Wednesday, May 23, 2012

KDP Select Free Days: 3rd Time's the Charm

It has been over 3 weeks since I ran my last KDP Select free promo for my thriller, Judgment Tramp. And, although, I was never unhappy with my results the first 2 times, (I figured any exposure was good exposure),I had never reached anywhere near the success of some of the authors who were kind enough to allow me to share their experiences on this blog.

But, you guessed it, this last promo blew the roof off the previous two.

Before I get into why I think this happened, let me give you some numbers. We all like numbers, don't we?

1st promo Dec. 26 & 27 (Mon. & Tues)--fresh out of the box, no platform, barely on twitter or other social media sites; in other words-I was clueless.
---Sales prior to promo: 2 No borrows (what are those?)
---Downloads: 400 US; 64 UK; 4 DE Total= 468 ;
(Averaged about 8-10 DL's /hour & they were fairly consistent; Highest ranking: #1431 in free)
--Post-promo sales: Sales did not happen. Book plummeted back to where it had been prior to the promo. I had only 2 sales the whole month of January.
 --Attitude: Still hopeful. Learning experience. Hoping for a few reviews.

2nd Promo Feb. 21-23 (Wed-Fri)--I considered myself to be a toddler more than a baby, at this point. I was active on twitter, blog up and running, but still working on adding other areas of marketing and social media activity-Reading, reading reading what others have shared.
--Sales prior to promo: 2 in Jan., 6 in Feb. before promo. No borrows ( and seriously not expecting any)
--Downloads: 693 US; 67 UK; 11 DE; 1 FR Total=772;
(Averaged 20 Dls/hour the first day, decreased to about 10/hour second day until late afternoon on second day, wherein I started to see a downward trend in DL's. By 3rd day the book was getting maybe 5 an hour. At this point, ranking started the plunge despite having over 24 hours left AND having broke into top 100 in Mystery/Thrillers. Highest ranking reached: #510 in free, and #68 in Mystery/Thrillers.
---Post-promo sales: About 20 in the first week or so following the promo and then sales were trickling in every once in a while up until the 3rd promo. Not great, but, then again, better than prior to the promo.
Attitude: Hopeful. Learning experience. Disappointed that DLs seemed to hit a wall and decline suddenly before end of promo so the book's rank also declined but still more successful than first attempt.

3rd Promo: April 25,26 (Wed, Thurs.)--Added social media sites like Goodreads, and more reviews. I have toddling along and learning a little bit more about this online selfpub/marketing monster. Read, read, reading what everyone else is doing.
--Sales prior to promo: 14 in March, 7 in April prior to promo. No borrows.(Again, not expecting any)
--Downloads...wait for it... 8480 US;119 UK;7 FR;5 DE;1 ES; Total= 8612!
Over 10x the DLs of the last promo which ran 1 day longer. Ok, so bear with me, because I don't mind saying, it was exciting. Instead of counting DLs by the hour, I began to count them by the minute! My hope had been to double what I'd done in Feb. and I far exceeded that. By afternoon of first day , JT had already been downloaded more than in all 3 days of the Feb. promo. That evening, at one point, I realized over 800 had been downloaded in an hour!  I climbed to the top 5 of my 2 niche categories-Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue, and Police Procedurals- fairly quickly(sometime the  first morning), and by afternoon broke the top 100 in Mysteries/Thrillers. I stayed in the top 100 of all of these lists all the way through to the end of the promo. I reached #1 in Spy & #2 in Police, #11 in Mysteries/Thrillers. By evening I was in top 100 of the Free Bestsellers! I saw my book sitting there on the free lists next to heavy hitters like John Grisham, Vince Flynn, Ken Follett, and Jeffrey Archer, and so did readers-can't be anything bad in that! Early on I even fleetingly hit the Popular list. I even ended up on the bestseller lists in the UK.
My fear had been that JT would repeat what happened in Feb., when 3/4's of the way through the promo., the ranking started to slip. When the promo ended the book was no longer on a bestseller list, which I believe was the reason sales never really took off, even for the short period of time others had reported. I wanted badly to end in the top 100 and this time I was not disappointed.
--Post-promo sales: Ok, so that was exciting, but what would happen after the dust cleared and my little book was out there on it's own without 'Free' to help it along?
When I woke up that morning and looked at the ranking my heart about fell out of my chest-- #388,000 seriously? 
Ok, while I was picking myself up off the floor, somehow it had climbed back up to 4 digits. Those Amazon algorithmists, what a bunch of pranksters....
It didn't stay there, of course, but the book has enjoyed steady sales since it went back to paid. The first few days, just as so many have reported, were the best: Day 1:14 books, Day 2: 21  Day 3: 28 and 2 borrows (my first!); Day 4:19 and 5 borrows. The book even managed to stay in the top 100 in Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue for 5 more days, which was totally unexpected, and probably helped somewhat. I've even had borrows which continues to amaze me. I won't bore you with more details, but sales and ranking have slowly decreased, but not unexpectedly. However, over 3 weeks later, sales are still happening at a steady pace of 1-3 a day. Not amazing, but considering sales prior to this promo were more like 1-2 a week, I am still very pleased. ( I have seen only 1 UK sale by the way. International Sales is an area that needs exploring.)
--Attitude: Hopeful. I see more possibilities now. It's all a learning experience right?

