So, you’ve slaved for a long long time over your manuscript. You’ve written, re-written, edited, chopped bits out, added bits in, written a blurb, formatted like there’s no tomorrow, designed a cover. Now, you must decide where to host your work for sale. There’s Smashwords, which lists your work for sale across multiple platforms and boasts that it’s the ‘world’s largest indie ebook distributor’ and there’s Amazon, which is threatening to be the world’s biggest company. You can publish to both of these platforms if you wish, but if you opt to make your work exclusive to Amazon for at least 90 days, you get the option of up to 5 days where you can give your work away for free, almost worldwide.
But why would you want to give away your hard work for free? Well, it’s not easy to be an indie author and get your work noticed, read and reviewed. The majority of indie authors don’t have breakthrough moments like Rachel Abbott’s Only the Innocent, or the insufferably successful John Locke. We struggle to be author, editor, marketer, and everything else that goes with the process, often putting in long hours and getting little recognition.
But if you decide to go with the option of using Amazon’s KDP select then other avenues become available to you. First off, Amazon Prime members can borrow your book, opening your work up to a whole new audience (and paying you per borrow), and secondly, the (up to) five free days can have a massive effect upon your work’s visibility. If you do it right then you could see your work listed alongside works like 50 Shades of Grey, right up there at the top of the free chart sitting proudly next to the paid items, which in turn could have a huge knock-on effect on visibility and, in turn, further paid sales. By giving your work away for free you are also encouraging others to read it, and you will hopefully see more reviews pouring in. Reviews are the holy grail for indie authors. Without them, you will struggle to sell books, but with enough positive ones you’ll stand more chance of increasing sales and building an audience that will eagerly await your next book and subsequent work. You will gradually build an audience for your work and find your readers, and you will see your following increase over time.
How was it for you? Other people’s experiences
Still not sure whether or not a free promotion on Amazon is the right thing to do? OK, I know that it’s frightening to put all your eggs in one basket and decide to make your work exclusively available through Amazon for a whole 90 days. I’ve trawled the Internet and read plenty of tales about people who went with Amazon and ran a free promotion and expected to shift thousands of copies of their book without putting in hard work to make sure they reach as many people as possible.
That isn’t going to work.
Running a free promotion is easily as difficult and time consuming as all the other promotional activity I’m sure you’ve already undertaken. But that’s where I come in. I am sharing my experience here and am going to provide you with everything you need to know to make sure your free promotion is a success. Read the following testimonials from other people who have used the Amazon free promotion tool to great success, and then I’ll go through with you the steps you need to take to make sure you see huge download figures when you run your free promotion through Amazon.
There are lots of articles about KDP Select giveaways, and some of the best discussion can be found on forums. Here is a list of some forum threads where people are talking about their experiences of KDP Select giveaways on a daily basis. Join in, take part, and see what information you can glean from them if you are still uncertain whether or not you want to try this avenue. Remember, no-one is forcing you – it is entirely up to you, but what do you really have to lose?
Advice from others on how to approach your giveaway
There are also lots and lots of articles on how you should approach your giveaway. Here are some links to the best and most in-depth articles on the Internet to help you strategise your giveaway, but rest assured that I will cover everything you need to be doing and when you need to be doing it after the links.
Rachelle Ayala – Promo Sites – This is a quality resource for anyone undertaking a KDP Select free giveaway, as Rachelle explains website rankings and links to some great resources.
Weighing it up
If you’re still not sure whether enrolling in KDP Select for 90 days in order to use a free giveaway as a marketing tool for future sales, read these articles and weigh it up further. If you decide you do want to go down the free promotional days by enrolling in Amazon’s KDP Select programme, then read on, as I provide you with a guide to maximising your results.
When is the right time to use KDP Select free days?
Well, I don’t suggest you use the KDP Select giveaway as soon as your book is published. The simple reason for this is that reviews are important. With a dozen good reviews of your work, people are more likely to download it for free and actually read it when you give them the opportunity to do so. You’ve got to remember that somewhere in the region of 3,000 books a day are free on Amazon, and therefore you need to give your prospective reader some extra reason to not just download your work, but also to read it and not leave it mouldering in amongst the other thousands of books on their Kindle. Therefore, you should seek out reviews and let your book be on sale for a while. Use Twitter to promote, and sell to all your family and friends as well as your followers. Remember that reviews are what you’re looking for primarily, so don’t be too shy to ask for them. Even the odd bad review can help your work. You might be surprised to hear that, but some readers want to weigh up the good with the bad and some want to read something to find out if it’s really as bad as a particular review might label it. You can look for book review blogs online and there are plenty, but make sure you read their submission guidelines and make sure that they’re interested in your genre before submitting to them. Here is a very popular list of indie reviewers for you to use to find some contacts who might like to review your work: The Indie Reviewers List
Here’s a tip – In my debut novel, The Hunter Inside, I put all my website, Twitter, contact details and everything at the end of the novel, and a couple of paragraphs basically saying, ‘If you liked The Hunter Inside, and review it on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk then email me, I will give you a free copy of my next novel before it is released for general sale’. then I put the first 10,000 word sample of my second novel, From the Sky (which you can read HERE).
If you can get about a dozen reviews, mostly positive, then you’re in the perfect position to make your novel available for free promotion. I suggest you run a three-day promotion, certainly the first time around, as you will see downloads probably drop off after the third day. My suggestion would be to pay for a day’s advertising directly after your promotion to keep your work visible and capitalise on the momentum gained through your giveaway. Some people suggest raising the price of your work directly after your giveaway to capitalise on your sales, but that’s entirely up to you. I won’t raise my price after free promo days, because I want to build an audience and don’t want to put potential readers off. I’ll list some sites where you can pay to advertise your work after your giveaway, and you can decide whether your budget will stretch to their charges. There’s a scale that increases as the popularity of the website goes up, but there are still some reasonable advertising options to consider.
So, there are several categories for you to consider and take advantage of to promote your free promo days.
- Websites that will advertise and promote your free promo days without charge
- Websites that charge a small fee to cover operational costs
- Websites that will advertise but for profit at a larger fee
- Goodreads / Library Thing
- Your own website / blog
First of all, here is a list of those websites that will promote your free days without charge or for a very small donation, and when to contact them.
Pixel of Ink – If your book is free within the next 30 days you can submit the details to POI. If you get featured you will make it to a huge audience – almost 300,000 ‘Likes’ on Facebook and well over 4,000 Twitter followers.
Ereader News Today – Almost 142,000 newsletter subscribers.
Books on the Knob – 2,000 Twitter followers and 1,600 Facebook ‘Likes’ – This site gets LOTS of traffic! Submit your book’s details and when it will be free a couple of weeks to a month before the promo days to have the best chance of being featured.
Flurries of Words – Give at least 48 hours’ notice (but give a week to be on the safe side) – there are various options here, but you can get date specific book promotion for a donation of $1 dollar per book per day. Simply make your donation then email for confirmation.
Centsible ereads – If your book is free in the next 30 days you can submit it here. There are no guarantees if you try for a free listing, but if you have $25 in your budget then you can guarantee a listing.
Free eBooks Daily – There is no charge to list your book here, but please submit the details one week before to have the best chance of being featured.
Free Kindle Books and Tips – This is free to get listed, but you must have an average review rating of 4 stars on Amazon. Fill in the form on the site at least two weeks before to stand the best chance of being featured.
Digital Book Today – There are free and paid options for being featured on DBT. If you’re planning on paying for an advertisement with DBT I recommend you submit your details at least a month in advance, possible even 6 weeks, as they’re advertising space sells quickly! They are very popular! You can submit your book to be featured on the Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books list, free of charge, but you must meet certain guidelines (available HERE).
eReaderIQ - Submit a couple of weeks before using the ‘Contact us’ option on their webpage to get listed on your free promo days.
Author Marketing Club – You need to register to submit details of your book promo on this site. As I write this the site is still growing, but looks very promising and gives the option of paid advertising alongside free promotion, forums etc (although they do send you an email almost every other day so beware of this). I submitted details of my promo two weeks before the date. They do say they distribute your book promo to be advertised on eight popular affiliated sites, so it’s worth a try.
