Tag Archives: Twitter

On Unsupported 99c Promos

A week or so ago I ran my next marketing experiment for my novel Equivocal Destines. My previous 2 experiments were with free promos. Having judged them worse than useless, but actually counter-productive, I’ve moved on to 99c promos. Michael Bacera pointed out a piece of sagely wisdom to me a while ago, which is effectively that free promos are going out of fashion, presumably, because they don’t provide a marketing boost, sales boost or even a reviews boost for your book. My research has shown they actively decrease the popularity of your book by reducing your Amazon ranking. After all, while you’re giving away copies (which don’t result in reviews or post-giveaway sales) you’re not selling copies, so your ranking plummets. Good advice. So, what about 99c?

Well, here’s where I ran into a huge problem. It turns out Amazon has no intention of helping me out here. I’ve removed my book from the Kindle Select program because of its demand for exclusivity. I’d rather also be allowed to sell my book on Smashwords, Apple, Google, etc than use Amazon’s promo infrastructure and rent copies. Maybe it’ll work out badly, but that’s my next experiment. Without Kindle Select, there’s no option within the system to run any promos at all. I was left with the choice of doing it manually, so I did.

  1. I reduced the price to 99c, manually.
  2. I updated the text of my Book Description with bolded text saying it was discounted, etc.

The problem is, all these manual changes do nothing to promote the promo. If I could use Kindle Select’s mechanisms, Amazon would put in a bit of effort and all those promo websites would scan and find it. No such luck for me, I was on my own. So here’s what I did to advertise. It’s a copy of my previous promo task list, but updated, and looks really pathetic. My self-imposed remit was to not spend any money though, which severely limited my choices.

When What I Did How Effective It Was
Sunday Update book and release 2nd Edition at 99c Went live within 4 hours
Sunday Write  blog post bout the promo: https://raymondclarkeauthor.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/a-rare-sales-pitch/ A couple of people viewed it
Sunday Tweeted & Facebooked the blog post  A couple of retweets and views
Sunday I added a comment to the “Under $3.00 Kindle downloads” thread on http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/  It got swamped out quickly
Sunday I added a forum post to http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/ This forum is so messy it’s impossible to find anything. I doubt anyone checks it and clicks through to purchase.
Sunday Added a thread to “The Book Bazar” http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,42.0.html http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,213463.0.html
36 views in the first day
It was read about 60 times by the end. I can’t guess if it led to any sales because there’s no timing correlation, but it could only be 1 or 2, max.
Sunday Confirmed I’m still registered at indiebookdiscovery.com Yep, it’s still there, but there’s no way to update the profile to say “On Promo” or anything, which is a deliberate design choice of theirs that I actually like (read their info) so what more could I do.
Sunday I searched Twitter for “book suggestions” and replied to every tweet I could find where someone was asking for a book suggestion and I thought they might be interested. Max 1 sale. 1 person replied, positively.
When the book is free, this seems very effective, but with a 99c promotion, this was very ineffective. My guess is this netted me 1 or 2 sales, for maybe 30-40 tweets. It also took a long time to do it nicely, reply to anyone (almost no-one) who replied to me, etc.
Monday Sent out a few funny advertising tweets with hashtags: #IARTG, #BookBoost as well as the usual #RT, #free, #fantasy, #99cents, #99CentsKindle, #Amazon The free retweeters seem to only retweet once a day
Monday Fixed my forum post at “The Book Bazar” http://www.kboards.com/index.php/board,42.0.html because I, stupidly, forgot to add a direct authl.it link It had 36 views at the time of the change but had generated max 1 sale.
Monday Emiled http://www.authorjd.com/aha-program/ for a free tweet promo to 250k. This tweets to:
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Ebookpromoters   Cheapest deal is $9.99
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Reviewmyebook
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Bookblows
https://www.facebook.com/Mybookoftheday/info   @Book_oftheday
http://www.bookpromo.in/   @Bookblow
http://enasreviews.blogspot.in/   @Enasreviews   3-5 star reviews for $19.99

More on this guy after the table! I had 2 sales the day of his tweets.

Monday emailed ebookpromoters@gmail.com from https://www.facebook.com/Mybookoftheday/info to see if they’ll consider advertising my book I heard nothing.

@book_ofTheDay tweeted my book out on Friday 1st May to 42k, but this isn’t the same group. This came from @Jdshouts (see above). Friday saw 2 sales.

