Of course, it’s done very little for my bank account.
Downloads versus rankingsAs a member of Independent Authors International, a writers’ cooperative group, I participated in the group’s first Labor Day Free Reads event. Seven of us (see last week’s post) all set September 1 to 3 as “free days” on our Amazon Kindle Select accounts. We joined and/or notified I don’t know how many bloggers, portals, reviewers and Facebook groups to publicize it; we wrote and shared updates for our own Facebook pages and scheduled hundreds of tweets.
The giveaway began at midnight on September 1. While some participants thought progress was slow, for my own part, I was happy. I had over 300 downloads by Saturday evening, and when I got up the next morning, some 30 hours or so into the program, Amazon US was showing over 600 downloads. The UK site showed 39 downloads, plus one sale of The Bones of the Earth, Part One: Initiation Rites.
Some of the other participants noted that there were no downloads from the UK site after sometime on Saturday afternoon, September 1. It turned out there was some kind of glitch in Amazon.co.uk’s tallying system. I experienced it, too: while downloads from the US site climbed fairly steadily all weekend, the UK site was stuck at 39.
More exciting to watch were the rankings. By the end of Saturday, The Bones of the Earth had advanced to no. 1,300 or so in the Free lists, and by Sunday afternoon, September 2, it was number 2 in Historical Fantasy in Amazon.com’s US Free lists, and number 5 in Epic Fantasy; in the UK, despite only showing 39 downloads, it reached number 1 in Historical Fantasy!
After that, it started falling in the rankings, to number 3 and finally settling at number 5 in historical fantasy, and number 451 overall, by the end of the event, even though total downloads kept advancing.
|Image: Creative Commons|
Why did I give my book away for free after trying to sell it for so many months?Good question. I’m glad I asked it.
Many other indie authors who have tried the Kindle Select giveaway program since it became available at the beginning of this year reported a sales spike immediately following the end of the giveaway period. For example, Russell Blake made his Geronimo Breach free for three days in January and saw about 12,000 downloads. “Then, when it went back to paid, a funny thing happened. After languishing for the first day, it shot like a rocket, finally hitting #165 in the paid Kindle store,” he reported in his blog.
Russell wasn’t the only one. I read similar stories from several other indie authors. But as time went on and more and more independent writers used the program, the results were less and less striking.
Still, I was hopeful. Writers I respected for both their writing and marketing ability kept using the program. In the summer, I participated as a supporter of the Book Pushalooza for Derek Blass, Elise Stokes, Robert Guthrie, Shannon Mayer and a few others. The planning and organization in that group effort was amazing.
Lessons learnedHow did iAi Labor Day Free Reads go? For me, 1,400 downloads is great — it’s many times more copies than I have sold in the past 8 months, even if it was a small number compared to Russell Blake’s results.
Still, I have to keep that in perspective. Russell was already selling thousands of copies of his book before he had the giveaway.
Another lesson: maybe next time, I won’t do this over a long weekend. People, and readers are people, often go away from their computers during holidays.
Yet another lesson: I will participate for a longer period in the Facebook and other groups that I want to promote my book before asking them to do that.
And there are still more bloggers and reviewers to contact.
As far as sales go: strangely enough, I have sold 12 copies of The Bones of the Earth, Part 1: Initiation Rites at 99 cents through the weekend. I don’t understand this, because Part 1 is, as the title implies, the first part of the full novel. Part 1 came with parts 2 and 3 for free last weekend. I’m not complaining — four bucks is enough for two cups of good coffee. But it seems strange to me. I guess the fact that Part 1 is the first part of the full book is not that clear to some people. Anyway, I’m glad people bought the story, and I hope it makes them want to read the rest of it.
As for the hoped-for sales spike: I’m writing this during that first day after the end of the event, during which Russell Blake reported “languishing” sales. So I’ll watch my reports from Amazon. And I’ll let you know how it’s going.