Let’s face it—finding readers for your book can be an uphill battle. But sometimes all you need is a few sales or downloads to boost reviews or visibility, and thankfully, there’s a simple way to do that: putting your eBook on sale and promoting it.
I consider a price drop promotion as consisting of two(ish) steps:
1. The actual price drop of the eBook, usually to $0.99 or free, and . . .
2. Advertising the sale
through paid promotional media, namely purchasing ads through websites that specialize in promoting eBook sales to massive mailing lists of readers
on BookBub or via Facebook ads
to your mailing list, social media accounts, or via events.
This article is mostly about that first bullet, paying several eBook promotion companies to advertise your eBook to their subscribers—a technique popularly referred to as promo stacking. And what makes this such a powerful tool for new or occasionally-publishing authors is that these companies organize their lists according to the reading interests of their subscribers.
A subscriber sees discounted books in only those categories they signed up for. This improves the chance of a sale, and reviews, if written, are from readers that know and like your type of book.
(Note that these temporary price-drop sales are for eBooks only, not print books.)
If you’re a beginner to scheduling and advertising a price drop promotion, this article will walk you through the basics.
Table of Contents
- Five reasons to consider a price promotion
- Free or paid sale?
- Promoting with or without KDP Select
- The basics of scheduling, booking, and managing a price drop promotion using a promo stack
- Pre-promo checklist
- Recording and analyzing your results
- Seven more quick tips for making the most of your price promotion
- Conclusion and final thoughts
1. Five reasons to consider a price promotion
A price drop lasts one to seven days, and can have the following results:
- Increased book visibility. Amazon’s algorithm notices what books are selling well and can boost your title to more potential readers. If you are also running Amazon Ads, your ads may be shown to more people.
- Finding new readers. There are two ways a price promotion can help you find new readers. First, if Amazon boosts your book, it’ll show up to readers looking at books similar to yours. Second, if you use a promo site, the readers on that site’s mailing lists are probably not your usual readers, meaning they might not otherwise find your book and/or they are price sensitive. A related benefit in both scenarios is that these readers are more likely to appreciate your book.
- Reviews, reviews, reviews. Authors know how valuable honest reviews are to their book’s Amazon page. More downloads means an increased chance of nabbing those gold stars.
- Extra sales. We call these residual sales, in which a book will sell paperback copies during an eBook sale, or even sell additional eBook copies at full price after the promotion is over. If any of your books are enrolled in Amazon’s KDP Select, you also receive payment for the number of Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) read. (For more information about KDP Select, read our article “Should You Use Amazon KDP Select or Distribute Your Book Wide?”.)
- Advantages for authors with a book series, multiple titles, or a new release. A promo is a great way to boost author visibility, get readers interested in your series or genre, or generate buzz for an upcoming release. For example, you could use promo stacking to advertise a discounted pre-order before the book is released.
Note that I didn’t mention making a profit. In our experience, beginners don’t have the name recognition of established authors, so it’s harder to attain the sales level and KENP reading volume to pay the cost of advertising. Consider this a marketing expense and you’ll feel much better about the investment.
2. Free or paid sale?
As a general rule, we suggest you avoid setting your sale price anywhere north of $0.99. Traditionally published books may go on sale for more than that, but if you are a self-published author, $0.99 (or free) returns the best results.
Some promo sites won’t accept books over 99 cents, and others charge extra for more expensive books. Some companies charge more to promote free books, while others charge less. Some base their ad cost on the price of the book, while others have larger email lists for free books and therefore will charge more for those ads.
There are many variations!
In our experience, free books generate the most downloads (makes sense, right?). Note that genre, cover, book description, author brand, and other variables will influence the success of any sale. But I can say with confidence that a free sale is the best way to fast-track downloads.
If this is your first book, a free sale is a good way to jump-start the reading of your book. Later, when your book is more established (with reviews), consider a 99-cent sale.
Authors with a stronger platform don’t have to offer their book for free to attract readers. It depends on your goals.
And finally, it isn’t possible to drop your book’s price to free if it is not part of KDP Select, Amazon’s 90-day exclusive-to-Amazon marketing program.
TIP: Is your book’s usual price 99 cents? You can still advertise it, even if you’re not running a sale. The same process applies, but you won’t have to drop your price.
3. Promoting with or without KDP Select
Is your book enrolled in KDP Select?
This means your eBook is exclusively available on Amazon, and you get special Amazon-related benefits (see our popular article “Should You Use Amazon KDP Select or Distribute Your Book Wide?”).
If you said yes, scheduling your price drop is super easy—one of the KDP Select perks is being able to schedule one of two types of sales every three months:
- A Free Book Promotion of five days. These days can be spread out or consecutive.
- A Kindle Countdown Deal, in which you can discount your eBook for a period of one to seven days. During this period, the price can start low and be increased at intervals. (We rarely do this; we drop the price one time and raise it at the end of the sale.)
During a Kindle Countdown Deal, customers will see the regular and the discounted prices of your book, as well as a countdown clock with the time left on the deal.
- Royalties: Your sale price does not affect your royalty rate during this sale period. For example, if you were getting 70% before the sale and you offer your eBook for 99 cents, you’ll receive 70% of 99 cents.
- Pre-sale price requirement: Also note that your regular price before the sale must be $2.99–$24.99 to qualify for a Kindle Countdown Deal.
You can set up a sale by clicking on “Marketing and Promotion” next to your eBook listing in KDP. Make sure you pick dates within your KDP Select term, and schedule it at least a few days in advance. But, as you’ll learn, planning your promo at least a month in advance is ideal.
