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Eighteen Months To Live
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Self-Promotion Questions > 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 Rob (new)

Rob Krabbe (robkrabbe) | 3 comments I second the question. My own success was about the same, so far. I would love to read the answer from anyone who has had a different result from the KDP select program or others.

Rob Krabbe
Rob Krabbe

message 3: by David (new)

David Bergsland (david_bergsland) | 37 comments Mine was the same, and I suspect that is normal unless you are writing romance novels (especially soft-porn stuff). Of course, our unknown status does not help, but the size and clarity of my niches are much smaller and harder to define. I got several hundred downloads on three books I tried, but I get the same or better sales results by foregoing KDP and releasing to the iBookstore, Nook, and Kobo in addition to the Kindle release plus a printed version in Createspace.

message 4: by Gaynor (new)

Gaynor Baker | 17 comments I had the same thing happen to me. Lots of downloads on free week for KDP select, but nowhere near the amount I need to get paid. As for reviews, one or two unstellar ones for "The Samurai's Lady" but a great one (and only one) for Doctor's Choice. I haven't figured out the lending library that's supposed to give you a portion of the community pot that's available,either. What is the point if you don't know enough people to buy your book and don't hve enough places where you can promote? None of the sites I'm using have brought in anything. I'm also on Createspace and write romances (historical). I think I'm probably on Google's last page, lol!

message 5: by L.Y. (new)

L.Y. Levand (lylevand) I tried a free day. Once. I gave away about one hundred copies of my first novella, but no one's bought it since - and this was almost a year ago. :/ But then, I was such a newbie I knew absolutely nothing about advertising, so perhaps I should try it again. Maybe some will actually buy it afterward, lol.

message 6: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments I've done a fair amount of experimentation with the free giveaways. With no promotion, 200-300 is about the most you can expect. To maximize the number of downloads, the trick is to heavily promote it through all avenues you have available (Twitter, FB, etc) as well as the dozens of sites that do free book announcements (PixelOfInk, Kindle Nation Daily, etc.) Doing all of this advertising has resulted in having around 7500 downloads per free day for my non-fiction book, Writing Advice for Teens: Creating Stories. That said, my paperback of this book is much more popular (I suspect it's because parents are giving it as a gift). I haven't tried putting up my fantasy novel because the ebook is already distributed across multiple sources and it would take too much time to make it eligible for KDP select.

Amazon does virtually no advertising for the KDP Select free days--it's all you. Some places are free, while others have a cost. You have to determine how much you're willing to spend in order to access more readers. Also, ask your friends to share the details with their friends, or ask for RTs on Twitter.

That said, there are so many free books out there now that it's hard to stand out. The sales do not tend to hold up beyond a few days (in my experience). Also, if you only have a couple reviews, you're probably not going to give away many copies, even for free. If pressed to give a number, I'd say you need at least 10 decent (3 to 5 star) reviews before people accept that your work is at least competent. Instead of using KDP select at that point, I'd ask friends/family to write reviews or submit free copies to book bloggers. Once you get up to around 10 reviews, then I'd try the freebie promotion (again, making sure to market through several free book sites).

In my opinion, the only winning strategy is to write more high-quality books and release them regularly (I'm aiming for at least 2 each year). With each book you release, you can reach more potential customers. I don't spend a lot of time marketing anymore because it takes too much time away from what I do best: writing.

message 7: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Also, I'd like to point out that Goodreads has a wonderful giveaway process for paperback books. I've connected personally with many more readers through those giveaways for both my books than I have through the tens of thousands of free books given away through the KDP select giveaways. That's a lot more meaningful to me than a high number of downloads on any given day.

message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

Pfff... giving stuff away is lame. I'm doing the opposite! =D


message 9: by Mike (last edited Dec 20, 2012 04:30PM) (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments You're stealing stuff? :-)

message 10: by David (new)

David Bergsland (david_bergsland) | 37 comments OK Forrest [ROFL] I love it. Excellent idea! Let us know if it helps sales. I know that underpricing can have a bad effect upon occasion.

I needed a laugh—>heading off to ponder doing the same [though I may raise 'em a buck.......

message 11: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Thank you everyone for your insights. It really helps to learn from other people's experiences.

message 12: by Sharazade (new)

Sharazade Sharazade | 3 comments Free promotions really only result in sales if you go big--that gets you increased visibility on Amazon, and that gets you more paid sales. But you really have to go BIG. Like 30,000 downloads, and rank in the top 10 free overall. And, Amazon jiggled the algorithms again around November 22, I think. So it's less effective than it was last May, which was less effective than last February, etc.

I've had two titles go big, one before the most recent algorithm shift and one after. For the one before, I had about 24,000 downloads and then 700 sales in the few weeks after. For the other one, about 29,000 downloads, hit #1, and then about 200 sales afterwards--but it's also a more 'literary' book, whereas the other was more of the 'page turner' sort, which does better. About 30 reviews for the first one, and about 15 for the second.

