Promised Promo Post-Mortem


Sorry about the tongue twister title. I couldn’t help myself.


As a follow-up to my blog of May 27, Book Promos Inside Out, I hearby disclose the results, such as they are.


Here I am with my book on launch day, August 17, 2014
Here I am dressed in my Kazakh vest on launch day, August 17, 2014  Silly me: I thought the hard work was behind me.



First, a recap: my sales had been flat through April and into May, with occasional single sales here and there.


Yup. On May 29, the day before the promo began, I sold one book.



But the next day, Day #1 of my seven-day promo, I sold 119 books. May 30th was Ereader News Today’s shot. My cost to ENT: $35


And, because I had only one promo site that day (ENT), it’s easy to attribute these sales to that single site.


Had I stopped there, I’d have come out ahead, money-wise. 119 books at 99 cents each (my take was thirty-five cents each download), I made a $6.65 profit that first day.


But I’d contracted with seven promo sites and spent $208 for listings over the next seven days. That $6.65 profit would soon evaporate.


But my rankings went up.


After paddling around in the #100,000+ pond, (which means there were 100,000+ Amazon authors doing better than I) I shot up to #2,173.


And, by the end of that first day, my Kindle book was #1 in Amazon Best Sellers for Russian Travel.


Now, this is actually a tad absurd. My book is about Kazakhstan and, as anyone who has read the book — and the many who haven’t — knows, Russia is not Kazakhstan. Both countries were separate Republics within the Soviet Union for nearly 75 years.


However, in your defense, I will admit that most Americans (myself included) grew up thinking the Soviet Union was the same as Russia. But the important piece here is that after the USSR collapsed in 1991, both countries, and a dozen others, became independent.


So to speak.


But Amazon has no category for travel to Kazakhstan. In their Travel genre, the closest I could come to Kazakhstan was Asia/Russia or Europe/Russia. I chose Asia/Russia. And I held the #1 spot through my seven promo days and beyond.


Here’s how Amazon listed my ranking at the end of that first day:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,173 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Travel > Asia > Russia

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Sports & Outdoor > Adventurers & Explorers

#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Travel


I was more than pleased. I had a #1 Best Seller ranking (such as it was) and I had jumped from somewhere in the 100,000s to 2,173, all for a cost of only $35.


Then came Day #2



For listing on five sites on May 31– The Fussy Librarian, FKBT, BookSends, BooksButterfly, and PeopleReads — I spent $162.99, bringing my total investment (not including time) to $197.99


My Best Seller (Russian Travel) status stayed the same. And I now had a #1 Best Selling banner to use on my blog!

Screenshot Best seller in Russian Travel


Isn’t that pretty?


And, my pond paddling had gotten even better: up to #1902.


Though I sold 133 additional books, with the additional cost, I was now solidly in the red. (But two of these spots — BooksButterfly and PeopleReads — were for multiple days,  so let’s hold off till we get to Days #3 – 6.)


On June 1, my third day,

my book broke through that “top 100” bestseller barrier at #72 in Bios and Memoirs, a top genre. The other three listings remained the same. I sold 31 books.

PeopleReads moved me onto their website on day #2. No longer a featured “new release” — with the top book cover spot in their daily email — I was now buried on their website (a second click for the reader) under special features, but mixed with other genres.

June 2, my fourth day,

PeopleReads was now the sole promotion site. They continued to feature my book until June 13, long after my 99 cent special was over. This was not my idea, it’s just how they work. I figured I had nothing to lose, even if my book cover was no longer in their email. I sold 12 books.


NOTE: For an unexplained reason, BooksButterfly didn’t list my book on June 2.  But, after a quick email, Abhishek Singh refunded my account $25. Thank you, Abhishek.


June 3, my fifth day

Julie Haigh posted an announcement of my promotion on the We Love Memoirs FB site. I sold 16 books.


On June 4, my sixth day,


I sold 5 books bringing my total income from Amazon to $110.60 (on that $198 investment, don’t forget).


June 5, my seventh and final day

I was listed on EbookSoda (additional cost, $10). They gave me the #1 spot in my category and I sold 11 books.


My total expenses were now up to                                     $207.99

Total books sold on Amazon: 316              Net income:   $110.60
                                                                                                   $  97.39

Refund from BooksButterfly                                                $ 25.00
   running deficit:                                                                    $ 72.39


On June 10, four days after my promo ended, I was still #1 in Russian Travel, though my rankings elsewhere had fallen.

