Free book promotion analysis part 2…

If you’re just tuning in now, you should read part 1 of this 3 part series on my free book promotion. If you’ve already read it, on with the show….

After the success of my  free book promotion of Stranded with the Cyborg in April, I decided to continue it in May. To recap, these were my campaign goals:

  • Introduce the Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance series to new readers.
  • Increase sales of the rest of the series.
  • Increase reviews for book 1.
  • Grow my newsletter subscriber base.
  • Test which newsletter ads delivered the best return on investment (ROI).

For May, I had planned to increase advertising in the free book newsletters, but that plan quickly went out the window when something unexpected happened.

Expect the unexpected

I’d submitted Stranded with the Cyborg to Book Bub for a free promotion in April and got rejected, so I had to wait until the 2nd week of May to resubmit. While I waited, I got the idea to submit Alien Mate to Book Bub as a 99 cent deal. A new release, Alien Mate only had 33 reviews. I knew it would get rejected, but I thought I’d throw it out there anyway. So I submitted it and started booking newsletter advertising for Stranded, quickly racking up expenses of $357.

Just a couple days later, I got the email: Alien Mate had been accepted for a 99-cent Book Bub deal! Son of a bitch! I couldn’t turn down a Book Bub, but it was $380. Added to what I’d already spent,  I couldn’t spend any more on advertising for Stranded. I had no choice but to make do with the ads I had booked.

Fortunately, I had a few other things planned.

Other tactics

In addition to my newsletter ads in May, I participated in two multiple author campaigns. These were promotions that had been scheduled a couple of months earlier that dovetailed perfectly into my free promotion campaign (the stars must have been aligned). In each campaign, a group of authors got together and listed their books for free and co-marketed all the books. However, the campaigns employed two opposite strategies.

The 12-author Intergalactic Romance campaign organized by author Donna Jane McDonald used Instafreebie to distribute the freebies. Stranded garnered 1,246 downloads via Instafreebie. The benefit to using  Instafreebie is that you can  give your book away free without making it free on sales channels (that didn’t apply to me, but it’s a benefit to others) and you can get subscribers to your newsletter at the same time. I gained 157 new newsletter subscribers from that campaign.

The 8-author Summer Reads Sci-fi Romance Invasion, which I organized, avoided Instafreebie and Book Funnel and required that the books be free on Amazon. All eight books were marketed by the eight authors to their own readers and fans. There were no signups of any kind required of readers. I think readers are bombarded by too many emails, so we used “no signup required” as a sales strategy. It worked! As a group, we each averaged about 1,000 downloads. Newer books received more DLs, but even older permafree books saw a nice pick-up. I got 977 Amazon downloads and another 166 on iBooks/Kobo for a total of 1143.

Newsletter advertising can get expensive, but if you join with other authors you can co-market your freebies and not spend a dime.

The month’s flop

One of the $100 newsletter ads I’d booked–which touted a guaranteed 1,200 downloads–produced only 158 downloads. It was the biggest dud of my two-month campaign.

Show me the money

As a result of the campaign, sales of other Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance books continued on an upward trend. If you’ll recall, in March, I was getting an abysmal sales average of 2.6 books per day on 5 books. By the end of April, I was up to 9.2 books per day for four books. By the end of May, I averaged 15.2 per day.

Goals to actual results

  • Introduce the Cy-Ops Sci-fi Romance series to new readers – 6,216 new downloads (12,713 for 2 months). My best ranking during the month was 103 Kindle Free and No. 1 in Sci-fi Romance! I’d also gotten 1080 downloads on iBooks and a nice uptick on Barnes & Noble.
  • Increase sales of the rest of the series – Increased from 2.6 per day to 15.2
  • Increase reviews for book 1 – 15 new reviews in May (22 total since the start of the campaign)
  • Grow my newsletter subscriber base – 169 new subs in May (279 total) directly attributable to the campaign (I had tremendous NL sub growth in May, but I’m only presenting the ones I think came from the campaign).
  • Test which newsletter ads delivered the best return on investment (ROI) – check!

In conclusion

My guesstimate is that only about 20% of people who download freebies get around to reading them.

It’s a numbers game, folks. For a free campaign to be effective and deliver the results, you have to have big numbers of downloads and to get that, you have to advertise. A free promotion isn’t free to the author!

Stacking ads is definitely the way to get big numbers, but unless you’re familiar with the advertising venues, you won’t know which ones work and which ones don’t.

If want to know what newsletters I used and their success rates, come back on Friday for the third and final part of the series. I’ll list the newsletters and their ROIs.

Stranded is FREE! – Amazon US ~ iBooks ~ BN ~ Kobo

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22 Responses to Free book promotion analysis part 2…

  1. Great info, Cara. Thanks for sharing! And awesome on the overall positives on sales!

  2. Wow, those are some big increases. Good for you. Funny about BookBub coming through when you didn’t expect it. Looking forward to Friday!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I was really surprised when BookBub accepted Alien Mate. I guess they like aliens better than cyborgs. They’ve rejected all my cyborg books.

  3. Thanks Cara. I’ve got a three part series and have been thinking of putting the first free. This information is invaluable. 🙂

  4. Thanks so much for taking the time to process and lay this whole experience out for other authors. The information is invaluable! I will definitely be checking in on the final analysis. And, something else to contemplate–I originally picked up Stranded a year ago on Amazon (Amazon says June 2016) but never got around to reading it. These posts have me downloading it to my device again. It’s on top of my digital TBR stack now. So it’s possible that the new promotion is additionally reactivating previous interest in reading a book that readers already have in their library.

  5. This series of posts has been very interesting to read – you lay out your goals and methods so clearly, and seeing your thought process helps me focus on defining my own goals for freebie promo. Looking forward to Friday – and congrats on your great success!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thank you! I did have specific goals. And a specific strategy, too. I timed my ads so that I could create “stickiness,” and keep Stranded visible, rather than hitting a peak and then falling off the cliff.

  6. Thank you for sharing your experience Cara! I am a writer too and have not a clue on how to start doing a successful promotion. It is so difficult to navigate so much information that is our there. But your series has really helped me and I am making decisions early on about how I want to promote my sci-fi romance as well/

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’re welcome. It’s challenging when you’re first starting out. I’ve been at this 8 years.

  7. Again, lots of useful advice, Cara. Thank you.

  8. Thanks, Cara. I’m new at promotion and can see I have a lot to learn. One thing seems to be clear from your experience: the more books you have out, the more good you can get out of your advertising dollars. Seems like my best strategy for now is to keep writing on my third novel.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      That’s true, but I think that three books might be the optimal amount to do a free (or 99 cent promotion). If readers have a large number of books to chose from after buying book 1, the sell-through will be spread out over many books. Example: if you do a free promotion and sell 300 other books, the ranking of the individual books would be higher if you sold 150 copies of two books versus 75 each copies of four books. And with that higher ranking, you’d sell more books…

  9. Fascinating. Thanks so much for posting your experience. I’ve been wrestling with whether or not to go free, and you’re swaying me in that direction. I’ll vote after seeing Friday’s post . . . 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I’m surprised at how many people have been on the fence about going free. I was resistant to the idea for a long time, but it has given my series a nice little boost. You do have to “work” it though. You have to advertise, you have to keep promoting to reach new readers.

  10. Cara, this series of posts has been great! You lay out your goals and your strategy in such clear terms, then go on to deliver valuable information. I’m definitely looking forward to #3.

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