3 Book Promos: The Results Are In

Books-Sale_OpI promised to write an account of my first-time-ever free ebook promotion. I also owe readers a wrap-up about the 99 cent book sale I blogged about last summer. And, I recently nabbed a spot with BookSends. The results ran the gamut – I was thrilled, deeply satisfied, pleasantly surprised, and, well, disappointed. Here’s the scoop:

99 cent sale: the results

Last spring I published Paint Me Gone, Book 3 in the Gen Delacourt Mystery series, and put together my first real book promotion for the series. I vowed to start in the ultra-low-priced category, and blogged about the possibilities here: How To Market A 99 Cent Ebook Sale On The Cheap.

Every one of the free-to-the-author sites listed in that article produced sales, with the standout by far being The Midlist (now defunct) at 85 books sold.

The second highest sale bump during that promo came from Ereader News Today (ENT), at 166 books sold. At that time my ENT promo cost about $16, which was a great value. Sadly, since then they’ve raised their pricing from $15 – $45, depending on genre.

Free ebook giveaway: the results

PAINT-#2-Women-Sleuths_OpThis was my first freebie ebook giveaway, and I was thrilled with the results: 7804 downloads over five days, plus about 100 full-price purchases of the other three titles in the series (during the sale and immediately after), plus a significant ramp-up in KU borrows during and after the promotion. I know, peanuts to the big guys, but still.

Even better, Paint Me Gone made it to #1 and #2 in several niche categories, including Women Sleuths, and stayed among the top five sellers there for the duration of the sale. It also reached #30 in Top 100 Paid Kindle. Since then, Paint has racked up 10 more reviews.

I scheduled this 5-day promo via KDP Select, then used Book Marketing Tools’ $29 free ebook submission service to advertise it. The tool is super: you fill in the info in a “basic” form, then BMT auto-populates the submission forms for you on 30+ sites that advertise free ebooks, with only minor additions and adjustments to be added as you tick through the links. After the auto-populated section, BMT provides over 40 links right there in the submission tool’s home page to additional no-cost sites that will advertise your free ebook promo.

Success Tips – using the tool:

  • Don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t do what I did, which was wait until three days before my promo to use the submission tool. The more notice you give these free ebook sites, the better. Despite my success, next time I’ll use the tool at least 10 days in advance. Give the sites enough lead time to post your book! Note: A link to The Midlist is provided by BMT, but as I said above, they require 3 or 4 weeks’ notice.
  • Collect book data in one place. Before you begin, gather all the pertinent book-related data into one Word doc. You’ll need the Amazon ASIN, book sale links, description, your bio, and lots of odds and ends. Also, put the book’s cover image in a place where you won’t be able to (accidentally) click on and upload the wrong one. This mistake is a common error, it will nullify your submissions, and most sites will not alert you to correct the mistake.
  • Follow instructions. Pay attention! You’ll be required to input additional info here and there, even on the auto-populated sites. So be present when you fill out ALL the information, but especially as you work your way through the 40+ additional websites, where you must correctly complete their entire forms. That’s why it’s best to isolate the info you’ll need in one place.
  • Allow enough time to complete the job. I spent about 2 hours the Friday afternoon (3 days) prior to my scheduled promotion filling out (and screwing up) online forms. My friend Helen Hanson achieved the same results – without the mistakes – in about an hour. Yes, I am painfully slow.

Book Marketing Tools says, “We obviously can’t guarantee any amount of downloads since each site is independent and has their own policies. We do guarantee that you will save a lot of time over doing the submissions to those 30+ sites manually.” 

BookSends: A pricier option, the results

If, like me, your book submissions have been rejected by Bookbub a dozen times (but I won’t stop submitting until I pass go and have the opportunity to pay them $400+ for a promo), what are the choices? Joe Konrath and other successful authors also recommend the promo site BookSends.

I submitted Mark of the Loon at 99 cents and scored a place in their schedule, and it was my first foray into a “pricier” promo. It ran yesterday. Drumroll … The promo sold about 100 books. (See above, ENT’s results were better, and the price is lower.) I was a little disappointed until I heard an author friend relate that she’d used Bargain Booksy (also $50) and gotten less than a dozen downloads. Hmmmm. I’ll keep in mind that the day of the sale, the time of the month, and the book’s category can all affect the outcome of any one sale.

Readers, is the reign of 99 cent sales over – are freebies king again? What’s been your best book promo strategy so far? Have you had luck with pricier sites, other than Bookbub? Please leave a message and share!

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46 Responses to 3 Book Promos: The Results Are In

  1. Michael Kelberer October 13, 2014 at 10:18 am #

    Thanks, as always, for your willingness to share the money part of being an author. No personal experience to share (yet!)

