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Eighteen Months To Live
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Author Resource Round Table > Did Free Book Promotions Work For You?

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message 1: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Hi everyone,

I would like to know what other authors' experiences have been with offering their book for free (for example with KDP Select on Amazon).

I read the KDP Select forums before I offered my book for free (over a two day weekend) and there was one woman on there who said her book sales were slow at first but then she did the free promotion and had 60,000 downloads! So I expected similar results when I did my first free KDP Select promotion on Amazon. However, I only got 313 downloads.

So I thought that those 313 people would read my book and some of them would write reviews on Amazon and they would tell their friends about my book and my sales would take off.

However, I only got two reviews on Amazon from the promotion and my sales have been minimal since then - more like a trickle than a stream.

Is this to be expected since I am a new and unknown author? Or did I not promote my book well enough before offering it for free?

I am so happy to have a forum of seasoned authors so I can ask these kinds of questions. Thank you for your responses in advance.


message 2: by Marion (last edited Dec 18, 2012 02:01PM) (new)

Marion Stein | 27 comments Hi Rachele,

Until a couple of years ago, if you were getting the 35% royalty and Amazon made your book free to match a price elsewhere, they'd still pay you for the "sales." This glitch in the system made me some money back in 2010. I didn't seek out the glitch. They've since changed that.

More recently, I made my novella, The Death Trip, free on Amazon by changing the price to free on Smashwords. Eventually, I guess it got reported to Amazon and they freed it. I was hoping it would lead to a wider-readership, more reviews and sales for my novel. While there are always a few hundred downloads per month (between Amazon UK and US) reviews are infrequent. I never got a "bad" customer review (2 star) on the novella until the reviews were free. You'd think if it were awful people who paid for it would have the most to say, but I think the issue is, if it's free people who are less likely to like it are more likely to read it. I've been told that with freebies (and even cheapies for that matter) people download but may not read for months if ever, so in your case, reviews might trickle in, but they may be more critical than from paying customers.

message 3: by Alexes (new)

Alexes | 122 comments Rachele,

Did you contact the aggregate sites (all those places that promote free kindle books to their followers) and let them know in advance about your free day? The number of these sites that pick up your notice can affect your number of downloads--the more places letting people know about your book, the more downloads.

Free days can also swing wildly on numbers downloaded. My best free weekend generated almost 3,000 downloads, a spike in sales after (which didn't last) and a handful of very nice reviews. My worst download day was less than 100 books and a tiny spike after, which didn't last. Some of it is luck of the draw--how many other books are on offer that day, who is looking for something to read, and which sites are advertising your book.

Don't be discouraged. Keep marketing, and keep writing.

message 4: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Thank you, Marion and Alexes, for your insights and encouragement. In answer to your question, Alexes, I told Pixel of Ink about my upcoming free promotion about a week in advance but they did not feature my book. :( I have since learned about a number of other sites promoting the free Kindle days which I will utilize during my next free promotion.

message 5: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Feb 20, 2014 12:03PM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) [deleted by user; leaving this comment just as a courtesy placeholder.]

message 6: by Bobbye (new)

Bobbye Hudspeth (bobbyesox) | 16 comments Thanks for asking the question, and to those that replied. My first non-fiction book "Behind the Grey" went live on Amazon last week and as the contract with my publisher states that I'm to be involved with its marketing, I'm trying to learn as much as possible. I yearn for the "old days" I used to read about, back when I wrote with starry eyes and big dreams, when publishers did massive marketing and handed out huge advance checks. (Of course, non-industry friends still think it's like that, and when I explain the real world to them they wonder "why do you write then?") Thanks so much for all of the info I've picked up in these forums from you wonderful folks who blazed the trail I'm walking now. May you all have the happiest of holiday season and may all of your writing in the new year be the best you've ever done.

message 7: by Huw (new)

