|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 thousands 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 beyond 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.