At the end of February, I noticed a very depressing fact: I had sold exactly one book the entire month. One paperback. That was my entire sales count for February.
Now, before you assume that I’m one of those authors who can’t sell any books ever, let me tell you that before February’s slump, I’d moved hundreds of copies of Finding the Core of Your Story over its lifetime. I can sell a dozen or more copies each month without any promotion.
But it was clear that I needed a boost to get things going again. So I put together a promotion that knocked my socks off. Between my two books, I sold 143 copies in March.
What did I do to go from just one sale to more than 100 in a single month? Read on!
My goal with this post is to give you a behind-the-scenes look at how I promoted my book in March so that you will hopefully walk away with some ideas for promoting your own book. I’ll walk you through my entire process from start to finish. Let’s begin with the planning phase.
Planning the Promotion
I had a vacation scheduled from my day job, so I made plans to use my days off to get my ducks in a row. Here’s the plan I made:
- Drop both of my books to $0.99 for about two weeks.
- Purchase a promotional slot on two deal sites.
- Tweet about the deal using good hashtags and also mention some of the great reviews I’d gotten on Finding the Core of Your Story to build some buzz.
- Send an e-mail about the sale to my mailing list.
- Try some Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) ads after my sale was over to try and keep the momentum going.
Here’s the key takeaway from my plan: Everything in my plan was part of a strategy to create sustained sales over a long period of time. I wanted to rank on the bestseller list in my categories for maximum discovery and exposure. To do that, I needed to cater to Amazon’s ranking algorithm, which favors continued sales rather than a one-day burst.
That’s one reason why I opted to avoid the KDP Select Countdown promotion, which only lasts for a few days, and instead just dropped my prices to $0.99 manually. I lost out on the 70% royalty (but stay tuned for how you don’t have to) but made up for that with a far better sales rank throughout the month. Rather than topping the chart for a single day, one of my books stayed in the top 20 for several days in a row.
Putting the Plan into Action
The first step was to get my deal site slots lined up. My original plan was to purchase slots spaced about a week apart. That would give me a good shot at two sales boosts. Remember, I wanted to make a lot of sales over a long period of time. Two promotions would have helped give me that result.
Unfortunately, I never heard back from one of the sites I submitted to, so I ended up with one $29 promotion scheduled with ReadingDeals.com for March 8. That date was a week after my sale was scheduled to start, so I planned to do my own promotional actions during that first week.
The second step was to set up an e-mail to my mailing list about the deal. I would be going on vacation during the first week of March, so I wrote that e-mail ahead of time and scheduled it to send on March 3 while I was gone.
On February 28, I went into my KDP dashboard and dropped the price of both my books to $0.99. I did the same on my Draft2Digital listings. Then I went to bed to get a good night’s sleep before the everything got started the next morning.
The Promotion Begins
Here’s a rundown of everything I did during the month of March to promote my sale.
March 1: I sent out one tweet to announce the sale. No further action.
— Jordan Smith (@Malfhok) March 1, 2017
March 2: I made two tweets, one for each book. I included a few hashtags that I know are used by deal accounts on Twitter. My hope was that those hashtags would get noticed and I would create a little movement in those channels. I also included cover images because I’ve heard tweets with pictures do better.
— Jordan Smith (@Malfhok) March 2, 2017
March 3: I went on vacation! While I lounged with my family in a cosy cabin, the e-mail I’d scheduled to announce my sale went out to my mailing list of about 1,700 subscribers. Here’s what that e-mail looked like.
March 4, 5, and 6: I did vacation stuff and tried to forget I even had a book. 🙂
March 7: I got back from vacation and started working on some more promotions. I sent another tweet, this time mentioning the five-star review that K. M. Weiland had written for Finding the Core of Your Story. My goal was to get her attention by tagging her on Twitter, hoping she’d remember the book and give me a retweet. That paid off nearly ten hours after my tweet when she did indeed retweet me with a comment. I retweeted her comment as social proof.