Huw Thomas (HuwThomas) | 14 comments Hello all

I'll just add a little from my personal experience - having been using KDP free promotions over the past year.
To be honest I've had mixed results and it's very hard to pin down what works and what doesn't. I've used a variety of (free) sites to plug my promotions but I'm not convinced how big an impact they have. (My suspicion is these sites are mainly used by all us authors trying to promote our books!)
My most successful promotion was back in July when one of my novels Thin Ice was offered free. I did NO promotion at all and had about 6,500 downloads from Amazon's UK site although only a few hundred from
The best thing is that this was followed by actual sales of 200+ copies of the book over the next few weeks. I also saw a small spike in sales of my other books.
My main explanation for the number of sales was that it was the first week of the UK school holidays so maybe lots of people were looking for a holiday read. Also, once your book gets towards the top of an Amazon chart (mine got to about 3 in free crime novels and 5 in top 100 free) then many more people are likely to see it and the 'sales' become self-perpetuating.
I've also done promotions where I've tried to get books listed on lots of sites and had less than 1,000 downloads.
I think several things are important - a good title, professional cover and a short, snappy blurb that's going to capture your readers' imagination. Good reviews also help - after that I think timing and luck play a big part. (If you've got a big social network that can give your sales an initial burst then that will help push your book up the rankings and hopefully keep it there).
I think another thing that is important is having more than one book available so that people who buy (and like) your freebie then have something else to buy/read.

message 8: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Thank you Debbie, Bobbye, and Huw for your insights. Since I am a new author, this is all a huge learning experince for me and I really appreciate interacting with others and learning from them.

message 9: by Sherri (new)

Sherri Moorer (sherrithewriter) | 143 comments It's an inexact science. I've heard that these things can work, but the secret is that you have to "increase your shelf space." In other words, you have to keep publishing more things so you as an author get more "hits." I say don't give up. What works today might not work next month this time, and what failed last week might knock one out of the park tomorrow. With promotion, you just never know. I just keep plugging along and taking every opportunity I can for author interviews, reviews, features, etc. I have 2 shorter works out there for free and a novella that's $0.99 but that I occasionally offer for free as well.

message 10: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Thank you for your thoughtful response Sherri.

message 11: by Bobbye (new)

Bobbye Hudspeth (bobbyesox) | 16 comments I've been on the road for a couple of days, so missed an email from my publisher telling me they were creating a code to make my novel "Behind the Grey" free. (This is what I get for attempting to have a life and not remain tied to my computer. Right? I missed two days of marketing chances.) But, even though it isn't overall "free offer" I guess I'll have more to contribute to this thread after the "free period" ends on Dec. 26. :) If any of you are interested in reading it (and of course I'd appreciate reviews) just go to and (making note of the code on the button for checkout) click on the first button to "purchase" the book from Smashwords. Thanks and Merry Christmas!

message 12: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (fiona64) You know, I think that a lot of people are discovering that KDP-S is not helping. For one thing, it limits your discoverability to people who use Kindles. Kobo is the big break-out reader in Europe, and eBooks are taking off there. Lots of people like Nook, too. That means you're cutting off a good segment of your audience on the *hope* that you'll make some money in KDP-S.

Going with Smashwords as a distributor *in addition to* Amazon gets you all of those markets, and allows you to create a freebie or discount coupon whenever you want and for however long you want, not just when Amazon says it's okay.

My sales in ePub format outnumber .mobi (Kindle) format by a factor of 100:1. Most of my sales are from the Sony eBook Store, where I do exactly ZERO promotion. Simple discoverability matters far more than anything else.

message 13: by Sharon (new)

Sharon (fiona64) Jaq wrote: "I think the method has been saturated to the point that even I hardly look at free book topics anymore."

