Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Hitting #1 on Kindle Free Days - Kathryn Knight

I'm still recovering from the whirlwind of activity before and during Gull Harbor's Kindle Select Free Days.  It was absolutely thrilling to see my novel climb in the rankings hour by hour, until it hit #1 in the Fantasy Romance category on day 4.  Gull Harbor also broke the top 10 in the Paranormal Romance category, and rose to #37 overall.  While #37 may not seem all that exciting, this was Gull Harbor's ranking out of ALL free books in all genres that day on Amazon - a grand total of 54,133 titles! 

Had to capture a screen shot!


This was my first experience with the Kindle Select Free Days.  My publisher was not yet a part of the Select Program when Silver Lake was released.  I'll admit I had mixed feelings about offering my new release up for free.  Anyone who's written a novel understands the figurative--and sometimes literal--blood, sweat, and tears that go into such an extensive endeavor.  The idea of giving that work away for free can be a bit painful.  But I never entered this business with the goal of making a lot money (good thing, lol!).  Like many authors, the most important thing to me is that my work is read, and hopefully enjoyed. 

So I decided to put everything I could into the free promotion days offered by Amazon.  I viewed this as an opportunity to increase my novel's visibility in an enormous marketplace.  And boy am I glad I did.  In addition to hitting #1 in the Free store during those 5 days, Gull Harbor has hung onto a spot in the top 100 Bestsellers in the Paid Store in its category since then.  I know it won't last forever, but I'm enjoying a tremendous bump in sales for both my books since the promotion.

I put so much preparation into making the most of my free days, I'm not sure I can point to any one thing that helped the most.  But I'll share what I did here for anyone looking to maximize their promotion efforts during free days.

Gull Harbor is in some pretty large categories.  There is no "Romance> Set in haunted house>Cape Cod" category, although I wish there were!  Since the paranormal element in Gull Harbor is a ghost, I could not get into one of the more narrow categories (vampires, witches, demons, etc.) within Romance>Paranormal.  I was stuck in the largest Romance category other than Romance>Contemporary.  Gull Harbor's other category, Romance>Fantasy, was only slightly smaller.  I knew I would have to really spread the word far and wide to get seen within these expansive groups, even as a free book.

I gave myself a budget of 0 dollars.  There are many places that will guarantee a feature for your freebie on their site for a small payment.  And I'm not saying those sites don't deserve monetary support--they do.  But I'd spent money in others places in the past few months, and I decided I was going to invest time rather than money for this particular promotion.

I started with some links from our marketing director and went from there.  Many sites offering free promotion for free books in turn had more links for similar advertising.  This site in particular grouped a large number of sites together: http://authormarketingclub.com/members/submit-your-book/.  I investigated every one I could find, reading the guidelines and taking notes.  I filled an 8x11 piece of paper with lists of places to submit my freebie to, along with their deadlines, tips, and etiquette rules.  If it was a forum, I registered in advance and learned my way around.  If the site allowed you to list your book well in advance, I filled out the information and sent it in early.  If a site wanted an explanation as to why they should pick your book, I took the time to write a sincere and hopefully persuasive response.  Yes, this took time and organization.  But I chose quantity over a financial investment, and enough sites featured my book to help me spread the word.

Then I tried to maximize my exposure on other social media sites.  I try to be supportive of authors I've connected with through my publisher, Twitter tribes, Twitter followers, and Facebook pages.  In turn, I had support in return from shares, retweets, and downloads.  I try not to bombard my Facebook followers with promotion, but since this was an offer for a free book, I asked people to share the Gull Harbor link.  I was amazed at how many people happily did this for me!  And I'm lucky enough to have some loyal readers who went above and beyond.  One reader shared my book's link on 19 Facebook pages!  I was truly humbled by the support.

I blogged, visited forums, posted in my Goodreads groups, and scheduled tweets and FB posts within The Wild Rose Press database.  My brother shared the link with his realtor loop.  I even handed out some postcards to a few cashiers at stores during the week.  Sure, it felt a tiny bit awkward...but it's a free book!

The downside of this kind of exposure is opening your book up to many, many readers who would probably not have chosen it had it not been free.  And people in general are 10 times more likely to leave a negative review about something that bothered them than to take the time to write a positive one about something they loved!  So less-than-stellar reviews are an inevitable consequence of the hundreds of downloads it takes to hit #1. 

