Last weekend I ran a free promotion on my novel, The Family Trap, hoping to entice new readers into signing up to my mailing list ready for my the release next weekend of Cupid’s Way. To give the free promo a bit of a boost, I tried once again to get into Bookbub. This was the third time I’d applied, and the second with this particular title. I was prepared for rejection – I know, from my Alliance of Independent Authors forum, that the Bub is difficult to get into and that many great titles get turned away all the time.

When I got the email to say that The Family Trap had been accepted I was really chuffed, and I duly went along to PayPal and coughed up the £117 to be listed in the Women’s Fiction category for a free promotion on Sunday 15th June. On the Bookbub website it states that this category is expected to achieve a range of 10,400 to 29,500 downloads, with an average of 20,200. (Spoiler alert: TFT smashed this range.) I thought that was pretty cool, and as TFT has some great reviews in the US, as well as in the UK, I was hoping for a good uptake generally.

A week before the free promotion I did all my usual hard work listing the title on all the main sites that push and promote freebies. I paid another £15 or so for some of the listing sites, and put in the hours filling in forms etc. I blogged about it on the first day, popped it on Facebook and Twitter, then went away for the weekend with my family.

Amazing Results

On Saturday night I logged in to see what was happening. I was gobsmacked to see almost 7,000 downloads in the US already (this was before the Bookbub promo had started), and surprised that it was only 1,500 in the UK. This is ever the way – it’s a fact that most of the free listings go out to readers in the US and have yet to break into the UK market. I logged out and wondered what would happen the following day when the Bookbub email went out to subscribers. Little did I know that I’d spend the rest of the weekend with my jaw on the floor.

bookbub effect free


This graph shows the free promotion downloads over the five day period (Friday 13th to Tuesday 17th June). The numbers are staggering. On the first day it hit 5,000 downloads, which was fantastic in itself. But look at what happened when the Bookbub email went out to subscribers – on June 15th The Family Trap was downloaded 38,223 times! In one day! Hey, I know there are bestselling authors out there who get this many paid downloads every day, and that these were books going out for free, but for little old me – sitting in a log cabin in the Derbyshire Dales, watching the figures on a borrowed iPad – it was astonishing.

no 1 US Amazon

The Family Trap got to #2 in the Amazon US free bestseller chart overall, and was #1 in the romantic comedy category. None of my books have ever got this high on the US Amazon site, not even back in 2012 when free was still new and exciting. In the UK, where downloads were lower, it crept up over the 5 days and peaked on the last day at number 7 overall. Which was still pretty amazing! Here are the figures for anyone who’s interested:

UK 6829
US 57135 
Germany 110
France 3
Spain 7
Canada 342
Italy 13
Japan 7
Brazil 7
India 95
Australia 141
Total: 64689

So, that’s 64,689 downloads overall. I have to write that in words: sixty-four thousand, six hundred and eighty-nine people downloaded my book in five days. Some of them might even read it 😉

So, What Was The Point?

Which brings me to the point of doing this, because I know there are authors out there right now wanting to throw things at the computer at the thought of giving all these books away for free.

First of all, let’s remind ourselves that not all the people who download free books would have paid actual money for it, even if they had it shoved in front of their noses. Even paying 99p for a book by a new and unknown author is a risk – there’s this question all the time of whether your 99p could be better spent elsewhere. And remember, when it comes to books it’s not just about money, it’s about time. As Hugh Howey said at LBF, we are asking potential readers to give up something very precious when we ask them to read our books – we are asking them to give us their time. Time is so valuable, perhaps the most valuable resource many readers have.

You have to view the free promotion as a way of reaching readers you would never have reached otherwise, a way of getting onto their Kindles and into their consciousness, and perhaps onto their list of favourite authors if you are very, very lucky. The Family Trap is over a year old now, it sells reasonably well without any advertising, but let’s face it – over the 5 day promotion I missed out on maybe £20 of actual paid-for sales. And I got into the hands of thousands of new readers. Even with the extra cost of the Bookbub listing, getting me into the hands of tens of thousands of new readers, I’ll take that as a cost-effective marketing exercise all day long!

bookbub effect paid

But of course, there are other benefits to a successful free promotion, and one of them is the boost it gives to other titles, in this case my debut novel – and the book that comes before The Family TrapCan’t Live Without. The graph above shows the number of paid units downloaded over the same period. Yes, that’s actual sales where money exchanged hands 🙂 It’s interesting how it follows the same pattern as the free promotion, almost exactly. And even though Can’t Live Without retails at only 99p, the 970 (to date) extra sales this gained me is still a welcome boost to royalties, easily covering the cost of the Bookbub listing.

CLW no 11 rom com


Can’t Live Without has shot up the bestseller charts again, hitting #11 in the Romantic Comedy chart in the UK yesterday, and #1 in Parenting and Family Humour. Not bad for a book that’s been out for over 2 years and has already had almost 100,000 downloads itself!

And of course, the post-free boost, while not what it used to be, still has an effect on the free title when it comes back to paid-for. The Family Trap is currently at #429 in the UK Amazon chart overall, and is climbing high in its categories. I’ve had an additional 90 sales so far (these are at the regular price of £1.99), on top of what I would usually expect, and it’s only the second day after the promotion finished. I’ve also had loads of new reviews, both in the UK and the US, and so far about 20 new sign-ups to my mailing list.

What About Cupid’s Way?

The idea of the free promotion was to use what I consider to be my best book to gain new readers in the run up to the launch of Cupid’s Way. There is a link in the back of TFT, taking interested readers to a landing page on my website, which will be populated with buy links once the book is live. There is, of course, a link to sign up to the mailing list, and links to all my other books. I’m not kidding myself that each and every one of the 64,689 people who downloaded TFT will read it, or even that all those who do will love it – but some will. 1% alone is still over 600 people; 0.1% is 64 people that I would never have reached otherwise. I’ve already had an email from a lovely reader in Philadelphia who said she really enjoyed The Family Trap, and building your readership one reader at a time is, after all, what it’s all about 🙂


Cupid’s Way will be released next Friday 27th June – sign up to the Facebook Event now to make sure you don’t miss out on all the fun!