How-to guide on successful eBook giveaways

I joined KDP Select in April, deciding to try my hand at this exclusive club so I could take advantage of the perks of the program. The downside with KDP Select is that you can only publish your eBook on Amazon/Kindle. But the upside is that you can offer your book for free for a total of 5 days during the three month contract.

Why would you want to offer your blood, sweat, and tears in electronic form for free?  Simple – to further the buzz of your book, get it into more people’s hands, and hopefully entice reviews and further sales.

The first time I held a free promotion for A Symphony of Cicadas, I offered it up for free for three days. In those three days, I managed to give away 228 copies of my eBook.

Admittedly, I was disappointed. I was more than disappointed. Three free days, and that was all? I kept hearing from other authors who were giving away thousands of copies of their book. And I was practically pulling teeth to give mine away. It hardly seemed worth it, being locked into this exclusive contract for a full three months with nothing showing for it.

My contract expires this month, and I had two more days to give my book away. So I used them up on May 31 to June 1. This time, however, the results were totally different. The total —> 1,350 free downloads.

So what did I do different?

1. I promoted the EFF out of my free promotion.
Here is a link you’re going to want to bookmark: This was the main website I went to in order to get the word out that I was offering my book for free. They have a page that lists 22 different places to market your promotion. Most of them require at least a week’s notice, though a few only accept submissions that are currently for free.

2. I tweaked my genre.
I was once listed in Women’s Literature. Not only was this the wrong fit (I would hate for my book to be listed as Chick Lit), but my book was lost in a sea of other Chick Lit books. Instead, I moved it over to Fantasy/Metaphysical – where I think it belongs. And there are less books to compete with in this genre. The whole time my book was free, it stayed at the NUMBER ONE spot – giving it tons more exposure.

3. I changed my book’s description.
When I first published my book, I kept one major plot twist secret from my description. Thing is, this plot twist happens at the end of Chapter Two, and sets the tone for the rest of the novel. By keeping it secret, I was not only limited in what I could say about the story, I was depriving readers from knowing WHY they needed to read this book. I actually thought people would just want to read the book, and then be surprised by what happened. That might have worked had I been Stephen King or Neil Gaiman, but not if I’m an unknown indie author. So I altered the description so you knew exactly what you were in for.  You guys, the main character dies at the end of Chapter Two, and she spends the rest of the book figuring things out in the afterlife. Keeping that out, it’s just an ordinary book.

4. I had more reviews.
Back then, I think I had only 2 or 3 reviews. This time, I had 12 – most of them 4-5 stars. Before you give your book away, lobby everyone you know to give a review.  Give your book to friends or fans in exchange for a review.  Do anything you can to get others to leave remarks on your Amazon page. Trust me, those are the very first thing anyone reads before deciding whether this book deserves space on their Kindle.

The first day of my promotion, I managed to give away 1,120 books. It was exciting to refresh the page every couple of minutes and see it go up. At one point, I was giving away a book per minute. It was crazy!  But then it tapered down. The second day I gave away 230 books (still more than all three days of my first promotion).  I think that might be because all the places I had marketed to only promoted me on the first day, but not on the second.  It could also be because the second day landed on a Saturday, and most people are out doing something fun on the weekends instead of searching for free downloads for their Kindle.

Could I have done more? Sure. The one things I might have done was to change my eBook thumbnail to make it pop even more against all the other books. I love my cover, but at a smaller scale it’s hard to read the print. There’s nothing wrong with tweaking the cover a little – even if it isn’t exactly the same as the print copy.

In the end, I am still done with the KDP Select program. I hate that Nook users can’t download my book.  And it just feels wrong to be so exclusive. When my contract expires at the end of this month, I’m not renewing.


Crissi Langwell is the debut author of A Symphony of Cicadas.  Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

Anyone else have success stories with the KDP Select program? What were your “tricks”?

8 thoughts on “How-to guide on successful eBook giveaways”

  1. Pingback: The dilemma of indie eBook pricing | Crissi Langwell

  2. Terrific advice, Crissi. Thank you so much for sharing. I am approaching a publish date for my first book and there are so many questions and issues that have to be sorted and decided. Your post gives me some excellent places to start.

  3. Three months later, there is now a Kindle App (free) for Android tablets so that should cover the Nook, I think. By the way, I also – more recently – used the AMC tool for free book submissions and in the five day period (I had to use them all together because my Kindle select subscription (now renewed) was about to expire. This was the week ending October 20. If you count all Amazon countries, I had more than 3000 downloads. But whether or not that will lead to anything else, I am not sure. of my 15 reviews so far, 12 are from people I told about the book when I published in July. Oh yes, I guess it did lead to one thing. As an Amazon client, I got an e mail two days ago listing memoirs to read, and guess who’s was listed first. So what’s the book? It’s called “My Home Sweet Rome; Living (and Loving) in the Eternal City.”

  4. I, too, went with KDP Select for my first book. I haven’t found any benefit–and having given away 140 books over 2 days–I haven’t discovered the value of that, either. Not a single review from them, which is why I was game for giving away four years of work. There’s so much that’s left to chance–and using search engines to guide you in these decisions–is tricky. Thanks for the post.

  5. I just finished my own three-day free give-away for my novel titled The Fifth Option. The Kindle edition was available for free download on Amazon from June 3rd through the 5th. I had 7,887 free downloads, and yesterday after the promotion ended I had 35 sales, and today (as of 10am this morning) I had another 28. To me, the free give-away is one way to get your book into the hands of readers, and hopefully–if they like the book–to have them promote it for you. I also saw it as a great way to get free advertising for the novel, and to get some positive reviews.

    1. That’s really awesome!!! I haven’t seem more than a few sales as a result of free days, but it did translate to several reviews. I no longer do KDP, but I’m preparing to offer one of my books for permafree to see how it does.

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