Friday, February 14, 2020

The Ins and Outs of My Recent Fussy Librarian Promotion

First, Happy Valentine's Day! I hope someone gave you a valentine.

Second, if you're not familiar with ebook promotional newsletters, basically, a company creates an email list of ebook buyers (subscribers have to opt in, but it's free to them) and then charges authors and publishers to include their books in a daily email to subscribers. There are many of these services now. BookBub is the biggest name (and the hardest to get into), but there are others, including Book Gorilla, Bargain Booksy/Free Booksy (they separate free books and cheap books into their two emails and if you want both, you have to subscribe to both.), The Fussy Librarian, and Ereader News Today (ENT). When books are on sale but not free, the email entry has an affiliate link and the company gets a small cut from the sale.

On February 8, I ran a Fussy Librarian promotion for The Sixth Discipline (a free ebook!) . The results were pretty good. I had not used FL in a while, so I didn't know what to expect.

I gave away hundreds of copies, mostly on Kindle. And of course, even though the email itself usually generates "sales" for the one day it runs, Amazon's online algorithms push popular books to readers so increased "sales" continues for a few days. As you can see in the screen snap below, the promo offered links to the the book on Kindle, Nook (B&N), Apple, Kobo and Google Play. The results in the list below the screen snap are "sales" for the day of the promo plus three days after.

Vendor:           No. of Copies given away February 8, 9, 10, and 11

Amazon Kindle: 277 (plus 5 paid*), 88 (plus 2 paid*), 28 (plus  1 paid*), 21 (none paid*)
Google Books: 20, 3, 2, 0
iBooks/Apple Books: 19, 0, 0, 0
Barnes & Noble 0, 0, 0, 0
Smashwords: 0, 1, 2, 0 (note: their link was not listed in the ad; these are normal numbers for comparison)
Kobo 0, 0, 0, 0

* The Kindle version wasn't free in all Amazon bookstores so the paid numbers represent foreign sales.

Note that The Sixth Discipline was my first published title, and it came out in 2011. It is free on Amazon only because Smashwords lets an author make a book free, and because Smashwords is a distributor as well as an e-tailer, the book is thus free on other platforms as well. Amazon practices price matching (which is why you see "Tell us about a cheaper price" links on a book's Amazon page);  if you make the book free elsewhere, Amazon will make the Kindle version free also. These days, I usually give away from zero to three Kindle copies every day, so promotions are helpful to boost "sales."

I think in a way, these numbers do a good job of representing how well each vendor is doing at ebook sales. Amazon is way ahead of the pack; its second day number beat all the others' first day totals combined. But Google and Apple both have a significant ebook presence, On the other hand, Barnes & Noble is pretty much dead in the water, and Kobo is going nowhere (at least in the US; it is more popular overseas where Amazon is less dominant). This explains one of the main reasons Amazon can tempt authors and publishers into enrolling their books in Kindle Unlimited: they give up small sales numbers on other platforms in return for money from KU borrows.

Right now both The Sixth Discipline and its sequel No Safe Haven are available only in ebook form but I am having new covers made, and formatting the books for print. I hope to have paperback versions available in a month or so. I might run another promotion after that, as a test of the new covers.

A word to other authors: Giving away this book makes some sense because there is a direct sequel that is not free, and I always see increased sales of it after a promotion of the first book. Giving away a standalone book is not usually as good an idea.  For one thing, a huge number of free ebooks are never read. Making a book free eliminates the cost barrier, so a lot of readers download a free book first, and then look to see if they want to read it. If you have books that are very similar, it can still be a good idea to make a book free for a day or two, in that it can drive up your sales numbers on Amazon temporarily and thus get the book in front of a lot of readers through the "customers also bought" function. That's another benefit of Kindle Unlimited; authors can make their books free or discounted for short periods of time.


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