Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Amazon Giveaways : An Experiment

Last year, I released a book. It’s a fantasy novel 160,000 words, part one of a series. That’s a tough way to start a career as a novelist – people don’t want to risk twenty bucks on a huge tome. But it gives us a good zero point.

Nobody really knows who I am. Everything I do for promotion is essentially starting from nothing. So when something works, we can see the effects really clearly. When I did the giveaway, I committed to keeping good data in the hopes it would be useful to others. So, here goes.

This isn’t the book I experimented with, but the photo below shows what your options are. You choose how many books you want to give away. Bear in mind you have to buy these through Amazon at list price rather than at cost. Then you choose one of these three options:

Jason Dias Amazon Giveaway Screencap
Click to enlarge

Random: Set the odds of winning.

Lucky Number: every nth participant wins.

First come, first served: give away books to the first entrants to ask for them.

I used the first option. Hard to build up any buzz with the last option: ten people get a free book then the whole thing is over. This might work better for you if you have a large number of books to give away. The second option might have results basically identical to the first but eliminates the element of chance from your end. I’m reminded of a giveaway contest for charity in which a donor supplied a car and said they’d give it away to the first person to roll all sixes on six dice – and the very first person to lay down their two dollar entry fee rolled all sixes and took the prize.

At the bottom of the screen capture, you can see your next choice is what you want your contest entrants to do. They can follow you on Amazon or Twitter or you can have them watch a short video. Advertisers might like the last option. I used the Twitter option to boost my following there. If you want to use this to build your contact lists, though, be aware a lot of the Twitter accounts are fake – used expressly for marketing and contest entries. Amazon will ship prizes directly, so you won’t get an email address or a street address or any information at all, except first and last names. For my second giveaway, with these lessons learned, I asked people to follow my Amazon page. When I update something there, they will get an email about it.

There is a fourth option: to require nothing of entrants. Just send out your books and hope for reviews, ratings, or chatter.

Next, you get to enter your credit card information. You buy all the prizes and estimated shipping up front. You might not give all your books away: if you set the odds to high and don’t get enough entrants, for example. In such a case, unawarded prizes are refunded pretty fast. The bad news is that you pay retail. The good news is you get some of that back in royalties and it does count towards your total book sales for rankings.

I set the odds of winning to 1:500, hoping to get around 5000 entrants. That was wildly optimistic. I ended up with 522 entrants and a corresponding number of new Twitter followers, mostly accounts that only post product review and random retweets. But it wasn’t all bad.

I ended up giving away only two copies of my book. However, nine people who discovered the book through the contest decided to just buy it. The product I listed is a hard sell: a massive fantasy novel, part one in a series that hasn’t been written yet. 9 sales for 2 giveaways seems pretty good to me but you will have to do your own math. The total cost of the giveaway was $48. My total earnings from new sales was $45. The contest essentially paid for itself, and got my book into the hands of strangers.

Nobody has yet posted a review or a star rating. It is not inconceivable that someone still will. They have only had the book for a month or so and it is 160,000 words. Also to consider: I am a complete unknown. I had next to no help sharing the entry link and no interested fan base. It is hard to say how these results might scale without more data; the sample size is just too small.

I hope this helps you make your decision whether or not to engage in an Amazon Giveaway.

Jason Dias is a novelist and a doctor of psychology. He writes incessantly, mostly for Find his novels at Amazon. They’re good. Really.


  1. Congrats on your new tome, Jason. Gee, $48 in expenses against $45 in revenue ... sounds pretty much like my current marketing campaign.

  2. Interesting idea. So far, I've done the KRP freebies at Amazon, but have not tried the giveaway approach. It's something to consider.

  3. I'm not sure I have the mathematical skills to understand this, let alone pull it off. Good for you for trying and thanks for the report.

  4. Thanks for the marketing tip. I had not heard of the giveaway option. Seems like a relatively easy/inexpensive way to promote. I'd like to hear more about your marketing journey as you go along.

  5. It's worth considering, Jason. Thanks for sharing.


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