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Kindle Countdown Campaign Results - Hunter in Orbit26 Nov 2014
By Robert Bidinotto (edited by Simon Denman)2 comments
On November 13 I posted a guest blog here, describing a book promotion experiment I was about to conduct. I’m now back to share with you the results of that experiment, in the hope that other authors might find this useful in their own book promotional efforts.
Build a sales campaign upon on an Amazon exclusive 5-day Kindle Countdown Deal (KCD), with three days of paid advertising ending in a Bookbub thriller list promotion (which boasts 1.3 million subscribers) on the third day.
Hypothesis being tested
That the Amazon ranking and recommendation algorithms reward a rising trend of ebook sales over several days, more than a one-day spike.
Book being promoted (Book 1): Hunter by Robert Bidinotto
Regular Price: $4.99
Countdown Price: $0.99 (99p in UK)
To further increase sales during this period, I also arranged advertising with about ten different book promotion sites, including Readers in the Know (this site) and Bookbub. Some of these rely solely on their websites and social media, while others (including this one) additionally send out email blasts to lists of subscribers.
Day -1 (pre-launch), 9pm (EST) Wednesday Nov 12th
Start of 5-day KCD (started early to avoid any potential screw-ups)
DAY 1, Thursday Nov 13th
- Case study blog on Readers in the Know
- Extensive Facebook and Twitter promotion
- Free Kindle Books & Tips
- Digital Book Spot (via BKnights at Fiverr)
DAY 2, Friday
- Readers in the Know (featured book of the day)
- Riffle Select
- Fussy Librarian
- Awesome Gang
- More Facebook and Twitter promotion (including listing my book on other dedicated Facebook pages)
- Two blogger friends also posted interviews that they had conducted with me.
DAY 3, Saturday
- Bookbub Promotion in "Thrillers"
- Ereader News Today (ENT)
- More DIY Social Media promotion
DAY 4, Sunday
- Minimal DIY Social Media promotion
DAY 5, Monday
- Minimal DIY Social Media promotion
By any measure, the campaign has been a stunning success.
The following table shows the number of sales and borrows, both for the promoted book - Hunter (book 1) and for Bad Deeds (book 2), which in spite of not being the focus of any direct promotion whatsoever, benefited enormously from the promotion of Hunter.
The area shaded in orange represents the 5 days of KCD.
I’ve never previously sold many books in the UK—maybe half a dozen per month. During this campaign I used KCD, Readers in the Know (~43% UK), Bookbub, and Ebooksoda to reach the UK market. Here are the results:
- Day 1: 8 sales from KCD + Readers in the Know
- Day 2: 6 sales from KCD + Ebooksoda
- Day 3: 86 sales from Bookbub + KCD, plus perhaps some residual Ebooksoda effects.
- Day 4: 24 sales + 2 borrows—“tail” effects from all the preceding.
- Day 5: 24 sales + 1 borrow—more “tail” effects.
That’s 151 paid units during the campaign, from a market that usually generates but a trickle of sales. I wasn’t paying close attention, but well into the campaign I saw that the UK Kindle rank for HUNTER was in the 500s. For days the book held down the #1 spot in the UK Kindle “Vigilante Justice” category, simultaneously holding #1 for that same category in the USA.
- More than 3,000 copies of HUNTER were bought during the five-day promotion. In addition, 200+ copies of the (unadvertised) sequel, BAD DEEDS, were purchased.
- On Saturday, November 15, HUNTER sold 1,515 copies in a single day.
- For the second time in three years, HUNTER entered the U.S. Kindle “Top 50” bestsellers, peaking at #38 among some three million Kindle ebook titles.
- The book soared to #1 in the U.S. Kindle categories “Crime Fiction,” “Vigilante Justice,” and “Assassination Thrillers,” and as of this writing still holds that top ranking in “Vigilante Justice.” It also hit #2 in “Espionage Thrillers,” reached #12 in the much larger “Thrillers” category, and #14 on the even bigger “Mystery, Thrillers & Suspense” list. (It may have gone even lower in those latter rankings; I wasn't paying attention all the time.)
- HUNTER also reached #1 in “Vigilante Justice” in the UK. In a market where it has been lucky to sell about three copies per month, it sold over a hundred copies in a single day. So far it has racked up 170 paid downloads in the UK this month, and it continues to generate a few daily sales and borrows there daily. The enhanced visibility apparently is spilling over to other foreign sites, as well: Today I received my first-ever sale in Mexico. I’ve also scored sales in Germany, India, Canada, and Australia, in numbers higher than usual.
