Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How to Promote Free Books to Sell More

Being published by a micropress has its drawbacks, mainly a dearth of distribution and promotion. I like to have my books available in paper for the few who decide to take one, but mainly I sell them at outdoor festivals and book events. Most of my mysteries and thrillers (now ten) are sold as ebooks. And since I decided to cast my lot with Amazon KDP, they're only available in the Kindle Store.

I have used their free days almost monthly over the past year to promote sales. KDP allows you to give a book away for five out of every ninety days. Despite how it sounds, the act of giving away books has a definite effect on book sales. The practice has brought less results as time progressed for several reasons. One has to do with the fact that more and more authors are using the free days route. There are several dozen Internet sites that promote free ebooks, but they get so many requests now that they limit what they do or charge for the service.

I have used several sites in recent months, paying from $5 to $25 for guaranteed listings. When I first began the practice, my books sold well after the three free days (that seems the most effective period) for two weeks or more. Not just the book that had been free, but the rest of my backlist. However, for the past few months, the lingering effect has been much shorter.

Recently I've read posts by my colleagues on some promo sites about their use of  BookBub.com. It sends out an email to its list of thousands of readers daily, promoting from two to four ebooks that are either free or on sale at a discount such as 99 cents. This one is not for the faint of heart. For mysteries that are free, the price is $240. For mysteries priced at $1 to $2, it's $720. They claim 700,000 subscribers to the mystery email list and show average downloads of 18,000.

I started three days for a free Kindle copy of my second Greg McKenzie mystery, Designed to Kill, on Saturday. It goes back to $2.99 tonight (Monday) at midnight PDT. As of 10 p.m., the time I'm writing this, the book has been downloaded 49,009 times. During this time, the first book in the series has sold 47 copies, book three 31 copies, book four 12 and book five 6.

If things go as expected (at least hoped), Designed to Kill should sell hundreds of copies in the coming days, while the other books in the series continue to do well. The theory is that if readers like the free book, they'll come back to buy the others. I've already gotten three new four-star and one five-star reviews since the giveaway began. People who take part in these promotions are good about writing reviews on Amazon.

I'll post in a couple of weeks how the after-effect turns out. Has anybody else tried this approach? How were your results?


Bill Kirton said...

I just finished a 3 day freebie for the 5th in my detective series, Chester. It didn't have your stellar uptake but sold over 9000. So far, no reviews and no noticeable increase in sales of the others.
A couple of weeks ago, I submitted a book to Bookbub for consideration. It was another in the police procedural series, had lots of 5 star reviews and had won a Forward International Literature Award but Bookbub didn't think it would appeal to their readers so it was rejected. They claim that this is in no way a reflection on the book's quality but I really would like to know the criteria they're using.

Chester Campbell said...

I agree, Bill. I'd like to know their criteria, too. I don't know why they picked Designed to Kill, but I'm happy they did. I guess like everything else, it's a crapshoot.

Earl Staggs said...

Chester, I haven't tried the KDP program before, but I will very shortly. I'm anxious to hear more about your results. Thanks for sharing your info.