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #36,034 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Travel > Asia > Russia

#30 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Sports & Outdoor > Adventurers & Explorers

#32 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Travel


I’d sold a total of 336 books at 99 cents each through Amazon. 


According to Smashwords — who distributes my book to Apple (iBook), Barnes & Nobel (the Nook), Kobo, Baker-Taylor, Library Direct, Flipkart, Overdrive, Oyster, Diesel, Sony, and Scribd, and others – I had 13 sales through them. (Kobo, 6; iBooks, 3; B&N, 2; and Smashwords, 2)

But, they also say that Apple only sends them info once a month.


Google Play, the third and final outlet I distribute my ebooks through, are one month behind in their reports. If I see a significant increase reported in book sales through Google Play during my promo days, I’ll be sure and post. The odds aren’t good, however.


SUMMARY:  While I spent more than I had to, I’m not unhappy. I got rankings, which according to some, will result in greater sales in the future.  Time will tell.


Of the sites I could have skipped, these stand out.

BooksButterfly While Mr Singh, who runs this site is responsive and very easy to work with, my book was the ONLY 99 cent book featured. All the other books listed with mine were FREE.

BookSends My  book, again, was the only one listed that was not FREE. He does not offer a Memoir section, so mine was listed as “Nonfiction.”  Just a bad fit.

The Fussy Librarian – will feature any book for $13; there is no approval filter. Hence it’s easy to get lost in the crowd.

FKBT — unless you get his “Featured Kindle Book of the Day,” (which on my single day featured another memoir) you’ll be lost. Before my book cover appeared, the reader had to scroll through the “New Releases on Kindle” section. Finally, the “Free & Discounted Kindle Books” appeared. Mystery and paranormal came first, then my Peace Corps memoir, followed by religious fiction, romantic suspense, and YA paranormal. I had no idea there were such genres. Michael Gallagher, who runs FKBT, offers a second daily email list too. Unfortunately, I was lost in this one as well. It’s name? Free Kindle Biographies, Free Kindle Memoirs, Last Day of May Free Books. From what I could see, mine was the ONLY book listed that was not free.  Had I known . . .


I would still like to get into a BookBub promo, and with my new Award and “best seller” status, I just may. But it will cost me over $600 to feature my book for 99 cents. Half that, if I offered it for free.

If that doesn’t work, I’ll try BookGorilla in the fall. I like how their books show up in the daily email.


Oh, I nearly forgot to mention reviews. I began with 24 four- and five-star reviews, for a great average of 4.8 on Amazon. By the end of my promo, I had climbed risen leaped up to 26 reviews, including my first three-star one. In the interest of full disclosure, I shall post it here, in toto:


An interesting, fun to read, book about a couple of Peace Corps Volunteers.


I’m resisting writing her about the punctuation.



How about you? If you’re an author and you’ve tried a book promo, what was your experience?  If you’re a reader, how do you choose a book to read? How important are reviews and best seller rankings?  




16 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    Congratulations on your work in promoting your book–and the results! You’ve done a lot of hard work on promoting, and I’m so happy that you’re seeing results.

    My books have been aimed mainly at academics and/or libraries, and I have not been great at promoting them. I don’t think any of them have ever reached top sales figures yours. I’ve had some great reviews in professional journals–and great one in Playboy for my Cultural Encyclopedia of the Breast–but the few nonacademics who comment on Amazon or GoodReads tend to write rather bizarre reviews that show they have no idea what the books are about and possibly did not even read them.

    As a reader, it depends on the type of book. In the library, I like to browse–going by titles, covers, and opening paragraphs. Sometimes the book blurbs, too. On Amazon, I like to read reviews. If it’s an academic book that I think I might need, I try to see if I can look inside before purchasing.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Merril. Thanks for checking in. I know what you mean about marketing a textbook to academics. When my textbook came out, it made Choices’ “Best Textbooks of 1997” list but I had no idea how to market that. That’s what makes this self publishing revolution so exciting. We’re all learning together and sharing what we know.

  2. Marian Beaman
    | Reply

    Yippee for you, Janet Unleashed! You took the time to record this Ms. Toad’s Wild Ride and to full effect.

