Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Self-Publishing is Easy: Using Your Kindle Free Days

It often seems like anyone writing about self-publishing feels obligated to talk about how hard it is.  It's like you're required to include the following warning label:


Now, writing can be hard.  It's certainly hard to write a really good novel.  But who says you have to write something really good?  And who says it has to be a novel?  Why not write something a lot shorter?  How hard you make it on yourself is totally up to you.

My first self-published book (which happens to be free on Amazon today if you want to check it out) took me three years to write, and yes, it was hard.  But that had nothing to do with self-publishing.  That was because I made a decision to tackle a really epic story as my first project and it was probably (definitely) too ambitious for my first book.  My second self-published work I dashed off in a week and published quickly thereafter.  It was fun and yes… easy.

Self-publishing can be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

But what about promotion?  Everyone talks about how promoting your self-published book is really hard.  Everyone yelps about how there are too many ebooks out already, it's impossible to get people's attention, etc. etc.  But promotion can also be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.

I like it easy.

The easiest thing is using Amazon's Kindle Free Days.  You have to sign up for KDP Select, which means you have to be exclusive to Amazon.  But then if you like things easy, like me, publishing exclusive to Amazon isn't a burden; it's a relief.  You then get five free days a quarter and you can pick and choose which days to use.  You can run them all at once (that's easy) or you can scatter them over the three month period in any combination you like (also easy).  (You also have the option of what is called a Kindle Countdown, but I don't find it quite as much fun.  I suspect to really take advantage of it, you'd have to do a lot of work.  So I never use it.)

And here is the best part about Amazon free days.  Even if you do nothing but click a couple buttons to schedule a day on your KDP account, you will always have some downloads on your free day.   I got 56 downloads on one of my free days without doing anything at all.  I didn't even mention it on my blog or twitter feed.  That was nice.  Despite all the talk about how hard it is to get people to pay attention to your self-published book, you're almost always going to give away at least a dozen or so.  You pick the days, Amazon gives you a little promotion on their free deals page, and customers click on your book and download it.  People will hopefully read it and maybe even review it or recommend it to a friend.  Pretty easy.

On top of that, free downloads also help your sales ranking, and sometimes (not always) you will have a few paid sales right after a successful free promotion.  What could be easier?

Of course, like everything in life, you can make it harder if you want to.  If a few free downloads are good, then lots of free downloads must be better.  (They are.)  But it can be a lot of work trying to figure out how to get more free downloads on your free days.

In fact, I've been working hard (too hard) trying to figure out how, reading suggestions from more successful indy writers, experimenting on my own, and I still don't really know for sure.  But, as I said, self-publishing is best when it's easy and fun.  I don't know for sure how to get really huge numbers of free downloads, but I still find free days a lot of fun.  If your an experienced indy writer you probably know a lot more than me, but so let me share what I've learned so far for those new to self-publishing.


I hear a lot about how back in the day indy writers were getting THOUSANDS of downloads on their free days.  Everyone says that these days it's a lot harder to get that many.  But even today, one indy writer I respect a lot said you should shoot for at least 1,000 downloads.  I've never gotten anywhere close to that.  I suspect to get that many downloads you have to do a lot of work.  And that's after you've done a lot of research into exactly what works.  Even worse, what works keeps changing, so it's very likely what worked before, might not work now.  Or might not work for your book.  (My novel is a sci-fi satire, and just might never get as many downloads as a YA romance or thriller.)

So I vote for keeping your expectations very low and enjoying the wonder of the internet.  I'm very happy if I get a dozen or so downloads and thrilled if I get fifty.  Imagine how much work it would be to give away a dozen books to friends.  It wouldn't take me long to run out of people to hand them off to.  Imagine giving out fifty copies of your novel to people on a street corner.  That's a lot of work, would cost money for printing and most of the copies would be thrown away minutes later.  Reveal in the glory of ebooks, people click and download them without much thought, without you having to beg, and they sit quietly in the background taking up no space until the reader is ready for them.  Count your blessings and don't make yourself feel like a failure if you can't give away hundreds every time you put up a free day.

Undoubtedly, free days are a powerful tool.  Those indy writers with a solid catalogue of books can really take advantage of them.  But for those of us just starting out, with one or two books available, I recommend just testing the waters, rather than trying to swim the English Channel.  You'll have plenty of opportunities to use free days more effectively later when you also have more books to promote in general.  Why not work harder later when you have more to gain?  Meantime, you can focus on writing new books.


So in my own lazy way I've done a little experimentation and I think it's best to use your free days during the week.  That's when everyone is at their job, surfing the internet so they don't have to work.  I've heard others recommend Sundays, but Sundays seem get me a lower number of downloads.  I like Wednesdays best.  (Your results may vary.)


Should you use all five days at once?  Or use them one at a time, or mix it up? Who knows?  This is where it gets complicated.  Since free days help your ranking, if you use all five at once you'll get the best initial ranking boost.  Which "might" help you sell some books when you come off of free.  But the number of downloads tends to drop the longer the run.  I once did a run of all five days at once.  The first day was 114, second 62. third 9, fourth 13 and only three on the last day.  So it appears you'll be wasting some of your days if you use them all at once rather than space them out.  (Presuming you have no other promotion.)  I've heard people suggest that two day runs are the sweet spot. So I'm going with that.


