I have had author-friends, mostly self-published, who have played with e-book prices on Amazon, sometimes offering their books for free for 24 or 48 hours in hopes of seeing thousands of downloads.
And it works: one of my friends saw over 8,000 downloads over the 48 hour period. Where the jury is out is whether the people who download free books actually read them, or if they do, if they will pay for other books by the same other once they’ve enjoyed a freebie.
Some of the big publishers won’t do that kind of loss-leader. They price their e-books accordingly. But others are quite willing to jump into the fray. My terrific UK publisher, Polygon, is one of these. Polygon told me about a week ago that they were going to have an e-book promotion and it ran for a day yesterday on Amazon UK as the Daily Deal.
From one minute after midnight to the stroke of the witching hour, Midnight in Havana was on sale for 99 pence. Talk about exciting! When I woke up, Midnight in Havana had busted through the top 300 Amazon e-books. Not mysteries, books generally! By the afternoon, it was in the top 100. By evening, it had hit number 3. And there it stayed until just before midnight when a surge in sales pushed it to number one, knocking JK Rowling’s Casual Vacancy out of position.
Wow. My book has never been #1 on any list, not even in Canada. To see it hit the top of one of the biggest booklists in the world was incredible.
Now, I wasn’t sure what all this meant in terms of sales and so I looked up a couple of articles. Here’s what the New York Times has to say about Daily Deal bestsellers and the impact it has on book sales (you can read the entire article here):
“1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die,” was selling, on average, less than one e-book a day on Amazon. After it was listed as a Kindle Daily Deal last year, it sold 10,000 copies in less than 24 hours.
Some titles have tripled that number: on a single day in December, nearly 30,000 people snapped up digital copies of “Under the Dome,” by Stephen King, a novel originally published in 2009 by Scribner. For publishers and authors, having a book chosen by a retailer as a daily deal can be like winning the lottery, an instant windfall of sales and exposure.
In February, a crime novel by the little-known author Lorena McCourtney, released by the Christian publishing imprint Revell, was selected as a Nook Daily Find. The sales from that promotion alone were enough to propel it onto The New York Times best-seller list.
At HarperCollins, executives said they have seen books designated as daily deals go from 11 copies sold in one day, to 11,000 copies the next.
A literary agent says it’s even better: the sales stick. Josh Getzler writes about the impact of the Daily Deal on E.M.Powell’s historical thriller, The Fifth Knight:
I watched, stunned, as the rankings hit 300, 100, 50, 25…all the way to 6. We doubled our sales.
But something else happened, which the Times didn’t discuss, and which to my mind is the genius of the Daily Deal. As a large number of copies sold during the course of that Sunday, the rankings for The Fifth Knight improved not just in the overall Kindle list (which was, of course, lovely), but also in Fiction, mystery, thriller, historical fiction, romance, historical romance, hot movers and shakers…you get the idea. And each of these lists showed a thumbnail of The Fifth Knight. Thumbnails with links to the book’s page, where you can buy it.
… THAT is the genius of the Daily Deal. Because then, once the price of the ebook had risen back to 3.99, people still bought The Fifth Knight because it was Hot. The fire, which had become a merely warm ember, restarted, and burned brighter. The second run lasted another six weeks before sputtering again—having sold another significant number of books.
Wow. Now that’s a promotion! (Thanks, Polygon, for setting it up!)
There are other web promotions that promise good numbers as well. BookBub, for example, claims to have 700,000-plus subscribers to its newsletter for mysteries; over 520,000 for romances (see here for the complete list of genres it promotes).
It’s not cheap to get chosen for its newsletter (it’s curated), and the higher the price you want to charge for your book, the higher the cost.
But to give a few examples, for $ 240, the cost of a free download, according to BookBub’s price chart, you can expect 18,400 average downloads (8,100 to 29,000 is the range provided) as a result of its promotion. For twice that amount ($ 480), and an e-book priced at less than $ 1.00, the downloads are a lot less: an average of 1,880. But that’s a pretty good return on investment, wouldn’t you say?