Readin’ o’ the Green: the Anatomy of a Free Book Promotion

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

Frog St Patricks Day Promo Event 600px

Welcome! This is an informal blog that will chronicle a book promotion for my novel The Frog Prince taking place March 14 and 15, 2013. If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to read my blog “THING 3. Prostitute Your Book: The Art and Science of a Becoming a Successful Free Book Pimp on Amazon.” A lot of this will make more sense if you do.

Feel free to post questions, make comments, or just poke around to see if you can find anything useful. I will be reporting numbers and rankings and commenting on the other various aspects of the free promotion as it is ongoing.

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

Beginning Saturday, March 16, 2013, I will provide a post-promo analysis to let you know how things look once the book is moved back into the Kindle Paid Store. Let’s get started. First a few entries of backstory…

February 28, 2013: Contacted Bookbub via email:

Can you tell me what availability you have for March for The Frog Prince?

Settled on March 14th ad placement and a promo to run two day through midnight, Friday the 15th.

Filled out and submitted online forms for both Pixel of Ink and eReader News Today, asking if they’d be willing to feature The Frog Prince on March 14th. Received a verification of receipt email from Pixel of Ink:

Thanks for telling us about your upcoming promotion! Please note: Due to the high volume of submissions, we may or may not be able to feature your book during the time it is free.

March 1, 2013: Received Bookbub invoice in the amount of $190 for 190,000 subscribers. Paid it.

March 13
8 PM: 
Designed logo and tagline for promotion  Since it is so close to St. Patrick’s Day and the Frog on the cover is green, I decided to superimpose the frog lying across a shamrock. Named promo “Readin’ o’ the Green.” 

Author FB screenshot9:45 PM: Posted first notice of promotion on both
personal-ish” Facebook page and official Author Facebook pages. Noticed Author Facebook post immediately going viral (see red circled portion of graphic on the right).

March 14

1:30 AM: Total books downloaded: 2. Whoo-hoo! Going to bed. See you tomorrow!

8:45 AM:  Reposted promotion information on Facebook. Received notification from Twitter that BookBub had tweeted about the promotion as well.

10:30 AM: 8,694 copies of The Frog Prince downloaded so far. Title is 2879 in the Kindle Free Store and #66 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction.

11:08 AM: BookBub email has obviously gone out to its 190,000 Romance subscribers. Numbers on my Amazon KDP Reports tab showing downloads of The Frog Prince are jumping by the hundreds every time the screen is refreshed. Total: 10,185. Ranking is unchanged, but those typically update only once per hour.

BookBub

www.BookBub.com

11:18 AM: BookBub has featured The Frog Prince on its main “Deals” page and it’s above the fold (e.g. you don’t have to scroll down to see it)! This is a GREAT thing for me and explains a lot of the downloads. Plus, I’m near my thriller friend CJ Lyons so that makes me feel like we’re having a girl party and later we’ll brush each other’s hair and listen to sad Taylor Swift songs. Her book Snake Skin is only $0.99 (regular price $4.99). You should snake it now while you can.

BookBub Romance screenshot

Romance page at www.BookBub.com

11:25 AM: So, this is something worth showing you… The screenshot on the left is the Romance page on BookBub. On the top row, far right is a book cover with the words DEAL NO LONGER AVAILABLE written on it. This is what will happen with your book once the deal expires so Bookbub customers know not to click on it.

Pixel Screenshot 1

www.PixelofInk.com

This is the Romance page for Pixel of Ink. As you can see, it doesn’t look like they decided to feature The Frog Prince on their page but I’ve never requested a listing with them before so they may add to their featured books in the various genres throughout the day.

12:10 PM: 12,350 copies of The Frog Prince given away so far, which is more than halfway to the goal of 20,000 free copies downloaded. And there’s another day left of the promotion.

4:13 PM: Well, that was fast! Just checked the sales totals and rankings. The Frog Prince is #4 overall in the Kindle Free Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store) as well as:

2013-03-14 107PM Kindle Top 100 juxtaposed

Kindle Store Top 100–paid on left, free on right.

19,418 copies given away. It’s not even Day 2 yet and I’ve nearly reached “the magic number” of 20,000 downloads–the minimum you want to give away when you do a free book promotion.

