Marketing Update

Deck flowers - Guenette photo

As many of you who follow my blog know, I stepped up my marketing strategies to promote my self-published novels in March of this year. You can read about what I did and how it worked by checking out the following post: One Month Past BookBub Promotion.

I am five months down the road and the Crater Lake books are selling well. Yippee – happy dance and all of that. But here is the question you might be asking: How has she kept the ball rolling? Before I get to that, I will state two important caveats. My books are selling wildly beyond my expectations when compared with how I was doing prior to my BookBub slot in March. That having been said, my books are not selling at the same level that they did right after the BookBub promotion.

My marketing strategy has consisted of booking free days for Disappearing in Plain Sight every month or so using the KDP Select Program and promoting those free days through various venues. I’ve had different results for the money spent and am happy to share how the cost per free download panned out over the various promotional spots. Number of downloads isn’t the whole story, though. Bumps in Amazon rankings play a role in continued sales.

So here goes. All costs are rounded off and reported in Canadian funds.

In May, I ran two free days of promotion for Disappearing in Plain Sight and advertised via Free Kindle Books and Tips (130.00) and the Book Marketing Tool (20.00). I garnered just over 1000 downloads. This wasn’t enough to make serious moves up the rankings in the Amazon Free Store and I paid approx. 15 cents per download. Costly, but May and June sales of the subsequent books in the series (The Light Never Lies and Chasing Down the Night) definitely showed the halo effect from free downloads of the first book in the series.

In June, I was able to snag a spot on E-Reader News Today (53.00). I booked three free days for Disappearing in Plain Sight and as well as the ENT slot, I used FreeBooksy (82.00). Stacked up 3034 downloads. Three times the downloads for less cost than May’s promotion. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions on that. FreeBooksy came first, so I was able to make a rough judgement on effect. About 800 downloads for an approx. cost of 10 cents per download. ENT is the best priced option for results. 1800 downloads for an approx. cost of 3 cents per download. Not bad! Plus, rankings moved significantly and led to excellent subsequent sales.

In July, I ran three free days and used FreeBooksy again (82.00), Sweet Free Books (10.00) and Book Sends (34.00). Managed 1337 downloads. FreeBooksy performed as it did in June. Sweet Free Books was a pleasant surprise. I calculated 200 downloads for approx. 5 cents per download. Book Sends came in at about 7 cents per download. Again, rankings rose and subsequent sales over the series continued.

In August, I changed my strategy by listing my newest stand-alone novel, Maelstrom, for a two-day free event and advertised with Sweet Free Books (10.00) and BookSends (67.00). There were 1627 downloads that saw BookSends performing at the 5 cents per download level and Sweet Free Books did better than my use of them in July – getting down to approx. 3 cents per download. My aim with this promotion was to garner reviews for Maelstrom and I am still waiting to see if that occurs. It does take time to read the book!

I was pleasantly surprised to notice that the increased ranking for Maelstrom over the time of the promotion seemed to boost sales on all my books.

I have tried to capture another BookBub slot for the second book in the Crater Lake Series – The Light Never Lies – with no success so far. BookBub and E-Reader News Today continue to be the big performers when it comes to download numbers and because of that, getting in the door is quite the challenge.

My experience with utilizing Amazon’s free days and going with a variety of promotional services has shown me that even on a small budget, I can get results and keep selling over a longer haul.

I hope my experience can be of some use. I’m not saying, go out and do what I have done. The promotion of self-published books has way too many variables for that. The whole process seems to be part experimentation, part experience and part flying by the seat of one’s pants. I used categories specific to my books. Your books may land in categories that are more or less popular. I have promoted the first book in a three book series with the hope of cashing in on the halo effect. You may or may not have a series to promote. Timing may be a factor. I’ve always promoted over a weekend. In the fall, I’ll mix things up a bit and promote during the week.

Back garden - Guenette photo

Disappearing in Plain Sight – Five Free Days – Part Two

Montreal - Bruce Witzel photo

In part one of this series, I described my book marketing journey since 2013 and the circumstances that led me to attempt procuring a coveted BookBub (BB) advertisement for the first book in the Crater Lake Series – Disappearing in Plain Sight (DPS – because acronyms are so cute – right?). In this post, I will describe the things I did to get ready for the promotion.

Step one: Before trying for the BB slot, I moved all my books into the Kindle Select Program. For those of you unfamiliar with the way Amazon works, a short primer may be in order. When I enter my books in the Amazon Select Program, I give Amazon the exclusive right to market my e-books. In exchange, they allow me the opportunity to do free promotions (up to five days in a three-month period) or countdown in price deals. They also enter my books in the Kindle Unlimited Program. Readers can subscribe to this service for a monthly fee and then they are allowed to download up to ten books at any given time free of charge. Authors are paid for these books based on the number of pages read.

Freighter on the St. Lawrence - Bruce Witzel photo

Amazon calculates Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) based on a ratio related to the number of real pages the book would have if it were a print copy. The softcover edition of DPS has 328 pages. This translates to a KENP of 588. Authors are paid (as of last month – this rate varies) 48 cents per 100 pages read. If a reader goes the distance, I will make $2.82. More than I would make from a sale. Authors who write longer books do a bit better with this formula.

During and after a BB promotion, Kindle Unlimited subscribers really notice a book. Because DPS is the first book of the Crater Lake Series, there should be a ripple effect of notice over the other two books, as well – The Light Never Lies (LNL) and Chasing Down the Night (CDN). So, I really need to be in Kindle Unlimited!

Looking towards the Channel Islands off the California coast- bruce witzel photo

Step two: Once accepted by BB ($330.75 CND), I set up my free promotion days on Amazon. Because the slot BB had given me was Easter Sunday, I decided to extend the common wisdom that advises three free days with the BB slot in the middle to five. This would give extra insurance that the book was actually free on the day of the slot. I’m so paranoid about things not working out. BB will not advertise a book if it isn’t free or at the price agreed upon for the arranged date and they will not refund your money! Five free days would also give people who didn’t check their email Easter Sunday or Monday a chance to still act on the sale and get DPS for free.

Step three: A friend recommended Book Marketing Tools  as an easy and inexpensive way of getting the news of my free days out on a number of sites. I signed up ($21.29 CND) and this service allowed me to fill in all my book and sale details once and then reap the benefits of being promoted on up to 32 different marketing sites. I made it onto 29.

Victoria Harbour - Bruce Witzel photo

Step four: I was advised to surround the BB slot with other promotion methods in order to go into the BB day with the lowest Amazon ranking possible and to extend the burst BB would create as long as I could after the day.

I booked a Fussy Librarian slot ($33.38 CND) for the day before the BB. As well, fellow indie author, Peter Ralph , offered to feature my promotion to his entire email list that day.

For the day following the BB slot, I signed up with BookSends. I wanted to go with E-Reader News Today, a less expensive and higher rated option but they were not accepting any new submissions until April. The services I chose on BookSends were expensive (207.07 CND). I debated going with their less costly option for only literary fiction subscribers but after perusing the actual emails they send out, it was obvious to me that the top slots for Free Books of the Day got the most attention from subscribers. I decided to go big or go home.

Freighter on the Columbia - Bruce Witzel photo

Step five: On March 24th, the day before the free days started, I scheduled tweets with the hashtag #FREE and a catchy one-line hook to run every hour on the 25th. I’ve never done anything like that with Twitter before, always having held to the idea that one should do nine interesting tweets to every promotional one. I broke this rule because I really wanted to get the news of DPS free to as many people as possible.

West Coast magic - Bruce Witzel photo

Okay, there you have it. Tune into part three of this series to find out if I managed to catch any readers!