Author Topic: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.  (Read 434 times)

LilyBLily

I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« on: November 29, 2019, 10:15:20 PM »
It's the triumph of hope over experience.

I've put my series starter Western romance free this weekend and made the second book in the series 99 cents. I'm not a fan of free, having tried it just once with a different series. Over 2k copies of that book were downloaded, but the series received no sell-through--and not even the usual one review per thousand downloads. The experience was an expensive disappointment as I had pushed the free title with several paid newsletter ads.

I have a new western romance releasing later this weekend and I'm trying to build some excitement for it by featuring the free book in a couple of paid newsletters, ENT and FKBT, and sending out my own newsletter touting the free book and the next book in the series. Then I'll remind my faithful newsletter fans when the new book releases. (If that doesn't automatically cull my mailing list, nothing will.)

So far, on Thanksgiving Day itself I had 163 downloads of the free book. People are up early today and I've have 37 more as of 7:15 a.m. Eastern Standard Time in the U.S. I'll report back.
 

123mlh

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2019, 12:05:50 AM »
I recently did a free run. Sellthrough was crap, but it did for some reason boost sales of the book I'd put free after it went back to paid so hopefully sellthrough from those paid sales will be good.
 

Maggie Ann

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2019, 12:21:25 AM »
My recent free run crashed and burned. There was some sell-thru, but not nearly enough to pay for the ad since I price all my books at 99c.

However, I didn't expect much. It's the only one of the three permafree first in series that doesn't have audios attached to it and audios are the money-maker for me. Whispersync sales give me a very prawny profit, but at least the ad pays for itself.

I rotate these three series, advertising one per month, however, after this latest round, I will probably try something else. No idea what.
           
 

liveswithbirds

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #3 on: November 30, 2019, 02:06:54 PM »
It's the triumph of hope over experience.

I've put my series starter Western romance free this weekend and made the second book in the series 99 cents. I'm not a fan of free, having tried it just once with a different series. Over 2k copies of that book were downloaded, but the series received no sell-through--and not even the usual one review per thousand downloads. The experience was an expensive disappointment as I had pushed the free title with several paid newsletter ads.


Is the book in Select? Will you at least get some page reads out of it?

Next week I'm doing a free run on the one book I have in KU. It's a standalone. Last time I set it free I managed 6-7K downloads through promo sites, mailing list, and social media. I got a nice boost in sales and reads after it went back to regular price. Lasted about two weeks and I made back my investment. It's the only promotion I've ever done that paid for itself.

This time I'm doing Robin's Reads, Book Gorilla, Freebooksy, and two smaller ones -- Book Cave and Full Hearts Romance. I'm hoping that and my mailing list will be enough to give it some visibility after it goes back to paid.

In the one small series I have, I just put Book One back to paid after having it perma-free for the past few months. Very little sell-through on it for me, but at least some reviews. So I feel everyone's pain! :HB

Best of luck to you! Let us know how it goes. :tup3b
 

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #4 on: November 30, 2019, 03:14:29 PM »
This is a six-book series, all in KU, Book #5 releasing Dec. 1. Amazon doesn't show the titles on pre-order as part of the series or on my author page. Until they're live, no one who picks up the free and discounted books in the series will know about the two more coming unless they actually read my list of books in the back or front. This will also be a test of the effectiveness of having all those lists and links.   

So far, no reads to speak of.

Free Downloads:

Nov. 28      163
Nov. 29      693   The total changes as Amazon gets paid. Had a newsletter paid ad and my newsletter went out.
Nov. 30               Numbers just beginning to trickle in for this date. Another newsletter ad scheduled for the morning.

Discounted next in series started Nov. 29:

Nov. 29         8

It has been fun watching the numbers go up. Interestingly, Amazon has called the day over even though it's only over on the east coast. I thought Amazon calculated everything using Pacific time, but evidently not. 
« Last Edit: November 30, 2019, 03:30:48 PM by LilyBLily »
 

Gerri Attrick

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #5 on: November 30, 2019, 07:17:12 PM »
Good luck, Lily.

You may find you've had a sale elsewhere if it's come in before midnight Seattle time. i.e in the UK or Australia.
 

alhawke

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2019, 02:01:26 AM »
I'm wondering if Thanksgiving people in US aren't buying as much ebooks now. Too much turkey in stomachs. You got a spike Black Friday. I haven't seen much sales over the last two days myself. Maybe you'll get an even greater spike over the weekend and then Monday following? Hope you do.

Best of luck!
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 02:03:48 AM by alhawke »
 

Simon Haynes

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2019, 03:50:24 AM »
With impeccable timing I released my latest novel... today.

Oh well, at least a large percentage of my readers are UK based.