4:25 PM: Now this is something very important that I want to show you. Remember in the blog “THING 3. Prostitute Your Book: The Art and Science of a Becoming a Successful Free Book Pimp on Amazon” I gave a tip that read “DO try to get your book in the Top 20 of the Kindle Free Store. If you give away 20,000 copies, you should be able to accomplish this (unless it’s around a holiday).”

In the screen shot on the left, The Frog Prince is #4 in the overall Kindle Free Store. One of the main reasons you want to get your books as high in the Free Store as you can is because of the way that Amazon lists their Paid and Free Top 100s. As you can see, the Paid and Free Top 100 are juxtaposed right next to each other, which means that The Frog Prince is sitting pretty right next to The Hunger Games TrilogyWhile readers will often click on the Top 100 to see what novels are at the top, they less frequently scroll down “below the fold” and even less frequently click through to see what numbers 21-40 are.

CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

2013-03-14 107PM Kindle Top 100 juxtaposed w arrows

A ranking in the Kindle Free Store next to a bestselling or well-known novel is an incredibly valuable discoverability tool.

Obviously, anyone trying to see what’s hot in the Kindle Top 100 Paid Store is going to recognize The Hunger Games cover and, with any luck, their eye might just wander over to that little green frog on the right. Getting your book into the Top 20 is crucial and into the Top 5–“above the fold”–is ideal purely for the sake of visibility. It’s like a little snowball that rolls downhill, gathering more and more snow until it’s an avalanche barreling down on its own accord out of sheer momentum. The more people who see your book and download it, the more people will tell other people to download it, and so on, and so on…

EreaderNewsToday screen shot

The Frog Prince Listing at www.eReaderNewsToday.com.

10:27 PM: Almost time for bed, but here are some final numbers for today: 30,201 copies of The Frog Prince downloaded. It is also now #2 in the Kindle Free Store and #1 in the Humor category. Since I hadn’t anticipated not only meeting but exceeding my 20,000 downloads goal, I have no idea what tomorrow will bring or how this will affect the post-promotional period. I think I will be adding to this blog for much longer than I anticipated since this is basically now uncharted territory, even for me. Goodnight!

10:37 PM: Quick correction: a look at eReader News Today’s website shows that they did indeed list The Frog Prince under their “Free Books” section for 3/14/13. I may have missed it before.

Friday, March 15, 2013

11:44 AM: Morning stats: 35,402 copies downloaded. The Frog Prince is still holding strong at #2 in the Kindle Free Store behind An Island of Illusion and across from Three Sisters (Blackberry Island).

Facebook Event Banner Snafu

The original graphic didn’t fit the new template shape on Facebook’s Event page.

Finally finished creating my Facebook event for Day Two. The reason it wasn’t ready for Day One of the promo is because Facebook decided to pull one of their infamous “let’s change everything about how the site looks and works without telling anyone” stunts on Thursday.

The promotional “Readin’ o’ the Green” graphic I’d designed for what used to be the square in the upper left hand of the Facebook Event was taken away, replaced by a rectangular banner that stretches across the top.

Facebook Event screenshot

A hastily redesigned graphic and the same information fit into the new rectangular banner.

This made fitting my design into the space the equivalent of trying to fit a square graphic into a rectangular hole. So I had to redesign the graphic to fit into a rectangle instead of a square. I redesigned it, rearranging the graphic components and it fit just fine.

1:44 PM: With 36,434 downloads The Frog Prince is #2 Free in the Kindle Store as well as:

  • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction
  • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction

Looks like I’ve done all I can do here for now…I’m going skiing but I will be back! Here’s a shot from last night’s skiing session at beautiful Keystone Resort in Colorado. Thank you to everyone who has downloaded a copy, shared the promo on Facebook, tweeted it or simply told a friend. ♥

CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE.keystone2

10:31 PM: With only a few hours left to go, The Frog Prince has been downloaded 40,419 times and is currently #8 in the Kindle Free Store as well as:

  • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction
  • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction
  • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor and Entertainment > Humor

Since most sites won’t list your free book for more than one day (although BookBub keeps the book on the deal page until it expires, it does not tweet the deal after Day One or feature it on their Facebook page or in subscriber emails) you often will see a drop off in downloads on subsequent days. Your biggest push day is definitely the first one–so make it count with as much advertising and promoting as you can do and/or afford!

