Takeaways from my Non-KDP Free Book Promo: What Flew and What Crashed

This past Friday I ran a one-day promotional giveaway of my end-of-summer novel Zapped: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery. I’ve described my reasons and strategy in my previous two posts. Here are the basics:

  • Publisher: Boom-Books.
  • Publicity platform: The Fussy Librarian.
  • Sales platforms: Kindle/Amazon (direct via the publisher), and
  • Apple/iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, and Nook/Barnes & Noble (via aggregator/distributor PublishDrive).
  • Scheduled date: Friday, August 28, 2020.
  • Actual start: Wednesday PM, August 26.
  • Actual end: Monday AM, August 31.
  • Final Publish Drive tally:  216 copies given away of Zapped, +
    15 copies of my perma-free Disarmed: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Story.
    78 copies were given away on Google Play (I learned from my Google Partners account; no breakdown is available from PublishDrive).
    2 copies were “sold” on Kobo, 1 in Canada and 1 in S. Africa, for the cost of taxes &/or fees — total earnings $3.84.
    1 copy was sold of Croaked: an Edgar Rowdey Cape Cod Mystery.
  • Final Kindle tally:  3,023 copies given away of Zapped.
    7 copies were “sold,” 2 in Australia and 1 in the UK, for the cost of taxes &/or fees — total earnings $2.23.

I’d recently read in a New Yorker book review about a theory that we learn more by plunging ahead into the unknown than by carefully planning ahead. As much planning went into this promo as was possible given the strategy of flouting both Amazon’s and PublishDrive’s house rules so as to run a simultaneous promo. But most of what I learned comes from my mistakes.

Lesson 1:  In scheduling book price changes, timing is very imprecise. If I’d run a promo set up by either Amazon or PublishDrive, most likely the FREE price would have started and ended closer to the specified schedule. Amazon, managing its own subsidiaries, hit the date-and-time targets within several hours. PublishDrive, operating worldwide on four different platforms, missed the targets by 1-3 days at either end. PD is the only aggregator that partners with Google Play, and I can see why. To end the promo, I had to use my own Google Partners account to manually reset Zapped‘s price from FREE to $4.99 on Monday AM, 2.5 days after it was reset on PublishDrive and half a day after PD supposedly re-reset it on Google.

Lesson 2:  Once Kindle lowers a book’s price to FREE to match a competitor, only a Kindle rep can change it back. This I learned from a phone call to Kindle Customer Service. Online, the price of Zapped was reset from FREE to $4.99 on Kindle at 10:30 PM Friday, the same time as on PublishDrive; but until Monday AM, when I personally changed the last holdout freebie on Google Play and called Kindle to confirm, the Kindle price remained FREE.

Lesson 3:  Amazon dominates the book business because they’re really, really good at it — with knowledgeable, accessible, English-fluent customer service reps as a key asset. The most informative part of this whole adventure was my phone call Monday morning with Maria at Amazon/Kindle. What I learned from her was revelatory enough, and substantial enough, to require a separate post.

Stay tuned.


To share this post, click below. To follow me for news on books & events, click the Facebook, Twitter, or RSS feed icon at top right.