The Nameless Horror

Self-publishing and paid promotion

Not so long ago, an email arrived from an ebooky website whose newsletter I happen to subscribe to. It advertised cross-site promotion on eight websites, at least a couple of which I already knew as fairly big in ebook terms, for the half-rated introductory cost of $99.

I’ve had experience of the effect having a free ebook carried on similar sites can have on downloads before, but I’ve wondered whether the same would hold true for paid books. And I was clearly feeling adventurous that day, not to mention aware of roughly that amount of cash sitting unclaimed so the expense wouldn’t be real money, because I went for the offer, and took a slot for DAY ZERO.

As it happened, I then took a second slot for MURDER PARK, because there was a serious glitch in the system first time out and DZ only appeared on two of the eight sites on its allotted Friday. To AAN’s great credit, when I queried this on the Saturday evening I had a reply, fixing what could be fixed, with an explanation (not-unexpected teething issues with sync between sites), a profuse apology, and the offer of a free do-over slot a couple of weeks later, within an hour or two. The network is clearly well-run and not a quick cash-grab, and kudos for that.

So. Both books had Friday slots, were promo-priced down to $0.99 (mentioned in the splash text for DZ, not for MP), and I did nothing to else to push them at those times (because doing so would skew results). Both of them have respectable covers and copy that is OK at worst, and in terms of presentation I don’t think there’s too much to fault. Not seriously, anyway. One is in YA SF, one in a vague SF/thriller blurred no-man’s land. DZ, in particular, is in a genre for which digital sales are reasonably solid.

We’ll assume that sales during the whole weekend are entirely down to the promotion. How did it stack up?

DZ shifted 11 copies.

MP shifted 1 copy.

Does this mean that paid-for promotion of this sort is pointless? No, of course not; this is little more than a single point of data, for two books on one cluster of websites. But it was certainly eye-opening, and it’s certainly something I’d suggest others bear in mind when considering stumping up their hard-earned. Stories have suggested for a while that advertising of this sort (principally through Bookbub) has been losing its effectiveness, just as low pricing and pushing on social media had already lose theirs. And maybe that’s true.