 
 
 

 
WIP

 
 
 
>
>
>
>
>
 

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #8 on: December 01, 2019, 10:24:07 AM »
Downloads proceeding apace, but not page reads. People are in a "buying" mood. A handful of 99-cent sales of the next book, which means they're all from my mailing list.

I'm enjoying the numbers, but I'm going to be very embarrassed if I end up giving away more copies over a weekend than I've sold in nearly five years.

End of day, but not the final count:

Free Downloads:

Nov. 28      163
Nov. 29      730  The total changes as Amazon gets paid. Had a newsletter paid ad and my newsletter went out.
Nov. 30    1,731  Not a final number. Another newsletter ad.

Discounted next in series started Nov. 29:

Nov. 29         8
Nov. 30        10

Full-price purchases:

$3.99            1

Page reads: 1.5 books
« Last Edit: December 01, 2019, 03:10:31 PM by LilyBLily »
 

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #9 on: December 01, 2019, 11:47:06 PM »
I expect more today as people catch up with their inboxes.

Free Downloads:

Nov. 28      163
Nov. 29      730  Had a newsletter paid ad and my newsletter went out. FKBT
Nov. 30    1,805  Another newsletter paid ad. ENT
Dec. 1         100  Early morning. Sent a newsletter about my new releases.

Discounted next in series bought:

Nov. 29         8
Nov. 30        11

Full-price purchases:

$3.99            1

Page reads: 4 books

 

lea_owens

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2019, 07:01:09 AM »
I hope your read-throughs and sales continue for weeks. I know when I've downloaded a freebie, it might be weeks before I have time to read it, and if it was good, I'll follow on with other books.

Free runs these days underscore how difficult the market is compared to seven years ago. In 2012, I had two children's/teen books (Horses of the Sun and Horses of the Light) - looking at the historical data, I'd do free days for Sun without using promotional sites, and I can see the free spikes reaching over 7,000, another over 6,000, another over 5,000, and it would make it into the top 50 overall free in all of Amazon. A few weeks back, I paid several promotional sites and had Sun free (I've never been able to get a BookBub feature - nothing I write suits them 'at the moment', but that moment has extended for years), and struggled to make 1,000 downloads - though there are now four books in the series, so there are few sales afterwards, not many, though. *smacks forehead* if only I'd kept writing in 2012 instead of listening to the negative self-talk and stopping. We all need to commit to continue writing from now on, as it's only going to get harder, and we don't want to find ourselves in 2027, looking back and now and realising how much easier it was to market books in 2019.
 

Maggie Ann

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2019, 08:15:59 AM »
I hope your read-throughs and sales continue for weeks. I know when I've downloaded a freebie, it might be weeks before I have time to read it, and if it was good, I'll follow on with other books.

Free runs these days underscore how difficult the market is compared to seven years ago. In 2012, I had two children's/teen books (Horses of the Sun and Horses of the Light) - looking at the historical data, I'd do free days for Sun without using promotional sites, and I can see the free spikes reaching over 7,000, another over 6,000, another over 5,000, and it would make it into the top 50 overall free in all of Amazon. A few weeks back, I paid several promotional sites and had Sun free (I've never been able to get a BookBub feature - nothing I write suits them 'at the moment', but that moment has extended for years), and struggled to make 1,000 downloads - though there are now four books in the series, so there are few sales afterwards, not many, though. *smacks forehead* if only I'd kept writing in 2012 instead of listening to the negative self-talk and stopping. We all need to commit to continue writing from now on, as it's only going to get harder, and we don't want to find ourselves in 2027, looking back and now and realising how much easier it was to market books in 2019.

2012 was the end of the golden years. 10K freeloads was common and there were those who would get as much as 35K. No, we didn't have to advertise. You knew the second POI or ENT had picked up your freebie because freeloads would spike.

A lot of things happened since then. KU, Amazon cracking down on advertisers that went over a certain threshold of freeloads, hundreds of thousands of books added to the marketplace. It's been a struggle ever since.
           
 

lea_owens

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2019, 08:33:03 AM »

2012 was the end of the golden years. 10K freeloads was common and there were those who would get as much as 35K. No, we didn't have to advertise. You knew the second POI or ENT had picked up your freebie because freeloads would spike.

A lot of things happened since then. KU, Amazon cracking down on advertisers that went over a certain threshold of freeloads, hundreds of thousands of books added to the marketplace. It's been a struggle ever since.

Agree 100%. Back then, I actually made money without spending money and there were only two books. Now, my gross income is a lot higher, but by the time I pay every wealthy company for ads and promotions, my net income is lower. Basically, I'm working to make others money from my writing. Maybe, after another five books, I'll start to claw my income back for me, but at present it seems that I've become a stupid mouse running on a wheel that turns my energy into power for everyone else, and I just keep running.

