Free for a Day

After a while the novelty of there being an Amazon page for my book began to wear off.

It was no longer enough for me to browse to it and look adoringly at a page on which the spaces in the dynamic web template were filled by my own creation's meta-data. So I had self-published. How was I going to promote it? Even though it was now available in paperback and ebook, the thing wasn't going to sell itself.

True, I had already been bothering all my online contacts via the social networks on a regular basis. Every few days or so I'd tweet a link and a plug at the alleged optimum time of 5pm - when Europe was clocking off, New York eating lunch and Los Angeles sipping their coffee as they prepared to face the day ahead. I'd set up a Facebook page for the book on which I posted rare photos and other goodies in an attempt to engage with my audience and hopefully encourage some of them to leave reviews on Amazon. I'd taken part in a Goodreads Giveaway which increased the book's profile on that network.

And yet it wasn't quite enough. I began obsessively checking the book's position in the Amazon charts, despairing every time the paperback dropped below number 100,000 or the Kindle edition below 30,000. These charts were hypersensitive though as I would soon discover.

I read a few blog entries from self-publishers about the benefits of the Amazon KPD Select scheme. Apparently a very good way of promoting your book was to make the Kindle edition free for a day or two. All you needed to do was enrole your book for KDP Select - there was no charge and the only condition was that you didn't make the ebook available via any other outlet whilst on the scheme. In exchange they allowed you to offer your book free on the Amazon Kindle store for up to five days.

This seemed fair enough to me. My ebook wasn't available anywhere else anyway.

I was sceptical. Making it free? Whilst I hadn't written it for the money I was aware that there were thousands of free ebooks out there. Why would mine do any better? Nevertheless I decided to go ahead with it for 24 hours and see what happened. What had I to lose? Well nothing. And a few more people might download and enjoy what I had written.

Even though the scheme runs from midnight to midnight, this was on Pacific Standard Time so it was at 8am on Thursday 29 March 2012 that it went live. I didn't have any unrealistic expectations, but nevertheless hassled everyone on Twitter a few times just to make sure they knew it was out there.

Some people thought I was mad.

"But... but... but... that's costing you potential sales!"

"Surely you shouldn't be telling us this?"

They had a point. It seemed counter intuitive. But I pressed ahead. Naturally there were a couple of gripes from some who had paid the full price for it a few days before, but on the whole I think most people realised that £1.96 wasn't very much anyway...

My first surprise came when writer and kindle-addict online friend Rhian Bowley forwarded me a copy of a email newsletter from eReader IQ she subscribed to.

"Was very exciting to see the name of someone I knew in this newsletter today! " she said.

This was when I realised that it wasn't going to be a damp squib. The newsletter was restricted to "25 of the top rated freebies found today" - which meant that all that time I'd spent reminding people to review it on Amazon had paid off. I didn't know how many people received this newsletter but it probably wasn't a low number.

By mid morning 90 people had downloaded it. I was very pleased. 90 more people reading what I had written! Amazing. The 'sales' kept on racking up. By early afternoon it had been downloaded around 250 times. By the time I got home in the evening it was nearly 500 and the book had nudged its way into the Kindle top 100 free chart. The first time I looked it was just above the Bible.

Bigger than God, eh? I thought arrogantly to myself. The next morning it was still climbing even though there was very little time left.

It eventually peaked at number 47 and had been downloaded just short of 700 times. Whether they would all read it was another matter, but I was delighted with how it had performed. The only negative aspect to the whole experience was that I was now slightly pissed off that I hadn't bitten the bullet and made it free for 48 or 72 hours. How much higher might it have climbed in the chart then?

The interesting thing was that in the weeks since the promotion, it has continued to sell at a much higher rate than before. Somehow the increased exposure afforded it by being free for a day has stuck.

Don't be afraid of your freedom!


KJ Elizabeth said…
Great to hear a first hand account of using this strategy. Glad it worked for you, Chris!

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