Monday, January 7, 2013

One Writer’s Tale of Self-Publishing and Free Giveaways

Hello and Happy Monday! I am pleased and proud to be posting my very first blog with the Rockville 8. It’s such a thrill to be a part of this group of unique, talented and lovely ladies. So without further ado….

A Little Bit of Background

My first two novels, Homesong and Still Waters, were originally published by a small press. My third novel, Her Secret Bodyguard, was self published on Kindle.  I enjoyed the experience of self publishing so much that I reacquired the rights to my first two books, and now all of them are published under my own banner, CWC Publishing (named after my father).  All of my books have been enrolled in a program called KDP Select.

What is KDP Select?

“KDP” is short for Kindle Direct Publishing, and it’s the part of Amazon where authors publish their books on Kindle.  “KDP Select” is a program which allows authors to promote their books by doing free giveaways in exchange for digital exclusivity. Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

An author who enrolls their book in Select is giving Amazon exclusive digital publishing rights for ninety days. During that time, the book may not be available in digital format anywhere else, including the author’s website. (It can still be distributed anywhere in physical format.) In exchange for the exclusivity, the author can make their book free for any five days during that 90-day period. The book is also available to borrow from the Kindle Lending Library, and the author receives payment for the borrows.

Within the indie author community, there’s a certain amount of debate surrounding the use of the Select program. While there are definite drawbacks to exclusivity, my personal experience with Select has been pretty good. 

Here’s a breakdown of the four giveaways that I did in 2012 and how it affected my sales:

First Giveaway: Still Waters 
(Romantic suspense set in 1956.)  

Note: this is the only giveaway where I did a heavy promotion beforehand. The promotional steps that I took are detailed later in this post. The book did make it into the Pixel of Ink newsletter, which obviously gave things a big boost.

Free days: Tuesday, September 26 – Thursday, September 27, 2012

Total giveaways: 23,893 (US 23,672; UK 191; Other markets 30)

Sales results: Up to September 26, I had sold 12 books for the month, with no borrows. By the time the month ended, I had sold 412 books and had 102 borrows. The following month (October) I sold 301 books and had 240 borrows. I also gained thirteen reviews (mostly 5-stars) on Amazon.

Second and Third Giveaways: Her Secret Bodyguard
(Contemporary romantic suspense set in Los Angeles.)

Note: Of the three books, this is the only one where I used all five of my free days. The first giveaway, as you’ll see, was much more successful than the second. I definitely scheduled them way too close together to take full advantage of all five days. I didn’t do any promotion for either giveaway, but by a lucky break the book was still picked up for Pixel of Ink.

First set of free days: Monday, October 1 – Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Total giveaways: 24,200 (US 20,496; UK 3,419; Other markets: 285)

Sales results:  Although this book had hit Amazon's bestseller list several times since its 2010 release sales had definitely slowed. In September 2012 I sold 108 books, and had two borrows. This giveaway took place at the beginning of October, and within two days after the end of the giveaway, I’d almost doubled September’s sales. I sold 611 books and had 108 borrows in October.

Second set of free days: Tuesday, October 16 – Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Total giveaways: 2,692 (US: 1,717; UK 975)

Sales results: No appreciable increase in sales after this second giveaway. (Cue the “wah-wah” music.)

Fourth Giveaway: Homesong
(Contemporary romance set on Caribbean cruise, with interwoven generational stories set in small Virginia town. Little bit of a mess.)

Note: Again, for this giveaway I did no promotion except a few personal tweets and posting it on Twitter and Facebook. Homesong wasn’t featured in Pixel of Ink, but I still got lucky with a lot of downloads.

Free days: Monday December 17 – Thursday December 19, 2012

Total giveaways: 15,826 (US 14,688; UK 1,052; Other markets: 86)

Sales reports: By December 16, before the promo started, I’d sold eight books By the end of the month (twelve days after end of promo) I’d had 383 sales and 415 borrows. I’ve also gained eight new reviews, five of which are five-stars.


Here are the promotional steps I took when preparing for my Still Waters free days:

1) I used the forms provided by the wonderful people at Author Marketing Club to submit my book to almost a dozen different websites where free books are listed.

2) Paid a total of $15.00 to Kindle Book Review for a guaranteed cover display and 15 custom tweets to a total of 14,600 followers.

3) I made blatant (and probably piteous) announcements on three different Yahoo loops where such things are allowed, asking for downloads, tweets, etc.  I provided sample tweets to make it easy for my friends to share the news.

