I concluded my blog post last month
with this summary:

“My novel, The Survival of Thomas Ford, sold 239 copies in its first 8 weeks though, and by 24 February 2012 it had a surge of 80 sales over one weekend and reached number 13 in the Top 100 bestselling list of paid literary fiction ebooks on Amazon.
It also reached number 18 in the Top 100 bestselling list of all paid literary fiction on Amazon, including the paperbacks and hardbacks published by the major London publishers who had rejected The Survival of Thomas Ford (Ford went higher in the ranking than titles with recent tv or film exposure like The Woman in Black and The Slap; higher than Martin Amis and Maeve Binchy, or Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient; higher than Booker Prize winning novels like The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy, or masterpieces like the great Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
The Survival of Thomas Ford also went to number 80 in the Top 100 Bestselling list of UK thrillers on Kindle.”

When I published that blog here on March 11, I was quite ready to accept that this might be as far as The Survival of Thomas Ford would ever go. After 22 years of trying to get a novel published, the means had been presented to me at last to do it, and I had now had my 10 weeks “in the sun”.
The blog I had intended to publish today was to be about some of my deepest influences, authors who never had a word of their work published in their lifetime, but whose books went on to great success with readers after their death.
I would have been expressing my gratitude that I had had the 10 weeks of “being in the sun”, when I knew that far better writers than myself had lived their whole lives without ever even having one day of this.

However…after March 11 sales continued to come in for The Survival of Thomas Ford, slowly and steadily…new reviews also popped up in the UK and USA…

I was faced with a choice between continuing on that honourable, venerable, slow and steady path of wisdom…gradually build up a quality readership over a couple of years…the wise way…

Or else, I knew there might be another option, the option of taking the book on a day-trip up to Castle Frankenstein, strapping it to the good doctor’s elevating table in the centre of the laboratory, and ordering his good man-servant Igor to pull on the chains and raise the poor book Heavenwards that lightning might strike with raging vigour directly into its gently beating heart!

© Fotolotti | <a href="http://www.stockfreeimages.com/">Stock Free Images</a> & <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/">Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>

A violent choice, that second option, and I knew (or thought I knew) it came with a variety of risks.

This method for getting the electricity into the book’s heart is of course better known as:

It is said sometimes, perhaps with good reason, that this is:
a)     Not something you should do when the book is selling at its given price (however I had just changed my book’s price from 77p to £1.94 which felt almost like starting anew)
b)     Not something you should do when you have an Amazon page with very good ratings, as it has been observed that the free promotion can sometimes generate one-star reviews or even attract the dreaded Troll Fraternity (this is true, I’ve just had my first mildly abusive one-star reviews …on an Amazon UK page that previously only had 19 five-star reviews, and 2 four-star reviews)

Also, I had tried the Kindle Select Free Promotion once before, immediately after publishing The Survival of Thomas Ford on December 25 2011.
On that occasion, I let the book be taken free for 5 days and had 892 downloads.

I had heard that paid sales followed the free promotion period, so I had watched eagerly back in December to see how many copies of Ford would now sell at its initial price of £3.30 when the free promotion ended.
After 892 copies being downloaded free, all that momentum, I thought there would be lots of sales perhaps…

There were none.
It had not worked.

Still, I had done the free promo as soon as the book was published, and I had done it without telling a soul…perhaps not optimum conditions…

In early January then, having failed to get any electrical boost from KINDLE SELECT FREE PROMOTION, I had instead lowered my price to 77p and set out on a slow and steady “promotion” of the book on Facebook, Goodreads, Kindle UK Forum, Kindleboards, Mobileread.com…as well as Amazon’s Meet Our Authors forums…just letting readers know the book existed…it was the response to this by readers that got the book into the 3 Amazon bestseller lists, which in turn got me noticed in the local press, which in turn boosted ratings and sales higher. (That, and getting into some debates on The Guardian comments section, which instantly caused 7 new sales the first time I tried it).

So, things had gone well in the slow and steady, wise way…but 9 days ago I was feeling impulsive!
I had just raised the book’s price from 77p to £1.94 and sales had not stopped.
I was itching to give the KDP Select free promotion another try, to see if the book might catch lightning now a second time around, like it had failed to do back in December.

I didn’t want to give away 892 copies in 5 days again though.

