The Six-Day Fantasy Swag Post-Mortem, Part II


This is a breakdown of a recent KDP Select experiment (a six-day sale 6/22-6/26) I ran on three short fantasy titles of mine—Sword of Kings, Assassin, and Seven Into the Bleak—to see if visibility for one would mean sustained visibility for all. Read Part I here.

Promotion
Previous Select sales I’d run were too off-the-cuff and unplanned. I was determined to take my time and precede the Swag sale with the proper amount of promotion. Beginning ten days out, I did the following:

Blog

  • I wrote a “ramp up” blog post on 6/21/2012 announcing the sale to prime expectations. I made sure to highlight the days each title would be on sale, links to those titles on Amazon in case anyone wanted to read the description (or, at $.99, couldn’t wait for the sale and would simply buy one of them J), and inserted a request for reviews at the end (since, if you read Part I of this post, you’ll know it was reviews I was truly after, not sales).
  • I wrote a post for the first day of each title’s sale with a synopsis and a list of direct URLs for reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Librarything, and Shelfari (see a rundown of these under my Cateogry, My Books & Titles). I specifically did not write a reminder post on the second day in order to keep from spamming blog followers. Mistake: I only linked the cover image to the Amazon page when I should’ve put in at least one text link.
  • I wrote an “interstitial” post for Sword of Kings and Assassin when they both broke Amazon’s Top 100 Free and #1 in Epic Fantasy to celebrate.
  • All posts cross-linked to Facebook, Stumblupon, Digg, Reddit/fantasy, LinkedIn, Google+
  • All posts were pre-scheduled a week in advance to fire off at about 3 a.m. EST (Amazon, being located in Seattle, starts sales at 12:00 midnight PST).

Goodreads

  • I’ve slowly been building up a following on GR and had 250 friends when the day before the sale. You aren’t allowed to PM/mail your followers in bulk, but you can bulk invite them all to an Event, including an online event. Say, like a six day sale on Amazon. I received about 15-20% response, all of it positive.
  • I personally PM’d each of the respondents who commented on the invitation, thanking them.
  • I personally PM’d anyone who rated or reviewed my shorts on GR. Many of those “thank you’s” blossomed into really interesting conversations, so I was happy I made the extra effort.
  • Posted a direct invitation in several Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Author-meet-Reader Groups.

Twitter

  • Daily Tweets to Followers on the day before, day of, and near the midnight end of each sale.
  • Direct Tweets to the following: @DigitalBkToday, @kindleebooks, @Kindlestuff, @KindleEbooksUK, @KindleBookKing, @KindleFreeBook, @FreeReadFeed, @4FreeKindleBook, @kindle_promo. I got reTweeted by three of the services, all of them with several thousand followers.

Sites

As I mention here, there are several great sites that will promote Select sales if given enough lead time. I wrote each of these sites personally:

  • eReadersnewstoday.com
  • Pixel of Ink
  • Indie Book List
  • EreaderIQ

My last free promotion went great gangbusters when eReadersnewstoday picked it up, so I was hoping for great things!

Expectations
Based on a few KDP Select sales that I’d had in the past, I was hoping for downloads in the thousands, but that was primarily contingent on getting picked up by one of the Sites listed above or the groups mentioned in the Twitter feed. One mention by some of these larger groups means the difference between 100 downloads and 2,000 downloads.

As far as reviews, ratings, and sales are concerned, I set expectations low. Again, based on previous sales, Giveaways, and other promotions, I felt lucky if got back even a 1%  conversion (Like, rating, review, mention, or sale) of my promotional audience. That’s low, but I’ve never done better than 10% on even very targeted Giveaways of my titles that included reminder emails and follow up requests for reviews.

Regarding sales: these were three unrelated fantasy short stories. If you read that sentence carefully and have been around Select for a while, you know that each one of those is a killer for sales, Select or not. Anecdotal evidence indicates that novels in a series are the most attractive freebies that result in post-Select sales. I don’t have that situation (yet!), so I wasn’t holding my breath. While the fact that they were fantasy didn’t hurt, exactly, many fans of the genre are in love with door-stopper sized tomes (e.g., Game of Thrones), not 4,100 words shorties.

Results
As of 6/30/12, four days after the sale:

Amazon

Title Amazon Sales Reviews Stars Likes Rank(s)
Sword of Kings 19* 5 4.8 7 57,851
Assassin 16* 4 4.5 7 96,605
Seven Into the Bleak 1 0 0 2 423,426

* Includes sales from amazon.uk and amazon.de, each of which contributed about 20 and 7 free downloads during each sale, respectively.