2013-03-14 Top 100 Humor Frog10:51 PM: I just realized that The Frog Prince is #1 in Humor across from that perennial classic I Just Want to Pee Alone. Wow. And I was excited in July when Frog, featured by Amazon on its $3.99 and Under page, passed Tina Fey’s Bossypants. Nay, friends, that was a drop in the ocean compared to my excitement right now.

11:34: It’s crunch time now as the last couple of hours tick away. For those of you who have never done a free book promotion on Amazon before, you may be wondering “what now? What will happen when the coach turns back into a pumpkin at midnight PST and the promotion ends?”

First of all, a promo doesn’t always end at midnight PST. That’s because it takes time for Amazon to move the thousands of books that were temporarily in the Free Kindle Store as part of a promo like mine and get them back into the Paid Kindle Store. During that time, your book will still be available for free. Many authors panic when they see this happening–don’t! My books have always been returned to the Paid Kindle Store by 3 AM PST.

Besides, you’ll want to save your adrenaline for what’s going to happen the first day that your book is back in the Paid Kindle store.

2013-03-16 131AM Frog Screenshots Before-After

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

1:40 AM: The Frog Prince is now out of the Kindle Free Store and is back in the Paid Store…sort of. Remember that the algorithm used to rank books had been applied to your book in the  Kindle Free Store. It now has to reset as your book is put back in the Paid Store. Which means it’s as if your book is newly published, with no click-throughs, no paid purchases. This means that your page will have no ranking at all and will look like the bottom graphic on the left.

It will take up to 18 hours for the algorithm to completely reset. In the meantime, when your book does finally receive a ranking, you may be stunned to see that it’s something like #281,349. Don’t panic! This is temporary and is all part of the algorithm trying to reset. That awful ranking will be very short-lived, I assure you.

Okay, time to get some sleep and see what tomorrow brings!

2013-03-16 Comparison

From #45,910 at 7:10 AM to #15,762 at 10:11 AM.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

10:11 AM: Good morning! Okay, it looks as if the algorithm is starting to reset back in the Kindle Paid Store. At 7:11 AM The Frog Prince was ranked at  #45,910–much worse than it was ranked before the promotion ever started! But not to fear because by 10:11 AM it had already jumped to #15,762. The ranking will continue to get better throughout the day. It has never taken longer than 18 hours for a promo book to reach its true ranking based on new sales. In the meantime, sales for The Frog Prince are up 750%.

Yes, you read that correctly: 750%.But remember that post-promo bounces typically only last anywhere from one week to one month, so don’t order the caviar and champagne just yet.

2:43 PM: The algorithm continues to reset and The Frog Prince is ranked as follows:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,431 Paid in Kindle Store
#72 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Humor
#87 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor & Entertainment > Humor

I’ve sold or loaned 66 copies of the book so far today, a 1,550% increase over the days preceding the promotion. There are also quite a few more reviews, mostly positive, bringing the total reviews for The Frog Prince to 172. This is good because it’s proof that the subset of folks that you need to read the book right away in order to generate buzz are reading it–and buzzing.

8:05 PM: Now the algorithm looks like it’s almost completely reset. Based on data from my past promos, a sudden surge in book sales like this (97 downloads of The Frog Prince–both bought and borrowed) will often get your book a ranking anywhere between #300 and #1500 in the Paid Kindle Store but rarely higher. And don’t get too comfortable because the old saying applies here: “The bigger they are, the harder they fall.” Simply stated, your book’s ranking will likely surge the first 3-10 days before quickly dropping back to it’s pre-promo ranking within anywhere from 7-30 days.

As of right now, The Frog Prince has hopped all the way from #3431 to #1659  in Kindle Store as well as:

I also saw that The Frog Prince has picked up 12 new reviews in the last three days alone–more proof that people are buzzing. This is a very good thing because you can assume that if they’re buzzing on Amazon, they’re also buzzing on book blogs and to their book clubs and on Facebook and GoodReads and Shelfari and the Kindleboards and Pinterest and Reddit and StumbleUpon.

By the way, when I say that the algorithm has “reset,” I mean that this most recent jump is less dramatic than the previous leaps of #45,000 to #15,000 to #3000, which means it’s probably based on sales/reviews/click-throughs and less on the Almighty Amazon Algorithm frantically trying to keep up with a book going from obscurity to what is essentially bestseller status in 24 hours.

