How Amazon Grew My Audience By More
Than 24,000 Readers in Three Days

image of amazon kindle logo

It’s every writer’s dream. Every entrepreneur’s struggle. Every marketer’s goal.

The promise of more. More readers, more revenue, and more exposure.

What if I told you there was a way that you could find all three — but that it required you give something truly valuable away? Would you listen to me?

If you’re a Copyblogger reader, you understand the power of smart marketing that benefits your audience. In fact, you’re probably doing this in some form already: a free eBook, or a valuable email autoresponder series for new subscribers to your content.

But what if I told you that thousands of fans and potential customers were also waiting for you … on Amazon?

Well, that’s exactly what I found and couldn’t believe the results. In three days, I gave away a Kindle eBook on Amazon, and it was one of the best things I’ve done for my business and brand.

Here’s what I did (and how you can do the same) with some of the best material I’ve ever written …

The preparation

  1. Sign up for the Kindle Direct Publishing program. This is Amazon’s self-publishing arm, and it’s super easy to get started. In fact, there’s an extensive how-to post here on Copyblogger that will walk you through it.
  2. Use an already-published eBook. In my case, it was my eBook, You Are a Writer, which had done really well in PDF sales but had recently plateaued. I had already converted it to the .mobi Kindle format, but if you don’t have an eBook in that format, you’ll need to do that. Scrivener is a powerful word processing app that also does a great job of formatting for the Kindle.
  3. Upload your book. When you’re going through the simple, two-page process to upload your book, you’ll need to click the “Enroll in KDP Select Program” box. There are several perks to this program, but the main one is that it allows you to give away your book for any five days over a 90-day period. Once you do that, Amazon will notify you within 24–48 hours, letting you know your book is live.

The promotion

  1. Create an event. Once your book is live, you’ll need to log back into Amazon KDP and select which dates you’d like the book to be available for free. Since it takes time for this request to process, you’ll want to choose a time period that is at least 24–48 hours in the future. I did this kind of on a whim, choosing the next day, and Amazon didn’t process it for about 12 hours.
  2. Tell people about it. One of the reasons why you want to use an old eBook is so that you choose a product that already has an existing fanbase. These are your evangelists, and you want to empower them to tell their friends where they can get this great book for free. I blogged about it, emailed my list, and direct messaged a handful of influencers on Twitter, asking them to share it. (Note: It’s hard to be annoying when you’re asking people to share something that’s free.)
  3. Remind people before it expires. I emailed my list three times over the weekend that I ran my promotion, encouraging them not to miss this great opportunity. What’s interesting is not one person complained about getting too much email, and several told me they missed it and regretted it. Again, it’s hard to be annoying when you’re trying to give something away to people.

The results

So here’s what happened as a result of this promotion … which was really just an experiment:

  1. My eBook was downloaded over 24,000 times. This happened over a three-day period. I didn’t do the full five days, because I wasn’t sure how it would turn out and wanted to have the opportunity to run the promo again, if it failed.
  2. My email list grew. I didn’t ask for people’s emails in exchange for the eBook, but I linked to my blog at the end of the book and hundreds of new people found me that following week. I know this, because they all start emailing me, thanking me and saying they just found out about me through the eBook.
  3. My reputation increased. Towards the end of the promotion, my book was ranking #3 amongst all books in the Kindle Store (and #1 in all of its categories). Once you break the Top 100 on Amazon, this can earn you a lot of attention on book forums, blogs, and other websites. That’s exactly what happened. Plus, it’s great social proof for future sales (“An Amazon Best Seller!”).
  4. My sales increased. This is the really crazy part. I was a little worried that doing the giveaway would lead to cannibalizing my own market and ultimately hurt sales. But that’s not what happened at all. The week after the promotion, I sold 50% more books than the one before. Sales now average around 1000 per month (that’s about $3500 in net profit off of a book: not too shabby.)