Other Sites

Title Goodreads (reviews/stars) Librarything (r/s) Shelfari (r/s)
Sword of Kings 4.38/7
Assassin 5/4.5 2/4.00
Seven Into the Bleak 2/4.5

Grade
Considering the handicaps I was working with (as mentioned under Expectations, above) and the fact that my promotional and networking time has been a very uneven 70/30 split between crime fiction and mystery vs. fantasy, I would give this sale a B-. Thousands of downloads, a handful of reviews and ratings, and very modest bump in sales are about what I expected and I wasn’t surprised or disappointed.

A hidden bonus were the great conversations I had and contacts I made in the course of the sale. I can also tell you it was thrilling to be #1 or #2 in Epic Fantasy Free for nearly four straight days!

Takeaways

Promotion
Common sense, but worth mentioning: I don’t believe the sale would’ve been half as successful as it was without a week+ of planning and preparation and sufficient promotion before and during the run. If you are going to take advantage of your decision to enroll in Select, don’t squander the 5 free days…do the work ahead of time.

Tweet, tweet
Twitter is my new best friend. I didn’t do enough homework on “@’s” to send my sale to nor did I begin promoting to them early enough. Some of these free services/reviewers/entities on Twitter have 40,000 followers. One retweet from them could equal days of promotion in other channels.

Goodreads, good results
A sustained effort in building a presence on Goodreads pays off. My friends on GR seemed to be of a 10x quality compared to the average Joe who heard about the sale (not surprisingly): they seemed to be more likely to download, read, and review my titles in each instance. A case could be made that indie authors could spend ALL of their time on Goodreads and be better off than spending time in any other channel. The networking and rapport I’ve built up with many people on GR has been astonishing and I think will serve me well for years to come.

Ignoring social media = no return
Conversely, little to no time spent on Librarything and Shelfari has resulted in abysmal returns. I may make more of an effort there in the ramp up to promoting my novel, A Reason to Live and its sequel Blueblood, but there are only so many hours in a day.

Bad days
I had a pet theory that weekends were traditionally poor “sellers.” I now have no evidence to confirm that. Assassin (Sat.-Sun.) did worse than Sword of Kings (Thur.-Fri.), but 5x better than Seven Into the Bleak (Mon.-Tue.). The mystery of whether certain days of the week work better than others remains to be solved.

Downward Spiral?
Why did Seven Into the Bleak tank (only 200 downloads)? I have a few ideas:

  • It started the sales with no stars or rankings.
  • The blurb might need some work.
  • The métier might simply be less interesting to some. It’s less high fantasy, more swords-and-sorcery/Dungeons & Dragons than the previous two.
  • It was the last of the sale and people might’ve been full-up on short fantasy from Matt Iden.
  • Monday-Tuesday sales might be terrible days for a sale: people are coming off a weekend, buried under emails (so promotional emails might’ve been lost), etc.

Ignorance is not bliss
One thing I was hoping to achieve was, by daisy-chaining the sales, that might have one, two, or all three in some of the Top 100 lists. My bad: the nano-second your sale ends, you are yanked off the Top 100 lists and your effective ranking (I think an average) takes over again.

So, mathematically speaking, there’s no way to have multiple titles on the list at the same time unless they overlap or are held on the same day. Duh. I may try “Day 1-2, 2-3, 3-4″ sales to take another shot at this…if you see the blog post “Four Day Fantasy Swag” in the near future, you’ll know.

Summary
Despite mixed results, I’m very happy I held the sale. I made great contacts, increased my ratings and reviews with $0 cost, and learned a lot in the bargain. Which was partly the point, as I will be entering serious promotion territory later in the year when I put both A Reason to Live and its sequel Blueblood onto the block. That’s where the rubber will truly hit the road and everything I’ve learned about Select will come into play.

Acknowledgments
Thanks so much, everyone, who follows this blog and gave me historic LIKES on June 21, the day I announced the sale. Thanks x2 to those of you who helped the effort by beta reading, commenting, downloading, and reviewing my titles.

Special shout outs to: Wo3lf; Rose Cimarron/English Rose; Julie, Nikki, Amanda R., Margaret, Rose (again!), Seak, Sam, and Michelle on GoodReads; Janis Ian (!), Mike, Amanda R. (again!), and Woelf (again!) for great reviews on Amazon. Hope I didn’t miss anyone!

Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

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Posted in My Books & Titles, Tips for eAuthors
2 comments on “The Six-Day Fantasy Swag Post-Mortem, Part II
  1. Yay!! That sounds like it was a really well worth effort. Having read the shorts, I’m really impressed with your abilities. I *must* reduce my TBR pile before buying any more books…but Reason to Live is top of my TBB (To Be Bought) list.
    *must* – for my own sanity and to give me chance to catch up with posting reviews on all the great books I’ve read and assuage my guilt at not doing my bit and sharing the love!!
    Thank you for taking the time and effort to reply to my posts/PMs.

  2. yoga-adan says:

    these are interesting results matthew, i’ll be real curious to see how your two novels do, and beyond that, i wish you all the best with your efforts, plus a big thanks for letting us know how it’s all going for you ;-)

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