Kindle Giveaway Experience

I had such an unexpected experience with my first Kindle giveaway that I thought I’d share it with my fellow authors. First, to make sure we’re on the same page as to what kind of giveaway I’m talking about: if your book is in KU, you have the option through KDP of listing it as free for up to 5 days a year. With no idea what would happen, I made my M/M BDSM short story, Deep Under, which had been out for almost a year, free for a five day period starting on a Tuesday.

I tweeted about it being free and a few people RT’d me. I also posted to a FB group for M/M readers. I ran a $7 ad in a relevant newsletter. I think that’s the sum total of the marketing I did. Like I said, I had no idea what to expect.

In total I gave away more than 800 copies, more than half of them in the first two days. That sent me to #1 on the free list in M/M Romance (although this is a short story, Amazon has, for whatever reason, never tagged it as a short read, so this was the full-length category). It only spent a day at #1 but it was in the top 10 for the entire 5 days, because the best seller list is a self-fulfilling cycle. Readers see it so they buy it so it stays on that page.

Bragging – I’m ahead of Will & Patrick (a fave of mine) and, for some reason, The Picture of Dorian Gray

At first, I thought this promo was a complete bust. There were only two new reviews. I got one new “fan” who bought and reviewed another book. There were no newsletter sign-ups. I did see a small bounce on my most similar title (Owned, another short M/M BDSM). During those 5 days, KENP for Deep Under ran at normal levels. Despite the fact that readers could have “bought” the book for free, some were still borrowing it. (I’ve done that myself – just click on the button I’m used to clicking on).

I believe strongly that a huge percentage of the people who claimed the book didn’t read it. I feel like there must be people who just haunt the free lists and grab whatever they can get, regardless of whether or not they’d be interested. Because 800 copies? That was more than this book had sold total in its lifetime, and it was only a 99 cent book. If there was that kind of demand for it, 99 cents isn’t a gigantic barrier.

BUT

Big but coming.

I can’t begin to explain how this works, but that title has seen an increase in traffic ever since that free period. Immediately following the free period, KENP more than doubled (and remember it didn’t decrease during the free period). Two months later, both sales and KENP continue to be slightly higher than they were before the free period and overall I’ve nearly doubled reviews in that time frame.

Across all books, my KENP was slightly higher after the free period than before. Since I didn’t have a new release during the time, the normal trend would be downwards. In the graph below, you can see the free book spike and below that, the following increase in KENP.

The heightened interest in this book (and reader reviews to the effect that they’d have liked a less abrupt ending) caused me to write an epilogue (Back Under) and put it on my website. I’ve updated the ebook to link to my website where I’d hope to collect newsletter sign ups. My one regret is that I didn’t do that before I gave away 800 copies.

In summary:

  • It doesn’t seem that giving away copies decreases sales over the long run. Contrarily, it appears to increase sales, even for the book I gave away
  • Think about how to draw those new readers to your website before you run the giveaway
  • More than half the copies I gave away were in the first two days. Since you have 5 days per book per year, it might make sense to split them
  • Deep Under is the book I consider my “gateway” book. It’s representative of my work but it’s nichey enough to draw attention and people seem to like it. Don’t give away crap.

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