You want me to do what? Offer my book for free? Just give it away? I would never do that. I put too much work into writing it and spent a small fortune on editing, cover design, and formatting. And what would people think—that I put such little value on my book that I’m willing to give it away? Nope. Not me.
That was some of my earlier thinking. I’ve since changed my attitude. Let me explain how giving away books makes good business sense.
My experience with book giveaways is with Amazon’s KDP Select program for Kindle e-books. When you enroll your book in KDP Select, you have access to certain promotional tools including free book promotions where you are allowed to price your book for “free” for up to five days during each 90-day enrollment period. The book then also qualifies for Kindle Unlimited (an e-book subscription service) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. The main caveat is that as long as your e-book is enrolled in the program, it is exclusive to the Kindle Store—you agree not to sell it from any other venue. I personally don’t have a problem with that, but some people might.
So why run a free book promotion? Here are three reasons.
Amazon has two ranking systems in place: sales rank (also known as bestsellers rank) and author rank. (Separate ranking systems exist for printed books and Kindle e-books.) Amazon doesn’t share the algorithms used to calculate these ranks, but I think it’s fair to assume that both are heavily dependent on sales.
As soon as you sell the first copy of your book on Amazon, it is assigned a sales rank within the book’s genre. This ranking changes as you, and other authors in that genre with whom you are competing, sell more books. The lower the number the better—the book ranked #1 has sold more than any other book in that genre.
While sales rankings apply to individual books, the author ranking takes into consideration all your books. The lower your author ranking number, the more popular you are compared to other authors.
Here’s the beauty of KDP Select free book promotions—Amazon takes into consideration the number of giveaways when they calculate rankings—the more books you give away, the more the rankings improve. Why is this significant? Because serious Amazon book browsers look at rankings when making purchasing decisions, and good rankings draw them in. Furthermore, if you’re lucky enough to make it into one of the Top 100 lists, Amazon does a fair amount of promoting your book on their site.
One thing is certain—if no one knows about your books, no one will buy them. Giving away books increases your exposure as an author. And if the recipient of the freebie likes your book, they may consider buying your other books, or telling their friends about it, or choosing it for their next book club read. Selling books is all about exposure.
The more people who read your book, the more reviews it will receive, and the more reviews a book has, the more credible it becomes. If you write a good book, reviews will be your best friend—readers use reviews to make purchasing decisions. Even a few bad reviews can be beneficial—book browsers get a little suspicious when they see a book with only 5-star reviews.
“Regarding Anna” Promotion
In April of this year, I ran a KDP Select five-day free book promotion for my novel “Regarding Anna.” I advertised the promotion on various social media sites, my own website, and forty other sites that promote free books. The most expensive book promotion site I used was BookBub ($220 for my genre). Six other sites cost a total of $61. The remaining thirty-three promotion sites were free of charge.
During the five-day promotion, there were 76,769 free downloads of this book. Some people estimate that as few as 10% of free downloaded books are actually read. Assuming that’s an accurate estimate, over seven thousand people read “Regarding Anna.” That’s great exposure for me as an author.
During the promotion, “Regarding Anna” ranked #1 bestseller in the Kindle store under literary fiction, #1 in women’s fiction, and #10 across all genres. Compare this to prior to the promotion when the book’s ranking numbers were well into the thousands. Have you ever searched for an item on Amazon, scrolled down the page, and read “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” When “Regarding Anna” was #1, an image of the book appeared below that statement whenever someone searched for a book in that genre. Great exposure.
Also during the promotion period, my Amazon author rank peaked at #645. That means that only 644 authors ranked better than I did at that particular point in time. Amazon doesn’t reveal how many authors are represented on their site, but estimates are well over a million.
You’re probably thinking that this is all very nice, but how did you make any money giving away free books? During the thirty days following the promotion, when “Regarding Anna” was back to its $2.99 Kindle price, I sold 4,648 copies of it (that includes Amazon Prime member borrows) and another 1,244 copies of my other books in crossover sales. In addition, “Regarding Anna” received close to 200 new Amazon reviews, many of which contained comments such as these.
“It is a great read. I will look for other books by Florence Osmund.”
“Absolutely loved it and can’t wait to read more by Florence.”
“This was my first Florence Osmund book, but it won’t be my last if she writes like this all the time.”
“I’m looking forward to picking out another one of her books tomorrow.”
Not only do fans buy your other books, they also help to spread the word by writing reviews, following you on social media sites, blogging about you and your books, and telling their friends. Word-of-mouth marketing still works.
