The trials and tribulations of a self-published steampunk writer

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Promoting an e-book with KDP Select

I've just finished a three-day promotion of Red Mercury using Amazon's KDP Select. I am genuinely delighted with the results and thought I'd post here about what I did.

If you don't know what KDP Select is, check out this post.

Having scouted around some websites, the general consensus seemed to be that the end of the week was the best time to run a promotion. For my first promo, I settled on 3 days, Thursday-Saturday.

Promotional periods start and finish at midnight US Pacific time, which causes a bit of complication for authors in the UK. I solved this minor issue by not sending out any notification of the promotion starting until I'd actually seen the book priced at free on both the US and UK websites, and whenever I mentioned the offer, I said "free until midnight Saturday" to avoid complicating things.

How did I spread the word?

I posted a link to the promotion in my Facebook status, accompanied with this message: "If you've read the book and enjoyed it, maybe you could pass this on to your friends. If you haven't read it yet, now is the perfect time to give it a go..."

Whilst I was keen for people to recommend the book, I was also nervous about upsetting anyone who had bought the book previously. This wasn't an issue thankfully, as most had bought their copies at launch six months before so were relaxed about it now being on promotion.

Many of my lovely Facebook friends shared the link, and even better, added personal recommendations. Another bunch of people had somehow missed that I'd written the book in the first place and went off to download it before sharing the news. I made sure that everyone who shared the link got a "Like" and a thank you. I was genuinely taken aback by how kind my Facebook friends were in terms of sharing.

I didn't try to describe the book that much on Twitter - 140 characters just isn't enough to give any meaningful detail. I tweeted "My #steampunk novel 'Red Mercury' is FREE on #Kindle until midnight Saturday - [link]". I figured this was the right balance of info. Two tags that were "search-worthy" in #Steampunk and #Kindle, and FREE in big letters.

The message went out each day of the promotion. I thought once per day was enough, I didn't want to piss off my regular followers as I knew many of them already had the book. This was targeted at people who hadn't already bought the book and would likely stumble on the tweet through searching one of the hashtags.

During the days of the promotion I regularly used Twitter's search function, looking for the book's title. This turned up a number of tweets from people saying they'd just downloaded the book. I made sure I sent a thank you message saying I hoped they would enjoy it. This resulted in a number of nice conversations online and couple of new mutual following relationships.

I have a lot of contacts on Flickr through my LEGO building. I figured this might be a good way to build some traffic, particularly in the US where sales have been slower, but my LEGO contact list is stronger. I built a couple of steampunk LEGO creations and posted them on the promotional days with a link to the offer.

Flickr's terms of service forbid linking to commercial pages, but I reckoned it was okay to link to Amazon whilst the book was free. When the promotion finished, I changed the link for one to this blog instead.

During the promotional period over 400 people saw each of the images I posted, and comments indicate at least some of those people downloaded the book.

Overall, Facebook was by far and away the most effective publicity tool for me for this promotion. However, it is one which I would hesitate to use frequently. My Facebook friends are genuine friends, and I would hate them to feel I was taking advantage of them to sell stuff. Whilst I will definitely run a promotion again, I will seek out other ways to publicise it next time around to ensure I'm not annoying my mates. I'm going to keep another Facebook campaign up my sleeve for pushing Red Mercury's sequel if I ever get it finished.

The Flickr campaign went ok, but maybe not as big as I'd hoped. Definitely worth doing though, especially as it will have generated more awareness in the States.

Whilst Twitter probably didn't reach that many people, it gave me the opportunity for a bit more personal contact with some new readers (and got me talking to a bunch of new interesting folks).

In the three days of the promotion, 200 free copies were downloaded in the States, and nearly 400 in the UK. The book shot up the rankings on both websites, but the UK performance was amazing: Red Mercury hit No2 in Amazon's Science Fiction - Adventure chart, and peaked at No7 in all Science Fiction. In the US it still managed a very respectable No37 in Science Fiction - Adventure.

Now, who knows how this will all translate across once the book goes off-promotion? But I've already got two great new reviews from it in the US, and hopefully a whole bunch of people reading the book which should generate a few more reviews. Key will be if Red Mercury now shows up in more "people who bought this also bought..." lists.

Obviously I'll be keeping an eye on sales and I will update with a post on this in the next couple of weeks.

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