S4, E85: Eh, Why Not? Newbie Experiments

With little chance of “making it worse”, I decided to do a pair of experiments with free pulsing on Aisuru and tried out a blog tour book blitz.  This episode is all about that, after a hefty section of news and notes.  How did my experiments turn out?  Let’s see…

(side note: my mentions of the episode length in the episode are “off” as I clipped out some extra babbling 🙂 )

News & Notes:

  • Spectrum Books interview – keep an eye out
  • Site Updates, including redesigned Aisuru and Deviations pages and new icons at the top
  • TLW is now available on Google Play Music!
  • Aisuru and Deviations are now both available from the Bryan-College Station library system!
  • Girl in the Forest editorial map is done, now just need to make my notes on changes to make and get going

Main Topic:

Keeping in mind the current low sales and borrows for both Aisuru and now Deviations, I decided to do some experimenting with things I’ve seen others say “work”.   To that end, I decided I would try using the power of KDP select to put Aisuru free, twice, for two days each time.  I also decided to try a book tour and review query for Deviations. So did they help/make a difference?  Let’s see!

Free Experiment, Round 1

I regularly see recommendations for indies to make a book free.  Now, there are more disagreements on the perma free versus temp free ideas, but there did seem to be a fairly consistent feel that perma free worked better for series, while for stand-alone novels like mine, limited free “pulses” are a better option.  I’m not a fan of the “make it free” idea and I doubt I’d ever make any full-length novel perma free, but I did decide to try free pulsing for Aisuru. 

And since I was experimenting anyway, I decided for the first set of two days (February 20-21), that I would not do any real advertising.    I didn’t post it on Facebook/Google+ and I didn’t send out a newsletter announcement.  I might have mentioned my plans to do it here on the show, but that’s pretty much it other than booking a single promo:  a free run with BookScream.

So this experiment was seeing how free days went with little to no attention drawn to them for a book that wasn’t really selling much or getting a ton of borrows anyway.

February 20 (when BookScream ad ran): 114 copies claimed

February 21: 35 copies

Now one thing regularly mentioned in discussions on why free promos work is the “tail”, i.e. the sales and borrows that follow a free pulse round.  In that regard, things were certainly interesting.  Aisuru sold 3 full prize copies in the week after the free pulse, had 133 KENP read, and, the biggest surprise for me, sold THREE paperback copies through Amazon!

Sales ranks for paid and free books are separate.  Just before the free run started, Aisuru’s paid rank was 671,304 overall.  During the free run, it jumped to 1,771 in the free store, climbed a bit more to 1,456, then fell back down to 2,960 before flipping back to its paid rank.  Now, when it did go back to paid rank, it went back at 115,726 overall, presumably due to some folks borrowing it even though it was free.

During the same period when Aisuru was free through the next week, Deviations had no sales, but it did have pages read almost every day, with a total of 936 pages read.  Not spectacular, but nice anyway.

As far as I can discern, there were no new newsletter subscribers from this round, however I did get my first verified purchase review sometime after this but before the next promo.

Free Experiment, Round 2 With Promo Bonus

The second free run I timed to coincide with Aisuru’s one-year anniversary, setting the dates for March 27th and 28th.  At the same time, I set Deviations to run on sale for $2.99 from March 27th through April 1st.

I booked a few more promos for Aisuru this time, with ReadingDeals, BookAngel (UK site), and eBooksHabit, plus a note on the book page on iAuthor.  As I refuse to pay tons of money to promote a free book, especially at this stage, that was about all I did as those were all free opps.  This promo was announced to the newsletter, on Facebook, and of course here on the show. 

March 27 (all three promos ran): 362 copies claimed

March 28: 91 copies claimed

So significantly more free copies moved, no doubt for the increase in promotion.  In terms of tail, no paperback sales this time, but still had two full priced copies sold and 507 pages read.

The free sales rank went up much higher, peeking at 460.  The pre-promo sales rank made a similar jump as last time, though it started lower at 682,633 and thus jumped lower to 139,060.  Considering again, lower level free sites and still a pretty small amount of promotion, not a bad number of copies moved.  The tail was a little more disappointing, and it’s pretty much back to norm now.

The promo for Deviations was a big disappointment though.  First, I messed up the start time so it started a day later than it should have.  Second, I acknowledge I only booked a few promo sites, 3 to be exact (Betty Book Freak, Booktastik, and eBookSoda) which were friendly to new releases and low-cost (total spent: $37).  But still, those rank on March 28, 29, and April 1st respectively.

