Friday, 27 February 2015
The Writer's Desk: Drum Roll Please.... Cover Reveal...: A while back I announced that the long awaited sequel to The Last Knight, The Forever Queen was going to be released on the 23rd of April 2...
Monday, 16 February 2015
When I published the first post about this I promised a follow up post once I had a better idea of how the boost provided by my free promotion was going to translate into sales in the long run.
Well, we are only a week or so further along, but I think it's still worth looking at how things are panning out. And hopefully I can give my answer to the question in the post title.
Let's start with a reminder of where I was at before all of this.
I (or rather The Last Knight) was ranked somewhere around #500,000 in the paid kindle store. I made perhaps one or two sales or borrows (remember, I count these because I still get paid for them!) each week. And that was if I was lucky. There would often be stretches of 10 days or two weeks without a single sale.
The free promo, with paid advertising I should stress, resulted in around 3,000 downloads and a huge jump in rankings, that translated back into a higher ranking in the paid store once the book was no longer free.
But that was in the immediate aftermath. How about weeks later?
I like to think that the image is pretty self-explanatory. I had a huge surge in the first few days, but it's continued solidly since then. I haven't had a single day without a download, whether it's a full sale or a borrow. And most days have been more than one. The average I would say has been around 4 a day.
Now, I know, that's not exactly going to make me rich. But I think it's important to understand that it's all relative. Compared to the last few months, the last few weeks have been a huge game changer.
It isn't just the sales. Reviews and ratings on goodreads have gone up, people are adding all my books to their 'to-read' shelves, and my facebook page has had a little bump in terms of likes. My ranking on Amazon fluctuated a lot over this time frame, but as of right now it sits at around the #80,000 mark. More that 400,000 places higher than The Last Knight was on the 28th of January. I even became a 'bestseller' briefly.
So now, the question, do free promotions work?
I think I have to say yes. But with a couple of conditions. I think you have to be willing to pay out a little for advertising. I think simply putting your book free and expecting people to find it won't work. In order for it to make a difference you have to have downloads in the thousands, and for that I think you need the advertising.
The second condition is that you have other books for sale. Not all the sales you see are for The Last Knight (though there are more of those particularly when the book was ranked higher), my other books have been selling more too. Those who did pick up The Last Knight for free are potentially the buyers of my other books.
And I think the final thing is not to expect free promotions to make you money. I've made back what I spent on advertising, plus a nice little chunk, but that's it.
When I say free promotions work I am thinking more in terms of exposure. I think they are an effective marketing tool. It all comes down to how you use them.
I hope people found this interesting. It's strange putting my sales figures out there because I know they aren't that high, but for me this was a breakthrough. I feel like progress in my career has been made. Perhaps it's a method that could work for others too if their books have stalled.
Would love to hear people's thoughts. Have free promotions worked for you? If they didn't, what did?
Monday, 2 February 2015
Let me start out with a little bit of honesty.
As much as we might not like to admit it, the indie author has low odds of being successful. It is an unavoidable fact that most indie authors only ever sell a handful of books, and most often only to family and friends. Breaking past that point and reaching a wider audience is the dream we all share, but we all know how hard it can be.
We have a limited number of tools in our toolboxes for achieving that aim. And there comes a time when shouting into the void of Twitter or Facebook becomes a little pointless. There is a hashtag floating around on Twitter that I'm growing to love #IndieBooksBeSeen, because after all, the best written book is irrelevant if no one knows it exists. Spreading the word and sharing the love amongst the indie crowd is essential. A big part of why this blog was created in the first place. But even all that shared love isn't enough. We have to find ways to get our books into people's hands.
Free promotions, putting the book for free for a limited time, is one of the tools we have, and it's one that sparks a bit of debate amongst the indie crowd.
A lot of people will tell you that giving your book away for free will only devalue it. A bit like when your Mum told you no one would buy the cow if you gave the milk away for free. Most people who are against free promotions will tell you that the people who download free books will never buy your book, in fact they probably won't even read it.
I'm not going to argue with them. They may well be completely right. But I think that there is more to free promotions than the people who actually download your book for free. It's what those downloads can do for your rankings. It's what it can mean in the long run once your book goes back on sale.
I decided last month that I was going to give the free promotion thing another try. I'd done it before and received some extra reviews from it, so it hadn't been a complete waste, but this time I was going to do it properly. Which included a little paid advertising. Not much, just a $15 outlay for being included in an e-reader newsletter. Not enough to break the bank, but enough to test the waters.
I'm now going to give you actual numbers and figures. My sales prior to this were low. Not embarrassingly low (after all, see above about the success rates of indie authors) but low enough that the results are pretty obvious.
Prior to the free promotion days my sales ranking was somewhere around the #500,000 mark. Yup. That low. I would say I made at most 2 sales a week. (note that as I get paid almost as much for borrows as sales on the KU scheme I do count them as a sale). Not terrible considering The Last Knight has been out for over a year and a half, but not brilliant by any means.
The free promotion days ran from the 30th Jan to the 1st Feb, with the paid advertising falling on the 31st. Right in the middle.
The first day of free downloads was OK - but nothing more than that. 159 copies.
The second day the advertising kicked in, and things changed.
By the time the day ended I had over 2,300 copies downloaded.
The next day the downloads continued, but not at the same rate, another 800+ copies however.
But the big thing for me was not how many were downloaded, but what it did for my ranking.
At it's highest point I reached #72 in the free rankings. I'd started at around #18,000 the previous day.
I know what you're thinking though. All of this is irrelevant in a way, because I'm not getting paid for those copies and the people who downloaded them probably won't read them.
But you see, those free copies do matter. Because if I take away the free copies on the sales graph, I get this:
Now, it may not seem like much - but when you look at the whole of January, you can see what a difference has been made. Even taking the borrows (which I do tend to count as I mentioned above) I had six books sold in January. (Which was up on last years sales of...zero) But on the day the free promo starts the sales jump up. And they've gone up since this graph was taken. But even just with what is visible here, in 4 days I had 13 sales. Double what I'd had for the whole month. To me that is a huge increase.
And it in turn has had a massive impact on my rankings now I'm back in the paid charts.
Remember up top where I told you my ranking before this was somewhere around #500,000?
Here's my little indie book ranked up there with a traditionally published book. (Yes I am just a little pleased with that!).
The fact is though, rankings matter. Success breeds success. It's a well known fact. Those free downloads, and the subsequent sales have boosted me up the rankings, which will in turn bring more sales.
And this is where the waiting game comes in. I plan on doing a second post in about a week - to see if any of this has sustained itself. Then I might be able to actually answer the question this post poses.
But until then I'd love to hear what others make of these numbers. Do free promotions work? Do you think success (even if somewhat artificially created) can only breed further success (or sales?).
To be continued...