Blog Tours, KDP Select, Free Giveaways. Oh My!

For those not familiar with these, you can do these on your own or sign up with a company to do the work for you. If you sign up with a company, they can give your book to reviewers and then for a week or two weeks, you will get 3-5 reviews a day on separate blogs talking about YOUR book—and lots of tweets and reweeting to boot!
So does this work? I asked some Indie Authors their views:

“Dropping the price to .99 and doing a blog tour with Kathy at I Am A Reader [has worked for me],” Rachael Anderson.

“Blog tours seem to work best for that [pre-promotions], cover reveals are nice, trying to get beta readers to help spreading the word also is a good thing,” Cindy Bennett.

“I did a book tour, and the bloggers/reviewers were all very nice and the person running the tour was very nice, but my sales went DOWN.  I didn’t see any kind of uptick whatsoever from paying for that expensive tour.  It inflated (falsely) my followers on Twitter and my Facebook fan page, which was cool, but it didn’t really benefit me in any way,” Sariah Wilson.

“Blog tours and giveaways have been fun ways to increase Facebook likes, blog and Twitter followers, but haven’t typically sold a lot of books for me. But it’s hard to say how much name recognition you might get from a blog tour or fun giveaway . . . . I don’t know how much blog tours influence sales. That said, I’ll keep doing blog tours because they’re inexpensive and it has to help to have your name and book out there,” Cami Checketts.

“Things that haven’t worked for me: Blog tours. I know they work for some people because I’ve heard about it, but they have been mostly a waste of time and effort for me in the past, so I no longer do them,” Heather Justesen.

“I did a blog tour through I am a Reader Not a Writer and that helped with exposure,” Rebecca Talley.

MY EVALUATION OF THESE VARIED RESULTS: Judging by the comments, blog tours are good for exposure, but don’t necessarily affect sales (except in Rachael Anderson’s case). My own experience was probably in between worst case and best. I did a blog tour—it was actually on accident because I thought my friend started the business and I was trying to support her, hee hee. One thing led to another and BOOM! I was with Giselle Expresso Blog Tours! It didn’t make my Twisted Tales series bestsellers. But it did make sales comparable to my other book, “Prank Wars,” which I was pleased with. I thought it also gave my books a lot of exposure to a crowd that doesn’t normally read my writing. A good thing? Well, it put my stats up, so I can’t complain. That said; I wouldn’t spend too much money on a book tour. A hundred at most. The thing I liked best about it was the level of commitment that the blog tours asked its readers. We’ll talk more of that in another section about making your promos count.

A quick summary: Amazon offers KDP Select to its authors. It’s a voluntary program. If you sign up, you’re in it for 90 days and during that time you can’t put your book into any other distribution channels (B&N, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, etc.); it then makes your book available for ‘borrows’ and you are allowed to do a five day free book promo within those 90 days. You can then sign up for another 90 days or opt out with a chance to sign up again at any time.
So here’s the question, is it worth it to authors?

“Yes, I’ve done KDP select, but as of yet, I still haven’t done a free giveaway. For now I like it because my “borrows” earn me more money than posting my book for sale on other sites,” Rachael Anderson

“I did it once with one of my books and found it lended very few times. My books are priced pretty decently so I don’t really see a need to limit their visibility by keeping them on a single site. I don’t sale near as many on B&N or Smashwords as I do Kindle, but it’s enough to make it worth selling them there,” Cindy Bennett.

“Yes [I use KDP Select] for the beginning of my series and sometimes stand-alones. I have not found a way to market on other channels so I really have had no success [with them]. I sell only very little there [with other channels],” Rachel Nunes.

“I am doing a trial run with KDP select right now with my Confessions series. I’ve never used it before. It’s been a total flop so far, but I sell really well outside of Amazon. I won’t be doing it again,” Cindy Hogan.

