Lis Angus is Canadian; she grew up in Alberta but moved to Ontario for university and has lived there ever since. Early in her career, she worked with children and families in crisis, switching later to work as a policy advisor, business writer, and editor while raising two daughters. Though she loved writing stories as a child and teenager, she didn’t come back to writing fiction until she retired. Her first novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, was published in April 2022. Lis is a member of Sisters in Crime, International Thriller Writers, Crime Writers of Canada, Capital Crime Writers, and the North Grenville Writers Circle. She lives with her husband south of Ottawa, where she is working on her second suspense novel.

NOT YOUR CHILDA strange man insists Susan’s twelve-year-old daughter Maddy is his granddaughter, abducted as a baby — then Maddy disappears, but he has an alibi.

How my book reached Amazon #1 Best Seller status: George, I’m glad to be back as a guest on your blog. You last hosted me last year when my debut novel, NOT YOUR CHILD, was first released by The Wild Rose Press. I was thrilled to be a published writer, and the book got off to a great start after its launch in April 2022. But this year, as another April approached, I realized that sales had slowed to a trickle.

That was disappointing, especially since I knew readers were giving the book great reviews. But was it too late to try to reach a wider audience?

I decided to announce a celebration of the book’s one-year anniversary with a promotional push in April 2023 to attract new readers. I had no idea how well the effort would work, but I was optimistic.

As things turned out, the “push” was way more successful than I anticipated, resulting in (spoiler alert!) over 2,100 sales and reaching Amazon’s #1 Best Seller status in three countries. Here’s how I went about it.

Reducing the Price: My first task was to persuade my publisher to reduce the ebook price (normally US$4.99) to 99¢. They were dubious, saying that a price cut wouldn’t necessarily increase sales, and even if it did, a reduced price would reduce the per-book royalty, thus likely wiping out any net benefit.

I argued that expanding the book’s readership was a benefit in itself, particularly if it built an audience for future books. Furthermore, without a promotional push, sales would likely stay at the then-current low level, so the downside risk of reducing the price was not large.

I laid out my “anniversary” marketing plan, which included applying to several sites that promote books at discounted prices. My publisher reluctantly agreed to set the book’s price at 99¢ for two weeks, from April 12-26. This price is applied to ebooks on Amazon (Kindle), Apple, Google Play, and Barnes & Noble (Nook).

Like most small presses, my publisher expects its authors to shoulder most of the work and expense of promoting their books. So the cost of this promotion would fall to me. I decided that expanding my reader base was a worthwhile investment, regardless of whether my royalties ended up covering the cost.

Applying for a BookBub Featured Deal: BookBub, founded in 2012, has over four million subscribers in the US, Canada, the UK, and Australia. Readers sign up to receive daily email offers of free or discounted ebooks in genres of their choice. Authors and publishers pay to have their books promoted to BookBub’s subscribers.

I learned that BookBub Featured Deals are widely considered the gold standard of online book marketing opportunities, often resulting in significant increases in book sales. BookBub reportedly accepts only 10-20% of applications for Featured Deals; some authors say they’ve applied numerous times without being accepted.

Somehow, I managed to be accepted on my first try, though only for the three “international” markets: Canada, UK, and Australia. I also applied for the US, the largest market by far, but I didn’t get that one. My Deal was scheduled for Friday, April 21.

Lining up US Promos: Even though I didn’t have a BookBub Deal for the US market, my 99¢ price was available there as well. I thought reaching out to readers in that market was worth a try. So, after some research, I applied to three US promo sites that offered discounted books to readers, and promos were scheduled for the following dates:

  • Book Adrenaline (April 14)
  • Robin Reads (April 15)
  • Fussy Librarian (April 17)

Launching the Anniversary Month: I began the month by sending a note to my newsletter subscribers, announcing the one-year milestone and asking them to help me by recommending the book to friends who they thought would enjoy the book.

I had already lined up several guest blogs on author sites during the month and sent links from these to my subscribers as well.

On April 12, when the 99¢ price kicked in, I posted it to my Facebook Page, Twitter, and Instagram and “boosted” the post for two weeks to expand its reach.

Hitting Amazon #1 Bestseller status: To get a baseline, I checked each country’s Amazon listing to find my ebook’s “bestseller rank” before the promo started and tracked changes throughout.

Amazon US: on April 11, my book had a Kindle ranking of 184,509. Four days later, on April 15 — presumably, as a result of the Book Adrenaline and Robin Reads promos — it had risen to a Kindle rank of 2,553. Not only that but to my surprise, it was ranked #1Best Seller in the “Parenting Teenagers” category. (I don’t consider my book a source of parenting advice, but the #2 book was also a thriller!) It was also #25 in Kidnapping Thrillers.

Amazon International: On April 20 (the day before the BookBub Featured Deal), my book’s Kindle rankings were as follows:

  • Amazon Canada: 34,381
  • Amazon UK: 100,472
  • Amazon Australia: 69,470

A day later, by the end of April 21:

  • Amazon Canada: kindle book #3, Suspense #1, Kidnapping Thriller #1
  • Amazon UK: kindle book #26, Mysteries #10
  • Amazon Australia: kindle book #8, Suspense Thriller #1

Amazon recalculates its sales ranks every hour, and my “Best Seller” status didn’t last long. But these results far outstripped my expectations. A lot of readers had clearly decided to buy my book, but to know what exactly that meant, I had to wait for actual sales figures.

Results: Here are the April sales figures I’ve received from my publisher, though the final numbers still need to be confirmed. Most of the sales were through Amazon, but some were also through Google and Nook.

· BookBub deal countries (Canada, UK, and Australia): 1,470 books

· US (no Bookbub deal, smaller promos): 360 books

· Another 350 books sold through Apple Books, for which I don’t yet have a country breakdown.

In total, I now have something over 2,100 new readers—way more than I expected.

In conclusion: I definitely met and exceeded my goals for this promotional push. I probably haven’t recouped the full cost of the promotion, but I am well satisfied with the results nevertheless.

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