Category Archives: marketing

advertising your free book: a case study

In July, I took advantage of KDP Select and had three of my books free for 5 days each. I wanted to experiment with advertising these books, and here is what I found.


I used three avenues of promotion: Facebook, the Book Marketing Tools submission tool, and BKnights from Fiverr. Here’s what I found.

Facebook is hit or miss

I used Facebook for all three of the books. Basically I just posted that the book was free, with a link to the Amazon page. For Eyeshine, I got a couple shares from influential friends, which seemed to make a real difference. The momentum (as you can see from the picture above) kept going for the whole five days. For Polygraph, there was little to no effect. For Bloodless Mask there was also little to no effect.

So, basically it seems like Facebook is hit or miss. It probably depends on who they choose to show your post to that day. Of course, it also might be that Polygraph and Bloodless Mask are less attractive than Eyeshine. (Eyeshine is a full-length novel whereas Polygraph and Bloodless Mask are short stories.)

the BMT free submission tool is a dud

If you go to Book Marketing Tools (BMT) one of their tools is a free submission tool. You do have to pay to use the tool, the “free” in its name refers to the fact you’re using it to advertise free books. Basically, the tool takes your information for $15 and uses it to submit to several sites that offer advertising for free books, like eBook Daily Deals and Frugal Freebies.

I found little to no effect from the BMT tool. When I offer Polygraph for free with no advertising, I get pretty much the same results as I got above. Interestingly, Facebook didn’t work for Polygraph either.

BKnights works but is short-lived

BKnights of Fiverr cost me $15 (normally it would be $10 but I submitted fairly late so paid an additional $5 to have quick service), the same as the BMT tool. You can see from the graph above that there is a distinct spike for Bloodless Mask on the day of BKnights’ promotion. This didn’t seem to translate into any momentum, as then downloads distinctly trailed off, but it was interesting to see that BKnights really does work. For Bloodless Mask, I felt there was little to no effect of my Facebook promotion.

a ton of free advertising sites are out there

That summarizes my adventures with three of the free advertising sites out there. But there are a ton more. I list a few below, that friends have claimed they got good results with.

Most of the above are premium sites, where you pay to have your free book listed. I’m ambivalent about this. On the one hand, more downloads is more exposure. On the other hand, it’s a guaranteed financial loss. I guess, on balance, I would prefer not to spend money advertising my free books. It just seems counter-intuitive.

What about you? Are there sites you’ve had a good response with that I haven’t listed? Do you think it is worth it to pay to advertise your free book? Let me know in the comments below.

marketing: the impossible problem solved in 3 simple steps

Marketing is one subject of perennial interest to me. It also causes a lot of consternation. I don’t understand marketing. I’m not a sales mentality person. But, being a self-publisher, learning something about marketing is essential. I do have a little (very little) money to put toward it, but where would that do the most good? Recently I’ve read or watched several works on marketing:

So what did I learn? Too much, and not enough. Here are my takeaways.

successful self-publishers have a ton of books

The 3-step formula from Write, Publish, Repeat is in the title. Their (rather sanguine) hope is that if you just publish enough, you’ll win the lottery with something and people will suddenly start buying you like crazy. I like to think of this as the “Hugh Howey” method. He was publishing short works on Amazon, not having much success, and put Wool out there and forgot about it. Before he knew it, Wool was selling like hotcakes. I guess I could also call this the “no marketing is good marketing” approach.

This also seems to be a common theme in the Gaughran book, at least in the author testimonials at the end of the book. Gaughran found 30 successful self-published authors. A theme seems to be “I did nothing but people suddenly bought my book and I woke up one morning to find success had found me.” Sometimes their first book performed like this. Well, I guess it can be interesting to read about, but I don’t find it helpful in terms of “do this and you’ll have a shot at success.” The advice on the whole amounts to “keep buying lottery tickets.” Someone will win, just not me.

there is no failsafe marketing approach

Also in Write, Publish, Repeat, there is a theme of “nothing replaces hard work.” It was good to see this, especially after the (slightly shady) webinars I watched promising me bestsellers up the wazoo if only I give them $500 or more dollars for their online course. One of the webinars seemed to be advocating seeing what was bestselling, slapping together a similar work, then putting it out there. Advanced basket weaving might be bestselling right now but I’m not going to be able to contribute much there. As with most authors (I think), I write what I like. It’s mainstream enough that I believe there is an audience out there, but it’s not likely to be the hottest topic of the week or month in any given time period.

If there’s no marketing that works, what is a self-published author who’s not selling to do? Fortunately, there are sources that are more optimistic about marketing efforts.

no…wait, there is a failsafe marketing approach, just give me money

There is a certain type of webinar aimed at self-publishing authors. It promises to reveal the secret formula to selling (say) 10,000 books and making 100,000 dollars in 18 months. Or was it 1,000 books a day for 90 days? Anyway, the promises are big and enticing. The webinar is disappointing, though, as you realize near the end they haven’t actually given any workable means of doing anything. The webinar turns out to be a half hour (or hour) long advertisement for their larger online course. These courses can have eye-watering prices, too: $500 and up.

I was thinking Nick Stephenson fell into this category. But then I realized that, no, he was actually giving actionable items in his 3-video mini-course about marketing. More on this next.

the 3 steps I’ll be attempting

Stephenson has hit the jackpot himself, clearing 7 figures in 2014. (Must be nice!) His videos are well-produced and easy to follow. Best of all, they’re free. Although he does have a premium course, you don’t get the feeling you absolutely have to buy it to hear some of the meat of what he has to say.

He has a 3-step process to getting tons of sales.

  1. Offer something widely, like a free book, giveaway, etc.
  2. In the offer #1, include a link to what you want the potential readers to do, whether it’s signing up for your email list (recommended), or buying a book.
  3. Offer something of value for doing what they’re supposed to in #2, like something else free, and good content, stuff like that.

He puts it more succinctly, but you’ll have to check out his videos for that, I don’t want to steal his thunder.

So, I’m going to try this. I already offer Sinking for free for signing up for my mailing list. So my idea is to make Polygraph (another Richter short story) free and include links to a sign-up page. That’s it. Stephenson says such a plan will make passive income with all the people signing up to your mailing list (people you can then contact when you have book launches, ad campaigns, etc.).

Will it work? I have to say, it seems like a sensible approach. But I’m also not expecting much. Stephenson says hundreds of people tend to get free books, and a certain (low) percentage of them will click the link and sign up. I’m going to take a guess and say that I’ll be surprised if I get a handful of signups a month this way. That’s a far cry from his 10,000 readers. On the other hand, it’s better than I’m doing now with about zero sign-ups a month.

Stay tuned! I’ll keep you posted about my marketing endeavors. What do you think? Have you heard about any marketing methods lately that made sense to you? Let me know in the comments!