Good Kindles – Again, there are certain requirements, including a $1 donation to list your book. Give a couple of weeks’ notice if you would like to be featured, although this site is still growing as I write this piece.
Bargain Ebook Hunter – Submit one week before. There’s a free option or a guaranteed option with $5 charge. Still a growing site as I write this piece.
The Digital Ink Spot – A great supporter of indie authors. Submit about one week before for maximum chance of getting listed. Free of charges.
Indie Book Promotion – You can fill in this form to get your book listed for free on the website. They also have paid advertising available. From $25 they boast they can introduce you to a total of 59,000 readers. Your call whether to pay – I went for the free listing here, but with the first two months advertising free it’s definitely tempting!
The Frugal eReader – Give about three to four weeks advance notice to stand a chance of getting listed for free. There are a whole host of paid advertising options if you have a healthy budget to spend, but I won’t detail them here. Head on over and check them out for yourself (they range from $10 to $150).
Freebookshub.com – Free of charge to be listed, but please fill in the form on the website about three to four weeks in advance of your free promotion. You could reach more than 20 thousand readers through Freebookshub!
Free Book dude – Again, free, but give a few week’s notice when filling in the form on their website. A great supporter of indie authors – you can inquire about a blog tour stop or author interview too!
Free Kindle Fiction – You can try and get your book listed for free, or you can guarantee it is listed for a fee of $5. Form to fill in on site. Give at least a couple of week’s notice.
Indie Book of the Day – There is a submission form on the site, but please make sure you read the terms, and submit your details maximum 30 days before promotion.
Awesome Gang – Free promo for your book, not just when it’s free! Fill in the form on their awesome site!
The Cheap Kindle Daily – Read the conditions under the Submissions tab – free of charge to be featured, as long as you play by the rules!
Bargain eBook Hunter – Guaranteed listing for $5, or you can try to get featured without paying. There are other sponsorship deals available, but the costs add up quickly.
Addicted to eBooks – You must register to post your free book on this site, but it is completely free to do so, and very easy to submit the details of your giveaway under the ‘Today’s Free Kindle Books’ tab. Please note that the earliest you should submit to this page is the night before your promotion begins.
Snickslist.com – Fill in the form on the link, but only on the day your promo starts. Completely free to submit your giveaway!
Facebook pages for authors to post to to advertise free days.
The next avenue to consider is Facebook. We all know that Facebook is bigger than Jesus (allegedly), so you cannot ignore it when promoting your free book giveaway on Amazon.
The first thing you can do is to create an event to which you can invite all your friends and family, and make the event public and ask them to invite everyone they know. Chances are, with them being your friends and family, they’re most likely to spread the word for you. Do this a few days in advance of your promotion to see what results you can achieve – that way people only have a short amount of time to remember and get the novel. Some people might really want to download it, but will forget if you give too much notice!
The other thing to do is to post to Facebook groups who support indie authors and free book promotions and Kindle users. Below I am providing you with a list of Facebook groups. Visit each of these on each day of your promotion and post a message on their wall stating the name of your book, the genre and that it is free, and provide the Amazon link. Facebook will then display the cover image of your book alongside the post, and you will be reaching a much wider audience. If possible, include the UK and US Amazon links to make navigation easier for those who see your post and wish to download your book.
Here are the groups to try:
NOTE – I’m sure there are lots of others. I did have more on this list but could not seem to get links that would load to them. Therefore, I will try to come back and address this and find a solution soon. Please feel free to comment and let me know of other Facebook groups I have left off this list. Oh, and please ‘Like’ the groups you post to – it’s just good manners!
Twitter is the main way of reaching a lot of people with your free giveaway. I am presuming that you are already a Twitter user and that you understand how it works for the most part, but be sure to network and build your follower list long before you set up a free promo on Amazon. I had just over 2000 followers when I did my first free promo.
