I just completed a five-day promotion on Amazon where my book was free. It was exciting to watch my book’s rank as a free book start from zilch and ascend toward the heavens. I’m not sure it accomplished that much, but it was interesting.

I have heard that these promotions are a good way to get exposure. Amazon certainly thinks to, citing this five-day-free promotion and also their discount sale promo as benefits for going Amazon-exclusive in their Kindle Direct Publishing program.

I’m still at the part in this process where I’m trying to build an audience for my work. So, I thought a free promotion, along with some money spent on advertising it, might be a good way to reach more readers. I wasn’t trying to make money from this at this point, so I wasn’t really concerned with a financial return on my investment. Here’s how I think it went.

3,725 people downloaded my book. That’s good! That’s way, way more books than I’ve sold or distributed through Kindle Unlimited so far. I imagine that only a fraction of the downloaders will ever read the book, but I don’t know how big that fraction is. If it’s 10%, that’s still a great new audience.

Looking at the graph above, you can see the impact of the advertising I did. I had most of my promotions (paid and free) hit on the first day, to give people a chance to see them and download the book. I had a few of them trigger on other days. The big jump on Saturday coincides with the Freebooksy promo I did, and there wasn’t much else I was doing on Saturday. This promotion was expensive ($100), but it clearly had a major impact, potentially accounting for nearly half of the download activity I saw.

The book got two more reviews on Amazon during this period. I know that one of them came directly from the free promotion. I know another one will hit soon that came from the promotion publicity. There may be more that show up later as people have more time to read the book.

I got a lot of mentions on Twitter from the publicity services I signed up for. Some of the groups that tweeted have significant audiences, but I don’t know how effective tweets are in this case. I have no real way of confirming who got the book from what source – from tweets, from discovering it on Amazon, from email promotions, or from book websites. I suspect that at least some of my paid promotions did hardly anything, but because they all hit at the same time, I couldn’t really evaluate the impact of any of them other than Freebooksy. Freebooksy actually has editorial standards for what they will promote, so I think their promotions are more respected and thus more effective. My book apparently met those standards, but I don’t know how stringent they are.

On Goodreads, I got one rating during this period. I don’t know if that was a person who got the book during the promo or had it already. So, not a huge return in that arena. However, I did have 13 people add it as either “to read” or “currently reading,” which is comparable to the number of ratings I already had. So, that’s pretty big. I’m not sure if that happens automatically when people download it (there’s a connection between Goodreads and Amazon), or if it’s a deliberate act, but either way, it’s cool.

In terms of rankings, all the ranking changes happened in the Free arena, which was only relevant while the book was actually free. I hit #66 overall (of all free books on Amazon) on Saturday and then drifted downward. I hit #1 in Sword and Sorcery and #2 in Epic Fantasy for a while also, on two different occasions during the five days. I really don’t know how meaningful this was, because it doesn’t persist once my book is no longer free, but it was fun to watch.

I also had a strange large spike in delivery of my Google Ad impressions. I don’t know why that would be. Google’s unrelated to any of the other sites. It’s possible Google algorithms chose to serve my ads more when there was more discussion of my book, or maybe Google’s reading people’s emails and seeing the book come by. I don’t know. There’s nothing I did to make this happen.

I’ve heard there can be an ongoing impact from this kind of promotion from Kindle Unlimited readers. I have had a small but steady KU page count every day since the promo started. There’s no way to tell yet if that’s just the normal readership I was already getting or if it’s been boosted by the promotion.

My total costs were:

  • $100 for Freebooksy
  • $115 for other promotional sites
  • Potentially a bit of lost revenue over the five days from sales (probably no more than $10)

I feel like the downloads and the exposure are worth that $225 or so. The jury is still out on how effective it will eventually be. I think the better way to use this kind of promotion is if you have a series and can make the first book in the series free. That would potentially lead to readers buying the rest of your series after sampling the first. For now, though, I’m happy with how it turned out.