Monday, July 18, 2016

How I hit #19 on Amazon's Top 100 Free List & Spent Less Than $200 in Advertising

Last week I offered my novel Reborn to readers for free using Amazon's KDP Select free days. To my surprise, the book hit 19 on the top 100 free list. Even cooler, it stayed in the top 100 for its entire free run.

I say surprise because Bookbub had turned it down (in your face BB!) and I didn't feel all that confident in other paid marketing venues. In fact, I booked only one paid list (Freebooksy, which actually generated a decent amount of free downloads). I was bracing myself for the whole thing to be a huge, giant FAIL only to have my book's free run perform very well.

So how did my book do so well with so little support?

Well, first of all, let me share that I've been an indie since before Bookbub existed. I was here when selling books was so easy some people made millions (I came in at the tail end of that, unfortunately) and I was here when third party lists (aka Bookbub) were the key to success and now I'm here as most of those third party lists fade and authors are left to mill about as they try to figure out what's worth spending their marketing dollars on (FB ads? Twitter ads? Amazon ads? What exactly?).

Which is why I even bothered to write this post. We're in the middle of a marketing paradigm shift. What used to work isn't very effective anymore, what does work is up in the air and the new hot things in marketing are expensive. (I just looked at a $2000 marketing package put together by one marketing site. WHAT??? And that's not the only place doing those kinds of 'packages!')

Unfortunately, I cannot offer you any quick fixes. Most of what I did relies on the fact that I've been around for a while and have built up things like my newsletter, network and key technical skills.

But, if I can do it, so can you!

AND it doesn't cost $2,000!

Here's the laundry list...

1. I spent $100 on Facebook ads. I budgeted for more, but that's what I ended up spending. Because I've been doing ads for a while, I know how to target readers and write ad copy that gets clicks. My click through rates were 10%+ at a cost of $0.08 per click. The problem was, with just 3 days in my free run, my FB ads couldn't really gear up and hit critical mass. This is one of the major drawbacks to FB ads, they don't move fast enough in the short term.

2. I hit Facebook groups. Since I've been around for years, I seem to be able to post in 50+ FB groups at one time without going to FB jail. (Please don't let writing that jinx me!) I hit the groups hard at the start of the free run and just before it ended. It definitely moved books BUT note that I spent some time on my 'ad copy.' I didn't slap just any ol' string of words into my posts.

3.Reborn is part of a larger project. So I had other authors who wanted to see Reborn do well because it also benefited them via sell through to their books in the series. They helped promote the free run.

4.I am part of a strong author community in my genre. I've built both the Wolf Pack reader group and a private parallel group for authors in my genre. When we work together, we are a marketing powerhouse. Reborn is not the first book in the group to rank on the top 100 free list and I doubt it will be the last. (We are also pretty good at improving rank and sales on paid books, but that's a whole other post.) Authors spread the word on my free run and I did some newsletter swaps for the book as well (i.e. I share their book, they share mine.)

5. I have a big newsletter (since I'm such an ancient indie and all) and readers supported the free run. They downloaded, shared posts, liked my FB post in various groups and were generally behind the book cheering it on. (THANK YOU READERS!) So basically, I went into this free run with a reader base, which always helps.

6. I made sure to tell everyone this was the first time Reborn had ever been free so readers would know they probably hadn't one clicked this particular book before. I also emphasized there were more books in the series--all in KU, which made it attractive to readers using KU.

7. Being in KU does seem to confer some extra sparkle to a free run. I don't have a lot of experience with KU, but Amazon's system really loved my book for whatever reason.

8. The book was on trend. I didn't take a book in a genre that no one cares about right now (my Burlesque action adventure romance *sob*) and set that free. No, I focused on a genre that I knew had a strong audience.

TIP: Regardless of how you write your genre, always angle your marketing to what's trending (without crossing the line into outright lying because no one likes a liar, but don't be afraid to highlight what's hot in your books...or to slap your hero on a motorcycle if everyone's digging motorcycles. No, that's not a cheap trick, it's called giving your book market appeal, much like a house needs to have curb appeal. Appeal to readers, make them happy and you'll sell books!).


For those who don't see the value in a free run, here's why I did it:

1. To push the whole series (which it did very well).

2. To find new readers (who are signing up for my newsletter in droves).

Free has a (deferred) payoff, but you must know how you're going to make it worth the initial loss of sales revenue.

Are you an author? Did you like this post? Want more? I have an irregular marketing newsletter that you can sign up for. I do NOT promote my books or anyone else's. There's no bookselling. It's just for marketing information and posts like this one.

The sign up is here:


  1. Awesome post, Michelle. Thanks!! Kudos to you and the Wolf Pack authors. You're writing and marketing powerhouses. :)

  2. Michelle, thanks for posting this and congratulations on the free run!

  3. Love your post here. Very enlightening. Makes me wanna write. I had purchased one or two of the books when they were first out. Then I think you and one other author in it offered a free one. Makes me wanna by the last few I don't have. And I love the Wolf pack and all you authors. When I get a free book, I make sure to read and review. Well I always review. But on the TBR list , the free book gets movies up, thanks for your generosity. If you are so kind to give suck a gift to me , the least I could do is leave a review and comment that there are more books in the series with other authors. Congratulations! You deserve to be in the top 100

  4. I got a copy of reborn from Instafreebie but it was onlybtbe first 8 chapters now I'm freaking out trying to find the rest of it!! It's not free for kindle unlimited anymore even though I signed up for unlimited to find out lol... please help I need the rest of the story. I will give reviews once I'm finished.

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