Where to advertise your free book…part 3 of a series

Welcome to part 3 of my series analyzing the results of a two-month free campaign. If you want to know what I did and how I did it, please refer to Part 1 and Part 2.

In today’s segment, I’m going to list the newsletters I used to advertise my free book, Stranded with the Cyborg, book one of a science fiction romance series. During my campaign I discovered a few newsletters that delivered an awesome return on investment, others that did so-so, and many I will never use again. The way I determined the ROI was to compute the cost per download (CPD) by dividing the advertising cost by the number of downloads I got. (Ex: $100 ad ÷ 1000 DLs = .1 or 10 cents per DL).

Some caveats

In general, but not necessarily, the more expensive an ad, the more downloads you can expect. I found one inexpensive gem that delivered great ROI, but also booked one expensive dud. After my two-month campaign, I would consider a CPD of .1 as the norm. A  .05 CPD (5 cents) or lower  is awesome, .20 or higher isn’t worth booking the ad.

However, the cost per download isn’t the only criterion. The quantity of downloads is important, too. If you only paid $7 for an ad, and you got 96 downloads (as I did with one ad), your CPD will be low, but you aren’t getting many downloads. You’ll have to book a lot of $7 ads at that rate to get the numbers you need.  Also, without any advertising, you’ll still get some downloads. When I did nothing, Stranded still got 30-90 per day. So that 96 downloads may not even be that high. If I didn’t see a boost at least into the 200s, I considered an ad to be a dud. That’s why in my list, you’ll see some lower CPDs in the “skip” column and some higher ones in the “good column.” To be considered “okay” for my purposes, an ad had to deliver at least 250 downloads and 500 or more to rate as “good.”

Results will vary by author, book, genre, cover, and how long your book has been free.  For instance, I advertised Stranded (a science fiction romance) with both Book Barbarian and Red Roses Romance. They’re the same company, but BB does SF only and RR does romance only. I had more downloads with BB. Just because I didn’t get good results from a particular ad doesn’t mean you won’t, but definitely ask around. If many authors are saying an ad site isn’t any good, it probably isn’t.

The best advertising venues target their ads. Either the newsletter only deals with certain genres OR readers must sign up to receive notification of specific genres. Just because a newsletter has a mailing list of 50,000, doesn’t mean that those readers are interested in your books. Your romance probably won’t sell to a thriller or nonfiction audience.

Drum roll please….

The newsletter list!

Good – I would use them again

  • Robin Reads (.05)
  • Love Kissed Book Bargains (.02)*
  • Freebooksy (.09)*
  • Book Barbarian (SF only) (.06)

Okay – I might use them again, as a supplement

  • Ereader News Today/ENT (.06)
  • Red Roses Romance (Book Barbarian’s sister site for romance) (.08)
  • Many Books (.11)

I won’t use these again – Skip

  • Sweet Free Reads (.07)
  • Genre Pulse (.1)*
  • BKnights (.04)
  • Book Kitty (.1)
  • People Reads (.16)
  • Hot Stuff (.06)
  • Book Sends (.22)
  • Ebooks Betty (.12)
  • Fussy Librarian – not even a blip in downloads
  • Space Kissed (a multi-author paid promo campaign) – (.12)

Danger, Will Robinson, danger!

  • Books Butterfly (.63) (this was a $100 ad!)

My opinion is, if an ad is cheap ($25 or less), I can afford to take a chance. If an ad is $100 or more, it has to deliver.

Things to know: Many newsletters have limits on how often they’ll run an ad for a book and/or author.  Some advertising venues book up fast, and are booked out a month ahead (or more). Others won’t book out more than two weeks ahead. Some newsletters are choosy about what they accept and curate their ads.  You can’t count on getting a slot even if a date is open. With others, if you play your money, you’re in like Flynn.

Some newsletters only advertise Amazon links. However, others will include other booksellers, too. If you’re looking to boost your visibility on iBooks or BN, that’s something to consider in your choice of newsletters.

That’s all, peeps! If you followed all three parts of this series, thank you! You’re a trooper! Stranded is still permafree. I’ll keep submitting to BookBub, continue to advertise, and test different newsletters. I have a pie-in-the-sky download target in mind, and I’m just crazy enough to think I might achieve it. Besides, sales of the other Cy-Ops Books are on a nice upwards trend and have more than paid for the cost of the ads and then some, so why not?

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

What advertising venues have you tried that delivered the ROI? Which ones would you avoid?

* I booked Genre Pulse, Freebooksy and Loved Kissed twice. I had such great results with LK in April, I booked them again in May. Same good results. Amazon screwed up my first Freebooksy ad (read part 1 about the debacle), so I booked them a 2nd time and had great results. I tried 2 different subgenres with Genre Pulse (PNR & Romance). Both were lackluster.

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26 Responses to Where to advertise your free book…part 3 of a series

  1. Hi Cara

    this has been a great blog to follow.
    I haven’t done my maths yet, but I did a fair whack of advertising this year and I doubt my sales even covered half the cost of the ads, though I’m starting to see a small increase in sales of my sci-fi romances – but only very small. Of course, most of my advertising was for my new releases and a couple of older ones, no freebies. I did do a freebie about a year ago and saw a small increase. Maybe I’ll have to reassess and try running another freebie.