The takeaways

All in all, the experiment was a success: my influence increased and sales didn’t suffer as a result. However, I did learn some valuable lessons:

  • Amazon is a great marketing platform. Roughly 90% of my eBook sales were already coming from Amazon, so I wanted to see how I could leverage a freebie to increase buzz about the book (through reviews and the like). At over 150 reviews, it’s not doing too bad.
  • There’s an opportunity cost. In order to be eligible for KDP Select, I contractually had to stop selling the book via PDF and Barnes & Noble. Like I said, I wasn’t getting a ton of sales through these outlets anymore, but it was still an opportunity cost.
  • Selling books isn’t a great revenue strategy. As they say, the book is the business card. It’s a brochure, an introduction to your brand. That’s why I used the last few pages of my eBook to encourage people to check out my blog and to promote my upcoming online writing course.

If you’ve tapped your resources and are looking for a new way to get discovered, this is it. One friend recently finished a promotion in which he had over 50,000 downloads in five days. He doesn’t have a huge blog or a ton of Twitter followers; it’s all the power of Amazon.

Have you tried using Amazon’s KDP Select Program as a marketing tool?

If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

If not, what do you have to lose?

About the Author: Jeff Goins is a writer who lives in Nashville with his family. He is the author of The In-Between, a short memoir about the importance that waiting plays in our lives. You can find him online at his award-winning blog, Goins, Writer or on Twitter @JeffGoins.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing the experience Jeff. I have heard about KDP Select a bit from here and there but didn’t know that it can deliver this big results.

    I will give it a try soon.

  2. Thanks for sharing, I’ve been thinking about trying something similar for a while, but, like you, I am a little nervous that making it available for free would have a knock on effect my sales – it’s good to hear you found the opposite. I think this might just spur me into giving it ago.

  3. That’s a really great strategy. One of the best parts about it is that you didn’t have to even write anything new :-)

    How big is your list to get such a big response?

  4. This is great stuff, Jeff.

    I’ve been taking notes and putting stuff into Evernote on Kindle publishing for a while now. It’s a fascinating topic.

    It’s high up on my to-do list, but other things need to get done first. Nevertheless, it has been a lot of fun seeing you succeed and build up your audience.

    Keep up the work!

  5. Awesome! This is such a great strategy. I have thought of it before but wasn’t sure it would work, so thanks for the confirmation! Now I’m going to sit and think about what kind of e-book I’d like to write and give away :-)

  6. Thanks for the information! I never heard of the “KDP Select Program.” I’ll check it out and do more research on CreateSpace to see if the program is a good fit for me and my books.

    • I would recommend Lightning Source over Create Space.

      • In my experience, Lightning Source plus CreateSpace has been better than either one alone.

        Lightning Source books sometimes show as out of stock on Amazon, whereas a book available via CreateSpace will always show as in stock.

        In addition, if you ever have to make any changes to your book, it’s much easier with CreateSpace. (Lightning Source makes you wait until all orders for the book have cleared. If the book is selling well, that could take weeks.) And when your books is available at both places, Lightning Source will only be in charge of handling non-Amazon sales, so even the Lightning Source revision will process more quickly.

  7. How would this work for e-books in Dutch, if at all?
    Any idea or do you think it is restricted to English publications?

    Cheers,
    Ramo.

  8. Thank you! Look forward to checking this out.

  9. Awesome insight into how to leverage Amazon to help with exposure. I haven’t read the book yet, maybe I will since it’s only 99 cents this week. I’m looking forward to it. I enjoy the blog all the time!

  10. Hi Jeff,
    You always share the most valuable information. I really appreciate it.
    This post is encouraging. For those of us who think about putting together an ebook but are overwhelmed by the idea of it, you have clear instructions on how to get started. You did the same thing in You Are a Writer. No vague ideas with a “now, off you go” kind of attitude that is so common right now.
    Thanks!

  11. Jeff
    I have been researching Amazon and Kindle as a marketing tool.
    This army of one just has to be more efficient with his time.
    Your article gives me extra incentive.
    Thanks!

  12. Great post, Jeff. And for me, it’s well-timed.

    I’m probably a month away from publishing my first e-book, and I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn’t even know that Amazon was a potential distribution channel. I’ll definitely be returning to this post as a guide later on. Thanks for the great details.

    If I understand you correctly, Amazon requires that they are the exclusive seller of your book? If so, I understand why they might want to do that, but not exactly sure how I feel about it. Are you free to remove it from their store and seek out other distributors if you like?

  13. “There’s an opportunity cost. In order to be eligible for KDP Select, I contractually had to stop selling the book via PDF and Barnes & Noble.”

    Is this requirement indefinite or only while the 5 day free offer is running?

    • 90 days commitment. Like I said, it wasn’t a huge cost since most of my sales were ALREADY thru Amazon, but a cost nonetheless. I’ve heard people “cheat” and leave the book up on their site or those other outlets, but I figured honesty was the best approach. ;)

  14. Over and over again it seems that giving and sharing and teaching win over the concept of “everything for me me me”.

    Thanks for the reminder

  15. Very cool, Jeff. I’ve been giving away free stuff without the need to give me an email first for awhile now as a loss leader. I’m going to try this tactic with one or two of my products which like yours, kind of plateaued.

    It’s the whole reciprocation principle thing, you know.

    Thanks for sharing.

  16. Hey Jeff, been following you for some time and you provide great information, thanks. My questions are: What about those that have already purchased your book? They could feel slighted. Any thoughts? I learned about KDP select through Sean Platt and David Wright and they have mixed reactions. Would you run a new book through this program?

  17. Jeff,

    Thanks for the tip about Lightning Source. I never heard of them and will check out their website.

  18. Thank you for sharing. Does it need a ISBN?

  19. Hey Jeff

    That’s seriously cool (I think) – can I clarify something? Did you track 24,000 new subscribers as a result of the download?

    Paul

    • No. Amazon keeps those names. That’s the downside; you don’t get the names. But I DID include my blog and email, and a LOT of people contacted me afterwards.

  20. Great post Jeff. Thanks for sharing here and on your site and the books as well. Your hard work has paid off and earned you success.

  21. Ok, so you were selling the book before, then you started giving it away for free and asked your subscribers to spread the word. Weren’t your subscribers who paid for your book a bit pissed off?

    • Oooh good question. I once saw a 100 dollar product get reducted to “pay what you can”. It was a very popular product. I was curious as to whether those people who paid full price would be pisssed off too.

    • No. They weren’t. Because: a) they got to read it before anyone else did, and b) they cared so much about the message they just wanted to help it spread. I think one or two people emailed me, upset, because they had just bought the book the night before and felt ripped off. I offered to give them a refund, but never heard back.

  22. Jeff,

    Really vaulable strategy. I had no idea about eh Amazon KDP program and how it lets you give away your book for free for a five day window of time.

    I was wondering, you said that you didn’t ask for peoples emails in exchange for the book. Is it even possible through KDP to require someone to sign up for your email list before they can download it?

    • Annie, no. But what you COULD do is what Sean Platt does: tell people you’re going to give it away for free, but require them to subscribe to your email list to find out WHEN. In my case, I wasn’t trying to reach people I already had access to; I was trying to reach new people.

  23. Jeff- great stuff! Will definitely be doing this with my older book.

  24. Thank you so much.
    You are everywhere. Pat is promoting you. I just heard your interview in Six pixels of separation and you are all over Amazon. Congratulations.

    I have a dumb question. I have been using Google Docs for years and that is where I have my book stored. I wonder if I can upload it to the Kindle platform from Google Docs. I do not have Windows Word and I do not have a Mac. If not, is there any other software that would help me do this.

    Thanks again.

    • Alain, you’ll need to convert your document to a Kindle file (usually .mobi format). The best way to do this is to pay someone to do it. If you can’t do that, you could use a free program like Calibre.

  25. As long as there are humans, there is market. Amazon.com is one of the biggest market in the world.

  26. Stories like this get me excited :)

    It obviously doesn’t always work, but giving can REALLY pay dividends.

    Hope Wrecked sees simialr success with the big sale

    Matthew (Turndog Millionaire)

  27. Hey Jeff,

    thanks for the story! I think that amazon have a lot of potential these days!

    Greetings
    vladislav

  28. Thanks Mike! I forgot that a former client of mine used CreateSpace; they were happy with the service. I’m also checking into Lulu and a few other self-publishing platforms.

  29. There is no question Amazon’s Kindle platform can move ebooks. Good idea of taking an older book, and doing a promotion with it. 24,000 downloads is incredible. I always put our homepage address at the end of our books, but after reading this I will test using a link to our optin page. Thanks for sharing.