A note to inexperienced Twitter users – l use Tweetadder to manage my Twitter for me. It is software that enables you to automate all aspects of Twitter, from follows to tweets and retweets. It is an awesome bit of software, but it does cost $55 for one license. However, I still need to generate the tweets – which takes a bit of time – but once they’re set up I can schedule how often I want tweets to be sent out which is perfect for a free book promotion. You can use socialoomph or Tweetdeck or any of the others that are out there, or you can sit all day tweeting manually if you prefer! Tweetadder is great as it is very easy to generate and schedule when tweets will be sent out, which means you don’t have to sit tweeting all day of your promotion when there are other things you need to be doing. I’m not sure about the cost of the others, but I seem to remember socialoomph wanting money to allow you to schedule tweets. These pieces of software are not overly expensive though and really do make your life easier. Just do not rely on them full-time to manage Twitter for you, as you become just another voice in the crowd in an arena where it’s much better to be an individual. Oh, and Twitter might ban you if they think your account is automated!
Anyway, back to how Twitter will benefit you. Some of the groups you notify through their websites will send out tweets about your book. That means they will send a message out to all who have followed their page (basically opting into messages from them). So, this means you will have tweets being sent out from the websites that decide to feature your free book on your promo days, greatly increasing the reach of your promo.
You will also obviously want to tweet non-stop during your promotion to your army of followers, and ask for a retweet (do this by writing a short tweet, include the Amazon link and ask for a retweet at the end. For example: ‘The Hunter Inside Free 25-27 August 2012 http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunter-Inside-ebook/dp/B0082KLJO6/ Please RT’ (you can then add hashtags to make your tweet even more effective – we’ll cover these later!). Remember, if the link is too long or you would like to shorten it, you can use services like bit.ly or goo.gl (there are others – just search ‘link shortener’ at Google). So, to recap on this point, sit down a week before your promotion and think up as many keywords to describe your book as you can, then make lots and lots of tweets that include keywords, the link, a request to re-tweet and hashtags, and send and send and send during the promotion – a couple of general ones every hour that aren’t addressed to anyone (I’ll explain what I mean by ‘not addressed to anyone’ shortly). Hopefully your followers will retweet and others who don’t even follow you will help to spread the word about your promo by retweeting too. By the time your retweets are done you’ll have reached hundreds of thousands of people (you must network long before this to make sure there are people out there who will be willing to support your promotion and help you out with retweets – the simplest way is to retweet other people’s tweets that interest you and start building relationships that way – you’ll be surprised how much fun you have and how many great people you meet along the way).
Finally, the last sure fire way to reach lots and lots of people with your free promotion using Twitter is to send tweets to Twitter accounts that have been set up to support free book promotions. There are lots of great people out there who love their Kindles, love to support authors, or love a free book and want to spread the word to others (or perhaps all of those things!). Please make sure you are following all of these Twitter accounts before asking them for retweets, as it’s a little bit rude to ask for retweets if you’re not following them! You can click on them here to visit their Twitter pages and follow them. Here are all the Twitter accounts you need to follow and tweet to when your promotion is taking place. Depending on your genre you’ll find others. My genre is suspense/thriller/crime/supernatural, but if you write romance, real life, erotica, cookbooks etc etc then there’ll be others that I haven’t researched as I’m not using them personally. A quick Twitter search for your particular genre should yield some more.
Anyway, tweet to as many of these as possible across your promo days. You need to get as many downloads as you can, as not everyone who downloads your work will read it. It’s www.twitter.com/ and then the following to find and follow them, and if you’re asking them to promote for you then don’t forget – it’s good manners to be following them! To tweet to them you need to compose a tweet and use the @ symbol followed by each account name, as shown below (this is as opposed to sending tweets not addressed to anyone where you don’t have @dmcgowanauthor at the beginning or similar to tweet to a person):
So, an example would be: @Kindlenews The Hunter Inside http://www.amazon.com/The-Hunter-Inside-ebook/dp/B0082KLJO6/ #freebook #freekindle #bookgiveaway #suspense #thriller #supernatural Please RT
So, you’ll ask all those accounts to retweet the news about your giveaway, and guess what? If they all did retweet your tweet and sent the message out to all of their followers, what do you think the potential reach of messaging just those Twitter accounts would be (as I write this)? No idea? Well, it would be 255650 – that’s over a quarter of a million people. Even if only one percent downloaded your book as a result of this, that’s already a couple of thousand! EDIT – I’ve added a few to the list, so it would actually be more than that!