Still, back to the OP, it's good to see the results of this promotion. LilyBLily - what promotional sites did you use? I can see ENT, but did you use other promotional sites?
 

Simon Haynes

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2019, 03:43:39 PM »
To be honest, indie authors now face the same conditions as any other business. If you want to sell something online, you have to advertise. We're no different just because we're selling books instead of necklaces, computer parts or proofreading services.

Maybe it's because my entire working life was spent in bricks and mortar small business, where we faced ongoing struggles to keep things afloat. Those businesses spent thousands a week on advertising, plus two-three times that on wages, rent, stock, etc. If it went wrong, the business would go bust and everyone would lose.

When I think how clean and uncomplicated the ebook business is, with none of those recurring costs, it makes me smile with delight.

I don't see advertising as a large corporation reaching into my pocket. When I was trad-pubbed, I was deperate for a way to generate sales once my books were in stores, but there was absolutely nothing I could do. Now I can fire up a handful of ads, limit them to suit my budget, and increase the spend as sales come in.



 
 
 

 
WIP

 
 
 
>
>
>
>
>
 
The following users thanked this post: Anarchist, David VanDyke, liveswithbirds

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2019, 03:56:20 PM »
Nov. 28      163
Nov. 29      730  Had a newsletter paid ad and my newsletter went out. FKBT
Nov. 30    1,805  Another newsletter paid ad. ENT
Dec. 1         450  Sent a newsletter about my new releases.
Dec. 2           29  Morning of last day for free, boosted a Facebook post

Discounted next in series bought:

Nov. 29         8
Nov. 30        11
Dec. 1           6
Dec. 2           1

Full-price purchases:

Nov. 30 $3.99            1
Dec. 1   $3.99            1

Page reads: 16 books

This may seem paltry, but it's more action than these titles have seen in a while, so I'm happy.

Also, all this rather spurious action mitigates the absolute flatline of my newest book release today. I received several really nice reviews from my ARC team, so I know that a handful of people have read and enjoyed it, but the nothingness of this release is of a piece with my other releases other than women's fiction, which is why I'm not planning on writing any more short contemporary romances for a while.

I have two or three Amazon ads kicking in shortly, including the multibook ad I paused weeks ago, so there may be some additional action. OTOH, maybe I'll just pay Amazon a lot more in ad money this month. I don't mind paying for ads. The difficulty always lies in connecting with my audience. I know they're out there, but finding them is a challenge. That to me is the sad part about having missed the gold rush days of ebooks.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2019, 11:38:51 PM by LilyBLily »
 
The following users thanked this post: Lu Kudzoza, liveswithbirds

David VanDyke

  • Medium Novel unlocked
  • ***
  • Posts: 674
  • Thanked: 685 times
  • Gender: Male
  • Full-time hybrid author and curmudgeon
    • David VanDyke's Author Website
Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2019, 05:00:08 AM »
To be honest, indie authors now face the same conditions as any other business. If you want to sell something online, you have to advertise. We're no different just because we're selling books instead of necklaces, computer parts or proofreading services.

Maybe it's because my entire working life was spent in bricks and mortar small business, where we faced ongoing struggles to keep things afloat. Those businesses spent thousands a week on advertising, plus two-three times that on wages, rent, stock, etc. If it went wrong, the business would go bust and everyone would lose.

When I think how clean and uncomplicated the ebook business is, with none of those recurring costs, it makes me smile with delight.

I don't see advertising as a large corporation reaching into my pocket. When I was trad-pubbed, I was deperate for a way to generate sales once my books were in stores, but there was absolutely nothing I could do. Now I can fire up a handful of ads, limit them to suit my budget, and increase the spend as sales come in.

This.

Lots of authors think they should just cast their bread upon the waters and it should come back to them tenfold. Yet most businesses operate on 5%-25% margins. Businesses with 100%+ margins of profit are rare, yet some indies seem to think spending $1 to make 2 is a burden, unfair, or unsustainable. It's actually a good deal.

Some small businesspeople would give body parts to have a business with a 100% profit margin. Try the grocery business, which I've read has the lowest margins of profit of all--under 10%. The only reason grocery stores work at all is they are so consistent and necessary--everybody's gotta eat. Even so, they do go bust. Restaurants and one-off shops go bust all the time.

Over my writing career I've consistently spent less than 20% on all expenses--advertising, travel, covers, editing, etc--with the one exception of translations, which I've been spending a lot on. But if I never did translations, I'd be achieving roughly 400% profit. Take my salary as an expense, and suddenly that becomes more like 50%, but that's still pretty good. The main downside to the indie book biz is it's hard to scale up. Add 10K to my ad budget and I won't get 40K more sales. In my experience, it's hard to even get $15K more revenue out of a $10K ad spend--because it's hard to scale. In my experiments with various ad engines I've spent $10K in a month and only increased $6K in revenue, which is a gut punch.

