When I decided to self-publish Unwritten Rules, one of the first decisions I made was to release it through Amazon's KDP Select program, and the main factor in that decision was the ability to utilize the "Free Days" option. As many of you know, if you grant Amazon exclusive sales rights to your ebook for ninety days, they allow you to offer it free for up to five days. While it may seem counter-intuitive to offer your book free in order to increase sales, that's exactly what many authors have reported, and I wanted to have the option to try it myself.
Even though Unwritten Rules is my fourth published book, I am still basically an unknown author searching for ways to increase my discoverability--the magic factor that allows complete strangers to discover and purchase your work. I found numerous books on this topic and read several of them as I planned my marketing strategy (such as it is). The authors offered advice on various ways to try to make Amazon's secret algorithms work in your favor. As with most advice, some was useful, and some I discarded. One point that did make sense was that you want your book to appear toward the top of various category lists so more potential readers will see it. That's what this freebie venture is all about.
Since I am an unknown, most (if not all) sales of my book during the first couple of months were to people who know me personally. I did the usual Facebook and blog tour things, and might have picked up an additional sale or two, but I doubt it. By the beginning of November, sales had completely stalled. The week before Thanksgiving, I decided it was time to bring out the big guns--the Free Days. I documented every detail of the experience and intend to share it honestly with you here. I promise not to sugar coat anything or try to make myself sound more successful than I really am.
I chose 11/19 to 11/23 for my free days, uncertain if I would use them all but wanting the flexibility if I needed it. I had a list of sites that advertise free Kindle books and started notifying them about ten days in advance of my promotion. After a couple of days the biggest two, Pixel of Ink and Bookbub, advised me they would not be featuring my book, and I started to worry that I might not get enough exposure to get many downloads.
These are the sites where my freebie appeared:
A couple required a minimum number of reviews (4 or 5) with a minimum average rating of 4.0, and that held me up initially. As an unknown, reviews were not exactly pouring in. I had to resort to asking friends and family to post reviews (something I've never done before) in order to get the small number required. As soon as I did, I was ready to go.
During the promotion, I checked my statistics every couple of hours and recorded the pertinent statistics so I could chart my progress and hopefully pull the plug at the most strategic point.
Here's an overview of what happened:
11:37 a.m. - 1,766 downloads, #316 in Free Kindle Store, #12 in romantic comedy, #21 in romantic suspense
5:05 p.m. - 5,655 downloads, #83 in Free Kindle Store, #4 in romantic suspense, #5 in romantic comedy
10:30 p.m. - 8,271 downloads, #22 in Free Kindle Store, #1 in romantic comedy, #2 in romantic suspense
9:00 a.m. - 9,712 downloads, #16 in Free Kindle Store, #1 in romantic comedy, #2 in romantic suspense
3:00 p.m. - 11,196 downloads, #17 in Free Kindle Store, #1 in romantic comedy, #2 in romantic suspense
9:45 p.m. - 12,928 downloads, #23 in Free Kindle Store, #2 in romantic comedy, #3 in romantic suspense
9:00 a.m. - 13,927 downloads, #19 in Free Kindle Store, #2 in romantic comedy, #3 in romantic suspense
3:08 p.m. - 14,954 downloads, #18 in Free Kindle Store, #2 in romantic comedy, #2 in romantic suspense
10:00 p.m. 15,969 downloads, #25 in Free Kindle Store, #3 in romantic suspense, #3 in romantic comedy
At this point, I gave serious thought to halting the promotion (which you can do at any time). The book had dropped off the first page in the Free Kindle Store, and I suspected it might continue to fall. However, it was still performing well in the individual category lists, so I decided to make a final decision in the morning.
9:00 a.m. - 17,013 downloads, #21 in Free Kindle Store, #2 in romantic suspense, #3 in romantic comedy
Since the numbers had improved a bit, I decided to continue the freebie but keep a close eye on the trends.
1:40 p.m. - 17,866 downloads, #19 in Free Kindle Store, #1 in romantic suspense, #3 in romantic comedy
6:45 p.m. - 19,023 downloads, #30 in Free Kindle Store, #2 in romantic suspense, #4 in romantic comedy
10:00 p.m. - 19,651 downloads, #31 in Free Kindle Store, #2 in romantic suspense, #4 in romantic comedy
I decided the the KDP Select Free Days had done their job, so I cancelled the promotion. Nearly 20,000 readers had downloaded my book. That's as much discoverability as I could hope for. Now all that remained was to see if it had done any good.
Check back Wednesday for my conclusions and sales figures for the remainder of November.