“I’ve gone exclusively to KDP Select. I think it’s a great program. My only complaint with Amazon is how many 5 star reviews they take off my books, but yet they’ll never remove a 1 or 2 star one! Sorry, that wasn’t the question. My largest check from Smashwords was $21.58 (I haven’t had a check from KDP under four digits) and Smashwords is a huge pain when you’re ready to remove your book from their sites, B&N and iTunes also take forever. I’ve seen some authors do well with Smashwords, maybe in a year or two I’ll try them again,” Cami Checketts.

“I tried out KDP Select over a year ago and it was okay, but I have readers on all different kinds of devices, so I don’t want to shut them out. Plus my sales on Nook increased significantly when I put the first book free as well, though they don’t report free downloads so I don’t know how the free-to sales ratio works there,” Heather Justesen.

“I do KDP Select.  I like the promotion capabilities with the free days – although I don’t know if that’s still the case. I would probably have to do another huge promotion on all the sites to see if it still works the way it did for me back in January.  I also like being part of the KOLL (Amazon’s lending library) . . . . Borrows can’t be returned, and they pay as much as my sales. In better months I have had hundreds of borrows.  I never, ever saw that kind of money on any other platform.  It didn’t make sense to be losing hundreds of dollars just to be on B&N and iTunes and Kobo.  I have found zero success on other distribution channels,” Sariah Wilson.

So there you have it. I’m in the camp of KDP Select cheerleaders because I haven’t found that much success with the other distribution channels, either. However, with that said, I really do hate not having my book available to Nook readers. I think that perhaps, I should try some experiments before my next KDP sign up and see how to reach my readers through the other channels.

This is done through KDP Select on Amazon, though you can also do this through other channels if you’re not doing KDP Select—you would do it by setting the price at zero on different channels and getting Amazon to price match it BUT then it’s hard to advertise your free book with the sites I’m about to tell you about when you don’t know the exact date the free promo will come into effect (because Amazon has to recognize that your book is free elsewhere). Meaning that so far, KDP Select is usually the easiest way to manage a free book giveaway.

First let’s talk about why you would want to give your book away for free. Indie authors?

“The only thing that I found has worked for marketing is a massive free giveaway.  And by that I mean something that’s 3 to 5 days, and you advertise it with every major site [Steph’s note: we’ll talk about those sites later].  Not everyone will advertise your book obviously, but try to hit as many sites as possible.  I made back all the money I spent easily, and sold so many books afterwards (in the thousands).  I don’t know if this still works since Amazon changed their rules about how many free downloads are allowed by each site with their affiliation stuff, and since Amazon no longer puts the sold and free lists side by side.  I’m sure those things really detrimentally affect those free giveaways,” Sariah Wilson.

“I’ve done about ten well-promoted free KDP promotions, for mostly five days. They have a huge impact the first week, especially on sales of the sequels. Then over the course of the next two months, sales decline and about three months they are back to where they were before I ever did a promotion. I will sell a few thousand of each book,” Rachel Nunes.

“I think free is the best marketing tool there is. I always have at least one of my books free. Because that book is free, my other books sell like crazy,” Cindy Hogan.

“I have done free giveaways and yes they did boost sales, every time. Mostly short term, but because people were buying, my visibility was much higher on all the sites, so they sold even more. They usually boost me for a few months. My other books sell like crazy when I do a free giveaway. [She then cautions], Giving away a few in the beginning to help build reviews was a good thing, but eventually if you give away too many, no one buys your books because they’ll just wait until you’re giving them away again,” Cindy Bennett.

Cami Checketts agrees:
“I do a lot of free book giveaways and sometimes they’re amazing, sometimes not. My friend Daniel Coleman gave me some advice about free giveaways that I sometimes haven’t listened to, but I think it’s smart, “Never tell people who are going to buy your book that it’s free. #1 They would buy it anyway so you’ve lost sales. #2 They’ll start waiting for your next free promo instead of buying your book.” True? I don’t know, but when I’ve tried too hard to spread the word about free promos it hasn’t raised my rankings much . . . .  I honestly don’t mind [my friends] getting it free, but this is still a business and we should ultimately make something for our time.
On the flip side, she says:
“The only things that have worked for me are doing free days with KDP and $.99 promos. I’m leaning more and more towards the $.99 promos, if your book is at $.99 for the weekend and shoots up to #1 on some lists, when you change the price it will stay up on the lists and keep selling well for a while. Sometimes that’s worked for me with free promos, sometimes it hasn’t.”