Within that context, I'm damn happy to be making a living and never feeling like my business is going bust.
Never listen to people with no skin in the game.

I'm a lucky guy. I find the harder I work, the luckier I am.
 
The following users thanked this post: Anarchist, liveswithbirds

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2019, 08:12:17 AM »
Traditional publishers' margin historically was 6%. Grocery stores' margin is 1%-2%. They make it up in volume, but what a tough business. Ours is much easier, but attaining the volume is the problem.
 

twicebitten

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #17 on: December 03, 2019, 08:36:52 AM »
It's not that I disagree with you more savvy business people here about anything you're saying about return or margins. But I only spent 3% of my income on ads, and maybe 2 hours of my time in all of 2019. Maybe not even 2 hours of time. I made a FT living. Could I double my gross income by spending 33% of that greater income on ads, as some friends of mine do? Sure, but then I'd be stuck being a half-time marketer rather than a writer. I hate that job more than I can express. I'd go back to my previous day job first--I liked it better than marketing. And let's say I somehow grossed 3 times as much from heavy advertising, that someone could guarantee to me that I would. (which no one can, of course.) After taxes, I'd pocket almost exactly the same amount of money as I do now. Perhaps I'm missing some nuance, but I really don't see the point to that. I mean, Zuck would like it if I (or the collective "I") did, but I find him reprehensible, so...I won't.

 

Anarchist

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #18 on: December 03, 2019, 09:40:51 AM »
To be honest, indie authors now face the same conditions as any other business. If you want to sell something online, you have to advertise. We're no different just because we're selling books instead of necklaces, computer parts or proofreading services.

This has been my perspective from the start.

Books = products.

Readers = customers.

Put great products into customers' hands. Do it over and over and over. Keep customers happy and make sure they never forget about you.
"It is hard to imagine a more stupid or dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong." - Thomas Sowell

I keep a stiff upper lip and shoot from the hip. - AC/DC
 

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #19 on: December 03, 2019, 09:49:43 AM »
I don't have the energy to market the way some others do. On the good side, I'm not trying to trademark common words we all use. Grin

What I'm trying to do with advertising is let people know about my books' existence. Maybe they are customers and what I'm selling is a product, but it's my personal product, unique to me. There is no point to this otherwise, for me. It's actually far easier to make money in the stock market, or in real estate, or in any number of speculative fields that oddly enough are less speculative than publishing novels.


 

LilyBLily

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #20 on: December 04, 2019, 12:24:56 AM »
The action from now on will be page reads as sell-through. Page reads are double and triple my highest numbers for the past three months. (My last release was a year ago, so this is not a huge surprise.)

Free downloads:

Nov. 28      163
Nov. 29      730  Had a newsletter paid ad and my newsletter went out. FKBT
Nov. 30    1,805  Another newsletter paid ad. ENT
Dec. 1         450  Sent a newsletter about my new releases.
Dec. 2         192  Boosted a Facebook post, FB took 7 hours to approve it, so--eh. Also, Amazon multibook ad.
Dec. 3             2  ? Time zone shennanigans 
Total:       3,342 



Discounted next in series bought:

Nov. 29         8
Nov. 30        11
Dec. 1           6
Dec. 2           3
Total:           28

Full-price purchases:

Nov. 30 $3.99            1
Dec. 1   $3.99            1
Dec. 2   $3.99            1

Page reads: 26 books

In terms of simple dollars and cents, as usual, there was no profit, although I might have broken even if I'd done just the one ad with ENT. OTOH, I can't be sure it was more successful than the Free Kindle Books and Tips ad because on a holiday weekend shopping behavior is very unusual. The cost of two newsletter ads, plus the Facebook ad, plus the Amazon ads, adds up to about double what this run has earned so far. I'd still count the free-plus-discount Kindle Countdown run as successful. And a surprising number of the page reads are of the free book, which is a nice bonus.
 

liveswithbirds

Re: I'm doing a free run. We'll see how it goes.
« Reply #21 on: December 04, 2019, 01:40:48 AM »
Hopefully you'll get a tail and the page reads and sell-through will keep going.

Thanks for posting your numbers. I'm always curious about how promotions perform on a major holiday. Wasn't brave enough to test it myself, so I'm doing my free run later this week.

In fact, I paused my ads over Thanksgiving, figuring people would be buying other things, but maybe that's not true. I was also debating the efficacy of running AMS on a free run because I get a much better CPC with Freebooksy, etc. (Of course, I'd turn it back on at the end to take advantage of the boost and keep things going.)

 :goodpost: