Dave Dobson


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Do free promotions on Amazon help boost Kindle Unlimited?

In short, yes.

I’ve done two free promotions now, and both of them have been followed by bumps in Kindle Unlimited page reads. Here are the page reads in graph form. The green arrows show the timing of the five-day free promotions.

The first promotion resulted in over 3000 free copies given away. The other one was more modest, I think in part because of the time of year (after Thanksgiving), with about 1600 books given away. In both cases, the ranking of my book shot up in the categories it is in, reaching #1 or #2 in some cases. That is supposed to impact discoverability on Amazon, even for free books, so I think it really helped.

I also got some more reviews on GoodReads and on Amazon after each promotion, which was great, and what I was looking for.


In order to get the sequel to Flames Over Frosthelm going in a big way, I’ve been doing the National Novel Writing Month challenge this November. I started the month just under 21,000 words, and now I’m up to about 41,500, so it’s going pretty well. The challenge is to write 50,000 words in a month, and I’m ahead of that pace by a little bit, as the graph below shows.

I’m obviously more concerned that the words be good than that they be plentiful. I’m pretty happy with how it’s going so far – I think the story is fun, and I’m having fun with it. For the sequel, I decided to keep the storytelling in first person but to shift the narrator, so that’s been a bit of a challenge writing with a new voice.

A full novel in fantasy is usually between 80,000 and 120,000 words, and I should be near the lower end of that range by the end of November if all keeps going well. The first book came in at about 122,000, so it was a little long. We’ll see how this one does. I’m not ready to share it with anybody yet, but if you’d like to be a beta reader, let me know! Write to dave@davedobsonbooks.com.

Progress on Kindle Unlimited

In the nineteen days since I ran my free promo for Flames Over Frosthelm, I’ve had over twice as many Kindle Unlimited page reads as in the nineteen days before. That seems to have been the biggest lasting effect, as people indicated it might be, although I’ve also gotten some new reviews from the book.

Yesterday, I also had a milestone – a new record number of page reads:

That’s more than two whole books! Of course, it could be two people reading the whole thing, or it could be 1195 people reading one page, or anywhere in between, but it’s still pretty neat. At a half-cent per page read or so, that’s a little under $6, so definitely not guaranteeing my retirement, but still some progress. Here it is in context:

Good week for reviews

I’ve seen some increased activity in reviews on the major review sites since my free book promotion Sept. 4-9, where 3,725 people downloaded my book. Since then, I’m at +7 ratings/+3 reviews on GoodReads, +6 reviews on Amazon, and I got my first BookBub review. So, pretty happy about that. They’ve been good reviews, too, so I’m glad people are enjoying the book. Here are the last five from Amazon:

Amazon free promotion notes and thoughts

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.

Free promotion

I’m in the middle of a free promotion for Flames Over Frosthelm, running September 5th to 9th. It’s been a success so far, if giving away thousands of copies of your book free is successful. I ran a number of announcements on free book sites on Thursday when it started, and I ran a Freebooksy announcement today. Both of those seemed to produce a bigger response than Friday, when I had no announcements. Here’s how it looked:

That’s a total of 3172 copies downloaded so far. This was enough to get me well up into the rankings on Amazon for free books:

I actually hit #1 in Sword and Sorcery on Thursday. I’m sure this is completely ephemeral, and it will fade as soon as the free promotion ends, so it doesn’t really have any meaning, although it’s fun to ride this roller coaster for a while. What I’ve read is that

  • this kind of thing doesn’t do much for sales after it’s done
  • many of the free downloaders never read the book
  • you don’t see many new reviews after one of these
  • you do have the potential to see more Kindle Unlimited activity after this kind of promotion

One other immediate effect is that I had 13 people add the book as “reading” or “to read” on Goodreads in the past three days, so there’s a chance that I’ll get some more ratings from people there.

One of my goals since the release has been to increase my exposure and introduce the book to a bunch of new folks, and this seems to be working as a route toward that end. I’ll see if it has any lasting effects after another couple of weeks, but it’s been interesting and fun.

Review from M Dressler

I am so honored to have had my book reviewed by the award winning author Mylène Dressler. She’s a friend and colleague at Guilford College, and she’s achieved much, much more in the world of fiction than I have, but she was still willing and excited to help me with my writing and encourage me to persevere. Such a wonderful person.

I highly recommend her most recent book, The Last to See Me, a haunting tale of spirits, anger, and loss set on the rocky coast of northern California. I’ve loved everything of hers I’ve read, but this one is definitely something special. I reviewed it when it came out on Goodreads here.

Her review of Flames Over Frosthelm is here.

Amazonian praise

The book has received two new Amazon reviews – one from a user who doesn’t post too many reviews:

And another from a user who posts a lot:

I’m starting to get reviews like these organically, from people I’ve never met who’ve found the book in other ways. Some I’m guessing are from recommendations, others from my advertising, maybe others just from searches or random discovery. It’s still a slow process getting press (seven reviews on Amazon, ten ratings on GoodReads, one review on BookBub), but it’s moving along. These are very encouraging – I’ve been happy all day.

First sale from Amazon ads

So, I’ve been playing around with advertising on several platforms. I’ve figured I probably need some more reviews and buzz before this will work, but I figured it was fine to experiment. Although I’m reported to be generating clicks on Facebook, Google, and Amazon, I have not yet generated a confirmed sale.

Until today!

Yes, as of today I have officially paid $25 to Amazon to sell $5 worth of books, for which I’ll receive $3 and they’ll receive $2. Clearly, this business model is not yet working, but this is the first inkling that it might work eventually. Pretty cool.

The Binge

This showed up on my Kindle Unlimited feed today. The Unlimited version of the book has exactly 587 pages, so it looks like somebody just destroyed the book in one sitting. Even funnier, this showed up a little after noon, so it must have been an all-morning kind of thing.

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