Kindle freebie post-mortem


Last Friday and Saturday we ran a free promotion of the Kindle version (and currently only version) of Cold Sake, and we have to say we were disappointed.

  • Friday was a slow day. We had about 250 downloads. The book kicked up the subgenre ranks, to #2 in Fiction & Literature > Historical > Fantasy and #3 in Science Fiction & Fantasy > Historical.
  • Saturday was slower. What we had read around the web from other publishers who shared their experiences is that you want to run a 2-day promotion because the second day is better. All we can say is that advice was not helpful for us. We had only about half the downloads of the day before. We got up into the top 1000 of overall Kindle books, and up in a couple of genre lists, but we did not see the kind of numbers we had hoped for. We were going back down the lists before afternoon.

So what do we conclude here?

  1. Free Kindle book promotions have only so much value? This is no secret. Our goal was simply to help spread Katherine M. Lawrence's book around as much as possible—and the freebie offering had some effect, although so far nobody who's actually read the book has posted a review. Anecdotal evidence presented by other people sharing their experiences about their free Kindle promotions is only anecdotal. We're all limited by self-reporting of numbers. Nobody has The Recipe, especially those who have succeeded from free Kindle books promotions—they are subject to the risks of selection bias.
  2. The book's marketing is not what it could be? Obviously. We're just getting rolling on this venture and taking things one step at a time. Last week we hit a couple dozen sites to list our book promotion, and those efforts paid off on Friday, but probably faded quite a bit on Saturday. Our social media reach is very small at this point—which is not a surprise: We know all about the social media/social graph dynamic from our other business. And our newsletter list—and Kate's—have few subscribers. In other words, we're fighting invisibility.
  3. The book description isn't compelling enough? This is quite possible. We actually changed it on Friday morning when we realized how flat our initial draft was. This partly relates to...
  4. The book isn't positioned properly for the readers most likely to enjoy it? This is something we suspect, and welcome perspectives from others. (Please comment below!) We've been positioning Cold Sake—and all the more so Kate's other books we're preparing for publication—as historical fiction. Kate has meticulously researched Heian Japan and the books reflect that. However, there's a fantastic element of her books, what with the gods, trickster foxes, ghosts and even demons, that may better appeal to readers of fantasy novels. And then there's the question of having a woman samurai—who actually existed, but were not the norm, and were not really seen in the more recent several hundred years of Japanese history. Does having a woman warrior turn off samurai fiction fans? We're not sure.
  5. The book cover isn't compelling? This is where our discussion centered over the weekend. At best, it might be a very well executed miss. What does the cover say about the story? Does it capture that Yamabuki is 17 years old and a warrior newly out on her own? Does it convey any sense of ghosts that are the antagonists of this particular story? Does it feel like it will be a lyrical-yet-realistic drama with visceral action? We have had to conclude that the answer is no.

Today we worked up a concept for a new direction we plan on taking the covers for Kate's future books. We may also re-cover the current Kindle book, but that's not our primary focus at this point. We have a new novel we hope to have out of editing in the coming several weeks, and will focus our endeavors there first.

This has been a learning experience. Clearly the limitations of KDP Select are working against us. Given our goals for this book, we probably should be offering it for free or 99 cents just to help build the audience. And we should be placing the book on the various other ebook platforms. We certainly will do these things once the 90-day exclusive for KDP Select runs out—if not before.