To add to this: I know many folks who got Kindle readers last Christmas (2011) and boast that they have yet to pay for a book thanks to all of the freebies on KDP-S. If all people have to do is look for freebies, they are not too likely to be buying.

message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Charlesworth (beckycharlie90) | 12 comments Have you tried a R2R program on Goodreads? If you're giving your books away for free anyway why not try it with a group that targets your genre. I think they're quite successful.

message 15: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and insights with me.

message 16: by Jill (new)

Jill Sanders (jillmsanders) | 244 comments Thank you everyone for this information. It has been very helpful to me as a new author. I have one book out there and another about to be released in the next week or so.


message 17: by Randy (new)

Randy Attwood (randyatwood) | 96 comments I have increasingly been coming down on the side that we should not give our art away. And if so, then for a very limited time and for special promotions. I have a novel that will come out soon that has a half-Navajo half-white character and I have been befriending as many Navajo as I can on Twitter and facebook (hoping Navajo graphic artist will do cover) and so will probably do a one or two-day at most free promo on twitter and facebook. But I'm even doubting if that is a wise thing to do.

message 18: by Michael (new)

Michael Scott (mallanscott) | 12 comments Did 3 free days the end of Dec as part of KDP Select. Did a decent amount of advance promotion. Results - 1,100 free downloads & no subsequent sales. You decide.

message 19: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) My book is free on Amazon right now (Jan 23-25) and doing well. I am interested to see if that will translate into increased book sales after the promo.

message 20: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Sharpe (abigailsharpe) I think I'd like to have a backlist before giving anything away. That way, if someone reads my book and loves it, she can buy what I've already released.

I should also note that I'm not self-published, so this way of thinking may be off.

message 21: by Robert (new)

Robert Roberts (goodreadscomrobertroberts) Giving away free books do not increase sales, and in most cases never result in a reviews. A total waste of time and postage in my humble opinion.

message 22: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 180 comments Don't usually visit Amazon's Author Central but opened it up today to peruse the sales info and rankings. For those who don't know of or don't frequent the site, try:

They have added a couple features. One is sales by geography. Unfortunately, this appears to be for print versions only so I came up with nada. You have to click through a little tour thing before you can navigate.

I was trying to find something that gave me an idea of the best sales days. Yesterday, for instance, was good. Last Wed, bad. Saturdays seem to be consistent.

What was interesting was the beta ranking info. This can be taken from overall rank in popularity down through the various levels of genre. Today I am the 43, 987th most popular author on Amazon. Guess that puts me in the top 5%?
Refined to literature and fiction (dispensing with all that boring non-fiction, self improvement, and cook books), I vault to the 11,215th most popular position. Shaking the data even further to 'genre fiction', I jump to 3,788th position. Wringing the info like a wet chamois and looking only at historical fiction, I rank 1215. Looks like there might be some room for improvement.

Also of interest is the compilation of all the reviews you have garnered. I got some real nice five star reviews in the past week. They were so nice I even edited my author bio to thank the kind readers who thought enough to jot down a few lines on my behalf.

A question arose when I was reading the reviews. One of them used language 'just ordered' the next volume. This leads me to believe the person ordered a POD version and had already bought a POD version. Yet, when I go to Createspace, I see nothing recorded under royalties. I think I ought to inquire about this.

Anyway, if you haven't used the resources at Author Central, I hope the link helps.

Anyone dug deep into the marketing central stuff on Createspace?

Perhaps an executive summary if you have?

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Where does it tell you the total number of authors in Amazon's Author central? Thanks, Harold

message 24: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 180 comments I'm just extrapolating a WAG from the number of titles. I will assume that today there are at least 43,988.
I'm figuring there are a million authors based on practically nothing more than seeing books that are listed as the four millionth in sales. We could ask for them all to check in here and get a head count.

message 25: by Randy (new)

Randy Attwood (randyatwood) | 96 comments It's truly extremely crowded out there.

message 26: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 180 comments That's one.

message 27: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Hi everyone,

I just finished a 3-day KDP Select free promo for my book Eighteen Months To Live. I think the promo went reasonably well with 690 downloads.

Everything I have read in the forums and in books has indicated that I could expect my ranking on Amazon to go up, at least temporarily, after my free promo. This has not been the case.

