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Anatomy of a book promotion

What my latest book promotion taught me

The ups and downs of a book promotion

In the lead-up to my latest 99-cent book promotion for The Girl from Oto (book 1 in my historical mystery series) I ticked all these boxes:

  • Lined up several paid book promotion sites for the 3 days of the promotion;
  • Scheduled Facebook ads for the 3 days of the promotion;
  • Alerted my almost 2000 newsletter subscribers to my promotion;
  • Blabbed about it on Facebook and Twitter.

Then the promotion started. I was hopeful. I was eager. Would my book blast to #1 again in Amazon’s ‘Religious and Inspirational Mystery’ category, like it did during my July 2018 promotion? Would it come within a whisker of edging past All the Light We Cannot See in the ‘French Historical Fiction’ category, like it did last time?

When the dust settled, I was pleased with the results, but I had not reached the storied heights of that last promotion. See for yourself:

So close!

All The Light You Cannot See, I’m coming for you!

The nitty gritty of my book promotion results

For those of you attempting to achieve book promotion nirvana, here are my takeaways and lessons learned. I’ll do a wee bit of number crunching first to put things in perspective.

In my July 2018 99-cent promotion for The Girl from OtoI sold 375 books over a 3-day period. Here’s the article I wrote breaking down the details of that promotion. The vast majority of the books were sold on Amazon. Kobo, iBooks, and Nook racked up about 20 sales between them.

In my promotion this January 25-26-27, I sold 83 books on Amazon the first day, 90 the second day, and 87 the third day. All but 2 of those were e-books. Sales on Kobo, iBooks, and Nook were dismal: 3 on Kobo and 3 on iBooks. Total: 266. So, about 100 less than last time.

What went wrong, what worked?

I failed to line up a newsletter swap for this promotion, which would have helped get more clicks to my Amazon page and more sales. Lesson learned: it helps to get help from another author or two in your genre when you’re publicizing a promotion.

I overspent on paid promotion sites. I used Fussy Librarian, eReader News Today, Robin Reads, and Book Gorilla. Based on my data from the July 2018 promo and this one, I got the most clicks for the least investment from Fussy Librarian and eReader News today. I’ll just stick with them next time. It may be that genre determines clicks for these sites, so I don’t want this to be read as general advice for everyone. This is just how it worked for me.

Facebook ads were a nice surprise. My Facebook ads (I used the same image as last time, but the interface has changed so I had to reduce the amount of ad copy) resulted in 140 link clicks to my sales pages. Of course, since Amazon doesn’t share tracking data, I can’t be sure how many converted into sales. But this makes me want to keep experimenting with Facebook Ads.

My dismal results with Kobo and the other non-Amazon platforms made me think long and hard about the benefits of being wide at this point in the game. I pulled my books out of Amazon exclusivity a year ago. I only have two books and a novella published, so without a big backlist it’s harder to establish readership and get traction on other sites, and my income has taken a hit from the loss of page reads. I did have a fruitful conversation with Christine Munroe of Kobo about how to get noticed on that platform and she gave me some great advice, which I may elaborate on in a future blog post. The main takeaway: I need more books, and I have to offer freebies to get serious downloads on Kobo.

Long tail, sell-through, and ads

Of course no book promotion blog post of mine would be complete without a discussion of long tail and sell-through, since I wrote a post on that very topic last month for the Alliance of Independent Authors.

It’s been a week since the book promotion ended. How have my post-promo sales gone? Have I started seeing an epic long tail of sales, or sell-through of Mira’s Way, book 2 in the series? Well, there’s been a slight uptick in sales for book 2, and my daily sales are about the same as they normally are (i.e., between 1-5 a day), but with one hitch: I turned off all my Amazon AMS ads right after the promo ended. Just to throw a completely unscientific wrench in things, I decided to see if long tail sales and sell-through would come organically.

Although AMS ads were a relative goldmine for me in my early days (all the way back in 2017), they perform sporadically now and are much more expensive. As long as my modest trickle of organic sales continues, I’ll wait to flick the switch again for AMS ads.

Go forth and learn from my mistakes, and may you rocket all the way to #1 in your chosen categories during your next book promotion.

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