Anatomy of a Blitz

Just a head’s up, this particular post is about marketing and behind-the-scenes type stuff for promoting books. If you don’t want me to spoil the magic or you think you’ll be turned off by some self-centered navel gazing, I won’t mind if you check out. I’ll probably put myself to sleep before the end of this post too.

So this past Friday, I called for an Amazon blitz for my debut novel, Failstate. In this post, we’ll look at why I did it, how I set things up, and how well it worked (if at all).

The Reason for the Blitz

1. My publisher, Enclave Publishing, had recently decided to make the ebook version free. That may seem like an odd thing for a publisher to do, even stranger for an author to sign off on it. During the run-up to the blitz, a friend of a friend had this objection to the overall plan:

Ben ConvoAaron raises a legitimate concern, and it’s one that I’ve often had when people low-ball their ebook prices. Low prices do indeed lower the perceived value of a product. But Ben has the right of it when it comes to the strategy in making Failstate free. There are two other full novels (plus two novellas I self-published) in the series. The intention is that people will find the first book, read it, and then want to get the rest of the series, thereby boosting sales.

This sort of strategy has worked for other authors and publishers in the past. It’s too early to tell if it will work for us, but based on some comments I saw during the Blitz, I think there’s a chance it might already be working. One person, at least, finished reading Failstate and went on to get Failstate: Legends.

2. An Amazon Blitz helps get the book noticed. Like Lindsay said in the above screencap is another reason why you do a blitz like this. The more people purchase/download a book from Amazon, the higher its sales rank is. That puts it on lists that people browse to find new books to read. That will hopefully lead them to download the book as well. Lather, rinse, repeat.

3. It was my birthday. The timing just worked out perfectly that the book went free right before my birthday. As I was thinking about it a few weeks ago, I realized that it could be funny to ask people to download my free book as a birthday present. And I started to laugh off the idea, but then I thought, “Hey, why not do it for real?”

So the Blitz was on.

Promoting the Blitz

As soon as I came up with the idea and decided I was going to go for it, I made this graphic using Microsoft Powerpoint (because yes, I am that tech savvy):

Primary Blitz

I first posted this on April 4, both on Facebook and Twitter. I asked people to share the image and a lot of people did (35 people, to be exact). I also ponied up twenty bucks to boost the post on Facebook, targeting it to people who liked my author page and their friends. This resulted in this image being seen by 5,710 people in total. I also sent out a message on my e-mail newsletter (did you know I had one of those? If you sign up for it, you can get a free song). I also made a post here, just trying to cover all my bases.

And this, I think, was my first mistake.

Did you know what an Amazon Blitz was before this? I think a lot of people didn’t understand how this worked exactly. I saw a lot of people saying that they downloaded the book after seeing this ad. I don’t mind people doing that—every little bit helps—but it does dilute the effort a little.

Then, the day of the Blitz, I created a new image to announce that it was time to get started:

release the kraken

This time around, I scaled things back a little. I didn’t use my e-mail newsletter, but I did post it to Twitter and Facebook. I didn’t boost the post, but in spite of that lack of boosting, this image was still seen by 3,266 people (thanks to 44 people sharing it).

At that point, I sat back and started to track the numbers as best I could.

The Blitz Plays Out

I didn’t have access to any real-time data regarding downloads or anything like that, but I was able to track things using the not-so-scientific data of sales rank. Amazon updates this information hourly and it lets you know how far up the list your book is in general and in specific categories.

So this is the first piece of data I have, taken at 6:00 PM on April 9:

4-9 6pmAs you can see, the book was already doing pretty good overall. #3 in those two categories are nothing to sneeze at, and a sales rank under 10,000 is pretty sweet too. But within a few hours, the Blitz would be on. And here’s where the book checked in at various points.

8:00 AM

4-10 8a1:00 PM

4-10 1p6:00 PM

4-10 6pAnd here’s where it ended at the end of the day:

4-11 12aSelfishly, I had hoped that the book would be able to break into the below 1,000 club, but alas, it didn’t happen. But the fact that it hit #1 in three different categories for a while was really gratifying to see.

Here’s a better way to see this. Amazon tracks a book’s sales rank as a convenient chart, and this is what Failstate‘s looked like (the orange line is the day of the Blitz).

The jumpBut this sort of data-voodoo wasn’t quite good enough. The Monday after the Blitz, I decided to contact my publisher and ask for the raw “sales” data. This would be the best way to see how well my efforts worked. And I have to say, I was happy with what I saw:

Blitz DataThe numbers correspond to the number of times the book was downloaded. So while, in the week leading up to the Blitz, people downloaded approximately two dozen books each day (give or take), that number jumped the day of the Blitz. And that’s exactly what I hoped would happen.

My Conclusions

So was it worth it? Offhand, I’d say it was. I didn’t do a lot to market the Blitz (I posted notices in some groups I belong to on Facebook and I asked friends to help me get the word out). In the future, I might forgo the whole “post boosting” business.

My last thought on the subject is this: Thank you! If you’ve read this post this far, that means that you most likely helped me get the word out and that big blue spike wouldn’t have happened without your help. So my hat’s off to you! Thanks for helping Failstate conquer a little corner of Amazon!

Author @JohnWOtte dissects an Amazon Blitz for one of his books. Click To Tweet

One Comment:

  1. The theory that giving away the first book will cause new readers to find the next book is pretty accurate. My brother bought the second and third books in the trilogy after I downloaded the first one for him.

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