Near the end of 2012, Amazon contacted me to ask if they could feature a page from my ebook, The Survival of Thomas Ford, in the new video advert for the Kindle Paperwhite on Amazon UK.

The video is at the top left there on the UK page where the Kindle Paperwhite is sold.
Page one of The Survival of Thomas Ford is onscreen from 3.00 to 3.06 in the video as the example of a UK book exclusive to Amazon Kindle Select.
Someone is shown reading page one of The Survival of Thomas Ford as the narrator says:
“…and then there are thousands of books you just can’t find anywhere else like more than 180000 titles exclusive to Kindle.”

It’s quite odd to see onscreen, a Kindle held by a hand resting on a turquoise towel, displaying Chapter One, page one, of your book, with the words alongside:
“180,000 + titles exclusive to Kindle”

It also made me remember that I had The Survival of Thomas Ford in Kindle Select but I hadn’t done a free promotion of the book since April 2012.
That free promotion had gone well, with $1600 worth of sales coming in over the two weeks following it.

I had felt cautious ever since April, though, hearing stories about KDP Select free promos no longer being effective, so I hadn’t wanted to try it again, perhaps not wanting to find out for sure.

But by December 2012 Christmas Spirit must have overwhelmed me, I signed The Survival of Thomas Ford up for a 5 day free promotion, from 21-25 December.
This Free Promotion felt a bit different than the 2 day one I had done back in April 2012, and which I wrote about here in, A Note From Frankenstein’s Castle:

This Christmas promotion there seemed a LOT more free books out there, naturally enough.
I soon realised that those 5 days are probably the most competitive of the year for a free promo.
The Survival of Thomas Ford stayed in the Top 20 free UK books for most of the five days, though never quite catching up with Rosen Trevithick’s The Ice Marathon, which stayed just ahead every day, as though we were in a latter-day episode of The Wacky Races and I was playing Dick Dastardly to her Penelope Pitstop!

(Or maybe I was playing Muttley…Heh-heh!)

On 26 December, when The Survival of Thomas Ford went back to $2.99 I didn’t expect much to happen, as I had believed those stories about KDP Select no longer being effective.

But by 29th December I’d had $900 worth of downloads.

By 31 December, though, I saw them slow down…
Until an idea popped into my head, which surely must have come from The Survival of Thomas Ford’s inclusion in the Kindle Paperwhite advert.

I started to look up info on Kindle advertising.

I’d made $900 in 4 days; so why not invest some of that back into my business of finding new readers for The Survival of Thomas Ford?

But how much money? And what ads could I get at a day’s notice?

I bought a Kindle Book Review Twitterlicious Social Media Buzz advert for $40
It appeared on 1/1/13
On the same day I bought a World Literary CafĂ©, Today’s Hot Titles ad, for $25, like the ones at the top of the page here:

So I’d laid out $65 of the $900 I’d just made, on the two adverts.

By 2 January my downloads had picked up again, though, they had paid for the ads and I was back into profit, soon passing the $1200 mark.

I had reached new readers with this combination of free promo and ad promo, 13 new reviews came in, including:

5.0 out of 5 stars A DARK AND GRIPPING TALE, January 5, 2013
Amazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Survival of Thomas Ford (Kindle Edition)
This is the best novel I have read in a few years. I can't believe I got it for free and found a consummate writer. This tale was nothing short of riveting. It is rich in character development, mood and atmospherics.It is a story of evil, greed, power that corrupts(not in a political context), and the domino effect of trying to cover up the initial crime that may have been less serious than what follows. Folks, this is great literature and a first class story told by a magnificent craftsman.I have no interest whatsoever in the book, but I urge you to buy this one.

I did notice some differences in this KDP Select free promo, compared to the last one I’d done 8 months earlier:
 1)     More USA sales, so that I started to think in dollars and focus on USA ads
2)  Also, over $500 of the income was from KDP Select “borrows”…something, again, I could not have tapped into if I wasn’t exclusively in KDP Select with the book.   

Claire Ridgway's meticulous links below were extremely helpful to me during the free promo and after:
Thank-you to Claire for such a valuable resource.