  30. wow! This is massive! Never knew Amazon is such a big oppourtunity! I hope to do somthig great just like the way you did.
    I liked the part where you said the ebook is not the product but the ”Business card” that a new thing I just learned from you!

  31. Some great advice, thanks for this. I might give this a whirl with an old book I’ve got.

  32. Hi Jeff, You said that this campaign ultimately helped your book sales. Do you mean that you offered your PDF version (previously for sale) for free as a Kindle version for three days, then also sold it for a fee on the Kindle after the promotion (so you were then selling both the PDF and Kindle versions), or do you mean that the PDF sales picked up afterwards, and the Kindle version remained free? Thanks!

  33. Kathie Hempel :

    Hi Jeff,
    Thanks for the great book and great advice always!
    I like what you said about giving your best work away. Praying you top the charts and knock out Fifty Shadesof Grey soon so more lives can be Wrecked!

  34. I’ve been reading a lot about Kindle publishing lately. It’s definitely something that’s here to stay. Seems to that a writer with some hustle and a little bit of talent, with a keen sense of online marketing can just crush it with this kind of strategy. Kindle sales plus the exposure to an online asset makes this an incredible marketing platform. Very excited about implementing this strategy.

  35. Jeff:

    This is ALL brand new information to me. I am dreadfully behind the curve as far as learning the ropes to publishing, let alone e-publishing. AS my valiant excuse, I’ve been writing and blogging, focusing on the craft rather than the end product! Only so much time in a day! However, I am inspired by the positive results of your publishing experiment and would so love to ry thisout in thefuture. Congratulations on your success! I’ve just become a subscriber!

    • Make the leap Amanda. Something I tell my members is not to be afraid to ‘skip steps’ so to speak. Yes, there is a certain amount to learn and ensure you have the skills to do, but don’t hesitate to think about what that end goal is you want to achieve and take the steps to go after it. Even if you do fail, you’ll at least know why and will be able to course correct from there.

  36. I’d like to endorse what you say about using the kdp freebie days Jeff. Like you, I only used 3 days to promote my book ‘Changing Gear A bike ride from Britain to Bulgaria.’ The book had just come out on Kindle and I noticed it was National Bike Week in the UK. So I put my book on for free (with my heart in my mouth in case it all went wrong) and tweeted a bit and sent links to cycle groups and at the end of the 3 days there had been 1600 downloads in the UK, US, France & Germany.This had a knock on effect on sales the next month. I’m now averaging 50 sales a month ( nowhere near you yet) but it is interesting how things build up. I’d love to have a coherent online marketing strategy. At the mo I feel like I’ve got all the components in place but they aren’t talking to each other!

  37. Wow, interesting stuff. Thanks for being so specific. I’m nowhere near ready for a free Kindle ebook promo, but when I am, I now know where to come back and get the details. Congrats.

  38. My question is if I already have an ebook on amazon. Do i have to do this route or can I use the ebook for the campaign?

  39. This is a great, great, great idea! Thanks for sharing this. You just evoke my creativity juice!

  40. Thanks for sharing your experiment. I didn’t know about that program or the benefits that could be attained from it. I’m already thinking about how to apply this new knowledge now.

  41. Another plus side of having a Free eBook promotion at Amazon is the book push you get from affiliate marketers who post/promote the Top 100 FREEBIES on their websites & blogs. The return for them promoting you, helps boost their visibility, visits and potential customers.

  42. I don’t think I’ve experienced anywhere near the volume of sales you experienced. I published a book in August and although I had a few hundred free downloads, I didn’t seem to have that money train keep Rollin’ and I’ve been really depressed about it. I put great info into the book that I usually only discuss in a health consult or lecture for $100.00 an hour. Nobody seems to have tuned in or shared the book the way that I hoped, and all I succeeded in doing is giving my book away to people for free that probably were my prime audience for buying it. I really thought it would do great too, especially since I have an already successful product line.I don’t get it. What do I need to do to change my response volume?

  43. Jeff, I have all nine of my books non-fiction mobsters books, and one mobster novel exclusively on Amazon KDP Select. I decided on this route about a year ago, when I realized my sales from all the other ebook sellers were less than 5 % of my total sales.

    I am very happy with the results, and from now on, all my books (about 4 a year) will be on KDP Select.