I am incredibly lucky. My editor, Chris, not only offered me his superb editing services for free; he was just starting his indie author support business and he wanted to hone his marketing approach on my book. He offered to make a full-out marketing campaign for me, free of charge.
I jumped at that chance.
The 4th of January, we had our first Skype call when we basically got to know each other better. Chris asked me several questions about my up to date marketing strategy (almost non-existent).
He came back to me 2 days later, with the marketing plan for the book launch. It was detailed, 4-page document with many tactics, including the creation of a pre-launch mailing list, social media, networking with other bloggers, the usage of my blog and more.
On the 8th of January, Chris established a Trello board for our campaign, a crucial project management tool for our launch. The whole launch was broken down to specific tasks. The tasks were divided into time sequence and assigned between two of us.
On the 10th of January I contacted my mentor S.J. Scott and 3 bloggers with whom I had some previous relationships and for whose audiences I thought my book would be helpful. My mentor and Timo Kiander, the owner of Productive Superdad, were aware of my book and had read it in advance, but I didn’t discuss any help from him before.
Anyway, S.J. and Timo agreed to help me, both of them wanted to arrange my guest post on their blogs. The one for S.J. had even been already written.
There was a confusing period of a few days when I waited for the info from Chris on Trello, which already had been posted. It was then that we decided to further break down our to-do lists into “Chris to-do” and “Michal to-do.”
The 15th of January, I managed to set up a new email list, sign up form and a landing page. I sent a broadcast to my list (48 names, 13% open rate).
On the 16th, I tackled Trello and the communication process between me and Chris. I started to reach out to the bloggers he found.
I also published the first teaser post on my blog.
In the meantime, I formatted the book, got four versions of the cover and posted them on a few FB groups for crowd voting. Judging by the results of my promo and the sales afterwards it’s a very effective tactic.
Then the shit hit the fan at my work. On Friday, January 17th, I worked from 12:30 p.m. till 12:30 a.m. and worked throughout the weekend as well.
I was discouraged as hell. Chris was very supportive. From that moment on, he took the initiative and I just awaited his instructions.
On the 19th, I uploaded “Master Your Time in 10 Minutes a Day” to Amazon and got the ASIN number. Chris started posting the info to the freebie sites.
I managed to send a couple of emails to bloggers on Monday 20th of January. I also finished my guest post which was scheduled for Wednesday. Chris did some emergency editing of it.
I was also busy making several versions of the landing page for the bloggers who agreed to help me.
January 21st I was visiting blogs and preparing my pitch in advance till 2a.m. On the 22nd, I took a day off from work, sat down and sent 14 personalized emails within 2.5 hours.
The pre-launch period
All our efforts were starting to bear fruit. On the 22nd of January, my guest posts on ProductiveSuperdad and on EarningFreeMoney went live (the second one was composed by Chris and edited by me). Several people subscribed to the launch list.
On the 24th, I published a blog post sharing my sand-grain method from the book’s and I sent an email to my list announcing the post. Both items were prepared by Chris, I need formatted them and made some small, final edits.
The broadcast was sent to 67 subscribers and had a 15% open rate.
On January 25th, Lidiya published a post on her blog, sharing with her audience the news about my book. Very generous of her!
On the 27th of January, I sent an email to David Allen, who invented and perfected the Getting Things Done productivity system. I was super stoked to get his reply the very same day. Here are some excerpts:
Thanks for your lovely e-mail. I’m always delighted to hear when someone takes GTD to heart and actually implements it–it always works! (…)
And thanks for the link to your book. I’m rather stretched in my own time resources to do anything but work on my own next book project (updating GTD); so no promises that I will get to it anytime soon.
Well, not much in terms of help, but a gigantic amount of encouragement. Just in time, as I was approaching the point of total exhaustion.
I published the last post on my blog in the pre-launch sequence.
Compared to the crazy amount of work we put into preparations, the launch itself was a piece of cake.