This Christmas/New Year promo led to the 30000th download of The Survival of Thomas Ford, so thank-you to each new reader who gave the book a try, and All Best for 2013!


Mark Chisnell said…
Great detail - and good to see that there's still some book advertising out there that does work!
julia jones said…
Thanks John - really interesting. Have tweeted it.
Dan Holloway said…
Wow, John, that must have felt absolutely incredible!
madwippitt said…
Interesting post - and what brilliant sales! Hope you opened a bottle of something nice to celebrate!
The pricing on loans is interesting isn't it? I've noticed that the returns on a loan are greater than on a sale, so definitely worth enrolling in Select.
Kathleen Jones said…
Thanks for such a detailed analysis and recommendations. But I think you're overlooking one important factor - you have a fantastic product!!
Bill Kirton said…
You always had my respect as a writer but to be reminded you're such an adept marketer as well ... huge respect John.
Very interesting that the Kindle advertising worked - and the rates aren't bad either. Maybe we should all have a go and compare download notes!
Lydia Bennet said…
congratulations on your success! I've been wondering about select too recently. This is very interesting. i've always felt a bit wary of paid advertising but then publishers of other peoples' books do it! I wouldn't have known where to go for it so this is useful info if any of us fancy taking the plunge.
Margaret Tanner said…
Hi John,
A great post and very informative. Very generous of you to pass on your experiences, and back them up with statistics.

Best wishes

Thanks John for sharing this useful info, and well done on the much deserved success.

Food for thought that the advertising worked so well.


Karen Inglis said…
Thanks, John, for this insightful post. I have both of my children's books, 'The Secret Lake' and 'Eeek! The Runaway Alien', in KDP Select at the moment but have not done any free promotions with The Secret Lake to date. My instinct told me that since it's already selling reasonably well that I'd rather see what additional downloads I could get simply through the paid borrows and by tweeting that it is free for Prime Members. This decision was partly influenced by the fact that my other book 'Eeek! The Runaway Alien' received a couple of hundred downloads when I ran a 3-day promotion, but at the end of the promo received no additional subsequent e-book sales. However, my strategy is possibly flawed as Eeek! has hardly ever sold on Kindle - it does much better in print! By comparison The Secret Lake sells well in both print and Kindle (it's already sold 100 this month on Kindle, which isn't bad for a self-publised children's book I suspect...). Children's books are another world really - so few are sold in relation to teen/adult fiction it makes giving them away in bucket loads a bit harder to do...but I'm strongly considering experimenting to see if making The Secret Lake free for a couple of days might boost its paid-for sales. I have until mid Feb to decide!

Finally - I am one of those that downloaded your book over Christmas. It is only the second book I have ever read on Kindle and I am thoroughly enjoying it! My husband will read it next and I'll be sure to ask him to post a review! I'll post one too - though have no idea whether Amazon will apply the brakes since I'm another author - I truly hope not. Karen
Debbie Bennett said…
I did an ad for Hamelin's Child with EReader News Today way back in 2011. Best $25 I ever spent - over 500 sales in 48 hours and it went on selling for a good few weeks after that. Whether anybody read it or not, I have no idea, but it wasn't a free download so in that respect it was no different from any other paid sale, I guess. Do our books actually get read at the end of the day?

But I've never done KDP Select and never given any of my books away for free (other than review copies of course). It's not something I've ever really considered to be honest.

Just tried one of the ads you did, John. It will be interesting to see whether it generates sales on its own.
This comment has been removed by the author.
Very useful info, John. As you know, I'm struggling to find places to market my fiction...
I tried KDP Select with episode 1 of my novel, My Memories of a Future Life. It got thousands of downloads but didn't translate into sales. On the other hand, when I SELL copies of episode 1, I see an upsurge in people buying the whole novel (which is cheaper than getting the remaining episodes). So whatever I've done with KDP Select giveaways has reached totally the wrong audience!
In any case, I think 'free' is no longer an effective strategy. Speaking for myself, I don't get round to reading free books. But I definitely get round to reading the books I've chosen and paid for!
I'll be very interested to see how Debbie gets on with her advertising.
Nail Your Novel, though, seems to market itself pretty well - so perhaps it's not all bad news.
Thanks, as always, for generously sharing your experience.
Linda Gillard said…
Congratulations, John, on your splendid promotional work. You're an example to us all!