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 10:21 am #

      My pleasure, Michael. Your time will come soon enough – and I hope my sharing makes it easier for you when you’re ready!

  2. Helen Hanson October 13, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    Molly, do you have clip and paste programmed into your mouse wheel? It’s my secret weapon 😀

    Great post.

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 10:57 am #

      Hahahaha. You think me more clever than I am – what’s a mouse wheel? …maybe you can teach me someday via Skype!

      • Helen Hanson October 13, 2014 at 11:44 am #

        Yes, I think you’re clever,, and it’s a deal 🙂

      • Helen Hanson October 13, 2014 at 11:45 am #

        please ignore one comma . . . my mouse wheel slipped.

        • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 11:46 am #

          Made me laugh! Deal.

  3. Jill Paterson October 13, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

    Hi Molly, My most successful promotions have been with BookBub, but I also use Kindle Book Review at the same time. The cost is $25 plus $10 for7 extra tweets. I’ve also used them when I’ve done my Countdown Deals and have found them marvellous to work with.
    Thank you for a great post, Molly.

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 4:11 pm #

      Thanks, Jill … That’s why we’re all trying to get into BookBub! It’s the best by far. *sigh*

      • Jill Paterson October 13, 2014 at 4:34 pm #

        Keep submitting, Molly. It can take ages sometimes so don’t give up. You will get in.

        • Laura Zera October 22, 2014 at 11:28 am #

          I’m curious as to why people are having a hard time getting in with Bookbub. Is it the sheer volume of requests they receive? Or do they have stringent guidelines? Or…? Thanks!

          • Molly Greene October 22, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

            Hi Laura! Both. EVERYBODY wants to get in because their promos are so effective, and/so their guidelines have probably tightened up – although they won’t *say*

  4. Susan October 13, 2014 at 4:42 pm #

    I just ran a $.99 sale for my full-length romance. I put it on a countdown (to at least get 70% of that $.99) and advertised with BookGorilla–I moved 150 copies in 36 hours, so I came out ahead. It also helped sell 10 of the second book–a Christmas companion priced at $1.49.

    I had used them for a novella in December and received similar results. And I love that BookGorilla takes novellas!

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 4:47 pm #

      Thanks for sharing, Susan. BookGorilla is another of the $50-per-promo sites, and it’s well-known and well-respected. Good to know they take novellas – and congrats on your results!

  5. Connie Rossini October 13, 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    I did a countdown deal 2 weeks ago, my first promotion. I set my book at $.99 for 3 days. I started the promo late, so did almost no promotion beyond social media and spent nothing. I reached #2 in my category and #1673 in all paid Kindle. I sold 236 ebooks and 14 paperbacks in the 72 hours of my sale. My daily sales are still higher than they were before the deal. I am very happy with those results. I plan to try it again before Christmas with some of your suggestions. Thanks!

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

      Connie, those numbers are fabulous!! It underscores how difficult it is to gauge how a sale will go – some of us bend over backwards to achieve what you did with minimal effort. Bravo!

      • Connie Rossini October 13, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

        Timing surely had something to do with it too. My book is partially about a Catholic saint and I purposely ran the sale over her feast day, when people would be thinking about her already. And I got more shares on Facebook than I have ever had before.

        • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 6:37 pm #

          Smart marketing! I think you’re right about timing, and not just for your sale. Today’s a holiday for many people, and that may have affected my numbers in the BookSend promo yesterday. Still, super wonderful news for you!

  6. Jan Christensen October 13, 2014 at 5:55 pm #

    Molly, this is wonderful information. Thanks so much for sharing all the details. I’m keeping this info for future reference. I haven’t done a promo in a long time. I’m past due, with a new book coming out end of the month.

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 6:24 pm #

      Thanks, Jan! I’m so happy if it helps – and best of luck on your upcoming book launch!

  7. Julie Musil October 13, 2014 at 6:51 pm #

    Oh, this is fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I also appreciate the details. I’ll give The Midlist a try and see if it’s accepted. I haven’t yet done KDP Select. I’ve heard pros and cons about it. Your thoughts?

    • Molly Greene October 13, 2014 at 7:14 pm #

      Julie, I tried Select for the 1st time this summer, but I could write an entire blog post about the pros and cons. I resisted for a long time because I don’t believe exclusivity is good for authors in the long run, but I had zero traction on the other sale platforms and Select makes it so easy to promote I gave in. I’ll try it for six months and see what happens.

      • Julie Musil October 13, 2014 at 7:57 pm #

        Excellent. I’ll stay tuned. Good luck!

