This post is written specifically for other authors who’ve written Kindle books or are planning on it. I’ve written why many authors make their books exclusive to the Amazon platform. It’s usually for the promotion benefits Amazon gives authors who are enrolled in KDP Select for 90-day intervals
When their Kindle version is enrolled in KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), specifically KDP Select, an author has the opportunity to do one of two promotions during that ninety-day period. Either a free promotion up to 5 days in length or broken up into parts throughout those three months, OR do a countdown promotion per book.
Authors can do one or the other but not both.
In the last few months, I’ve run both a free promotion and a Kindle countdown promotion with some similar results for two different books of mine. Below is a chart showing some of the results along with variables that I can’t in any way know if they affected the difference in results.
My book, 6 Lies People Believe About Divine Healing is only $4.99 at regular price, while 9 Lies People Believe About Speaking in Tongues is double that at $9.99 when at regular price. It’s safe to say that if I lowered the price of each book to a buck, the latter will be perceived as a bigger bargain.
Free Promotion: 6 Lies About Healing
I’ve done two promotions in the past year and a half with the healing book; once in March 2013 one month after publishing it and to coincide with the launch of my next ebook Increase Your Faith.
I gave away about 700 copies of each and had no noticeable increase in sales after the promotion ended.
This surprised me a little bit, not because I had any false expectations, but this is something that many Kindle marketing “gurus” were insisting at the time would happen when you come off of a promotion. I just assumed I hadn’t given away enough copies to have a significant bounce.
I’ve heard many times that you really only have a good uptick if you gave away over 10,000 copies. That was before it started going around the internet that Amazon changed their algorithm and now one free ebook download no longer equaled one purchased ebook in their rankings. Supposedly 10 freebies = 1 purchase. I have heard more recently that it’s like 20 freebies = 1 purchase.
2022 edit: now I have no idea if this is even true at all or what the number might be.
My second time doing a free promotion for the healing book was in July 2013, and on that occasion I put more effort ahead of time into the promotion, such as asking friends who had written nice reviews on Amazon if they’d be willing to share the link the day the free promotion started. I went to a lot of different promotion sites and submitted my deal to them weeks in advance.
This time, I got over 2000 downloads in the US store over a 4-day period, and a few hundred more in all the other Amazon territories combined.
I had absolutely no noticeable uptick in sales after coming off of that promotion, either. In fact, compared to March’s promotion, I felt like sales flatlined. Maybe people only like my healing book if it’s free?
That’s why this time almost a year later, in June 2014 I thought if I do a free promotion of Six Lies About Healing, I might not be able to give away 2000 copies again if a lot of my friends and fans had already gotten a copy of it.
I worried about diminished returns the more I tried this tactic.
And to be honest, I was a little bit lazy with this third promotion as I was focusing more of my time and effort on promoting Lies About Tongues the following month.
To my surprise, we gave away nearly 2700 in only three days (June 16th to 18th, 2014 to be precise).
As you can see from the graph above, the number of downloads from the first day to the last decreased steadily and consistently, making me wonder if only one or two days would be effective for a free promotion. In times past when I’ve done a giveaway of this book, I’ve always had a similar start off with a lot of downloads, and then it would trickle off.
So this came as no surprise.
Discount/Kindle Countdown: Nine Lies About Speaking in Tongues
I’ve lazily done two other Kindle Countdown promotions, my Faith book, and another title, and neither promotion yielded any results. But again, I did little to promote them and mostly just set the promotions up and shared the link on my Facebook account.
This time, I started planning for my countdown promotion about one month in advance. Since there aren’t as many sites to promote a countdown deal as there are to promote free book promotions at the time of this writing, I went around and submitted my dates to the ones I could find.
With KDP Select countdown promotions, you can have a maximum of 7 days to promote your book at a discounted price and a ticker next to the price on your book’s page showing how much longer until the price goes back up.
Your book can be no less than 99 cents, and no higher than 50% off the normally-listed price in order to take advantage of this promotion.