I've done erotica free promos sometimes--those never get the huge download numbers necessary for a post-promo sales bump. But they have moderately increased sales of the author's backlist.

message 13: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) That's really interesting, Sharazade. I have never heard of anyone having such huge sales after a free promotion before.

message 14: by Virginia (new)

Virginia Llorca | 46 comments I've gone over a thousand in free downloads, but the last one, for a non-fic, was barely 200. I never had more than about 3 cross sales. The best cash sale day I had was 22, and I have no idea what caused it. The few sales I get now, I attrribute to people who downloaded a free a while back and maybe now want to read more. I am so sick of promo.

Sacred Sin

message 15: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Hi Virginia. "Promo fatigue" is a big part of the reason I recommend writing and releasing more books. From a business perspective: if you only have one product, you can go bankrupt trying to promote it.

On the other hand, if you have ten products, you get a multiplier effect from any promotions you perform--people who like the product you promote will look for other things you've created.

With my two books, I sell fairly regularly, and I would guess that will increase when I release a third in the near future. I'm not making anywhere near enough to live solely on my writing income, but I'm making more than I would on one book and marketing the heck out of it.

The folks in self-publishing who have done well have all had many books (Amanda Hocking, for example, had 9 books available before she started doing really well). I'm not saying that writing many books is a sure-fire way to "win" the game, but it gives you more chances to find more readers.

Besides, I think writing is much more fun than promoting. That's where I'd rather spend my time. :-)

message 16: by David (new)

David Bergsland (david_bergsland) | 37 comments I agree, Mike

As I increase my offerings my income as a whole goes up. I still never know what will sell and what will not, but the body of work as a whole continues to grow as do the quantity and quality of readers. Now that I'm up to 28 books released over the past 4-5 years, I find I am writing better. I have a better idea of what works for me and what does not.

Plus, I'm really having a much better time.

message 17: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) I have read that you should pay for some advertising right after your free promo. Has anyone done that? And, if so, what were your results?

message 18: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Thanks, David! 28 books...nice work! Keep publishing!

Rachele, that's a standard marketing technique. The idea is to strike while the iron's hot--when you already have people looking at your book for a free promotion, you might be able to turn those into paid sales when the book's price goes up.

It may or may not work for you, especially since now your free ranking doesn't map to your paid ranking (in the first few months of Kindle Select, the free ranking boosted your paid ranking).

At this point, I'm not convinced that paid advertising really pays off unless you can leverage it into sales of your other books.

message 19: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments Mike wrote: "To maximize the number of downloads, the trick is to heavily promote it through all avenues you have available (Twitter, FB, etc) as well as the dozens of sites that do free book announcements (PixelOfInk, Kindle Nation Daily, etc.)"

I've been doing Select promos for nearly a year and have increased sales to a consistent level about four times what I was getting doing the Twitter, FB, read my blog, look at me on social media stuff. I saw exactly one crossover sale from Twitter to blog to point of sale.

OK, I'm not making a fortune but I'm making about a car payment's worth each month. The 19th will be my first go around using the Pixel of Ink, Kindle Nation, etc route. I've listed with about a dozen so we will see. Will report back on downloads.

I do one day promos about every three weeks or when I see my sales position starting to slip. I do a promo on the 50 page intro and then allow free borrows on the book itself.What I see as results is sales of the sample at a buck have quadrupled. Sales of the two volumes equal about the same numbers as the buck sample and borrows equal about half of sales of the $3.77 volumes. The rankings for sales fluctuate wildly but I would venture to say I have jumped from around 160,000th to the 40-60K range and held that since last July. Need more books. Must write.

Like Rachele (post 1), I expected people to download the freebie, start reading and then jump back to the point of sale making me rich, rich, rich I tells ya.

Har har. I didn't start to see any real results until about six months after the first promo. I found one day promos seem to work best. I've tried multiples but I don't move 'up the list' much on the second day. I've found I usually move up to around 60 in 'free historical fiction' but have been as high as 27. I try to monitor my position against the books right around me in rank.

Historical fiction isn't a big selling genre so I'm writing a thriller and I expect you all to come download the first fifty pages for free when its released.

message 20: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments When you log into your account on Amazon Kindle you choose reports from the big banner menu across the top, then select monthly reports. On your promo day you can watch the progress of downloads.