I had an Amazon Best Seller's Rank: Paid in Kindle Store: in the #20,000's before the promo and now my ranking is greater than #158,000. I would assume this is because I have not been "selling" books over the last three days, but rather "giving away" books so it caused my Paid Ranking to go way down.

This is not at all what I was expecting. I'm really disappointed.

I would really appreciate feedback from you guys as to whether your Amazon Paid Ranking went up or down after a free promotion?


message 28: by Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) (last edited Feb 20, 2014 11:02AM) (new)

Debbie's Spurts (D.A.) [deleted by user; leaving this comment just as a courtesy placeholder.]

message 29: by Heather (new)

Heather (clockwork_wings) | 67 comments I generally see a small spike after a promo, and all of my reviews have come after a promo.

Got my first ever 5-star this way. ^_^

message 30: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) I did have two people contact me to tell me that now that they had downloaded my book that they would write reviews for me. That is a nice benefit of the free promo.

message 31: by Jill (new)

Jill Sanders (jillmsanders) | 244 comments I found this article to be very helpful since I'm a first-time-indie-author.

I tried the KDP free days. I didn't like that I could only do so many free days every so many months. Especially since this is my first book and I wanted to give it away the weeks leading up to the release of my 2nd book in the series.

Then I found out, that if you have a smashwords coupon (say you put your book for free for a week), Amazon honors this by changing your book in amazon to free. ***At least this is what they have done for me. :)

As new authors we want to get our name out there first, then with our 2nd, 3rd, etc. books you will have repeat customers.

I have noticed that by giving away my book, I have little to no reviews generated from them. But, you can compensate by asking other authors to review your books on sites like this. Also, FB likes, Twitter followers, etc... are a big bonus.

I hope this helps others. I won't be using KDP for future books, since I don't like the limitations.


message 32: by Alan (new)

Alan Dean (raincoastfiction) Sifting through many posts on this over the last year, those that benefit the most from free promotions seem to be authors with a series to offer the reader. These have had success from offering volume one free, and then pulling in readers for their subsequent titles in the same series. Some authors have been very successful with this strategy (Lindsay Buroker being one very good example). Positve results for others, with single or unrelated titles, are harder to find, and it might be the case that those who have reported positive outcomes did so a year or more ago, when all this was beginning. As many have said, the marketplace is now very saturated with free books, and it is perhaps likely (as some commentators have stated) that many readers now have a huge backlog of free books to read.
My own experience has been such that I won't offer a book for free again, including the one I'm working on just now (but I will try the GR giveaway. If anything, free promotions have killed any sales trend I had before the promotion.

message 33: by Randy (new)

Randy Attwood (randyatwood) | 96 comments As many know. I agree with Alan. Let's don't give away our art, unless it's for things like GR giveaway and blog hops etc.

message 34: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Alan,

I think that you are right that the authors that benefit most from free promotions are those that have book series or multiple published books because it establishes credibility for the author and so people want to read more of their books.


message 35: by Richard (new)

Richard Sutton (richardsutton) | 198 comments Randy -- I'm looking forward to your release of (insert title here) "_______________", but I have to also agree, especially when it comes to those "Big Giveaway Events." Our work is not going to fly with either romance readers or the under thirty urban-vampite/zombie/paranormal crowd. We know who our target readers are, and I don't think they are especially high-profile in the freebie recipients group. When an author does a scatter-gun distribution of our titles free, they run the risk of putting them out there in front of the wrong reader group or even trolls. I do see the value of controlling how free copies get distributed as review copies to targeted readers and reviewers. That's an important use of free titles, but the rest? It's more important to me that my work endures a while and sells steadily, than being number eight on Amazon for an hour and a half during a giveaway download frenzy. My full novels run in the 300 - 400 page range and take years to research and produce (as I know yours do) neither of which are good indicators for series writers.

message 36: by Alan (new)

Alan Dean (raincoastfiction) Richard wrote: "Randy -- I'm looking forward to your release of (insert title here) "_______________", but I have to also agree, especially when it comes to those "Big Giveaway Events." Our work is not going to fl..."

