How to use Amazon’s giveaway feature to spike sales rank and sell more books

Edit: This didn’t work for awhile, but right now (4/26) it DOES work – you can set up a giveaway for 1000 people, get 1000 people to claim it, and you should end up in the top 100 of Amazon.

When I first heard of Amazon’s new giveaway feature I was skeptical.

People can sign up for the giveaway by following you on Twitter or Amazon – neither of which are great. When you’re starting out, you want to get strangers on your email list to build your relationship. And there are other, better giveaway tools for that, like KingSumo or UpViral.

I’m also unconvinced that having a lot of people follow you on Amazon is a great idea, because you can’t control it. It’s also pretty new, and it seems like maybe Amazon emails your followers when you publish something new, but Amazon changes frequently, who’s to say it’ll even be around in a couple years?

Again, better to get them on your email list.

However – I run giveaways on Goodreads because I know it’s an active community and the giveaways will reach new readers outside of my network. I didn’t think Amazon did that, so I didn’t see the value in the giveaways. But an author friend recently told me they’d gotten a lot of signups for their Amazon giveaway without much promotion.

If an Amazon giveaway reaches new readers, it might be worthwhile, so I decided to test it.

First, I gave away a bunch of cheap ebooks.

Why I like it

It’s easy.

It may not be the best giveaway option in the world, but you don’t need a website or any 3rd party software. You just buy the thing you want to give away and share the Amazon link, which is super easy. It’s an easy, free way to giveaway copies of your book.

BUT, I was right – Amazon doesn’t promote it for you.

Sales ranking hack

I want to believe buying ebooks for your Amazon giveaway boosts your sales rank, which could make it AMAZING. Because, it’s hard to just buy 30 copies of your own book. But you could do one giveaway on Amazon, and buy 30 prizes, and boost your rank a bunch. Sweet.

But it’s complicated, and not very elegant…

It might make sense for print books…except if you’re doing print books you should be using Goodreads, because it has a built in community and they’ll sign up with zero promotion.

Also boughts hack

What I do plan to use soon are book giveaways of other authors in my genre.

I’ve already been doing this… but I did it with signed, print books and those are a pain in the ass. It might help for also boughts, but it’s expensive.

It’s so much easier/better/cheaper to giveaway ebook copies and just “gift” them to people.

However, making 10 different Amazon giveaways, so they follow you on Twitter or Amazon, doesn’t make sense (they can’t keep following you to enter each new giveaway).

So I decided not to use Amazon giveaways for this.

Instead, I’ll just run ONE giveaway on Gleam, they can enter however I choose, and I can let winners choose the books they like and I’ll gift them the Kindle copy.

This way….

  1. I boost also boughts for all books
  2. I can gift a copy of MY books to boost rank
  3. I can have a “best X books of X genre” post that authors link to
  4. I can tell other authors I’m giving away a copy of their book

I’ll start doing this for all my launches. Check out an example here:

Best books for teens based on Greek Mythology.

 

AND ALSO

Holy shit I can gift copies of my book? This should have been obvious, but previously I just promised free books to my readers and launch my books with a free campaign. In the future, I could just GIFT 1000 copies of my book. It would take a REALLY long time, but those gifts would count toward paid sales rank, and put me up to #1 bestseller REALLY quickly and easily, which is amazing. Awesome hack, can’t wait to use it~!

 

CONCLUSION

I’m still testing this out, but it seems like the easiest way to hack the system is to build a big list with giveaways, then use Amazon giveaways to “gift” a lot of copies of your book, because Amazon will do it automatically (instead of needing to gift 1 copy of your book by email, one by one, to hundreds of people).

With giveaways you have the option to set winners at “1 in 400” or something like that. I would do 1 in 5 and try to get 2000 signups. I would gift 400 copies. At 99cents it would cost about $400 – but there is no other service where you could pay $400 and get 400 sales – in most other services, you’d pay $400 just to get 40 sales (or less). The cheapest I found was 30 sales for $125.

PLUS you’ll get some money back for all those sales, so it will cost less (you can run the numbers and see if a higher prices book at 75% would make more sense).

400 books @ 99cents at 35% =  spend $396, earn $138.6. Cost = $257.4

400 books @ $2.99 at 75% = spend $1196, earn $897. Cost = $299

So, as an easy way to seriously bump your Amazon sales rank a TON… actually the best way to do it, hands-down, Amazon giveaways seems like a pretty epic book marketing hack.

 

UPDATE

 

This didn’t work before, so I started just using gifting (run a giveaway on social media to get people to share/engage, pick top 20~100 to win a prize, gift to their email….) But that’s kind of a pain in the ass. Setting up on Amazon giveaway and giving people links is way easier, and it does effect rank (for now). I think you can only set up a giveaway for 50 books though, so if you want to give more you need more giveaways. However, for example, I could easily gift 50 copies to my list every week to keep my rank stronger.

Rather than give out free copies to my list, with new releases I’ll probably just use massive Amazon giveaway campaigns. Set to first come first serve, and don’t let Amazon share the giveaway – then get the right readers to enter (actual fans of the genre).

