The Lady Who Writes, Meagan Adele Lopez, is paying us her monthly visit today. Once again, she’ll be doling out some practical advice, based on her own experience, for expats and other international creatives who are engaged in writing novels using the material gathered from their novel, shall we say, life stories. Meagan is a repeat expat in the UK (last time Bristol, this time London). Besides writing, her talents include acting, blogging, and crafting ads for social media.
Okay, Displaced Nation-ers who are also wannabe novelists. Let’s say you’ve followed all my advice up to this point. You’ve gone through the work of reading similar genres before you start writing—perhaps even started up your own book club. You’ve dined on a daily basis with your characters. You’ve rehearsed your book trailer and have opted to publish your novel yourself. (I will go through the steps of the self-publishing process in the next post.)
So now, what about marketing that baby to the masses?
At the top of your list should be a free e-book promotion.
Only, don’t follow my example.
Do what I say, not what I did!
I was told to plan 30 days in advance—I started planning the giveaway of the novel I wrote based on my own expat adventures, Three Questions, the night before.
Once you sign up with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select, giving Amazon exclusive rights to publish the electronic version of your book for 90 days, you have five days to promote your book for free over that period. Most people tell you to use just two or three days at most, your first time. I used four.
Some things I did right: I waited until I had some strong reviews of the book posted before offering it for free. And after the promotion started, I tracked the book’s rankings and didn’t give up until I’d reached my two goals:
- Earn a spot on the coveted Amazon Best Sellers in Kindle Store, Top 100 Free list.
- Break five figures (XX,XXX) in downloads.
But, to reiterate, I didn’t plan the freebie promotion; I did it by the seat of my pants. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely sure about the benefits of giving away my book for free. I was afraid the freebie would “devalue” my book—which was silly because it wasn’t selling more than a few a day anyway.
I also had to overcome my fear that I was giving Amazon too much power. However, my Barnes and Noble Nook e-book wasn’t selling at all, so in the end I figured I might as well enroll in KDP Select for three months, even if that meant I couldn’t make it available through any other outlets, including publishing extracts on my blog.
How to get that new novel of yours noticed
First, the hard facts: Amazon has 3,000+ new titles going for free nearly every day. The competition is tough.
As I fell down, down, down into KDP Select Freebie Land, I obsessively read every post I could find with tips on how to make it a success. (Hey, A for effort!) FYI: One of the best articles I found was on Novel Publicity & Co.: “KDP Select free days: Targeted advertising is the key to success; here’s a list of resources.”
Besides learning that I should have been planning the promotion a month in advance—giving “free Kindle ebook” websites at least three weeks’ notice about my intention to offer a freebie for a few days—I quickly realized that I would need to dedicate a LOT OF TIME peddling it over that period through every available avenue: my social media networks, family and friends, and some of the dozens of sites that announce free e-books.
I had missed out on the top site, Pixel of Ink, which requires at least 30 days’ notice. But I did manage to get listed on some of the heavy hitter free e-book blogs, with thousands and tens of thousands of followers—the ones that the majority of free Kindle seekers go to (they come up first in Google searches).
Here’s where I submitted FOR FREE:
- Digital Book Today: They have paid and free promotional opportunities. I submitted my novel for free via the form on this page, which requires you have at least 10+ reviews with an average of 4+ stars rating. They posted my novel, but the site’s founder, book industry veteran Anthony Wessel, wasn’t too happy at my last-minute submission—again, please don’t do what I did!
- eReader News Today: I was supposed to submit three days before the beginning of the promo, and in order to be considered, you have to have a high rating in your reviews for them to post it. My mom happened to notice it was up—as she subscribes to their Facebook page—and mine was the first on their daily listing!
- Freebies4Mom: This site is under the radar compared to the others. It’s run by stay-at-home mom Heather Fernandez. She has over 300k fans on Facebook. That’s A LOT of mommy fans. I believe her site pushed my novel over the five-digit download mark.
- Kindle Nation Daily (PAID): They offer a Free Book Highlighter Service (scroll down to the bottom). I took $30 out of my Kickstarter money to participate. It was worth it.
