Wednesday, September 5, 2012

M. Louisa Locke: Using Giveaways for Promotions

Last Wednesday I talked about my experiences with the KDP Select program for doing book giveaways. Other authors have had better or worse experiences. M. Louisa Locke, author of the Victorian San Francisco mysteries Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits, mentioned on a listserv that she was making both the first and second book in her series free at the same time. I asked:

I’m curious why you chose to make the first two books free back-to-back. My tendency would be to make just one free and hope people would then go on to buy the next book in the series. I know some people with lots of books out like to always have one book free as a promotional tool. But I’m curious what people think about how this could best be used, especially for books in a series.

She answered and graciously agreed that I could quote her:

“The question was why do both books back to back free, and my reason was simple, both books had slipped to the bottom (and frequently off) of the historical mystery bestseller list during the 2 months I had gone off KDP Select to try selling on the Nook and Kobo, etc.

“The sooner they went out free, the sooner that both would show back up higher on the list—which is where I get sales. You are right that eventually a proportion would buy the sequel, but not in enough numbers in a given day to affect the best seller rank.

“I also find it easier to promote the 2 books together, so that the buzz I generate for one translates to the other.

“I have also promoted them separately in the past, and will probably do this from now on, once they both go up somewhat in the rankings.” 

Later, she added, “The tactic definitely worked. As of this morning, the first day both books are back at paid, Maids of Misfortune was already at #13 on the historical mystery bestseller list, and #9 on the historical popularity list (it had been 127 on the popularity list before the promotion.) 

“It always takes at least a day for a book to find its new ranking in the bestseller list, so Uneasy Spirits, which just ended its free promotion at midnight last night, is still high in paid list, but dropping fast. But it is already showing up at #11 in the historical mystery popularity list (it had been at 113) so I know it will do well on the bestseller list by the end of the day.

As usual, Maids as the first in the series did better in downloads. Over the 2 days in all the Kindle stores I had 21,767 free downloads—and I haven’t done that well since last February. I had 11,572 free downloads of Uneasy Spirits over the 2 days. Even more heartening, I sold 80 copies of Maids of Misfortune yesterday—the first day it was back for sale while Uneasy was still for free. In the weeks before the promo I was lucky to sell a tenth of that.

“Would I have done as well if I had separated the promotions? I don’t know. Maybe. But it did take time to do the pre-promo and promotional work and, as I said, it was easier to do the work for both at the same time.

“If you primarily sell ebooks online the major way that people discover your books is either 1) through social media and 2) by browsing online. Not being the queen of twitter, my major sales come the second way. I write historical mysteries, readers looking for a new historical mystery go and browse in that category, if my book isn’t in the top 100 the chances of them finding it are very low.

“But if I can keep my books in the top 100 of historical mysteries, I sell. KDP Select when it came available this winter meant that when my book sales would start to falter and my books slide down the top 100, I could do a free promotion, and since these free books count as sales (they now only count as a percentage of sales, which is why many of us aren’t seeing quite the same effect from a free promotion) they would bump up the books in rank. Then they are more visible. I have been fortunate that if people see my book, a lot of them buy it.

Mary Louisa wrote a blog post with more detail about why she’s happy to give away books for free, and why she doesn’t worry about piracy or Amazon accepting returns. She says, “I look at the issues from the perspective of the reader. If I want to sell books, I should be trying to make the reader happy, not the publisher, not the distributor, and not the blogging pundit.”

As she points out and I’ve often thought, that’s why Amazon has been so successful. They focus on trying to please the customer, while many traditional book publishers have focused on trying to force the customers to do what the publisher wants. (For example by not releasing e-books at the same time as print books.)

M. Louisa adds, “Do I mind that more people have gotten my books for free than have bought them? No because my income doubled this year from last after the introduction of KDP Select, and I know from emails and reviews that lots of those people who got the books for free are my future readers of my future books and that they are providing very good word of mouth.”

She also wrote blog posts about her “rather disappointing experiment trying to sell my books on Nook and Kobo.”

Next week I’ll be back with a few more thoughts on giveaways from other authors.

View Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mysteryor Uneasy Spirits: A Victorian San Francisco Mysteryon Amazon.

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