See you tomorrow!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

2013-03-17 Sale Chart

10:00 AM: A slight bump in the right direction this morning but keep in mind that it is still the weekend and book sales tend to be higher on the weekend. These stats are from yesterday and today through 10:00 AM.

The Frog Prince Amazon Best Sellers Rank is #1,261 in the Paid Kindle Store. Also:

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE 

If you’re interested in the Excel spreadsheet formula I use to calculate the daily revenue earned in the yellow box in the chart, it is as follows:

Calculating daily revenue

Yellow square

= (books sold) * (average percentage of domestic sales) * (70% author royalty) * (price of your book)

blue square

= (books sold) * (average percentage of foreign sales) * (35% author royalty for foreign sales) * (price of your book)

green square

= (books borrowed) * (average revenue earned per download)

Obviously you’ll have to replace variables such as band pwith Excel spreadsheet cell numbers. Also, the foreign royalties situation keeps fluctuating (authors earn 70% in some countries, 35% in others) as does the monthly “fund” Amazon sets aside for the KDP Select borrows, but my foreign sales are not great enough that these variable affect my overall totals for the month; in fact, this formula predicts my royalties accurately +/- $100 each month.

3:22 PM: Like I said before, there are ways you can tell if rb is at least within average 10-13 percent of people you hope are “buzzing.” One of those, of course, is book reviews–on Amazon and Goodreads and other similar sites. The Frog Prince has received 16 new reviews between March 15th and today for a total of 180 today. When you do a little bit of math, you’ll find that this is a 9.1% increase in reviews over three days (although, to be fair, the day ain’t over yet).

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

Wordpress Bar GraphYou can also look at traffic on your website using Google Analytics or WordPress analytics (or whatever you’re using). As you can see from this bar graph on the left (the bar on the far right is today’s traffic, the 2nd from the right is March 16th, and so on). You can immediately see that there was a large spike in website traffic starting on March 14th, the day the free promo started. Between March 13th and March 15th there was a 600% spike in website traffic.

And why were they coming to my website, you ask? That’s a very good question. Stay tuned…

7:22 PM: In the last three days there has been a rather big bump in Friend requests/subscribers/Likes on my “personal-ish” Facebook page and my Author Facebook page as well as followers on Twitter and Pinterest and my playlists on Spotify (like many authors, I write to music, carefully picking songs to correspond with the various moods of whatever’s happening in the book; unlike most authors, I make those playlists public and title them according to the book I used to write them).

Traffic Sources 1 Month

And like I said before, there has been a rather large bump in visitors to my website. Because analytics reveal how individuals found my site, I can tell you with confidence that in the last month, 24.81% of my website traffic came from so-called “search traffic”–people who are starting at a search engine such as Google and typing in something along the lines of “Elle Lothlorien” or “The Frog Prince” or (in two memorable instances) “writing is a bitch of a process” and “Elle Lothlorien alternative” (I still suspect one of my adolescents of the latter search; sadly, there is no alternative).

A full 15.79 percent of people coming to my website are a result of “referral traffic.” In other words, they’re coming from links from sites from Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog, to Facebook, to my Amazon Author Central page, Pinterest, Goodreads, a link on author Bree Davison/Barb Dyess’s blog, an interview on USAToday.com or GoodEReader.com and Scribd.com, a site where people can read 50% of my novels for free. These are just a few examples.

At first glance, the 59.40% of “direct traffic” may be puzzling. Direct traffic are visitors who come to your site without first visiting a search engine, another site or via some other marketing tactic such as an advertisement on Facebook, for example. In other words, “direct traffic” visitors are just landing on pages on my website without seeming to come from anywhere. Of course, I know exactly where they’re coming from: straight out of the pages of my book.

No, seriously.

Each of my e-books contains embedded content that starts after THE END. Here are a few examples:

The Adventure Continues

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

Don't Let This Be THE END

As you can see by the first graphic on the “Don’t Let This Be ‘The End'” page, readers have the option to go directly to my website from their e-reader–or anywhere else for that matter. My other novels, Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook…all the links are right there.