I used all 7 days for the second week of July and started the displayed discount price at 99 cents for the first 48 hours (which were Monday and Tuesday). Then, every 24 hours the price would increase $1 until Saturday and into Sunday, making the final 24 hours $4.99 (50% the full price).
In both promotions, I paid and scheduled Facebook ads starting at midnight the night before the promotions would launch, and targeted people who ‘liked’ authors and subjects in my niche but who were not fans of my page.
As expected, the bulk of my sales came when the book was priced 99 cents. On Monday I had 140 downloads, the highest number of single-day sales any of my books have ever had. The book’s ranking peaked #1756 overall in Kindle books.
I ran a $50 a sponsored listing on Gospelebooks.net for Thursday, when the book’s price had now gone up to $2.99. Sales were waning by Wednesday so I figured I’d be able to see whether listing it there was any help.
With 70% royalties on $2.99 priced ebooks, I only needed to sell 25 copies that day to get my money back, which I did as I sold a total of 48 copies by the time I went to bed Thursday night.
If you compare this graph for sales of Lies About Tongues with the one showing free downloads for Lies About Healing, you’ll notice that my paid units in the second graph are but a fraction of the free units in the first one. The similarity I want you to notice is that in both cases the biggest bang for the buck is on the first day. After that, it always trickles off.
In the case of the countdown, I have a spike on the fourth day when I ran a paid promotion on Gospel Ebooks.
My Takeaway(s) From This
I’m writing this over a week after doing the promotion my Tongues book, which is still sitting pretty in the categories it’s listed in. At the time of drafting this post, it was sitting at #5 in Pneumatology, and #28 in Pentecostal Kindle books.
For most of the week it sat at #1 in Pneumatology, and between #1 and #5 in Pentecostal books, the latter of which is noticeably more competitive of a category to crack the top 20 in.
Conversely, the healing book has had a few sales at its full price, but otherwise has gone back into relative obscurity on Amazon almost immediately.
I struggled with it again over the years, but once I learned how to do paid Amazon ads in 2018, then I started to hate myself for not learning to do ads earlier!
See this FB live I did months after starting.
I believe this is because the number of free downloads it takes to have a bounce in sales afterward is negligible. Amazon is now getting saturated with more and more self-published “authors” gaming the system and trying to start Kindle empires — a topic I’ll revisit in the future in a separate post.
What makes the countdown promotion worthwhile is that even though your book is discounted, you are still actually SELLING copies. For this reason, your book gets an Amazon ranking that actually matters and doesn’t change once your promotion is over, unlike when your book is free and then for about 24 hours disappears from ranking until its paid ranking kicks in again.
The above two photos are what you could find in Amazon search results if you were looking for my book or my name while the book was number one in those respective categories.
Meanwhile, each time I’ve given away Lies About Healing, I’ve given away more copies, but had less of a “bounce back” or spike than the previous time I’d given it away, which confirms my suspicion that free giveaways are less worthwhile when it comes to ranking in Amazon, but are beneficial for other reasons, like getting your book out there.
Why I’ll Probably Never Do a Free Giveaway Again (But then again, never say never)
After comparing the results of the two promotions, I feel pretty confident that I got better results with the KDP countdown promotion than the giveaway. Don’t get me wrong, any author who has something to say will tell you they’d rather get their message out to thousands of people freely over only a few people who pay for their books, so I’m glad to have been able to give thousands of copies of my books away. But paying a little something is more of an investment in a book.
As a Kindle author and reader of Kindle books, I have noticed that I hoard quite a lot of free e-books on my Kindle device, and some have sat there for years. Meanwhile, the books I’ve got on the go at any given moment are usually the ones I paid something for, or a book I truly was interested in reading and just happened to be free one day.
So, having thousands of people download a work of mine for free doesn’t necessarily mean of those thousands of people, they’re all reading it and getting impacted by the thoughts I put forth there.
Likewise, I realize not everybody who buys my book is going to read it either, but the margin between those who get it and don’t read it versus those who pay for it increases. So, I’d rather sell 300 books at a buck than give away thousands for free and have them never get read.
Have you done both types of KDP promotions? If so, what were your expectations and results?