Monday Filled in the form at http://www.bookpromo.in/p/about-us.html for a free tweet. @ebookpromoters
@BookBlow free Tweets to 151k USE – Upload a message on http://www.bookpromo.in/p/about-us.html
Tuesday Submitted an application to ENT It was rejected, a week later. As I suspected, I was too late in applying.
Tuesday Posted an entry to http://www.indiesunlimited.com/category/indies-unlimited/thrifty-thursday/ I heard nothing
I didn’t bother rebranding all of my profiles. It achieved nothing during my previous 2, free giveaways, so it just seems a waste of time. None-the-less, I should have put together a sort of banner to attach to tweets and blog posts.
Infrequent Twitter and Facebook spamming. To be honest, I really didn’t have the heart to do this much. It just doesn’t seem effective either. I gave it  lighthearted try, but achieved nothing.
I checked in on the retweeting retweeting accounts and tailored my tweets to use the better ones. This basically means adding #IARTG, #RT and anything else useful to tweets. This generated a lot of retweets which were potentially seen by over 100k people, but generated no sales. This shouldn’t be surprising since most of the recipients were probably other authors.
I checked a bunch of sites that automatically scan Amazon for free books. Yes, this one includes the word “free”, so I didn’t expect my book to be listed, and it wasn’t. I also searched for sites that list discounted books, but came up with nothing. This method’s only useful for free books.

A quick note about @Jdshouts. I found him (he found me) on Twitter and offered free advertising of any book. All you have to do is ask. Then his website says you should start by buying the pre-release of his book and email him the proof of sale. This sounded really dodgy to me, and possibly a bit unethical, but a test’s a test so I diligently emailed him, following all of his rules, which included only mentioning his book in the email, not actually buying it. I expected nothing back, but true to his word, he did tweet my book out to 250k or so people over 10 accounts, some of them very well-known. I was surprised, but pleasantly so. Not dodgy at all.

His help gave me a very important piece of information too. As my table above shows, I ended up with 2 sales the day of his 10 tweets. ummm… Twitter spamming isn’t effective. I’m really grateful to @Jdshouts for the help. I just wish it had been more effective.

I might even consider buying the pre-release of his book as it sort of sounds interesting. Now that I’m in no way bound or obligated, I’ll give it another look. The couple of grammar mistakes on his website though don’t bode well for the book though.

So, what were my results. At this point, I’d usually add a table breaking down my sales by day and region, but they were so woeful that it’s not worth the effort. I sold 1 or 2 copies a day, which raised my Amazon ranking from 200-250k to round 100k on amazon.com and 80-90k om amazon.co.uk, and achieved SFA else. It was a complete washout.

Now, I guess I could have put a lot more effort into the advertising side of things, but it really was a disheartening experience (as I sort of expected it to be) with a fair amount of work and nothing to show for it. I simply don’t think free advertising’s effective in any format or context.

My next experiment will be with paid advertising. There’s some more permutations of free that I could try, but I doubt they’ll achieve anything more than this one.

My Cumulative, Take-Home Advice

  1. Free promos in all their forms are detrimental to your sales efforts. See all of my recent posts for my proof.
  2. Kindle Select is a great idea, but implemented badly, because it restricts the author and is therefore unfair. It’s not unfair of Amazon to offer it, but it’s unfair to you if you use it. (Keep in mind, as far as I know, Apple has a similarly restrictive policy where they force you to register a piece of Apple hardware with your account to sell your books in their market, so Amazon’s not alone in their restrictive tactics. I think Smashwords can effectively get you round this pointless limitation by publishing to Apple on your behalf. More on this in a week or 2.)
  3. Twitter advertising is pointless. It’s easy to put a tweet in front of 250k people, but results in nothing. This shouldn’t be surprising since most of those 250k users are probably also other authors hoping to use those same sales channels to sell their books.
  4. Banner ads are a waste of time. End of story.
  5. Pretty much all forms of free advertising out there may be well-intentioned, very nice and ethical, but they’re bound to be ineffective with so many books flooding the market.

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On Free Advertising, update 1

A week or so ago I did a 1-day, snap promo of my novel, Equivocal Destines. I then wrote this blog post detailing what I did.


It was a quick decision. I did it with about 2 days prep time (during which I was working in my real job so didn’t even have much time to set anything up. I was a bit late with what I did too. It was still a modest success though, and achieved its goal. If you’re wondering what the useful results are a week on, here it is.


Flat. As in, no change, up or down. Not good. It’s what I expected though.


My book’s available under Kindle Unlimited for people to rent if they subscribe. I get paid if they read at least 10% and by coincidence, the amount I get paid’s really close to what I earn on a sale of a Kindle edition in a 70% zone.

