Fiction book launch strategies continued (Shearwater part 2)

I wrote a huge book launch post a couple weeks ago about the launch of my first ever fiction.

I still feel exhausted, even though I haven’t done all that much in the last couple weeks.

But now it’s time for part two: what happens after launch.

Basically, I want my book to stay in the top 10,000 in the paid Kindle section.

That’s enough to keep my book in the top 20 of its category (and if you’re not in the top 20, you’re not visible).

There are other things I should consider… like boosting natural traffic, getting more mentions, reaching out to more reviewers and bloggers, etc. I want to focus on long term stuff, not paid promotions or advertising.*

I was doing fine at 99cents, averaging 15 or 20 sales a day and staying above 10K.

But I changed the price to 2.99, and I’m a little higher than 10K now, and lost my “top 20” advantage.

That’s disappointing… because some books “stick” with much fewer reviews (mine has 69 already).

But part of that is because it’s my first book and I don’t have a huge platform. All the stuff I did for Shearwater, I’ll keep doing for each book. I’ll launch every month, and by the end of the year my “stickiness” feature should be greatly enhanced.

But what to do right now?

Firstly, I’m doing another free campaign. I only used 2 of my 5 KDP free days. So I’m using the other 3. I notified a bunch of free book sites, but didn’t get a chance to advertise on the main, big ones (which you need to schedule a month or two in advance). Still, I’d like to get a lot of downloads. I got about 2000 in the first round, I’d love to get 5000 this time.

I set the price up to $2.99 because the discount during the free days will look more attractive.

After that, I have a special promotion with Kindle Book Promotions. I’m hoping after the free promotion and then this new one, the $2.99 price point sticks a little better. But if not, no big deal.

Because is just the first book in a potential series. It would be nice if it stuck, but the important thing is reaching more readers and getting them hooked, so they buy more books in the series later.

On the 13th, when the book was free, I started doing Facebook and Instagram advertising. But I got impatient. I wanted big results, quickly.
So I decided to test out another service I’ve had my eye on, called the “Free Book Service.”

For $189, they’ll get you 5000 downloads of your free book.

Firstly, the risks:

  • It’ll screw up your ‘also bought’ sections.
  • They’re not real people, probably bots or fake accounts
  • It’s possible that Amazon will get upset or something

Those are not insignificant concerns. But since this is my first book, and it’s just the first half, and I’m just learning and testing things so that when I launch the full book later this year I can make it a smash bestseller, I thought it would b worth testing.

The potential benefits are these:

  • If I can get those 5000 downloads, I’ll get up really high in the free store, maybe even in the top 100. That should give me an extra 5000 downloads of actual people. And I want those people. That’s why I’m giving the book away for free: to try and attract new readers and get them on my email list. I could/should pay for advertising on actual free book sites, and it probably would have been cheaper, and more targeted. I’ll do that later, for other books. But I wanted to try this one.


So far so good. Those 5000 downloads kicked in quickly, and I’m #8 out of the whole Kindle store – and #3 out of all the Teen and Young Adult category. I might have been higher but I slept for a few hours.

free kindle book promotion how to promote a free kindle book

Last time I did a free campaign, I hit #1 in my categories, with about 1600 downloads – a lot of those were people already on my email list, and a little bit of paid advertising, but the point of a free book is to attract a lot of new readers (and ideally, without marketing or spending a lot of money on it).

Right now I have almost 7000 downloads. 5K of those I paid for, so they’re basically worthless, but 2K should be new readers who are taking a chance on the book – and now that I’m ranked so highly, I hope I’ll get several thousand more in the next 2 days.

Comparison to Facebook ads: Facebook ads are definitely better about reaching the right readers. And I haven’t tried doing a really, really good free campaign with paid advertising, but it’s reasonable to expect to pay around .50 per click. So 400 clicks would costs about $200 – and result in maybe 200 downloads – not enough to move the needle that much. Those 200 readers will be real readers, but if I can pay $189, get to the top of the Kindle store and get a couple thousand real readers to try out my book, that’s pretty good too.

Improving my Amazon page

One thing that’s killing me, is having a negative 2-star review on my book’s main page. I’ve written before about how I think negative reviews are most likely to be voted most helpful, by people who agree with the themes and issues but probably haven’t actually read the book, and are therefore also misleading. I have 70 reviews, and 3 negative ones. But the negative reviews have more votes so they show up first. So I sent an email to my list and asked them to upvote other, positive reviews instead.

That could be a huge mistake.

This is a really sensitive issue. Ideally my fans will understand what I’m asking, and if 20 (0ut of 400) do it, then that negative review won’t show up on the first page. But since my list is new and I don’t have a long relationship with them, there are probably some skeptics on my list, maybe even a few people who hated Shearwater. Maybe even the original reviewer of that review!

So it’s possible that someone will be hugely offended, and raise a banner against me, and asking for this will have the opposite effect – getting tons of upvotes for that negative review instead (if so… that sucks, but it’s already there, so trying to get rid of it seems like a reasonable thing to do).

Here’s the message I sent out.

I’m pretty happy with how Shearwater is doing, I’ll announce results of the mermaid giveaway soon, and it raised several hundred dollars for manatee.

It’s free again on Amazon (and #8 out of the entire Kindle store) so if you know anybody who might like it, please share.

If you liked Shearwater, please leave a review.

