Even though I swore after my second giveaway that it would be my last (here's my first one too), I ended up doing one last December that might need some analysis. And, if you can’t tell from the title, this one is a bit of an outlier, which is actually why I’m bringing it up in the first place.
But before I get to what all went wrong and made it strange, I should probably delve into why I went back to a Kindle giveaway in the first place rather than just running a sale as I had twice since then. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed while you’re browsing books on Amazon, but when you look at the top 100 books in any category, you’ll note that there’s actually two: The paid books and the free books. And, to illustrate my point better than another paragraph, I’ll use an image of the top books in Epic Fantasy, which my series is a part of:
You'll have to click the images to get a better view.
You’ll note some familiar names in the paid category, Martin, Tolkien, O’Connor, Roberts, Wheeler and Fox. However, the folks on the free side are a lot less known and the quality looks a lot… well, less; although—in the spirit of this whole halfassed post—there is another outlier in the form of Steve Kelliher, whose Landkist series is quite popular in my self-published circles. And for good reason.
However, I know for a fact Steve’s currently doing a fire sale (pun!) where he’s giving his book one away and deeply discounting the rest in the series. Which is what I also plan to do when my book three launches on February 6th. I haven’t spoken to Steve directly about it, but I know he’s familiar with the fellow who changed my mind about the giveaway.
Will Wight of Traveler’s Gate and Cradle fame, and who also inadvertently helped launch my fellow Sigil stablemate Alec Hutson’s career.
Despite being one of the most popular/ known self-published fantasy authors out there, who has the name recognition to not need to keep giving away books, Will invariably puts the first books of his series up for free every few months.
No reason for this pic except to break up the white space, and the fact I think it's awesome.
Now this may seem a bit counter-intuitive since free books are usually given away to get your name known, so it seems once you are known you can just discount your books to $.99 and then not only make some money, but advance your ranking from the sudden influx of those sales (Amazon keeps free/ paid books separate in author rankings as well). Once you’re known, I theorize, you can target actual fantasy fans rather than people who are more interested in the bargain of a free book.
That was my initial theory and why I decided to stick with $.99 discounts rather than free books. But then I noticed that a lot of known authors like Will and Steve are setting their first book free and either keeping the rest the same price or discounting them as well. And this now makes sense once you have back catalogue as a known author. Readers who have heard your name but have never pulled the trigger on purchasing a book recognize the deal and scoop it up, with it hopefully taking the top spot on their TBR mountain.
In effect you’re targeting fantasy fans who want a deal rather than people who just want the deal and might like fantasy on the side.
That’s my impression anyways. After personally downloading Will’s free version of House of Blades, then the rest of the series after I devoured it that is.
Anywho, that’s why I decided to make The Woven Ring free for the week I was to release book three, The Glass Dagger back in December. However, due to unforeseen circumstances, that release got canceled, although I forgot to cancel the subsequent free week.
I put no promotion into it, and only remembered that I had set it up for free when I logged in to see my sales and noticed I had close to 250 downloads. Before I had even woken up. By that point in the morning of the first of five days, I had already beaten my first giveaway numbers for the entire run. I did send out a tweet about it that a few folks retweeted, but considering I still don’t even have 150 followers, I don’t think that had much effect on the downloads, that peaked out at 394, which was within spitting distance of my second time goal of 500.
Day two I posted the deal through Sigil and downloads stayed strong at 268 and made me reevaluate my goal to 1,000 downloads.
Day three was a lot lighter at 80, so I hit up /r/fantasy with the deal, and got another 180. Posting to the Grimdark Facebook got me another 92 to end the week with a total of 1,019.
So, mission accomplished at hitting 1,000, although for the life of me I don’t know why this was by far my most successful. Looking over my old giveaways I note I was putting out ads, author AMAs, using services, doing guest blogs, and basically hitting up everyone I knew.
Now I know that those numbers still aren’t great compared to the big successful authors, but they’re a big deal to me, even hitting number one in my tiny subgenre (albeit on the free side). And I still can’t figure out what the difference is/ was.
All I can reckon is that I’m a little more established. I’ve been plugging away for a few years now and not given up when things don’t go my way. Which is I guess the point of this post: You don’t finish a marathon by sprinting right out the gate and then wondering why you're winded but still haven’t won the race yet. You reach the finish line through small, incremental effort applied over the long run.
So stay at it.
And maybe buy my book…