16,100. That’s the number of free copies of Shepherd’s Moon I just gave away during a two-day promotion in May on Amazon’s Lending program. Did I plan for that many to go out? Not in a million years.
Many people, mostly fellow self-published authors, have expressed interest in how I accomplished this feat. The truth is, it was the result of a LOT of luck and a lot of planning. I didn’t have a single penny to put towards advertising, which is one more reason I’m thrilled about the outcome – it didn’t cost me anything other than the $50k in royalties (flinch) I potentially lost (more about that later).
I promised a detailed post on how I organized this promotion. So let’s take a look at the marketing plan (such as it is) that I organized prior to this giveaway.
The saga began back in October, 2011 when I first made Shepherd’s Moon available to the public. After the first month, I collected data and went back into my editors chair to make changes. The beauty of self-publishing a novel is the ability to edit after a release (although I don’t recommend doing that – more on that later). With two more sets of changes behind me, I made the book available to several Goodreads groups. (Trust me when I say that this move is not for the feint of heart). There are some amazing people on Goodreads. If you can confidently read the constructive reviews and ignore the mean-spirited ones (of which there were only one or two) without getting upset, you’ll be able to extract some helpful advice that you can apply to your future work.There are many remarkably skilled readers and reviewers on GoodReads and it is a really great place for calm authors who have the hide of a rhino.
The move netted me over 20 reviews and over 30 ratings. With another set of changes in hand from the groups suggestions, I hit the editing room again.
Sales began in earnest, and I averaged a respectable rank for the first few months on Amazon. Not great, but certainly not horrible for an indie author with no marketing budget (whatsoever)!
I decided I needed to try something else to get word out and joined the Kindle Lending program I’d heard so much about from fellow authors. I scheduled a two-day promotion in mid-May, and then I set about notifying the big indie promoters to see if they would feature my novel on their site. Because I followed their extensive submission guidelines and already had excellent reviews on the novel, all of them agreed to run the promotion. This part of the process took nearly two weeks of highly focused writing and preparation.
I created original guest posts, interviews, sneak peaks, and press releases and scheduled social networking across the social networking world. If the website offered a free option for being featured, I took them up on it. Each post was scheduled to run on blogs and specialty sites (listed below) on specific days. The day the promotion went live, Indies Unlimited, Indie Author News, Indie Book List, and Pixel of Ink all carried the story. That made all the difference. These groups work VERY hard to help out new authors and have continued to retweet, post and forward the links on to their readers. I highly recommend them all (particularly the first two!)
When I awoke the morning of the promotion, I already had over 2,000 downloads. As I hit the refresh button on my phone, the number increased by 100-500 a minute. All Day.
And, that’s how I spent the next 48 hours. Hitting the refresh button…
The final count was 16,100 downloads in two days. For a very short time, I hit my high points at:
In the US:
- #3 on Thrillers
- #7 Bestseller Kindle
- #1 in Thrillers
- #5 Bestseller Kindle
In the UK
- #3 in Thrillers
- #7 Bestseller Kindle
- #6 Thriller
- Where’s the love, Italy???
(And yes – before you ask – I can document everything). This was all accomplished with no money (at all) for advertising, in competition (sort of) with the release of Shades of Grey (don’t get me started on that mess), while Hunger Games (yay!) still dominated my category.
As for the end result of this promotion? I’m not sure yet… Sales have risen dramatically, but I’m not a bestseller (paid) yet. Over 20,000 people know about my novel. I understand that it is now possible to watch your sales multiply by thousands within hours. Those are all great things that have come of this experience.
On the other hand, it’s completely unnerving that I potentially lost over $50,000 in royalties. My sales ranking slipped after the promotion from a steady 5,000 to a steady 76,000 (despite steady sales).
I still don’t understand Amazon’s ranking system (and I think they design it that way).
It is my intense hope that even 10% of those who downloaded the book will actually read it, comment (hopefully favorably) and maybe recommend the novel to friends. I also hope that people will want to read the next book in the series (entitled, “Blood of the Shepherd”).
And if all of those wishes come true in some perfectly entwined cosmic connection, it just may be possible for me to one day make a living writing fiction…I sure hope so!