Heather Justesen did a free book giveway, but for longer and didn’t go through KDP: “Also, sacrificing A Perfect Fit by giving it away for over three months to goose the sales of the rest of the series worked fabulously–but I wouldn’t do it unless you have at least two other books in a closely tied series because you want people to run out and buy the next book in the series as soon as they finish the free one–which they can’t do if it hasn’t been published yet, and people are less likely to go in and buy the next book when it’s released a month of three down the road. You want to catch them while they are still excited about what they just read. I have gotten about a ten percent conversion rate from people who downloaded the first book for free and then rushed out to buy the rest of the books, which is the same rate people using KDP Select have reported.”

MY FIVE CENTS: I’ve done the freebook giveaway, it had a fabulous amount of downloads, got my books into the hands of many different readers and doubled my sales that month. But then within the month my sales went back to normal—with some books doing a little worse than before—some of the ‘free book’ crowd can be merciless with their reviews (though honestly, I actually would love making them my beta readers because maybe they could catch a few things). I DO believe that my biggest mistake was gearing my books to the wrong audience. HOWEVER, with that said—it was still worth it to me because I got more exposure: There were some amazing reviews from those who really appreciated the book; I got a direct tweet at midnight from a guy who loved the book; and I came in contact with about four fabulous bloggers who loved reading what I wrote! Some of them did interviews with me. So yeah, to me, building my name is a slow-going process. Even though this ended up being a small push in sales, it was STILL in my benefit. And besides, the more books you sell, the more you will show up on someone else’s “Customer’s who bought this, also bought…” panel on Amazon.

Advertising your free giveaway is vital for its success (or no one will know about it to download it). This doesn’t mean you have to start bugging your friends to spread the word: there are certain sites that send newsletters out to readers (who voluntarily give them their email addresses so they can hear about these free books and sales—can you imagine?). These sites even match genres to the readers.
Here’s a list of these sites (some are paid, some are not): BookBlast, Bargain Booksy, Bookbub, BookGorilla, awesome Gang, Pixel of Ink, People Reads, Nook Deals, Awesome Romance Novels, Fiverr, Digital Book Today, Addicted to eBooks, etc., etc,. A google search can get you an even more extensive list. The ones who charge will do it accordingly to how big their outreach is.

There are smaller places to advertise your free books on their sites (40+). I’ve heard tale that GalleyCat has a list of them; it is helpful to contact these sites to promote your giveaway, too.
You can also pay businesses to spread the announcement of your free giveaway en masse to these free sites: Ebook booster, Justkindlebooks, and more.
You pay these companies $35-$40 to spread the word to these sites OR you can look on the panel to the side on their websites to see where they submit the announcement and then you can contact those places yourself. It takes about 4-5 hours to do it yourself (so $35 might be worth it).

As you can see, there are A LOT of sites to choose from to do your advertising. You can usually hear from word of mouth, which ones work the best (it’s always changing btw). Just be careful that you don’t spend more than you’ll make back.

Indie Author testimonials that these newsletters really do work:

“Because enough people saw and downloaded them so they got onto bestselling lists. On some books that I didn’t push while going free, I have very little results,” Rachel Nunes.

“As for newsletters…[they] totally work,” Cindy Hogan.

“I submitted to free sites like POI and got picked up several times for Watched being free….I toggle Watched from .99 to free all the time. It’s mostly free, but if I go out of the top 100 in any category, I put it to .99 for a month or so. [It worked because] A ton of people saw my books at the right price,” Cindy Hogan.

Sounds like we need to make our own newsletters, which brings me to my next point (as per usual).


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