Today I’ve got a real scoop! Author Terry Tyler has agreed to let me pick her brains about free promotions on Kindle. This is very valuable information for us indies, and I’m very excited to be able to get the lowdown on how – and if – it works. Terry is the author of three novels – you can find links to them here, where I feature Terry as author of the week. More contact details below. Right, on with the grilling!

Hi Terry, thanks again for agreeing to share what you’ve learned about free promos on Amazon KDP so far. Am I right in thinking that this latest promo was the second you’ve held for Nobody’s Fault? Have you done one for any of your other books so far?

I did a 2 day free promotion for You Wish a couple of days before Christmas last year, then 3 days for both You Wish and Nobody’s Fault on the 3rd weekend in April this year.  I then did a further two days just for Nobody’s Fault on 16/17 June.  I haven’t done one for The Other Side yet, and am not sure whether I will or not.

Right, I’m going to kick off with the burning question – how many copies of Nobody’s Fault got downloaded this time? And how does that compare with the time before?

I’ll answer this question with regard to each promotion. The first one I did, last Christmas, for You Wish, I hadn’t a clue what to do; I just stuck it on for free, tweeted it a few times, and got only 450 downloads.  I thought that was amazing at the time…! The second one I did, for both books, was considerably more successful – I had 17,560 downloads! That time, I’d researched it properly, and done all the preparation.  The last one I did, last month, achieved only about 3,400 downloads.

Still, 3,400 is pretty cool. And 17,560 is amazing! I had no idea you could reach so many people this way, to be honest. Is it true (as I’ve read many times) that a free promo will push your book up various charts, and then stay there for a while once it returns to paid-for again? This is the prime selling point of the KDP select programme, I think: that authors can use the free promo days to give their books a kick start or boost sales. Otherwise, you’re kind of just giving them away, aren’t you?

I’ll ignore the first promotion, because I was just playing at it. During the one I did for both books in April I reached numbers 1 & 2 in the free download charts and remained there for most of the 3rd day of the free promotion.

It isn’t exactly true that a free promotion pushes your book up various charts and keeps them there when the promotion is over, no.  As soon as your book stops being free it goes back to zilch – no ranking, anywhere.  Then, as people start to buy it again, it starts to climb again and the normal rankings apply.  What the promotion DID do was increase the books’ visibility, so more people knew they were there and, thus, bought them.

This is what happened to me following the very successful free promotion in April – all rankings/figures apply to Amazon UK paid charts:

Once the books went back into the paid rankings, I got as high as #24 in the Top 100 for You Wish, and #96 for Nobody’s Fault.  I was at numbers #1 & #2 in ‘Fiction -Women Writers’ for about 4 days – above people like Sophie Kinsella! I got a couple of congratulation tweets from REAL PROPER PUBLISHED AUTHORS, which thrilled me greatly, as you can imagine! I was also at the top of the ‘movers and shakers’ list on the front page of the Amazon Kindle Store.

However, it has been suggested by many that Amazon no longer gives this post free promotion visibility. I think this is true; I reckon I was lucky, and caught the tail end of it, as I haven’t seen anybody since have anything like the success I had.  Last month, after the 2 free days for Nobody’s Fault, its highest chart position was only about 3400, something I achieve on occasion anyway.

I kept an eye on one book that was on for free a couple of weeks ago.  It got to #30 in the free download chart and #1 in a free download genre chart, but as soon as it stopped being free it went back to its normal chart position of about 30K, and hasn’t moved much since. I watch these things so I can spot the trends, to see if it’s worth doing again! However, for a book that is not selling anyway, it’s still worth it, I think; of all those people who download it, some will actually read it. Then, if they like it, they might tell others, or review it, or buy your other books. It’s about finding new readers, which you won’t do if your book is hiding away in the 40Ks, with hardly any reviews. As for giving them away – well, if you weren’t selling, what difference does it make? Those people wouldn’t have bought it because they didn’t know it existed. It depends if you want people to read your books or not, really.

Hmm, hiding away in the 40Ks – that sounds kinda familiar! :/ Those chart positions you talked about are amazing – and I agree that it’s all about finding readers. But I’ve also heard people say that the kind of readers who download your book when it’s free aren’t necessarily your target readers, and that when they come to actually read it months later they can forget it was free, feel miffed it’s not their ‘genre’ and leave a bad review. Has this happened to you? Have you had any ‘bad’ (1 star) reviews and would you put this down to free promos?