On the day of the launch, my guest post on my mentor’s blog went live and it was the first guest post ever on Develop Good Habits. I swelled with pride 😉
What’s more, S.J. sent a broadcast to his list, which is considerably larger than mine. At the end of the day he informed me that over 220 people had clicked over to my book.
I also sent the broadcast to my list (72 people). It had a 27% ctr.
I posted daily on freebie FB groups using my list. I tried to keep my announcements always present in the current feed. Almost 48 hours after the launch I sent a follow up to those from launch email list who didn’t open the first message. This one had an even better 39% ctr.
Chris did everything in his power to sustain the momentum. He sent an email to his list. He also secured a guest post on FreeBookDude in my name. It went live on the 30th and I think it drove great results in the last day of the promo.
Chris is a very resourceful guy, this post had been rejected by another blogger and he managed to utilize it!
To boost the downloads in the last day Chris came up with the idea of the review contest, but my list’s response was very weak, only 3% ctr. I think they were tired of this email bombardment 😉
I posted one last time on FB groups urging readers to download before the promo expired and I went to bed anticipating the results.
On the 1st of February, I woke up early. It was still a few hours before midnight in the USA. I checked the stats and I was blown away! My book was #84 on the free Kindle list!!
My greedy side said to extend the promo for another day, but I decided that my word is worth more than a few thousand additional downloads. Practicing integrity was painful at that particular time, but I believe it is rewarding in the end.
I checked the numbers once again, after the midnight in the USA. The last day was great, well over 1.5k downloads.
THE PROMO RESULTS
The downloads grew on Amazon.com as follows:
Day 1: about 580
Day 2: up to 1250
Day 3: up to 1940
Day 4: up to 3531
Totals from other markets were:
and about 40 on other markets.
The book got 13 reviews, most of them 5 stars.
My list grew from 47 before the launch idea (at the beginning of January) to over 125 at the time of writing this post (13th of February). Well over 100%. I’ll take that!
DETAILED ANALYSIS AND THE LIST OF RESOURCES
Chris submitted the promo to 24 freebie sites. I submitted it only to EbookBlitz.com. Only 6 sites actually published my promo (Chris checked all the sites on 31st of January).
http://freediscountedbooks.com – I cooperated with them with my past promos. I highly recommend their service, especially because the listing stays on their site and can be a source traffic to your book in the future.
http://www.freebookdude.com – Chris also submitted this guest post in my name. The listing is permanent.
http://www.ereaderperks.com – It wasn’t a very big source of traffic. I know because it was one of the couple of sites out of those which published, that allowed shortlinks. I got a few dozen downloads through them, but their efficiency (they published!) and the ability to track their results with Goo.gl shortlinks is valuable in itself.
http://awesomegang.com – Their listing is also permanent and they allow shortlinks too.
http://bookangel.co.uk – Permanent listing and they send readers directly to the UK store. About 10% of my overall downloads were in the UK.
There is a big lesson here for indie authors. We should definitely track the quality of service of these freebie sites. Only 25% of them actually published the info for my book! Every indie author knows how much time it could take to submit your entry.
On the other hand, the impact of free sites can be significant. I was able to track back only about 14% of my downloads via shortlinks and info provided by S.J. A whopping 86% were the results of word of mouth, Amazon marketing at work and untraceable freebie sites.
These are all featured in my blog post:
Other social media
Chris posted reviews to two groups on Reddit using one of our Goo.gl shortlinks. This turned out to be a great source of traffic, we’ll see the numbers for that in a bit. The info about my book was tweeted a couple of times by various authors and people ‘in the business’ (Greetings Jay!).
It’s awkward to include it in the resource section, but where else? These people helped me with my launch. Here is who and how:
Six other bloggers answered my appeal for help, but our schedules didn’t fit very well or they were just those polite enough to send me an email refusing their involvement.