And in the case of links to your other books, if a reader enjoyed your novel, why then you’re catching them right at a moment when they’re feeling very positive about your work, aren’t you? So it makes sense to show them what else you’ve got as soon as possible. That’s why the first thing you see after “The End” is “The Adventure Continues” and an image containing the cover for Alice in Wonderland as well as a synopsis, the number of stars it has on Amazon, and an invitation to read 50% of the book for free or to buy it outright–right then.

As readers consume The Frog Prince–especially those in the first 0-36 hours–they are left hungry for more, so to speak. As a result, I’m already beginning to see a spike in sales of my other, non-Frog Prince novels. Although it is difficult to prove, I suspect much of those sales are coming directly from those embedded links, taking readers straight to the purchase page on Amazon for Alice in Wonderland, Sleeping Beauty, and Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up.

Frog Prince Review Gibberish10:30PM: The Frog Prince now has 180 reviews–a 10% increase from before the promotion. Like I said before–this is good; it means that people are buzzing.

Oh, and I’d like to share my favorite review I’ve received so far in the last three days. You can click on it to enlarge it but it reads:

“Gr8 read !!!!!!! Where book number 2. Djeruofhsn. Kngofnafn. Knfvnsdfiueh. Infringement inferno efurb. Index incidents neigh identified josh disowns ibis.”

Hey–at least she gave me 5 stars before lapsing into Klingon. 😀

11:35 PM: Last post for today. Closing stats:

Goodnight! See you mañana.

Monday, March 18, 2013

FrogPrinceCover400x6006:54 AM: Good morning! The Frog Prince has been doing quite a bit of hopping overnight with 40 copies bought or borrowed overnight. The book’s ranking has changed as a result for the better:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #637 Paid in Kindle Store

Where will it stop? How will you know when your post-promo bounce is losing steam? Well, today is a weekday so you would expect sales/borrows to slow somewhat. If downloads drop slightly (and this is true any time, not just weekdays) but your ranking doesn’t really change that much up or down, then that means that sales are down slightly down across the board (all other books are experiencing the same drop) and that’s a good sign. If your download numbers drop and your ranking drops (that is, the number gets bigger), then you’ll know that your the post-promo effect is starting to weaken. I’ll check back in with number later this morning!

Chick Lit Central11:35 AM: An unexpected bonus: Chick Lit Central featured Alice in Wonderland on their site today as part of their “Books of the Week” feature. I’d emailed them back in November asking if they’d like to review it (it had just come out then) and they replied saying they were “overbooked” (ha!) but that they would like to list it in their “Books of the Week” feature. Of course I said yes!

Since that happened in November, I’d forgotten all about it until today when I looked at my calendar. But the reason I’m telling you this is because any type of visibility you can get for your other titles at the same time will only help your sales. It will seem as if “your name is everywhere” and author name recognition is critically important. After all, it’s your BRAND.

12:00 PM: Sweet, here’s a perfect example of what I was writing about last night. Here are the lunchtime rankings and stats:

See how that compares from today’s earlier ranking? It’s just 30 spots away from where it was and yet I’ve already sold slightly less than I had at this time yesterday. That just means that sales of books across the board are dropping slightly just by virtue of it being a weekday.

More a little bit later!

9:39 PM: Sales of The Frog Prince have been great today–with 147 book bought/borrowed–but someone else’s book is obviously doing better since the ranking has slipped a little. Here’s where we stand and what my spreadsheet looks like for March 16-18. Remember that sales are calculated through midnight Pacific Time so these aren’t the final numbers or rankings for today.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #775 Paid in Kindle Store

2013-03-18 Sale Chart

March 19, 2013

9:30 AM: Good morning! There was a slight rally overnight for The Frog Prince. Its Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

This is not typical four days post-promo and I definitely don’t expect it to last. Sales/borrow total for today so far are 51 copies downloaded. I caught the final counts just after midnight PST so here are the total counts for the last four days (today being partial, obviously).

2013-03-19 Sale ChartMore later!

Two bestsellers2

Sorry–WHAT was that Amazon ranking again?

5:00 PM: Well, I’m not going to say I’m not shocked because that would be a lie, but The Frog Prince is continuing his amphibious climb towards world domination. At present, the books is #565 in the Kindle Store.

Have you ever heard the scientific term called the “observer effect?” Essentially it says that the very act of trying to observe or measure something can actually change whatever phenomenon you’re studying. A common example is measuring the pressure in your car tires. In order to measure it the gauge has to let out some of the air.