    I’ve always heard that stories take on a life of their own as they are written and after they are published. You prove both to be true.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Mrs Toad’s Wild Ride. That’s a hoot and all too accurate. I’m just hanging on. And having fun. (And very glad I no longer have to check my stats every day!).

  3. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Considering the huge imbalance between your Amazon sales and all other channels, have you considered switching to KDP for the 70% royalty? I think that would have put you in the black.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Sharon, KDP is what I use; it’s what everyone uses to get on Kindle. You may be thinking of Select, which I’m not in. I get 70% normally. But when I reduced it to 99 cents, then I must take the lower %. I’m back up to 70% again. My next move is to get KOBO out of Snashwords and go direct to them. Stay tuned.

  4. Carol Graham
    | Reply

    Thank you so much for all the details in this post. I found it incredibly interesting and uplifting. I thought I was the only one in this boat. Your advice is TAKEN — on all counts. Thank you. Keep us posted future results.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Carol, and Welcome. Glad you swung over. And very glad you found it helpful. Isn’t that the point, in the end? I seem to be quoting, “the rising tide raises all boats” quite a bit lately. I believe it. Hope you come back.

  5. Kathleen Pooler
    | Reply

    Janet, thanks for spelling this out in graphic detail. Clearly, it’s a ton of work but your results must make you feel very gratified. Congratulations! I appreciate your insights about what worked well and what fell flat. You have provided a valuable resource as I ponder my own promotion. Not for a while. Just wrapped up the Goodreads Giveaway. Time will tell if I’ve reaped any benefits from it (mostly in the form of reviews). Thanks for the post.


    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Kathy. I know what you mean about taking a break. Much needed. And this week I’m taking that break with all five of my grandchildren gathered around. I’ve got four extra adults, the g’kids, and two extra dogs. 11 of us at the table each night; it’s great. Promoting my book is way down the list of what’s really important right now.

  6. L. E. Carmichael
    | Reply

    Really interesting, Janet, thanks for sharing. I admit I tend to ignore reviews on Amazon, trusting instead to authors I know or recommendations from people I trust. I think all reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, anyway – a couple of my teen science books have been given 1-2 stars on Amazon because people bought them thinking they were for adults and felt the books were too simple!

  7. Carol Bodensteiner
    | Reply

    Thanks for sharing detailed results of your promos, Janet. My promo with BookBub is the one that really paid off – even considering the high initial investment. How have your sales been since the promotion? The high rankings can result in improved sales after the promotion since everyone doesn’t buy right away.

  8. Joan Rough
    | Reply

    Wow, Janet! You’ve really done the work. I’m sure that with a bit more you’re going to riding high.

    This is the part of book publishing I don’t look forward to. I’d rather be writing or painting. My creative brain doesn’t seem to want to work with numbers especially if it takes a lot of time.

  9. Janet, you’ve done a great job of summarizing your cost/benefit analysis. I think I would have come to the same conclusion. ENT was worth it. My guess, however, is that over the next few months, you will see a continued boost and won’t return to the low before the investment for quite a while.

    I also think you have increased your chances for BookBub, which was very helpful to Carol above, first of all, and then later to me when I followed her lead. The best results, we both observed, came when the price returned to normal but the sales stayed higher.

    Your spirit of adventure makes your posts fun to read even when they are full of numbers!

  10. Sine Thieme
    | Reply

    Janet – I finally got around to reading this! Great summary, I love how you give succinct reports about each day, and what happened that day etc, and how you make it easy for us who follow to know what to do. I think I’ll still hold off with a promo (other than Select and Countdown) until I have a second book, and then do ENT and try for Bookbub. My experience with Select for my German book has been that I got about 1000 downloads over 3 days, and there has been a nice bump for about a week afterwards. Now almost back to normal but still a bit higher than before. But no new reviews. The frustration is that you can climb all the way to bestseller status, like you describe here, but then as soon as the promo is over it falls off again. I guess that’s true for every book, even if at a higher level. Mine climbed up to #1 in my category too (travel/Tansania, a very small one:-) and #8 in adventure travel where it was listed very close to Cheryl Strayed’s Wild for a few days, so that made me happy. But, alas, no longer…

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Sine. Glad to find you here. Thanks for stopping and leaving a comment. I know what you mean about those Status reports. I was #2 in Travel/Adventure to Cheryl’s #5 for a (short) time. That was fun. Cheers.

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