Breaking into New Markets

This last week I did something I have meant to do for a while, but haven’t had the time to contemplate doing: I paid for advertising, and coordinated a big promotional push for one of my books.

Most of my marketing is near-passive. I have my blog, and my social media presence, but I don’t use them to push my books in people’s faces. I’m a big fan of content marketing, and I prefer to have people want my books without me jumping up and down shouting “I write books! You must buy!” because that will turn them off and I’ll lose readers rather than gain them in the long term. It’s the project of years, not days or months. Peter Grant and I sat down shortly after we first met, along with our respective spouses (and I’m going to interject a big veering-off-track here and say that both of us are blessed in our spouses. You all know Dorothy as a marketing guru and a writer in her own right, but those years ago she wasn’t yet writing, she always has been brilliant about marketing, though. My own husband is the Evil Muse. I don’t think I need to say more!). During the course of that conversation he told me his own strategy for marketing, and it was a long-term one – spend five years, give or take – blogging regularly, then release his first book. It worked beautifully, and I have been following in his footsteps to some extent (I had already been blogging, but on his advice took it up to a daily blog and much more regular than it had been. Which was a huge challenge during college).

Above and beyond the slow audience growth a blog affords, I had decided a few months ago that I wanted to do some aggressive market growth and actually shell out money for marketing. Before I started, I had to figure out some things: What form of promotion I wanted to do, what audiences I wanted to reach, and what my budget was going to be.

The first thing I want to make clear is: I was not spending money for an immediate ROI. This is, like my blog, a long game. I could – and still may at some point – buy ads. Targeting an ad is a tricky business. You can buy ads on Facebook, on Amazon, on Project Wonderful… heck, you could buy ads in your local newspaper or TV channel, if you’re willing to really shell out the dough. I opted not to buy ads, not having the time nor the inclination to sit down and design one, research where would be best to buy eyeball time… and most important, because I don’t think they work. Advertising slots are the opposite of permission marketing. There is a reason I use adblockers and FBPurity, and I do not doubt that my readers use those, too. Which means buying an ad is nearly akin to making confetti out of my money and throwing it off a bridge. So….

Where to find readers who want to read a book?

Book promotion sites and emails, of course. BookBub is the big one, but when I looked at the cost for the genre I wanted to promote in, I decided that although it might be interesting to experiment with another time, it was out of my budget for this particular push. So I started looking at the smaller ones, the ones I’d used before, like Fussy Librarian and EbookHounds. There are a lot of them. Dorothy Grant was good enough to send me a link to a list of them, and between ones I’ve used before and that list, I picked out a total of six I wanted to try, and they fit into my budget.

Which brings me to that. I set a very modest budget for this promotion. I wanted to spend no more than $100. I spent $89, placing my book in eight different places. One was a freebie. One was a freebie, but didn’t run my book, which is what happens when you’re doing promo sometimes, so I didn’t sweat it.

Choose what book you want to promote wisely. If you only have one or two books published, do not do this. I did this knowing that I had a complete trilogy to sell, by giving away the first book in the series. In addition, I had a new release in the same genre (although not the same sub-genre) which I thought might attract the readers who liked my promo book well enough to read the whole trilogy and start looking for my other books. So I picked Pixie Noir to giveaway through Amazon, offering it for free for a total of five days. I chose to schedule the promo over a weekend, although interestingly the highest day was Friday.

Pixie Noir Giveaway
August 3 August 4 August 5 August 6 August 7 Promo cost
Fussy Librarian x $6.00
Ebook hounds x $45.00
MHI Promo post x $0.00
Awesomegang newsletter x $10.00 x $8.00
The Kindle Book Review x X X x x $10.00
AccordingtoHoyt promo post
      x   $0.00
Daily Bookworm x $10.00
total cost $89.00
This ranking would climb, but there is the first stage…


It would peak at #2 in Paranormal and Urban, but I couldn’t get a screenshot at the time. Still!

Over the five days, I gave away a total of 4394 books. For me, this is four times the total of any previous free book drive I’ve done. On Friday there was a huge spike of 2637 books given away, which I attribute to the book having been pushed up the charts at Amazon the day before, and the momentum continuing into Friday and pushing it up the charts even more, which meant more eyeballs on it at Amazon… and so on. It was sort of exciting to watch! Saturday I left on a four-day trip, so I wasn’t able to watch as closely, but books given away did taper off and finally come to a stop. So… over four thousand new readers, right? Wrong.