This time I would do a 2 day free promotion. Give away a few less downloads…but still try to catch that lightning somehow…

 © Silverbadger | <a href="http://www.stockfreeimages.com/">Stock Free Images</a> & <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/">Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>

Since I was planning to do the giveaway with only about 18 hours left before it would be due to start, I quickly looked up Google and everythingauthor.com’s advice, and found there was still time to do some of what was recommended, which might help me get more exposure in the USA in particular:

“3. Send requests to following to get your free book listed. Do this a few days ahead of time to give the site owners time to post your book.
4. Add a Goodreads event and send it to all of your Goodreads friends.
On Your Free Days
1. Post on Facebook pages on your free day(s):

In some cases, following that advice meant filling in a free form on 2 April, which would lead to a site releasing data, not on that day, but on the first day that the book was actually free, in my case, 3 April; this was mostly on USA sites listed above, and one of my reasons for doing the promotion was to try to get more USA readers.

Then, on the morning of the first free day, 3 April, I posted on Goodreads UK and USA kindle forums; kuforum.co.uk; other Goodreads forums; facebook kindle/ebook pages;twitter (author karma); announcing that my book was free on 3 and 4 April. Also on Amazon UK and Amazon USA Meet the Author forums. I think people were helpful to the book on these forums, and reposted the info that the book was free in places where more readers would see, because by then I had been posting there for 3 months, and had some readers/support there already.

At the end of the 2 free promotion days I’d had:
13788 USA downloads; 3705 in UK; 10 in Germany; 6 in France; 1 in Spain; 3 in Italy

So by 5 April, 17500 approx free downloads had been taken in 2 days; as opposed to 892 free downloads in 5 days last December, before I had “promoted” the book (i.e.: Tried to non-aggressively find out where readers who might like my book were online, and then tried to let them know about my book in case they would like a look!)

I was happy at that figure of 17500. A lot more people now had Ford, the book that I had believed would never be published etc,  in their Kindle, or Kobo, or Ipad etc. Good enough for me.

What surprised me next though was that, in the 6 days since the free promotion ended on 5 April, over 600 downloads of The Survival of Thomas Ford have sold at £1.94, and it is still selling now.
One-third of these sales were on the USA Amazon site; two-thirds in the UK
38 “borrows” in the USA also.
This amounts to about £850 income from the book in 6 days.

In the UK the book went to rank 166 out of all paid ebooks on Amazon; Number 4 bestselling literary fiction ebook; Number 4 bestselling literary fiction book, including all paperbacks published by the publishers who had rejected The Survival of Thomas Ford (so Ford went higher in the Amazon bestseller rankings than We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver, the book/film which has become my point of reference or pacing horse in these absurd Cheltenham races Ford is engaged in against London publishers’ books which have had tens of thousands of pounds spent on their production and marketing; or from another angle Ford went higher in the rankings than Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, the book/film which has become my point of reference or pacing horse in these absurd Wacky Races of the Spirit which Ford is engaged in against New York publishers’ books which have had tens of thousands of dollars spent on their production and marketing!); and The Survival of Thomas Ford also became Number 19 bestselling UK thriller ebook.

In the USA, The Survival of Thomas Ford ranked as 1431 in all paid ebooks; number 70 bestselling literary fiction ebook; number 89 out of all American literary fiction books including, yes, the New York paperbacks.

But rankings, of course, are ephemeral, like lightning itself.

The reviews have interested me more. Up to this point I’d had good reviews on Amazon UK (19 five-star reviews; 2 four-star reviews); and something like 9 five-stars and 2 four-stars on Amazon USA.

This was to change!
My first 3-star review arrived, and my first one-star review, and then my second one-star review!
Now I knew I had arrived! The book was well and truly getting electrified somewhere up there in the stratosphere!

Electricity is a powerful and mysterious, potentially deadly force after all, not to be taken lightly.

 © Aliencat | <a href="http://www.stockfreeimages.com/">Stock Free Images</a> & <a href="http://www.dreamstime.com/">Dreamstime Stock Photos</a>

But it is all worth it when I consider that, without the free promotion raising the book’s profile a wee bit, this new review might never have popped up on Amazon.co.uk:

5.0 out of 5 stars Could even read it again., 8 April 2012
janet t
Amazon Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: The Survival of Thomas Ford (Kindle Edition)
Bought this for my Kindle after reading such positive reviews and it was under £2 as well what a great buy! Grabs you right from the start no hanging about wondering if you will get on with this book it all flows along at a great pace. It stayed with me as well after I had finished it as it was so graphic would read it again as I had to finish it under the duvet with a torch so as not to wake up my other half.

Or this one that I found on Amazon USA:

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting read from page one to the very end, April 7, 2012
Zelda Barnard "Zelda Barnard" (Ferndale, CA, USA) - See all my reviews 
This review is from: The Survival of Thomas Ford (Kindle Edition)
I rate this a 10 for sure. I hung on every word and had a hard time getting anything done because I was in a hurry to get back to my book to find out what happens next. I am going to be looking for more work by this author. His characters are SO REAL they make your skin crawl at times. At other times you just feel their pain. Terrific and exciting story and very unique.