4) I made announcements on Facebook, including posting to a couple of groups. (But only on the groups where this type of announcement is allowed).

5) Coincidentally, I’d already scheduled a two-day ad on The Frugal eReader. The first ad ran on the last day of my free promo, and the second ad ran the first day my book returned to its regular price.


Because my books are so different, I didn't see a lot of carryover from the sales of one book to the sales of the others. I think I would have seen better sales across the boards if I were writing a series. But generally speaking I was thrilled with the results of my giveaways. As I mentioned before, not all writers like the idea of the Select program. Personally I plan to utilize it as long as it's available, but like anything else, a writer has to weigh the pros and cons before enrolling.

As a reader, have you downloaded and read many free books on Kindle?

And if you're a writer, what's been your experience with free giveaways?


  1. Fantastic post! I've done several free runs over the past year with good results. I'm currently planning one for January and one for March with two different books, so this is very well timed information. I'll check them out. Thank you!

    1. Thanks PJ! Hope your free days bring you tons of sales and borrows! :-)

  2. Thanks, Misha! I'm placing my first book on Amazon KDP this month. I'm going to bookmark this information for promo ideas. You convinced me that I'm on the right path.

    1. That's great JT! Wishing you tons of success!

  3. Hi Misha! Welcome to the R8 and what a stunning debut! :)

    I have to admit that while I've downloaded a few freebies here and there, I'm not a dedicated enough reader of e for it to have an impact yet. I don't go trolling for free books, but maybe I should!

    But that aside, this seems like a no-brainer decision to make - your numbers definitely went up after each free session (or mostly went up). Seems like good sense to keep doing it occasionally.

    I think you're right, too, in that people who like a certain genre will snap up a back list like candy. That branding thing. It works for a reason.

    1. Well thank you ma'am! It's a true pleasure to be here!

      As a reader I'm pretty much in the same boat that you are. Will there ever be enough time to read all the books that we want, lol? Sure would be nice! :-)

  4. Great information, Misha. I'm just beginning my Indie journey, so this is all greatly appreciated! Thanks for sharing. It's interesting to see your results and how the free giveawayes boosted your numbers. It's counter-intuitive to think that giving something away for free will boost sales. Sigh. I'm learning. Slowly. Again, great post!

    1. So glad it was helpful! Yes the idea that "free equals income" is a little odd, lol. And there is a lot to learn. Just take it one step at a time. I know you'll do great!

  5. Great info, Misha. Thank you. As a reader, I've downloaded a lot of books (to help fellow authors) and read very few, mostly because I find real books more restful on my eyes (after working on the computer all day). I haven't tried Select but I'm thinking of it.

  6. Misha - Welcome to the R8!! We are so happy you've joined us.

    Thank you for cutting through the jungle of indie publishing and giving some great guidance. I have a question: Does KDP dictate your prices or do you decide that?

    Great post!

  7. Hi, Misha, and welcome to the R8!

    Thanks for being so transparent with your numbers. A lot of folks aren't--and I get that--but I really learn a lot when they are.

    Also, your promo tips were really fresh. I hadn't seen them before. They got me thinking, "Hmmm, how can I apply this to my situation?" And that's always a good thing!

  8. Hi Misha,

    There seems to be a lot of misinformation about KDP out there, so I appreciate you sharing your experience.

    I used KDP to publish two of my formerly hardcover mysteries in digital format. I did modest promotions, similar to what you did, and had similar results. The free promotions were in November and December 2012. If I had to do it again, I would not do another promotion in December. I had good results, but I was so busy with Real Life, that it added frenzy to an already busy time.

    Thanks for sharing!

  9. Thanks for the thorough explanation and results. As of yet, I have not self-published, but oh, yes, I will this year. I always look for such posts as this to learn from another's experience.
    To be honest, I download a lot of Free books. To be equally honest...I've found many poorly written books with weak plots, and errors. Therefore, I feel I waste a lot of reading time checking out these Free Books.
    On the other hand, I have discovered three new authors I really liked. Well, 3 out of 100 I suppose is not bad.
    Thanks for sharing your results.

  10. Great Post Misha and welcome to the 8!

  11. Misha, how generous of you to share your results! Thank you for the wonderful promo hints and all of the helpful self-pub info. I'm so glad you're experiencing such wonderful success! You definitely have me thinking... Congratulations on becoming part of such a stellar group! :-)