Please excuse my while I humbly sit in shock…

First of all, thank you to all of you readers who took advantage of the free LOST AND FOUND ebook offer over the past three days. For once, I am blown away by the results. Now, the rest of this post will probably only interest other self-published authors… but feel free to read on.

I’m not a big-time book seller. The money I make from books each month could typically pay for dinner for myself at a $$-$$$ restaurant. Once. I’m obviously not quitting my day job anytime soon. I’ve had an incredibly difficult time marketing my books, and it shows. My series is quite well-reviewed (4.29 on Goodreads), but I haven’t been able to reach the masses yet. I do have some fans that are very good at recommending the books to their friends, and I’m grateful to them, but I guess the lack of a red room of pain keeps this from reaching an audience I once thought would enjoy my stories. Regardless, I don’t intend to add one to any future books.

Bygones.

So as most of you know, I’ve been participating in the KDP Select program through Amazon.com. If I sell my ebooks through them exclusively, I have the opportunity to promote them for free five times in a 90-day period. I haven’t been incredibly successful at finding the right day to offer these free ebooks, nor have I been very good at promoting the offer. Over the past five months, I’ve offered LOST AND FOUND for free ten days. I don’t remember the stats of the first five, but on the sixth time, I gave away about 450 books (on a Tuesday). I did very little to promote the offer that day, and was pleased with the results. The seventh time, I gave away the book on Labor Day, and only gave away 93 books. I had even submitted the offer to free-Kindle-promotional websites the day before, but they seemed to have no effect. I was extremely disappointed in those results.

It was after the seventh time that I decided to do a little research about other peoples’ successful campaigns. The ones that I read about with the best results were multi-day offers that were supported by advance promotion, blog tours and social media bursts. I decided to use my last three days of this 90-day period and offer the book for free three days in a row. I was hoping to give away 500 books, but dreamed of breaking the Top 100 Free Kindle books chart. I had no idea how many books that would require me to give away.

I picked Tuesday through Thursday, and planned ahead by submitting my book to a lot of websites that promote free Kindle books the weekend before the promotion began. I created a three-day Twitter campaign that tweeted every ten minutes from midnight to 9pm. Tuesday was depressing. I checked stats all day, and even half-way through Wednesday, I had only given away a little over 100 books. I sort of pouted all afternoon, even as I saw tons of my Twitter followers retweeting my tweets. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong.

After work Wednesday, feeling sorry for myself, I checked my stats. Somehow, I was up to 1300 books given away. In four hours, 1200 books had been downloaded. I was floored, and I realized I was inching closer and closer to the Top 100 Free Kindle books chart. Five hours later, I was up to 3500 books, and my book was sitting pretty in the 105th position. I thought once it hit the Top 100, even more downloads would come because it would have a lot more exposure.

When I woke up this morning, I had reached #39 on the chart with over 4000 downloads. While I suspected today would be even better than yesterday, things have slowed down considerably. Right now, with about four hours remaining, I’ve given away about 5450 books. That averages out to approximately 80 books an hour since the promotion started. Consider my mind blown.

I still don’t know what happened yesterday afternoon to bring so much attention to my book, but whatever it was, it helped me surpass my goals by quantities I couldn’t fathom before now. I know that a lot of people who download free books never get around to reading them all, but even if 1% read them, I’d be elated. That’s 54 new readers gained in three days.

Not only did people take advantage of the free offers, I also sold quite a few books, making this month my best month ever, looking strictly at royalties. In the last three days, I nearly doubled what I’d sold in the first 17 days of the month, and even though that’s still not very many books, it could pay for a few modest dinners, which is a huge success, in my mind. I’ll probably use the extra money for Christmas gifts, though.

What did I learn? Gee… a part of me still thinks it might be a fluke, but when it comes time to give away the next great book, I’ll definitely try this strategy again first.