Over the last five weeks, I’ve sequentially planned Kindle Select promotions for five separate books, and every single one has become the #1 most downloaded book in its category for the length of each promotion. Two of my books, “Hack Sleep” and “Buy Your Own Island,” easily made the Top #100 in the entire Kindle store.
All of these books were published in 2015, so they’ve been around for a while. Yet it didn’t take a whole lot of time or work on my part to catapult these books back into the limelight.
I’m busy, have too many things to do already, and my natural inclination is to spend more time having fun and less time working indoors. After all, I’m working from an island in Thailand, for crying out loud:
So when I do these promotions my criteria is to drive a massive number of downloads in the shortest amount of time possible. And I’m proud to say that’s what I’ve been able to do; a couple hours of preparation and promotion was all it took to run these successful promotions. And I plan to keep doing similar promotions every three months or so.
In this post I’ll share with you my strategy, exactly how you too can “hack” the Amazon best-seller charts to make your own e-books rise to the top.
First, I’ll start out with why I’m keen to giving away my e-books away for free in the first place. I think it’s important to understand the bigger picture, and the great intrinsic value of free Kindle promotions.
Why do free promotions?
There is some debate as to whether it’s better for authors to do free promotions or 99 cent promotions.
My answer? They don’t need to be mutually exclusive. You can find ways to do both; in fact, you absolutely should.
99 cent promotions are critical during the first couple of weeks after your book launches. You need as many paid downloads as you can muster to reach the top of the “Hot New Releases” section, where Amazon users will find your book organically.
I wrote an exhaustive post which covers the merits of 99 cent promotions (and how to do them) in this Reddit post.
Free promotions you can do whenever, and as often as you like. They are great for list-building and brand-building, helping you to attract tens of thousands of new readers to your work. This fits in nicely with the “1,000 True Fans” model for earning a living as a publisher.
After the title page, I always include a special offer, my bio, and a link to my blog. Readers who find my work through my free book promotions then they sign up for my mailing list, purchase my products, listen to my podcasts, and follow me on Twitter and Instagram.
In today’s digital world, your book is the *ultimate* business card.
Long gone are the days (circa 2007 – 2010) when you could simply set up a blog or personal website and own the real estate for Google searches of your name and that was enough. The game has extended to far beyond SEO; and your ability to nurture quantity and quality relationships online determines your success.
I’ve always hated printed business cards that usually end up in the garbage or destroyed by the washing machine, all the while wasting natural resources. I abandoned using them long ago and can’t wait to see them fall permanently into disuse. Good riddance.
These days, your business card is your book. Your book carries your message, it showcases your expertise, and it builds a relationship with the reader in a way that few other mediums can. If someone spends a weekend reading your writing, they’ve spent a long time becoming acquainted with you through your words.
But I believe that an ebook is a self-liquidating lead source, and an Amazon book is the ultimate top-of-funnel item. When you look at a book as a potent form of marketing – and a relationship building tool for you – suddenly a world of possibilities open up.
Most forms of advertising and promotion are either expensive, time-consuming, or rack us with anxiety (cold calling). But a free book is seen as a gift – it’s a welcome form of advertising – people embrace it with open arms. And it costs almost no money or time to give them away. An e-book can be reproduced indefinitely with no marginal cost.
Furthermore, an e-book on Amazon can be promoted in far more places and with a better “psychological edge” than a book on a landing page. Many internet users don’t trust landing pages, and for good reason. First, most visitors to your landing page have never heard of you or your brand before. But Amazon is a known and established brand, with the trust factor is already built in.
Second, downloading a book from Amazon presents far less pressure for a person to take action than entering an e-mail address and receiving a book from an autoresponder service. When you remove all barriers to action and make the first step an easy no-brainer for your readers and potential prospects, that’s a very good thing.
When you consider that ebooks can be given away for free, downloaded en masse at no cost, and are an excellent relationship building tool, you realize that you have the ultimate marketing tool in your hands.
Note: It goes without saying that you should never use your book exclusively as a tool for marketing without regard to quality, and that you actually put your best foot forward to write excellent, useful content with maximum inherent value. This post is an example: more than 2,500 words with numerous takeaways, I’ve spent more than a week writing this article.