John is a personal friend so I don't think he'll mind my making the following point... The trouble with advertising is, unless there's a massive spike, you never know if the ads did the trick or whether your sales would have gone up anyway. Kindle sales are notoriously variable.

I've now heard many authors bemoaning the January drop-off, but my sales have continued strong through Jan (between 100-150 a day) and I'm not advertising and I've never enrolled in KDP Select. I don't know what's selling the books but I think it's mainly Amazon's amazing marketing machine, which means once you start selling, you then sell because you're selling.

Infact my sales are stonger now than they were over Xmas. Why should that be? Female readers (my market) are now less busy perhaps? Some of my books were mentioned in end-of-year round-up book blogs, but that wouldn't be selling the books in mid-Jan.

So I'm not decrying John's magnificent efforts, rather I'd like to encourage those who don't want/can't afford to advertise and who don't want to give away free books. Sales success can be achieved without that kind of financial investment - but I'm afraid I don't know how it's done. But I've done it. Or more probably, Amazon's done it. (Thank you, Amazon.)
glitter noir said…
I'm a firm believer in KDP Select and have been since publication of my first ebook, THE VANISHING MAGIC OF SNOW. I've published three more ebooks since then and have watched my free download numbers swell from about 50 to a few thousand. So far, the free giveaways haven't resulted in actual sales--but the beginning objective, imo, must be to get our books in the hands of as many readers as we can reach and to attract reviews. As we go on, of course, we'll need to balance giveaways with other promotional strategies. But I thank Amazon for KDP Select and the chance to show readers what I can do...and why they should pay for my work.
Kathleen Jones said…
I think one of the basic things is to have the right product - you can advertise until you're broke, but if people don't want to read your book you won't sell any. Then you've got to make sure you're advertising to the right people. My biographies are subject driven - I'm never going to sell Katherine Mansfield: The Story-teller to raving fans of Stephen King. And a historical novel like The Sun's Companion, however well written, probably won't appeal to Twilight readers. Finding how to target your advertising to the people who read the kind of book you write is the key, but it's also the hardest thing on earth. Amazon try hard with the 'if you liked that, you'll like this', but it's still not precise enough.
Debbie Bennett said…
And yet, Kathleen, I'd probably never have picked up your The Sun's Companion if I hadn't known you from Authors Electric. It's not the kind of thing I normally read at all - yet it was one of the best and most absorbing books I've read in a long time. Maybe adverts give you that opportunity to reach a new and/or different audience who might just take a chance outside their comfort zone - especially if it's free. Or like Roz says - do people make more of an effort to engage with something they've paid for?
I might try adverts with your two next time. However my last free promo hasn't produced extra sales,(The Duke's Dilemma), although got into top 100 etc, and I lost money as I had been selling 50 copies a day of that book.
I had decided not to do anymore free promos but might now reconsider.
Anonymous said…
Congratulations on your success. It's interesting to know how you achieved sales. You seem to have chosen wisely in advertising.Thanks for sharing.
Mark Chisnell said…
It's good to see so much feedback - my own experiences with advertising are mixed. I've tried Facebook, Google Adwords and most of the major book blogs and sites over the past couple of years - and the only really cost-effective one is ENT. Of course, it may just be that I'm writing rubbish adverts!

I've found that optimising the Amazon book page, with good covers, keywords and blurb, and then having one free book riding high in the thriller charts (at the moment it's The Wrecking Crew) has been the most consistently effective way to sell my other books. Right now, I'm selling lots of copies of the second book in that pair (The Defector).

