Results from 30 Days of FREE Book Promotion

Who doesn’t love a free boost for their book?

There are a LOT of free book promotion sites out there, easily hundreds. Heck, there are now apps that will automatically send your book to multiple free book promotion sites with the click of a button. Bknights on Fiverr used to offer the same promotion to 15 sites, but now they stick with their home of DigitalBookSpot.

Why multiple?

Because none of them alone have the reach of the big advertisers, which is why they offer free promotion submissions. Accumulatively, your book might get a little kick. And a little kick might be worth the price of the app or a Fiverr spot, right?

But why pay?

With a list of free book advertisers (there are many free lists online), it is fairly easy to do it yourself. Of course, who has the time to sit and submit to multiple sites (hence the app!)? But what if you just submitted to one a day? 5 minutes, done. Would it add up over time?

That is what I set out to discover.

Free Book PromotionThe Hypothesis

By submitting two different free books on free advertising sites every day for 30 days, by the end of the period I would see a greater number of downloads compared to the previous 30 day period.

I have both a first in a series free fantasy book AND an apocalyptic thriller. I wanted to gain greater exposure and reach new readers by submitting both books to free advertising sites. I’ve used paid advertising in the past, everything from Fiverr to Freebooksy as well as Facebook ads. But why jump to the big guns, when I’ve never tried the little ones? And I know a lot of new authors aren’t in the position to pay big bucks for advertising.

This experiment was as much about helping out those who can’t afford a $100 advertising for a free book as it was just trying something new for myself.

Let’s face it, every penny spent on advertising a free book is banking on the hope a reader will not only download the book but will actually read it and love it enough to pay for the next one. So cheap advertising that works and is worth the time is a holy grail for so many authors.

What I expected to see was a gradual increase in downloads with a peak toward the end of the 30 days. All of that outreach to new readers had to have some effect, right?

The Method

I used a list that author Effrosyni Moschoudi gives away on her website. Starting at the top of the list, I submitted both books as early as I could in the morning, choosing sites that did not require any payment. The next day, I wrote down the number of downloads for each book after submitting to the next free promo site.

I didn’t pay for any other advertising for these two books during those 30 days, attempting to keep the results “clean.” Of course, there was a hiccup. I’ll get to that in the results! But I really did try to run a pure trial against the control of the previous 30 days, which also had no paid advertising.

The experiment began on October 30, 2016 and ended November 27.

The Results

First glance should get you excited!

Free Book Promotion
Yup, that is a graph of the non-promo “control” 30 days against the free promo 30 days. Look at those spikes. But wait, are those results really from using free promo sites?

The answer is no.

I didn’t pay for any advertising throughout November, but I had some cross promo efforts lined up with other authors. Oops! These were newsletter swap slots organized through Newsletter Swap and no way was I backing out. And those were the spikes in the graph. Happily, the site gives you the number clicks through the swap link. So I can filter out the unintended static. Whew. Disaster averted.

When I subtract the newsletter swaps, I get this.

Free Book Promotion
A lot less spikes. And actually when you overlay the control 30 days with the promo 30 days, well, it doesn’t look all that exciting.

Free Book Promotion
Yup, those two graphs are virtually identical. In fact, if you look at total downloads from the control month versus the 30 days of free promo… well, can you tell which bar is for which month?

Free Book Promotion

I’m pretty sure you could say the difference is within the normal flux of downloads from holidays, friends sharing, and just random luck. Sure, I could run a statistical analysis to fully determine the significance of the results… but even though I have a science degree, I hated stats. Sorry! Anyone who loves it, let me know and I’ll give you the hard data to play with. 😀

Summary

The hypothesis is proven FALSE.

I was totally wrong. I expect to see an uptick in downloads thanks to daily promotion across multiple sites. Instead, I can’t tell the difference between the control month and the promotion month.

What went wrong?

One is that I don’t know if any of those sites actually used my submission. Seriously. Most have no communication after submission. So I really have no way to judge if my books were featured, like any author using these sites. That is part of the reason I ran this experiment for 30 days, assuming it might take a day or four for the book to be featured. But if that were true, I’d have seen some measurable impact over the course of the month. I really can’t say that happened.

Free Book PromotionOther things to Watch Out For

There were other issues beyond a lack of communication that bothered me.

There were times as I submitted my information, especially my email, to some of these sites that I really had to convince myself to hit the submit button. I’m not saying any of those sites were unethical… but when you see a very cluttered site full of advertising, one that makes no promise to get in touch with you but still wants your email, you have to ask yourself why you are doing this? Why do they want it?