  8. Lorilyn Roberts October 13, 2014 at 8:41 pm #

    Overall, I have been disappointed with 99 cent sales and free KDP offers over the last year. Compared to previous years, much less success. I have used BookBub. They featured my inspirational book Children of Dreams last year and I made about a thousand dollars in profit after the cost. I ran the same book a couple of months ago and made about $100 in profit.

    My feeling is that the market is flooded with free and cheap books. I lead a network of Christian authors that launches books, and have discouraged authors from doing formal book launches until the market becomes more positive. While your results are what I would consider okay, when you consider the time and effort you put into the project, is it really worth a hundred books? As well as the money it cost. I don’t think so. That’s about $30 you made. It’s better than just a few books, and I’ve had that experience, too. Still, in the past it’s been much easier to sell books than it is right now.

    My philosophy is that I’m in this for the long haul. I’m willing to switch my focus to writing and other kinds of marketing until buyers decide to buy the kinds of books I write and pay $2.99. Other kinds of marketing include the following:

    I leave for Nepal this next week to take around 200 books to orphans through Child Hope International. The publicity surrounding the trip and the blog posts and my twitter feed in real time will generate interest to prospective buyers.

    We are donating books to a local prison through the chaplain, and the prisoners are reviewing books of John 3:16 authors. So far we’ve had about 30 reviews of books by various authors. Prisoners have lots of time to read, and they love feeling like they are doing something worthwhile.

    We will run a Christmas promotion along the the lines of: If you like Book A, you will love Book B. I hope to get authors to put their book in the Amazon matching program. If you buy the print copy, you get the Kindle copy free.

    I use Twitter to promote my blog posts and those of other authors and get a lot of traffic from twitter alone – though that doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales.

    I know your books aren’t Christian books, but I like your blog and what you share. I suppose we are strange bedfellows:)

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2014 at 7:22 am #

      Hi Lorilyn, and thanks for your comment. I think it’s a universal lament that book promotions of ALL kinds aren’t as effective now as they have been, and each year it gets worse. And no, selling 100 ninety-nine cent books at 35% commission is not worth the $50 spent on the promo! That’s actually why I’m blogging about it all – obviously authors need to do promotions to get some traction for their titles. You can’t just publish a book and hope the reading public finds you. And as the market changes, we need to change. We need to find effective ways to attract readers. In my humble opinion, Twitter and FB are losing their ability to help make sales as social media aficionados grow tired of the constant “Buy my book!” shares. That leaves us with even fewer outlets, hence the conversation here on my blog. What’s an author to do? Best of luck to you in your travels, and thank you so much for taking the time to chat!

  9. Donna June Cooper October 14, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    Just doing my first 99 cent sale in November so your timing for this wonderful article is perfect. I tried The Midlist, but apparently I don’t meet their requirements. I managed to get in to Fussy Librarian and Book Gorilla, but BookBub didn’t want my money either. Continuing through your list.

    I wish I knew the criteria they use. It would be valuable for those of us trying to market this way.

    Thanks so much for the invaluable information!!

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

      Thanks for the update about ENT, Donna! They’re still less expensive than the rest of the $50 promo sites, and I wish you huge good luck. Midlist turned me down for my last submission, as well, and I suspect it may hinge on the number of reviews – I had less than 10 – but I’m just guessing. Best of luck on your upcoming sale, and thanks so much for the comment!

  10. Donna June Cooper October 14, 2014 at 9:21 am #

    By the way, ENT’s pricing has changed again. They intend to charge me $40 for a 99 cent Contemporary Romance. They now have a sliding scale based on genre and price. 🙂

  11. A.K. Andrew October 14, 2014 at 2:24 pm #

    Excellent round up of the results of your book promotion Molly. Thanks so much for sharing it with us, and loads of great information here!

    • Molly Greene October 14, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

      Thank you so much, A.K.!

  12. Danie Marie October 15, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

    Hmmm, what to do… I enjoyed your post, but as I read through the comments, the idea to swtich over to KDP Select, has changed for the time being. I promote on my author page, as well as Twitter, and sometimes Linked in.

    Currently, my book is free on Story Cartel. Their idea is for their readers to give a review of the books they get for free. But, as I’m finding out, not all those who downloaded Kellen’s Hope, took time to write a review. I’ve had a few write great reviews, and I’m wondering if some of those who have yet, just haven’t had time to read it.

    In any case, SC gives several options to download your book, and I chose one of the most costly.

    You purchase according to how many months/times in a year you want to download your book on their site. I’m afraid I paid way to much, but I was also hoping to have my next novel out, and get a lot of visibility for it from the start. I’m waiting for a beta reader to get back to me so I can make any needed changes before I download it.