Perhaps there’s a little bit of that going on here–I am observing the promotion and measuring its outcomes as well as writing about it publicly–again and again and again. Since the blog itself has created a little bit of a buzz (I’ve seen it linked to or mentioned on at least two other blogs), it’s possible that I’m artificially extending the natural length of the post-promo boom.

On the other hand, I’ve never had 40,000 downloads during a promotion before, so it could be that the extended bounce is simply due to the overwhelming success of the giveaway. Time will tell, I suppose.

March 20, 2013

7:30 AM: It’s the Hump Day Slump (midweek drop in sales), but it must be across the board (i.e. the same for all books and not just Frog) because the rankings are still holding steady from yesterday despite sales today being off to a sluggish start.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

I’m going to wait until 9:30 AM to post the numbers for today since that’s the time I posted the partials yesterday, but here are the final numbers for the last four days:

2013-03-19 Sale Chart FINAL

CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE

The Frog Prince now has 184 reviews, all of them fairly positive. But there’s a review from March 7th for Alice in Wonderland that I’d like to talk about and that’s this one:

You can click on it to enlarge but it reads: “I received this book FREE through a Book Bub recommendation, and have since purchased several more by this author. This was a delightful & enjoyable read [emphasis mine]!”

BookBub recommendation

And that right there is another important reason you do book promotions by either discounting or giving away one of your titles. If readers like your book, they’ll go on to read the other and generally pay to do so. This in turn grows your fan base, faithful readers you can market future books to.

8:40 AM: Speaking of future books, I want to show you some numbers from my website that might interest you, and is another indication that many people who have received a free book through one of my promotions are going on to buy my other books and still wanting more. Take a look at this.

Rapunzel Clickthroughs

CLICK IMAGES TO ENLARGE

These are undoubtedly clickthroughs from the embedded hyperlinks at the end of my novels for my soon-to-be-released novel, Rapunzel. What’s that you say? Your next book isn’t done yet? So what? Now’s the time to raise interest in it, to get that book cover designed using memorable graphics, to plant that kernal in readers’ minds that it’s on the way and they may want to check back–soon. Ideally your clickthrough page will include a sample chapter (or five) for them to read to whet their appetite even more.

Have a good morning! I’ll share more thoughts, numbers and stats at 9:30 AM.

9:30 AM: Here are the numbers of downloads for yesterday and today at 9:30:

2013-03-19 and 20 comparison

Looks like a huge drop in sales, right? Well, it is. But compare the 9:30 AM ranking numbers between yesterday and today:

Don't panic

3/20/13 9:30 AM Amazon Best Sellers Rank: 

3/19/13 9:30 AM Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

Not much difference, is there? This is when you need to take a deep breath and not panic. Book sales are lower across the board on Amazon today, otherwise my ranking would have dropped dramatically (the number itself much higher). Deep breath…

March 21, 2013

7:50 PM: Here are the final numbers for March 16-20 (yesterday):

2013-03-20 Sale Chart

As you can see, the Hump Day Slump is aptly named. Most everyone sees a drop in book sales on Wednesdays, a phenomenon that typically reverses itself as we move into the weekend. Although sales seem to be sluggish all around today, The Frog Prince  is losing a little bit of steam; yesterday at the same time its overall ranking was #625. I expect it to drop into the 800s today. It may experience a rally over the weekend, but it’s unlikely that it will climb back into #500/600 territory at this point.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

This is going to be a brief post because I am leaving today for Left Coast Crime in Colorado Springs (finally–a conference I can just drive to) but I later today I will discuss how you should always be planning your next marketing/promotional move even in the middle of success. Your goal is always to keep your name and your work visible, to never sink into obscurity. To make sure that happens, you must always be thinking one step ahead! 🙂

11:06 AM Walking out the door to pick up my friend Hilary Davidson (who is in conveniently in town for book signing) and we’re off to the Springs! Here are some ranking numbers:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

3:25 PM: As I suspected would happen, The Frog Prince finally dropped into #800 territory today (which, seriously, is still a fabulous place to be almost a week post-promo.)

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

Will try to post again later today or this evening!