Also, a request:
Although most of the reviews are positive, there is one negative review that shows up on the front page for the book. It’s an honest, fair review, but showing it first rather than the 60+ other reviews seems misleading to me. If you’ve read the book and liked it, please help me out by clicking the “Yes” button next to “was this review helpful to you” for some of the other reviews instead.

It’s hard enough getting readers to take a chance on a new author and I think showing that review first is scaring people away (on the other hand, if you agree with that negative review more than all the positive ones, I totally understand! I don’t want you to do anything dodgy or misleading).


I hope you’ll agree it’s fair, but I’m nervous until I see the results. There are also services that can do this, upvote or downvote reviews, and it might have been smarter to quietly use one of those instead of asking fans to do something like this. But while I understand this can seem dodgy, I think it’s less controversial to ask actual readers to do it, if they want to. All you’re doing is making them aware of the issue – if they disagree with the negative review, they’ll be happy to help. If they agree with it, then they won’t help and the review stays. It depends on the book and the readers.

Valentine’s Day

I didn’t exactly do this one purpose, but because of my free promo I’m still really high in the ranks on V-day. I’m still #20 on the whole kindle store – so just barely on the first page. But I’m #1 in ALL of Paranormal Romance.




On Valentine’s Day.

So that was cool. After the nearly 8,000 downloads I got on the first free day (5,000 of those were the fake ones I bought), I got another 1000 on the next two days, because I was so high up on Amazon and got a lot of exposure. So that went well.

Back to paid…

I went back to paid at $2.99.

Previously I’d been at 99cents, and was pretty sure when I upped the price, sales would drop and I’d disappear, which is usually the problem – with less sales, you stop showing up on the first page of your category, which leads to less sales… you keep dropping until you get zero sales.

So I’m pleasantly surprised that so far today, sales have been going up.

I started at around 8000 in paid and am closer to 7000 now – and #15 in my category, which keeps me on the first page. If I can stay there, I’m golden! But I’m doing another push tomorrow, with Kindle Book Promotions, that will boost me up higher. Then, I’ll be done with this launch, and focus on other books for a few months. Ideally this book will stick and stay visible, but if not I won’t force it.

2/17 – my rank continues dropping; I’m under 5000 now, and I don’t think the new promotion has even kicked in yet. My suspicion is, people with Kindle Unlimited might prefer a $2.99 book to a 99cent book, because it’s all the same to them but feels like they’re getting a better deal.

On second thought, I think the promotion has kicked in. I can tell, because my “Also Boughts” are all fucked up. There’s some cowboy erotica, alien romance, non-fiction books on decluttering, something on slow cooking, another on the US government’s greatest hits, meditation for beginners, a paleo diet book… in short, it’s a mess.

My guess is, these are all the other indie authors who have bought the same promotion on.

And previously, my also boughts were pretty awesome. The also boughts tell readers where you belong, and who your peers are. If they see a lot of great books in your also boughts, they know you keep good company. Although having messy, random also boughts might not hurt, they could, and I’m hoping they go away pretty quickly once I get some more sales by real people who actually enjoy my genre.

However, it did get my rank from 5000 up to 2500. And it put me just in front of Kiera Cass’s The Siren – the book I consider my arch-rival (in a positive way), the standard I’m trying to live up to. So I got to post some fun pics on Twitter and Instagram.

mermaid book bestsellers


I also got listed in the “hot new releases.”


Maintenance mode

I was doing pretty well for a few days, staying at 5000 without any effort. Now I’d like to stay at 2000 or better. The trick is getting it to climb upwards without screwing anything up so that it falls.

My previous assumption, was that a 99cent book would equal more sales, and a better sales rank, even if it doesn’t earn as much. That might not be true. Now I’m thinking, 2.99 looks like a better book, especially for people in Kindle Unlimited. So a 99cent price point might result in less sales or borrow. But I’m going to try it anyway.

I also added ***99 cents for a limited time!*** to the top of the description.

I LOVE watching my page reads grow in Kindle Unlimited, and I think I have the type of books that keep people reading.

In my understanding of KU, authors are paid a flat rate per page read, regardless of the price I set for the book. So I THINK, if a 99cent price keeps the rank higher, leading to more sales and borrows, and more people read more pages, I’ll earn more than I would at 2.99. (That may not be true, I’ll keep testing).


I just hit 6k page reads. I think they’re paying $0.00411 per page read as of early 2016.

If I got 6k page reads every day, that would equal $739.80 per month.

Which is fan-freaking-tastic.

Because remember, this is just part one of the first book in a series – and I’m publishing at least 5 more this year, maybe 10. Followed by 20 more in the next couple of years.

I’ll be happy if I can make a consistent $1000 a month off my writing, but my end-game plan is $10,000 a month. I wasn’t planning on getting anywhere near that until I have lots of full books out. But who knows.

Of course I spent a lot, and keep spending a lot, on launching these books. But if they stick, and earn consistent passive income forEVER, that would be great. Of course that doesn’t happy. But if they earn enough so that I can just keep writing more books, that’s great too.

About Derek Murphy

I help authors and artists turn their passions into full-time businesses, make a bigger impact, and blaze a luminous trail of creative independence. Right now I'm in Taiwan finishing a PHD in Literature, writing several books, and managing a handful of online businesses. Find me

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