Rentals are up almost 300%. Excellent news. Well, not really. See below.

Amazon ranking

I said above that my sales are flat (i.e. not going down) but that’s an average over the week. I had my sales earlier in the week and the rentals later in the week. This has basically proven to me that rentals don’t count towards your Amazon ranking (which is logical since Amazon doesn’t know yet if they’ll read 10% so they don’t know if I’ll get paid) so my Amazon ranking is slipping slower even while I’m making more money than I did before my flash promo. I’ve slipped from about 120k to 362k as I write this. Both of those numbers aren’t good (neither are my total sales) but I haven’t done any real/paid advertising at ll yet, so I’m not surprised. It’s also not relevant to this post.

My thoughts

@MichaelBacera on Twitter (who has a really interesting book coming out soon BTW, follow him) said something really important (and in hindsight, obvious) to me a while ago, which I hadn’t considered at all.

If you do a free book giveaway it gives you  good Amazon ranking in the Free Kindle section.

This doesn’t affect your ranking in the main Kindle store at all.

This is very important, and from now on I think I won’t do any free giveaways. They get the word out, but don’t actually lead to sales, so it’s  waste of time. Paid advertising will more likely lead to sales (off topic) but even that won’t affect your Amazon ranking, which is more important for future growth than a few extra sales anyway.

Give up on the free promos. Do 99c promos instead, and give up on the notion that you can get way with only free advertising. The market’s probably just too saturated, but that’s only speculation. My numbers though show that free promos haven’t helped me much.

On Free Advertising

I just finished my second, 1-day promotion, and the results re very different from my previous one. First, check these out:

Here’s what I did this time, in brief. I’ll post a whole page with way too many details on it sometime soon.

What I Did How Effective It Was
I rebranded all of my profiles.
Banner Ad - 20150404
 As with last time, I doubt this achieved anything.
 Infrequent Twitter and Facebook spamming. To be honest, Easter got in the way and I didn’t post anywhere near as much as I should have. I don’t think this was too effective, but see below for the real Twitter work.
I searched Twitter for “book suggestions” and replied to every tweet I could find where someone was asking for a book suggestion and I thought they might be interested. I wrote many versions, but they were similar to: “Dreading a dull Easter period? Try Equivocal Destines – #free this Sat 4th. authl.it/B00SZ63XY6?d #kindle #fantasy I seriously think this was the most useful thing I did. I have no way of knowing, but I think a lot of people would have downloaded my book based on this direct, personal approach.
I investigated the Top 100 Reviewers on Amazon and emiled only those whose profiles and review histories showed that they might be interested in reviewing my book. I spent a lot of time on this but only ended up sending about 10 emails. I got 1 reply and don’t know (yet) if this reviewer actually downloaded it.
I searched for  retweeting accounts. This was a wash out. There are very few real retweeting accounts. Pretty much all tweeting accounts seem to be fronts for paid advertising sites.

Not that I have a problem with paid advertising sites – I plan on using some soon – I just didn’t use them this time.

I added a forum post to http://www.amazon.com/forum/meet%20our%20authors/ No-one read it.
 I added a forum post to  the Amazon Kindle Forum thread for free books I don’t think anyone saw it.
I added a thread to www.kboards.com http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,212239.0.html

It was read 17 times.

 I checked a bunch of sites that automatically scan Amazon for free books. Some found my book, some didn’t, 1 I had to manually add my book.

I think this one’s pretty hit-and-miss. None of them tweeted anything about my book.

 I signed up to IndieBookDiscovery Do this! Their methodology seems to be better / more fair and that actually tweet, so they’re useful. Right now, they’s also free.
 I registered my book here: http://www.philipsmith.eu/indie-author-promotion @PhilipSmithEu is actually really cool because he retweets my posts anyway. I don’t know why, but he’s very cool.

So how’d I do? Much better than last time:

Date Marketplace Units Sold
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.com.au 4
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.in 1
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.ca 5
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.co.jp 1
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.de 1
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.co.uk 5
Apr 04, 2015 Amazon.com 177
Apr 05, 2015 Amazon.com.au 3
Apr 05, 2015 Amazon.es 1
Apr 05, 2015 Amazon.co.uk 10
Apr 05, 2015 Amazon.com 3
Total 211

Some notes:

  • The promotion is split over 2 days because I live in Europe. It begins t midnight, US-EST, which is 9am, my time.
  • The promo actually started at 9:40m on Saturday and ended at 9:40am Sunday (today). This is in Amazon’s terms of service so I wasn’t surprised.
  • My first promo gave everyone I’ve ever met a copy, so they didn’t get  copy this time, so these copies went almost entirely to people I don’t know. That’s more useful in the long run.
  • My single-unit giveaways to Indonesia, Japan and Spain are most likely the result of my spamming of people on Twitter who asked for book suggestions.
  • There’s only 9 sales in Australia and Canada, which re conceivably from friends and friends of friends. That’s a very small number and percentage.