Amazon provide much better tools for us to do sales and promo than the other sites and retailers, but I'd like to see them go further still. Perhaps some access to the other sales tools that seem to be used by major publishers - being able to buy an electronic mail-out to the people who have bought one of your books would be an obvious example. Even if they let Indie authors buy just one a year, that would be fantastic...
julia jones said…
Something for Sparks 2 - the 2013 anthology? We've all got so much to learn, I love the way AE provides a hub to help us learn from one another
Susan Price said…
I have eleven books on kindle -
Sales seem very unpredictable. They were almost nil through December but are now picking up.
I've given books away, but it hasn't seemed to improve my paid sales, so I've stopped doing it.
I use the tags on the Amazon pages, and that does seem to help a little. I suppose I could do more promotion - but then I do less writing! I don't sell enough to be able to afford to pay someone else to do the marketing. The dilemma of the self-publishing writer.
And just in case some people think my books don't sell because they're not good enough: I have won national awards, such as the Carnegie Medal and the Guardian Award, and have been consistently well-reviewed as a 'paper-book' writer. I can write! I just can't sell.
Linda Gillard said…
I think we should be aiming not to sell our books (which is terribly hard), but to get people talking about our books. That's what sells them once an ad has run its course or the effects of free downloads have ended. Whether it's readers writing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, or chatting about our books in forums like READ IT SWAP IT or KINDLE USERS FORUM, good word-of-mouth is what leads to steady sales.

Making a book free will get it on to someone's Kindle but it doesn't get it read and until the book's read, it's just a one-off sale. Not terribly useful. What we should be trying to do is build a following so we have a market for everything we publish. One book should sell another - or as the saying goes: "Your first page sells your book. Your last page sells your next book."

Obviously you need to have a good book in the first place, but in addition we must get people talking and enthusing about our books. Free review copies sent to bloggers (print - they're less interested in ebooks) and to book forum members can lead to a book being talked about many times in a year. My books have been mentioned in forums like RISI as new ebooks, new pbs, in end-of-year round-ups and on various other occasions. (Yesterday my books were mentioned in a RISI discussion of "comfort reads".)

Forums are our friends and it's easier to make them our friend if we put in some time joining in (genuinely) with discussions or offering to do a Q & A with members. (A book giveaway always goes down well. Blatant self-promo doesn't.)

It's labour-intensive, but I think it sells more books than Twitter. (Hands up anyone who's ever bought a book as a result of a Tweet.)

I blogged about what I call "self-promotion by stealth" for the Alliance of Indepent Authors here -

Anonymous said…
John, great posting, I really appreciate the detail. One question, other than a great book written by a genius, what made your ads so successful? (I've been collecting data in forums all over and have not seen that kind of $/sale from an ad)

Peace, Seeley
Enid Richemont said…
As someone else has already said, John has a great product (although I hate classifying a book as a 'product' 'cos it ain't a mass-produced can of baked beans).

I have eleven of my out of print children's and Young Adult books on Kindle, and most of them are also on KDP Select. Sales have not been brilliant - children's books are apparently harder to sell. I will very soon be adding a Y/A fantasy novel to that list - THE GAME, which I've just finished editing and updating. Coming back to it after a long time. it's a book I'm particularly proud of, and it's as meaningful now as it was when Walker first published it. I'm seriously considering a new print version, or even sending it out again.

Back in November, I was tempted to take a few of my books out of KDP Select, because I wanted to publish for other readers, such as the Kobo. However, we had problems with Kobo, so I've put this on hold. Going down the advertising route feels like a whole second career, but I'm so grateful to John for the links, and I will certainly investigate.
Ingrid Ricks said…
Great post, John. I loved The Survival of Thomas Ford and happy it's getting the exposure it deserves. Ok.. for all of us Americans following your blog - would love tips for how to break into the UK market. My memoirs, Hippie Boy: A Girl's Story and FOCUS have been doing well in the U.S. but I've not figured out yet how to cross into different country markets. Congrats on doing so with your book!! Wish you amazing, continued success.
Hunter said…
Nice, John! Congrats, my man. What a run you're having. I'm wishing you many good turns (and downloads) in 2013.


samueldpoetry said…
kudos to u johny. Pls if u dont mind, u can also tell me something about my samueldpoetry blog. Keep up d good post.

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