Tag Archives: alternatives to Bookbub

How to do a successful ebook promo (without BookBub)

Starting out as an indie author

As many readers of this blog know, I broke down this month and did a free promo for one of my Big Fat Fantasies again, Shadow of Stone, the second book in The Pendragon Chronicles. For a number of reasons, I hadn’t really wanted to go there anymore:

1) The reviews you get after a free run are sometimes downright depressing, since a lot of people are grabbing the book who are not your target audience.

2) The Pendragon books are REALLY long, and they took a LONG time to write. Something irks me about giving away all that work for free.

3) I don’t want to support the assumption on the part of a growing number of readers that the only good book is a free book.

Nonetheless, I decided to plan a free promo for Shadow of Stone. In the last half a year, it has sold less than 50 copies and had less than 20,000 pages read. Meaning that even though the book can be borrowed through KU, there were very few people taking advantage of the opportunity.

Shadow of Stone

I think part of the curse of my Pendragon Chronicles series is that the books are standalone novels. And it seems that when readers come to the tragic conclusion of Yseult, which ends with no cliffhanger pulling them on, they are not as compelled to immediately buy the next book — only about 25% of the people who buy Yseult also pick up book 2. So I really didn’t have a lot to lose by tossing SoS out there for free for the first time in years.

Before I scheduled the free run, I applied for ads with a number of sites where I’ve gotten good results before. A lot of places don’t want to advertise book 2 in a series, even if the novels are standalone, but I finally got approved for an ad with Manybooks.net for May 21, so I set up the free promo around that. Organizing a free promo is very different than a 99c sale, since with that you want to go out with a bang. Your sales ranking doesn’t disappear like it does when you’re giving the book away for free. I figured for the free run, I wanted my heavy hitter towards the beginning, so that Shadow of Stone would soon be high in a lot of top 100 lists, which in turn would (I hoped) lead to organic downloads also improving the rank. Around the more expensive ad, I scheduled a couple of inexpensive promos through Fiverr, and applied for as many free ads as I could. (You can see the list of free sites I usually apply to here.)

The strategy worked better than I imagined, even though I never heard back from a number of the sites offering free ads. Here’s the breakdown for my ads, other promo activities, downloads, and income during the course of the free run for SoS:

Shadow of Stone free from May 20 – 24

May 20 – Natali FB promo Fiverr ($5.50) – 185 downloads, $21.32 in earnings
NewFreeKindleBooks (free)
May 21 – ManyBooks ($25) – 685 downloads, $27.47 in earnings
EbookDaily (free)
May 22 – Posted to Facebook groups – 263 downloads, $22.94 in earnings
May 23 – Fiverr Bknights ($10.50) – 1382 downloads, $76.08 in earnings
Booklovers’ Heaven (free)
Blog post
Mailing list
More FB groups
May 24 – More FB groups – 363 downloads, $28.90 in earnings

Ask David (free) – ran Shadow of Stone from May 20 – 24

Applied for but no response:

Reading Deals
Frugal Freebies
SF Signal free fiction
OHFB (May 24)
Ebookshabit
Freebooks
Choosy Bookworm
EReader Cafe
Ebooklister
Freebooksy
Iloveebooks
Newfreekindlebooks
ebookasaurus
Armadillo
Freeebooksforme

I also tried to set up a Facebook ad based on impressions, since I figured an ad where I pay for clicks for a free book would hardly be worth it, *g* but it was never approved. That’s an experiment I would still like to try for a free book, but maybe with a permafree where time is not of the essence.

One more thing I did which helps explain the huge jump in downloads towards the end of the free run: just before I was intending to go to bed on May 23, I checked the rankings for SoS, and it was very close to breaking the top 100 overall free on Amazon. Since I’m in Central Europe, that means it was prime time in North America. So rather than shutting down as I had intended, I sent out pleas on Facebook and Twitter, asking people to share the word and help me break the top 100.

It worked.

Here are the rankings of Shadow of Stone when I got up the next morning:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy
#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

It was #1 in several other categories as well, but those are the ones Amazon decided to show me. 🙂

During the course of the promo, I sold 51 copies of Yseult, which had previously been limping along at about a sale every other day. Strangely enough, sales of other books not in the series picked up as well, something I rarely experience with a 99c promo.

But the fact remains that the vast majority of my income from this promo was from sales of Yseult. The way the Amazon algorithms are right now, I definitely would not recommend a free promo for a book that is not part of a series. The rank for SoS after its free run (where it broke the top 100) was #126,851. Yseult, on the other hand, was #7580 — at full price. The sales I’ve seen since the promo are mostly a result of the increased rank of the companion novel.

Of course, these numbers don’t come close to those to the profit you can make if you DO get a BookBub ad. But since those are few and far between (my last was in January), I’m very happy with the 4:1 ROI of this particular promo. 🙂

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you would be interested in the book, Starting Out as an Indie Author! You can learn more here.

 

Summary of ad results for 99c sales

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When I did my 99c Countdown Deal of Yseult two months ago, I promised to do a summary post after this round of promos was over. Last week, the third week-long promo ended, and now I have put together my results to share with you, along with some conclusions about running a 99c sale. I did not apply for a Bookbub ad for any of these promos, since part of my motivation in testing ad sites like this is to find alternatives to Bookbub. I have had Bookbub ads before, and I know that they are effective, but they are very difficult to get, not to mention very expensive.

