Hopefully you’re all caught up on the steps I took to make an experimental free promotion happen last month, and what I could have done better along the way. When you see the results, I’m sure you will agree that each step is pretty important.
Here’s what I have to report. Like I said, it ain’t pretty.
Free downloads: 201 (I know! I was surprised at the low number as well. It was # 1 in a semi-popular category. I have since switched the categorization to something I think might perform better, because clearly just getting to # 1 isn’t the magic bullet you’d think it would be). Lesson learned: choose category more carefully/ look at competitor’s categories.
Sales: 5 (I KNOW! I was similarly disconcerted). Still, title just came out so this was more sales than it’s ever had before, and any sales are better than no sales, so I suppose I should count this as a success. Lesson learned: lower your expectations of these free promotions in terms of them converting to sales, maybe see them more as lead-generation and push the email signup at the end harder.
Other sales: 5 (again, I KNOW.). So, after I gave away 201 copies of the first book, five (5!) people were compelled to buy other books in the series. Again, I guess you could file this under “something is better than nothing,” but it most certainly is not the phenomenal success that you usually read about, where someone got 20,000 downloads, then went on to sell 300 copies per day (this is an actual example from a course I took all about this very subject). It’s kind of an apples to oranges comparison, because this book series is for a totally specific niche, but I felt like there were many things I could have done better to make my giveaway more successful.
Those things were:
— Write and put out the books more efficiently. Time lost on production was a crucial factor here, as I was expecting the giveaway and the resulting sales to pay for all the time I put in, which it did not. If I had done the series faster, I could have just seen it as a “trial and error” experiment.
— Get more reviews. This is one I really need to work on, and this is where it would be super-useful to already have a mailing list built up in each niche where you’re trying to sell books. More about this later. For now, I will urge you to get at least 10 reviews on each book before you put that book on free promo.
— Sign up for the “free giveaway” sites earlier. Yeah, this is a place where you can really learn from my mistake. I would say plan a month in advance, because it takes a surprisingly long time to fill out each and every submission form. This is something you could outsource, but only if you had a good person working for you who could dot every “I” and cross every “T,” as it were. Those sites are super competitive!
— Pick a better category. I think where I went wrong there was to not look at more examples of competitors’ books to see what rankings they had (to just try to discern how those were selling). A better category might have made this book get more downloads, thus getting it even more sales. Again, this was a series of music guides, which I’m not sure I would recommend if you’re trying to get into non-fiction. Try cookbooks or the how to category (especially for weight loss)! I happened to just have a ton of knowledge in one area of music, so I used that for the series/ example.
I hope this has been illustrative to you, and that it will help you feel more hopeful if in fact your giveaway wasn’t a completely smashing success. I feel like the only stories I hear are about people who blew the roof off of Amazon with their giveaways (like Hugh Howey, for instance), so I thought a good old-fashioned “I tried this, it had meh results” post would cheer you up if you had a similar issue.
Feel free to leave your own experiences with free giveaways below, or give me more feedback on any other part of the picture you think I might be missing. I am open to pointers!