The peril of giving a book away, rather than offering it at a steep discount, is that people will scoop up free books, not read them initially, and then forget they own them. Personally I have about 780 ebooks on my Kindle, and that’s not my full ebook library. I know there are books in there I got free, forgot, and will likely never read. Amazon has really fallen off the ball on offering readers a way to curate and organize their own libraries, but I digress. Even if I could create a collection of ‘books I got free’ it would be a lower to-read priority than the books of Siberian and Alaskan folktales and mythology I’ve been reading for research. So my point is that giving away free books is not a direct one-to-one correlation of a book and a set of eyeballs on that book. Still, some will read PN, and like it, and I know this because…

That’s the graph of Kindle Unlimited reads across all my titles. You’ll note that it was doing ok, not great, up until the giveaway was a couple of days old. Now, this is not what I’d call a peak. Sales are up, for the other titles in the series, but not dramatically so. I was surprised by the KU increase, I was not at all surprised that the sales weren’t – yet – up. This is probably going to take another week to see it play out (and I’ll do a small follow-up next week as well, along with another topic).

If – when – I do this again, I won’t buy the highest level promotion from Ebookhounds. It wasn’t worth that much more money than the others. I’d also start working on this further out – I wanted to do this over the first weekend in August after releasing Snow in Her Eyes during the first week of August, but I didn’t plan ahead very far. It can be done, but it would be better to start researching and planning a month out. The Fussy Librarian and Kindle Book Review between them accounted for 730 freebies on that first day, so they were well worth the fees and planning in tandem, as I think that pushed the ranks up enough to create momentum at Amazon itself.

Overall I’m pleased, and will do this again – but not soon. If I do another promo, it will be a discounted book. But I don’t have a series to do that with, so I’ll wait until I have either the rest of the Tanager series complete, or perhaps the next of the Children of Myth series. Both of those will take me a while! In the meantime, I’ll be watching my sales and reviews to see what the long-term payout on this modest investment is. For one thing, in this last week I have seen three new reviews pop up for Pixie Noir, all of them from new readers. On a book that has been out for four years, that’s pretty good.

17 thoughts on “Breaking into New Markets

  1. Love the number crunching. This is a very good breakdown of your experience on the promo. I picked up “Pixie Noir” and read it this past week. Hope the experiment works out.

    1. Thanks! I was keeping a running spreadsheet to track everything, because I knew I’d run out of time. I’ve done this before, but haven’t tracked it this closely, so this time I wanted real numbers.

      1. And the ferret pelts are highly resistant to the abrasive lunar regolith thus prized for making moon suit gloves and overshoes. Trapping them keeps their numbers in check, critical as they like to sun themselves on top of the colony’s solar arrays resulting in a significant loss of power to the life support systems.

    1. This took very little time to set up, really. I just had to pick a date for the promo, set it on KDP which is simple, and then choose what venues I wanted to try out. I may do it again in a few months with entirely different ones, just for curiosity’s sake.

      1. I know. And I’ve got several books that’ll be coming out this fall, and I really ought to get out and push the start of the two series.

  2. This is probably going to take another week to see it play out

    Two to four weeks for a trilogy, in our experience. Seems it takes a mass of readers two weeks to read a book and buy the next one, because the last couple times we ran promotions, we’d see three sales spikes: the three-day readers, the one-week readers, and the two-week readers.

    That is, we’d see distinct spikes of people taking either 3, 7, or 10-14 days between book in the series as they worked their way through.

    Be interested to know if you see the same thing!

    1. I will report back! This is the first time I’ve tried to collect firm data, so it’s interesting. I’ve paid attention before, just not recording things.

  3. Amazon does offer a decent method of organizing your e-books on a Kindle or Kindle app, Collections.

    I have a bunch of collections, the two main ones are Read and Unread that make it easy to see what there is to read. I also have an Unlimited collection so I can easily keep track of what I have waiting to be read under the KU program. I do prioritize reading KU stuff so the author gets paid ASAP.

    Stick in whatever collections you want and they are easily managed from the Amazon website, adding more than fit your screen is a bit of a pain on a tablet. In addition to Read, Unread and KU I have Magazines, Non-Fiction, Not-Reading (really bad, abandoned) Not-SF, Read-Bad (no more by the author) and Read-Good. Now that I have a bigger tablet with room for more to show I’ll add a couple more categories and add to them from the Amazon Devices page.

    On marketing locations I see book related stuff from a few blogs of authors I’ve discovered and find interesting enough to follow, the ScFi-Bridge group and Follows on Amazon. I do see a few Sponsored links on Amazon but they are often disappointments and are a low priority for me to look at. I do scan the Amazon new releases lists when I have nothing better to do but most finds there go to my “Try Someday” wish list and don’t get bought anytime soon.

    I do wish I could get on some “new releases only” e-mail lists from the authors I read, no chatting or newsy stuff, just “Book xxx released today” and maybe a short blurb. I keep unsubscribing from author’s mailing lists when I spend five minutes reading something only to find out there was no book release info there.

  4. I just wanted to let you know I read the free book and then picked up the omnibus. So at least it worked for me.
    The only complaint I have is that there was no table of contents in the omnibus so I had to turn pages to get past the first book to continue.
    I enjoyed the series and I’ll be looking at your stuff when I’m shopping for more.

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