It also appears, based on my limited experience, that if you run a free promotion one day, and have a another a few days later, you'll get less downloads.  It seems like I get a lot more downloads the longer it's been since I offered a free promotion.  So I would suggest you try to max the time between free promotions, probably at least a month or so.  But be sure you use all your days before the quarter is up!


The best single day I've had so far (doing very little) was 158 downloads.  While it's nothing compared to those who get thousands, I was pretty thrilled.  I got it because one of my blog posts was linked to by The Passive Voice and The Digital Reader.  When I found out, I quickly used a free day and updated my post with a plug for the free download.   I got about 1,000 hits on my blog post thanks to the referral traffic so I'm figuring at maybe 100 of the downloads came straight from my blog.  Nice.  And not too much work.  So keep one free day in reserve for as long as you can for just such a social media event.

Did I mention that my wonderful sci-fi adventure/comedy novel is FREE TODAY ONLY?


There are lots and lots and lots of sites that will charge you money to promote your free days.  I don't know for sure which ones are best (if any) because it would be be a lot work (and money) to find out and, as I said, I'm not stressing over getting the biggest number of free downloads right now.  Maybe I'll try out some paid sites once I have a better catalogue of books for sale.

Until then, I have a firm rule, I won't spend any money to promote my free books.  Unless you are an experienced indy who already knows the ropes, I recommend you follow that advice too because you might get ripped off.  I'll let you know if I find any paid sites that I'm sure work and are worth the money.

(Famously, almost everyone says Bookbub is worth it.  But it costs a lot and you have to have a lot of reviews and you have to keep applying because you're likely to be rejected the first few times you apply.  Already sounds like too much work for me.)

The other thing I will point out is this, sites that point people to free ebooks can make money from Amazon affiliate deals.  That is, if someone clicks and gets the free book, and then ends up buying something else on Amazon, the site that linked to it makes a little money.  Not a ton, but it adds up if a lot of people download your book.  So free promotion sites have a real financial incentive to promote your free download.  That is… unless they can't get you downloads.  So they might prefer to charge you up front.  For that reason, I'm pretty skeptical of any promotion sites that expect extra money in advance.  There is also the danger that some of these paid promotion sites are just using bots to download your book so you buy ads.  I have nothing personal against bots, but they don't read your book.  You want real humans to read your book, not just clicks from bots.  So I'm skeptical about paid sites.


Below are a few truly free sites I've found that will promote your free day.  As of this posting, they all have active links, they don't charge you anything and they are straight forward and professional.  (IE, not too much work filling out forms and minimal attempts to pressure you into spending money for paid ads.)  They do, unfortunately, require a little work and planning.  I advise you schedule your free day a couple weeks in advance before you sign up with them because some require advance notice.

Will they lead to a lot more free downloads?  To the magical 1,000 free downloads in one day?  We'll find out, I'm using them for today's FREE PROMOTION OF EVE'S HUNGRY.








There are lots and lots more sites that do these kinds of promotions. As I find them I'll try to keep this list current. (That is, if it's not too much work.)  Also, please leave a comment if you know some free day tricks I haven't mentioned.


By the way, I'm now officially trying to get reviews for Eve's Hungry.  If you do download the FREE novel today, please consider writing a review.  Also, if you are interested in getting a FREE audiobook version or FREE Trade Paperback in exchange for an honest review, let me know.

You can contact me at:

UPDATE APRIL 27: So the final tally for my free day, yesterday, was just 12 downloads.  That's not a lot based on what other people say.  I didn't detect any extra downloads from the promo sites above.  (That may or may not mean they work.  Also, at least one of them didn't put out the promo notice until the day AFTER my free sale.  Another reason to maybe run two free days at a time, just in case one of your promos missed them.)

Perhaps I get less downloads because my genre, my description,  my cover or something else.  It might be the lack of reviews.  (I have 5 star reviews on a previous version, but they didn't shift over to the newly edited edition.)  Still, 12 downloads was enough to put Eve's Hungry in the #3 slot for LGBT sci-fi, which is fun:

Also, I got a paid sale today!  (Which I'm almost sure is thanks to the download exposure.)  It also upped my official Amazon rating from over a million into the 100,000 paid range.  I still have much to learn about using free days, but all and all, I'd say this one was a success.

1 comment:

  1. If there’s one online income source I like talking about most, it’s definitely self-publishing on Amazon. I’m normally a pretty modest guy but I’ve gotta say… I rock at self-publishing!

    I’ve increased my monthly income from nothing to nearly $2K in less than three years just from selling books on Amazon… and I was making a grand a month within a year.

    The post on how I make money self-publishing has been one of the most popular on my personal blog so I wanted to update it with everything I’ve learned over the last few years. I’ve included updates on how to turn your books into a passive source of income and how to make the whole process easier.

    Ok, so $2K a month isn’t huge money but it’s getting there and it’s growing very quickly.

    If you want to learn more about making money with Kindle then check out “” which is the #1 Amazon Kindle Training out there.

    I can't recommend it enough. That's how I got started almost three years ago.