Deviations sold one copy March 31st, two on April 1st, and that’s it.  It also had 400 pages read.  No paperback sales, no new reviews, and no new newsletter subscribers as far as I can tell.  This, despite the promos and despite the third experiment: trying a blog tour that coincided with said promotion.

Blog Tour Experiment – My First Book Blitz

As mentioned last episode, I booked a “book blitz” with Xpresso Book Tours for Deviations to run concurrently for most of the promotion.  Unfortunately, as also noted, the $2.99 pricing didn’t actually hit until the 28th because of my mess up on the time.  But still, the hope was for both attention and maybe purchases and borrows.

Now, let me be clear, I was an am very happy with the service Xpresso provided.  Giselle was responsive, great on status updates, and helpful in answering the questions of someone new to the touring arena.  They also provide wonderful spreadsheets in Google Sheets letting you see all the blogs that sign up for your tour, complete with links.

I’m also grateful for the blog tour hosts who hosted Deviations and helped get it out there a bit more.  At the same time, though, I think overall I was a bit disappointed.  96 blogs signed up for the tour, which had me really excited.  But only 67 actually did their posts (with 4 being Facebook posts, not blog posts).  There were a few blogs I didn’t even expect to post after checking them out as they hadn’t posted anything on their site in six months or more!  I don’t get why you would sign up for blog tour hosting if you aren’t posting anymore??

So how many posts spanned each day?

Day 1: 23 posts

Day 2: 7 posts

Day 3: 7 posts

Day 4: 11 posts

Day 5: 19 posts

My greater disappointment came upon reflection after the tour was over, while I was running numbers and seeing the stats.  According to my lovely Kanbanflow board, I spent nearly 5 hours prepping the excerpts and author Q&As, to give the blog tours with plenty of choice and content.  I also took care to go to every single posting blog, linked to them from my blog, and I posted thank you’s or did likes to many of them.

Suffice to say, though, I felt like I put forth my effort on my side of things.  Most of the tour stops, however, didn’t really seem to have the same…enthusiasm maybe?  Most just threw up the same post, same order, everything, just in their blogs style.  For all the content I provided, I quickly realized many of them grabbed the first excerpt to shove into the post at the end and that was that.  A small handful didn’t even use any of the content, they just did the blurb, bio, and giveaway as is. 

Though there were a few hosts did some really awesome posts and clearly took some time to look at the options provided.  A few even did multiple excerpts combined with Q&As.  So yeah, I think I’d say that, for those who did the extra effort, it was worth my spending the time. 🙂

Overall…I’m glad I tried it.  It was a good, if mildly expensive, learning experience ($90 for the blitz).  If nothing else, hopefully more people know about my books and those who were interested enough to try for the giveaway will come back later to buy it. 

Meanwhile, I’m also running a review query with Xpresso (basically they announce that review copies are available with sign ups and I am sent a list of blogs that signed up and can reject any I don’t want to review).  They then collect the review links when they are posted and I have the link to that spreadsheet too.  The query was posted March 8th and will remain up until around April 22nd.  I’ve gotten the first review from the first batch of ten, and will talk more fully about that in an episode in June which is when the reviews are due.  (If you’re a reviewer, head here if you’d like to sign up!)

The Take Away From All This?

The free experiment was interesting, and if nothing else Aisuru is now on the Kindle or Kindle Apps of 607 new readers!  Hopefully they will all get around to reading and some will even leave reviews or tell others.  That said, it is the last time I will put Aisuru free this year, and I doubt I’ll put Deviations free at all, except maybe next year to celebrate its one year since release.  More readers is awesome, but it doesn’t pay the bills and the “tail” wasn’t really enough to make it worth trying to do a big boost. 

I also recognize that Aisuru and Deviations, while set in a shared world, are different enough that its unlikely a sale on one is going to lead to immediate interest in the other.  I also think that two books out just isn’t enough, particularly for a stand-alone writer like myself.  If another writer asked, I’d probably advise them to keep writing, get at least three books out before really getting into the promotion because you need the give readers a place to go for more.  If they are doing a series, then yeah, drop the first one down to 99 cents or free, discount the second, leave the third full price. 

But, that advice doesn’t work for stand-alones or multi-genre authors.  And so, the hunt continues to find promotional methods and ways to reach more potential readers of my more niche stuff that will work for me, and continuing on working on Girl in the Forest!