Friday, March 22, 2013

1:30 PM: I’ve been watching sales of The Frog Prince since early this morning and they’ve been sluggish as hell. BUT the overall ranking hasn’t really moved that much.

7:42 AM: #742
12:12 AM: #770
1:23 PM : #789

I mentioned this to one of my roomies here at the conference, adding, “Is there, like, a national holiday today? I know Easter is next weekend.”

She said two words: “Spring break.”

Arrrgggghhh! Of course! When school gets out today–elementary, middle, high, college–it’s the start of Spring Break in much of the country. That’s a lot of people traveling or making plans to do activities with their families or getting drunk and flashing their breasts to Girls Gone Wide cameras. People are busy! Add on top of that the fact that Easter is next weekend…sigh. All we can do is wait and see what will happen!

Oh, and here are the sales numbers between March 16th and March 21st:

2013-03-21-2 Sale ChartSunday, March 24, 2013

8:50 PM: Sorry about my lazy posting; I was at Left Coast Crime Thursday-Sunday and, well, you know how it goes…lots of time in the bar, lots of margaritas–er, I mean networking. Right, networking. Very important, that.

Ahem.

Alright, so where were we? The Frog Prince is doing relatively well given that it’s been eight days since the free promo ended. Here’s a day-by-day recap of sales and rankings:

2013-03-24 Sale Chart

As you can see, the ranking continues to slip by about one hundred places every day or two, which is to be expected. Sales are still 2,275% higher than where they were on the day before the promo so I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes weeks before returning to pre-promo sales.

Additionally, The Frog Prince has gained 34 new reviews since March 13 for a total of 198! A majority have been extremely positive, bringing the number of four- and five-star reviews up to a respectable 84% (up from 82% before the promo).

April 12, 2013

8:30 AM: It has been almost 30 days since my two-day free promo for The Frog. As is usually the case with this title, the post-promo bounce continues with sales up 475%  from what they were before the promo and borrow up 325%. The results have obviously been outstanding and long-lived but please bear in mind that The Frog Prince continues to be my bestselling novel, even after almost three years.

2013-04-12 Sale Chart Here are my sale/borrow figures for the last 27 days:

CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE.

As you can see, the bounce begins to level off right around the 4th of April. You’ll probably want to do as I do and mark a column for the days of the week (black column on the left; R=Thursday, N= Sunday). This is because you’ll want to be able to compare your sales from one week to the next but comparing one day to another is incorrect. You should be comparing “this day last week “ ; otherwise, you’re comparing apples and oranges.

For example, if I wanted to see if yesterday, Thursday, April 12, was an improvement, I wouldn’t look at Wednesday, April 11, I’d look at Thursday, April 4. There are a number of reasons for that but the most important is that after accumulating a lot of data, you’ll see that certain days of the week are regularly good sale days and others are not-so-good (just like there are good borrow days and not-so-good ones). The best sale days by far are Saturday and Sunday with the worst usually being the “Hump Day Slump” on Wednesdays. If I compared my April 12 sales with April 11 (a Wednesday), I might think that my sales had suddenly spiked and have misplaced expectations for the next day. In reality, the Wednesday “Hump Day Slump” is probably to blame for the lower sales on April 11.

Borrows are another matter. Borrows typically always spike on the first few days of the month before leveling off. That’s because the Amazon Prime account that allows customers to borrow (much like Netflix) resets at the beginning of every month and readers flock to Amazon to borrow something new. Same thing goes for the end of the month. Amazon Prime is a flat-rate, “use it or lose it fee”; if you don’t borrow your allotted number of books it does not “roll over” to the next month. That leaves many readers scrambling during the last few days of each month to borrow their allotted books so aren’t paying the monthly fee for nothing.

As for the final ranking of The Frog Prince, as of this morning it was as follows:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,422 Paid in Kindle Store:

Anything below 10,000 is a decent ranking, especially almost 30 days after a promo ends. Below 5,000 is a dream come true for most authors, but that type of longevity is not typical.

9:00 AM: I’ve received many emails, Facebook posts and Twitter shout-outs in the last 30 days–all of them very positive–so I wanted to thank every one of you for taking the time to read my ramblings and musings for the last month.

Promo GraphicI leave you with one last bit of advice and that is: always be planning your next marketing campaign. If your promo is a success, you may be tempted to sit around and count dollar bills and dream of all the things you’ll do with your newly early cash-o-la.

