Live Blog of the John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood Free Kindle Promotion on Feb 6, 7

UPDATES

11:30 PM Feb 5 (30 minutes before launch):  We’ve laid as much groundwork as possible.  My son and biz partner Patrick Sellers is helping me.  We’ve signed up at all the major sites, set up Tweets with all the relevant hashtags to go out regularly; we have an email blast ready to go out to my list as soon as the promo goes live; and done pretty much all the things we have been able to figure out to do.

12:05 AM: Well, it’s supposed to be live now but it isn’t. Amazon says it can take up to half an hour or even longer.

12:30 AM: It finally kicked in.  We’re live now.   So we have just sent out the email blast and the tweets have started, etc.  We are also patrolling Facebook and putting posts up on all the free Kindle book pages, and other pages that are relevant to the book.  We’ve had 15 downloads in the first 10 minutes.  It’s a start.

1:45 AM: Okay, I’m gong to turn in.  Patrick will keep at it a while longer.  Downloads are at 119 now.

7:32 AM:  Back up.  Downloads are at 448

8:32 AM: Downloads are 552.  That’s 102 in the last hour.  It’s up on Digital Book Today, one of the big three Free eBook promoters.  Will check and see if we are up on all three, but I’ve got a bunch of other things I need to do first.

8:46 AM:  We are

  • #18 in Kindle Free Bestsellers in the category Nonfiction/Arts and Entertainment.
  •  #1 in Kindle Free Bestsellers in the category Nonfiction/Arts and Entertainment/Movies
8:52 AM: Downloads are 652.  So we did the most recent 100 downloads in 20 minutes, whereas prior to that it took an hour, so it seems to be accelerating at this point.
9:02 AM: Downloads are 750.  So that’s 100 downloads in 10 minutes.  This is kind of thrilling to see it gaining steam like this.
9:07 AM: Downloads are 852.  So that’s 100 downloads in 5 minutes.
This feels like it’s got a least a certain “viralness” going on and brings into question all the things I have left to do, and whether they are really going to make a difference at this point.  I sent out an email to my author list of 1000 people but I’m also sending out emails to all my friends and contacts and have only gotten through the “B’s” . . . .  There are a few hundred more to go but it seems like it would hardly make a difference. Similarly posting on Facebook, etc, doesn’t seem like it would really make that much of an impact now.  It seems that we primed the pump adequately, it got off to a good start, and the Amazon machine has taken over.  I think I will hold all the other “cards” in reserve in case it slows down.
9:10 AM: Downloads are 960.  Last 100 in three minutes.
9:20 AM:Downloads are  1179
10:00 AM: Downloads are 1962.  So that’s 1250 in the last hour.  I won’t update again until 11 . . . .  see what this hour brings.
11:ooAM: Downloads are 2831.  So that’s 950++ in the last hour.  It’s slowing down.
12:00 PM: Downloads are 3775. Holding steady for now.
1:00 PM: Downloads are 4768.  Still running about 1k per hour
Comment:  We crossed 5,000 downloads at 1:15PM, 13 hours into the 48 hour promotion.  I’m watching it closely because if it  the rate suddenly drops I have some contingency plans in place to try to goose it a little bit.  But as long as it’s running at 1,000/hour, I’m going to just hold steady.  I have tweets going on regularly with all the appropriate hashtags, and I think that’s fine . . . . but I want to give Facebook a rest before it becomes annoying.
Where will we land at the end?  I just don’t know the pattern well enough to know.  It seems logical that it would change incrementally at least until late  tonight . . . . so even if it dropped 10% per hour it would end up around 10,000 for the first 24 hours.  But maybe it will drop more precipitately than that.   It’s just hard to say.  It’s really great that Amazon has a counter that updates in real time so you can see the download count — but there is no way that I’m aware of to know where the downloads are coming from.  It would be really great to know that, as it would really help us to calibrate our efforts in future promotions for my book and other books by other authors.   Oh well.
2:00 PM Downloads are 5445.  Dropping off a bit.
3:00 PM Downloads are 6,003. Definitely sagging a bit.
4:00 PM Downloads are 6,6610.  Improved a bit this hour.
5:00 PM Downloads are 7,260.
6:00 PM Downloads are 7,997
7:00 PM Downloads are 8,538
8:00 PM Downloads are 9,106
9:00 PM Downloads are 9,633
10:00 PM Downloads are 9,930
11:00 PM Downloads 10,207
12:00 PM Downloads 10,438
And at 10:16 PM downloads hit 10,001, which seems a good place to stop for the night.  Much to consider/ponder here, but this has definitely exceeded my expectations.  Here are some screenshots which are self explanatory but important for the record.
Screenshot of  Report Showing 1001 Downloads — Click to Enlarge

