I am an actor and longtime audiobook narrator who decided to try my hand at writing back in 2016, turning a dust-collecting screenplay of mine into a novel. Zombie Bigfoot hit #1 in Horror Comedy on Amazon, yet I found myself drawn to another story that had been kicking around inside my skull. The result was Deep Shadow, Book One of The Deep Series — an action-adventure thriller that performed better than my wildest expectations.
Now, four books later, I’m starting to learn a trick or two regarding marketing. I am not an expert by any means. I’ve scoured Kboards, read posts by Wayne Stinnett, poured over books by David Gaughran, and watched podcasts by Mark Dawson just like everybody else. And using all the tips I learned along the way, I was able to launch Deep Devil, Book Four in The Deep Series, so successfully, I surpassed my revenue goals by far. And now, I want to pay it forward.
In this post, I’ll walk you through my preorder strategy for Book Four, the timing of my promotions that led to its release, how I stacked ads during the preorder period, how I ran the launch itself, and, finally, how I sustained momentum. I can only tell you what seems to have worked for me — at least, this time around!
First, full disclosure: I’m a slow writer. I started The Deep Series in 2018 and I’m only now starting my fifth book in the series. I’m still narrating audiobooks, so my focus is split. I mention this because the best sales strategy is simply to write more books and release them more often! When I talk numbers, please keep in mind I’m a one-a-year guy at the moment.
Chapter One: The Preorder
For the longest time, I’ve subscribed to the notion that lengthy preorders kill launch day sales rank. And… okay, it does a little. But is your goal a screenshot of your ranking in a category, or is it to sell books? I had heard from more and more authors who were lengthening their preorder period, and when Amazon offered me a Kindle Deal (US and Canada) on Deep Shadow (Book One) in October 2020, I decided to get the preorder of Book Four up in time for the Kindle Deal, even though I didn’t intend to launch it for another six months. It was a scramble, but I managed to get a beautiful cover into place and devoted several hours to coming up with a good product description, which I tweaked once I had more of the story.
Quick description tip: Always start your product description with a hook and bold-face it.
Next, I jumped onto Book Brush and created new banners for both Deep Shadow (to boost the Kindle Deal) and for the new book, Deep Devil. I wanted everything in place once I pulled the preorder trigger.
Once the preorder was live and I had an active KDP product, I immediately took these steps:
- Updated the backmatter of Book Three, adding a teaser and a direct link to buy Book Four.
- Called KDP and added eight more categories to both the paperback and the Kindle editions. (When you set up your book in KDP, you provide two categories, but you can contact Amazon and get up to 10.)
- Popped a new graphic onto all my social media headers that included Book Four.
- Fired off a newsletter and a flurry of social media posts about the new book.
I wanted it to be ranking well if spotted by a Kindle Deal shopper looking at the whole series during October. As the Kindle Deal started, my promo stack on Book One began. It was too soon after running a US BookBub Featured Deal a few months prior to submit the book for another one, but I did submit (and get selected for!) an international Featured Deal. Then I piled on a number of non-BookBub promos. I also ran a Facebook Ad campaign promoting Deep Shadow’s $0.99 price.
Chapter Two: The Lead-up to Launch — Pumping Up the Rest of the Series
The Kindle Deal was moderately successful, and I decided to keep up some buzz on Book One by running a holiday Chirp Deal for it, bolstering its three-week sale period with BookBub Ads targeting audiobook listeners (more budget-friendly than the standard ebook reader targeting). Although the rest of the series is exclusive to Audible, I decided to make Book One wide, so I could Chirp it, and get it into libraries. The Chirp Deal sold about 1,500 copies. Late in January 2021, I hired Aurora Publicity to create new AMS ad campaigns across the series — I had felt that AMS had been “getting away from me” and figured it was one area where I could afford to let someone else put in the time.
Finally, I sent up a prayer to the heavens and tried for a $0.99 BookBub Featured Deal on Book One. I’d had one last May, so I wasn’t expecting it… and I was right. No luck. Now, I’d never done a free promotion on a book. I hadn’t had enough readthrough to justify it, and there was also the psychological element: I worked hard on this book; why should I give it away for free?? But I decided that four books provided decent readthrough and for the first time I requested one. And I got it. Now what?
Off to Kboards I went, researching what folks did to stack freebie promotions, and here’s what I ended up doing:
- Set up a Countdown Deal at $1.99 on Book Two to coincide with the free promo.
- Manually changed the KDP price of Book Three to $2.99 (to save a Countdown Deal on it for another time).
- Set up five days of Free Promotion on KDP, with the BookBub deal on the middle day.
- Picked several of the best non-BookBub promos I could find: Robin Reads and my newsletter on day 1, Freebooksy and Book Adrenaline on day 2, BookBub Featured Deal on day 3, then tailed off with BookDoggy on day 4, and ENT and eReaderIQ on day 5.
- Experimented with running BookBub Ads.
The results? 41,000 free downloads, 235 ebooks/paperbacks sold, and 170 audiobooks sold! Deep Shadow hit #3 in the Kindle Free Store and came back to $5.99 at a rank of 5,200. Book Two jumped from 34,000 to 2,100 the day the BookBub Featured Deal ran, and Book Three jumped from 31,000 to 9,000. Even the unreleased Book Four jumped from 144,000 to 7,000. Kindle Unlimited page reads nearly quadrupled and stayed high for months. And in the days that followed, sales of the rest of the series spiked. I will never doubt “free” again.
