Results from 2 Years of Advertising Free Books

by | Jan 12, 2017

Last Updated:
May 26, 2017

As promised in my post on Results from 30 Days of Free Book Promotion, this post consists of 2 years of data from promoting free books. And I have a bonus!

When I started pulling all of my stats together, I ran into the numbers from a few friends. Now the data set covers not just my free books, but includes information on almost 10 authors!

And some of it may surprise you.

The majority of the book promotions used in this data set are fantasy, but a couple are thriller or scifi, and spans a bit of 2014, 2015, and 2016. I think that is most of the background you need, except maybe answering the question why am I only advertising free books?

I won’t say I only advertise free books. But the first books in both of my series are free. So advertising those over a sale on book 2, 3, or 4 makes a lot more sense. Primarily, I only advertise a later book if it is a new release. Of course, that might spawn one more question.

Why have the first book of a series free?

The primary reason is that the results of advertising a free book are not just one or two times the results of advertising a paid book. Try 10. Seriously, take a look at the results and numbers on this post by Dan Koboldt.

So if you want to reach a LOT more readers to, say, promote your series, advertising a free book is the way to go.

Will you make your money back if you advertise a free book?

Most likely, yes. If you are advertising the first book in a series. But it might take a while. For most months, I have an 11% sell-through rate, meaning that for every 100 free books I give away 11 people will buy the next book in the series.

The cheaper I can give away that free book and to the most number of people, the more likely I will be able to make a profit on book sales. I can also increase my sell-through rate with a captivating description, an intriguing cover, and lots of stellar reviews on both the free book and the next in the series (I have to get them to read the free book after all). And don’t forget solid links for the next book as well as a few teaser chapters at the end of the free book.

And another reason to have the first book of a series free is that you need far less paid advertising. With the right keywords and recommendations from the “Also Bought” listing, my book nets downloads without spending a dime. But after having been published in 2012, my book needs the occasional bump to stay visible on the list.

Those bumps are what this post is all about. So, let’s get to it.

Out of the twenty-five advertisers on my list, four are free (Read Cheaply, My Book Cave, Book Raid, and newsletter swaps with other authors). A different four have so many downloads that they blew up the chart … so I had to give them one of their own. Lol.

What are the top four advertisers that will get you the most downloads?

Advertising Free Books
Is anyone surprised they are Bookbub, Book Marketing Tools, Choosy Bookworm, and Freebooksy? Actually, I was. Well, for two of them! Book Marketing Tools and Choosy Bookworm were never my big “go to” advertisers until I crunched the numbers. Now, guess who has promotions scheduled? 😀

This is what keeping data is all about.

How about the other 21 advertisers? Because there are definitely a few you should check out in there.

Advertising Free Books
In this graph, I included the cost of the advertiser along with the number of downloads. I couldn’t do that in the first graph, because, well, the cost doesn’t really show up in the graph!

Here, though, you are starting to see another key part to advertising:

Where is the best value for your dollar?

It isn’t where you might think.

Value is the number of downloads per dollar. Of course, with four free advertisers, I had to use some dollar amount and went with $1. So if you are really watching your penny, who should you pay to advertise your book? Spoiler alert: it isn’t Bookbub but it isn’t BKnights on Fiverr either! Take a peak.

Advertising Free Books
To be fair and filtering out the free advertisers, you’d get this list of recommendations.

Advertising Free Books
I love these charts because they do get me thinking about how I’m spending my money. But it isn’t really as simple as value, is it? I don’t just want to give away as many books as possible for as cheap as possible. I want to consider those potential follow-up sales too.

Is it better to simply stick to giving away as many books as possible, since that will get me the most future sales?

Possibly. But wait, those follow-up sales will be for paid books. So I can figure out which advertisers actually end up netting a profit after subtracting the cost of the advertisement, using the typical follow-up sales of 11%. Because having the advertising pay for itself is sort of nice, right?

No matter how you slice it, the top four big advertisers of BookBub, Book Marketing Tools, Choosy Bookworm, and Freebooksy will cover the cost of their advertising as long as you have a second book for sale greater than 99¢, even BookBub, who is the most expensive advertiser on the list.

It is the rest of the list that gets interesting.

Advertising Free Books

If you have your book at full price, which for me is $3.99, only one advertiser nets negative sales: Many Books. Which at an advertising cost of $19, kind of makes me sad. Still, that leaves a lot of potential advertisers, 24 in fact, that should cover the cost of the advertising and potentially net a profit.

Things look pretty much the same with follow-up sales on $2.99 books except you then hit break-even with Daily Deals. Otherwise, you are golden. Things get really interesting though if your follow-up sales are for a 99¢ book like, say, you are running a BIG promo to get people into your series. At that point, if you want any chance of your advertising paying for itself, the playing field has a few holes to avoid.

Advertising Free Books

Final Thoughts

I hope this has you looking at book marketing in a new light. Remember these are my numbers and while it is great to combine across multiple authors and several years, it also means some of the data is old. The book marketing playing field is changing constantly so results WILL vary!

What can you do?

Keep your own data. Talk to other authors. And crunch those numbers. Don’t just collect and forget. 😉

And to get you started on some new advertisers besides the ones above, check out this fantastic post at Paid Author on the Best eBook Advertisers of 2017 where you’ll find not just great blurbs on advertisers and results but videos and COUPONS! So go check them out and don’t forget to say thanks! 😀

Looking for a summary you can take with you?

Check out this infographic!





Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

Get Subscriber Rewards…

Or donate to the podcast one-time with Paypal!

Great Deal!

Access all of our courses for one low price

Written by: Autumn

Autumn is a best selling indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently settled in the wilds of Maine with her small dragonish dog and husband, searching for a portal to another world.

You may also like …

1 Comment

  1. Victor Ray Rutledge

    One tiny little item that you failed to consider. Your books are top of the line, best of the genre, fantasy. I’ve never read anything that is out of your class, in fantasy. Because of this, if the reader who downloads your book is a true fantasy, or dystopian fan, they’ll be more likely to buy the next installment than they would from a mediocre author. Those who are simply ‘fairly good’ or just “above average”, should be very careful with their adverts, because they won’t get the return you do. Sorry about their luck, but not everybody can write Like Autumn M Birt. That having been said, I really like the post, since, if I ever get volume sales, I’ll probably advertise, at least once. That means you actually gave me some valuable information, and thanks for that. I know others will find this priceless, because the world of self-publishing is a thorny one and full of bugbears, trolls, and goblins. I’m still waiting, by the way, for my next A. M. Birt novel to read on my Kindle. lol

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This