- We want a quick climb so that the books have prominent placement in the New Releases lists.
- We're willing to trade a few dollars profit for a good foundation in the early days.
Our recent titles are:
- Vet Tech Tales (by me), a nonfiction novella-length memoir/essay book released mid-December
- Gypsy Bond (by Lindy Corbin), a regency romance, short novella released Jan 5
- Catering to the Italian Playboy (by Tamelia Tumlin), a category-length contemporary romance released last week
- The Rent-A-Groom (by Jennifer Blake), a contemporary romance, long novella released last week
- Well-formatted files
- Grabby blurb
- Much pre-promotion
- Exclusivity for 90 days with Amazon through KDP Select (this basic strategy is for stand-alone titles or the first books in a series)
- Giving the book away for a couple of days right after it's published
- To keep vewwy, vewwy qwiet about the book being published until the appropriate time for promoting it widely
- Keep vewwy, vewwy quiet about the book. No slamming social media unless you want to say you're working on a book and will be publishing it soon.
- Publish the book to Amazon in the Select program with no fanfare. Pretend it's still on your hard drive.
- Set the book to go free for 2 days starting 2 or 3 days out from the time it's published on Amazon.
- Once it's published and you have the url for it, send polite emails to or fill out the online forms on request sites that feature books for free asking them to feature yours. A list of a few such sites is at the end of this post. Give at least 2 days notice. Most sites will not feature your book. Many of the top sites want there to be 5-10 4-star reviews first and your new release won't have the requisite number. Be prepared for that, but know there are also a LOT of sites that automatically pick up and feature all the books for free. Your book WILL get mentioned and found (unless it's erotica -- those books are special-case).
- If beta readers or others with a fairly objective eye have already read the book, you can ask them to post a review between the time you publish it and the time it goes free. This is a helpful but entirely optional step. Not one of the SMP books had a review before it went free (except SECTOR C).
- Continue to keep vewwy, vewwy qwiet about the book. This is undoubtedly the hardest part about this strategy. We're told over and over to promote and pester and promote some more. To use social media till our fingers bleed from so much texting and tweeting and posting. Here's the thing: Our efforts in this scenario aren't likely to mean much weighed against the engine that pushes free titles. Trust the tools we're given and use social media at the appropriate time. Understand that the sales you run up in the couple of days before going free will mean doodly squat in the long run. Save asking for those sales until they can help the book sustain the rank it attains after going free.
- Now, SMP makes an exception to the gag order when it comes to our newsletter subscribers. Many of these folk are loyal fans (mainly of Jennifer Blake), and we want to do everything we can to reward their loyalty. That means we make sure they know when a new book is out and free. Understand that there is a difference between a fan base and a friends-and-family base. If you don't have a fan base, then you don't need to advertise in advance that your book will be free.
- The first day your book is free, let the booksite engines do their work, and continue to keep vewwy, vewwy qwiet.
- The morning of the second day of being free, evaluate how the book is doing.
- If it's been mentioned by some of the big freebook sites and it's in the Top 100 in the overall free store (NOT just a category), it has enough momentum to sustain it. Continue the qwiet routine. That's right. Your book is out. Thousands of people are downloading it, but you don't need to let your family and friends know about it yet. They'll buy it, right? The absolute best time to ask them to buy it will be after it comes off free. And while I can't make guarantees about most things, the one thing I CAN guarantee is that if you tell family and friends your book's available but can they please wait till Day X to buy it, they will not wait. The timing is in your hands and you have to have the willpower to wait for them.
- If, however, your book isn't going gangbusters during its free run, then you need to decide whether to use your social network to solicit more free downloads or wait till the book is back to paid to start promoting it. Unless you are very, very well-connected through social media, my advice would be not to push the freebie hard. A mention or two, fine, but I'd hold off on the heavy promoting. A few dozen free downloads in the grand scheme means very little.
- Once the book is back in the Paid Store, haul out the megaphone. The first 4 days after coming off free are the most crucial. Try to drive what sales you can in that compressed time. After that, it's up to the almighty Amazon algorithms to carry you on.
- After the book is back in the Paid Store you have about 3 weeks to promote it, get some reviews and keep it noticed. After 30 days it comes off the Hot New Releases list. Keep in mind that currently the average book will typically see the after-glow sales from being free start to decline after Day 4 and drop off a cliff sometime in Week 3, even for books doing really well.
- Oh, but what's that in your back pocket? Another free day? Now's the time to put it to use! Contact the free sites and start the cycle all over again.
- Meanwhile, it's 30-days out from launch and you probably still haven't gotten any bloggers to review your book or any ads up for it. You'll want to work on all that, of course. Because there are no guarantees about how your book will fare in any one promotion or fare from one promotion to another.
So how have our launches fared? Not as well as some; better than others. We've been pleased with the results. Consider that it was easier to launch a book last spring, and that Spoil of War had 68 sales its first month and 77 its second. When SECTOR C came out in September, it had 37 sales and 75 in October.
Vet Tech Tales
In its first two weeks, VTT had 311 sales and 88 borrows.
In January, it had 228 sales and 32 borrows.
That's a 6-week total of 539 sales and 112 borrows.
It had a very modest free run, with only 1347 downloads. And it didn't get its first review until 6 weeks after it was published.
Between its release Jan 5 and its second free run on Jan 31, Gypsy Bond had 235 sales and 7 borrows.
Its first free run resulted in 2400+ downloads. It's second free run saw 9500+ downloads and it hit #65 overall in the Free Store.
Between Weeks 5 and 6 after launch, GB had another 695 sales and 37 borrows.
That's a 6-week post-launch total of 920 sales and 44 borrows.
Catering to the Italian Playboy
This book has only been off free for 1.5 days. It had 10,700+ downloads while free and hit #47 overall in the US Free Store and #8 in the UK.
In the day-and-a-half since coming off free, it's had 262 sales and 15 borrows.
This book also has only just come off its free run. It had 24,600+ downloads, hit #5 overall in the US Free Store and #9 in the UK.
In the day-and-a-half since coming off free, it's had 364 sales and 44 borrows.
At one point in the UK store, Catering to the Italian Playboy and The Rent-A-Groom were occupying the #6 and #7 spots for Romance. This made me smile:
Let's call January its relaunch month :o). It had 14,000+ downloads on its first free run on Jan 6-7 and reached #25 in the overall Free Store. Just the opposite of Gypsy Bond, it had far fewer on its second run on Jan 31 at 3000+ downloads and barely reached the Top 100.
During January, it sold 1925 copies and had 274 borrows. So far in February, it's had 435 sales and 68 downloads.
While these 5 books have done well, we can't hit homeruns every time. Some genres and some stories will just never have the same appeal for whatever the reason. But for now, this is the strategy we at Steel Magnolia Press are following.
Here's a list of some of the freebook sites you can notify about your free promotion. Please be sure to read through the requirements and how to submit for each of them.
Pixel of Ink
E-Reader News Today
Free Kindle Books
Indie Books List
Books on the Knob
Bargain Book Hunter