Today's interview is with Julia Hughes. After seeing her nab 20,000 downloads in a week, I had to ask her to come share. Links to her books etc will follow the interview, and if you've got any questions then please leave them in the comments - I'm sure Julia will respond when she can tear herself away from her current work in progress.
You were one of the early adopters of the Kindle Direct Publishing program. How have you found it so far?
In a word, inspiring. Stories that may never otherwise have seen the light of day are getting into the hands of readers, who are presented with a feast of genres and titles from new authors at bargain basement prices. By cutting out agents and publishers, readers and authors have made a direct connection, and it's a whole new world.
Have free runs lost their vigour since the Easter algorithm changes or can we still hope to snag 5 figure downloads as long we plan it well in advance?
I don't think the Easter algorithm changes have made too much difference to free runs themselves, what has changed is instead of matching free for paid in ranking, Amazon now count ten free downloads as one sale. Which means that more than ever, it's so very important to maximise free promotions. Yes, it is possible to achieve five figure downloads, and yes it does mean planning. It isn't enough just to bang out a few tweets on Twitter. For example, there are free book sites to be contacted, some of which require at least five days' notice. But not all free book sites accept all free books, some require titles to have a minimum amount of customer reviews, so it makes sense to ensure you've got sufficient shiny stars. This probably means arranging for book bloggers to review weeks in advance. Other free book sites only accept free books on the actual day of the promotion, and of course it's best to post on any facebook pages on the day. So the night before your promo starts, you'd better make sure of an early bedtime and set your alarm for stupid o'clock. And it goes without saying that the ebook you're offering is better than perfect, formatted beautifully with a complementary cover design and mouth watering blurb.
You had thousands of downloads. Has this converted into paid sales, or did you just give away your work for nothing? Were there any downsides to having gone free?
I've seen a massive increase in sales – but ironically only in the titles out of KDP select. To expand, there are three titles in The Celtic Cousins Adventures series. A Ripple in Time went free, with 17,000 downloads, while its prequel A Raucous Time saw "paid for" downloads of approximately ten per cent of that figure. However, the sequel, An Explosive Time, which will be the last title to come out of select (this August) barely moved five copies. This indicates to me that while select is an excellent promotional tool, it isn't a good idea to allow titles to remain too long in the scheme – there's a risk that people will become blasé, and simply wait for a promotional run. Any new titles I self published will be enrolled in select, but only for ninety days, giving readers limited opportunity to take advantage of a free download.
Not all of us can manage 17,000 downloads. If you knew that next time you'd only get 1000, would you still try a free run?
Oh yes! If only 1,000 copies of my next free run are downloaded, I'd still be content to have reached out to a potential audience. But you have to consider that of those 1,000 downloads maybe less than 100 will actually be read, so naturally with the next free run I hope to emulate if not surpass June's very successful promotion. In fact, I'm sorely tempted to have a little wager with myself that 17,000 downloads can be beaten, except that might just be tempting fate too. We'll see.
What was your secret? Did coming off free while in the top 100 bolster sales compared to previous runs?
If there were a secret, I'd keep it to myself! Hard work, forward planning and a lot of support from friends. As mentioned before planning played a crucial role. Like most indie authors, I've little to no idea about marketing. Stumbling across the blog you and Dan wrote set off a little light bulb in my mind, and as soon as all your advice was gathered together in ebook form: 'Can't Sell, Won't Sell' I was first in line to download a copy [As a side note, this title is free tomorrow and will be going permanantly free after this Select cycle is over]. I'd advise other authors to study effective marketing strategies before launching any kind of promotion. Once free downloads reach a certain 'tipping balance' – for A Ripple in Time it seemed to be 3,000 – Amazon's chart kicks in, you're on the front or second page in genre and become more noticeable to potential readers who don't use social sites such as Twitter or Facebook.
Previously after coming off free, I'd experienced maybe one or two sales trickling in, fairly dismal really. Coming off free while still in the top 100 made all the difference, and I'm still seeing a significant increase in paid sales.
What will you do differently next time? Is there even a next time?
I would start planning my promotion even earlier, and I hope there will be many next times: An Explosive Time is going free August 5 – 7, and new titles I'm currently working on will be placed in the select programme for one term only, just to take full advantage of Amazon's very generous free advertising.
Thank you Sean, for all your support and inviting me to discuss Kindle Select Free Promotions, your questions were insightful, and I'm hopeful others find the answers of some help when planning their own promotions.
The next title in The Celtic Cousins Adventures to go free is An Explosive Time, and will be free to download August 5 – 7 – that 's August bank holiday – just after my birthday!
A Raucous Time is available to purchase from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com in ebook form or print.
A Ripple in Time is also available from Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com in ebook or print.
If you'd like to sample An Explosive Time, prior to the free promotional run go to Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com.
Or visit my website at JuliaHughes.co.uk
Julia's first job after leaving college was at the BBC helping to write scripts for their schools' programmes. After a varied career, she is living her dream of writing for her own pleasure, and for the reader she'd like to be. For the past sixteen years she has lived in the last of London's villages, concentrating on supporting her two sons as they achieve adulthood. Any spare time she has is spent cycling, playing tennis or swimming.