Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Behind the Scenes of a Free Book Promotion, Part 2

In my first post in this series I talked about my previous experience with Free promotions. Lackluster at best, with no return of investment (ROI) with my first attempt at an ad. Here I'll talk about my next attempt at an advertised free promotion.

Fast forward to October 2014...

The primary things that changed between the first promotion and the new one were that The Pirates of Alnari got a sequel, The Grand Masquerade:

And The Pirates of Alnari also got a new cover:
Old Cover New Cover
It was time for a new promotion for The Pirates of Alnari. More than anything else, I needed readers. With the release of The Grand Masquerade, I now had a title that could benefit from any spill over from the promotion.

I had taken much of David Gaughran’s advice to heart. When someone finishes The Pirates of Alnari, the first thing they’ll see is a link to join my New Releases Mailing List, a polite request to leave a review if they enjoyed it, and a link to The Grand Masquerade should they wish to continue on to the sequel.

I contemplated if I should do a $0.99 Kindle Countdown promo or a free promo this time. Free used to be the unequivocal (well, only) way to go, but these days $0.99 seems to be more popular. The advent of Kindle Unlimited has dimmed the luster of free, since with it a reader can get thousands of titles for free whenever they want, if only to borrow. The Kindle Countdown promo has the benefit that a price at $0.99 will still earn the author the 70% royalty rate. Ultimately I decided to go with a free promo. More than anything else, I need readers, and lots of them. If some of them are kind enough to leave reviews, that will boost The Pirates of Alnari’s attractiveness in future promotions. Depending on the results of this promo, I will contemplate a $0.99 Kindle Countdown promotion at a later date.

Some advice from David Gaughran’s post Starting from Zero:

Apply to BookBub once you have 20 reviews. They don’t have a minimum, but a new author probably needs that many before they’ll look at it seriously. If they reject, don’t worry. Happens often (to all of us). Reapply further down the line when you have even more reviews, and have padded out your blurb with some juicy pull quotes. Instead, book an ad at ENT, BookSends, or Kindle Books & Tips. Also submit to Pixel of Ink and The Midlist, both of which are free.

I only had fourteen reviews, but it couldn’t hurt to apply to BookBub--the worst that could happen was that they reject me. I did, and they did. Had I been accepted, the cost for an ad for a Free promo there was $140.

The next option was Book Gorilla. But rather than put a single egg in a single basket, I decided that if I was willing to spend $140 on an ad on Bookbub, I could spend at least that much in submitting to multiple outlets simultaneously. David Gaughran suggests you submit an ad to ENT, BookSends, or Kindle Books & Tips. Why not submit to all three?

I looked at various outlets and here's what I came up with:

Advertiser Cost for a Free Promo Cost for a $0.99 Promo Result Potential Audience
BookBub $140 $280 Rejected 790,000+
BookGorilla $50 $50 Accepted ?

$10 $10 Accepted ?
The Fussy Librarian $7 $7 Accepted 10,475
BookSends $50 $20 Did not submit 19,000

$100 n/a Did not submit 50,000(?)

n/a $40 Did not submit ?

Free Kindle Books & Tips
$25 $25 Accepted 675,000

EReader News Today (ENT)
$15 $15 Accepted ?

$43.50 $43.50 Accepted 375,000+

The Midlist
Free Free Rejected ?

Pixel of Ink
Free Free Unknown ?

In the end I spent $150.50, which is not much more than a single BookBub ad.

BookSends actually charges more for a free promo than a $0.99 promo, as does Freebooksy/Bargainbooksy. Since in addition to ad fees they make a profit off of the Amazon Affiliate program, this suggests they don’t think they can make enough of a profit via the Affiliate program for Free Promos, so they pass the cost to the author. If I do a $0.99 promo in the future I may try them.

Booktweeters was an experiment in itself--for myself I was skeptical as to the ability of Twitter to sell books, but I thought I’d give them a try this time around, so I purchased two days worth of tweets over their five Twitter accounts ($36), plus a spot on their website,, for $7.50.

In addition to the ads I took out, I also posted about the promo on my blog (a whopping 127 followers), did a Facebook post (102 folllowers) and tweeted about it (19 followers). Not that it would help, but it was the thing to do.

With the ads taken out, there was nothing left but the waiting. I was confident hopeful I would exceed my previous promo of 855 downloads and 2 post-promotion sales.

In Part 3 I will describe the events of Promotion Day.

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