Regular readers will be aware that I ran a free promotion on my romantic comedy Cupid’s Way just under a month ago. The stats are in and it’s time to report on the results. For those of you who are keen to skip to the end, I’ll save you the bother and say right now that it was a big success. Not huge – I had a better download rate and sales on return to paid from the full Bookbub promotion I did last summer with The Family Trap – but still very good in terms of paid downloads, and in terms of reviews and follow-on ranking. And the return on investment for the $25 fee from Bookbub is excellent. So, here are the figures in more detail, with lots of nice graphs and images …
Before this promotion, Cupid’s Way was selling very little. I don’t know why this is – it’s a popular book, and gets overwhelmingly good reviews – but my best guess says it’s just plain old discoverability. No one sees it, so no one buys it. I changed the cover just before going free; even though I loved the old cover I thought it just didn’t speak to the market as well as it could. Only time will tell whether this new cover, combined with the effects of the promo and a couple of other category and keyword tweaks I carried out, will have a longer term effect on sales.
The promotion ran from 7th to 11th May, with the Bookbub listing on Friday 8th. For this I paid $25 to be seen on the UK list only. Compare this with a fee of $340 to be in the US and UK listing (and Canada), and it’s a massive saving. But would it have any effect at all? I thought it was worth taking the risk.
So, you can see from this graph that on day one, 7th May, Cupid’s Way was downloaded free over 1,500 times. This was great, and without any advertising at all. I didn’t even list with the usual free sites. Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered – and I wanted to purely test the Bookbub list without any other factors. On day 2, the Bookbub day, downloads shot up to 3,000. These were, as you might imagine, mostly in the UK. (Breakdown below.) Then, of course, the effect of positioning comes into play – because Cupid’s Way was starting to rank highly in the free charts it was seen by more people and achieved yet more downloads. It only tailed off on the 11th because this was the day the promotion ended – it’s reasonable to assume that the book would have continued to be downloaded for a few more days until it reached saturation point for the number of people looking for this type of book for free at this time.
So, overall download figures:
Not bad, really. Cupid’s Way has been free once before, back in October last year, where I did list it with all the major free sites, and it was new to the free market, and it got a similar number in the UK and almost 14,000 downloads in the US. Proportionally, though, this massive download figure last year didn’t see a huge upturn in paid sales in the US, although it did show a marked increase in the UK. Could it be that Amazon UK apply a different algorithm to free downloads than Amazon US for positioning? I don’t know. I think you really do need to reach the top 10 overall in free in the US and stay there for a couple of days at least to see any real impact on sales after the promotion ends. In the UK maybe it’s the same, but the market – and the competition – is smaller. Cupid’s Way reached number 4 overall in the UK Kindle store for free books, and number 20 in the US. So, what happened after?
Did I mention that prior to running this promotion, Cupid’s Way averaged at around #140,000 in the UK Kindle store? It went back into the paid charts at around #5,000, and quickly rose to the awesome position of #548.
This was really nice to see 🙂 (Understatement of the year there.) The book glided gracefully down the charts over the following couple of weeks, while Amazon’s algorithms did their thing and gave it a nice chance at being seen by lots of new readers. Remember, all the time there are other books coming off fantastic free promotions, or being pushed by publishers – even the best efforts can’t keep a little indie title up in the top #1000 forever. Not without a lot of luck, anyway.
By May 20th, Cupid’s Way was just about to drop out of the top #100 in the Romantic Comedy category. This is a key category and was responsible for a lot of sales.
I think it’s important to be in major categories like this, and to take your results from performance here. There are so many novels now in spurious categories that call themselves ‘Number #1 Bestseller’ just because they made it to the top of a list of about 300 books, most of which aren’t even fiction! One particular romance series ranks high in various non-fiction sub-sub-sub categories, but really, what’s the point? Anyway, I’m getting off topic here. Let’s get on to the nitty gritty – sales figures.
Any free promotion is only concerned with after sales. Well, maybe that’s a sweeping statement – there are authors who use free books to drive people to email lists, or to provide a lead-in to a series. But that, when you follow it through, is still concerned with sales, so my first statement was right.
The really interesting thing about after sales for this promotion was the increase in the number of borrows/Kindle Unlimited downloads. As part of KDP Select, my books are available to borrow or download as part of a monthly subscription fee. Authors get an amount per borrow – this amount isn’t fixed, so until my sales figures come in on the 15th June I won’t know exactly how much money Cupid’s Way made after the promotion. But I do know download numbers, and the number of borrows, and I’m about to show you and tell you here:
This chart shows Cupid’s Way from 18th April to 18th May. The red line is the number of paid units, the blue line the number of KU (Kindle Unlimited) and KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) borrows/downloads. (The green line you saw above was the number of free downloads, and that is deselected in this chart.) See the big spike in sales, from zero to 40? That was the day it went back to paid. Sales continued, leveling out at just under 30 a day, then around 20 a day, finally dropping off to around 5 a day, where they currently remain. You’d think that the borrows might mirror this, but they are a bit haywire if you ask me! Still, borrows continue to be even stronger than the sales, and by the end of May Cupid’s Way had achieved, post promotion, 240 Kindle sales and a further 300 borrows. Even at £1.00 per borrow, that’s a good return on the investment of $25 to list the book with Bookbub.
Would I do the Bookbub UK only list again? Of course I would! But they will be putting the price up, no doubt about it, as their list and traction increases in the UK. I’m happy to announce that the first in my Flora Lively series, Murder at the Maples, has been accepted for a US & UK Bookbub promo this month (June), so it will be interesting to compare the results.
I hope you found this interesting and helpful, particularly in terms of planning your own promotions and knowing what to expect. Let me know in the comments below if you found it helpful, or if there’s anything else you’d like to know about this or other promotions.