Showing posts with label Promotion. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Promotion. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

How to Analyze a Free Book Promotion


In today’s post I will show you how to analyze a promotion’s financial efficacy.

Given my lackadaisical approach to marketing my Seamus McCree series of mystery/suspense/thrillers, you’d be hard-pressed to guess that I earned an A in Marketing during my MBA studies. Knowing what to do and understanding how to evaluate results are different skills than actually doing the darn thing. While I deserve an A for analysis, I’d give myself a gentlemen’s D for my actual marketing efforts.

Fortunately, that lack of marketing means I have near perfect data to analyze a recent sales tactic I employed: providing free copies of the Kindle version of book 1 of the series (Ant Farm).

My specifics:

I have so far published five books in the Seamus McCree series. All are available in paperback, and I have assumed the Kindle promotion had zero effect on paperback sales. I am currently, and have been for some time, part of the KDP select. That means the only place you can buy an electronic version of the books is on Amazon for a device that reads the Kindle format (reader, computer, phone). All my books are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (a subscription service that allows readers to read unlimited pages each month for a fixed price and pays the authors an amount per page of their works read).

While the calculations below are based on my Amazon-only sales universe, the concepts are equally applicable to authors who have their books available for wide distribution (Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc.).

Step 1: Determine baseline sales.

For me, this was relatively easy because I had done no marketing during the two and a half months prior to the sales campaign. Count the number of books sold (or better royalties paid) for the base period for each book in the series and divide by the length of the base period (in my example 2.5 months).

If you sell wide, you can add together your sales for each book or perform this step separately by venue. For those of us participating in KDP select, we’ll need to collect the royalties for electronic books sold and the Kindle Unlimited (include KOLL) pages read for each book in our series. Normalize these results by converting everything to a per month basis. I assume Amazon will pay an average of $0.045 per page read. That means I expect to earn $45 for every 10,000 pages read.

The reason I estimate revenue per KU page read is I am not willing to wait the extra time for Amazon to let me know exactly what each month’s actual payment rate will be. (It varies each month based on Amazon whim—er secret formula.) If I wanted, I could redo the analysis once the final figures are in.

These are your Base Level Results. If you did nothing else, these are the revenues you would expect to generate from your series.

Step 2: Determine Cost of Each Free Download

If you simply announce the giveaway on your social network feeds and to your newsletter subscribers, you have no cost (unless you have enough newsletter subscribers so you need to pay for that). I chose FreeBooksy (owned by Written Word Media) to advertise my free download opportunity for Ant Farm and paid for a feature that advertised that the giveaway was part of the Seamus McCree series. It cost $142.50.

During the five-day promotion, Amazon indicated I had “sold” 5,915 books at the bargain price of $0.

The Cost per download is Cost of Promotion)/Number of downloads. For this promotion that was $142.50/5915 = $.024.

Step 3: Determine the Revenue earned per download:

Wait a minute; it’s cost me $0.024 per download, where’s the revenue come from?

The great thing about series is that if people like the first book in the series, even though it was free, some of them will buy the second book in the series. If they like that, some will buy the third book in the series. Etc.

The most read book in a series is almost always the first book. Someone who discovers Sue Grafton’s Y is for Yesterday, likes it and wants to read more, is likely to start at the beginning with A is for Alibi. The same for me: they read Empty Promises and like it, they’ll go back to the first book, Ant Farm.

By giving away Ant Farm, I hoped to earn revenue from sales (or KU pages read) of other books in the series.

Because I haven’t run any other promotions on the Seamus McCree series after the giveaway, I can determine how long the effect of the sale lasted. For Kindle purchases, it was about 2.5 months. Interesting to me, for Kindle Unlimited pages read, I’m experiencing a new, higher, “normal” level after the promotion. Regardless of that continuing bump, I cut off the KU effect at 2.5 months as well for purposes of this analysis.

For each book I determined royalties received and Kindle Unlimited pages read during the 2.5 months following the promotion.

That’s not all extra revenue, If I hadn’t done anything, I’d expect to continue to earn all the base revenues for each book. To get the excess revenue for each book, I needed to subtract the 2.5 months of the baseline from the actual sales.

I know lots of authors go cross-eyed looking at formulae. So, using words: we take the average monthly revenue for a product after sale and subtract the average monthly revenue for the same product before the sale to get the effect of the sale. Then, if the effect lasts longer than a month (in my case it lasted 2.5 months) multiply that result by the duration.

Here’s a simple example to see how this works. Say before the sale I earned an average of $10 a month on Book 2. During the 2.5 months after the sale, I earned (say) $60. My extra profit is the $60 less what I would have expected to earn during that period ($10/mo. x 2.5 mos. = $25). The extra revenue is $35 ($60 - $25).

