One Author Has Success with Free Books

Branded for Murder #4 - Amazon FreeAfter trying different approaches to market my books using “free” periods on Amazon’s KDP Select program, I finally found some success. When I combined holidays with multiple free books, the result was a large volume of downloads with actual sales following the free period.

In the last three years I have self-published six books. Four are part of my Scott Tucker series which is set back in the 60’s in Boston. However, like most new authors, I have the problem of being discovered. As many know, the KDP Select program allows five free days during any ninety-day period which can be used to bring attention to new authors.

When I began using this ‘free’ approach, I made the first book in the series free, hoping to attract attention to that book and the series. Later, I made another book in the series free hoping it would also bring attention to that novel and the series. It sounded good, but this serialized approach did not provide actual book sales (a sales bump) following these free periods.

In January, I decided to try a different approach. I wanted to use the New Year’s Day holiday period to catch readers looking to load up all those new readers with reading material. I also considered which books to make free, and decided to make all four books in the series free at the same time. I made my collection of short-stories free too. In addition, I made all five books free for a four-day period encompassing the holiday.

My books were downloaded over seven thousand times during that period. During the four days, three of the books made the top 20 free on Amazon’s Best Sellers in the Mystery Romance category. Branded for Murder, which is the first book in the series, made it as high as #4 on that list. My short-story anthology made it to #6 in the short-story segment on Amazon. That high ranking also increased visibility for the novels, the series and my name.

The real surprise was that actual sales followed that free period. Most of the sales were for the first book in the series.

I wanted to see if I could recreate the success of this strategy and made the same books free again for the Monday holiday known as Washington’s Birthday. I was surprised there were over twelve-hundred downloads worldwide. Once again I was even more surprised that sales followed the free period and exceeded a normal month, and this time most of the sales were focused on the second novel in the series.

Regardless, any sales are rewarding and when reviews accompany them, it does make giving the books away worth it. The objective I’m still working on is to increase awareness of my novels. Hopefully, the word will spread without making the books free, but until sales are much higher on a regular basis, I plan to make the books free over the next holiday period.

As you consider your own strategies, you might want to try this combination to see if it works for you.

Author: Dick C. Waters

Dick C Waters is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the Scott Tucker mystery novels; Branded for Murder, Serial Separation, Scent of Gardenia and Fragrance of Revenge (soon to be published). For more information please see his Author Central Page

29 thoughts on “One Author Has Success with Free Books”

  1. A very informative and inspiring post Dick. I have been pulling away from the free and $.99 approach. However, I think you may be on to something with the holiday and quick burst approach.You are getting a lot of bang for the buck. Also during holidays people aren’t quite so tied up with the daily routine. It is definitely worth a try.Thank you for sharing, very kind of you.

  2. I’m with Aron, Dick – you really do seem to have hit on something that actually works. One question though, did you do a lot of promotion before and during those free days? Oh, and congratulations, that is a very satisfying result. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the suggestion, Dick. You may be benefiting from bucking the typical advice *not* to run a promotion over a holiday weekend. Fewer promotions running = more downloads from people who are looking for a free or cheap read. 🙂

  4. Congrats on something working, Dick. There’s been some discussion on this site about freebie/cheapie promo, and the question I’d ask you is what you did to promote your free days.

        1. Lin, I think most of the downloads came in response to making the top 20 on Amazon. Once in the eyes of readers it was easy to press the button to order a free download.

  5. Great info, Dick. I also had good luck running a free promo on a few of my related books (all romances) that spilled over into paid sales, and I will do that again. Good idea to use a holiday, especially New Years during the “great upload” time of the year. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Excellent post, Dick. I found the same thing and have talked about it over the years in these pages. I love the holiday freebie. Especially New Years Day, I got my biggest single day download of over 11,000 copies on that day.

    My strategy has been to focus on the holidays throughout the year, with 4th of July being my #2 go to holiday. Thanks for sharing your results.

    1. I did not mean to steal your thunder. I plan to run future holiday promotions, but ran into the “doughnut hole” on Labor Day weekend. I just drafted a post on what that hole is. Maybe we can do a holiday promotion on Craig’s list of all the IU staff free books along with any guests. That might be a huge treat for readers and bring more attention to the IU site.

  7. Dick: How does it work with Craig’s List? Does one first register as a member? Is there a certain page or pages one posts about a FREE book? I’m interested. Like you, I go FREE to get visibility for my books. I seem to live in a cave when it comes to Craig’s List, eBay, and other e/shopping sites. Your is a great tip. I just need a little more data how it works. Or at least how to start.

    Jackie Weger

    1. Jackie, maybe you just gave me an idea for another post. It is easy to sign up for a new account. Once you have an account you can log in and post an event. On the right side there is a selection for state or city, or even country. I selected a city and then selected “Event” in the categories and put in some words about the free eBook series on that time window.

  8. Hi Dick, I think this Craig’s List event sounds really interesting. Would you like to write a follow-up post explaining how you orchestrated that? 🙂

    1. I think I just committed to doing one above. I know Martin Crosbie uses than venue, but I would be glad to do one. With cut and paste it made it really simple. However, after I got to 25 cities, Craig’s List was busy on the tail end deleting my additional city selections.

      1. Martin, if you want to do a post about Craig’s List please let me know.
        I also need to read these responses, or have an editor – “uses than venue” should have been ‘uses that venue

  9. FREE definitely works and this is a great post. My recent success over this weekend speaks volumes I think and I wanted to share. I have just ran a free promo through Bookbub on Friday, I had 32,000 downloads and went to #3 overall in Kindle and #1 in all it’s categories. Following the end of this run across both my books to date I have had nearly 700 sales. Currently sat in position #391 in overall paid and #12 in all it’s categories. Free advertising is great but paid advertising works wonders too. Hope this adds value to your post 🙂

    1. Lisa, I was excited to see your book doing so well recently. That’s great news. And, it’s especially gratifying to hear that free may be working once again. I ran my last free promo about ten months ago. I gave away 20,000 books and hit top 5 overall. The resulting sales spike was (if memory serves), 12 paid books. I ran a book that sells most days and the net difference was an increase of only 12 sales.
      It totally turned me off free but hopefully the tide has turned.

      1. Thanks Martin. I have had over 1000 sales now and the books are still in the low paid charts. I ran a FREE promo about 6 months ago through Bookbub and didn’t do great so maybe the tide has turned. That time I managed to cover my costs and a little more but nothing like this. I am just amazed that sales just keep on coming – hope it lasts a lot longer!! Hope you are well 🙂

  10. Congrats on your success with KDP Select. I tried it before, but ultimately decided wide distribution is best for me. As a result, I’ve seen an uptick in sales from channels like Apple and B&N. Having more than one book helps, though (I have several free and low-priced books with two novels).

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: