Promo Results

As an independent author, running a successful promotional campaign in a saturated market is difficult. While doggy paddling in a pool of ignorance, I made time-sucking mistakes. In this blog, I share what worked, what didn’t, and what I learned.

How do Indie Authors Push Consumers to Make a Buying Decision?

You’re asking readers to ignore that New York Times best seller everyone’s raving about, turn off the TV, and read your book. Maybe you’re lucky and they stumbled on your Amazon book page. The cover looks good, the jacket blurb is interesting, and the reviews seem promising, but they aren’t keen to fork over cash and spend hours reading a book from an unknown author. When you think about it from a consumer’s point of view, that’s a big ask.

Shadow Books

Your book is languishing in the gloomy shadows cast by best selling authors

You can’t reduce the time commitment, but you can temporarily remove financial risk. Everyone loves free stuff, and bookworms are no exception. Discovering emerging authors without spending a cent is great fun.

Shocked Author



It surprises me that many authors balk at the prospect of offering their masterpiece free. You aren’t undervaluing your product by using this marketing strategy. You’re creating a fan base and an author platform.



~ Not interested in the how or why? Scroll down to charts with links to promo sites and download results ~

STEP 1: Set your objective


Decide how long to run your promotion, develop an objective, and create attainable, measurable goals.

TIME: 1-Jan-16 * 31-Jan-16

OBJECTIVE: Increase awareness of the book series by introducing readers to the returning protagonists.

Hum, in order to accomplish this, I need people to download the book. Reviews from verified buyers limits consumer risk. An increase in sales for the first book indicates that readers like the protagonists and strengthens the series’ platform.


  1. Receive >5,000 downloads during one-month promotion period.
  2. Obtain >10 reviews from verified buyers.
  3. Increase awareness and prepare for third book launch.

GoalsRemember ‘attainable’ goals. Point two percent return for reviews seems low, but many people don’t read the free book they download and many readers don’t write reviews. Before I entered the publishing arena, I didn’t write reviews. It wasn’t because I’m mean or I disliked the novel, it never occurred to me that reviews helped the author. Short-sighted, I know.

You can measure all three of these goals. Distributors’ dashboards chart downloads, reviews include the date submitted, and book product pages list the sales’ ranking.

Being challenged in life is inevitable, being defeated is optional.—Roger Crawford

First Problem

How to get Amazon to set the price FREE.

When you aren’t with KDP Select, Amazon’s minimum price point is .99. I had no idea how to force their hand and list the book free. I didn’t want it to be permanently free.

Amazon Price Match


Set the price as FREE on your other marketing channels. Ask friends, Facebook page fans, and Twitter followers to visit your book’s US Amazon page, click on the button ‘report a lower price’, and add your book link from a competitor’s site.

Then waited. This can take a few days, and several people need to report the price change. Start the process one week before you plan to promote your campaign.

Don’t Panic Like I Did!

At the end of your campaign, Amazon adjusts the price up when you reset it on their competitors’ sites. Again, it takes a few days, but they will catch the increase and reset their price. It took six days after I adjusted the price on the competitors’ channels for Amazon to adjust the price up to $1.99.

Don't forgetAmazon only offers price matching on their US site. Eventually, it was free on the Canadian site, but it took a long time. Embarrassing, since I’m Canadian and the books are set in Toronto.

Have a plan on how to get your free book to your Amazon international readers.

Second Problem

How to let readers know it’s there and it’s FREE.

Now the book is free, it’s floating in a bleak ocean beside thousands of other free Kindle books.

Book Promo Sites

Step 2: Research





Many sites cater to specific genres, won’t take books with certain content, or have specific criteria that your book must meet. They have an audience they serve. If your book doesn’t match their requirements, don’t submit.


Respect is a Karma boomerang, it returns to you

Remaining organized is crucial in order to track results. Create a simple Excel spreadsheet that contains key information — date you want to schedule, fee or free, number of required reviews, lead-time to notify, site name, and link.


Unless you write across different genres, this spreadsheet will be your free/discount promo bible, speeding up future promotions. For your first promo, spend time on the research. By doing a simple Google search: ‘free+book+promotion+sites‘ you’ll find numerous blogs and articles that list a bevy of possible sites.

Visit each site and ensure that your book fits the criteria. Some seemed a bit sketchy to me. Remember, your books are your brand. If something feels off to you, trust your instincts and give that site a miss.

Although some offer ‘free’ listings, they don’t guarantee. On their site, they’ll qualify ‘free’ by adding: limited number of free spots. For guarantee placement, please {donate / pay / pick a plan}. Add this qualifier to your spreadsheet. Check those sites every day of your promotion. If they don’t list your book, note that for next time.

Skully, Perdition Games is a psychological thriller. There’s a murder/crime element, and the returning protagonist is a female private investigator. It fits mystery + thriller + suspense. Although there’s very little graphic violence, the underlying psychology is dark and disturbing, and there is profanity: no sites that promote cozy mysteries, Christian fiction, YA, and children’s books. Sex is behind the scenes: erotica and romance sites won’t work.

Things to watch for

Some promo sites require a minimum number of reviews and some only count verified buyers. If you have reviews that originated from Story Cartel, Choosy Read & Review, or NetGalley campaigns, your reviews are from legitimate readers, but they don’t show as verified buyers.

Some require one month lead time to list. Depending on the length of your campaign, you may not be able to place your promotion on those sites.

For the fee-for-service options, set a budget and stick to it. Five bucks here and five bucks there adds up to a shocking amount before you realize it. If you aren’t in the site’s country of origin, ensure you convert the funds. In January, the month of my promotion, the Canadian dollar was squatting around 68 cents US and 49 cents British Pound. That conversion seriously impacts the budget.

MoneyPick fee-for-service sites carefully. Check that their audience matches your target market. Research their reach: how many subscribers, site visitors, and social media connections. Schedule placements on your spreadsheet to see if dates work before you return with your wallet open.

If you don’t want to spend money on your campaign, no worries.

Many sites offer free listings, and there are free promo opportunities via Goodreads’ Groups, social media strategies, and your mail list.

STEP 3: Promote


Once your populated spreadsheet includes the dates you want, double check to ensure the requested placement dates are spread across your promotion term. Do your best not to duplicate placement dates, so you can track results and maintain book buzz through out the campaign. When you’re happy with your schedule, hit the links and start submitting, highlighting each completed request in yellow. During the campaign, change the yellow to green when the site lists your book, track the days’ total download number from your KDP and distributors’ dashboards, and add the final number to an end column.



Free Online Book Promo Sites

1,008 downloads + 2 days on Amazon’s Top 100

The below sites matched Skully, Perdition Games mystery-thriller-suspense genre and the site’s requirements. These sites offered a free option at the time of my giveaway.

*Not all sites listed the book*

FREE eBook promo Sites

Addicted to eBooks
Armadillo eBooks
Ask David
Authors Den
Best eBooks Free
Book Preview Club
Book Choice 4 U
Book Pinning
Free Book Dude
Free Books
Frugal Freebies
Ignite Your Book
Indie Book of the Day
Lovely Books
Pretty Hot
Read Freely
eBooks Addict
eReader Love
The Kindle Book Review
Book Deal Hunter
Indies Unlimited
Virtual Bookcase


Goodreads’ group listings, social media, and email blast


Goodreads hosts numerous groups where the objective is to promote free books to their members. Go to the ‘Group’ tab, look to the right for ‘browse by tag’, click on the genres that match your book, and scroll through the groups. Click through the discussions to see if the group offers authors a promotion thread, many do. Read the Group Rules. If the moderator hosts a thread identified for authors, read those rules, too. Don’t open a new discussion to promote your book in groups that don’t support advertised book deals.

star gift Amazon

Design a promo card in Photoshop or GIMP (free) to highlight your promotion. 1024 x 512 pixels (27.09 cm x  13.54cm) is a good size for Twitter and Facebook, and it looks nice on Goodreads’ threads.

A visual with a catchy tag line that tells readers what to expect from your book and where to get it helps to brand your campaign.

Add the pic to your Goodreads’ group post in the appropriate thread. Include the title of the book, genre, price, length of promo, and links to download. Goodreads’ discussion threads allow simple HTML coding to add a picture to your post. Preview your post prior to posting it. In the sample below, I included the code, rather than the graphic.

Title: Skully, Perdition Games

Genre: Mystery-Thriller-Suspense

Price: FREE

Promo Dates: 1-Jan-16 * 31-Jan-16

The beautiful wife of an aspiring politician vanishes from her home and police discover a gruesome crime scene. But things may not be as they seem, and the woman’s dark past could hold the key to her strange disappearance. A psychological thriller with twists that keep readers turning the pages.

<img src=”http://link to your picture.jpg“/>





Your mail list is priceless and MailChimp is a free service to create visual and personalized emails that shine. It provides a quick way for receivers to unsubscribe to the emails. Again, respect is Karma. It takes time to create a list, I have a modest 218 readers on mine, and I lost sleep after I sent it because I worried people would view my email offer as annoying. I’m happy to say that the response was heart-warming, and the invitation to download a free book from their favorite online retailer thrilled many people.


Fee-For-Service Promo Sites, budget $100 US

1,498 downloads + 2 days on Amazon’s Top 100

By doing this AFTER I launched the promo with the free listings and testing my author platform, I was better able to track the impact of the charged services. Since downloads had dwindled to two dozen a day, I wanted to see if the paid option reached people that the free options didn’t. The five I selected seemed a good fit and didn’t exceed my budget.

$15.00 Book Goodies 65
$15.00 eBook Soda 24
$10.00 eBooks Habit 179
$25.00 Just Kindle Books 592
$25.00 Many Books 638

Many Books was the big winner, nudging the book into the top 50 on Amazon. Excellent results for one day, since I accidentally picked a Tuesday. Just Kindle Books ran for five days with good results, eBooks Habit was satisfactory, but Book Goodies and eBook Soda didn’t net many downloads, which means I missed something in my research and/or placement.

What I learned about promo sites


I failed to pick different start dates when I scheduled my free promotions in week 1. In fact, it was a disorganized mess before I figured out they needed to be on a spreadsheet for easy reference. Consequently, I couldn’t track # of downloads by site during week 1.

Look at your audience demographics, and make an educated guess as to when they download books. If your target market is professional adults, weekends meet their shopping habits. If you sell to young adults, school vacations present a good opportunity.


Know your target market, where they are, and when they buy


Many Books was a delightful surprise, worth the $25, and I’ll use them again.


Book Marketing Tools

2,236 downloads + 4 days on Amazon’s Top 100

It’s arduous and time-consuming to submit to individual sites to promote your free or discounted book. Much of the required data is the same, and repetitive data entry increases the risk of human errors and typos. Happily, a tool makes the process easier. I didn’t discover this gem until I’d exhausted my own research and was wondering what to do with the final week of the campaign. When I drilled-down, I found Book Marketing Tools.


For $14.99, their automated tool walks you through a submission template. Once completed, the next screen shows you the logo/name for the site and you click ‘submit’. Based on the template you filled in, the tool auto-populates required fields without leaving Book Marketing Tools site. If there are additional questions, or actions the listing site requires (such as subscribing to their email), Book Marketing Tools displays those fields, and it only takes a minute to pop in the answers.

The joy of trying a one-month promotion is gathering retrospect to tweak future campaigns. Next time, I’ll use this tool Week 1 and follow it with submitting to the free sites on my list that require you to visit their page.

I didn’t like the inability to ‘skip’ a site. One site specified PG13 content. I preferred not to submit a book with profanity. Because I found the tool after submitting to my researched free sites, I had to duplicate listings. I’m sure the people who run free promo sites are busy enough without weeding through multiple listings for the same book.

R.J. Adams at Book Marketing Tools told me  they’re discussing a ‘skip’ option, which would be an awesome feature.


Auto Tool 32 Sites
Awesome Gang Coupon Crazy Mom Free Books Media Bistro
Best eBooks Free Deal Seeking Mom Free Stuff Times New Free Kindle Books
Book Boost eBook Daily Deals Freebies 4 Mom People Reads
Book Circle eBook Lister I Crave Freebies Read Cheaply
Book Hearts eFree Books I Love eBooks Reading Deals
Book Lovers Heaven eReader Café Indie House Books Story Finds
Choosy Bookworm Free 99 Books It’s Write Now The Daily Book Worm
ContentMo Free eBooks for Me Kindle Book Promos Your Daily eBooks


A four week FREE promo that cost $104.99 US netted 5,305 downloads.


There is no overhead because the product is an eBook distributed from the marketing channels. That’s how to look at this. Yes, I understand that it costs money to write and produce a quality book, and you need to track those expenditures and find your break-even point when you’re setting your price and forecasting your sales.

But the objective of this promotion campaign wasn’t about  sales. It was about awareness. You can’t sell books in the future if no one knows you’re writing them.

Will all 5,305 folks read it? Nope. That’s okay. Will everyone who reads it leave a review? Nope, many readers don’t like writing reviews. So far, the campaign alone has generated twelve ‘verified buyer’ Amazon reviews. Since the promotion ended January 31st, I anticipate a few more. Will some folks who read Skully, Perdition Games during the free promotion buy Simon Says, Perdition Games? Yup, I’m thrilled to say that the book’s sales ranking increased on Amazon during January. Since that book is with a publisher, I’ll have to wait to see the number of units sold.


  1. Green Check MarkReceive >5,000 downloads during free promotion period.
  2. Obtain >10 reviews.
  3. Drive traffic to the first book to generate sales.

For promotion whiz kids, feel free to snicker at my first voyage into the murky waters of free promotion. You may think the results a bit woe begotten. I did qualify this by saying:

Garden Pug

If ignorance is bliss; I’m frolicking with my pugs in the Garden of Eden

In this saturated market of publishing, we must celebrate the small wins. For every reader who takes a chance on your book, add a cheerful check mark to your list of successes.

For those of you who downloaded the book, I sincerely hope it provided you with a few hours of well-deserved entertainment, and I offer you my genuine appreciation for giving it a whirl.

Pug-Hugs, Lori

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