How to Promote an eBook with a Limited Time Discount

by | Oct 8, 2019 | Book Marketing Basics, Marketing Your eBook

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As authors we know we should promote an eBook with a variety of strategies, one being limited time discounts.

But many of us have also done an eBook promotion and didn’t get a great number of downloads.

So, do you try again or throw in the towel?

If you’ve been following me for even a little while you know I won’t tell you to throw in the towel! The reality is, promoting books is complex and it has a lot of layers, and being a successful author means tracking what works and pivoting when things don’t.

Limited time discount promotions work so well (when done correctly) because they’re aligned with buyer psychology: people love a good deal and shoppers respond to deadlines. Not to mention the fact that eBook promotion sites are always popping up everywhere, meaning there are numerous channels for every budget and tons of ways to find new readers.

So let’s cover some of the main reasons authors miss the mark when it comes time to promote an eBook so you can give it another shot at getting into more hands in the quickest, simplest way possible!

Your price point was off for your market.

There is no shortage of eBook deals out there, in any given day you can find thousands of discounted (and free) books on Amazon.

So the first problem is that many book promotions aren’t priced correctly.

When I talk to authors about their promotions sometimes they feel strongly that discounting the book by $1 or $2 is sufficient to drive sales.

That’s fine if you’ve got some mega blockbuster book everyone has been waiting on, but we know from buying history that eBook buyers are pretty price sensitive so discounting a book by just a few dollars probably won’t work. Part of the reason for a smaller reduction is that authors are eager (sometimes desperate) to make some sales.

Another price point that authors often stick with is under $5 for their promo, so pricing it at $2.99 and running that for three days or so. Now $2.99 can work, but keep in mind that the closer you get to that $5 mark, the lower your sales will be.

We often don’t see huge sales numbers that align with this price point.

However, if you’re going to do this, make sure that it’s not your first book, that you have a lot of reviews, and that you have a solid (read: large) fan base.


You don’t have enough reviews.

With all of the books out there being discounted, most serious readers aren’t interested in downloading a book that has only a few reviews. Remember, these are impulse buys typically, so the price point draws them in – but your book still has to sell itself and reviews are the best way to do that.

Generally, if you have less than ten or twenty reviews, then don’t put so much pressure on your eBook promotion to move the needle.

Why? Because people like what other people like, especially when it comes to discounted eBooks (since there are literally thousands) and especially if you’re using this promotion to drive new readers to Amazon.

This is especially true if you’re in a cluttered genre (and these days, which genre isn’t cluttered?), if you want to compete effectively with other books out there, make sure you have enough reviews to help push this book higher on your readers’ radar screens before expecting too much from your eBook promotions.

Now, if you have fewer than 10 or 20 reviews you should still do these! It’s fantastic exposure and it’s great for cover and brand recognition. Again, it’s about keeping expectations in check.

You discounted the wrong book.

Sometimes when doing limited time promotions, authors will discount books that are older – in some cases too old to grab the attention of a new reader.

A lot of non-fiction falls into this category because most of it has a shelf life and requires updating. Or perhaps you wrote a self-help book that may seem like an evergreen title, but the truth is that since you released your self-help book, nine million other self-help books have been released since that time.

So consider, as objectively as you can, whether your older book is really going to garner interest in today’s market.

You have to promote an eBook even if it’s discounted.

Believe it or not, just discounting the book won’t have people knocking at your door. Just like releasing a book doesn’t mean you’ll sell any copies.

Promotion is key!

Check out my Resources and Free Downloads section at the end for great resources!

You didn’t promote after the last discount day.

While your post-promotion pricing may not affect the success of your eBook deal per se, it can affect how well your book sells long term.

I always recommend that authors keep the pricing low for the first 3-4 days post deal.

Why? Because you’re going to find people spotting this deal on various sites, or not seeing the Bookbub or BookGorilla newsletter until the dates have passed.

They may click the link anyway and this kind of residual book visibility can net you some great sales!

And while it may seem counterintuitive to do this, keep in mind that the person clicking probably has no experience with your work so even if the deal has passed, if they can grab it at a reasonable price (keep it below $5) they may be still willing to take a chance on you.

And isn’t that what building a fan base is all about?

Your book page wasn’t working for you.

Once you get someone to click the link in their social media feed or in an eBook newsletter, the book page needs to do a good job of selling.

For example, if your book description isn’t award winning, then consider rewriting it.

How will you know? Well you won’t really, because potential eBook buyers likely won’t write you to say they decided not to get your book based on it’s description.

So consider getting some expert input, either from a copy writer or a book marketing person, typically they can offer you a reasonable consult feed for some feedback. You can also poll other authors you know, preferably ones that have seen some level of success though, who have already started figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

Your book cover could use a revamp.

As eyes are the window to the soul, book covers are a window to your book.

You may love your book cover but does your reader?

Much like the book description mentioned earlier, if you aren’t sure or the feedback is mixed, maybe it’s time to ask your fans what they think?

While redesigning your book cover may not be the most ideal thing you could be doing, it’s better than promoting a book with a cover that just isn’t up to par.

I also recommend checking out the covers of the top books in your market, see what your competitors are doing – because they’re doing a lot of things right and I assure you the book cover is at the top of the list.

Pro tip: We buy so much online these days, especially books. So your cover needs to look good on a print book AND as a thumbnail image. If you cover loses it’s appeal when you shrink it down, you need a new cover that’s designed to compete in today’s market.

You decided to promote an eBook with the wrong goals.

Why are you doing an eBook promotion?

Your answer will determine which book you promote, how you promote it, how you price it, and how long you run the promotion.

If, let’s say, you’re trying to push a series of books – so a fiction series (or even non-fiction) if it’s crucial that the reader read all the books in the series for it to make sense, why would you promote book four of a series? All that will do is disappoint (and likely confuse) the reader.

So be thoughtful in how you execute a book deal, especially if you’re only working with five freebie days that KDP allots you through Amazon.

Your goal also shouldn’t be to make a ton of money. There, I said it.

The goal should be exposure.

Think of it as an opportunity to get in front of hundreds and even thousands of potential readers that you’d have no way of reaching otherwise. Get them reading this book by offering a great deal, and save focusing on selling them something at a higher price point the next time around, once they’re already familiar with (and in theory liking!) your work.

You aren’t combining your efforts.

While eBook promotions are great, they shouldn’t be your only effort, and if that’s all you’re doing, that may be why it didn’t work.

I have talked to people who say, “Well, I got into Bookbub so that’s all I’m doing.”

No book promotion strategy should be a singular effort!

Figure out how to leverage your eBook promotion or use it in conjunction with something else you’re doing (like to announce a new release).

Or maybe you have a set schedule for your eBook promotion – as part of a larger effort? If not, download my free monthly planner in the Resources section so you can start planning for and running an eBook promo every six weeks or so (this works especially well if you’ve got multiple books).

I assure you, with some planning and practice, your discount eBook promotions will start helping you move the needle in no time!

Resources and Free Downloads

Monthly Book Marketing Planner

Book Cover Design Tips

Smart eBook Stacking Strategies

5 Book Marketing Strategies That Make or Break Your Success

How to Market Your Book with Author Central (for FREE)




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