Without further ado, here are the numbers for the three promos I did in the last two months:

Yseult

Yseult, Aug. 30 – Sept. 4 (total spent: $98)

Aug. 30 – Nothing – 2 sales
Aug. 31 – Book Barbarian ($8) – 27 sales (29 total)
Booklovers Heaven (Free)
Manybooks.net – (Free)
Sept 1 – Blog and Facebook – 11 (40 total)
Sept 2 – Books Butterfly ($50) – 45 US + 6 UK (85 total) + 6 UK
Sept 3 – Nothing – 1 (86 total) + 6 UK
Sept. 4 – Bargain Booksy ($40)- 30 US + 1 UK (116 total) + 7 UK

Summary: I did not quite break even on the ads, but Yseult stayed in a couple of top 100 lists for the rest of the month and continued selling. But the big advantage of the increased visibility was in pages read: over 11,000 for the month of September. In August, when I didn’t do any ads, it was 2500.

Chameleon in a Mirror

Chameleon in a Mirror, Oct 4-10 (total spent: $48)

Oct. 4 – Nothing – 1 sale
Oct. 5 – Ereader News Today ($20) – 27 sales (28 total)
Oct. 6 – Book Goodies ($5) – 11 sales (39 total) + 1 UK
EbookStage (free)
Oct. 7 – Posted to long list of FB pages (free) – 4 sales (43 total)
Oct. 8 – Choosy Bookworm ($18) – 6 sales (49 total)
Oct. 9 – Sweetfreebooks ($5) – 6 sales (55 total)
Booklover’s Heaven (free)
Oct. 10 – More FB pages (free) – 8 sales (63 total) + 1 UK

Summary: I got closer to breaking even on this Countdown Deal, ending up only $3 shy of earning out. But I have subsequently had only a handful of sales and 3500 pages read. CIAM dropped out of its top 100 lists much quicker. Part of the problem may also be, however, that I need to get it into a couple more niche categories somehow.

Shadow of Stone

Shadow of Stone, Oct 15-22 (total spent: $22.99)

Oct. 15 – None – 1 sale
Oct. 16 – BookGoodies ($5) – 2 sales (3 total) + 2 UK
BookHippoUK (free)
Oct. 17 – The Midlist (free) – 42 sales (45 total + 3 UK)
Oct. 18 – ContentMo ($1.99) – 11 sales (56 total + 3 UK)
Reading Deals (free)
Oct. 19 – Facebook sites, etc. – 5 sales (61 total + 3 UK)
Oct. 20 – Book Barbarian ($8) – 17 sales (78 total + 3 UK)
Oct. 21 – BettyBookFreak ($8) – 2 sales (80 total + 3 UK)

The ROI on this sale was pretty fantastic, mostly because SoS managed to get approved for a free Midlist ad. I scheduled the promo accordingly and booked the other ads around The Midlist listing. Still early days yet, though, to say what the long term effect will be, although it already seems to be dropping in rank faster than Yseult did after its promo.

Here are some other ad results for 99c sales I’ve had in previous months, with the disclaimer that the oldest are from last December and could be quite different now:

Shadow of Stone:
12/16/14 – Fussy Librarian ($14) – 8 sales
12/17/14 – BKnights ($5.50) – 4 sales

Chameleon in a Mirror:
2/24/15 – BKnights ($10.50) – 8 sales
6/2/15 – ManyBooks ($20.00) – 28 sales

Island of Glass

Island of Glass:
6/30/15 – Robin Reads ($10) – 13 sales

As you can see from this list, most advertising sites don’t earn out. On the other hand, getting your book to a high enough ranking that it will stay in a couple of top 100 lists for a while is worth paying more for your ads than you earn. Nonetheless, several of these sites were very disappointing to me in terms of ROI, and I do not intend to use them again unless I start hearing rave reports on places like Kboards. The biggest disappoints for me were Choosy Bookworm and BettyBookFreak, which I had both heard good things about. Perhaps those sites are better for mysteries or romances than they are for fantasy, but I for one won’t be going back for a while.

Another thing to take into consideration is that as soon as they start getting a better reputation, may advertising sites raise their prices so much that they no longer become a good deal. I was quite pleased with the results of my Book Barbarian ads — at $8. But they have since raised their prices to $25. 17 sales for $8 looks very different than 17 sales for $25.

Sites I will definitely be using again (unless they raise their prices too much) are The Midlist,* ManyBooks, ENT, ContentMo, BooksButterfly and Robin Reads. I would also like to try and get a slot with Ereader IQ and Pixel of Ink eventually, to see how well they do. POI used to be what BookBub is now, and while it is no longer the star for promotion, I’ve been hearing good things about it.

Finally, I would like to point out that if you can scratch the money together, it’s much more worthwhile to throw as many effective ads as possible at a promo. Given the results of the above Countdown Deals, I’m suspecting you need a bump of at least 100 sales to create any kind of lasting effect in terms of visibility for your book.

In conclusion, I highly recommend checking out Nicholas Rossi’s list here — and participating in his survey when you do paid advertising. We indie authors have no other recourse than information when trying to make it in this incredibly competitive business. If we share our results, we’re in a much better position to judge which sites might be useful, and which will just be a money sink.

Good luck!

* The Midlist has sold their mailing list to HarperCollins and is no longer promoting indies. You can read more about it here.

Related posts:

Where to promote a 99c eBook sale

Alexa rankings for eBook ad sites