Since I have five books in the series and I have both Kindle sales and KU reads, my total profit on the promotion is the sum of the excess profit on Kindle purchases and pages read under Kindle Unlimited for all five books.

An Aside about Kindle Unlimited

My expectation was that by giving away Ant Farm, those possibly interested in reading it would download it for free. Kindle Unlimited folks apparently have a different mindset. They don’t need to “own” the book; they’re happy to read it and “return” it to the Amazon library. During the 2.5 months following the giveaway, KU readers read over 50,000 pages of Ant Farm, which is the equivalent of almost 100 books for revenue of $225+. That group alone more than paid for the advertising expense of $142.50.

Back to the Main Analysis – Average Revenue per Download

Adding the extra revenue earned because of advertising and giving away free Kindle copies of Ant Farm from both Kindle sales and Kindle Unlimited reads totaled $1,023.60. Dividing that by the number of downloads gives average revenue per download.

$1023.60/5915 = $0.173

Recall that each download cost $0.024. The profit per download was $0.149. Yippee!

Takeaway #1

If we assume future readers will act in the same manner as those who participated in the analyzed sale, my break-even point is 17.3 cents per download. A quick analysis of whether a promotional website delivers value to me suggests that if the cost per download is greater than 17.3 cents, I should avoid it. How can you tell in advance? You can’t, but if something doesn’t work for you, don’t repeat it in the hopes the second or third time is the charm. Also, you can search for results other authors have shared in blogs like this one.

Question: Can we learn more from the data?

Of course. I wouldn’t have posed the question otherwise. It was an unexpected bonus to discover many Kindle Unlimited readers preferred to read Ant Farm through KU rather than downloading for free. Those pages read paid for the advertisement (and more). My original expectation of where I would make money from this promotion was that enough people would like Ant Farm well enough that after reading it they would buy the next in the series, Bad Policy.

And those who also like Bad Policy would read Cabin Fever, and so on down to Doubtful Relations and Empty Promises. [Did you catch the subtle use of the alphabet for the order of the series novels?]

That follow-through from one book in the series to another is called “Conversion” in the trade.

Conversion

Good conversion, I thought, was the key to making money from giving away the first book of a series. I figured I had a good chance of converting people from Ant Farm to Bad Policy. Ant Farm has a 4.6 rating on Amazon (50+ reviews) and 4.35 rating on Goodreads (100+ ratings).

Before I saw the results of the giveaway, I only considered one kind of conversion: from giveaway to sales of books 2, 3, 4 & 5. I discovered (others already knew this, but I hadn’t thought of it) that Kindle Unlimited readers have a separate conversion from book 1 to 2 to 3, etc.

Here are my actual Kindle sales conversions during the 2.5 months following the Ant Farm giveaway:


Book From
Book To
Conversion %
Ant Farm (free)
Bad Policy (paid)
0.59%
Bad Policy
Cabin Fever
60.00%
Cabin Fever
Doubtful Relations
80.95%
Doubtful Relations
Empty Promises
88.24%


Conventional wisdom suggests that those who download free books do not buy books at market prices (in my case $3.99). In fact, some readers use free books as a no-risk way of checking out new-to-them authors. If they like what they read, they’ll buy more. During the 2.5 months following the free-giveaway, only .59% purchased Bad Policy.

That seems dismal; but in fact, taking those people and following them through the extra sales of the other three series books was sufficient to make the advertising buy profitable.

There is a HUGE drop-off between those who acquired Ant Farm for free and those willing to spend money to purchase Bad Policy. Of those who went on to buy Bad Policy, 60% purchased Cabin Fever and if they bought Cabin Fever they surely became fans: 81% bought Doubtful Relations and of those 88% bought Empty Promises.

As I thought, if I could get people to buy a book of the series, a significant percentage would really enjoy the book and buy more. They key is how many people actually read free downloads. That, I have no way of determining, but enough did that their subsequent purchases more than covered the advertising costs of the giveaway.

Takeaway #2:

Even though the only place to purchase electronic copies of my novels is on Amazon, the giveaway was profitable. Those who could also give away and sell in other markets would be even better off for ebook sales alone.

Conversion for Kindle Unlimited Readers

For Kindle Unlimited, the percentages are a bit different:

Book From
Book To
Conversion %
Ant Farm
Bad Policy
106.90%
Bad Policy
Cabin Fever
60.24%
Cabin Fever
Doubtful Relations
87.58%
Doubtful Relations
Empty Promises
75.37%

I speculate that the result of more than 100% for conversion from Ant Farm to Bad Policy reflects a group of people who did download a free copy of Ant Farm and then used Kindle Unlimited to read Bad Policy. The other percentages are consistent, except the conversion from Doubtful Relations to Empty Promises is lower for KU readers. My guess is that this reflects non-binge readers. Some will pick up Empty Promises in the coming months.