    It was also interesting to see your results, as I’d heard that a couple of those you’d not found good, were good for someone else. I had also used Butterfly but didn’t see much of an increase in book sales – though again, my book was for sale not free.

    Also, I’ve tried about four times to get onto Book Bub but haven’t been considered – again, my book was for sale, not for free or a dropped price. I would say that free or lowered price, a ‘special’, is what garners attention.


    • Cara Bristol says:

      Advertising a full-priced books doesn’t produce the same results as advertising a freebie or a 99 cent book. In the past, I did some limited advertising (new releases) with full-priced books, but didn’t think it was effective.

      It’s hard to get a BookBub. I’ve been turned down way more times than I’ve been accepted. Out of 13 submissions, I’ve been accepted twice, both were 99 cent deals. I’ve decided to become more active in my submissions.

  2. EG Manetti says:

    Thanks for openness. I’ve had positive results with Book Barbarian on both free and 99c promos. Interesting about Fussy Librarian. I’ve used it with some success on 99c promos, but I haven’t tried it for freebies.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I’d wondered how Book Barbarian would be for 99 cents. Thanks for the tip. Regarding your experience with Fussy Librarian–this is why it’s so important to test out the ads yourself. Results vary by book/author.

  3. Thanks for your 3 blogs – very interesting and informative. I had never heard of any of the newsletters you mention above. In fact it never occurred to me that I could advertise on other people’s newsletters. I must look into it.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      The newsletters I mentioned are all services you pay for. Readers subscribe to them for free and get the daily deals. Using these newsletter is the primary way to advertise a free or 99 cent book. Some take full-priced books ($2.99 or above), but they are not as effective–especially if full-priced is in the same newsletter with the discounts.

  4. Also enjoyed the posts and the data. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. I can concur with your opinion of Books Butterfly. They promise 200-350 downloads for a $250 new release for a boxed set (Romance on the High Seas-a multi-author set), however, sales actually declined during the promotion. I’ve sent 3 emails (I thought perhaps they accidentally omitted us) asking for confirmation or the email newsletter they sent with our placement or give me the new dates for the promotion. Radio silence. That’s bad business to not even respond. I’ll never recommend them. Stay away!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience.

      I had booked the guaranteed silver package. The day it was supposed to run, I saw no blip at all. I even emailed them to confirm that that the ad had run. Their response was that it took days for the Amazon algorithms to kick in and show sales, and their 1200 was over a 4-5 day period. Baloney! That’s not how the process works. With every other ad, you get a one-day spike immediately (maybe a tiny tail the next day). A friend also used them, and she didn’t get the guaranteed results wither.

  6. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, Cara. The one thing that has really moved the needle for me is Bookbub ads. (Ads not the features. We already know those work, but of course they’re so hard to get.) After some testing I found those ads really worked for my discounted and free books. Last time I did a promo they performed better than any of the newsletter ads I booked.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thanks, Normandie! I’ll try that. I did one BB ad a while ago (for a full priced book), but haven’t tried it since then.

  7. Jackie Weger says:

    Cara! That is an excellent round up of sites to use or not. I always say Author Choice, but your list really mirrors mine of those that just not longer produce returns. I write contemporary romance so the sci-fi sites won’t produce for me. Two promoters you might consider are fkbt and eReaderIQ. Both are reasonable and show an ROI across several genres. Great post. I appreciated it.

  8. NPaules says:

    Good info! Thank you. 🙂 Have you tried eBook Discovery (www.ebookdiscovery.com) ? I’ve gotten nice results, there, as part of different sets.

  9. Eve Silver says:

    For a free scifi romance, I’ve had good results with Robin Reads, Booksends, Freebooksy, Free Kindle Books and Tips (FKBT) and Digital Book Today.

    For free historical romance, Robin Reads tops the list by a mile.

    For free fantasy (no romance), the best were Freebooksy, Digital Book Today, Book Barbarian and FKBT. (Robin Reads didn;t work well for this genre.)

    For a free urban fantasy/paranormal romance it was FKBT, Freebooksy, Readcheaply.

    So it seems that genre matters when choosing the newsletters that have the best return.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience. As you point out, genre does matter, so authors will have to test out many of these–but the names of the really good ones continue to pop up.

  10. Janet Lane says:

    Thanks for the great blog series, Cara! So helpful! We authors should unite, but can you seriously find a more quiet, reclusive, wrapped-in-their-own-awesome-creativity bunch than indie authors??!! 🙂 You have founded a nice group here, fellow writers who appreciate your efforts, your organization, and your awesome willingness to share your data! I wrote a round-up article on my blog at http://janetlane.net/advertising-secrets-for-authors/ I would love to add a summary of your series and reference your page as a follow-up, if that’s good with you.

  11. June Shaw says:

    I love all of the experiences that you and others shared! Thank you so much. You can be sure that I’ll be referring to your posts again.

  12. Diane Burton says:

    Your 3-part series is fantastic, Cara. Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I need to get my act together and advertise more wisely.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I’m still learning myself! Newsletters ads for discounted books is one of easiest ways to advertise because you can see results. And you get significant results.

  13. Danni says:

    Awesome series! As an about to publish her first indie romance, your information if pure gold. I hope you’re okay with me passing your link on to the rest of my writing group?

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