Sunday, April 26, 2015

Adventures in Self-Publishing: Going Free

You can make a title free, either as part of a KDP Select promo or permanently.  Some pros & cons to this.
  • The possibility of a higher ranking in various free categories (for whatever that's worth)
  • More readers
  • More readers that will buy your other books, especially if you make the first in a series free
  • More reviews
  • More "Also boughts" in the Amazon environment
  • You get to see the little green line squiggle a little bit on your KDP dashboard, which is better than nothing
  • Nobody, and I mean nobody, bought your book, so you might as well
  • On occasion, you will get a few extra paid sales after the end of a free promotion, folks catching it after the free period and paying for it anyway, or by accident
And the cons, which are mostly the same as the pros:
  • The ratio of downloads to reviews is much, much lower for freebies
  • You lose out on the opportunity costs of someone who might have paid for the book.  Don't worry, they wouldn't have.  Especially for a one day promo, figure if that reader wanted to pay for your book, they would have already.  And don't, don't, don't get in your head things like "I gave away a hundred books, if I had charged I would have made -" no, you wouldn't have
  • You often get a lot more negative reviews with giveaways.  People that don't like your book before they even read it won't pay money for it, but they will get it for free and poop on it in a review.  "This doesn't look like my type of book, I didn't read it, 1 star".
  • The "also boughts" may be wonky as well, but I think this is getting better.  When freebies were rarer, some folks would just download everything, so you get also boughts of cookbooks and self-help books, etc.  Now, you couldn't download every free book if you tried, so folks are more likely to download in their favorite genre.  For myself, the freebies have given appropriate "also boughts"
  • Free doesn't mean poop anymore, so it might not help you that much
 My first KDP free promo in 2014 I got something like 350 downloads in two days.  Now in 2015, I get like 60 with more popular titles.  I've read blogs of other folks moving like 20,000 freebies a day, but these are more popular writers, and often back when free meant something more.  There are something like 50,000+ free titles on Kindle, so it's not that big a deal now.

Some general tips for a limited time promotion:
  • In KDP Select you get 5 free days a period.  Use them one at a time, no more than two - the numbers scale off dramatically after the first day
  • I've heard various reports of whether weekdays or weekends work better, but don't do holidays
  • Promote the heck out of your giveaway
As for the last one, there are plenty of free places to promote your free books.  First up, Amazon and Goodreads message boards (you need to have an account to post):
Then there's facebook - I won't list all the groups as there are a billion of them, just search for "Free book" and "free kindle".  You need to join groups to post.  I wouldn't bother posting to the wall on a page.

Next up are the promotional websites.  The premium free ebook promotional company is  They will not accept you, and it's $500+ if they did.  Following them is, with maybe and  They charge, and they have certain standards (# of reviews, average review, etc).

For entry-level losers like us, there are still plenty of places to promote.  These websites will take your submissions because:
  • The hope to upsell you to their paid promotions
  • They want to add you to their mailing lists so they can brag about their numbers
  • They are entry-level websites trying to get customers
  • They want to add your contact info to spam lists
  • They want Amazon Affiliate money
Once a website gets successful enough, they'll start charging for submissions, and raise their standards for what they'll accept.  Below is a list of websites where I promote my freebies.  All are free, none require any bizarre hoops to jump through except maybe joining their mailing list, and none have minimum requirements.  This will have changed by the time you read this, so read their terms.
Most of these won't actually do anything with your submission.  They fill their slots with paid advertising, and fill in the extras with freebies.  And that's fine, it makes perfect sense for them to do that.  The last promotion I did, I got listed by Awesome Gang, Ebooklister, Frugal Freebies, Pretty Hot, and Ebookasaurus.  Three others posted on the wrong day, and nothing else from the others.  Your mileage may vary.

If you don't have time to post to all of these, you might want to narrow it down by looking at the quality of the website.  Some of these promote more through their mailing list, on facebook, or on twitter.  But if they mainly promote through their website, look at the website as if you were a reader.  Some of these are 100% about marketing to authors and you have a hard time even finding where the free books are advertised.

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