Like Any Other Business
This free book promotion was a good business decision that resulted in great exposure for me as an author, valuable reviews, many new fans, and a healthy ROI. Being an author is like any other business—you need a marketable product, a target audience, and the right exposure. I use many different strategies to promote my books, and the book giveaway is one that I can always count on for a boost in sales.
For more information on creating and selling marketable books, I invite you to visit my website
Promo Sites for REGARDING ANNA April 2015 by Florence Osmund
Site and Cost
- addictedtoebooks.com – Free
- armadilloebooks.com – Free
- AskDavid.com – Free
- authormarketingclub.com – Free
- BookBub.com – $220*
- bookdealhunter.com – Free
- bookgoodies.com – $15
- bookpreviewclub.com – Free
- Booksaurus.com – Free
- booktastik.com – $5
- choosybookworm.com – Free
- digitalinktoday.com – Free
- ebooklister.net – Free
- ebookshabit.com – Free
- ebookstage.com – Free
- ebookstamp.com – Free
- ereaderutopia.com – Free
- feedyourreader.com – Free
- freebookclub.org – Free
- freebooks.com – Free
- freebooksblog.com – Free
- freeebooksdaily.com – $1
- freebooksy.com – Free
- free-kindle-books.deha-solutions.com – Free
- icravefreebies.com – Free
- indiebooklounge.com – Free
- indiebookoftheday.com Free
- jungledealsandsteals.com – Free
- justkindlebooks.com – Free
- kindlebookpromos.com – $20
- NationalAuthorsAssociation.com – Free
- onehundredfreebooks.com – Free
- readcheaply.com – Free
- selfpublishersshowcase.com – Free
- storyfinds.com – $5
- thebookcircle.com – Free
- theereaderscafe.com – Free
- thefussylibrarian.com $- 15
- thekindlebookreview.com – Free
- thereadingsofa.com – Free
- worldliterarycafe.com – Free
Great info- thanks for sharing. I plan on running a five day free promotion for my first novel when the sequel goes up for pre-order. I am aware of BookBub, but do you mind sharing the other promotion sites you used? Thanks again for the great info!!
I agree, Florence. I just ran a five-day free promotion on my book Goddess of the Moon three weeks ago. I didn’t advertise in as many places, but I did have a BookBub ad. Goddess is the second book in the series, and the first book, Mind Games, sold very well and wound up #358 in overall paid Kindle sales and #885 in author rankings. I’m still getting reviews and new readers.
I’ve not yet been brave enough to do a five day free offer, but maybe now I will.
Thanks for the info, Florence. I love free too. 🙂
The Wexkia trilogy
Excellent results! Florence Osmund. the key is running a tight campaign and you did. Congratulations.
We have added Florence’s list of promotional sites she has used!
Thanks Florence, this is so helpful-
Great example of how to execute a book giveaway correctly. Optimize and maximize. What a wonderful template! Posts like this are why I keep reading the indieBRAG blog. And I hope to someday earn the right to contribute as marvelous a post. Thank you, Florence!
Great blog post. I think I’ll try this with my books.
Hello Jessica, I am a very prolific writer and have written a large number of books: I was very disheartened by what I have read here today; it seems as if most writers are wasting their time. Writing is clearly not easy and not a refreshing drink of water: It is very mentally challenging, time-consuming, and laborious. I love writing and have written a large number of very provocative and interesting books. I am my worse critic and do not forgive myself any trashy writing. I challenge people that if you read my books and they do not have a profound impression on you, I’ll give you money back So far, I only have one book out there but more than thirty-four ready to go. I have always been highly critical of the free-book model . It is obvious that far too many people who cannot write well, and should not be writing books, are currently doing so. This has produced a massive backlog of books that society now views as utterly meaningless and and for which they are not willing to pay. Ultimately, good writers are confronted with a steep and stout obstacle that must be removed out of their way. The free-book model must be invalidated–it has to go. How do we get rid of this free-book model? More and more writers need to viciously attack this cash-sapping monster and vigorously boycott all institutions that support the cheap and free-book. Each of books are are at least three hundred pages, and I am not in the mood to give them away for free. I spend thousands of hours writing and editing my books. We must destroy the free-book model by vigorously attacking it with scathing articles and even paying for those articles to be advertised. and shaming readers who want authors’ books for free. I am doing a series right now on the catastrophe of free books; I urge you to do the same. Trends start when people embrace an idea as valid and rewarding, and they stop when people realize that they were deceived. This is exactly how the free-book model has to be destroyed.