I got 3000 Amazon Readers in 5 Days. This is What Happened…

(Article written December 4, 2023)

It’s an unfortunate statistic that most self-published authors sell less than 250 books in their lifetime – no matter how many novels they write. Despite knowing the odds, I chose to walk this path anyway.

I still hope to become a *full time* author someday, to be able to make a living from my books. But in order to do that, I need an absolute TON of people to become familiar with my writing, decide they like my style of storytelling, and to want to purchase future books. 

My debut novel MORTAL TETHER has been published for 2 months. As far as indie authors go, it’s off to a decent start. My book has been selling slowly but surely on Amazon and the lady who works at the post office recognizes me now because of sales from my TikTok shop. Every time I come in she says “Hey! You sold another one!” or “Look at that! Two today!” She has no idea how much these little moments of encouragement mean. But I digress…

Back to talking about Amazon.

I held off for as long as I could before enrolling in Kindle Unlimited. While KU does allow me to be exposed to more readers, I only make 20% from a complete KU read in comparison to what I would have made for an eBook sale at retail price. I ultimately signed up for the program as I was nearing the 2 month mark because I knew I needed to enact a plan to jumpstart my book while still in its first quarter. This first year is critical, and I don’t have time to waste.

Every 90 days, Amazon allows authors enrolled in KDP select to do a free eBook promotion. Instead of just setting my book to *free* and watching a handful of downloads roll in over the course of five days, I decided to use it as an opportunity to increase my exposure to as many readers as humanly possible. 

I resolved to shout from the rooftops and convince every single person I could to read MORTAL TETHER for FREE with the goal of making it to the top 100 free books on Amazon

But I had seen fellow indie authors on social media say they were struggling to get people to download even free books… so I knew this was still going to be an uphill battle… In order to make it into the top 100 (and risk publicly failing if I didn’t) I knew it would take some pretty drastic measures for a debut indie-author like me. Let me walk you through a timeline of how everything unfolded…

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November 24th 

This is the day my promotion started.

I began by making tons of videos and blasted them all over TikTok, X, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. I joined Facebook groups devoted to sharing news about free books on Kindle. I reached out to friends and strangers… and amazing, kind people rallied to my cause, shouting it along with me. With social media alone, this was enough to get me my very first #1 spot on a category chart for the first time!!! That happened on November 25th at roughly 6PM EST.  As you’ll see in the chart below, my downloads cooled on November 26th, but my book remained in the #1 position in Post-Apocalyptic Teen Fiction and rose to #2 and #3 in other categories.

November 27th & 28th

Despite reaching #1 in my category for the first time, I realized that I’d need a further push to break the top 100 books overall.

Though it was extremely last minute, I found a few newsletter promotions I was able to squeeze into and I stacked them for the last two days of the promo. I continued making videos and posting on social media as well. This was enough to get me 3 more #1 category spots and make my book peak at #74 in Kindle’s Top 100 Free books!!!


My results: just shy of 3000 people decided to take a chance on my book and downloaded it, skyrocketing MORTAL TETHER to the top 100 books on Amazon in the Kindle store and launching me to #1 in four categories (YA Apocalypse, Teen Thriller, YA Dystopias, and Supernatural Mystery). 

While that is a significant accomplishment, and believe me – getting that many people to download even a free ebook is no easy feat – I know some of my fellow authors might be unsettled by the fact I’d give away so many free books after working so hard writing my book over the past 5 years.

I understand. Our books are valuable and cost money for us to publish (ISBNs, graphic designers, software etc. aren’t cheap!) so of course we want to make a return as soon as possible. 

However, I decided to take a risk on this bold move for a couple reasons. 

1. I am a debut author

While I will likely continue this strategy for future books, it was especially important to me as a first-time author to get my name out there and expose my work to more readers. I look at it as a way to jumpstart my reader-base for future books.

2. Some People may still purchase my book

A bunch of my ARC readers who had gotten my book for free ended up actually buying it either for themselves or for their kids. (At least 5 that I know of.) 

It amazed me at the time that they loved the book so much, they wanted a physical copy. Because of them, I believe there’s a chance some of the 3K people who got my book for free on Amazon may end up feeling the same way.

Netgalley Review

In addition to ARC readers telling me via reviews that they would be likely to buy physical copies of my book (or reaching out to me directly to tell me), 92% of Netgalley respondents who were polled after reading my book indicated that they would purchase it!! These were promising numbers.  

I’ve seen a small bump in physical book sales after the promo ended, though I have only recouped about 17% of what I spent on the campaign. (Again, it’s only been a week though, so not enough time to gauge the full impact.) Below is a chart that shows my royalty earnings for the days before and following the promo.

After promo sales bump

3. Reviews and Ratings

Even if people don’t buy the physical book after reading the eBook, they might leave a review which could encourage other people to buy.

When I ran this promotion a week ago, I only had 11 reviews on Amazon. Now I have 18. Being that it’s only been 7 days since my promo ended, I see this as a victory.

And as a bonus, because people downloaded it through Amazon itself, these are showing up as *verified* reviews unlike the early reviews I got because of Netgalley and my ARC team.

4. Increasing visibility on Goodreads

Before I ran this promotion, I had 29 people with my book marked “To-Read” on Goodreads with 3 people “Currently Reading”. Most of these people came from Netgalley and TikTok. 

Now, one week after the promo, I have 43 people who marked it “To-Read” and 17 people “Currently Reading”.

Over this week, several people also marked it “Read”. 

Goodreads chart

5. Making Use of Amazon's Internal Marketing

My Amazon followers for my author page shot up this week from 20 to 61. Here’s what Amazon says about followers:

Amazon Followers

The Follow button on your Author Page allows Amazon customers to add you to their favorite authors, and is designed so that customers who follow you can learn about new titles as they become available, including Book Recommendations you make via Amazon Author Central.

If your followers allow marketing emails from Amazon.com, they are eligible to be notified within 60 days of your book’s release or availability for pre-order on our website.

Continue Series You’ve Started…

Amazon also has a feature where they promote series a reader has already started while they browsing their kindle. When book #2 in the MORTAL TETHER series comes out, those 3000 people have a chance of seeing my new book on their kindles because they’ve already purchased the first book in the series. (Even though the book was free, Amazon still counts it as a purchase.) 

Kindle Continue Series You've Started

Helping Amazon Understand My Audience

Lastly, by having so many people choose to download my book, this helps Amazon understand who my target audience is. I don’t have any insights into their internal processes, but I strongly suspect that this data of who was inclined to get my book in relation to what other books they ultimately purchased with their Amazon account, will help the platform understand who my target reader is. 

Will I do this again?

ABSOLUTELY! I actually have thoughts and ideas on how I might improve this to get higher on the chart and reach even more readers next time around…  But I’ll save that for a future post. 😉

If you found this helpful

I’ve spent countless hours over the past 5+ years researching everything I could about publishing and book marketing. Authors sharing their own experiences of what worked, what didn’t, and the process of trial and error really helped me forge my own path. I hope that sharing this information may help another indie author who is in the beginning stages of their journey. 

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