And what were my immediate results:

  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,170 Free in Kindle Store
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #9 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Action & Adventure > Fantasy
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Epic

The final question for now is, how good is this? I don’t know how many free books were in each of these categories because Amazon only makes the Top 100 lists east to find. I was on the first page in each of my categories though, for a few hours at least.

I put together a quick, informal count of what types of books were in the Top 100 of all free books. It’s… illuminating:

Category Count
No category listed 1
Americana 2
Biographies 1
Children’s 2
Christian Diets&Healing 2
Comedy 1
Cooking 1
Erotica 2
Horror 1
Military 1
Mystery / romance 3
Romance 40
Romantic comedy 5
Romnce – fantasy 6
Self-help / marketing 2
Sci-fi / fantasy 6
Thriller 16
Women’s fiction 6
Total 98

First of all, I said it was the Top 100, and it was. It doesn’t total 100 because I was being harassed to return to Easter breakfast (Polish people take their Easter festivals really seriously). Close enough. I also took a lot of liberties with the categorisations, so don’t take this too seriously. I wanted to keep the number of categories low, so I fudged it a bit based on cover art, merging categories, titles and things like that. It’s a relatively accurate list though.

This list really does show how hard it is to get into the Top 100 if you’re not writing boring books for bored housewives (according to the broad-brushstroke stereotype), so I’m not worried about only getting to 1170 on the main list. I’m really happy with my rankings in my categories though, especially since my book only had 5 reviews while most of those in the Top 20s had a lot more. Often, hundreds.

Now I have to wait and see if it results in sales and/or reviews 🙂

On Public Book Recommendations

For the last week I’ve been responding to a lot of tweets (on Twitter) about requests for books. Basically, someone tweets the world to ask for a book recommendation and I reply. A lot of authors seem to do this, based on the other replies I’ve seen, and I’ve decided I really don’t think it’s worth my time. Here’s why.

First of all, most of the other authors I see reply to these posts seem to follow a simple pattern:

Tweeter: I just finished my last book. Can someone please recommend a good book for me to read.
Author: @Tweeter read this: www.amazon.com/my.book.bla

Or something along those lines. Well, that was thoughtless and, frankly, a bit rude. I don’t like the bluntness of it, or the self-agrandising. Here was my initial style:

Tweeter: I just finished my last book. Can someone please recommend a good boo for me to read.
Me v1) @Tweeter, what types of books do you like?
Me v2) @Tweeter, what’s your preferred genre(s)?

OK, so this is me trying to be helpful, but I did this maybe 15 times and got 2 replies, neither of them in my genre. How about this:

Tweeter: I just finished my last book. Can someone please recommend a good boo for me to read.
Me v1) @Tweeter, I recommend XXXXX by YYYYY and Equivocal Destines (by me).
Me v2) @Tweeter, This week I’m recommending Equivocal Destines and everything Discworld, because, Terry Pratchett 🙂

I started by looking through (briefly) the person’s profile (tweets and pics) to see if they might actually be interested, then I recommended my book (if I thought they’d be interested) and something else which I also think is excellent. Choice is good, right? The response? A could of “thanks” replies.

Tweeter: I just finished my last book. Can someone please recommend a good boo for me to read.
Me: @Tweeter, This week I’m recommending and everything Discworld .

The same thing, less work for the person asking for the recommendation. The results? A couple of “thanks” replies, lots of Favorites and Retweets, mostly by bots and advertising services.

So what was the actual result of all of this? Well, my book sales and rentals went up precisely 0 – zero – units. My guess is it’s at least as much related to my genre as anything else, but that doesn’t change the result (or lack thereof). Most of the people requesting book recommendations seemed to be interested in historical fiction (whatever that is), biographies and various other genres which are FAAAAAR away from mine. This type of “helping by sharing” might be helpful if you write in one of those genres, but it’s a waste of my time since the recipients seem disinterested in my recommendations. That’s their right, it just means I have to find other ways to be helpful online.