 Screenshot showing JCGOH #1 in Arts and Entertainment

Screenshot showing JCGOH at #15 in Amazon Kindle Top 100 Free Bestsellers 

DAY 2 SUMMARY

So, I continued to take hourly soundings throughout day two and I am compiling all of it into a spreadsheet that will show the pattern, but here are the main points.  As noted above, we ended Day 1 at 10,438 US Downloads.  Following are the final tallies after the full 48 hour two -day promotion was complete:

  • United States – 16,048
  • United Kingdom – 891
  • Germany – 141
  • France – 106
  • Canada – 106
  • Spain – 11
  • Italy – 8
  • Japan – 1
  • Total: 17,206
So, looking at it in perspective, day 1 was 10,438 (65%)  and Day 2 was 5,610 (35%) — and thus the big takeaway for me is that you need to have some plans in reserve to try and boost day 2.  The reason for this is that on Day 1, if you do all the prep and make sure you are listed in all the “Free EBooks Today” websites, blogsites, and aggregators–then on Day 1 you get a really nice push.  But on Day 2, those same outlets don’t list you again.  True, on their day 1 listing they say you will be free for two days.  But then on the second day, the only way someone looking for free books would know that is if they go back and read the “stale” yesterday version.
I should hasten to add that this trend is not a big problem . . . . it may be that it just ‘is what it is’ because one thing that was clear to me is that the power of these large “Free ebooks Today” aggregator sites is much greater than anything any author (maybe there are exceptions) could do with their own Facebook and Twitter following.  (Although with Twitter, using the right hashtags can greatly expand the reach.)
The other thing — we reached as high as #10 overall in the Amazon Kindle Top 100 Free, so it would seem to me that our outcome was pretty good, not just average.  When you consider that somewhere between 4,000 and 6,000 books go into free promotion on any given day, there’s obviously a good bit of competition.   From what I can discern, the key to getting a result on the level we did is:
  • Don’t do it until you have 20 reviews and a solid rating because the aggregators use that as a filter — not enough reviews, or a so-so rating and you wont’ get listed.  So work really hard to build this foundation.  Give away books if you have to in order to get legitimate customer reviews.  From what I can tell, having an astronomically high rating is less important than having a high number of reviews.
  • You’ve got to really lay the groundwork by submitting to ALL of the aggregator “Free eBook today” sites and Facebook pages.  There is no excuse for just slogging this out and getting it done.  And you need to be doing it, ideally, a couple of weeks before the promotion runs — although we didn’t start until a week before.  But I think we lost some important outlets because of that.
  • You’ve got to be grinding, grinding, grinding on Facebook, Twitter, etc, especially on Day 1 from midnight on so that you lay a good foundation.  It’s not clear to me how much the continued grinding on day two helps …. but it definitely is something that has to be attended to on day one.

And What About the Post Promo-Sales Surge?

There are two reasons for doing the free promo ….. one is to build your brand as an author by getting more eyeballs on your work, and more readers aware of you .    The second is to stimulate a surge in paid sales in the aftermath of the free promo.
So, obviously I’m pretty satisfied with the first part of that.  17,000 downloads  is, on the indie publishing scale, a pretty good number and even in traditional publishing modes where initial print runs are sometimes only 5,000 or so, this is a meaningful number.  Something to build on.
But what about the Post Promo-Sales Surge?
Well, here is what I can say so far.  It is now 1:30PM — thus 13 hours after the promo ended, so it’s a little early to be making any sweeping assessments, but there is some data, and there are some observations which I will make:
  • First, when you go off the free status and back into paid, you go all the way to the bottom of the rankings — or at least pretty far down.  We were ranked about 20,000 when the promo started, and after the promo was over, the first number that came up was 88,000.  So you don’t get a fast start in terms of ranking.  But as the day has gone on and sales have been registering, we have jumped up to our current ranking which is around 4,000, which is the highest we have been.  And we’re now at #15 in Arts and Entertainment, which is the highest we’ve been there.
  • However, the good news is that people do start buying   We had been selling 7-10 units a day for a couple of weeks prior to the promo, with the price at $3.99.  We raised the price to $5.95 a couple of days prior to the promo and our sales dropped a bit, so figure we were doing 6-7 units per day going into the promo.  With that level of sales, we were #20,000 overall and somewhere around #5 in our subcategory of Movies/History and Criticism.  So pre-promo–figure 7 units per day.
  • Post promo, when I woke up at 7 we had sold 17 units since midnight.  It has been picking up steam throughout the day and is now at 70 units for the day.    My sense of it is that it should go over 100 units for the day, so …. 7 units per day before, then two days off the market . . . then 100 units on the first day afterwards.  The math is pretty favorable and supports the idea of doing this.
I apologize for the fact that this is all just basically note-taking, and not a fully organized post.  I will refashion this into something more coherent at some point.   But for now, I’ve at least got the info here.