See the things I added to the tweet? # < those things? Well, those are hashtags, and they make a topic or subject searchable to other Twitter users. Therefore, if I search for freebook, that tweet would appear, as would others that included the same hashtag. Then I could find lots of free books. Good hey? So, basically, you are wanting those Twitter accounts above to retweet you, and you also want to use some well-known free promo hashtags to make sure people can discover your free book promo who are not in any of the networks we have already reached.
It is worth reminding you at this point that you only have 140 characters for a tweet, so round about now is where you might need to think about shortening your link to the actual page on Amazon by using bit.ly or goo.gl or one of the other URL shorteners as mentioned above.
Anyway, here are some hash tags for you to use.
Don’t forget the hashtag, before adding what follows without spaces:
#Freethriller #freesuspense #freeromance #freehorror #freeerotica (-or whatever your genre!)
Goodreads is a great site for both readers and writers that you can join and use for free. You can find, rate and review books and meet people with similar reading interests to you. There are also lots of groups you can check out and join, and if you’re a writer running a KDP free promotion, you can set up an event and invite people from your friends, groups you’re a member of, or other Goodreads members. It’s a good way of reaching another potential audience for your work, and of course you can create pages for your books where people can mark them as to-read, or rate and review them if they’ve already read them.
When you set up your event and click ‘Invite People’, it can be very slow. On all the browsers I’ve tried this has been the case. They might have ironed it out by the time you read this, but a few words of warning follow!
You must make sure that the button to click to invite people appears at the bottom, or you’ll be clicking on people all day with no way of actually inviting them! If it doesn’t appear straight away just click on one of the other tabs (for example, if you’re looking at ‘Groups’, click ‘Friends’) and then click back on the other tab. This usually remedies the problem. Note also that the users might scroll very slowly. This is because Goodreads is loading lots of information, pictures etc. Your best bet is to leave it for five minutes and let it load everything up. Then it will scroll much more quickly. I’m not sure how any limits work, but the first time I tried it I sat for two hours and clicked thousands of names from my groups list, and then it said, ‘You have invited 158 people’. Needless to say I was furious! The way I do it is to invite around a hundred people in one go, then if it says it invited all of them, try 50 more. You’ll probably find the second batch won’t all get invited. If that’s the case, leave it and try later. I have invited around 3000 people in two weeks using this method. I’ve also gone quite high risk in my inviting, as I haven’t checked each individual person’s preferences, so I’ve invited people with absolutely no interest in my genre. If I’d had more time and it worked properly and wasn’t so slow to load I wouldn’t have done this. I would have taken the time to research and invite only people that I knew were interested in the genre I am offering them for free. I blame Goodreads! Also, don’t expect all of the people invited to respond. Probably only a small percentage will, but that’s better than not reaching them at all. As I am writing this I have had about 55 people say yes, 25 say no, and about 20 maybes, and I’m now up to almost 3000 invites. But every download counts. Miss one on Goodreads, and it could just be the one that recommends your book to an agent at HarperCollins (and then you can give away 80% of your royalty!).
A Note about Library Thing
Also, get registered to Library Thing and take part, find out how things work and who might be interested in your work long before your promotion. I know you have lots to do, but I left it very late to register to Library Thing, and as a result I don’t think my amateur efforts over there will have any effect on my free promotion. So maybe if you take more time than I devoted to the subject to get it right, you can leave a nice comment explaining it for me and others!
Your Own Blog & Supporters
Just a tip here, but I developed a couple of big blog pieces for the week leading into my free promotion. One of them is this one, and it is almost up to 6 thousand words now! The other piece I wrote is called ‘I can help you to write a better novel’ and was broken into 5 parts – one for each weeekday leading up to the promotion on the saturday, when this post will be made live to attract traffic to the blog and in turn to direct them (you) to go and download The Hunter Inside. Ask your supporters and followers to reblog for you and make some graphics at a site like Imagechef for them to share easily with a link on their blog back to Amazon or your blog. Your friends and supporters are awesome people, and they will bend over backwards to help you succeed. Just remember to repay the favour when they need you!