People have all sorts of theories; I daresay some of them are right in some cases, though I haven’t heard that one! I imagine one of the problems is that everyone has a Kindle jam-packed with stuff already; most of it they will never read, or they’ll forget it’s there. A few people on a Kindle users group I belong to on Facebook told me that they went to download Nobody’s Fault when it was free last month, and discovered they already had it – I rest my case!

No, I’ve never had a 1 star review. I’ve had a few 2 star ones, but everyone gets them, anyway; you can’t please everyone. Yes, I think a couple of them were the ones who got it when it was free, and maybe they wouldn’t have bought it normally because it wasn’t their sort of thing – so, yes, I agree with that, to a certain extent.  But you can’t always make excuses for bad reviews; some people just won’t like what you’ve written!

Where and how much did you promote the free promotion beforehand? I would worry that if people knew it was going to be free, those who might have bought it would just wait a while 🙂

I didn’t put out that the books were going to be free until the day before – that would be crazy, because, as you say, it would prevent sales. I did, however, arrange the last time to have it featured on Digital Book Today’s daily free book bulletin (you have to have at the very least 10 x 4/5 star reviews for this, and arrange it a few weeks in advance), also, both times, I sent messages and the links to all the sites on FB that advertise free books, so they would feature them, and put them on the Free Book threads on the groups I am on, on Goodreads. I also added as many Twitter followers as I could, and retweeted all their stuff for about a month before hand – but I am a great retweeter anyway, because you can’t expect people to help you with your promotions unless you are helping them!

You are a great retweeter, I can vouch for that! And how did you promote it while the promo was happening? Which method do you think resulted in the most downloads?

During the promotion I tweeted all day and all evening. I let sites like 90DaysNovel and BookYrNextRead know about it – you need to put things like ‘Free books’ and ‘Free Kindle’ into the search to find all the relevant sites, and tweet it to them. Actually, you need to follow and retweet them for a month or so before, too, so they know your name and don’t just think, huh, why should we promote her book, she’s never even bothered to follow us! The constant tweeting on free promo weekend will result in many, many retweets, and you have to still remember to RT people back, too, of course – you rely on the goodwill of others to get the word out. I also advertised the promotion on my FB author page a few times (that is linked to my Twitter page), and once or twice on my personal page, though not too much as (as I am always saying!) people don’t go on Facebook to be sold to. Without a doubt, Twitter is the way to do it. I only left the laptop to go to the loo and sleep – it’s shoulder aching and tedious but it gets results!

Another thing – don’t forget about the time differences between the UK and the US, and keep tweeting both the and .com links at the right times – for instance, you might want to concentrate more on the .com links if you’re tweeting at 3 in the morning in the UK.

It sounds like a lot of hard work! Back on rankings (I’m not obsessed with them or anything!), where was Nobody’s Fault before the promo, and where roughly is it now? And have sales increased? Basically, do you feel that it was worth it?

Before the promotion for Nobody’s Fault in June, You Wish was by far the best selling of my books.  Now Nobody’s Fault sells more.  However, some days The Other Side sells the most.  There’s no real pattern. As for the rankings, they go up and down like yo-yos all the time anyway; they can range from 3K to 25K in any two or three day period. You only need to sell about 5 or 6 books to make the ranking change from, say 18K to 4K! But rankings don’t only depend on sales; they also depend on recent reviews, recent ‘likes’, etc.

That’s interesting. Sometimes I stay around 20K for ages on minimal sales, and sometimes I find my book plummeting to the depths very quickly! What final advice would you give to a new author considering a free promo for their novel? (i.e. Me!)

Do it – it’s the way to get your book known. But don’t waste the ‘window of opportunity’ – make sure you do all the preparation first, which is mostly a case of using Twitter and Goodreads actively and interactively every day, and don’t expect it to become an overnight bestseller as a result of the free promo. You might be lucky – it might. Oh – the other thing is, make sure you have some decent reviews. There are so many books on offer for free every day, that they do make a difference – I listen to what the people on my FB Kindle user group say! If you’ve only got 3 reviews and it looks as if those are written by your mates (ie, it’s the only book they’ve reviewed), people will probably think, that’s probably not much good, then.  I can’t suggest how to get reviews; I got mine by people reading and enjoying the books. If someone has told you they have done so, don’t be scared to ask them to review it; most people don’t mind.

Thanks so much, Terry, for giving us the benefit of your experience. I’d just like to add that I’ve recently finished reading Terry’s first novel, You Wish, and it is absolutely fantastic. Riveting. This is not a book review (I don’t really do book reviews), but all I will say is I could not put it down and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Links to Terry:

Amazon UK