Is your book not enrolled in KDP Select?
In this case, you have to manually drop your price.
If your eBook is available in other stores or through an aggregator, you need to drop the price in those stores as well. While many promo companies only ask for your book’s Amazon listing information, others have optional fields to include links to your book on other sites like Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.
We recommend changing the price of your book least two days before your sale begins. Once your sale is over, go back into your KDP account and change the price back to your regular price.
Some aggregators offer a way to automatically schedule a price drop. Draft2Digital and PublishDrive are two such examples.
Set reminders on your phone so you don’t forget!
Note that there are price limitations on Amazon for eBooks not enrolled in KDP Select:
- You cannot offer your book for free.
- Depending on the file size of your eBook, you may not be able to drop your price to $0.99. Larger eBooks (those with lots of images, for example) have a minimum price of either $1.99 or $2.99.
You can find more detailed information regarding file size and minimum list prices for non-KDP Select eBooks here on Amazon's List Price Requirements help page.
4. The basics of scheduling, booking, and managing a price drop promotion using a promo stack
Ideally, you should be planning a promo stack about a month in advance. Some promo sites book up fast, and you don’t want to be scrambling for a spot because you waited too long.
I suggest setting aside a couple of hours to prepare, making sure you have everything you need before starting.
TIP: If you’re just getting started with promotions, try booking one promo site per day. Then, at the end of the sale period, you can see which promo sites performed the best based on the number of sales per day. (It isn’t a perfectly accurate measurement due to possible spillover from previous days, but they’ll give you a rough idea of the efficacy of the companies you used.)
You’ll also want think about ways to promote your sale outside of promo sites.
Do you have any of the following?
- A mailing list
- A personal website or blog
- Social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter)
These are excellent, free ways to promote your book. Dedicate a portion of your planning time to these free channels. Schedule, for example, newsletters to your mailing list the week before and/or the week of your sale, and post on social media throughout your sale.
Additional (paid) advertising
Also consider running ads during the sale period. The most popular advertising channels for this purpose are BookBub and Facebook due to how quickly ads can be created and delivered to readers.
This type of advertising is beyond the scope of this article. Visit BookBub to learn more about their ad options; and stop by Facebook for step-by-step instructions on ad campaigns.
5. Pre-promo checklist
Each promo site is slightly different, but most ask for the same key details when you book your promo. I suggest gathering all this information in one directory on your computer to save time.
- Basic info. This includes your book title, subtitle, and author name.
- Description. Some sites have strict character limits, so have short, medium, and long versions on hand.
URLs of where your book is available for sale. Many sites only ask for the Amazon link, but some ask for any other retailers (e.g., Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Kobo).
- ASIN (Amazon Standard Identification Number, like an ISBN for your eBook. It is found under Product Details on your book’s Amazon page).
- Book cover. Size requirements vary, so start with a large size and resize it as needed.
- Number of reviews, and star rating (from Amazon but sometimes Goodreads). Note that some sites require your book has minimum number of reviews.
- Goodreads link, if available.
- Author photo.
- Payment information.
- Sale specific information: sale dates, other sites you are booking, etc.
TIP: Finding it hard to keep track of your sale info? Try recording everything in a single Excel spreadsheet that you can reference each time you schedule a sale.
6. Recording and analyzing your results
So your sale is over—now what?
The first step is, of course, to record the number of sales. Log into KDP and any other accounts that collect sales data. We jot down the number of sales per day, so we know roughly which promo sites performed the best.
While there, note any full-price sales outside the promo dates, and maybe even sales for your other books, if applicable. These residual sales (those that occur because of a promotion) may not happen with every promo, but they sure are nice to see. If your eBook is part of KDP Select, also check out your KENP numbers to see if you’ve gotten royalties from pages read.
The better your recordkeeping, the better your future sales promotions can be. Your downloads and KENP will show you how effective your selected promo sites and marketing strategies were.
For an in-depth look at how a first-time, self-published author used price drop promotions to rocket his book to success, read David Wogahn’s interview with Derrick Smythe: Book Launch Marketing Case Study—The Other Magic by Derrick Smythe.
An important thing to remember about using promo sites is that your first sale will probably be your best—the effectiveness of promo sites tends to dwindle each time you use them.
For that reason, plan your first promo well, and for your second, try using different sites.
Seven more quick tips for making the most of your price promotion
This is the time to take advantage of all marketing tools at your disposal. A sale is the perfect excuse to promote (or re-promote) your book to your audience. Everyone loves a good deal!
- Think like a retailer! Just like in the offline world, you can use holidays, current events, and other worldly happenings as excuses to run a promotion. A Labor Day sale, for example.
- Coordinate with other authors to promote each other’s books (i.e., a newsletter swap).
- For authors of multiple books, consider rotating and promoting one book per month.
- Try both a paid (99 cents) and a free sale, but with a few months in between.
- Join the mailing lists of popular self-published authors and learn how they use promo stacks and other price-drop promotions.
- Reach out to friends and family to help spread the word.
- Set up a sale around the time of an event, such as a speaking engagement, book signing, or launch party.
Conclusion and final thoughts
An eBook price drop promotion is an opportunity to sell books, gain readership, and boost overall awareness of your book—especially on Amazon. But you must plan carefully:
- Set aside ample time to plan.
- Book with promo sites that best fit your book and budget.
- Mine your network for unpaid promotion opportunities.
- After your sale, note downloads and other data.
- Record everything—and you’ll have the know-how to make your next sale better than the first.
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