Sam Holstein

How My First Kindle Book Promotion Flopped Big Time and Made alt=

How My First Kindle Book Promotion Flopped Big Time and Made $0 Profit

There are a lot of case studies in the world about wild runaway successes. Even worse, these runaway successes are often the author’s first attempt and something. It makes the rest of us feel like we’re failing for not following the same schedule.

Today, I’m not going to share a runaway success story. I’m going to share the story of how a popular Medium writer (me) with 18k+ followers and 3,500 newsletter subscribers made a whopping $0 profit on a book promotion. The book I was promoting is Work Less, Finish More: Productivity Lessons on How to Spend Less Time Working and Get More Done. I’ll cover what I did right, what I think went wrong, and how I’ll do better next time.

Preparing for the Promotion

There is no point running a promotion on a book that isn’t ready to be promoted. A book that’s not ready for promotion will not sell no matter how many marketing dollars you throw at it. Before even thinking about my promotion, I made sure Work Less, Finish More had…

I’m a frequent customer of Amazon. I knew without quality reviews, a good rating, a decent book cover, and a decent book description, there was a near-zero chance of Work Less Finish More selling well — during my promo or on its own. Getting these fundamentals in place took about a month.

My book cover: After a failed dalliance with Fiverr, I created my book cover myself using Canva. Creating one’s own book cover is considered a cardinal sin in the self-publishing world, but I’m a capable graphic designer and the book cover I made for myself was better than anything I could purchase for under $200. When I’m a bestselling author, I’ll use my gobs of money to buy a much better book cover.

Sales copy: I wrote the sales copy myself. Prior to running the promo, I thought my copy was pretty good. But the total failure of the book promo, combined with low responses to Amazon ads, convinced me my sales copy was quite bad.

Paperback version: Making a paperback version of my book was hilariously easy with Vellum. Some authors pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for people to custom-format their ebooks and paperback books. This is a waste of money in my opinion. Just buy and use Vellum and do it yourself.

Reviews: Getting reviews and ratings is the hardest part of this process for most authors, but I was able to use my 3,500-strong mailing list to make this easy. I mentioned in one of my weekly newsletters that I’m giving away a copy of the book to anyone who will leave an Amazon review. 62 people replied. After several follow-up emails, around 30 people eventually left a review.

Scheduling My Promotion

My books are all on Kindle Select, meaning they are published exclusively through Amazon and available to read via the Kindle Unlimited subscription. This gives me the ability to drop my book’s price from its regular list price to a promo price for a fixed period of time. I dropped Work Less, Finish More’s price from $7.99 to $0.99 for 7 days.

You can schedule this promotion in the Kindle advertising dashboard and call it a day, but that’s not the smart way to do it. The smartest thing to do is list your books with book promotion websites.

Book promo websites are websites that keep track of books that are on sale and email offers to their mailing lists. Users sign up to receive notifications about deals on books in certain genres, and book promo sites email these users according to their preferences. As an author, I can pay a small fee for these websites to email their readers about my book. For those who are interested, I made a list of various book promo sites you can submit to. For this promotion, I submitted to Bargain Booksy ($30) and Ereader News Today ($55).

And, of course, I let my newsletter list know about my book promotion. I sent them two emails: One on the day the promotion started, and another two days after. I chose two days after the start because rumors say Amazon calculates book rankings based on 3-day rolling sales, so I wanted to keep my 3–day rolling sales ranking up.

Mistakes Were Made (and They Were By Me)

Along the way, I made several mistakes.

My first mistake was not specifying in my email to my newsletter that the promotion was only available in the US. I naively assumed the promotion would be on all the global Amazon stores, but it was only available at Amazon.com. Way to be insensitive to my international readers. ? I corrected the error in the second email to my subscribers.

My second mistake was not making sure my sales page was converting well before promoting the book.

Prior to running the promo, I’d been running Amazon ads for a few weeks. The best ads were breaking even and the worst ads simply weren’t profitable. I couldn’t figure out why they weren’t performing well.

My Amazon ad performance prior to the promotion

I’m still not sure why they aren’t converting well, actually. But when my book promotion didn’t net me stellar sales, I realized the problem was bigger than the way I configured my Amazon ads.

Case studies from other Kindle writers indicated I should expect to sell around 30 copies a day with the book promo sites I was using. As you can tell from the graph, I experienced a small bump in sales, but not the 30–50 sales a day I was expecting. My sales per day were as follows: 40, 30, 18, 3, 4. Not the runaway success I was hoping for.

Earnings per day, not sales per day. Boxed section is the promo period.

What Comes Next

My next steps are to figure out what’s wrong. Is my sales page copy bad? Is my book cover bad? What’s going wrong? I don’t know yet.

Fixing sales funnels problems is honestly one of my least favorite aspects of running a business. I’ve never been much good at it. Aside from a handful of successes on the App Store ten years ago, I haven’t been able to sell large quantities of anything for the life of me. (If you’re a Kindle store author who knows what’s wrong with my stuff, please let me know).

Moving forward, I’ll do what any of us can do: Keep educating myself and try again.