Also, if you sign in on Amazon Author Central, you can see your overall rating for popularity as an author.

message 21: by Mimi (new)

Mimi Jenkins (MimiEJenkins) | 3 comments I too am a new author and my sales are slow. I did not offer to give my e-book away for free as it is only $3.99, but I have found it very difficult to get my name out there. I am also open to suggestions from Authors who have been there and done that and are willing to share some insight.


message 22: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine | 8 comments Really good information about KDP. Thanks

message 23: by David (new)

David Bergsland (david_bergsland) | 37 comments If you are in the romance category, free downloads from Kindle may help a lot. I've just been in a discussion with a lady (among several other people) on FaceBook who had 30,000 free downloads and her book sales took off as a Christian Romance.

message 24: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Thank you all for your insights.

message 25: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments I do my KDP Promos in one day events about every three weeks. Anyone have an opinion about what is the best day of the week?

message 26: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) I have read that Wednesday and Thursday are the best days. I am going to try those days for my next free KDP promo.

message 27: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments Reason I ask is I was going to do one on 2-8 but I have scheduled a day with family and friends and won't have time to do the 'day of' links.

I had been doing them on Sundays thinking people had the day off, might have been reading and looking for something new. Wondering, does that Alexa break site traffic down by days or offer a chart like a Wordpress website widget does.

message 28: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Ken, if you use a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, you can schedule tweets to go out at specific times. Makes it a lot more efficient for day-of links. Just make sure not to tweet the exact same thing more than once, or the multiples won't go through.

The reason that mid-week giveaways(Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) tend to work better are that there are fewer customers overall on Amazon during those days, so each person who downloads your book counts for more.

As a quick (and very unrealistic) example, if there are 10 buyers on Amazon and 1 of them downloads your book on a Wednesday, that counts for 10% of Amazon's downloads, so your ranking will go higher. On a Saturday where there are 100 buyers on Amazon, you'd need to convince 10 people to download your book to get the same boost.

The above example is intentionally simplistic (there's a lot more to Amazon's algorithms than that), but hopefully it shows the point. You might get fewer total downloads on those days, but each one counts for more. It's easier to stand out and connect with readers when you have less competition (typically during the week).

message 29: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) I really appreciate your insights Mike. My book is free on Amazon today through Friday (Jan 23-25) and the promo has been going really well. I was feeling really good about my book's ranking on Amazon today but I guess I need to temper that with your info about less competition mid-week. By Friday I expect downloads to taper off and there will also probably be more competition on Friday so we'll see how it all plays out.

message 30: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments I don't think you should temper your feelings at all. I think it's great that you're doing so well. The ultimate goal is exposure, and ranking well will help you do that.

I've found that 2-day giveaways tend to work best, but if you're going into Friday highly ranked, you might actually do even better. You'll be at the top of the list when people go to look for freebies, so that may push you even higher!

Congrats on doing well so far. I hope you continue to go far!

message 31: by Suneeta (new)

Suneeta Misra (suneetamisra) | 1 comments The Kindle Library and other book sites are not free. They seem to have sponsorship packages? Does anybody know how useful they are in bringing up sales? I have a even narrower niche audience for my murder mystery set in India. So despite good reviews on Amazon, sales seem really flat.

message 32: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments Mike wrote: "I've found that 2-day giveaways tend to work bes"

My experience has been traffic drops off considerably on the second day. I'll stick with one day promos but still trying to figure day of the week.

message 33: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 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? https://www.createspace.com/Marketing...

Perhaps an executive summary if you have?

message 34: 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 35: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Hi Rachele,

That reflects a change in Amazon's algorithms. When the KDP Select program started, free downloads were counted the same as a paid sale, so your ranking would go up. That's no longer the case. Everyone's rank goes down after a free day--the only time that changes is if a bunch of people buy your book as a result of the advertising you do for the free promotion.

If you're looking for a sales rank bump, you can try lowering your price to 99 cents for a couple days and marketing the heck out of it. That will help your ranking go up, and then you can raise your price and keep the higher ranking. Just another thought....so many alternatives!


message 36: by Lara (new)

Lara Frater | 6 comments I did KDP select and got zero downloads, it expires next week so I'm setting up something for googlebooks and Nook.

message 37: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments Lara wrote: "I did KDP select and got zero downloads, it expires next week so I'm setting up something for googlebooks and Nook."

How many promos did you do?

I think the first one I did I got around 100-150. I spent most of the days prior and that day tweeting. It didn't take me long to conclude that tweeting is a waste of time.

I was excited to get the 150 downloads. The book was serialized and I'd done the freebie on the first installment. I was naive enough to believe that sales would pick up once those people anxiously opened up my work and devoured it. They would be back literally within hours.