So, WE LIVE AND LEARN, as the wise folk used to say! 


CallyPhillips said…
Thanks so much for sharing the story, and the method of generating ebook electricity John. And lest we forget. The first, primary, basic requirement was that it's a FINE book. Anyone planning to replicate John's 'journey' should just stop long enough to consider that fact. There's a lot of hard work, a lot of emotional investment and sticking your head above the parapet, into the jaws of the trolls etc to be endured and a steep learning curve as well as giving something precious away for free. Your bravery, tenacity and generosity through the whole experience has been legendary, ONLY surpassed by the quality of your novel! I salute you. You rock. And you deserve MORE THAN every penny you get in. (Just don't spend it impulsively, now..!!) Great blog, I laughed, I cried, it's better than cats(oh, did someone else already say that in a review somewhere?) And that you are famous enough to be targeted by Trolls says something I guess. But underneath it all... it's all about the WRITING. We await your next 'blockbuster' eagerly!!!
Susan Price said…
Well, Cally's left me nothing to say! I downloaded the free sample of 'Ford' and was impressed, but have been sidetracked by other things (many other things) - but I will buy it!
Jan Needle said…
Herr Logan, I salute you. As you know, I think the book is genuinely wonderful, and I've put my money where my mouth is review-wise (as they say Stateside...). You've also extremely generously tried to answer some of my electrostumblebum queries.

Now the 64 dollar question, from my point of view: where do you get the mental energy from? I've spent this morning getting my latest out on Facebook, hanging it on the peg of 30th anniversary timeliness (is that how you spell it? It looks wrong) in that it's about the Falklands War and a rightwing government tried hard to get Thames TV to pull the TV serial version (which happily was immediately nominated for a Bafta), and exhausted myself to the extent of needing a long lie down and a glass of green tea.

You, on the other hand, have taken all the trouble and time to find out how it's done, where it's done - then bloody done it! I think I might oughter hate you. But I'll be opportunistic and give everyone this link instead! http://amzn.to/HpECNH. So you have taught me something, see.

The other thing you've taught me is to stop being such an idle git. I will work on it from now on, using this blog as my mentor and guide. Honestly and completely, I can't thank you enough. You're an inspiration.
Jan Needle said…
Just learned something else, apparently - although I don't know what. That link doesn't appear to open anything. Not for me, anyway. The book's called A Game of Soldiers, and it's 99p on Amazon. What else can I say?
Jan Needle said…
Even steeper learning curve. If I highlight http://amzn.to/HpECNH and right click on it, it opens the link.
CallyPhillips said…
Yes but you worked out short codes before I did Jan. I'm not sure I have it even yet. We are all stumbling around in the dark with someone shouting 'put that light out' methinks. Oh, wasn't that the Falklands War? It was all so long ago... yet I remember it as if it were yesterday. You wore blue, the Germans wore grey... I was a student and we'll always have St Andrews. And my friends. War. Is. Hell. And I had a nice submariner lined up to marry.. I blame Mrs Thatcher for that one (and much else besides) Sorry for the digression but hey, John's had enough limelight. NEVER. The man is an inspiration and guide!
Jan Needle said…
and so say all of us. anyone who doesn't read john's book is bonkers. it's a perfect piece, and not "merely" a thriller. a fine and serious piece of writing. and less than the price of a pint.
John, thank you so much for posting this. I've bought your book but had to stop reading it as it was disrupting the rewrite I'm mired in - clearly it's too infectious! So far it's a good, tense read. Trolls should be thrown under a bridge and stomped on.
Thanks Roz...you get the bridge and I'll get the boots!

Thanks Jan!...you should be vety proud they tried to suppress your work...I think I will take your recommendation for green tea seriously!

Thanks Sue, hope you enjoy it!

Thank Cally...I always wanted someone to tell me something I did was better than CATS!
Mike Church said…
Thank you very much. I have found this post invaluable.
Linda Gruchy said…
Thanks for sharing this, John. I downloaded it when it was free, enjoyed it very much and left a review, as you know.

I had similar experiences with DISW but not my other books in the subsequent promotions, thogh I haven't had much success in the US yet. It can be a mixed result.

I also had my first one-star review after the promotion, but that's bound to happen when freebies tempt people from their comfort zone.

I was hoping the success of DISW would drag the next one along with it, but that hasn't happened yet.

Do you have your other work available as Kindle books?
Thanks Mike!

Hi Linda,
I have no other Kindle books up yet, but the next one is in the pipeline!
It will be a collection of about 9 short stories, 225 pages approx in total; then I'll follow up not too long after with the 4 novels I did before Thomas Ford, and the 6th novel which I have yet to complete...
It is only a matter of time and editing...
(And your Amazon review is a cracker!)
All best,

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