Today's Tuesday Tip is all about free promotions. This is a hot topic for Indie Authors using Amazon's KDP Select Program, which requires you grant Amazon exclusive rights to sell the book for a period of 90 days--and requires the Indie Author to either remove all copies from the internet, or never have distributed it previously or waive all rights to any monies earned (including any you might earn at the Kindle Store during those 90 days).
KDP Select is a system that can work for new releases, if you're willing to give Amazon exclusive rights for 3 months to launch your book; but for existing titles already "out there," it's pretty hard to "guarantee" there is not a single copy of the book anywhere on the entire internet. Just one copy in existence (for sale or for free) violates the Terms of Service for this program and means you might not get paid anything if Amazon finds out.
This seemed so ridiculously restrictive and just plain "difficult" that it was a no brainer for me: I did not go with this plan. Instead, I ran a free promotion of my own, just winging it and seeing how I could do without Amazon. I have to say, I was very surprised at the results given how everyone everywhere keeps hailing Amazon as the end all and be all of Indie Publishing. Not so fast! :) Click through to see my results.
Background: How I Chose My Loss Leader
On April 20, 2012 I released my first SciFi (under my SciFi pen name) and really started promoting it in May, 2012. I sold a huge number of books in May (or I thought it was huge) but I had to move residences in June, so I had about 2 weeks when, suddenly, my promotional efforts halted entirely. My sales suffered, no big surprise. Basically, I had to start again from scratch once I got settled into the new place.
So I figured I could use a loss leader--give something away free or at a loss in order to lead into sales of the novel for sale at full price. I write pretty quickly, so I churned out a 30,000 word short story/novella that would be a prequel to my novel. I figured, from the feedback I'd had so far--predominantly wisting for the earlier book which has not yet been written--a prequel would be the best thing to release and give away free.
The short story/novella (titled When Minds Collide) was written the last couple of weeks of July and officially released as of August 1, 2012. It's been out a full month now, so I figured it was a good time to report on how this has gone.
I distribute my SciFi books as the Indie Publisher Phoenician Books and as such, I use both Amazon's KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) to distribute to the Kindle Stores worldwide and Smashwords to distribute to eTailers worldwide.
Smashwords sends my books to the 32 Apple Stores, the Kobo Bookstores, Sony eBookstore, Diesel and now, Smashwords is getting us into Amercian Library Association locations using Overdrive and other lending systems). I hate Overdrive and will have to report on that at some point in the future but if it gets me into the hands of more readers, I can learn to like it...a little.
Amazon does not allow me to set the price of a book to free, so When Minds Collide costs 99c at the Kindle Store and I had to find other means of making the book free and getting it out there.
Smashwords (yay) allows us to set the price to anything we want and even if we set it to "free" ($0.00) that's what propagates through to the Distribution Channels (the the Apple Store, the Nook Store and all of the other stores to which Smashwords distributes).
In addition, I knew that once a book is distributed for free on the internet in even ONE place, its presence as a free giveaway will propagate. This is the argument used by organizations who love DRM (Digital Rights Management). They fear that the second a book is accessible, it will be stolen and widely distributed. I don't think they've actually thought that through. Let me rephrase it: the second I make the book accessible, a whole slew of people will widely-distribute it for me.
It comes down to this question: would you rather have 10,000 people who download the book for free and actually read it OR 100 people who pay for the book and maybe or maybe don't read it--ever. I'll take 10,000 pirates, at least for the loss-leader and assuming no one makes money off my free giveaway.
So I needed a few good places to upload the free book. I had a few in mind, but I asked a couple of people for suggestions and for the most part got the same answer: "I don't know where to distribute a free book except Smashwords or Goodreads." While that was nice, I obviously needed more places so I approached Letitia Coyne, whose book, Petra, appeared on more than one of my Freebie Fridays in 2011.
As expected, she had the goldmine ^)^ Her handful of emails to me (back and forth) included a lot of data on her own performance with Petra and she agreed to let me quote her, so I've shown her remarks in italics as well as my numbers in (parenthesis). My numbers are just for the first month, hers are for a year and a half.
