Indie Book Advertising: An Initial Analysis

As part of my ongoing examination into my promotional efforts for “Sleeping Beauty” here’s another blog on my sales results.

After my last free event with KDP Select, I engaged in layered advertising — the idea is to run some ads in conjunction with other promotions to maximize momentum. I ran three separate campaigns.

  • WLC Book Buzz: On October 4, the day after my free event, I was a featured sponsor on the World Literary Cafe’s website. Not only was “Sleeping Beauty” featured on the site with a 1500-word excerpt, WLC marshalled an army of volunteers to tweet the daylights out of the book. “Sleeping Beauty” was being tweeted hourly for 23 hours.
  • Digital Book Today Silver Sponsorship Package: I purchased a two-week ad campaign on digitalbooktoday.com wherein the cover of the book was featured on DBT’s website, and they tweeted it once a day. This campaign ran from October 3 (second day of the giveaway) to October 17.
  • The Kindle Book Review HOT Title of the Day: On October 9, “Sleeping Beauty” was featured as “Today’s HOT Title” (it had to average a four stars in reviews on Amazon to qualify). In addition to the feature on KBR’s website, I bought a package that got it tweeted. Tweets were sent by KBR and its owner, Amazon besting author, Jeff Bennington on a daily basis (and continue through the end of this month).

This is easily the most amount of promotion I’ve done for anything I’ve published in my very short career as an indie author. So what sort of returns did I get? At least in terms of hard numbers, not much.

The last free event saw me give away 128 copies of “Sleeping Beauty” in the US, and 17 in the UK. Since it ended, I’ve sold six copies in the US, and one in the UK. I gave away two copies in Germany but have garnered no additional sales there. France, Italy, and Spain were total washouts on giveaways and sales.

At first, the sales in the US were worth monitoring. I was getting about one a day, so it was fun to update my sales reports to see if anything had happened. But it’s been a couple days without a sale now, so I’m thinking the momentum, such as it was, it pretty much over. I do know that at least one sale was directly due to my promotional efforts. One person retweeted Jeff Bennington with the comment that the story sounded great and then announced she’d purchased it. Beyond that, though, I don’t know whether buyers came to the book through my network (I’ve been tweeting it too), or whether it was a result of my reaching new people through advertising.

So far as intangible results are concerned, there are some measureable benefits. First is the extension of my brand. Between the enormous number of tweets sent out by the volunteers at the WLC and those sent to the large network of followers by Bennington and DBT, a lot more people saw an ad for “Sleeping Beauty” by John Phythyon than ever had. In terms of raising top-of-mind awareness for my brand, the advertising definitely helped.

I also earned two more four-star reviews on Amazon. Both were very complimentary and spoke not just to their enjoyment of the story but of its technical excellence (editing, story construction, voice, and cover). That will help sell some books down the road.

I also sold a copy of State of Grace on Smashwords. I have no idea if that is related to this promotion at all. There is a teaser sample of State of Grace in “Sleeping Beauty,” but you would think if that sold a copy of the novel, the sale would have occurred on Amazon. It’s possible, I suppose the buyer found my website through the advertising I’ve been doing and then made the purchase at Smashwords.

Analyzing all this data is difficult. I remain, a new and largely unknown author. It is hard to know what I should be expecting in terms of sales, even after advertising. One also gets the sense that the market is shifting. Has the size of the potential pie shrunk? I don’t know.

As the son of a scientist, I know that you cannot conduct an experiment one time and reach conclusive results. I am certain I will advertise again. I haven’t explored Facebook advertising yet, and, with Once Upon A Time airing again on ABC, there is a lot of potential crossover there. Moreover, the advertising that I didn’t wasn’t terribly expensive. The most expensive campaign was $50.

However, the return in the investment this time is dubious. Hopefully, I am laying a foundation for future success and not just throwing money away. I’ll blog on this again in the future, when I have more information.

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