How can authors make best use of KDP Select free book promotions to turn their books into paid bestsellers? Here’s a three-step approach.

Ever since Amazon finally made free book promotions directly available to indie authors (albeit with a catch*) late last year, it has been interesting to see authors and small presses seek out creative ways to get the most out of these freebie promotions in terms of subsequent paid sales. Any book that has not been hidden carefully beneath a big rock is bound to see a huge jump in downloads when the downloads are free. The two-fold challenge, of course, is both to (i) maximize those free downloads; and (ii) to find ways to sustain as much as possible of the ensuing momentum to maximize subsequent paid sales and make your book more discoverable in the Kindle store with better sales rankings and buzz in the form of reviews, word of mouth, social media connections, and further promotions.

There are lots of ways to achieve these goals, but this week we saw one of our sponsors absolutely nail the process with a great one-two promotional punch, and I wanted to share the steps with anyone who is interested. The author is J.D. Trafford, and his novel No Time to Run was our KND Thriller of the Week from May 11 to May 18. (Yes, our Thriller of the Week sponsorship is one of our pricier and highly booked promotions, but later on we’ll suggest a way to achieve a similar effect at about half the cost of a TOTW spot.)

Lest anyone think that this recipe will work regardless of the quality or appeal of the book in question, let me be clear right from the get-go that No Time to Run is a terrific read that has inspired favorable comparisons with John Grisham’s The Partner. It has a great review profile and a gorgeous, high-impact cover, and when not free it has generally been priced in the “sweet-spot” range ($2.99 in this case) for price-savvy KND readers for the past few months. During April, according to eBookTracker, the book had been selling briskly and had occupied spots ranging from #2122 to #6042 overall in the Kindle Store sales rankings  paid bestsellers.

For the first five days of its Thriller of the Week promotion, No Time to Run was free. The author and I agreed that our mission was to get the book into the Top 10 of all free Kindle books, and we achieved that: it hit #25 on May 11, #8 on May 12, #5 on May 13, #6 on May 14, and #7 on May 15 — all of which translates, we think, into well over 30,000 downloads. Then it went back to paid status on May 16, with a paid sales ranking of #24,226 to start (paid sales rankings don’t directly reflect free downloads on a 1:1 basis, and we’ll never get back to the main topic here if we get sidetracked with sales rankings, but here is an interesting set of posts by Edward W. Robertson about Amazon’s various bestseller lists for those who don’t immediately become nauseous when they see the word “algorithm.”)

Because he had a promotion ready and running when the price for No Time to Run went back to $2.99, the author was in a perfect position to capitalize on the momentum he had already established, and the book moved into lofty paid bestseller list territory for the rest of its run as our Thriller of the Week: #275 on May 17, #275-#152 on May 18, and #183-#161 on May 19. As you see in the graphic (above right), the book also made it to the Top 15 overall on the coveted territory of the Kindle Store Movers & Shakers List, and #2 in the paid Mystery/Thriller category. Nothing is forever in bookselling, but three days after the end of the TOTW promotion, No Time to Run remains in the Top 300 in the Kindle Store, so that it is fair to say that it has received a nice, reasonably sustained bump from the promotion. And probably just as important for this particular author, we’ve seen a very nice carry-over effect on the second book in the series throughout the promotion: No Time to Die jumped from #5335 overall in the paid sales rankings to #2100 on May 11, to #1589 on May 12, to #1,119 on May 13, and has hit levels between #788 and #958 each day since May 17.

It’s no surprise that we’re finding that a successful free book promotion over the course of one to five days is likely to have a moderately positive impact on subsequent paid sales and KDP Select borrows. And a follow-up promotion that begins on the same day the book goes  back to paid status is a good way to strengthen that positive impact even further and provide some real momentum.

But there’s only one TOTW availability each week, it’s genre-specific, and $400 is a lot of money. So we’ve come up with a less expensive way that we think may help some authors maximize the positive impact of both elements — the free days and the subsequent paid days.

Here are the steps involved — and although they are presented in logical order here, you might want to skip ahead to Step 3 first to check on availability of the popular Special Sponsored Post option, since that’s the hardest to schedule.

  • 1. Go to your KDP Dashboard page and create a free book promotion on one or more days for the title in question. You’ll first have to make sure it is enrolled in KDP, and remember that you are limited to five free promotional days for any eligible title in any 90-day period.
  • 2. Go to our Free Book Highlighter sponsorship page and sign up for one or more days (at $29.99 per day) to highlight your book’s “free” status on the same day(s) for which you have made it free at the KDP Dashboard. There are plenty of things that are worth doing to promote your book when it is free, but our Free Book Highlighter is tried and true, as you’ll see on this up-to-date results spreadsheet which shows that about 20 of our highlighted titles have made it into the overall Kindle Top 10 in the past three weeks, with dozens more doing almost as well.
  • 3. Sign up for our Special Sponsored Post with Facebook Triple Play (SSP/TP – Option A, for $179.99) to begin on the day following the last (or only, if applicable) day of your free book promotion. For instance, if you have set up a one-day free promotion on July 12, you would want your SSP/TP to begin on July 13. One sign-up and payment for July 13 would mean that your post would run that day on the web and would be posted to our very popular Facebook page on July 13, 14, and 15. As noted above, you may want to book this one first, and then take care of Steps 1 and 2. (Note: the SSP/TP isn’t the only sponsorship option that could work as a follow-up to our Free Book Highlighter, but we think it is worth trying, and has better availability than some other options. If you’d like to take things one step further, we have recently added a discounted “Power Package” of two of our most powerful options – Details.)

It’s not rocket science, but it can get complicated. If I can be helpful with this or some other approach, don’t hesitate to shoot me an email at hppress@gmail.com.

* The catch, as you probably know already, is that eligibility for the KDP Select program, which allows an individual author to create free book promotions for up to five days in a 90-day period, depends on providing Kindle exclusivity for the title(s) in question for at least 90 days.

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  1. A Kindle Promotion Post-Mortem | Nova Blog - September 27, 2012

    […] you are willing to put a little extra money behind your push, check out the promotional packages at Kindle Nation Daily.  Just get the word out before your free days begin, then sit back and watch your numbers go […]

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