At the beginning of the launch, my pre-launch list included 22 email addresses.
I used bit.ly for the links posted on FB groups. They were clicked about 230 times (I don’t know when exactly, because reporting is in my timezone) during the promo. About 30% came on the 1st day, 30% on the 2nd, 22.5% on the 3rd and the remaining 17.5% on the last day.
Only 8.7% were clicks to non-US markets, but the downloads in foreign markets were about 17% of the overall number of downloads. This tells me that foreign customers hang out more on freebie sites than on FB.
It could be very profitable to precisely target such freebie sites. I suppose http://bookangel.co.uk/ has a lot to do with my good results in the UK and, in one of my previous promos, one of the pages had good exposure in Japan (I got 17% of overall downloads in Japan). Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to track down which one.
Chris used goo.gl shortlinks to track his efforts. He got 114 clicks.
It looks like Reddit turned out to be a much bigger traffic source than we expected, it accounted for 40.5% of “his” traffic. Facebook was the next biggest.
Out of the freebie sites, it looks like freediscountedbooks.com was the best traffic generator. Remember, those are only conclusions from a partial data set (14%).
I couldn’t resist the temptation of checking my book’s rank and sales. I did it at 3 p.m. I sold 7 copies of “Master Your Time…” and a few copies of my other books. Cool, the launch strategy seemed to be working! It was the first time I priced my book above $1. The sales have been already higher than my average daily sales from past month and the revenue was a few dozen times higher. AND my 3 p.m. was still an early morning in the USA.
I was excited, but it was nothing compared to what I found the next day checking the sales stats.
In the first 24 hours after the promo ended, I sold 68 copies on the US market and about a dozen on different foreign markets (6 in UK)!
One day, and the profits were bigger than my last 2 months of royalties put together.
After the launch, the book climbed to #2 in following categories:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Investing > Business Life > Time Management
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Self-Help > Creativity
It peaked at #2579 on Kindle.
Within 3 days I sold 96 copies in USA, 25 copies in UK and about a dozen on other markets.
Within 11 days I sold about 350 copies and my book was borrowed more than 40 times.
My other books’ sales jumped from 4.48 copies a day to 7.27 copies a day.
The free promo is not dead yet, but its advantages rise exponentially after you break a certain level of downloads.
Where exactly is this ‘certain level’? I don’t know. I know it is above 1k threshold, because my promos in the past had reached this point and the sales afterwards weren’t so impressive. It is probably well above 1k downloads.
Although the results were amazing, not everything we planned worked out smoothly.
But most of the shortcomings were due to fact that both Chris and I were doing a coordinated book launch campaign for the first time. Our communication was imperfect.
The Trello board was an excellent idea and helped us a lot, but I had to get familiar with it. Sometimes I waited for Chris’ input, only to find it had already been added. Sometimes, our communication or efforts were redundant; for example, at one point, Chris and I were searching independently for the contact information on the blogs we were going to contact.
We planned to run quite a campaign on Facebook, but we got a list of FB pages rather than FB groups. These need to be approached as blogs, via their owners. We realized it too late and had no time to look for other places to connect to the audience.
Chris planned to send a series of tweets to Twitter users who specialize in tweeting about free books, but he realized that it would have spammed my Twitter followers. You need a dedicated account for such an action.
Lessons for other authors
If you are an indie author you HAVE TO have your platform and mailing list. Those are the prerequisites. Most of self-publishing authors do realize that, but this launch has taught me that you never should assume something in advance.
So, step zero is: setup your website and a mailing list infrastructure. I use Aweber (affiliate link) for managing my mailing list and this blog as my platform.
If you don’t have the time and/or ideas for your book promotion, connect with someone who has a marketing background to join your team.
In hindsight, the steps we undertook are quite obvious, but I alone lacked the imagination (and confidence) to come up with them.
Chris saw the potential in my book, and approached the launch from a whole new direction (for me). And his input was enormous: his research, writing and editing my guest posts, emails and teaser posts on my blog – it was just too much to do for me alone.