Bibliotastic (162 hits)
London-based, 250 reads/month for 18 months
The thing I like best about this site is that they offer multiple formats and reviews by both readers and the site's "Editors." They do not, however, offer very good stats--and I had to request the stats widget be enabled, it's not automatic. After having it enabled, it only shows hits, page views and unique visitors--not downloads, certainly not "reads" but I believe Letitia's "250 reads" refers to hits, as my number does. Still, gotta say, 162 hits in the first month with only 2 posts by me to promote it? Wow.
ObookO (95 hits)
London-based, 2000 downloads per title over 18 months
The thing I like best about this site is the multiple formats and amazingly good downloads stats. On my book's page, I get a detailed listing of how many downloads per format. I've had a fraction of the performance that Letitia saw, but I also didn't do more than 2 posts to promote this one--and only on Facebook. ObookO is not on Twitter (frown) but they seem to get a lot of traffic. They do not, however, allow for reader reviews to be posted.
Letitia went on to say "Then less polished sites, but better hits counts come from http://free-online-novels.com/ [Canada] [500-900 downloads per title per month] where Jennifer simply lists the books, and http://www.getfreeebooks.com/ [Malaysia] another simple list with a cover shot that brought in 1050 in one week alone."
Free Online Novels (??) + Get Free eBooks
I no idea how Letitia can possibly guess how many hits Jennifer at Free-Online-Novels gets because she just takes a link to somewhere else, but I can believe it's over 500 a month for novels. Unfortunately for me, Jennifer listed When Minds Collide as a short story with a "science fiction" tag after it (only seen after you click through) instead of in the "Science Fiction" category. I think I should ask her to move it to the main SF category so I can see what happens.
As for the Malaysian Get Free eBooks, again, there is no data provided by this site so I have no clue how Letitia can possibly say it gleaned her over 1000 hits in one week, but it sure does seem to be a busy site.
I have no idea how many books have been downloaded from or read directly on the Goodreads site. I did upload the book there and make it free to read the entire thing or to download it. I opted for both PDF and ePub formats. The book page has had a lot of views. It gets added to TBR shelves whenever I tweet the link to add it on my SF Twitter account. Given that Goodreads has 10 million users who are active 24/7, let's be conservative and say I got 100 hits in the first month. Goodreads isn't really the place where people tend to think of going to "get" books, just to review and discuss them.
Adding it All Up
When I add together my actual stats from Bibliotastic (162) and ObookO (95) with the estimates from Jennifer's (let's say 200 to be conservative) and the Malaysian site (again, being conservative, I'll guess 250 compared to Letitia's 1050 in the first week) plus the 100 estimate from Good reads and my total from Smashwords (550) then I was right around 1000 downloads in the first month.
Burning questions now is probably "How much promotion did you do to get that?" As I said, I really only had time to tweet links to the sites 2 times. I tweeted on the #WMC hash and definitely tweeted a bunchaton (via pre-scheduled Hootsuite tweets) when I decided on a charity to which to donate proceeds of my SciFi work but since WMC is free, that's not really relevant. Oh yeah, wait a sec, Amazon charges for it--and you know what? I've sold copies of this FREE book.
I kid you not. People have paid money (only 99c but still) for When Minds Collide even though it is totally free everywhere else. How many? Only about a dozen since August 10th when I finally got it published on the Kindle Store and first tweeted my one and only tweet of that link. I deliberately have not given out the Amazon link, trying to encourage people to get it free instead. I wonder what would happen if I started tweeting it to sell? ^_^
So bottom line, about 1000 copies free, a dozen for sale and it's been saved into 51 Smashwords User Libraries. I'm not sure what good that does me, to be "saved" to a Smashwords User's Library, but it feels nice to know 51 people wanted to "save" the link to my free book. Only 16 have saved the link to the for-pay novels while it has shifted over 300 copies so seems like more people want to save a link to a freebie than a for-pay.
I'll have to be sure to let you know how this free promo turns out after it's run its course. I'll probably make it for-pay in late November--for the holiday season. By then, I'll have had 3 full months of free giveaway data.
Thanks for stopping by!