Free promotions keep your books relevant
There’s no reason that your books need to slink away and die long after you’ve launched them. You can “re-launch” them through free promotions every 90 days (or, divide up your free days as you get five total within a 90-day period). You’re able to promote your free Kindle book to large audiences with little to no pushback, and many people will actually shell out funds and purchase additional products from you.
The really cool thing is, I made both of these sales while I was swimming in the crystal clear waters of Bottle Beach in Koh Phangan 🙂
To date, I’ve made 82 sales of this package which is essentially dozens of documents which I used in my advertising business which were previously sitting uselessly on my desktop.
Last year I spent a weekend editing the files to remove my business name, uploaded them all to Gumroad, and created a simple sales page. It’s turned into a modest source of extra passive income, and I plan to create more products like this in the future, using my books to help promote them.
Almost all of the earlier sales on the left side of the above graph came from my mailing list. After I’d mailed my list, I ran out of ideas as to how I could drive more traffic to my landing page. Including a discount code in my book and giving away “Hack Upwork” via Free Kindle promotions has proven effective, because it’s being showcased in front of an audience who is very interested in freelancing.
It’s not an enormous amount of money, but it’s a solid start that’s worked well so far and this strategy has a lot of potential. If you have five books and five separate offers, you can get them in front of hot prospects for free and earn some nice bonus income 🙂
In the future, I may move to Facebook ads to target freelancers and scale up sales of this particular product. But for now, free Kindle promotions are a free and efficient way to gain me new readers and get product in front of people. Plus, Gumroad has a “buyer list” of everyone who has purchased from me, and I can schedule timed follow ups, or e-mail them whenever I like!
How I Promote My Books to #1 – My Promotion Triforce
There are probably a bunch of ways I could push my book promotions harder; and e-mail everybody I know to ask for help getting the word out. I could mail my list every time I do a promo, but I don’t. Milking these contacts for all their worth – blasting out to them every time you do a promotion – is a huge mistake, in my opinion.
Instead, as I mentioned above, I prefer to do almost a minimum amount of effort to drive significant results (downloads). I have far too many other things to do (write posts such as this one, pitch prospective clients, deliver services for clients, record and edit podcasts, etc).
Therefore I primarily focus my promotion efforts on three areas: book promotion newsletters, Facebook, and Reddit.
Nothing too fancy here. I reference this post and submit my book to a bunch of newsletters that promote free ebooks. It’s as simple as copying and pasting your book’s title, author name, ISBN, URL, and so forth. This page also includes a nice collection of newsletters you can submit to (just scroll to the bottom past all of the ads).
I typically schedule these newsletter promotion requests a week or two before I do my actual promotion.
Facebook is an excellent place to promote your free books – with groups full of engaged, highly-targeted potential readers. Facebook advertisements are another excellent way to reach targeted readers.
1. Facebook Advertisements
Creating a post from a fanpage with a link to your book on Amazon once your free promotion begins, then “boosting” the post, has proven to be very effective. By spending just a mere $20, you can get hundreds of extra downloads.
If you look at this screenshot, you can see the remarkable results I enjoyed when I boosted a post promoting my free giveaway for “Hack Upwork:”
This is one of the most successful boosted posts I’ve done. For a mere $20 ad spend, I got 15 shares of the post, which dramatically expanded its reach. I also received 596 clicks to my Amazon page – amounting to a mere 3.3 cents per click!
When creating the ad, I targeted obvious terms like “freelancing,” “work from home,” “virtual assistant,” and so forth. You can also include keywords such as popular publications that your target audience reads (such as Success Magazine). But here’s a key to the success I had: I wisely included both India and the Philippines in my targeting – countries with huge numbers of contractors using websites like Upwork.
Furthermore, I noticed from past experiments using Facebook ads to increase Likes to my fanpage that a disproportionate share of my new fans were Filipinos. When I searched around to find out why, I learned that these likes came much, much cheaper than from countries such as the US and the UK.
When you advertise a book promotion on Facebook, I suggest to include developing countries such as these in your targeting. For some reason, Facebook delivers ads to these users at a much lower cost (probably less competition), yet these countries have huge populations of English speakers. You can get clicks for ridiculously cheap – and every single download of your book counts to catapult it to the top of the rankings. It does not matter where the download comes from.
