Back in October, I celebrated the one year publishing anniversary of The Buddha’s Bone by giving away the eBook for free in a 5 day promotion. I decided to wait for over a month to pass as a bare minimum to see any impact on subsequent sales, sales ranking or reviews; this has also given me time to assess whether or not I think offering free downloads is worth it. I’ve decided to divide my observations into the benefits, drawbacks and my opinion. Here is what I learned:

Benefits

1. It got free promotion for my book: I had 59 downloads without using any advertising other than posting on my author social media. (See counterpoint 1 below in drawbacks).

2. It boosted my sales ranking to #2 for free bestsellers in psychological literary fiction on Amazon UK and #7 for the same category on Amazon US (See counterpoint 2 below in drawbacks).

3. My book received a boost in Kindle Unlimited page reads in the weeks after the 5 day free deal finished, therefore the exposure worked (See counterpoint 3 below in drawbacks).

Drawbacks

1. None of the people who downloaded it for free have left any ratings or reviews, which I had been hoping for. It’s possible that they haven’t yet read it, or don’t intend to – maybe they habitually trawl for free books, whether or not they would read those books if they were being asked to pay. As an author, I’ll never know for sure.

2. Since my sales ranking was in the Top 100 free books category, this had no long lasting effect on my sales ranking once the promotion was over; my sales ranking returned to how it was before the 5 day free promotion.

3. There were no paid sales of my book in the week after the 5 day promotion, only Kindle page reads, as mentioned above. I assume that was because the exposure from my boosted sales ranking during the promotion ended after the 5 days. Furthermore, there were no spikes in sales of my other books in the week after the 5 day free promotion ended; it seems none of the readers who downloaded it for free turned into paying customers for my back catalogue.

My opinion

Before trying a free promotion, I had read around on other sites that offering free downloads works well for books at the start of a series, as often readers will then buy any subsequent titles. As The Buddha’s Bone is a standalone novel, I can’t confirm whether that may have worked for me or not. Do I think it was worth running a free promotion? Honestly, no. Getting more Kindle page reads in the weeks after the promo ended was a small boost, but not significant enough to make it worth giving away 59 copies. Do I have regrets? Again, no. I had been curious about what offering free downloads would amount to in terms of both my book and my author career, and I have learned much. I can say with certainty that I won’t be offering any of my other books for free. But it was valuable information for me to use when considering marketing techniques that work, or don’t, so in that respect, it was worth doing even if not to be repeated.

About Leilanie Stewart

Leilanie Stewart is an author and poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her writing centres around protagonists who are on a journey of self-discovery and who explore their identity by overcoming adversity. She began writing for publication while working as an English teacher in Japan, a career pathway that has influenced themes in her writing. Her former career as an Archaeologist has also inspired her writing and she has incorporated elements of archaeology and mythology into both her fiction and poetry. In addition to promoting her own work, Leilanie runs Bindweed Magazine, a creative writing ezine, with her writer husband, Joseph Robert. Aside from literary pursuits, Leilanie enjoys spending time with her husband and their lively literary tot, a voracious reader of construction vehicle books. CONNECT WITH ME ON SOCIAL MEDIA: https://mailchi.mp/17e6ca162ff3/leilanie-stewart-author

2 responses »

  1. Robert Nagle says:

    My thinking has evolved about this issue. I think the goal of freebies (at least for the first year of the ebook) is to build author brand awareness and increase the numerical rating (how many stars on Amazon/Goodreads). Freebies haven’t brought many reviews (indeed, practically none), but it has brought (slightly) more ratings.

    When I advertised an ebook on freebooksy and ereaderiq, I was paying on average 3-7 cents for each ebook downloaded. That was good. But I would recommend advertising a freebie on the same ad network no more than twice; results seems to fall off significantly after that point.

    What’s concerning though is that the day I run freebie promotions I don’t get any increase in sales on the other ebooks on the same day. So consumers aren’t checking other titles by the same author on the day they see the freebie.

    Lately I’ve been pushing towards methods to get email signups while giving away freebies. (Librarything, Booksirens). I would gladly give out freebies if I knew I could send recipients casual promotions via email later.

    • I think in my case I really didn’t see any significant benefits to offering a free ebook to do it again. But, I might play about with price promotions and see how that compares, as it’s something I’ve tried, though not extensively. Glad you got an increase in your ratings though, something like that would be a motivational factor for me, though in my case I saw neither an increase in ratings or reviews.

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