I know at least one of those websites sold my email. Because as well as unsubscribing to about 20 newsletters, I’ve been getting some crazy offers for an assortment of items I did not sign up to receive nor want. Seriously, I do not need an igloo cooler!

And why do I have to unsubscribe from so many mailing lists? Because subscribing was a condition of submitting the book listing. You know those sites that tout how many readers they have signed up? Check to see if getting on the mailing list is part of submitting a book. Then ask yourself how many of those “readers” are actually authors.

And a final thought I had: do I really want to tell this website I have a book so they can download it, strip the file, and put it up on a pirate site? Not that I’ve seen that happen! So DON’T PANIC!

But when you submit a link on a site that feels questionable, telling them about a free or discounted book, it makes you wonder if there is more at risk than a loss of time.

Some Good News from all of This

I found a new favorite site to use for promotion!

Really. It is easy to get caught in a promotion rut with a set list of favorites that work well. But hey, a new site that is good and never featured your book previously is an awesome find! It is a paid site, so I won’t tell you about it here (I set it up for after the experiment). But soon, I promise. Plus, I did find one site that was free AND came through – two days after the promo test ended. Duh.

That one site which was free communicated the date the book would be featured, looked great, acted 100% above board, and resulted in 198 downloads… what is it? My Book Cave. Check them out!

Take a look at the final comparison of what the net result of the 30 days of promos (using only the fantasy book) is compared to the Newsletter Swap cross promotions (which are also free!), an average of using BKnights on Fiverr, and the My Book Cave Promotion.

Free Book Promotion

Where would you spend your effort?

Final Thoughts

I honestly feel I could have spent my time better by writing instead of submitting to all those sites… after paying for one of the awesome advertisers I’ll share on my next post, which condenses TWO YEARS of paid advertising to see what worked, what didn’t, and what has the best value. Check it out next week!

Looking for a summary you can take with you? Check out this infograph!

Looking for more FREE Resources for Writers? Check out my resource page!

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Written by: Autumn

Autumn (also known as Weifarer) is an indie author, conservationist, & world traveler with plans for many more adventures both real and fantastical! She is currently on the road in North America in a Four Wheel Camper along with her husband, Adam, and Cairn terrier, Ayashe.

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8 Comments

  1. Victor Rutledge

    I know I’ve already written this comment, I remember doing so, but I’ve gotten pretty jaded about people whose website ‘promotes’ books. They exist to make money, and that means, if I sign with them, I’m part of a money making enterprise. Just not one that will make money for me. I intend to check out ‘my book cave’ the link is open and waiting, and Autumn has been and continues to be one the best things I’ve encountered in my writing, since I went electronic.

  2. Nicholas C. Rossis

    Brilliant post, Autumn! Many thanks for sharing your results. Sometimes we learn more from our failures than from our successes!

    • Autumn

      I don’t look at anything as a failure anymore. I just sometimes get results that are totally different than expected! 😉

      • Nicholas C. Rossis

        Great way of looking at it. Your science background shows 😉

        I’m looking forward to your next post on the subject!

  3. alfageeek

    I had exactly the same result using free sites to promote a $0.99 sale back in 2015. A lot of spam and no sales bump. I haven’t touched those sites since.

    • Autumn

      I’m glad to have found a few that seem okay (My Book Cave), but my overall experience makes me wonder how and why promoters like Book Marketing Tools works so well. Apparently, I didn’t find the sites that they use to be so successful as my post on Results from 2 years of Book Marketing (http://www.autumnwriting.com/advertising-free-books/) ranked them really high!

      • alfageeek

        That is a pretty amazing post! I used a free short story as a teaser to draw people into my series, and it hasn’t worked at all. The third in my series will be released in a couple months, so I’ll finally be able to seriously consider the first-is-free strategy. Maybe in six months, so I can spend a couple quarters in KDP Select to go with my next launch. My sell through from my first book to my second is 22%. I would expect making the first free would destroy that percentage, since so many people don’t read the free books they download. However, it looks from your graphs that I could still stay positive with a sell-through a lot lower than your 11%.

      • Autumn

        Glad you like the post! 22% is an AWESOME sell through rate. You are correct that giving away a lot of free books can reduce that, but if the series is well tied and already has good flow, you might end up with more than 11%. I admit I need to update my stats. I think I calculated the 11% last spring and haven’t cross checked it recently. Hmmmm….

        I tried free short stories too and they didn’t do too much, so I combined 11 that are consecutive and use that as a free book that leads into the rest of the series. That is working MUCH better.

        Good luck finishing the last in your series (THAT is such a huge accomplishment!) and let me know how you adjust your short story versus free book.

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