Free Book Promotions – Are they worth it?

Every indie author struggles with the thought of doing a free book promotion. I have been there, but I’m here to tell you, that you can benefit from this type of promotion in many ways.

As I usually do with these tip types of posts, I will go through the pros and cons of free promotions and you can judge for yourself.

First, however, I want to go through the ways you can approach free book promotions. Some are more successful than others.

The first, and probably the easiest, method is to do a promotion through Amazon. You can do a free giveaway of your book for up to seven days. You just have to schedule it through the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) web site. You can then post on your favorite social media outlets and your blog and hope for the best. You have to be careful on Facebook, however. I’ve found that if you post the same promotional information in several groups within a short period of time, you will do some hard time in Facebook jail. I did a 30 day stretch the last time and I only posted to about 10 groups. They are really cracking down.

Another option apart from manually posting to social media is to run paid ads on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. This can be pricey, but the reward can be good. I’ve had thousands of books downloaded this way, but it cost me.

Another effective method, that also helps you grow your mailing list, is to give away books in exchange for subscriptions. When I couple this with ads, it really helps me grow the list and gain exposure.

Each of the methods I mentioned could be detailed in separate posts. What I really want to do with this post is give you good information to help you decide whether a free book promotion is right for you. So, without further delay, here are the pros and cons.

Pros

  • Amazon ranks authors by units downloaded. Your rank as an author will rise whether your books are free or paid for (according to the Author Central site).
  • Many more people will have your work in their hands. If you’ve written multiple books, this can be useful. I gave away the first book in my Frank Rozzani detective series and watched sales of the second and third books bump up as a result. Readers like me will read everything written by an author if they enjoy their work.
  • You will get more reviews.Reviews are the lifeblood for authors on Amazon and Goodreads. It is like a digital word-of-mouth.
  • Your exposure will increase. See bullet two as to why this is good.

Cons

  • Lost sales – for a period of time, you will lose that 70% of $2.99 or whatever you’re charging. If you don’t sell any books, however, I’ll let you figure out what 70% of zero is.
  • You’re giving away your precious work. Okay, if you’re going to be an indie author, get over that noise quickly or you will be forever disappointed. John Grisham had  a garage full of A Time to Kill when he started out. Sometimes you have to give up something to get future reward.

This is far from a scientific or economic analysis of free book promotions. The techniques listed have worked for me. I’d be happy to answer any questions or help any of you figure if this is the right approach for you and what method to use. You only need to ask.

As always, hit me with your comments and questions.

 

 

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How Doing Time in Facebook Jail Helped Me Rethink My Book Marketing

I haven’t posted a new blog in a couple of weeks. There are a couple of reasons for that. My new book, Frank Incensed, came out on April 24th and coincided with an author event in Jacksonville, FL. In addition to those events, I did a stint in ‘Facebook Jail’. For those of you that don’t know what ‘Facebook Jail’ (FBJ) is, it’s a term I may or may not have coined to designate the restrictions that Facebook can temporarily put on it’s users that aggressively try to market products or services through the various groups that are part of this social media giant. I was prohibited from joining or posting in groups until today, May 4th, 2015.

It’s my own fault that this happened. In previous blogs, I have talked about the automated software that I use to post to Facebook groups while I do other things (like work at my day job and write). The software, when used properly, posts to Facebook in a very natural way that doesn’t emulate the spamming behavior that other social media posting programs emulate. The software is great when used correctly. The behavior that landed me in FBJ was my exuberance over the release of my new book and my gradual pushing of the envelope using the posting software.  I belong to over 1,000 groups related to books and blogs. At the time I was put into FBJ, I was posting from two computers to over 800 groups on each. Bad idea. It caught up with me.

My first reaction was to get mad at Facebook and complain to them. Because they are a giant, multi-billion dollar company and have no semblance of living, breathing customer service, my complaints were basically just a venting exercise. I accused them of clamping down on small business just to drive entrepreneurs with limited budgets toward Facebook advertising. After several similar complaints from me, the parole board remained unmoved and my sentence remained in place until May 4th.

