We’ve written in the past about using pricing as a promotional tool, and you may already be aware that discounting your book for a limited time can lead to increased sales, greater visibility, and a host of other benefits. But what about giving away your book for free?
The debate around the value of a free ebook promotion includes impassioned opinions from successful indie authors, leading publishers, and industry thought leaders. Here at BookBub, after featuring thousands of free ebooks in our daily email, we believe that while free may not be right for everyone, it can work phenomenally well to accomplish certain marketing goals.
We’ve outlined some of these goals below, with the hope that they’ll help our partners decide whether to test this strategy on their own titles:
1. Marketing A Series
A free price promotion can be a very effective way for publishers and authors to market their backlist — particularly if the featured book is part of a series. More than 75 percent of our authors have reported that sales of their other titles increase after a free promotion, with an average gain of over 100 percent. (Tweet this stat!) And this increase is significantly higher when the discounted book is part of a series.
Our subscriber data also suggests that readers will seek out an author’s other titles if they enjoy a book they download for free. In fact, more than 60 percent of survey respondents said they’ve gone on to buy other books written by the same author after downloading a free title from BookBub. (Tweet this stat!) So while a free discount can be a valuable strategy in a number of situations, it is an especially effective way to hook readers on a series they can’t put down.
2. Increasing Full-Price Sales
Counter to many claims about free ebook deals, the vast majority of these promotions result in a significant jump in full-priced sales post-promotion. In fact, more than 85 percent of authors reported that sales of the promoted book were higher in the days following their BookBub deal, with an average increase of over 65 percent. (Tweet this stat!)
When looking specifically at books that are part of a series, full-price sales of the featured book more than triple after the promotion. As we saw above, a free promotion regularly leads to increased sales on the other books in a series, but this data suggests that sales on the featured title are likely to rise as well.
What this means is that, in addition to long-term gains in exposure, free promotions typically lead to real revenue boosts in the short-term.
3. Growing Your Audience
It’s not unusual for free promotions to result in dramatic spikes in downloads. In fact, free titles featured on BookBub can drive tens of thousands of downloads, generating response rates from our subscribers that are over 10 times higher than those for non-free titles. These new readers are often those who likely would not have discovered the book otherwise, and they can be tremendously valuable for authors who are trying to build a platform, or to launch a series that hasn’t gained traction yet.
But most importantly, there’s a good chance that if a reader likes the book, they’ll tell their friends about it. Over 65 percent of our survey respondents said that they’ve recommended a book to a friend after downloading it for free from BookBub. (Tweet this stat!) So while the short-term effects of a free discount are important in driving a spike in downloads, the long-term impact can be invaluable by helping an author build an audience of loyal and engaged readers.
4. Increasing Exposure and Reviews
Over 70 percent of our partners reported that concrete measures of exposure — such as reviews, Facebook likes, and email list signups — increased after their BookBub promotion. (Tweet this stat!) And because free books drive over 10 times the downloads of non-free books, you can expect significantly more visibility with a free promotion. In fact, authors who promoted a free title with us were over 20 percent more likely to report that measures of exposure increased than those who featured a non-free discount.
Additionally, many titles featured on BookBub climb to the #1 spot on Amazon’s Kindle free bestseller list, virtually all of them reach the top 20, and the majority hit #1 on various category lists. Free titles that are available at other retailers regularly hit bestseller lists there as well. This type of visibility leads to additional downloads from readers outside of BookBub’s subscriber base, and helps generate buzz for the book, series, and author.
Our testing has shown that readers respond better to books with a large number of reviews and accolades (including bestseller statuses), so while these marketing achievements are less quantifiable than short-term return on investment, they can play a crucial role in boosting a title’s sales over time.
Based on these results, we believe authors and publishers looking to promote a series or to inject some life into a new or stagnating title should consider a free promotion.
We should note that simply offering a book for free likely won’t lead to the results described above, since your promotion could get lost amidst the numerous other discounts happening at any given time. Our data is based off books that were featured in the BookBub email, which aims to help our partners stand out by alerting over five million readers to the fact that your book is discounted.
Want to share this post? Here are ready-made tweets:
Click to tweet: Do Free Ebook Promotions Really Work? http://bit.ly/1Fmzm67 by @conradscoville at @BookBubPartners #bookmarketing (Spoiler: yes!)
Click to tweet: 75% of @BookBubPartners increase sales of their other books after a free ebook promotion w/ an average gain of >100%. http://bit.ly/1Fmzm67
Click to tweet: After downloading a free book from @BookBub, 60% of readers buy other books by the same author. http://bit.ly/1Fmzm67 #bookmarketing