So last free KDP giveaway I basically had no idea what I was doing and did not know about online hangout spots for fantasy fanatics like reddit/fantasy, the latter of which I’m deeply indebted to my argument partner (and fellow SPFBO Semifinalist) Daniel Olesen for pointed out to me. He also suggested I take part in the Fantasy Writer of the Day Ask Me Anything (AMA), which I did (find the process here). I signed up for a Wednesday, and therefore decided to have that be the central anchor of my five-day giveaway (eg, Monday-Friday).
This time around I had a bit more planning as well as budget, and while researching fellow Gunpowder Fantasy authors (mentioned in the Goodreads Case Study), I found one who had used the company [NAME REDACTED] to get word of his book out. Because I had $60 burning a hole in my pocket, I decided to use their Virtual Book Tour option, and set it the day before my reddit AMA. I also started looking for fellow authors who want to swap guest blogs/ interviews, and the wonderful Jo Zebedee took me up on the offer, saying she would host a guest blog on her website the day after my AMA.
Finally, I set my goal. Last time I got about 225 downloads by engaging all my friends/ family. This time I didn't tell any of them what I was up to so I could compare the two attempts. Since last time was 225, I hoped for 250 downloads.
Last time and my 225 free giveaways
First, I went to my Goodreads ads and added "FREE DOWNLOAD THIS WEEK!" to all five of them. I also bumped up my ad bids from $.35 to $.75 so more people could see it. If you do this strategy, I suggest you change your text the DAY BEFORE your free giveaway since the mods at Goodreads have to approve your ad changes. Fortunately for me, they did so within a few hours, but those were still a few hours of downtime (not that it mattered, but we'll get to that).
THE WEEK OF! So Monday, I announced on the Best Fantasy Books forums and got a wonderful review out of it, so that's one success. But because r/Fantasy has around 250-300 members there at any given moment, I also announced it there as well. I should probably note that self-promotion there is as frowned upon as it is here, so I had spent a few weeks on that site making an online presence (albeit a minimal one). This was the only action I took that day, but I was shocked to see my downloads at 170. Since this was more than half of my expected 250 downloads for the week, I extended my goal to 500. Tuesday my [NAME REDACTED] virtual book tour kicked in, and while they did all they promised, I think I should have done more research before I hired them. Mainly because although I thought they dealt with genre fiction, it turns out they're more focused on "romance fiction (in all its sub-genres: fantasy, suspense, paranormal, historical, etc), other genre fiction (mystery, SFF, etc) and Young Adult / Middle Grade fiction." HEAVY emphasis on the "romance" here, and so while all of a sudden my social media blew up due to their tweets/ Facebook posts, once I started looking at the blogs I was featured on, I realized this was not my demographic in the least. Again, they did all they promised like professionals, so any complaints should be leveled entirely on me for not doing enough research. And I did get 113 downloads out of it, though I suspect that had a lot to do with my post on reddit/fantasy still being up (my downloads dropped significantly the hour it left the front page). Oh, I should also note that at my peak, I was the #4 free download in Historical Fantasy, which is kind of like being the best left-handed Jewish slide guitar player on the Lower East Side* in terms of modifiers needed to be the best, but it still swelled my heart to see that. Wednesday I did my AMA, where again I am indebted to Mr. Olesen for showing up and keeping the conversation alive with some very insightful questions (which makes me feel a bit of shame for not doing nearly as good of a job during his own previous AMA). Since most of the people asking questions were entirely unfamiliar with my book, the questions were fairly generic, like "what fantasy world would you live in if you could," but I did get at least one person partially through the book after downloading it because of my Monday reddit post who said some very sweet things.
Throwing this in there to break up the white space and because I still haven't gotten a chance to use this one yet.
I also came up with Bugbear BBQ based on that AMA, but that’s another story for another day. So back to the giveaway… I do believe I had drained the reddit well by this point though, Wednesday being my lowest download day with 36. So it looks like with promotion, like stocks, you need some diversity. Thursday Jo Zebedee hosted my blog post, and my numbers went up back to 113. And I had also pretty much run out of ideas, so I just released the reins and let this promo-horse go where it pleased. Friday I did nothing but obsessively watch my download numbers, which topped out at 54. But back to the Goodreads ads: As I said previously, I was averaging around 1,000 views a day between my five ads and expected that to increase due to my higher bid. Instead my numbers dropped to around 200 views a day. I'm just theorizing here, but it also happened to be the week of Cyber-Monday, and I suspect that a lot of other people upped their bids and drowned out mine. I have since dropped my bid to $.45, yet my views have again risen to around 1,000 a day after that week.
All in all my downloads added up to 486, which didn't quite make my revised goal of 500, but was a far cry better than my initial run of around 225, which was mostly made up of friends and family. More importantly though (in my mind at least), I received several more reviews and ratings over at Goodreads, and the number of people who added my book to their to read pile jumped significantly. It's been about two weeks since that KDP giveaway and I've seen a small (and I mean SMALL) boost in my regular sales, as well as a huge (to me at least) surge in people reading it on Kindle Unlimited. I also now have followers on my facebook page, though I again don't really believe they're my target demographic. So there you go. If I were to do it over, I would have spent more time/ effort engaging with fantasy fans on free venues like r/Fantasy and the like and less time (and money) on my paid promotion (again, this is in no way [NAME REDACTED]'s fault, rather my own). Jo Zebedee has often recommended Book Barbarian, but they require at least 10 reviews on Amazon to run an ad, which I have just now (nearly a year later) surpassed. So maybe next time I run a giveaway/ discount I’ll give them a shot.
And yes, eagle eyes might note that I am currently running a discount and am not actually using Book Barbarian yet. Because you have to book at least a month in advance. So we’ll see for maybe case study 5 (this is two!). * This was how one of my favorite bands, The Hangdogs, introduced their slide guitar player at their farewell concert.