So, why should you care about this? Am I boycotting Facebook? Um…no. Am I going to lobby to have them change their policies? Not a chance. What I did do was take a long, hard look at my marketing strategy and I changed it. Before I talk about what I changed, let me tell you the results that I’ve had since the change:

  • My new book, Frank Incensed, came out on Amazon on the 24th of April with 19 four and five star reviews. This was six more than my previous book achieved over six months.
  • My giveaway on Good Reads of my previous book, Let Me Be Frank, resulted in nearly 1,000 entrants for the prize of 3 signed copies.
  • My two day free promotion of my first book in the Frank Rozzani Series, Frankly Speaking, that ran this past Friday and Saturday resulted in nearly 1,500 downloads.
  • My sales for the month of April are the highest of any month since I published my first book.
  • I’ve added a significant number of subscribers to my newsletter mailing list

These are very interesting results. At the time I thought my most vital marketing channel was unavailable, Then I read about an indie author from the UK named Mark Dawson. Mark is an author of thrillers and has published two series of books, the John Milton and Soho Noir books. Mark is an advocate of two broad strategies, cultivating a mailing list and using social media advertising.

You’re probably saying, “Whatever, I’ve tried those things and they don’t work.” Well, I thought so too until I saw that these strategies netted mark $400,000 in book revenue in one month. Based on that, I thought I would give some of his techniques a try. The results that I reported above show some measure of success…not quite at the Mark Dawson level, but stay tuned over the coming months.

I said these were broad strategies, so let me give you some insight into the specific things that I tried so that you can give them a try if you would like.

  • Targeted advertising for my book release: I ran ads on Goodreads, Twitter, and Facebook. I know this sounds costly, but I set maximum budgets of $10 per day on each platform and ran the ads for three days.

Note: I attempted to run an ad for my book on Amazon and it was rejected. When I inquired into the reason, it was due to my book cover having “blood spatter” on it. I found this surprising since both the Kindle and CreatSpace publishing platforms accepted my book cover, but Amazon ads rejected it. When I inquired, I was told that each of those entities make their own decisions. It was disappointing, but I’m not going to change the book cover.  Here is what it looks like. What do you think?

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00069]

  • I leveraged my mailing list. I sent out an email to my subscribers asking if they would like an advanced reader copy (ARC) of my new book. About 15% of my list graciously agreed to read the book and of those that received a copy, more than 50% reviewed the book on Goodreads or Amazon on the day of it’s release helping my ranking a great deal.
  • I used inexpensive Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads ads to promote my two free days for Frankly Speaking. When I looked back at the results, I surpassed previous free book days that were promoted through posting to groups.
  • My Twitter ads have resulted in an acceleration in the number of quality followers that I have picked up.

I will be posting more about this marketing journey as I resume my weekly blogs. Interestingly enough, my blog will be the only portion of my brand that I will continue to post in Facebook groups. I have seen good results from this. I will, however, be more judicious with how aggressive I am in posting. I don’t want to be a repeat offender.

For now, I recognize the methods that I was using, while they made me feel like I was accomplishing something, they really weren’t that effective. If you are an indie author that is continuing to send your posts out to a large number of groups asking people to buy your books, you need to ask yourself some hard questions and reexamine what you are doing. Sponsored ads from social media do get traction. Posting your book to groups where the only audience is other authors, might not get you the results that you need.

As always, your comments and feedback are welcome.

Don Massenzio was born in Syracuse, New York, to first generation Italian American parents. He is an avid reader. Some of his favorite authors include Harlan Coben, David Morrell, Stephen King, and Hugh Howey. His favorite book of all time is ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Don began writing as a way to combat the long hours of travel and numerous hotel stays that are part of the ‘glamorous’ world of corporate travel. He uses writing as a therapeutic outlet. He recently took the jump to sharing his work with others.

His first published long work is the novel, Frankly Speaking. It is the first of a series of books focused on the character, Frank Rozzani, a Florida private detective. The book is a throwback to the days of pulp detective novels with a tip of the hat to Jim Rockford from 70’s television and The Rockford Files.

The second Frank Rozzani detective novel, Let Me Be Frank is now available. His third book in the Frank Rozzani series was released on April 24th, 2015 and is available on Amazon.com in both Kindle and Paperback formats.

He has also published a well-received short story collection that is available on Amazon.com.

Find out more about Don at his web site:

www.donmassenzio.com