2. Facebook groups
Facebook groups are becoming more and more relevant and important every single day. There are niche and sub-niche groups on Facebook for virtually every interest, and each are adding more members all the time.
To start, check out this comprehensive post I put together with a list of a bunch of Facebook groups where you can promote free ebooks.
These free ebook groups get spammed with a lot of posts, so it’s questionable whether they drive a large number of downloads. To get more bang for my effort, I’ll revisit my posts in these groups on the second day of my promotions to “bump” the posts, usually by leaving a short comment (example below). This helps reinvigorate the post, giving it greater circulation among members and within their newsfeeds.
Then of course there are Facebook groups that are related to topics that your book covers. For example, when I’m promoting my book “Buy Your Own Island,” which focuses heavily on the location-independent lifestyle, I’ll post in digital nomad groups. If I’m promoting “Hack Upwork,” I’ll create posts in both digital nomad groups, freelancing groups, and work-from-home groups.
Be creative, use the “jab, jab, jab, hook” strategy (see below), and always be giving value.
If you can target the right book promotion, with the right message, to the right subreddit, then you can hit a home run. There are a bunch of free subreddits that you should start with (similar to the free ebook groups on Facebook), namely: /r/freeEBOOKS, /r/KindleFreebies, and /r/shamelessplug.
Afterwards, you can move on to niche interests related to your book.
When I posted my book “Hack Sleep” to /r/GetOutOfBed, it exploded and I got thousands of downloads.
“Hack Sleep” was the perfect product – market fit for this sub. The subreddit’s title even mentions “sleep hacking:”
But be careful. It’s important to first spend some time looking over the subreddit where you intend to post to make sure that your free book promotion will be welcomed. Every subreddit has a different character to it, and different moderators. Some do not allow you to post links. Some do not allow self-promotion by any means necessary.
Before you post:
- Check the rules of the subreddit (in the right sidebar)
- Look at the batch of existing posts in the sub. Are these only text posts? Are there links to other sites? If you see a few external links, then you should be fine.
- Some subreddits require you to comment in them first before you can create your own post. In general, it’s best to follow the “jab, jab, jab, hook” practice advocated by Gary Vaynerchuk: before you post your own link into any group (Reddit or otherwise), write several helpful comments first.
In general, Redditors despise self-promotion and have no aversion to tearing offenders to pieces. So play to the crowds. It’s much like a high school popularity contest. Use humor and personality in your post title. Assume the mantle of an altruistic benefactor. Pretend that you’re Bill Clinton in his heyday – charm your audience and they will love you for it and support you.
In general, Amazon books with broad appeal always tend to peform best and pique the most interest from potential readers. Among this set of promotions, my books “Teaching in East Asia” and “Hack E-mail” had the lowest number of downloads.
The reason is fundamental: books on niche topics do not do as well. When we were working on the concept for “Teaching in East Asia” I spoke with my co-author to try to widen the book’s theme (and appeal) by adding in additional themes related to millennials and escaping the grind to create a new future abroad. We wanted to create new potential markets to target the book to.
You can see that in the sub-title: “Tales of Millennial English Teachers Creating a New Future Abroad.”
We were attempting to bridge the gap and make the book not just about teaching English, but rather appeal to a broader audience who might be curious to hear stories of reinvention, or simply success stories of millennials.
We succeeded to some extent, but the challenge still remains whenever your book is based on a narrow topic, or when the benefit is not easily digestible and understandable.
Similarly, “Hack E-mail,” a book about e-mail outreach, has not performed as well as some of my other books despite having the highest rating of any book I’ve published (and one that I’m particularly proud of).
On the other hand, “Buy Your Own Island” is not a book about buying islands, and is instead about so much more. It hasn’t been easy for me to convey the entire book in a single succinct message, but the book has performed well during promotions nonetheless due to a high perceived value (300+ pages and $9.99 price tag).
In conclusion, hope you enjoyed this mega-post about Amazon promotions 🙂 I’ll report back with more learnings to earn more money and more downloads of books as I have them.