. I stacked my promotions, so I had at least one running every day.
Day one started off with features on Choosy Bookworm and The Fussy Librarian. Costs: Fussy Librarian $25.00, Choosy Bookworm $48.00. Total downloads 625.
Day two had a single promotion on Free Booksy (one of my favorite sites). The ad cost $75 and garnered 1252 downloads.
Day three featured my new favorite promotional website - Robin Reads. Cost $55.00. 2741 downloads.
Day four started with a Read Cheaply promotion. Cost $25.00. 644 downloads.
Day five ran with another favorite and inexpensive promotion by James H. Mayfield. For $13.00, James submits your book deal to as many as thirty promotional sites. It saves you a lot of legwork and consistently brings good results. This time, I received 181 downloads. Previous promotions with Mayfield have received two or three times that number.
After the KDP promo winds up, I expect sales to take off at a nice clip. Sometimes paid sales click in right after the free promo ends, other times it can take a day or two for sales to start rolling in. Don’t panic.
My plan is to keep the price discounted to 99 cents for at least thirty days. Somewhere between week two and three, I'll run another promotion on Bargain Booksy. The cost is $25 in the nonfiction category. I did this six or seven months ago, with another promotion of History Bytes. Over a three-day period, I sold 253 books.
With the Bargain Booksy Feature, that brings the total cost of all my promotions to $266. To break even, I need to sell 788 books at 99 cents per book.
That's a shit ton of books.
I think I can do it, but I know there are going to be a lot of anxious moments as I watch the sales ticker slowly make its climb.
Now for the fine print.
Your results are going to vary based on the book you are promoting, and how many times you have already promoted it on a given website. The first time I promoted History Bytes using FreeBooksy I got 8900 downloads over a five-day period and sales blasted off after the KDP free promo ended. Ever since then, most of my promos on FreeBooksy have gotten between 800 and 1200 downloads. It’s not the performance I was hoping for, but it’s to be expected. They’re promoting it to the same list. Each time you promote the same book to the same audience you are going to have fewer prospects. It’s the law of diminishing returns.
Book sales is a numbers game. To get the best bang for your buck, you need to plan your promotions wisely.
Don’t promote the same book on the same website more often than every 90 days, every 180 days would probably be best. When you spread your promotions out, you’re not going to burn potential readers out on your offer.
Here’s another word to the wise.
Don’t run a five-day promo if you’re not going to promote it every day, or at least every other day. Most book promotion sites email their list early in the day. By eleven o’clock sales start rolling in. You will get most of your downloads before six or seven o’clock. After that, they trickle in at a much slower rate. The day after your promotion ends, downloads are going to drop dramatically—unless you’ve got another promotion ready to fire things up again.
That’s why ad-stacking is so important.
Ad-stacking is the new buzz word in Internet marketing. If you are unfamiliar with the term, ad-stacking is similar to playing Dominoes. You run one ad after the other. That way you keep the momentum running from ad to ad.
I like to run a mid-size promotion on day one. That primes the pump and pushes my book into the top two or three hundred books on Amazon. Most often, I hit number one in several key categories. The next day, I run a larger promotion on FreeBooksy or Robin Reads. That pushes my book up the lists, so I usually score first place in all of my prime categories and rank among the top fifty or one hundred books in the Kindle free store.
Once you reach the number one spot in all your key categories, the rest of it’s really irrelevant. It’s great for your ego, but more downloads are not going to get you a lot more sales—unless you can push your book into the top five books in the free store—and even then—nothing is guaranteed. I’ve had several books hit number three in the free store, and have a miserable showing when they went back to paid.
That’s why I say; results aren’t a sure thing.
Here’s what I can tell you. If you want to make the top five list in the Kindle free store you need somewhere between fifteen to twenty-five thousand downloads, depending on your competition that day. From what I understand, it takes fifty thousand or more downloads to hit the number one spot.
Sometimes you can get there with a whole lot of luck. Other times you can get there with some well-planned promotions and a big wad of cash. It’s all about how bad you want it.
Before I wrap this discussion up, I’m going to mention two more promotion sites I’ve had a lot of luck using.
The first one is bknights on Fiverr. This guy (or gal) has three gigs running with over 4,000 feedbacks total, and they deliver. The standard price is five bucks, and when the results have been so-so, they refunded my payment—even when I didn’t ask for it. Bknights promotes your book on their website http://digitalbookspot.com/, and they offer gig extras where they will feature your book on their email list. You can submit free books and discounted books. I’ve had real good luck with both.
Another promotional service I’ve had good luck with is http://freebookservice.com/. These guys aren’t cheap, but they do produce results—and they do guarantee them. They have three packages to promote your free book. They guarantee 5,000, 10,000, or 15,000 downloads. I’ve always done much better. With the 5,000 package, I received 8900 downloads. With the 10,000 package, I received over 13,000 downloads. With the 15,000 package, I receive 23,000 downloads (which got me to the number three spot in the Kindle store—three times). Prices range from $189 to $379, so be prepared to pony up. I should also warn you these guys are provoking a lot of controversy on the Internet. Some scam warnings say they aren’t real downloads; others say Amazon will take your book down if you use them. That’s not true. I’ve used Free Book Service five times. I received the promised results and never received a threat from Amazon. If you’re worried, contact Amazon customer service before you make a move.
My best advice is if you have a new book, run your free promotion for five days. If your book has been out for a while, consider a two or three-day free run. Promote the hell out of it, and when the promotion is over—lower your price to 99 cents for at least seven days. If you’re not worried about making money right off, keep it at 99 cents for thirty days. You will get more paid sales and reviews.
If you’re going to do a 99 cent promotion, set up a Kindle Count Down Deal and stack your promotions using BargainBooksy, Robin Reads, bknights, and other promotional sites—that way you will make 70 cents per book, compared to 35 cents.
If you don’t get the results you want, don’t sweat it. Not every promotion is going to take off. Some will take you in different directions than you expected. I ran one promotion for History Bytes where audiobook sales took off out of the blue. I watched the book go from 80,000 on Audible, all the way down to 288. For several days, I was outselling Bill O’Reilly, Stephen Ambrose, and other giants in the history category.
Don’t ask me why?
I don’t know if it just took off, if Amazon promoted the hell out of it, or if some book blogger started pushing it. You can’t plan for these sort of things. They just happen. I remember Steve Scott talking about one of his books hitting number one on Amazon just before Christmas. He had no idea what happened, but it was a hell of a lot of fun watching the book make its climb to the top. In the end, he figured some book blogger promoted it to his list, and the rest as they say—is history.
Eventually, luck will push you to the top of the heap. Until it does, keep plugging away.