You can also tag your book at Amazon with things like ‘free’ or ‘freebook’ or ‘freekindle’. This didn’t work for me when I tried it though. I thought if I did it directly on the page I wouldn’t be able to delete them afterwards, so I did it on the main KDP record, and they didn’t show up in the list of tags, but maybe they’re working behind the scenes. Try this a couple of days before, and don’t forget to remove the tags when the book goes back to being on sale.
Some Forums to Post to on the day(s) of your Free Promotion
You will need to be a registered member before you can post to any of the forums below. This is not an exhaustive list – these are the ones I will use for my free promotions. There are others out there – have a look round to see which forums suit you.
An important thing to say about posting to forums is that you will always get better feedback if you are an active member on the forum in question. I know it’s difficult and you have constraints on your time, but try and grab five minutes here and there to check out and post to these forums occasionally if you like what you see.
Goodreads Giveaways – Please note – you must post your free promotion in the corresponding month in this forum for it to be allowed and to reach as many people as possible.
The last thing I would like to mention is paid advertising. After your free promotion is over, you will hopefully be sitting pretty, right near the top of the free charts. This, in turn, should result in some increased paid sales in the period directly following your free promo days winding down. It was suggested to me that this would be the best time to pay for some promotion to keep momentum going, and I agree. I did intend to use two big sites, but I’ve had so much going on during this process that I only approached one in time to place an advert. I placed an advert with Indie Author News at a cost of $29 for one day. This includes an ad showing the cover, blurb and linking to Amazon for 24 hours on every page as ‘Book of the Day’. Other sites offer different packages, and the price can go up quite drastically depending on the amount of followers the site has. Indie Author News’ rate was, I felt, very competitive, especially considering they have 15,000 Twitter followers who they will tweet about your book to on the day, and almost a thousand Facebook Likes who will also be notified on Facebook about your book being Book of the Day. But anyway, here are some of the other sites and the options available to you and the prices. These are just a handful of the ones that I was tempted to use, and I’ve mentioned others earlier in the piece. Please use caution when working out your advertising budget, if you choose to have one at all, as any profit can easily be swallowed up by the cost of marketing. There are others, but I have decided not to list most of the more expensive ones, as I feel that the purpose of this piece is to be successful with your free promo without spending a lot of money on paid advertising.
The Kindle Book Review – Very nice site. Advertising goes up to $40 per day for certain options, but you can get a listing for a ‘daily freebie’ for $10 for one day – Definitely worth checking out.
Kindle Author – This is essentially a WordPress blog, but it gets a whole lot of traffic! Including over 43,000 likes on Facebook! $20 per title per day – pretty reasonable!
Examples of some of the sites that charge a lot are:
Kindle Fire Department – Details of charges for advertising are available at the link. There’s no doubt this blog is popular – they boast 400,000 visitors per month! But October sponsorship is $75, and November or December are $100 – This is too much for me, so I’ll be trying their Twitter and Facebook pages with a message during my promotion (listed previously!)!
Kindle Nation Daily – No doubt a very popular and highly ranked site with lots and lots of visitors, but their charges most definitely reflect this. The cheapest is a reasonable $29.99 for the Free Book Highlighter Service, but do you want to pay that when I’ve already told you ten million ways of getting your free promotion noticed? I’m talking about keeping up the momentum after the promotion, and the prices to promote on KND are between $59.99 and (are you sitting down?) $399.99. Someone is turning a tidy profit!
I hope you have found this guide informative and I hope it helps you to reach the number one spot on the Amazon free charts when you run your promo. Please feel free to link to any other resources you might think people will find useful (I know I’ve left some out, but I was overloaded with information and planning my own promo when compiling this article!) and be sure to leave a comment to let me know what you think of the article, or your experiences after using the tips contained within. I’m really excited to hear from you all! And to all those whose material I regurgitated in part, I say thank you! I’ve linked to all of your pages and I hope you continue to get lots of traffic and be very successful. For now, that’s me exhausted!
I’ll be soon writing another article on what results the methods in this article have achieved for me, so be sure to follow my blog to make sure you don’t miss it!
Thanks for reading, and good luck!!
If this piece helped you at all, I’d be really grateful if you could check out the trailer for my debut novel, The Hunter Inside, by clicking below! I also have a sneak peek trailer for my second novel, From the Sky, which comes out very soon. You can watch that on YouTube too!