I’m hoping this article on promoting free and 99’¢ books helps your sales, and I hope you’ll take advantage of the 99’¢ sale on my first historical romance.
Yesterday my book Rye’s Reprieve hit #7 on the Kindle Historical Romance Best Sellers list. Perhaps you are jaded by all the wonderful best-selling authors in our chapter who regularly hit #1 on all the major lists and don’t think #7 is all that much.
But consider: Rye’s Reprieveis my first historical and my first novel-length fiction to release in more than two decades*. Reestablishing a writing career equates to pushing a two-ton boulder up Mt. Baldy. So seeing your new book hit #7 is about as good as eating homemade blueberry ice cream made with blueberries you picked on the hill behind your house just that morning.
*In May 2014, my period short story Cora Lee achieved #6 in Literary Short Fiction, following behind stories by Stephen King and Lee Child. For that launch, the only promotion I did was to mention the book on Twitter & Facebook and in a newsletter to my email list of about 1200. I reissued my Harlequin titles and put out several short stories. My Amazon author page shows all fiction.
I didn’t achieve this recent modest success on Rye’s Reprieve without friends’ advice and a bit of luck. Here’s how I did it.
Decoding the rankings
On March 9 after my initial email promotion, Rye’s Reprieve went to #6 in Kindle World Romance. In contrast, this go-round, August 7-11, with the 99¢ sale and some specific promotions recommended by friends, the book has been #1 in Kindle Worlds Romance and Westerns for days. It achieved #3 in Kindle Western Romance and held there; today it went to #4. And the book has been #1 in Kindle Westerns for a few days too.
The message? Make a study of Amazon’s ranking structure. It’s complex – more complex than what you see beneath your title’s descriptive data on the book’s Amazon page. Here is the link to see all the lists available under Best Sellers Kindle Store eBooks: Link. From there, click on your genre and drill down until you find the various lists where your book exists.
Under ebook subcategories, Romance is the umbrella topic. I then checked Historical Romance as well as Western Romance. Clicking Westerns takes you to Western Romance.
Another ranking, Westerns, can be found by clicking on Literature & Fiction/Genre Fiction. Strangely, under Genre Fiction, Romance is not listed!
I found Kindle Worlds rankings in the Ranking area on my book’s page.
But also think seriously about placing relatively inexpensive ads on websites whose sole mission is to promote free and 99¢ ebooks.
What worked in promotion
First, because Rye’s Reprieve is published by Amazon as one of several novels released in February 2016 in Debra Holland’s Montana Sky Kindle World, Amazon put the book on sale without warning at the beginning of August. I’m assuming they did multiple email blasts that included my book, but even those didn’t keep the book up in the rankings for long.
In addition to my own Facebook and Twitter announcements of the 99¢ sale, a member of OCC RWA and Novelists, Inc. (NINC), Lauren Royal, opened her Friday Freebies & 99-Cent Bargain Books and her weekly newsletter featuring historical novels to NINC members, so I submitted my book. She also mentioned my title on Facebook and Twitter. The promotion at www.LaurenRoyal.com hit on August 5 and was free.
Debra Holland recommended I try for an ad in eReader News Today (ENT) and I was lucky to be chosen to participate. The fee for an ad on a specific day for historical romance is only $60. You can pay by PayPal or credit card (as most of the sites I mention allow). The morning the ad appeared at www.ereadernewstoday.com, August 7, the book shot to #1 in the Kindle Worlds mentioned above and the top 5 in Western Historical and Western. Unfortunately, I did not think to check the Historical Romance category, but when I did a couple days later, the novel was ranked #22, rising to #7 in the past few days.
I credit Amazon emails, the ENT ad, and Lauren’s newsletter for Rye’s Reprieveinitial rise in rank.
Meanwhile, I contacted Linda Carroll-Bradd and asked her advice about advertising. She recommended I look into www.JustKindleBooks.com and www.Ebookshabit.com. The ad at Just Kindle Books costs $20 plus Add Ons (keep the book on their homepage for extra 3 days $20; Facebook post to 26,000 followers, $10) for a total of $60. The fee includes cover image/link on Pinterest, Tumblr, and other main social media.
That promo hit August 11. The book rose to #7 in Historical Romance, # 3 in Western Romance, as well as #1 in Westerns, and #1 in KW both Romance and Western. This is a pretty good indication that Just Kindle Books is worth the money. I did not get the bump I was hoping for from a $10 ad with eBooksHabit.
After reading a Morning Juice email and attending the PAW group at OCC/RWA on Saturday, I gathered the following advertising ops for ebooks that are free or 99¢ from Kitty Bucholtz, Vicki Crum, Shelley Bleackley, and others. I had spent $120 so far. With a remaining budget of about $250, I placed ads here:
Robin Reads (August was closed when I checked but I wrote to them about the success of the initial advertising efforts, they encouraged me to submit my book, and voila! A spot in their calendar opened up: Aug. 25. If they select me, the cost will be $45.)
Choosy Bookworm accepted me and will advertise Rye’s Reprieve on Aug. 18. Yay! The Rush Premium Feature costs $70, and the cover will remain on their Featured eBooks Page for a week.
Book Sends is pricey at $90 for the spot on Aug. 18 and just about ate up my budget – I have only $25 left to spend.
However, when you’re making 35¢ per book, money can’t be your main motive for promotion. It has to be gaining new readers, racking up a few more reviews and even cross-over sales to your other books and stories, and seeing your efforts pay off in a rise in rankings that you can share with followers. Some authors also experience a bump in sales when the book returns to its normal price, which in the case of Rye’s Reprieve is $3.99.
Did I mention BookBub? If they agreed to let me advertise with them – a slim possibility – the cost would be $500, and they anticipate I’d have roughly 2500 sales. If that happened, I’d clear $375 after costs, and the ranking would no doubt shoot Rye’s Reprieve to single digits on most coveted lists, plus bring a whole bunch of new readers to my author page.
I did not yet advertise with eBookWorth, Bargain Booksy, or Fiverrâ€™s BKnight with its $5 price tag and 50,000 readers because I needed to meet Marianne Donley’s deadline for A Slice of Orange. However, I will at least check out their sites.
I probably don’t need to mention, most of the authors and professional newsletter editors want the authors they feature to put the newsletter link in their social media announcements.
I would appreciate having an email from anyone who wants to share their promotion/ranking journey, and if things really jump by the end of August, I may give a follow-up report in a future Slice.