In fact, while Kindle sales have stabilized at pre-giveaway levels. Kindle Unlimited pages read are still more than twice pre-giveaway levels.

Takeaway #3:

Kindle Unlimited readers changed what would have been a modestly profitable advertising buy and book giveaway into a (relatively) huge success.

Takeaway #4:

Although Bad Policy is the second in the series, it was the first published. In my opinion it is the weakest writing of any of my books. Ant Farm, the intended first book, was not bought by a publisher until I completely rewrote it after publishing Cabin Fever. The 60% conversion from Bad Policy to Cabin Fever might be because of this weakness.

It also might be that the back-matter material in Bad Policy is not optimal for eliciting readers to immediately purchase Cabin Fever. I’ve recently changed it, and time will tell whether that will bump up the conversion to Cabin Fever. Anything I can do (other than rewriting the book) is worth money because the conversion rates after Cabin Fever are stellar.

Takeaway #5:

As expected, I earned the most money on sales and pages read of Bad Policy. What surprised me completely was that Ant Farm provided the second largest profit, both from Kindle books sold and Kindle Unlimited pages read.

This, I think, shows the power of Amazon lists and “also reads.” People who did not know of the initial giveaway discovered the book through the power of Amazon’s platform. This had everything to do with placing high on Amazon’s best seller lists. During the giveaway, Ant Farm reached #22 in the overall Kindle Store for free books, and #1 for free books for both Private investigators and Suspense within the Mystery, Thriller & Suspense category.

Takeaway #6

The overwhelming effect of Kindle Unlimited for me is the reason why I remain in the KDP select program and have not gone wide. Most people who have their ebooks available on multiple platforms say they receive anywhere from a rare low of 60% to a more typical 75-85% of their sales from Kindle sales on Amazon.

By comparison, in this sale, I received only 49% of the additional revenue from Kindle sales. The remaining 51% came from compensation based on Kindle Unlimited pages read.

Your results will vary.

You have a different series, different target audience, Mercury may be in retrograde, a tweet could cause everyone to forget to look at books for several days. You may be selling wide, whereas I am concentrated in the Amazon universe. You may have great international sales (mine are miniscule).

The point is, to figure out if your promotions work, you must do this kind of analysis. Now you know how. Questions?

This blog first appeared on Writers Who Kill 10/7/2018

* * * 

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Free or Not to Free—THAT is the question


Ant Farm (Seamus McCree #1) Cover
Whether to give a book away is not the ONLY question facing authors who have control over such decisions, but it is one with implications.

When Amazon first made electronic book self-publishing easy, one of the successful promotion strategies was to give away a book—particularly the first book in a series. Readers were just getting used to eBooks and eReaders and getting one of your books into a reader’s hands was a successful strategy for becoming known. In the early days a free promotion could generate tens of thousands, maybe even a hundred thousand downloads.

Fast forward to today and the situation is different. Few people are just now buying their first eReader, so succeeding by getting your book to be one of the first downloaded is like trying to hop on a train roaring down the track at fifty miles-per-hour. Even if they don’t have a dedicated eReader and want to try out eBooks, they can read them on their computer or smart phone.

Readers who want free books have dozens of newsletters to provide them links to free books in the genres they prefer to read. The only way for an author to stand out in a crowd is to pay for promoting his book.

Many voracious readers belong to Amazon Unlimited or other subscription services, where after paying their monthly subscription, it costs them nothing to read their next book—but unlike free promotions, reading those books provide authors compensation.

Lastly, I have an untested suspicion that we have fostered a large group of people who will only read free books (electronic or print from libraries) and will not pay for their pleasure reading. A subset includes people who download stolen books, upon whom I wish the worst of computer viruses. If my primary writing goal was to have people read my books, then free is fine, but I’d like compensation for my writing, which means I need to find readers willing to pay for their reading pleasure.

Before Saturday, I focused on reduced-price promotions of my books. I have had limited success with half-price sales or $0.99 sales of electronic books. Whenever I have promoted a sale, my Kindle Unlimited pages read for all the books in the Seamus McCree series increases significantly. I’ve read anecdotal evidence that the same happens when authors give away a book in their series.

Saturday I began an experiment: I reduced the Kindle eBook price of Ant Farm (Seamus McCree #1) to free for five days (the last day is May 23). I also dropped the price on the second book in the series, Bad Policy, from $3.99 to $2.99. The prices for the other three books in the series remain at $3.99.

