When Andrew Salmon told me he was preparing a three day free giveaway promotion for his book Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol, I asked if he would document the process for an article and then later report on the results in a second article. He has graciously complied…While this process has been in place for quite a while, and has been written about and explored by experts for whom book promotion comes naturally, there are always writers new to the field who look to kindred spirits who are bravely going where they themselves wish to tread and who are willint to act as a guide or mentor...
CASTING YOUR BOOK UPON THE WATERS
I've been reading for years about how giving away books leads to more sales. This made no sense to me, so I decided to dig a little deeper. Everybody knows people love free stuff. Because of this fact, the reasoning behind free e-book promotion is thousands of readers will download your book if it is free. These are people who wouldn't normally buy your novels because they have no idea who , or they would rather spend their reading dollars on works by other authors with whose work they are familiar.
Once these readers have downloaded your book for free, the hope is they will read it and enjoy it enough to buy a copy for themselves or a friend, and/or buy another of your books, novellas, stories, or anthologies because they like how you bump one word up against another.
The other side of this, of course, is they will download your book because it's free and you'll never hear from them again. It's a gamble, but unless your last name is King, Rowling, or Patterson, it's worth taking as you can do so without breaking the bank.
This is how I went about it...
CHOOSE YOUR FREEBIE
The first thing I did was decide which book to make free. I chose Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol, because it is the first of my three Fight Card Sherlock Holmes books and the third—Sherlock Holmes: A Congression of Pallbearers—was just about to be released.
There's a common strategy of hooking readers on a series by letting them have the first book gratis. My third Fight Card Sherlock Holmes book incorporated characters from the previous volumes—plus, it's Sherlock Holmes! Also, Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol had received many excellent reviews from Holmes fans, book review sites, news sites, and readers—so the material had been road tested successfully. This last bit is not necessary for a free promotion, but if you have a lot of titles available, with some receiving more positive responses than others, you can use those reader reactions to aid in your selection process.
CHOOSE YOUR DAYS
Even being part of Amazon KDP, I had no idea I had only 5 free days per month to utilize. Starting out, I’d imagined the title being offered free for three weeks, so this was disappointing. However, we work with the tools we're given.
Seeing now how much work goes into promoting a free book (more below), my advice is to book those days weeks in advance, even a month in advance if you like to have a cushion. Amazon allows you to break up a book’s free days, so you can do as many as five separate promotions a month, use all five days at once, or use two or three day bursts of free book promotion. I chose a three-day stretch (March 31st—April 2nd), leaving two days in my back pocket to run a free promo again on a smaller scale. Once Amazon has confirmed your promotion days, then it's time to start getting the word out.
RESEARCHING THE FREE MARKET
This is where it gets scary. There are a lot of sites that promote, link to, offer, and talk about free e-books. Let me stress the term, a lot! If you Google promote your free e-book be prepared for an avalanche of results. This is good and bad, but let's stick to actual promotion procedure.
Start by compiling a list of every site at your disposal. This means pouring over endless links looking for the sites that will work best for you. Next, you need to look at Facebook pages—there are dozens where you are allowed to post links to your free books. These are valuable supplements to your own sites and pages when advertising your promotion. There are also dozens of hashtags (#) to use on Twitter, so you'll need a ready list of those as well.
You need to be aware some websites require a month's advance notice before they promote. Others one to two weeks. There are many, however, that operate on a couple of days’ notice, and even a few you can let know on the day. You'll want to break down these sites into three groups: Free, Paid, Lead Time—Longest to Shortest.
There are free promotional sites, but far more charge expect considerable coin to get your free book promoted. Many will only guarantee your listing if you pay in advance. Even some free promotional sites will give you better coverage if you are willing to part with cold cash. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know paid placement will get the lion's share of space on any given website or blog, so it's up to you to decide how much you want to spend to give away your book.
My decision was based on this being my first attempt at s promotion tied to giving away a free book. Since my last name is not King, Rowling, Patterson or Konrath, I decided to dip a toe into these waters rather than cannonball. In other words, I kept my wallet shut while working the free pages or taking advantage of the free option on pay promotion sites.
I actually did throw $20 into the effort (not exactly a big spender), but I wanted to see if anything worthwhile would happen for a small investment. If it worked, I’d consider spending more next time out.
All of this research, set-up, and planning is time intensive, which is why deciding at the last minute to run a promotion is not a good idea. You're looking at potentially hundreds of sites, hashtags, and Facebook pages you need to hit if you want your free giveaway to reach as many readers as possible.
Now comes the even more time consuming procedure of going to each of the sites on your list and letting them know about your free e-book—in accordance to their lead time of course. They seem to all have a standard submission form for you fill in the details of your book—be prepared to copy and paste a lot—and the dates the book is going to be free. Many make it obligatory for you to sign up for their newsletter, create a site profile, and sign up for updates. Others won't place your promo unless you get friends to join the site, like and/or promote their Facebook page, etc. Each site is a mixed bag of these elements. Many free sites, of course, offer you the chance to pay to promote your book after submitting your book info. There is a price to pay for free promotion of your free book—even if it’s in aggravation.
For your list of Facebook pages you want to use to announce your free promotion, consider creating an eye-catching ad. Just slapping on a link is not going to create any kind of buzz or interest. The link has to be there, obviously, but a great ad will get browsers to stop and look, see the word free, and hopefully respond by downloading the book.
TWEET LIKE A CANARY IN A BLENDER
There are most likely an infinite number of hashtags one can use to spread the word about your free book. Far too many to list here, but using #Kindlefreebook, #FreeKindleStuff, #FreeReadFeed, #freebookdeal would be a good start. However, there are an almost infinite number of hashtag combinations and variations that will help make folks aware of you free book. Tweet the ad, tinyurl (link), or whatever pitch you think will work and see if readers will take the plunge.
The day the promotion begins, you will begin tweeting (see above) and posting the news about your free book on every book promoting site and Facebook page you've collected, as well as your own walls. Urge your friends and associates to pass along the word to all their friends. The promotion will not run itself. Ideally, you'll be working the phones on the promo days, interacting with Facebook contacts who may get in touch with you after they've downloaded your book or send along encouragement. You can even host a virtual book promotion party on Facebook with everyone on the planet invited.
Anything you can think of to spread the word, you should be doing, but beware of becoming annoying or repetitive every day of the promotion. Use you ad(s), the books Amazon link, the cover image, review quotes, sample passages—anything to pique enough curiosity for a reader to snag the book. Remember, it costs them nothing so you're halfway there from the outset. Thing is, there are tons of free e-books available these days so you have to showcase yours to get the attention of readers.
I wrote the above analytical breakdown of how to run a free book promotion as I went through the process the first time. My free book promo of Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol, was set to begin in a couple of days. As a result, I had to wait to see how everything shook out.
I was excited and curious to see how the work I'd put in would affect the number of downloads. Sure, I was hoping for 1000s of free downloads, but I didn't really know what to expect. If I was to get the book into the hands of new readers, I’d consider the effort a win as the book was well received by readers who paid for the experience when the book was first published. If the promotion of one book leads to the sale of others, then the effort would pay off even more.
The next article was written after the results of the giveaway promotion of Sherlock Holmes Work Capitol were in...
FOR MORE ON SHERLOCK HOLMES: WORK CAPITOL CLICK HERE