As writers, our egos are often fragile and checking an unchanging sales report hour after hour is tough enough. If we try to give our book away and there are no takers it could be enough to make us put the word processor away for good. This blog is intended to help you avoid that fate.
First, let me give you my credentials: I don’t think of myself as an expert and I don’t expect you to do so either. I am an indie author with one book out. More relevant to this blog, I have had two excellent free runs in the past 90 days that resulted in increased exposure and sales for my book. Here are the key elements, as I see them, to having a good free run:
Genre It would be nice if all books were created equal, but they are not, and your genre is going to have a huge impact on the success of your free promotion. If your book is in one of the most popular genres, like romance, you’re going to have a natural advantage over a book like The History of Lithuanian Clog Dancing. Sometimes you can offset a genre disadvantage by thinking creatively. My book, Feels Like the First Time, is a memoir. During my free promos, I don’t promote it as a memoir, though. I promote it as a romance, because that is a key component of my story and I knew it would lead to a lot more downloads. You have to be careful not to get too far afield though, or readers will punish your book with negative reviews.
Cover Almost as important as your genre is your book cover, the face you show to the world. Many of the biggest freebie sites run a copy of your cover along with the description. Since there are so many freebies available on any given day, it’s not unusual for a reader to just skim through the covers of the books being offered. If you’ve skimped on your cover by designing it yourself (unless you are a graphic artist of some skill) you are much more likely to get skipped. A decent cover is not expensive, but it is critical.
Blurb If you’ve made it past the first two tests, many readers will just hit the One-Click button and you’re home free. Many people’s Kindles are filling up quickly, though, and they are becoming more picky about what they download, even if it is free. They are likely to read your blurb and maybe even your “Look Inside.” If those components aren’t good, you’re going to lose downloads. Writing a blurb requires a completely different skill set than writing a book. I am not ashamed to admit that I hired someone to help me create a decent blurb.
Reviews It does you a limited amount of good to do a free run if you don’t have at least 15 reviews with a four star or better rating. How to get those reviews is a subject for a different column, but if you don’t have at least that many reviews, most of the big sites, like Pixel of Ink, E-Reader News Today or Free Kindle Books and Tips won’t ever pick you up. Without them, it is much more difficult to get the momentum you need to reach 20,000+ downloads.
If you’ve got all those things in place, then all that’s left is to promote your free run to as many of the sites that hype freebies as you can. My advice is to plan your campaign at least three weeks in advance so that you can give the sites plenty of lead time to schedule your announcement. I could give you a listing of the dozens of sites I submit to, but instead I’d like to point you toward a couple of websites that will give you all the information you need.
An easy first step is the Author Marketng Club at http://authormarketingclub.com. You have to join, but membership is free, and they have a resource that will point you in the direction of a dozen or so of the major sites you’ll want to notify. Ruth Nestvold also wrote an excellent blog about promoting your free book and listed many sites you’ll want to alert. That blog is available at http://ruthnestvold.wordpress.com/2012/03/04/promoting-ebooks-with-kdp-select/. Here’s one last place that has excellent info about free sites: http://theselfpublishingtoolkit.com/kdp-select-free-promo-resources/. Personally, I’ve never paid any of the big sites to promote my free book, although I know many authors do so to good effect. If my downloads were to dwindle, it’s a path I would definitely consider.
Of course, you will also want to use your own personal platform to promote your free runs. You should blog about it, promote it through your Facebook writer’s page and Tweet about it. Personally, I only do each of these things once. I want to be a source of information to people who connect with me via social media, not another source of unending spam.
If you follow these simple steps, it is not guaranteed that you will have a successful free run, but I believe you will be maximizing your chances. I used these exact steps and snagged over 36,000 downloads. If you’re wondering what you get for giving that many books away, my own answer is that I had sold 119 books in the three weeks leading up to this promo. I’ve sold more than 850 books at full price ($4.99) in the three days since the run and my Sales Ranking on Amazon rose from the mid-40,000s to #569. For me, that was worth all the work. Good luck!
Shawn Inmon is originally from Mossyrock Washington, the setting for his first book, Feels Like the First Time. He has been a real estate broker in Enumclaw Washington for the last twenty years. Prior to that, he worked as a short-order cook, traveling T-shirt salesman, radio DJ, Cutco Cutlery sales rep, department store buyer, video store manager, crab fisherman, Kirby vacuum cleaner salesman, business consultant and public speaker. He is married to his high school sweetheart Dawn and has five daughters, five grandchildren and two chocolate labs named Hershey and Sadie. You can follow my blog and see more pictures from Feels Like the First Time at ShawnInmon.com, and please “Like”my Facebook page: Facebook.com/ShawnInmonwriter.