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The Book Builder's Blog

On The Book Builder’s Blog, C. D. Tavenor discusses the art of crafting novels, from the very beginning concepts that form stories to the editorial processes involved prior to publishing. The blog goes beyond just storysmithing; it considers all the pieces necessary to construct a complete book!

Making your book Permanently Free on Amazon: Lessons From First of Their Kind!

I promised a write-up a few weeks ago. Here it is.

Using the Book Builder’s Blog, I’m going to discuss First of Their Kind’s month free on Amazon! Marketing is an essential part of a book’s life after creation, so hopefully you can learn from the victories and mistakes in First of Their Kind’s first few months following release.

Upon releasing First of Their Kind, I sold 93 copies between April 30 and May 30. Almost 100 in the first month! I take that as a huge win. I achieved those sales through a lot of heavy grassroots marketing, engaging with other authors, talking about my book on blogs, and sending a lot of free copies of my book to reviewers. The launch of a debut isn’t a one-size fits all proposition.

However, even before launch, I knew I was going to test a few weeks of permafree for First of Their Kind in preparation for the release of Their Greatest Game. Then, once books were released, I’d ensure they’re both in Kindle Unlimited. And that’s where they are now. Why run permafree on First of Their Kind? Because the more Kindles holding the book, the more likely readers are to grab Their Greatest Game upon release. And I might pick up a few reviews along the way.

So at the end of May, I kicked First of Their Kind into permafree. It’s an easy process!

  1. Make sure your novel is not enrolled in Kindle Select.

  2. Drop your novel’s price to 99 cents on Amazon, and royalty rate to 35%.

  3. Publish your book through Smashwords extended distribution as free.

  4. Wait about 24 hours until your book is listed worldwide at digital retailers (you can identify all retailers using Books2Read’s Universal Book link tool)

  5. Contact Amazon to let them know your book is free at all listed retailers.

Amazon retains discretion over all price points and could deny your request, but I have placed three books (Legion of Mono, Alligator Season, and First of Their Kind) into permanently free using this method.

So what were my results with First of Their Kind?

On June 17, First of Their Kind was the #1 free Science Fiction novel on Amazon.

On June 17, First of Their Kind was the #1 free Science Fiction novel on Amazon.

Better than I could have imagined. But it wasn’t as easy (or as cheap) as just kicking it free through Smashwords. I invested in newsletters across the internet and participated in newsletter swaps through StoryOrigin. At the same time, I was giving away free copies of First of Their Kind through Prolific Works and StoryOrigin, building my own newsletter mailing list. Those numbers are not reflected in my Amazon ranking on June 17.

I’m not going to comment on the promotions I spent money on that didn’t work, because they may work for other genres and books and they just weren’t the right audience for my book.

But before I share the tools I used, let’s see the raw data:

Notice June 10 and June 17. I’ll explain those spikes below.

Notice June 10 and June 17. I’ll explain those spikes below.

Throughout all of June, First of Their Kind was downloaded 4244 times from Amazon. That’s a much higher number than I ever thought possible!

On June 10, First of Their Kind ran a promotion on the Fussy Librarian. It cost $14 (though I had a 50% off coupon). On that day, I received 787 downloads and hit #2 in free science fiction books, at a cost of 1.7 cents per download. That’s a steal, from what I understand is a good rate for free book promos! It would have been 3.4 cents per download without the coupon.

On June 17, First of Their Kind ran a promotion on FreeBooksy for $70. First of Their Kind skyrocketed to #1 in Science Fiction and Technothrillers, hitting around 70th or so in the entire free store. It was downloaded 1409 times! It was a bit more pricey per download, at 4.9 cents a download, but still decent CPD.

As I said above, I’m not going to mention any of the other sites I dropped a few dollars on for newsletter promotions (I spent less than $10 on any of the other newsletters for any given promotion), but no other newsletter promotion for free books saw any change in my sales. They are not worth the dollar for dollar value of the Fussy Librarian of FreeBooksy.

I had hoped to acquire numbers for EReader News Today, but unfortunately, they were all booked up by the time I started scheduling promotions :(

A few other important details.

  • Throughout the entire month, I was constantly promoting First of Their Kind through StoryOrigin. I attribute the consistent downloads throughout the month outside the FreeBooksy and Fussy Librarian promotions to StoryOrigin. It’s a phenomenal tool that every Indie Author should use.

  • For most of the month, First of Their Kind constantly hovered in the top five/ten of free technothrillers and science fiction novels available on Amazon while receiving approximately 50 - 100 downloads per day. Those numbers similarly placed it around 200 - 300th on the top download list for all free books on Amazon.

  • Following release of Their Greatest Game, I kicked First of Their Kind into Kindle Unlimited. I’ve sold about twenty copies since it stopped being Permafree, and about thirty copies of the sequel. Both books are receiving consistent page-reads each day through KU.

  • I had approximately fifteen reviews prior to the permafree promotion; I now have twenty-one reviews. Whether those are purchased copies, or copies received from Amazon for free, there’s no way for me to know. It’s also difficult to know how the number of reviews (and the average rating) influenced the willingness of readers to download the book.

Only five of these forty-four sales can be attributed to AMS ads. A side-note is worth mentioning here: I have not found AMS ads profitable during the early stages of my indie-publishing career. I do not plan on utilizing AMS ads until I have three or four more books in my portfolio.

Only five of these forty-four sales can be attributed to AMS ads. A side-note is worth mentioning here: I have not found AMS ads profitable during the early stages of my indie-publishing career. I do not plan on utilizing AMS ads until I have three or four more books in my portfolio.

So there’s the data! I hope it’s helpful, and will help you decide whether a permafree path is right for your novel. Next month, I’ll be running a similar experiment with First of Their Kind and Their Greatest Game on discount promotions—when the price of book is set to 99 cents and sent through similar newsletters!

To recap:

  1. Kick the book into permafree using Smashwords when your novel IS NOT ENROLLED in Kindle Unlimited.

  2. Utilize StoryOrigin’s free tools to promote your book through newsletter swaps and giveaways.

  3. If you have the cash, invest in newsletter promotions like FreeBooksy and The Fussy Librarian.

Have any questions? Comment below or tweet at C. D. Tavenor (@tavenorcd) on Twitter!

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