When you publish a book on Amazon, you’re given the option of enrolling with Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select. Basically what this means is that you have up to five days in any three-month period in which you can, if you wish, make your book free, gratis and for nothing. Question being: why would you? All the hundreds of hours’ work in writing, editing, proof-reading, formatting and sorting out a cover for the damn thing – you wouldn’t want just to give it away, would you? Maybe you didn’t expect to put in an order for your bespoke yacht (mine’s a Sunseeker, btw) within six months of publishing your masterpiece, but you’d hoped for some financial reward for all your hard work, surely?
Well, yes. Exactly. And that’s why you should make it free – for a few days at least. There’s one very good reason why. Everyone loves a freebie, and there are literally millions of budget-conscious Kindle owners out there who like nothing more than to download free books (hands up: I’m one of them). Whether they ever get round to reading them all is another question, but it’s MUCH easier to get your book on a ‘bestseller’ list if it’s free, and once it’s on a “Top 100 in…’ list – or even Top 500 – it acquires that much-prized Amazonian quality: visibility. Because everyone loves a winner almost as much as they love a freebie, the herd mentality ensures that once you’re on a list, more and more people will see and download your book. And the best thing is, the buzz continues after the book stops being free. Just how many more paid sales are generated, and for how long, depends on so many factors (genre, title, blurb, cover, how many other free books there were at the time etc etc) that it’s impossible to quantify, but as long as your book has appeared in those magical bestseller charts (the higher up the better, obviously), you are almost inevitably going to experience a boost in actual sales. Not only that, but some of the people who downloaded your book may read it and like it, they may tweet about it or recommend it to their friends (ah, Word of Mouth, the Holy Grail of marketing) – and one or two may even bother to post a review on Amazon. Result!
So how has HAPPY HOUR done in its free promos? Well, so far there have been three lots of free days: March 7th and 8th; April 3rd, 4th and 5th and most recently, June 26th, 27th and 28th. The first 2 days in March generated nearly 5,000 downloads (Amazon US, UK and Europe) and HH reached #6 in the UK free chart and #248 in the US chart. After the free promo days were over, it reached #134 in the paid (UK) chart, and maintained a position in the top 10,000 for two or three weeks afterwards.
Buoyed by this success (as I saw it), I made the book free for three further days in April – with nothing like the same results. Despite being free for a full day more, it only reached #376 in the UK free chart, and a rather lowly #1,030 in the US one. Downloads were in the hundreds, not thousands. The reason for this discrepancy still isn’t clear (and won’t ever be), but I decided it was time to get to work to make HAPPY HOUR look more like a professionally-published chick lit novel. I tweaked the blurb (several times), changed the cover (oh dear, HAPPY HOUR’s first cover…), and got busy on Twitter, where several kind people retweeted my promotional tweets and really helped to get the ball rolling.
The result? This week, there have been 25,789 downloads in three days: it has reached #3 in the UK chart, #15 in the US chart (all free books), and #1 (yes! at last!) in the German Zeitgenossicsche Liebesromane (englishsprachig) chart. Four hundred and four Germans downloaded my English-language chick lit book! Wunderbar!
It’s far too early to say what will happen to paid sales, but I’m keeping everything crossed but my ears. I’ll keep you posted.