— Jordan Smith (@Malfhok) March 7, 2017
I love this book! https://t.co/qejV7teCsG
— K.M. Weiland (@KMWeiland) March 7, 2017
March 8: My purchased slot in the ReadingDeals.com newsletter went live. ReadingDeals also tweeted about the deal. This is where the biggest boost happened. I consider it $29 well spent.
March 9: I did another tweet, this time trying to push my second book Loglines in the Wild as the sequel to Finding the Core of Your Story. My thought was that people who bought the first book might want to nab the second and complete the set. Also, in the late evening, Aerogramme Writers tweeted about the deal as an “eBook find of the day.”
— Aerogramme Writers' Studio (@A_WritersStudio) March 10, 2017
March 13: With sales dying down after the ReadingDeals promotion, I took some time to throw together a pretty image for Twitter and did another tweet. I used the hashtag #amwriting to try to get the attention of some authors, since that fit my niche.
— Jordan Smith (@Malfhok) March 13, 2017
March 15: I realized most of my tweets were in the morning, so I deliberately tweeted twice on the final day of the sale: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. I tried a few more hashtags just to see if anything would stick.
— Jordan Smith (@Malfhok) March 15, 2017
— Jordan Smith (@Malfhok) March 15, 2017
I went into my KDP dashboard on March 16 and reset all the prices back to normal. The sale was over.
In the two days after the sale, I put together an experimental AMS ads campaign for Finding the Core of Your Story, just to see if that would do anything positive. I set it up to run on a maximum budget of $1/day through the end of the month, or about 15 days.
That campaign ended up spending a total of $4 and generated about $8 worth of sales. Not bad. Since then, I’ve refined my ads further. The optimized version of my ads have generated about $25 worth of sales with a $2 spend.
But that’s nothing compared to what happened next!
On March 28, I discovered that Amazon had dropped both of my books to $0.99, but was showing the normal price as a “digital list price.” I couldn’t figure out why that was happening. I checked and re-checked my pricing in KDP dashboard until I finally realized that I had left my listings through Draft2Digital at a lower price than KDP.
Because Amazon is obsessed with having the lowest price, its system had price-matched my $0.99 sale price from Draft2Digital. The cool part? Because it was Amazon’s idea to drop my price, KDP was still giving me a 70% royalty on that $0.99 sale!
I decided to take advantage of the surprise price drop, since it seemed to be boosting my sales at a good pace. I got between 15 and 20 additional sales in March (at 70% royalty, no less) out of that “mistake.”
At the end of the month, I reset my Draft2Digital listings to the normal prices and called it good.
What can you take away from my experience? Here are five things to consider:
Takeaway #1: A good mailing list matters. Notice that the first big spike on my sales chart is right after I sent the book to my mailing list. I didn’t sell many copies related to my tweets at the beginning of the promotion, but I sold around 20 copies before the celebrity tweet and the paid promotional slot. That’s the power of a good mailing list.
Takeaway #2: Celebrity mentions can make a difference. If you’ve gotten a fabulous review from a celebrity (or even just someone with a bigger network than yours), call it out during your sale. There’s no harm in mentioning the facts, and you never know when a celebrity is going to give you a boost.
Takeaway #3: A great promotional slot is worth the money. My paid slot in the ReadingDeals newsletter, combined with the celebrity tweet, created the biggest spike on the chart. I just wish I’d lined up a second promotional slot with another deal site to give me a second bump during the sale.
Takeaway #4: Don’t use KDP to drop your price. This is the one I really wish I’d known before I started. If I’d dropped my price with Draft2Digital and let Amazon price-match it, I’d have earned twice as much per sale during the first half of the month. Learn from my mistake and double your money.
Takeaway #5: A few dollars spent on AMS can go a long way. Amazon’s ad system can give you a great return on your investment if you get the targeting right. I’m thrilled with how little I’ve had to spend there to generate sales.
I hope this look at my month of promotions gives you some inspiration for your own. As you can see from my results, it’s worth the effort to put together a well-planned sale.