- During the six-day period after the promotion ended (November 18-23), an additional 565 ebooks sold—357 copies of HUNTER, 208 copies of BAD DEEDS. That’s an average sales rate of 60 copies per day for HUNTER, and a combined average for both books of 94 copies per day—more than double their daily averages prior to the campaign. This level of increased sales has persisted during the post-promotional period and has yet to show signs of flagging.
- The collateral benefits of the campaign include big spikes in sales of the HUNTER audiobook—90 so far this month. Audio sales continue at the rated of several per day. (However, to my surprise, I noticed no measurable increase in paperback sales.)
- HUNTER currently is hanging in the Kindle sales rankings below #1400, while BAD DEEDS lies in the low #4000s. Prior to the campaign, both books were in the #8000 - #10,000 range. HUNTER remains at #1 in the “Vigilante Justice” category, #9 in “Assassination Thrillers,” and #22 in “Crime Fiction”—all giving it continuing visibility.
- The book is showing up among the “also boughts” of more books by other thriller writers. And it has received 16 new Amazon customer reviews since the first day of the campaign—all but three of them “5-stars,” and the rest “4-stars.”
Did this promotion make money?
In October, I sold about 780 ebook copies of both titles combined. By contrast, this month I’ve already sold over 3600 copies of HUNTER and about 625 BAD DEEDS ebooks, or over 4200 total ebooks. During the first 12 days of November, prior to the campaign, I recorded 444 total downloads. That means about 3,756 of November’s paid downloads have occurred since the campaign began.
It’s hard to get precise royalty figures yet, because income from units “borrowed” through Kindle Unlimited is calculated later and separately from sales. But just my combined sales for both ebook titles this month—excluding borrows—have generated around $4,000 in royalty income, $3,000 of which comes from sales that have taken place since the campaign began. On the expense side of the ledger, all the ads and lists cost me around $740.
So these promotional purchases have paid for themselves, several times over. You can see that when royalties from “borrows” will be added in later, the promotion has proved to be lucrative.
Conclusions and Suggestions
As I write this, it’s the early evening of the seventh day after the big HUNTER promotional campaign ended. Today’s sales and borrow figures are on pace to approximate those of the past two days—somewhere around 100 paid downloads in total. Again, that is almost three times higher than the average daily numbers my books were pulling down before the campaign.
Of course, it remains to be seen how long the “tail” effects of this promotion will last, and whether, in coming weeks and months, my two books will settle in at daily sales levels higher than they were previously. If it does, then it would seem to confirm my hypothesis that Amazon algorithms do reward books that show rising sales trends, rather than one-day spikes.
But clearly, this kind of multi-day, KCD-based campaign can generate several thousand ebook sales—including higher sales and visibility for other books in a series. For that reason, it is best to promote the first title in a series. In fact, I would not bother trying this type of promotional campaign if you have only a single published title, or unrelated ones. If you do have more than one series book, I suggest that you do what I did:
- First, schedule a Bookbub promotion for whatever date you can get one. (Check to make sure that the date is acceptable by the rules of your KCD enrollment period.) Be forewarned that Bookbub schedules well in advance, and they are also fussy about which titles they accept.
- If and when you secure a Bookbub date, then schedule a four-to-six-day KCD promotion, to commence two or three days before the Bookbub mailing. Reduce the price of your book either to 99 cents or to “free” for the duration of the promotion.
- Next, approach other book promotional sites—Readers In the Know, Free Kindle Books & Tips, Booksends, Ereader News Today, and whatever others you can get—and try to schedule ads with them during the several campaign days leading up to Bookbub. Sales from their promotions will improve your book’s Kindle ranking before Bookbub hits—thus making it much easier for their email blast to propel your book much closer to the top of the bestseller lists.
- Try to schedule a lot of social media in conjunction with your campaign. Approach friendly bloggers in advance and ask them to run interviews with you or reviews of your book during that period. Ask your Facebook and Twitter friends to spread the word once the campaign starts. Post about it on your own blog and social media pages, too
- Finally, schedule a few final promotions for the closing days of the reduced-price period, to run after the Bookbub promotion. I didn’t do that this time; but I think it would help to sustain for a longer period the better rankings that you achieve.
If all runs on schedule and without serious glitches, you should attract thousands of new readers, gain higher sales and visibility for the targeted book and any sequels, and give your income a nice boost.
Jack L Knapp commented at 01:04 20 Apr 2015:
"Good summary of your promotion efforts. I'll try something like this later in the year, after I have enough royalties to pay for the up-front costs."
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"Dear Robert, thank you so much for sharing this campaign! I am going to give it a try. I found it eye opening. Thank you again!"