Prepare in advance
It’s very important. But it’s not urgent and we tend to focus on urgent things and ignore the important ones. Not a wise time management tactic (with which I deal in “Master Your Time in 10 Minutes a Day” 😉 ).
It’s not a bad idea to learn before you do. I learned on the fly: how to set up a landing page on my blog and how to manage sending emails to a few mailing lists at once.
I also searched for the keywords and appropriate categories on Amazon in January. This job could be done much earlier.
All these tasks meant I had less time for strictly launch-related tasks.
I regret that I didn’t start the preparations earlier. We had just 25 days for the launch and half of this time we spent on planning. It meant we needed to compress a lot of tasks into the week before launch. It helped to gain some momentum, but it also meant we did everything in a hurry and the amount of work almost overwhelmed me (I have no idea how Chris coped with his, more extensive part).
Note from Chris:
I just kept watching the “Done” list in Trello grow and that was so energizing and inspiring. Also, (not a plug for the book, though it may seem so) the concepts in Master Your Time in 10 Minutes a Day were a huge help. Two specifically made a huge difference: Tackling the biggest task first, and using the Sand-Grains Method.
Due to the short time between the moment of contact and the launch, some bloggers couldn’t give me a hand and some freebie sites were not able to publish my listing on time. I got an email with apologies from EbookBlitz.com because of that. BTW, I’m impressed by their level of customer service, no other site that failed to post my promo has apologized. We even have worked out some compensation!
Part of being prepared in advance is having relationships already developed. Timo and S.J. Scott helped me without a moment of hesitation, because they knew me. They also knew about my upcoming book, because I shared this info with them.
I exchanged a few emails with Lidiya before reaching out for help.
A lot of bloggers are willing to help. I reached out to 24 people who have never heard of me before. About half of them replied and a few of them agreed to help.
I had a 100% success rate among the people with whom I already had existing relationships. It’s an ample subject (and I plan a whole post about it), but I’ll give you one piece of advice which helped me most in connecting: visit and comment on others’ blogs.
Get a few drafts of your cover and put them in FB groups for crowd-voting. It works.
Facebook doesn’t seem to be a big source of traffic. As far I could track, only about 5% of downloads were coming directly from the freebie groups. But I got most of the reviews from there. AND it’s so easy to post your ads on FB, that’s it’s a sin not to post. AND I got over 20 clicks after the promo, which means additional sales.
Facebook is a place for American audiences, freebie sites are the source of international traffic.
Most Facebook clicks happened during the first 2 days of the promo.
Track your traffic sources using shortlinks. We were able to track only about 14% of the traffic, but even partial knowledge is better than none.
The more you do for your book, the more Amazon will leverage your efforts. When I did a weak 1-day promo in December I was able to track back 41% of my traffic.
Amazon works for you
I’ll show you it in the bare numbers:
I generated 75 downloads myself during that 1-day promo, through posts on FB freebie groups and a broadcast to my small list. I couldn’t pinpoint 105 downloads, which were generated from other sources – 1 freebie site and Amazon organic traffic.
During the recent launch, I pinpointed about 664 downloads generated by our efforts – S.J.’s and my broadcasts to mailing lists, FB, Reddit and a couple of freebie sites which allowed a shortlink.
I wasn’t able to track down over 3400 downloads – they came from 4 other freebie sites, Twitter and Amazon organic traffic.
Chris, for your amazing support. I owe you man.
Hynek, for the cover. Superb job!
S.J., Timo, Lidiya, Louida and Emily for your help.
My TC friends, for their relentless encouragement.
My subscribers, for their patience 😉
My readers. I write for you.
Now it’s your turn
Please share in the comments how you drive readers to your books, and let other indie authors learn from your experience!
Don’t know how to start on Kindle? Here is how I started with my 1st book with no clue whatsoever.