    Thanks again for all the info. 🙂

    • Molly Greene October 17, 2014 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks for the info about Story Cartel, Dannie Marie. So far my free Paint Me Gone giveaway has gained the book 12 Amazon reviews, and I’m thrilled with that result!

  13. Susan Shea October 20, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    Molly, My publisher did a Bookbub 99 cents promotion at the launch of my second book. They sold almost 3,700 copies of the e-book as a result and felt it was successful. I don’t know if it affected trade paper sales, reporting cycles being what they are. And they don’t own the first in the series so unless I go back and try to date those sales from Amazon (which bought Avalon’s entire catalog) I am not sure what the longer term effect was.

    • Molly Greene October 20, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

      Susan, Bookbub is the king, the promo vehicle everybody aspires to. Thanks so much for sharing your numbers, and congrats on your success!

  14. Kristen Steele October 31, 2014 at 1:56 pm #

    It’s always great to see an author share their experiences without holding back details! This is exactly the stuff that new authors want to learn.

    • Molly Greene October 31, 2014 at 1:59 pm #

      Hi Kristen, thanks – so happy if it helps!

  15. Eva Lesko Natiello November 3, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    Hi Molly, thanks for the round-up. I was hoping you tried the Kindle Countdown promotion, as I’m doing that this week but have found very little advice on how to do it successfully. I did the KDP free promo this summer the month my book was released. It was downloaded 27,452 times in 3 days. I was flipped out. Especially since I didn’t advertise, I just utilized free promotional sites (I don’t have a marketing budget at the moment). So I’m giving the countdown a try, mostly because I can’t give anymore books away! So I’m hoping to sell some. I’ll let you know. Congrats on your promotions, happy selling!

    • Molly Greene November 3, 2014 at 5:37 pm #

      Hi Eva! Funny you should mention that – I’m brand-new to KDP Select and just scheduled my 1st Kindle Countdown for next month. It’s all new to me, and I’m trying to get my head around the best way to utilize Select’s tools. And YIKES! 24k downloads using free sites – you rock. Best to you on your future promos!

      • Eva Lesko Natiello November 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm #

        That’s great! We will have to compare notes. If I get great responses from any of the sites I’m promoting on, I will definitely let you know. There are much fewer promo opportunities for “discounted” books, but I did find some. I think you have to space out your KDP promos so that you don’t do them in the same 3 month period, so just make sure before you schedule (also some stipulation on not changing the list price within a certain amount of time – I’m sure you’re on top of that). The jury is out on how effective the paid advertising is for the Countdown promo, but if you know of any great opportunities I’d love to check them out before THursday (1st day of my promo). Good luck with yours! I’ll let you know if I can pass on any tips based on the results.

        • Molly Greene November 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

          Eva, this post my help re: discounted sales: How To Market A 99 Cent Ebook Sale On The Cheap … and, i was just reading up today about the rules around countdown deals. Acck! The Midlist (Google it) is THE BEST free-to-author listing for free and/or 99 cent promos, and ENT is a closer runner-up, but pricier. Good luck!

          • Eva Lesko Natiello November 4, 2014 at 4:56 am #

            Great tips! Thank you so much. I’m so late on some of these, but I’m gonna give it a shot.

          • Molly Greene November 4, 2014 at 6:49 am #

            Eva, don’t forget to delete your spam and trash comments before you back up your files!

  16. Richard Houston November 22, 2014 at 8:44 am #

    I ran a Book bub ad last May, then followed it with an ENT ad a few weeks later. My results aren’t typical from what I’ve read but I’ll share anyway. The BB ad for my first book in my 2 book series resulted in 80,000 free downloads. The follow up ad with ENT produced several thousand sales of my second book at 99 cents. Between the two books, my royalties for June and July exceeded $10,000.

    My income has been averaging over $1000 a month since then and is just now falling off. So if you have a series, by all means try to get a BB ad. BTW, those 80K downloads made my book the number one overall free book on Amazon for a day.

    • Molly Greene November 22, 2014 at 8:56 am #

      YIKES! RIchard, congrats on your huge success – and no, it’s not typical, but what a rush it must have been to see those sales climb!

  17. Tammy L Grace December 18, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    Hi Molly-I used your advice and used ENT for a Kindle Select Countdown promo in November. The ad cost $35 and I moved over 500 e-books during my promotion (4 days). I appreciate you sharing your experience, as it is so difficult to decide where to spend my marketing dollar. As Eva commented, it is more difficult to find outlets for discounted books than free books, but ENT delivered. Thanks again!

    • Molly Greene December 18, 2014 at 8:41 am #

      TAMMMY!! Oh my gosh, that is just fabulous news. I used them just a week or so ago, early December, and moved about 150 books, so your results are stellar. Thanks so much for coming back to share!