However, I try (sometimes it's quite difficult, lol) to find the silver lining in those reviews.  A lot of valuable feedback can be found in the useful criticisms.  Plus, anything less than 4 or 5 stars reminds me that I am doing my job: my novel has moved beyone the circle of comfort defined by family and friends.  My marketing efforts have been successful.  And while it's painful to have someone not find your work amazing, not everyone likes the same things.  Books I've found brilliant have received plenty of low marks from other readers.  Conversely, books I didn't like have thousands of happy fans. 

Thankfully, the feedback for Gull Harbor has been far more positive than negative.  I've had readers go out of their way to connect with me via email and Facebook to tell me how much they loved the story.  And since my only goal when I began this journey was to create stories people would enjoy -stories readers could lose themselves in for a few hours - hearing those kind comments renews my passion for work that is truly a labor of love. 

20 comments:

  1. Congratulations, Kathryn. All your hard work paid off. Thanks for the informative post. I'm up next for free days in mid-May and looking forward to the adventure of it all. Cheers, Christine Elaine. :):)

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    1. Thanks Christine Elaine! It was a very exciting week to say the least. Best of luck for your 5 days!

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  2. Hi Kathryn,
    Congratulations, it was a mighty effort, and all your hard work certainly paid dividends.

    Cheers

    Margaret

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    1. Thanks Margaret...I definitely paid off in a bigger way than I even anticipated.

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  3. Hi Kathryn,

    And congrats! What a ride.Thanks so much for sharing your experience. I've done the kindle free days for a non-fiction indie so I know how much work it is, but like they say, nothing is free.

    Here's to continued big sales!

    Mac

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    1. Exactly, Mac. It is a lot of work, but the promotion effect is worth it. I recently recommended your book to a friend recovering from breast cancer. Thanks for coming by!

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  4. Way to go Kathryn. Glad you took advantage of the opportunity and rode the wave to notoriety. Hope the sales of all your books benefit from the free-dom! Rolynn

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    1. Thanks Rolynn - I'm crossing my fingers!

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  5. Hi Kathryn. I'm glad to hear you were skeptical at first. To say I'm reluctant to give my work away for free is putting it mildly. It was very interesting to hear your experience and thoughts on what makes free days a success.

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    1. It was a very difficult decision. But since then I've seen sales like I never have before...so I'm glad I went for it. Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. I enjoyed your writeup, Kathryn. And as a fellow Rose, I downloaded your book in support of your goal to hit #1 - and I'm reading it now. Look for a review in the not too distant future from my alias, Muddy Rose Reviews.

    My book is set to go free next week. I'm in the midst of the author marketing club list and hoping to get a #1 out of it as well. When I did 2 mystery titles through KDP last fall, I had a great number of downloads, and now nearly 40 reviews for each title. It's hard to know what constitutes success in this ever changing book world, but putting my book into the hands of thousands of readers is a discoverability plus to my way of thinking.

    Wishing you the best with Gull Harbor.

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    1. Thanks so much Maggie - I hope you enjoy the read! The reviews have been coming in both on Amazon and Goodreads, so that's encouraging. Best of luck with your upcoming free days!

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  7. I guess I'm still unclear how giving it away to people, many of whom would buy it anyway, how that increases sales.

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    1. It's an excellent question, Kathy, and I'm still trying to figure it out. One thing for certain is the big increase in my other title, Silver Lake, can be attributed to people enjoying Gull Harbor enough to purchase another of my titles. The huge sales in Gull Harbor since the promo is still a bit of a mystery to me. I think it has to do with visibility - for a while it was on the first page in the paid store, where people see the cover and read the blurb. Of course many people who would have purchased it did download for free, but my experience has been a level of sales that has more than made up for it. It's definitely a gamble!

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  8. Congrats again, and thanks for sharing the info!

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    1. Thanks Tiffany, and you're welcome :)

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  9. Thank you for sharing this information! You gave it to me a little early so I could use it with my novel Poison being free today! So thank you again. It was VERY helpful to know where to start to at least try and maximize this opportunity. And I love you did it without spending $!!

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    1. Hi Leanne! Yes, I decided I just couldn't spend money to give a book away for free. But it was worth all the time spent, and I hope you have success as well! Thanks for coming by.

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  10. Kathryn, first of all--congratulations. I second what you said because I took the same approach ($0 and lots of time) to promote my titles when they were free on KDP. All three times, my titles have placed on individual lists (a couple times achieving the top 100 list). Right now, my erotic short, Whirlwind, is on the erotica Kindle top 100 list. This is wonderful name exposure and I encourage all TWRP authors to take the needed time.

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  11. Thanks Linda, congrats to you too! I agree the effort is worth the exposure.

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