There’s much talk these days about eBooks and the fact that there is so little real concrete data out there on them. Most of the info is anecdotal. I thought I’d join the ranks of people “taking one for the team” and sharing their actual numbers to the world.

Now, before I start, I want to point out that, the few people I have seen sharing numbers, are sharing them because they are selling boatloads of books. I’m intentionally going to talk about some books that were struggling because I think we need stats out there on both sides of the spectrum or it sends an unrealistic expectation.

Amazon recently introduced Kindle Select. To recap, in exchange for granting Amazon 3 months of exclusivity, you were eligible to participate in their Kindle Lending Library and profit sharing. But what I was really in it for was the five free promotional days you also got for signing up. You were given the opportunity to make your book available for free for up to 5 days during the 3 month exclusive period. Since the ability to offer books for free was a feature previously only allowed to the big publishers, this was a big deal for those of us that wanted more exposure for our books.

I enrolled three titles into this program. I’m going to cover the results of this experiment book by book over the course of three posts.

OK, let’s do this.

Book: No Secret: a parody of The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

Available in: Paperback and eBook

Needed exposure because: This book (which is published through Hilarity Ensues, an imprint of Priced Nostalgia Press) came out in 2007 when The Secret had just been released and was very newsworthy. But as the years have passed, sales of this title had slowed until they’d all but stalled. Could a free promotion give it a kick in the pants to make it start selling again?

It was free from: January 2nd, 2012 (the day after New Year’s Day which was a holiday from work for many) through January 6th, 2012

Total free copies downloaded: 227 293 (When I first posted this, I forgot all about international sales. The original #s I posted were US only. Sorry!)

How did we promote the free promotion? One blog post and a variety of hashtag heavy tweets throughout the week.

During the free promotion: Of those 293 downloads, over 150 of them happened on the very first day. I credit this to it being a day off from work for many and so near to Christmas (new Kindle owners were looking for free reads). But, it’s important to note, that all of my marketing didn’t start until the 3rd meaning that those first 100+ downloads came only from people looking for free books and nothing I did. We also almost immediately hit the bestseller list for Humor and Parody and stayed there all week in the top 5. We also hit the bestseller list for Self-Help which… LOL.

After the free promotion ended: Here’s the part we care about, right? What did giving the book away mean for sales after the fact?

  • Sales rank: Though we immediately started to drop in the sales ranking once the book went back to regular price, I was very pleased to discover that the book stayed in the top 100 of Humor and Parody for almost a month after the promotion ended.
  • Paperback sales: As soon as the book went on the free promotion, we sold our first paperback copy in ages. (While the free promo was still going on.) In total, we sold four paperbacks since the promotion. This may not seem like much but since we only sold 6 in the entire year of 2011 and the promo only ended a few weeks ago, it bodes well for 2012.
  •  eBook sales: Since the free promotion ended, we’ve sold 8 18 (Again, sorry!) eBook copies. Kindle reporting stinks so I can’t easily give you the exact number for how that compares to 2011 but that is more sales per week then we usually sell for this older title. Only time will tell what this means in the long run but, so far, it seems like it put this book back on the map.
  • I should note that we’ve done no additional marketing for this title since the promo ended so those sales were just from the increased exposure from the free promo.
Lessons Learned from this Promo: 
  • You’ll get a certain number of downloads just from people looking for free Kindle content even if you do nothing in the way of marketing
  • Weekends and holidays may be better for doing this free promotion then weekdays are
  • Offering your book for free does give you an edge on Amazon after the promotion ends and, depending on how you leverage it, can mean more sales
Any questions? Let me know below and I’d be happy to answer.