SO what made the difference?

1. Categories- I switched JT over to less populated niche categories after reading Ben Wretlind's analysis of categories on his blog here. This made it supremely easier to climb into the top 100 on the bestseller list.
2. Help- I asked my twitter buddies to retweet me. I mean I specifically messaged and asked other authors with whom I felt comfortable because we had a mutual helping relationship already established; and true to form, my fellow indies jumped right in there. In fact, I really do attribute the very quick rise in sales to their early tweeting and if you are one of those authors, I can't thank you enough for your help. At one point a twitter bot picked up that my twitter handle was the #5 twitter name on Twitter.(yes, that was 4 twitters in a sentence!). I have no idea how long that brief flash of social media fame lasted (I was right behind MSNBC) but I'm sure it gave JT the early boost at a critical time. I also joined tweet teams at WLC which I like to do as often as I can anyway.
3.Exposure- Although I had submitted to Pixel of Ink (again), Ereader News Today, Digital Book Today, I was apparently too late and never got picked up (again). However, I had posted on many facebook sites, (actually I didn't have time to post on even half of the sites I had found), and some minor ebook sites. I sent an invitation out on Goodreads. and I posted on the Kindle Boards. I did not realize until sometime after that I had popped up in a couple places unexpectedly. I have an extensive list that hopefully I'll be able to share at some point, but I worked on doubling my exposure. I employed a friend to help me with this part, by the way. It is time consuming, but key. I believe downloads slowed so quickly during the previous promo because I had reached the limits of my platform at that point.
4. Luck and the old Success Begets Success thing- I really think with some of this the stars have to align. I think that in my case, things fell into place this time. Also, when you hit those Bestseller lists, the ball really starts rolling.  Downloads beget downloads. I'm not sure if it would happen this way again. There are rumors that the KDP Select magic is wearing off and others are not getting the great results they got before. Recently bloggers have reported Amazon algorithms have changed, and not favorably for the Select books. Perhaps. But for me the 3rd time was the charm. I plan on doing another free day soon. I'm hoping it will goose sales a bit and keep Judgment Tramp floating where it is- way above the pre-promo ranking and sales.

**Oh,and one other thing, I decided to change the pricing for the book to $.99 after about 7-8 days, when I thought the book's ranking was slipping, to see if it would help keep it from plummeting. I saw absolutely NO difference. The sales stayed steadily the same and there were no borrows during that time period of 2 days. It simply wasn't worth losing the $1.65 per book, so I probably will not do that again, and certainly not as a means to jump start sales.

So, now the question is, how to maintain decent sales after a successful KDP Select Free Book promo? What has everyone else been doing?

Read other authors' experiences on my page "A Gathering of KDP Select Experiences".

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