Breakdown of my free story promotion

This past weekend I decided to offer my short story ebook, “Tim and Sara,” free on Amazon (it’s normally $.99).

Since I listed it two-and-a-half months ago, I’d sold less than a handful of copies, and those were in the first couple days.  Granted, I hadn’t promoted it much (okay, at all).  And now the problem was that it didn’t have any reviews.  Why would someone spend a dollar, the equivalent of a cheeseburger, on an unreviewed story by someone they’d never heard of?  Personally, I’d go for the unhealthy goodness of a McDonald’s McDouble instead too.

What I needed, more than earning 1/3 of that cheeseburger, was exposure.  So I took advantage of one of the features of Amazon’s Kindle Select program: 5 free days within a 90-day period.  I picked the weekend, as it coincided with Six Sentence Sunday, as well as the following Monday so that people who do all their online stuff at work would see it too.

I tried hard to get the word out:

  • Scribophile, the writing community website I use.  I started a thread about the free ebook, plus sent out a bulletin to all the people who’d added me as a favorite. Estimated reach: 50-2000 people?
  • Facebook, both my personal account and my writer account.  For my personal account, so as not to bug people who don’t care, I only mentioned it twice – late Friday night/early Saturday morning, and Sunday morning.  My Facebook account is hooked up to Twitter, so whatever I post on one automatically goes to the other.  While there’s some overlap between who follows them, they reach slightly different groups.
  • Twitter.  This was where the big push happened.  I tried to tweet something every 2-3 hours.  I noticed that after every tweet, I’d immediately get a few more downloads.
  • Appeal for the community to spread the word.  I asked people to retweet, and I’m grateful to so many who helped out – @scribophile, @MelissaSasser, @KellyMatsuura, @JessicaMLoftus, and @anthro78, among others.
  • Goodreads.  On Sunday afternoon I remembered this site and I created an event announcing the free book.  I invited all my friends to attend, but I’m not sure of the effect of this, as it was so late.  Next time I’ll do it a few days or maybe a week ahead of time.
  • LinkedIn.  I use LinkedIn for professional networking, so I’m very careful not to post anything that’ll appear to be spam.  I include fiction on my list of publications, but I don’t really advertise them.  I put an announcement up on Saturday morning; it was probably quickly buried. 

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but here’s what I got:

  • 151 downloads.  The majority were from the US site, with about 10% from the UK site and 1 from Germany
  • At its peak (Saturday night), the story reached #1990 on Amazon’s Free in Kindle Store list.
  • 5 reviews on Amazon (4 5-star and 1 4-star).  I’m guessing that most people downloaded it and haven’t read it yet; I’m expecting more reviews in the next week or so.

 Lessons learned:

  • Twitter is the best way to reach people you don’t know.
  • Perseverance is key.
  • My fellow writers are awesome.

I’m not sure how a free weekend will translate into sales, but it at least gained me some exposure.  I’d like to put another short story/novella on Amazon, to see what happens to sales of your other stuff when you’re giving one book away.  And now that I know how easy and exposure-getting the Kindle Select program is, I hope my next story is free in the near future.

Thanks again, everyone!

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