 

About Derek Murphy

Derek Murphy is a book designer with a Ph.D. in Literature. He's been featured on CNN and spoken at dozens of writing conferences around the world. These days he mostly writes young adult fantasy and science fiction, while helping authors build profitable publishing platforms. Find me
  • Jaime Munn

    Great stuff as always, Derek. There’s something I’d add as a caveat to an author gifting their ebooks: be aware that recipients of these gifts have a choice. They can accept your ebook or they can exchange it for the same value in credit to their account. (They can also return your ebook for a full refund, to their account, within the stipulated time frame.) Exchanges (and refunds), obviously, don’t count to your sales rank or to your royalties, which means you’re out of pocket and have nothing to show for it. Of course, since most people (I like to think) aren’t out to screw others over, it’s going to be a numbers game…and depending on the price of your ebook, it may well be a worthwhile gamble for the potential benefits. Gifting on sales days (I don’t think you can gift free ebooks) might be the best way to maximise the benefits. However, maybe your advertising money could be better spent in other ways? 65c x 1,000* is still a chunk of change at the end of the day… (* 99c ebooks giving you back 35% in royalties rounded to a 65c cost.)

    • I agree, I think using Amazon’s giveaway instead may work, since you prebuy your own book and they redeem your book if they win, but I’ll test both soon.

    • Cheryl Wright

      I wish I’d read this before I gifted one of my books and got stung.

      It does has an effect on your ranking, but only to the same effect as anyone else buying a copy of your book.

      Seeing that return on something you have gifted to a prize winner is a kick in the teeth. It won’t happen to me again.

  • Christopher Scott Downing

    I’m always grateful to see you trying out all these hacks and posting the results, even when the results are mixed. My question: are you sure that the recipient of the Kindle gifts is credited for the “also bought” and not the giver? Does it matter? Thanks!

    • I haven’t had any luck with this actually – gifting copies and giveaways don’t seem to have any effect on rank.

  • alkibsi

    When you gift your own book do you have to pay for it.

    • Cheryl Wright

      Yes, you do. There’s a “gift this book” option on your book page.

      But before you do that, see my extensive comment above.

  • As you say, the main thing is to get people on your mailing list. People who are interested in your books. The problem with Amazon Giveaways is that there is a whole industry of people who get the stuff just to sell it on ebay. So, the followers you get are useless. I’m experimenting with trying to get people to sign up on my mailing list before they get the link to the Giveaway. So far, no takers, but it has kept the spammers out of it. You’re better off not giving away any books, than giving them to people who make money by selling them on ebay.

    • That’s interesting. Actually I think most of those people post the book for sale on ebay at a mark up and only buy the book if they sell it on ebay, they probably use computers to pull info from amazon and list thousands of books.

      I only use Amazon giveaways now to get my current followers to also follow me on Amazon, because I think that helps book launches… for listbuilding I use KingSumo and targeted Facebook ads, but yes you have to be careful only to attract readers, so it’s best to just do a book giveaway (no amazon credit) that will appeal to those readers.

  • Cheryl Wright

    One of the problem I see, from experience of gifting my own books (NOT via the giveaway option, but doing it manually) is that Amazon then allows the recipient to return the purchase for a refund.

    I’ve taken Amazon to task over this, asking how they can refund someone who didn’t actually buy the product to start with. If a refund is given, it should go to the original purchaser, not the person who was gifted the ebook/product.

    I have since found out this practice is rife with Amazon, and prize recipients do this often with an aim to get enough credits to buy something they “really” want, rather then “be stuck” with the prize they were given.

    Just some food for thought for the uninitiated. (It was a rude awakening for me, believe me.)

    • Thanks, yes you’re correct – I try to only do it with people on my list so they aren’t just scammers but you can’t be sure.

  • Kilby Blades

    Gifting copies of your book boosts your sales rank on Amazon if the person you gift it to claims it within 24 hours. It absolutely did boost my rankings when I did this, but because of the 24-hour rule, I didn’t get a boost out of every copy I gifted.

    I did notice that after my rankings went up, I was getting more halo effect sales, but gifting books is only a good long-term strategy if you are targeting people who will actually read them and who may realistically become fans who buy future books. The net cost per acquisition after royalties is still around $2 on a $2.99 book at the 35% royalty. It’s a better CPA than you can get through other channels, but it’s not profitable as a standalone tactic. If you target right, it could be for total lifetime value.

    • Kelly Novak

      I wonder if that still works. I had a giveaway end two days ago, and my rank did not go up, nor did my Kindle sales register any sales at all. That would suggest that I do not get royalties, either.

      • Kilby Blades

        A gift is different from’a giveaway. A gift is when you pay the retail price out of pocket and send someone a voucher for your book. It is not an author feature. Anybody can gift anyone else a book. And since it’s a sale, it counts toward rankings. I always gift when given the opportunity. If the book is cheap the cost/benefit can work out,depending on what you’re trying to do with rankings

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