Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Honest Numbers about an Amazon Ebook Giveaway

As regular readers of this blog know, I just finished a five-day giveaway of Radio Hope, the first in my Toxic World series of post-apocalyptic novels. The plan was to get more attention for my series, which currently has three novels, a related novelette, and a fourth novel coming out in the late spring.

This post runs through my experience with an Amazon free ebook promotion. It's hard to get honest numbers from indie writers, who tend to exaggerate their success or make wildly ridiculous claims. If you don't believe me, waste an hour of your life on the Kindle Boards. This post will give you honest numbers and my best assessment of what's going on. I want my fellow indies to succeed, and the best way to do that is to cut through the bull and actually communicate.

I've done some giveaways before of The Scavenger, the Toxic World novelette, which I had written as a teaser for the series. My first promotion moved 391 copies. You can read the details here. I did little promotion for that giveaway beyond mentioning it on my blog and several times on my Twitter feed. Several blogger buddies mentioned it. A few nice people tweeted.

Since then I've done two more giveaways of the same book. As an experiment, during one of the giveaways I didn't mention it was free to anyone. Heck, I didn't even tell my wife because I didn't want her mentioning it on Facebook. I still gave away 54 copies. People really go looking for free stuff on Amazon.

For Radio Hope, I got a bit more serious. The giveaway ran from Thursday, March 10, through Monday, March 14. I was heavily on Twitter that entire time and many nice people retweeted me. I also bought places in two newsletters that advertise discount and free books. On Friday, March 11, I was in Ebooksoda. For $15 you go out to more than 14,000 subscribers. For an extra $6, you are mentioned on their Facebook Page, which has 8,900 followers. The next day, I was in the Fussy Librarian, which costs $16, and their science fiction list has more than 100,000 subscribers.

So I laid out $37. Book Two in the series, Refugees from the Righteous Horde, costs $4.99,which means I get $3.44 for every sale. I only need to get eleven people to go on to buy Book Two for the promotion to pay for itself.

NOTE: one thing I learned is that you have to sign up for a place with these newsletters way early. Even trying to sign up weeks ahead of the promotion, I barely got into Fussy Librarian and I didn't get into another newsletter, Book Barbarian. Slots fill up fast!

So now, on to the numbers. I've broken them down for each day and by country.

Thursday, March 10: US (493), UK (34), Germany (2), Canada (6), Mexico (1), Australia (5)

Friday, March 11: US (337), UK (35), Germany (1), Spain (1), Italy (1), Canada (7), Australia (2)

Saturday, March 12: US (277), UK (19), Germany (1), Canada (1), Australia (1)

Sunday, March 13: US (296), UK (19), Germany (1), India (1), Canada (6)

Monday, March 14: US (115), UK (16), Spain (1), Canada (5)

Total by country: US (1518), UK (123), Germany (5), Spain (2), Italy (1), India (1), Canada (25), Mexico (1), Australia (8)

Grand Total: 1684 free copies downloaded.

A few things surprised me about these numbers. The UK accounted for fewer than 10% of the total. My sales to the UK have consistently been about 10% of my total for three years now, and have recently risen to 15%. Also, ebooksoda is a UK based newsletter. I have no idea if they have a disproportionately high percentage of UK subscribers, but it didn't seem to impact my downloads. I'm also surprised by the relatively strong showing in Canada. I've had very few sales through Amazon Canada. Heck, Germany buys more of my books than Canada.

I'm also surprised that Thursday was the best day, followed by Sunday. In my previous giveaways, Thursdays have been strong, Friday and Saturday have been the strongest, followed by lower numbers on Sunday and a slump on Monday. Sales are always bad on Mondays. For some reason people don't go looking for ebooks on Mondays.

Promotions start at midnight West Coast time, something to keep in mind if you are promoting in Europe. One strange thing I noticed was that in the first hour on Thursday, I moved 11 copies in the US. That means that between midnight and 1 am on the West Coast, or 3-4 am on the East Coast, eleven people downloaded my book. On a work day!

The strong showing in Thursday helped me a lot. It got me into the top 20 for the post-apocalyptic and dystopian lists under the free heading for both Amazon US and Amazon UK. Amazon lists its bestsellers by groups of 20, and as many studies of Internet searching has shown, most people will not jump to the second page to see numbers 21-40, or click again to get to 41-60. Getting on the front page is vital and helped my visibility and, therefore, my numbers. By Saturday I was in the top five on Amazon US and stayed there for the rest of the giveaway.

So considering that, did the newsletters help? It's hard to say. I think it may be significant that Sunday was such a good day. Since giveaways almost always stretch over the entire weekend, I suspect newsletter subscribers know this and may put off their downloading until Sunday when they have more time. That's only a hunch, though. Like with all products, marketing ebooks involves a lot of guesswork. I will continue to use newsletters for future promotions. They don't cost much and the extra visibility sure can't hurt.

The real test is whether this increases my sales. Over the course of the giveaway I sold seven copies of other books in the series, a slight rise. I also got a a nice review of Radio Hope. That all might just be a coincidence, but considering how some readers inhale books, maybe not. I'll come back in a month's time with another blog post tracking my sales and looking at what effect, if any, this giveaway has had on sales of this series.

I hope this has been enlightening for fellow authors out there. If you want to thank me, considering buying one of my books! :-)


Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a lot of free books downloaded.
When my publisher discounted one of my titles, it ran Tuesday through Sunday, and Friday was the best day. At least on Amazon US, where it slipped into the top two hundred of all paid books that night.

Jack said...

This is good to hear. I was tracking your ranking, and RH seemed to be in the low 400s to high 300s for most of the run in the total Kindle Free category, which is pretty solid. I also saw jumps in the rankings of books 2 and 3, so I knew you were getting some spillover sales.

Having the extra books in the series is going to help pay off that ROI, I hope. Just remember that a lot of people impulse-grab free books and let them sit in their queues for a while, so it might not be a wave but a trickle.

Still, those numbers are pretty darn solid, and $27 isn't so risky as to not be worth it for the data alone (IMHO).

Sean McLachlan said...

Jack: You're quite right that there will be a lag for many readers. Some won't get around to reading it for weeks or even months. Some will never read it. Can' hurt to be on all those Kindles, though!

Yolanda Renee said...

Thanks for the information. I'm still trying to decide if free is worth it. I'll be following to see your experience! Both with sales and reviews.

Kim Cooper said...

Really useful info, Sean. Thanks for sharing. Hope the promotion pays dividends for future sales for you.

Looking for more from Sean McLachlan? He also hangs out on the Civil War Horror blog, where he focuses on Civil War and Wild West history.

You can also find him on his Twitter feed and Facebook page.