Chapter 3: The Lead-up Continues
I was zooming along writing Book Four and knew I could release it in April. In the meantime, I ran these promotions:
- Started a new Facebook ad campaign using a video, showing all four books with a blurb about each. (You can see the video on Book One’s Amazon page.)
- Reached out to authors in my genre who I’m friends with (be friends, not rivals — or at least “friendly rivals”). Several offered to read Deep Devil and post about it.
- Sent two newsletters a month to my subscribers.
- Posted to social media.
- Lined up some audiobook reviewers, because they can get booked up quickly and I wanted them available once I narrated it.
Thirty days after my previous BookBub deal, I said another prayer and loaded up my Partners dashboard. I’d already had a Featured Deal on Book Two, but had never promoted Book Three on BookBub or anywhere else. I said as much in the comments section of my BookBub Featured Deal submission and asked for a $0.99 deal. Again, I got lucky! April 7! Six days after the release of Book Four. I set up a Kindle Countdown deal on Book Three (remember, I manually dropped the price last time) and a promo stack for two days prior and two days after, using even more promo sites this time, since Book Three had never been promoted before.
Chapter 4: The New Release
When Book Four came back from the editor, I fired up my Partners dashboard again and decided to go for a BookBub Featured New Release (now New Releases for Less), the weekly newsletter targeting a whole category of readers. I got one… but on April 13, nearly two weeks after launch. I’m guessing the previous Tuesday had been full. So, I was faced with the challenge of keeping my rankings high from April 1 to April 13. But in more good news, Book One was nominated for a Kindle Deal sometime between May 1 and June 30. This made pricing tricky since you’re not supposed to futz with the price of the potential Kindle Deal book before the deal occurs. I decided to take a chance and do it anyway. I lowered the prices of Books One and Two to $2.99 the day before Book Four came out. I left Book Three alone because I wanted the maximum “discount” to be reflected when its $0.99 BookBub Featured Deal landed on April 7.
Here’s what else I did to promote the launch:
- Set up another Facebook Ad Campaign for the entire series.
- Ran BookBub Ads for the whole series to run from release day of Book Four all the way to two days after BookBub’s new release promotion.
- Sent two newsletters (on launch and two weeks later).
- Made several social media posts (on launch and two weeks after).
I’d kept Book Four priced at $2.99 during the preorder period because I’d hoped to keep a steady stream of purchases to keep the rank high. It hit bestseller status several times during that lengthy period. Also, offering a lower price any time during the preorder means everyone who’d already preordered would get it at that price… and I had a final plan: my last newsletter, right before release, said, “Thank you for being loyal readers, you’ll get it at the low price, but get it now because it’s going up tomorrow!” That gave me a final spike before release. My total preorders for Book Four were triple what Book Three had been. For release day I upped the price to $3.99. I didn’t want to go much higher because I wanted to sustain rank until BookBub’s new release promotion.
Chapter 5: The Weeks That Followed
Deep Devil debuted ranking at 2,900. Even though ranking wasn’t my primary goal… was I disappointed? Sure, a little — Deep Shadow had premiered at 452. But that’s because I released it at $0.99 with a ton of promos. I made so much more money from Book Four’s release at a lesser rank, and I still had plenty of pretty bestseller badges in some of the smaller categories. Sales continued strongly over the following days, and then Book Three’s Featured Deal went out on April 7. That book hit 69 in the Kindle Store, and sales of the other books spiked. Deep Devil benefited greatly as well, nearly reaching its release day rank again.
When BookBub’s new release promotion went out on April 13, Deep Devil jumped to 1,693 and stayed under 10,000 for a month. Even now, over two months later with all ebooks back to full price, sales are good. Kindle Unlimited Reads are between two and three times higher than before.
First — and I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a blog post for BookBub — BookBub is one of the most powerful arrows in the self-pub author’s quiver. In fact, I deliberately held off applying for any BookBubs or using any Countdown Deals in December and January because I had hoped to do exactly what I was lucky enough to do: stack multiple BookBub promos on top of a new release.
Second, I may set my next release day far in the future again, even if I could get it out faster, on the off chance I can land another BookBub promo to boost the latest book, adjusting the release date to coincide.
Finally, you only get so many release days, especially if you deliver at a glacial pace like me, so make each one count. I spent quite a bit more money than I had before, and that was a blind cliff-leap for me. Non-BookBub promos on top of already pricey BookBub promos, Facebook ads, AMS ads, and BookBub Ads; it really added up. But April and May were by far my two strongest sales months yet. Weekly audiobook sales jumped too, and even paperbacks are going out the door at double their previous rate, even after increasing their price by a dollar apiece!
I hope this has been helpful! I’ve certainly benefited from posts like this in the past, and I’m guessing some of what I’ve suggested will be beneficial to other authors. But what do you think? Would you have done anything differently? Let me know in the comments below!
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Click to tweet: Wow, this is helpful — author @NicktheSullivan shared a complete timeline of how he launched and promoted the fourth book in a series. #WritingCommunity https://bit.ly/3i1xgpP
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