Here’s a few more sites that picked me up, which you might consider submitting to (should you follow my advice and plan well in advance):
- BookGorilla.com: This is another site that sends daily email bulletins to subscribers listing free e-books in categories of interest.
Last but not least, these sites tweeted about my novel and might also be useful to you as indie authors:
- The aforementioned Digital Ink Today (@DIGITALInkToday): This popular site has 30.2k Twitter followers.
- Masquerade Crew (@MasqCrew): Site founder Mark Lee currently has 34.6k Twitter followers.
The all-important numbers
Before the book promotion, I was selling at my peak three e-books per day. I never reached higher than #300,000 on Kindle’s bestsellers list. The night before I launched the book, I was ranked about 1,500,000 in Amazon’s e-books—insignificant.
During the promotion, my book gained in momentum each day. Though conventional wisdom advises giving up after two days, I just couldn’t do it. The way I saw it, the more days I was ranking, the more exposure I was getting. To start again from ZERO in a few weeks seemed pointless.
At the end of the first day, I was already #57 in the Kindle store’s free Contemporary Fiction, but hadn’t yet ranked anywhere in the entire Kindle store.
The end of the second day, I was getting closer! I was now just under the top 200 within the entire Kindle store, and had climbed to #16 in Contemporary Fiction.
Over 3,000 people had downloaded the book so far.
But it wasn’t until the third day (a Friday) that extraordinary stuff started happening. This is when the websites started posting about my book, and the downloads became fast and furious.
When I hit #8 in Contemporary Fiction, and saw my name next to THE John Grisham—it was certainly a shock, and made me realize just how many people now had their hands on my novel.
I finally ended the promotion on Saturday night—with over 11,000 downloads just in the United States (the UK hit didn’t garner nearly as many). At its peak, my novel hit #28 in the entire Kindle Books and #6 in Contemporary Fiction—I had accomplished my goal!
The immediate aftermath—any sales?
The big question was, would I make any money after the promotion was over? I was, after all, giving the book away for free.
My ranking disappeared for a few hours, and when it reappeared, my novel was certainly higher than it had ever been. Three days after the promotion ended my novel remained within the top 3,000-5,000 paid Kindles. I sold more in those three days than I’d ever sold before in the same time frame.
On a side note, the day after the promo ended, I received my first negative review and a second great review. Unfortunately, the first reviewer didn’t take the time to read the entire book (that’s another blog post altogether—ouch, it hurt!); and the second reviewer pleaded with people to finish the book. YES, PLEASE!
Time to recap: What would I do differently?
With the benefit of hindsight, I would have
- taken more time to plan, and put more thought into the audiences to reach out to.
- jacked up the price the day before the promotion (value would have seemed better to those getting the free download).
- seeded the community with teasers.
But overall, I was extremely happy with how it turned out, and highly recommend it to other indie authors. Hey, you never know, you might be able to turn those downloads into a book deal!
And now, without further ado, here’s Novel Writing Tip No 4 for International Creatives:
Heed (at least some of) the wisdom of writers who have gone before you and plan a freebie promotion campaign for Kindle a few weeks in advance, not the the night before; commit to working hard on the promotions, and tracking your numbers, for the duration.
* * *
Readers, what do you make of this latest advise of Meagan’s? Did you ever imagine you’d be giving away your precious novel for free? And do you have any further questions for Meagan, THE LADY WHO WRITES, any topics you wish she would cover in future columns? Please share in the comments…
Meagan Adele Lopez grew up in the U.S. with a Cuban-born father and American mother, and at one time enjoyed an acting/casting career in Hollywood, something you can detect in the beautiful trailer for her novel, Three Questions. Her day job these days is in social media advertising. To learn more about Meagan, go to her Web site.
STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s announcement of our March “Alice” winners!
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Congrats on your success with KDP Select. I, however, have stopped using them, deciding that wide distribution is best. I have several short stories and novellas I’ve made free that are “breadcrumbs” for my novels. Across all channels, I get about 2,000 downloads a month (from 10 short stories/novellas).
2,000 downloads is that many readers a month – congratulations to you!
Exactly! A huge amount!
Hi James, it’s certainly not for everyone! We all have to test and try what works for us. What other channels do you run across?