What I now realize is when something is free its like Black Friday at Toys R Us. People shovel stuff into their carts and someday will get around to reading it. I don't think I saw significant sales bumps for at least four months. I think my first promo was in Feb of 2012. By September, sales had leveled off and royalty income has fluctuated a fourth from month to month.

message 38: by Lara (new)

Lara Frater | 6 comments I did a lot of promos on goodreads groups that allowed it and did one cheap advertisement on a book site. I sold some copies but nothing through KDF select.

message 39: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments Just sayin'. If you didn't use any of the promotion days, you would expect to receive zero downloads. You have to actively pick a day for the free downloads. Go to your bookshelf, check the box for a book and then select 'Manage Promotions'. If you have already done this and got nothing, I don't know what to tell you. If you haven't, the promos are a pro-active kind of thing.

message 40: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments On the topic of other promotions, I have been doing promotions on other sites for the free days on Select. Instead of just picking a bunch, I started looking at the popularity of the sites and the demographics of those who use the sites. Because there is a charge for the promotions on some, best to see if you are spending your $$ wisely.

As an example, I went to Alexa to check out a play for pay site.


The demographic profile reads: Based on internet averages, kindlenationdaily.com is visited more frequently by females who are over 65 years old, have no college education and browse this site from home.

Not my target audience, not the place to spend dollars.

message 41: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Kind of weird: I was really surprised about your statement about 65-year-old females. When I go to Alexa, I see something completely different on the demographic profile (and this is more in line with what I would have suspected):

Kindlenationdaily.com has a three-month global Alexa traffic rank of 35,869. We estimate that 80% of visitors to the site come from the US, where it has attained a traffic rank of 6,601. Compared with the overall internet population, its audience tends to be female; it also appeals more to both uneducated and highly educated people over the age of 35 who browse from home and have incomes over $30,000. The fraction of visits to Kindlenationdaily.com referred by search engines is roughly 2%. This site has a relatively good traffic rank in the cities of Chattanooga (#706) and Boston (#940)

message 42: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments I took the info directly from the 'audience snapshot' in the link I provided as is yours. Scroll down about 2/3 on left.

message 43: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Interesting. I wonder why they have the inconsistency in two different paragraphs in the same site. I saw pixelofink.com and digitalbooktoday.com had similar statistics. Are there any sites to advertise free books that don't?

I've had a high number of downloads from all three places when I've done promotions, so that seems suspicious to me, like the statistics might be incorrect.

message 44: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) Mike,

I submitted my free book promo to Pixel of Ink for both of my promos. The first promo was for two days and I gave them one week's notice of the promo. The second promo (Jan 23-25), I gave them about three week's notice and the promo was for three days.

My book was not featured in Pixel of Ink on any of my free promo days.

How did you get Pixel of Ink to feature your book? And how do you know what downloads came from each site?


message 45: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments The farther in advance you submit, the more likely you get on. If I remember right, I think I was more than a month out (and this was probably 9 months or so ago, when there was less competition).

I should clarify...it's mostly a guess which downloads came from which site. I just watched when the downloads came in. I would see a spike soon after an entry was posted or mass email came out.

message 46: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Going back to Ken's thoughts using Alexa, I think I finally figured out where the disparity was. Kindle Nation Daily (along with most of the other places where you'd advertise free promos) offers a Facebook page, Twitter feed, and email list. None of these actually go through the kindlenationdaily.com site. The Alexa figures only track people who actually go to the website, so folks who aren't on Twitter or Facebook are the ones who go there. And who's greatly underrepresented on Facebook and Twitter? People 65 and older.

The statistics Alexa tracks are probably correct, but they show an incomplete picture. What you really need are statistics from KND and others that show what their demographics are for their email lists, Twitter feeds, and Facebook page. That's when you could see the full image.

message 47: by Shannonleebelle (new)

Shannonleebelle | 10 comments Mike wrote: "Also, I'd like to point out that Goodreads has a wonderful giveaway process for paperback books. I've connected personally with many more readers through those giveaways for both my books than I ha..."

I think I missed the giveaway process for paperbacks here on Goodreads. Is there a link that explains how it works? I would rather give a paperback away. I guess I'm kind of old-school that way.

Thanks for you the info you shared.

message 48: by Mike (new) - added it

Mike Kalmbach (mikekalmbach) | 27 comments Hi Shannonleebelle (long name, hope I spelled it correctly!)

To create a giveaway, go to: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/new

To see existing giveaways, go to: http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway

Note that all Goodreads giveaways are only for paperbacks. Be prepared to pay shipping for whatever countries you enable!

I recommend a month-long giveaway for most books (seems to be most successful). Some folks use long-running giveaways (3+ months), but I think they go on too long and people forget they even entered. Giveaways are a great way to get on a bunch of to-be-read lists at once.

Good luck!

message 49: by Rachele (new)

Rachele Baker (rachelebakerdvm) I read in someone's post on Goodreads that if you take your book out of KDP Select that you can't get the 70% royalties anymore. Is that true?

message 50: by Ken (new)

Ken Consaul | 150 comments Not true, you have to opt for the 70% and be priced higher than $2.99

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