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.
- I reduced the price to 99c, manually.
- 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://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 email@example.com from https://www.facebook.com/Mybookoftheday/info to see if they’ll consider advertising my book||I heard nothing.
|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
- Free promos in all their forms are detrimental to your sales efforts. See all of my recent posts for my proof.
- 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.)
- 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.
- Banner ads are a waste of time. End of story.
- 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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