I’ve taken out ads, will send out my newsletter, and have written this blog. We’ll see how this works. My hypothesis goes something like this: For every 1,000 downloads, say 10% read the book. Of those, say 10% become fans and read the entire series. At current pricing, it costs them $15 to buy the other four books. Under those assumptions, each 1,000 downloads will result in $150 of sales ($100 of royalties). Plus, I expect I’ll end up with more read Kindle Unlimited pages, and I hope the publicity will spur sales of other books in the series to people who have read and liked some but not been motivated to buy the next in the series.

Regardless of how it works out, one thing I know is that I will not set up free promotions for the later Seamus McCree novels. It’s one thing to give away the first in the series in hopes of attracting new fans; it is quite another thing to set up readers' expectation that if they just wait long enough, they can get all the books for free.

So, if you haven’t read Ant Farm, here is the link to get the Kindle version for free.

*****

Update on the results after two full days of the free-book promotion:


Over the weekend, ANT FARM had 4,552 Kindle eBook downloads. That was sufficient to drive it to Amazon's #1 free book in both the Suspense and Private Investigator categories. The book also reached #22 in the entire Kindle store! The promotion continues through Wednesday 5/23, so feel free to share the good news so others can discover and enjoy Seamus McCree.

*****

James M. Jackson authors the Seamus McCree mystery series. Empty Promises, the fifth novel in the series—this one set in the deep woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula—is now available. You can sign up for his newsletter and find more information about Jim and his books at https://jamesmjackson.com.


Friday, April 6, 2018

Six Rules of Author Self-Promotion


Whether you are with a big five publisher or publishing a novel yourself, you must promote your book. I’ve learned six rules to do it right.

Rule One: It’s not all about YOU

Self-promotion should be about building relationships. As an author, your goal is to build long-term relationships with your readers. Naturally, your writing is what ultimately makes the difference, and you need to make it as compelling as possible. That does not mean you start building relationships once you have something about to be published. That would be all about you.

Relationships are two-way streets. If self-promotion is you force-feeding your promotions, you will not be effective for long.

Rule Two: Add Value to the Relationship

You have experiences and expertise that you can share with others to make their life [fill in your adjectives here.] Try to provide value within any promotion. Entertain, provide new insights into your writing, your work, your life—help others improve their writing, their work, their lives. Let people know what didn’t work and why so they can learn from your mistakes.

Help them along their paths without asking for a return favor. I will be forever grateful to Hank Phillipi Ryan and Steve Hamilton, two high-powered authors who took the time from their busy schedules to write blurbs for my books. Don’t you think I let people know about their helpfulness? (You bet. I just did, didn’t I?)

Rule Three: Be Yourself

I am a math guy; always was, always will be. I know that’s not everyone’s cup-o-tea, but it is mine. With my math background and ability to translate complicated concepts into English, I can help people understand the world in a different way. That’s my niche. And I write financial crime novels, so there is a practical tie-in.

Show your sense of humor. Some won’t get it—they never do, do they?—but those who are tuned to your sensibilities will form a stronger link with you.

Rule Four: Have Permission

How do you feel when a robocall interrupts your family dinner? For me, that’s a perfect reason to never buy the product, vote for the politician, or do whatever they had in mind for me to do. All because they did not have my permission to interrupt what I was doing.

I receive unsolicited author newsletters and email promotions all the time. The first time it happens, I chalk it up to inexperience. But when it keeps happening, I employ email junk filters to toss them into the spam pile that is deleted without delay. How likely am I to buy their books or retweet that their latest is on sale? You guessed it: not likely.

Make sure you have permission before sending newsletters. When someone like the ELF asks you to write a guest blog, follow their rules regarding content and promotion. It’s a courtesy to the blog’s owner, and its readers will be more apt to appreciate what you have to say.

Rule Five: If you don’t ask for assistance, you won’t get it.

If there is something you would like people to do, you need to make a direct, clear ask. I’d like you to buy my book, and maybe you would based on this blog. What I will ask you to do is to read the first four chapters of Empty Promises for free and decide for yourself if you enjoy my kind of writing. (If you prefer starting a series with the first book, Ant Farm’s first four chapters are here.)

Nothing works as well as a direct ask.

My order of preference is to ask in person. If that’s not possible, then by phone where two-way communication is still possible. Email or your favorite messenger app is a distant third because it is more distant. Of course, in a promotional situation like this, you need to incorporate your ask in a way you think makes sense.

Rule Six: Thank People When They Help You

Strangers, friends, and family do not owe authors their support. So when someone offers it, tell the individual or community that you appreciate the time and effort they took to help you out. This common courtesy goes a long way when people know you mean it.

That’s it: six rules that make self-promotion acceptable to my sensibilities. What’s been your experience?

A version of this blog appeared as part of the Empty Promises Virtual Book Tour (4/2/18 - 4/20/18)