DON’T.

For one thing, the post-promo boom does not last forever. Second, part of the reason you’re doing the promo in the first place is so you can create buzz and grow your fan base. Unfortunately, although readers may read your favorite book of yours, they can only buy it once. This means that you need to always be working on your next book in order to keep your fans from finding some other “favorite author.”

There’s another reason for writing more books and that is because sites like BookBub will not advertise the same title again for 90 days. If you have only one book to promote, you’ll have to wait three months before you can do another promotion–plenty of time for the post-promo bounce to have deflated completely, leaving you right back where you were. Having at least three titles ensures that you always have something to promote.

Finally, I recommend doing at least one promo every other month. This keeps your “brand” (your name” out there and catches new subscribers to sites like BookBub (which grows by tens of thousands each month).

alice cards

For example, am I sitting around bathing in dollar bills and dreaming of glory after my Frog Prince promo? Of course not! Within a week of the end of that promotion, I had already secured an April spot with BookBub for another title, Alice in Wonderland. And that reminds me: reserve your spots on BookBub or other advertising sites early. As authors quickly recognize the value in paying for a promo ad, the fewer available slots there will be. Even securing a month in advance was difficult and I had to settle on a one-day promo (which, incidentally, is going on today, Friday, April 12 until midnight–get your free copy if you’re so inclined).

And that’s pretty much it for this post! I hope you have found something in my ramblings that you could use when planning and executing your own book promotion.

As always, I thank you for reading.

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Elle Lothlorien

About Elle Lothlorien

A “military brat,” Elle Lothlorien was born in Germany and spent her childhood in such far-flung places as Puerto Rico, Charleston, S.C., Italy, and Washington D.C. Sadly, the only language she ever became semi-fluent in is English. Elle’s first two self-published romantic comedies, THE FROG PRINCE and SLEEPING BEAUTY went on to become Amazon bestsellers. She is considered a “reluctant expert” on the business of electronic, independent publishing (also called “indie-publishing”), and frequently writes and speaks on the topic. Elle lives in Denver, Colorado. She keeps two dachshunds around the house to provide comic relief. Find out more about her and her books by going to her website, or by following her on Facebook and Twitter.

7 thoughts on “Readin’ o’ the Green: the Anatomy of a Free Book Promotion

  1. Jami Good

    This is so very exciting!! I’m curious to know how this promo will compare with the Valentine’s 2012 one! Can’t believe that was just over a year ago, and the promos have changed so much.

    Reply
  2. ABE

    I’m one of the people fascinated by this blog – watching your comments and graphics on the process.

    I noticed a couple places where you have a link to where someone can read 50% of one of your books.

    This intrigued me: the Look Inside the Book feature on Amazon is for a much smaller number of pages (for most books I’ve delved into). I can see how someone who reads half a book has invested so much time and energy that they would almost HAVE to buy the book to get the rest of the story. Is that how it works for you? How did you decide to do this?

    Do you know how far into the sample most people get before making the buy/no buy decision?

    Thanks – and best wishes.

    [PS I bought The Frog Prince a while back – and very much enjoyed it.]

    Reply
    1. Elle LothlorienElle Lothlorien Post author

      Good morning, ABE. Yes, that is correct: all of my books are available on Scribd.com, allowing readers to read up to 50% of each novel FREE. I did this for the very reason you state: the “Look Inside the Book” feature on Amazon simply doesn’t give the reader enough of a sample to decide if they want to continue reading. If they read 50% of the novel, they’re most likely enjoying it and will pay to see how it all turns out. I don’t have any way to measure how far readers get in the free sample before making a decision to buy it.

      I do appreciate you reading the blog. And thank you for your kind words about The Frog Prince. 🙂

      All the best,
      Elle Lothlorien

      Reply
      1. ABE

        I’ve been following every day – thanks for putting the whole thing together, and sticking to it – it’s fascinating to get the details.

        One question, though. Why didn’t you stick to a green border? Frogs are sexy (ask Miss Piggy) and green would remind people of the original. Just curious. National Geographic is instantly recognizable by its yellow border.

        Reply
  3. Pingback: Anatomy of a Free Book Promotion | The Passive Voice | Writers, Writing, Self-Publishing, Disruptive Innovation and the Universe

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