Case study: running a free book promotion on Amazon


Case study: running a free book promotion on Amazon

Many authors run use a free book promotion as an effective tool to market and promote their book. How do you run one? What do you need to consider and how much does it cost? We take you through the steps and results of our free book promotion for Follow the Breadcrumbs.

0 on Amazon

It was very exciting when the book actually went free on Amazon

History of Follow The Breadcrumbs

Follow the Breadcrumbs released in digital format in 2016. The book was quite popular with readers and received positive reviews, but suffered from a lack of exposure and so didn’t get a lot of traction in sales. After some delays we completed the paperback version and hardback version in March 2019.

Why Run a Free Book Promotion

We decided to run a free book promotion for Follow the Breadcrumbs for three main reasons:

  1. It was an effective linchpin to celebrate the launch of the print book
  2. There were only seven reviews on Amazon and 12 on Apple Books before the promotion, which was the number we wanted.
  3. I wanted to start running some Amazon ads to the book but want to start these ads from a higher ranking than the pre-promotion rank.

Planning the Free Book Promotion

Once both print copies were live and on sale on Amazon, we set the date for the free book promotion, four weeks ahead. Mainly to make sure there was time to get the book free.

I then decided on the free book email lists to target, and created a plan of how we would promote the free book promotion. I broke down the list of tasks into jobs for both myself and our assistant. I will take you through our steps and timelines so you can see what we did and when.

We decided to promote the offer through all our available communication channels including:

  • Blog
  • Newsletters
  • Social media
  • Online forums

3 Weeks before the Free Book Promotion

At this point, the focus was on setting up things in preparation to get the book free. The tasks included:

  • Publishing Follow the Breadcrumbs to Draft 2 Digital and setting it to free. Although this wasn’t necessary, my hope was that having a Kobo listing would help Amazon price match.
  • Setting the book to free on Apple Books, with the free period to run until the 6th May, after our promotion. This was quite early to set the book free, but having left it too late previously, I wanted to give us a good window of time to get Amazon to price match the book.
  • Booking our first paid email list: Kindle Nation Daily free book promotion, for Day 2 of our promotion period. I have found Kindle Nation Daily to have a fairly good email list and their prices are good. They email their author list each Tuesday with a discount option for one of their promos and I was able to use a 40% discount to get a listing on their Free book newsletter for only $17.99USD.
  • I applied for a BookBub feature. Unfortunately, my Kobo listing wasn’t up and so with just Amazon, Apple Books and limited reviews, I knew this was a long shot – but I had to try. It was too much of a long shot and we were turned down.

2 Weeks before the Free Book Promotion

My main focus for this week was requesting a price match from Amazon:

  • I emailed KDP support through this help page and requested them to price match the free listing on Apple Books. Here I hit a snag, as the Apple Books web listing doesn’t show the prices of your books when they are free. This confused the Amazon support person, but luckily I was able to show her a screenshot of the Apple Books app, showing other books with a price and ours with none.
  • The KDP support person agreed to match the price, but passed the job to another department and said they would update us in 5 days. At this point I was glad I’d started this process so early.

TIP: If you are price matching with Apple Books, explain they need to look at another book to see that your book is indeed free. Or include a screenshot, showing how other books have a price on their preview page.


My other tasks were to prepare some of the content for the free book promotion

  • I created an article about the free promotion for the blog and also wrote a newsletter to go out to our children’s book newsletter list.
  • I also planned a week of social content about the promotion, which our assistant set out in draft mode for me to approve.

1 Week before the Free Book Promotion

Slight panic stations, as at this point our book wasn’t free yet on Amazon. We followed up with KDP and then, magically they did it and it was free. I danced a little jig. Seriously. I did.

Now that the book was free, I felt more comfortable going ahead with the rest of our plans and setting up more promotional activities:

  • I booked additional free book promotions through Book Marketing Tools and set them to day 3 of the promotion. This site helps you submit your free book listing to 21 sites quite quickly. For me, it’s a worthwhile investment of $29.99 as it does make it much easier, and faster. They also include another two handy collection of links for you to submit to directly, making it much easier than hunting through different sites.
  • Followed up Draft 2 Digital on the book as it was languishing in publishing stage. Turned out to be a glitch and it started moving through the storefronts quickly.
  • Started writing this article – explaining what we’d done, we always try and outline our methods for other authors. This article will sit with our other indie author guides, becoming part of an ever growing resource library.
  • I wrote an email to our author newsletter list sharing the promotion and this article. We email about once a month with new guides, news and special offers.

3 Days Before the Free Book Promotion

At this point, we started our promotion slightly early by listing Follow the Breadcrumbs as a free book on OzBargain. This is a deal forum in Australia and it always gives a good boost to our Apple Book downloads to list it on here. Generally I would have waited until the start of the promotion, but the weekend timed in with the end of the school holidays and I wanted to tap into all those frustrated parents with bored kids traveling up and down the Australian highways.

It was quite exciting also to hit number 1 in the Apple charts for kids in Australia

Day 1 of the Free Book Promotion

As our promotion was running over a week, there were a few things each day rather than a lot on one day. On this first day:

  • My assistant and I caught up and discussed the promotion, any of the outstanding tasks and questions he had.
  • I booked our Fussy Librarian newsletter promotion for day 4 of the free book promotion. I’ve used Fussy Librarian with non-fiction before and had excellent results, but this was our first test for a children’s book. Generally, I would book this earlier but I was waiting to see if I could get the book up on Kobo as well and get some downloads there. Unfortunately Draft 2 Digital did not come through.
  • Finalised most of this article
  • Reviewed our social plans and tweaked them based on changes we had made to the schedule
  • Checked our rankings and discovered we were at 1,992 in the free Kindle store (not bad) and already at the top of the children’s section in the Australian Apple Books store.

Promotional Schedule for the Free Book Promotion

The list below outlines what we scheduled each day for our free book promotion. We did it this way to both spread out the downloads and the workload. We have only a small mailing list ourselves, so making use of social, forums and other email lists was important in our strategy.

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Budget for the Follow the Breadcrumbs Free Book Promotion

All prices are in US Dollars.

  • Kindle Nation Daily Listing: $17.99
  • Book Marketing Tools: $29.99
  • Fussy Librarian Listing: $12.00

Total Spent: $69.98

Results of the Promotion

Here are the final numbers from our promotion. As always there were more things we could have done, but this gives a perspective on what can be possible with what we did.

Total Downloads: 1317
New Reviews: 3 so far, all on Amazon (disappointing) 
Rankings: Number 1 in two categories in Amazon. Best ranking was 394 in the Kindle Store (free books). Number 1 in Kids section of Apple Books in Australia. 
Sales of other books in the series: Minimal 

Unfortunately our ranking plummeted after the promotion so it didn't give us the rankings boost I was hoping for.

Is It Worth Running a Free Book Promotion?

Overall, I don't think this one gave us the outcomes that we wanted from the promotion. It was a good exercise to give a Willy Nilly book a little push. But, I don't know if perhaps a $0.99 promotion would have worked just as well. We’ll test that out in a couple of months for Fastest Kid in the World as we launch the print edition of that title and see how it goes.

What do you think? Did we miss any good avenues to promote our books? Let us know how your free book promotions have gone in the comments.


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