What happened when I gave my book away?

A couple of weeks ago I gave my book away for approximately 60 hours to see what would happen.

I love running experiments with different marketing ideas to see what will happen.  Most of the time I get to run these experiments with my clients, but when it comes to giving books away for free, this is something I had to do myself.

Since I published Your First 1000 Copies through the KDP Kindle Select program there is built-in functionality that let’s you run a campaign to give the Kindle digital version of your book away for free for up to 5 days in any 90 day period of time.  I ended up keeping it open for two and a half days.  So what happened as a result?

Did I promote the giveaway?
The first two days of the giveaway, I was teaching the online course How to Sell Your First 1000 Books live on creativeLIVE for free.  Thousands of people attended the course and I mentioned several times that the book was available.  As a result, it was shared across social media extensively and several people let me know they told all their author friends about it.
How many copies were downloaded?
3408 copies of the Kindle edition were downloaded in the 60 hour window.  At the time, I had sold a little over 2500 copies of my book so I ended up giving away almost 1000 copies more than I had sold.  I was really happy with the result.  Every author’s greatest enemy is obscurity, so the fact that over 6000 people have possession of my book now is a huge win for me.  My goal was to give away at least as many copies as I had sold so I definitely hit that goal.

Another win is I made it as high as #101 ranked free Kindle book.  And I’ll admit, I was pretty sad that it didn’t break the top 100.  So close!

Did my sales go up or down as a result?
Overall my sales have shown about a 10% increase in the two weeks since the campaign.  As I assumed, and heard from other self-published authors, it never hurts sales to give your book away, and this has definitely been true for me.

Any other positive results?
There were two other positive results that came as a result of the campaign.  One expected and one unexpected.

First, as expected, newsletter subscription rates from book readers went up.  In Your First 1000 Copies I embed several links to my website for extra resources.  I am tracking those pages to see who is signing up for this email newsletter as a result of reading the book (you may be one of them!).  As expected, if you give away 3408 copies of your book, newsletter subscription rates from readers are going to go up and this has been the case for me.

Second, unexpectedly, it significantly improved the book recommendations around Your First 1000 Copies.  Before the campaign, my book was often paired with some of the spammier, “get rich on Kindle” books.  Now, it’s become a recommended book against Guy Kawasaki’s APE: Author, Publisher Entrepreneur and other popular titles.  I believe this will have a helpful, long-term effect on sales.

Any negative results?
None that I can tell.  Some people may argue that I missed out on sales.  In my mind, this is a very shortsighted view of the campaign.  Sure, I may have missed a handful of sales, but instead, I was exposed to a much larger audience than I would have been otherwise which has much better long-term benefits.

Overall, I was very happy with the results of the campaign.  More people have been exposed to my book than ever before, newsletter subscriptions have gone up and my listing on Amazon has improved.  All big wins in my mind.

Over and over I hear authors having success while experimenting with giving their book away, yet so many publishers and writers are afraid to do it.  I highly recommend you put this fantastic tool into your toolbox as something that can grow your overall platform.  This will lead to not only more sales of your current book, but future ones as well!

Would love your feedback and questions as I know this is a controversial topic.

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