The subtitle being: A not-so-cautionary tale for other self-publishers. This past weekend I ran a promotion for my last novel, and it was kind of a secret—which is probably the worst and dopiest kind of book promotion to run. It wasn’t intentional: I actually forgot that I had arranged it for this particular weekend. And I’d had mixed feelings about running it anyway: I had vowed to never give any more books away for free. I believe I said so in this very space. But there was poor old Wives of the Saints hovering down around 800,000 in the paid rankings, and I decided what the hell; why not try and give it one more kick in the ass before abandoning it entirely.
Now conventional wisdom about these things is to promote the promotion, which sounds stupid, but that’s what we indie writers are told we have to do. This is if you want actual sales afterwards. Now I’ve run other freebie promotions, but have never seen any appreciable sales after the fact. Then again, I rarely give away more than a few hundred at a time. But it does result in a spike of interest…in my blog, in my other books, and I usually come away with a fair amount of “page-reads,” resulting from the Prime borrowing program, although that rarely amounts to very much more than $10 or so. But I always gain a few extra readers, no matter what, and one loyal reader is worth her or his weight in gold, so… But I wasn’t in the mood to go deeper into debt for the slim chance of hitting the self-pub lottery. So I only booked one lonely little promo, at an outfit called Freebooksy, which has been getting getting heat from the author’s community for underperforming. But it was cheap and only set me back about $50 bucks. I thought if $50 could buy me a handful of good readers, I’d be happy.
So I booked the promotion weeks ago, then promptly forgot about it, amid my whirlwind of language students and biography-writing, not to mention the whole downsizing thing. Saturday morning, I rose, packed up the car, and began driving to my sister’s house in Connecticut. Somewhere in New York State, I stopped at a Dunkin’ Donuts for coffee, and idly checked the Wives page on Amazon, profoundly startled to see that my #800,000+ ranking had morphed into a mere four figures—my new “Kindle free” ranking. Of course, I jumped up immediately, and bought a chocolate donut. And then followed the strangest and most exciting driving trip I ever made from Northern New Jersey to Central Connecticut: Every time I checked the ranking (usually in a traffic jam), it got smaller. I was elated to see myself at #730, then it fell into the 300s, and by the time I pulled up in front of my sister’s, I was at #146; by midnight, I was the 70th most popular book in the entire Kindle Free store—and that single day, I had given away more than 2400 books!! In the Family Life genre of Literature & Fiction, and I was actually #2. Never quite made it to #1…Am I complaining?! Hell, no!
How did this happen? I don’t know! What does it mean? I still don’t know, only that a lot more people are reading my book. I’ve already gotten a new 5-star review on the Amazon page. It may not result in any substantial sales (I don’t believe in the vaunted “tail,” or wave of new sales following the end of a promotion), but it is a nice way to send Wives out into the great beyond, eight months after its release. I don’t plan to promote it anymore; in fact, I’m hoping not to be a self-published author for very much longer. So I’m revealing the secret promotion now, because it’s still going on, until midnight tomorrow (Aug. 8). But I’m sort of hoping it doesn’t go up too much further: Don’t think my waistline could handle any more victory donuts…