Randy, you raise another important point, which is to consider the life of a book and not only immediate downloads. Authors who are traditionally published face the possibility of being remaindered if their books don't sell well within, say, the first two years, whereas those who publish themselves, or small independent publishers, can keep their work available for as long as they wish. A book that doesn't sell imediately might attract an audience later, perhaps when a subsequent title is catches the public eye and this then brings earlier work to the fore.
I've read elsewhere that it can take 18 months (and no doubt sometimes much longer) before you are noticed, so people shouldn't panic when success takes time. It might even be your great grandchildren who get rich - Pride and Prejudice is still selling 50,000 copies a year :)

message 37: by Richard (new)

Richard Sutton (richardsutton) | 198 comments Good point, Alan. I've read here on Goodreads, from some sales research, that the best selling Indie Authors generally have at least eight titles available. Developing a selling brand requires stamina and long-range thinking.

message 38: by Randy (new)

Randy Attwood (randyatwood) | 96 comments Yes, Alan, that is one advantage of ebooks. And, yes, Richard, I am experiencing the benefit of having a good number of works available. I am experiencing that long tail graph. Small to modest sales each month.

message 39: by Richard (new)

Richard Sutton (richardsutton) | 198 comments Glad to hear it! I hope to get there, soon enough. The current WIP will make six, but I've got number five hanging in limbo with a publisher who's still sitting on it after a year next month. Wish I knew.

message 40: by Randy (new)

Randy Attwood (randyatwood) | 96 comments I started epublishing in the spring of 2010 when a couple of publishers where my agent had submitted one of my works encourage the agent to urge me to go ahead and self-publish. I'd always been against it. I think they were experimenting with author-paid test marketing. That book is still in front of a couple of them and that's more than two years now. I'm not holding my breath any longer and have also made that book available as a POD. By the way, here's the rejection letter from one well known imprint of one of the trads: "Thanks so much for thinking of me and of **** for Randy Attwood’s political satire, SPILL, which I enjoyed digging my teeth into. Fred and Zoe share a kind of chemistry on the page that goads the imagination and leads the reader to be genuinely interested in the outcome of their electoral shenanigans, and Attwood very capably lampoons contemporary aspects of America’s current political situation, like the oil industry, gun regulation, and unemployment. Unfortunately, as compelling as I found this read, in the end it just didn’t capture my heart and attention to the degree where I would feel confident taking it on. Attwood has a sure command over language—my overarching issue, though, is that that language seems to be employed towards the end of being current; my instinct tells me SPILL exists less in and of itself and more for the audience it is fashioned to attract, and so I am sadly going to have to pass on this one. Attwood clearly has an accomplishment on his hands, and I wish you and him the best of luck finding a home for this debut elsewhere."

message 41: by Alan (new)

Alan Dean (raincoastfiction) Randy wrote: "my instinct tells me SPILL exists less in and of itself and more for the audience it is fashioned to attract"

Maybe it's me, but that makes no more sense than the brief rejection I once got, that concluded: "There is no doubting its literary value, but I don't think anyone will read it."

Sorry, for going off-topic ...

message 42: by Randy (new)

Randy Attwood (randyatwood) | 96 comments Alan, that's a dandy!

message 43: by Don (new)

Don Martinez (DesertCoyote13) | 57 comments If I may offer my perspective ...

The only pricing gimmicks I've used were price reductions (used to charge $4.50 for e-books, dropped all pricing to 99 cents). I save my freebies specifically for reviewers and e-book giveaways.

I absolutely refuse to put any books in KDP-Select for the very reason that it limits your exposure on the market. I've instructed all of my authors to not subscribe any books to KDP-S if they want to maximize their exposure.

Smashwords may have an annoyingly anal-retentive format that you have to follow, but the exposure can't be beat: if you qualify for Premium status at SW that gets you into Kobo (hence Europe) and the iTunes store (hence all Apple iOS devices like iPhones and iPads). My entire series is in Smashwords' Premium catalog for this reason, and thus far I've recorded sales in some of their other off-the-wall avenues (one sale to Baker & Taylor Blio, which is library e-books).

