Blueprints to an Amazon marketing campaign that worked
According to Warren Buffet, the first rule of investing is “Don’t lose money.” I think that should be the first rule of marketing as well. If your marketing campaign isn’t driving tangible results with a quantifiable Return on Investment (ROI), what good is it?
First, the caveats for this blog post. This blueprint isn’t a definitive guide to anything other than what I did to promote my novel. Its sole claim to fame is that I’m happy with the results, and would do it again. You’ll notice many links out to various pages in my book-within-a-blog, An Author’s Journey. It is a work-in-progress that contains useful tips/hints on various elements along the journey toward publication. Please check it out if you have some time.
So, on to the blueprint…
I released my debut novel, Perfection Unleashed, in late June 2012. After receiving 12-15 reviews (read my article on how to solicit reviews for your novel), I decided that it was time to promote my novel and get it into the hands of readers. Several authors have decried the efficacy of the Amazon Kindle Select program. Largely, I agree with them, but I maintain that giving books away for free works well for debut novels and the first book in a series. Perfection Unleashed qualifies on both counts.
My promotion campaign started with a two-week blog tour to build some buzz around my novel. (Read my article on how to organize a blog tour.) It was an exhausting effort and I gave away $75 in Amazon gift cards in the process–two to subscribers to my Facebook/Twitter accounts and one to a lucky blog host. Did it pay off? I don’t know. My sales did take a leap in the first week of the tour, but I don’t know how much of it was attributed to the tour rather than just a general uptick of sales in Amazon after the summer vacation.
After my two-week blog tour, Perfection Unleashed was available for free for three days through the Amazon Kindle Select program. I spent hours reaching out to book listing sites to get my free days listed. (Read my article on where to promote your free book). Although Perfection Unleashed was not picked up by the major listing sites, it got into enough small ones to receive a spike in free downloads.
The final tally of free downloads (3 days): 7,670 books given away on Amazon.com, 1,435 on Amazon.uk, 70 on Amazon.de, and 1 each in France and Spain. The results of my giveaway exceeded my expectations. Within eighteen hours, Perfection Unleashed broke the Top #100 list of Amazon free books. At its peak, twenty-five hours after going free, Perfection Unleashed was #22 on the Amazon free list; it was #1 in Science Fiction series, Science Fiction, Fantasy series, and Fantasy. It had similarly high ranks in Amazon.uk. Perfection Unleashed stayed in the Top #100 for the duration of its free promotion.
An awesome bonus: for a few hours, Perfection Unleashed shared the Amazon real estate with my favorite author, Neil Gaiman…
I realize not everyone who downloads a free book will read it. However, if even 10% of those who downloaded Perfect Unleashed read it, that’s 900 readers, and if a portion of them decide to buy the sequels, then the free giveaway of Perfection Unleashed has accomplished what it was intended to do.
The immediate question to be answered, however, was “would actual sales pick up after the free download period?” Well, control freak that I am, I wasn’t going to leave that to chance, so I paid $120 for promotions at Digital Book Today, World Literary Cafe, and Kindle Book Review. (Read my article on my assessment of paid promotional opportunities.)
My goal was to recoup my ~$200 marketing investment in the two weeks after coming off the free download period. I exceeded expectations by recouping my investment in a week. In terms of sales rank, Perfection Unleashed peaked at 5,283 on the paid list on the third day (after the weekend sales were tallied,) which got the novel onto the top #20 list in Science Fiction series and Fantasy series. Since then (now ~2 weeks after my free download period), my sales rank has hovered above 20,000 which is far higher than my average of 100,000+ prior to the promotion. Overall, I’m selling as many books a day as I used to sell in a week back in August. It’s still not enough to take my husband out to an expensive celebratory dinner, but I recouped my cost and anything else feels like gravy. Most importantly, I have a clue on how to do it again in December when I release Perfect Betrayal and Perfect Weapon, the second and third novels in the Double Helix series. (Read my summary article on the ROI of my September marketing campaign.)
There are always three questions to ask in hindsight:
What would I keep? The $120 in paid promotions. Could my sales have climbed as much as they did without the paid promotion? It’s hard to say; we’ll never have the data to confirm or deny the actual impact of paid promotions, but I don’t think it hurt. I would also keep the blog tour (though its ROI is a bit hazy) and the massive amounts of time sunk into trying to get my free days listed and promoted.
What would I toss? I don’t think I would have conducted the $75 Amazon gift card giveaway. I did get some Facebook and Twitter followers in the process, but it certainly wasn’t in the hundreds as I had been hoping. (Occasionally, I’m delusional.)
What would I add? If I ran a free book promotion beyond three days, I’d invest in paid marketing on the fourth day to spike the downloads up again. There are clearly diminishing returns in downloads after three days. I’d also consider more paid marketing, especially if I am promoting more than a book in a series.
I hope this post (and its relevant linked articles) are helpful to you as you plan your own marketing campaigns. I welcome any discussion of ideas you have tried toward promoting your novel.