Monday, September 9, 2013

A Modest Marketing Success

In June, my family and I set off for a nine-week European vacation.  The highlight for me was visiting Svalbard, an island north of mainland Norway.  I have always wanted to see polar bears in the wild, and they apparently have polar bears up in Svalbard.  Ultimately we didn’t see any (though I did see a jellyfish), but we had a lot of fun.
And because I was worried about doing nothing in terms of book marketing for nine weeks, I did a giveaway of one of my Kindle books just before we left.  I wrote about this on June 9, but I wanted to follow up, because I think I was onto something here. 
My three Henry Grave mysteries had been just sitting there for months.  You know what I mean – they sell some copies here and there, and then they flatline, and then they sell a few more.  And my last promo was kind of a disaster.  But Grave Passage had one thing going for it.  It had eighteen good reviews.  Reviews are the key to getting picked up by the freebie websites.  And the freebie websites are essential to giving away books.  And yes, that is the goal here – giving away free books, because that's what makes money.

Without access to the freebie websites, the best you can do is promote your Kindle promo on your platform, but that probably isn’t going to get you far because there are only so many people paying attention to your blog and your website, and many of them have hopefully already read your book.  And the freebie sites – check out for 45 of them - don’t cost anything.  But you do need reviews or they won’t touch you.
In three days, I gave away just over 14,000 copies of Grave Passage.  Since then, I’ve gone from 18 reviews to 55.  Not only that, but I’m getting more reviews for the other two books Mediterranean Grave and Grave Indulgence.  All three books are listed for $2.99 each, and I’ve sold hundreds of all three.  Here’s my latest paystub from Amazon.

Payment made to:
Our Supplier No.:
Supplier site name:
Paid to bank:
Hidden for security
Paid to account:
Hidden for security
Payment number:
Payment date:
Payment currency:
Payment amount:

That’s a not shabby $636.01 for one month of Kindle sales.  For sure, I'd like to do better.  But I've had a lot of months where I didn't come close.  And that’s not even counting the paper books, which are selling too.  Why?  Hopefully word of mouth gets around to folks who don’t have Kindles, so they buy the paper copies.  Kindle might be its own self-governed ecosystem, but it definitely interacts with other publishing ecosystems.

Amazon has also recently launched a new sales component called Matchbook, which I’ve already signed on to.  It allows buyers of your paper books to pick up the Kindle version for 99 cents extra.  It’s free money.
So here’s what I’m taking away from this – the Kindle KDP Select free-giveaway component is by far the best marketing tool I have ever seen.  It costs nothing and has a built-in audience of millions of Kindle owners who want content.  But you’re never going to connect with them unless your title shows up on their radar.  That’s why you need the freebie sites.  They’re free, and they will put your title in e-mails that will reach hundreds of thousands of readers.

And the key to it all (aside from having a great book and a great cover) is reviews.  So maybe the best thing that any writing community can do for it members is to help them get Amazon reviews.  So how about it, let’s start reviewing books with some renewed commitment.  It should be honest and sincere – if you don’t like what you’re reading, then don’t leave a review, just move on to the next book. 
As I make strides this Fall to finish my fourth Henry Grave book, I’m also working on a renewed marketing initiative for The Mummies of Blogspace9 (which may require a new title).  So, to get the ball rolling,  if anyone would like to help with Step 1 – leaving a review on Amazon, I’d be most appreciative.


Jewel Amethyst said...

Congratulations William. What a great story. There are many marketing strategies that do not work, its good to see evidence of one that actually works.

I did get the grave passage during the give away, but It's still on my "to be read" (or rather to be completed) list since a whole bunch of other things have taken priority.

William Doonan said...

Thanks, Jewel. I hear you - my too be read list is frighteningly large at this point.

Charles Gramlich said...

Very nice. I might kill to get a pay stub like that. I'd heard that freebies were no longer working. Seems like it depends.

Liane Spicer said...

It's been great following your promo journey, William. Thanks for sharing with us. I got Grave when you did the freebie, and I left a glowing review. I

I too have been hearing a lot about freebies not working anymore, but like Charles said, it depends. You need those reviews to get moving; I've mentioned this several times on our blog. All the authors I know who've had some measure of success have networks that go into action from the time the book is released. Sales spike, reviews get written and... Of course, the book must be good. Grave was exceptionally so.

Good luck (not that luck has much to do with it) and may the good continue for you.

William Doonan said...

Thanks for your kind words, Liane. I don't know yet how much the platform is working, but the networks sure are fun.

Jane Turley said...

I'm delighted to hear of your success, William. And I wish you equal success with the relaunch of Mummies!

C.L. Swinney said...

Good job buddy! It's a tough business and not a lot of money in it. I like to write to tell stories and get people to feel emotions. If amazon wants to cut me a check for it, I'll deposit that in the kid's college fund and giggle.

I read your piece and see it was successful, I just have a problem with giving work away for free. There's currently 58000 free books on amazon alone right now, and all of the authors are hoping to get their work downloaded. I see too many people with hundreds of free books in their e-readers that they never get to. But, alas, it stirred some buzz and generated sales for your titles, so it can't be all that bad :-)

Julie Luek said...

Thank you for sharing, in such clear language, what is working for you. I'm not there yet, but I sure appreciate when other writers are willing to share their learning curve. Thank you!

M Pax said...

A very nice success and payday. I'll have to look into that site you mentioned. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

Jane Turley said...

Hi William.

Thought you might find this post re Bookbub on G+ interesting;