If I could make a suggestion, skip KDP-S, stick with standard KDP, PubIt!, and Smashwords ... and don't bother with freebie giveaways; I've found too much of a mooch factor and not enough people offering reviews or giving any word-of-mouth. (I'd absolutely *love* to directly speak to anyone who gives one of those testimonials of humongous sales from a freebie giveaway, rather than just the advertising copy)

message 44: by A.L. (new)

A.L. Butcher (alb2012) | 848 comments How does the Smash words Premium thingy work. Lol I don't think my book will make it... it has naughty scenes in...

message 45: by Don (last edited Jan 29, 2013 12:35PM) (new)

Don Martinez (DesertCoyote13) | 57 comments Basically, to qualify for Premium your e-book has to follow their style guide to the letter, and there's some content requirements ... the only one that pops to mind as far as "naughty scenes" goes is that you can't have minors having consensual sex (minors being raped is okay, though, for some weird reason).

Other than that and assigning an ISBN to the e-book (Sony and the iTunes store require that), that's about all you need to do in order to get your book into premium.

message 46: by Richard (new)

Richard Sutton (richardsutton) | 198 comments Well, Randy, if that comment didn't start you down the Indie pathway, I don't know what would. Here's the thing, it's about whether a book can be sold, with an advance big enough to be worth an agent's while. Even great writing doesn't always qualify. I'm still getting used to that. That and the fact that they get it wrong quite often. Gives me cheer to think of that.

message 47: by Alan (last edited Jan 29, 2013 12:38PM) (new)

Alan Dean (raincoastfiction) Alexandra wrote: "How does the Smash words Premium thingy work. Lol I don't think my book will make it... it has naughty scenes in..."

Premium is about formatting, so if you follow their guidelines, being included is automatic.

Your content shouldn't matter, I believe that Smashwords started out with adult "romance", and recently fought against censorship of such fiction (by credit card companies).

message 48: by Don (new)

Don Martinez (DesertCoyote13) | 57 comments Alan wrote: "Alexandra wrote: "How does the Smash words Premium thingy work. Lol I don't think my book will make it... it has naughty scenes in..."

Premium is about formatting, so if you follow their guideline..."

As recently as November, the content restrictions were still in place for the Premium catalog. A local author here petitioned for an exemption for her paranormal romance novel because it had 17-year-olds in sexual situations, and was rejected for the Premium catalog for this reason.

message 49: by Justin (new)

Justin (justinbienvenue) | 2163 comments As for promoting a book in general for free, I personally recommend this and have found it pretty beneficial and think it's the first thing an author should do as it's only natural. An author should use any free promotional tools they can and use any basic way they can to promote. Sometimes a little goes a long way in this sense and results may differ for some but at times can be surprising.

Should you pay to promote? It doesn't hurt but I don't think an author should invest a lot into promoting in the event that it doesn't generate good results and also if you do a good enough job in free promoting and you know the right people you really shouldn't have to invest your own money into promoting. Now if companies like Amazon or Createspace, Lulu and all those offer packages of promotional such they will get you a little more exposure then the basic free tools we use then yes I say why not take advantage of it if it's a reasonable price. Amazon seems quite reasonable when it comes to this.

Back to Free promotion though, I think whether its the author themselves or on Amazon this is the best way to promote and don't over do it and if you don't get the results you want don't stress(believe me!) It just takes times sometimes and theres always going to be somebody listening or interested in your work.

message 50: by Alan (new)

Alan Dean (raincoastfiction) Don wrote: "Alan wrote: "Alexandra wrote: "How does the Smash words Premium thingy work. Lol I don't think my book will make it... it has naughty scenes in..."

Premium is about formatting, so if you follow th..."

Can you point me in the direction of the content restrictions? Was your rejection solely about age (being under 18)?

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