This blog is devoted to remembrances and essays on general topics, including literature and writing. It has evolved over time, and some older posts on this site might reflect a different perspective and purpose.

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Friday, April 19, 2013

The Effect of Free Book Promotions

            In an attempt to figure out how things work on Amazon, more specifically Kindle, I tried a new approach to free promotions of my mystery, The McHenry Inheritance, during the month of March. I still don’t understand how things work on Amazon, but pulled together a few strands of information that I’ll share for whatever they’re worth.
            For starters I decided to run three promotions during the month, all on weekends. The first was Sunday March 3 and the second was Saturday March 16. I figured I’d see whether Saturday or Sunday generated more downloads, then run the third promotion the following weekend on whichever day yielded better results.
            It wasn’t even close. That first Sunday I moved 306 free books, the best day I’d ever had to that point. The McHenry Inheritance climbed to number 53 on the free mystery list. On Saturday the 16th, the total was 72 books and my best showing was number 2660 on the overall list. So I scheduled my third promo (and last for the 90-day period) on Sunday March 24.

Making a Big Push on Twitter

            For that day, I tried something different — a big push on Twitter (handle: @Qgordonnovel). I always tweet that I’m offering a free promotion early in the morning of the day it’s happening, but this time I went overboard.
            The day before I went to Twitter and followed 150 new people, which generated a number of follow-backs while the book was out there. During the day of the free promotion, I also tweeted every couple of hours about how the book was doing. It’s hard to say how much, if at all, that helped. I wasn’t re-tweeted at all, and my overall follower base is still relatively small (under 2,000).
            Nonetheless, the book did great, with more than 470 downloads — far and away the best day ever. It was in the top 4 percent of free books downloaded on Amazon that day and climbed to number 33 on the mystery list. If I’m not proving anything else, I’m at least demonstrating that I can give it away.
            The big question, of course, is how many of those people who got it free are going to read it at any time in the next year, never mind sooner. I can’t even imagine how you could get a reliable answer to that question.

But Does It Pay?

            Also unclear is whether the run on free copies of the books translated (or will translate) into paid sales of any significant nature. The week after that big Sunday, my book sold a little better than it had earlier in the month, but the numbers involved are so small that the difference is probably statistically insignificant.
            I’ve visited a few online conversations about the value of free promotions, and the consensus seems to be that there’s no immediate impact. No one, however, seems to be looking at it as a long-term proposition. If ten percent of the people who download the book free end up reading it in the next year and telling a friend who buys it (or better yet, liking it on Facebook), that’s a good return on the promotion, even if it takes a while.
            “Even if it takes a while” might actually be the operative phrase in evaluating self-publishing results. For every Fifty Shades of Grey that gets crazy-good sales results, there are probably hundreds of good books that build an audience slowly through word-of-mouse and through subsequent books the author writes. I can only keep moving forward and hope that The McHenry Inheritance will be one of those.