Below is the Original Post Written before the Promotion Explaining the Promotion and What We Hope to Accomplish, and How

This post is meant mainly for fellow authors who are waging battle, as I am, in the indie book publishing universe. It concerns what’s happening with my book John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood — a non-fiction book that is the true behind the scenes story of what went wrong with a film that is Hollywood’s biggest financial disaster in history — yet has spawned a global fan movement calling for a sequel. What gives?
I’m about to launch a two day free promotion on KDP Select for John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood.  I’m going to blog about the experience here in the hope that it may help others at some point.

JCGOH is doing pretty well 60 days into its release.  We have 33 reviews, of which 29 are 5 star, and today we actually hit #1 on one Amazon subcategory chart (Nonfiction/Movies/Cinematography) and #2 on another (Nonfiction/Movies/History and Criticism). We are #56 on the much broader category NonFiction/Arts and Entertainment. Overall . . . . it’s a pretty good start but there is much grinding to go if this is to end up being the launching platform for my future life as a writer (I’m slowing down as a film-maker for a variety of reasons.)

I decided, after dithering for two months, to go with KDP select because of the promotional opportunity it provides.  You give up the other digital markets for 90 days while you are exclusive with KDP Select; but you have the opportunity, if you manage the KDP Select period effectively, to generate a surge in sales and readership that far outstrips what you might lose from Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, etc.   At least that’s the theory.  Let’s see if if turns out to be true.

The promotion that you get to do within KDP Select is five days during which you can make the book available for free on Amazon.  How does that sell books?  In theory, the free period will cause your book to rise dramatically in the free rankings, and this will cause the Amazon algorithms to like your book and start showing it more prominently in the “People who bought this, bought that” space, and on the free bestseller list, etc.  Then when you come off the promotions, you should have a surge of sales.  There are any number of authors who have written about their experience and the foregoing seems to hold — but there are some  big “ifs” — and those are: Your promotion will have the desired effect IF you have a solid base of favorable reviews before you do the promotion (at least 10 with average  of 4+), and IF you properly promote the free period by notifying all the outlets across the internet who showcase Amazon Free Books every day.

We’re okay on the first part of this — we have plenty of reviews and our average is 4.8++ so that box is checked.

At first I thought the “notify everyone” would mean notifying three or four sites.  Not so, there are a lot more notifications to send out, and related tasks to perform, and some of them have to be done at least a week out.

My mission for today is to build the list so that I at least have a handle on who needs to be advised about it a week out, because my goal is to do this campaign next Wednesday/Thursday, eight days from now.

Now, some of the advice is to notify some of these sites a MONTH before.  I can’t do that, but I will not for the record, this is what the advice is:

WHEN TO DO IT?

I’ve read everything I can find.  Here’s what I have so far:

  • The first day of  any month is a bad idea.  Lots of free stuff on that day.  Not recommended
  • Popular start days are Tuesday and Sunday.
In my own experience, my strongest sales day tends to be Friday — partly because I do a bit of “weekend reading matter” promoting on that day.  I did 21 eBooks last Friday, 13 on Saturday, 10 on Sunday, and 8 on Monday. My thinking is that doing it on Wednesday and Thursday will set it up for good surge on Friday.  Here’s hoping.

UP TO A MONTH BEFORE

E Reader News Today  (Ominous warning — the page at E Reader News Today for submissions has been “temporarily taken down”.  I’ve emailed them to see what’s up.  Will advise.)

Pixel of Ink   (The link is to the form for submission of your book.  You may have to sign up as an author fist.  Pixel of Ink has 332,000 Facebook Likes so this is a big one.)  I submitted my form this morning, 29 Jan.

Digital Book Today (This one offers a number of options but I couldn’t find a link to just submit the dates of your free promotion.  I spent twenty minutes trying to find it — no luck. They do offer a lot of options for paid ads and limited options for free promotions. I’ll go back later when I have time, but I did not succeed in communicating with them yet. UPDATE — I found an email contact for them and sent a query. We’ll see what happens with the response. UPDATE: Anthony Weseel, the owner no less, got back to me and sent the link:  Submit to Digital Book Today)

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One thought on “Live Blog of the John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood Free Kindle Promotion on Feb 6, 7

  1. Hi Michael, I got your book with this promotion. I just finished reading and really liked it. The best things about it are your evident passion for the original books and the chance to see the “internals” of a big movie makings.
    I saw in this post a list of downloads per country and I guess Amazon counted me as “United States” because I bought my kindle there but I’m from Argentina.
    I hope we get a sequel for JCOM. It won’t be easy with all the Star Wars movies Disney wants to make but hope is never lost.

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