My Experience With Amazon Giveaways

Nat RussoMarketing, Opinion, Platform, Promotions 23 Comments

Amazon recently added a new tool they call “Amazon Giveaways” to our marketing toolbox. Using Amazon Giveaways, the book publisher can purchase an arbitrary number of copies of their book and have Amazon distribute them “free” to people who participate in the giveaway.

Amazon Giveaways

I’m not going to spend much time on “how to” in this article. There are a lot of resources out there that will get you started with Amazon Giveaways (including the wonderful resource written by my friend and fellow author Nicholas Rossis: How To Set Up An Amazon Giveaway). Instead, I’d like to talk about my experience and lessons learned after running two separate Amazon giveaways of the same title, Necromancer Awakening.

What To Know Before You Begin

Amazon Giveaways, at their core, are advertisements with compelling calls to action. But don’t expect to simply log on to Amazon Giveaways, click a few buttons, and be done with it. You need to come prepared with the following:

  1. At least one slightly-larger-than-thumbnail-sized image of what you’re giving away (book cover, etc.)
  2. Short copy that will serve as advertisement text (30-50 words, if I recall. Mine was 32 words.)
  3. A goal

In my particular case, I used the full cover art for #1 (front, spine, and back), minus the titling. This worked only because my covers tend to be a “scene”, rather than abstract concepts. If your cover doesn’t fall into this category, you may want to spend some time photoshopping something decent.

My giveaway looked like this [since it has been over for quite some time, it says “Giveaway Ended” at the top]:

Amazon Giveaways

You don’t have many words to grab a potential reader’s attention, so make them count!

How It Worked Out

Not so well. But I learned a few things. Here’s what my Amazon Giveaways dashboard looked like after I ran the first giveaway:

Amazon Giveaway 1

Absolutely pathetic. But rather than going straight into the “lessons learned”, I’d like to show you the results of my second giveaway for comparison:

Amazon Giveaway 2

Big difference, no? What did I learn? In no particular order:

  • Don’t confine your giveaway to weekdays. That first giveaway began on a Tuesday and ended on Friday.
  • Let the giveaway run for at least the default time span of 15-days. When I ran the first giveaway, I thought I’d be clever and shorten it to 3 days. Big mistake.
  • Don’t be afraid to give away as many copies as you can afford. Any prizes remaining when your giveaway expires are “returned” to you in the form of being able to start up another giveaway at no cost. Or, optionally, Amazon will give you “download codes” to hand out to whomever you choose. The point is, you’re not going to lose the money for prizes you haven’t given away.
  • The more prizes you put up for grabs, and the longer the “odds” you select, the more time you should allow your giveaway to run. In my first giveaway, I selected “1 in 300” odds. That meant that 1 out of every 300 participants would win a free copy. Notice how many entrants I ultimately had during that run? 175. It was impossible to give away more than 1 of the 7 prizes I reserved for the giveaway. But notice the second giveaway. 250 entrants with 5 prizes given away. For that run, I selected “1 in 50” odds, and allowed the giveaway to run for the full 15 days.

Unless you have a huge following of true fans, it’s going to take time for a few hundred people to decide to participate in your giveaway.

I’d like to reinforce what Nicholas Rossis said in his “How To Set Up An Amazon Giveaway” article: Your call-to-action should be to grow your Amazon following, not your social media following. Why? Because every time you publish, the people who are following you on Amazon are automatically targeted by Amazon’s marketing machine. They receive direct mail that lets them know one of their favorite authors has a new title available. This is priceless! No matter how good you are at book marketing, you’ll never be as good (or have as wide a reach) as Amazon. So let them do the work for you. For purposes of selling books to readers, I’d much rather pick up 450 Amazon followers than 450 Twitter followers or 450 page “likes” on Facebook.

Getting The Word Out About Your Amazon Giveaways

Amazon Giveaways are great and all, but they’re no different than any other promotion in one key area: no one is going to know you’re running one unless you tell people about it. So how did I get the word out about mine?

First, the bad. Once again, I have little good to say about Facebook boosts. While I find them helpful, on occasion, to spread awareness about a blog article, or to promote my Facebook Page, every time I spend money on a boost with a very specific call-to-action, it feels as if I’m funneling cash into a toilet bowl. I also shared the giveaway in a handful of Facebook groups I participate in. While the groups are active and full of friendly people, they’re all writers like myself. They know the score. They’re trying to promote their own work.

What did work, however, was a combination of two things:

  1. I “pinned” a post with a link to the giveaway on both my Facebook page and Twitter profile.
  2. I used the techniques I wrote about in my Platform Building Primer article to draw in new followers.

As new followers discovered my page and profile, they invariably followed the call-to-action! So, once again, platform is king.

Tracking Your Progress

Yes, you can see how many people are entering the giveaway as well as how many items you’re actually handing out. But there’s another interesting metric to consider: your Amazon author rank. Before your giveaway goes live, I recommend visiting AuthorCentral and jotting down or screenshotting your current author rank (in whichever category is more representative of your work). Then, throughout the giveaway, periodically take note of your current rank. If you’re getting a lot of traffic, and people are actually following you on Amazon (a few hundred additional followers), you should see a small upward trend in your rank (though I’m convinced the whole truth behind our ranks involves some black magic).

My Criticism

While I love having a new marketing tool in my toolbox, there is one very real and very obvious miss in all of this: Amazon still refuses to inform us of how many followers we have at any given time. We have no way of knowing how many people follow the call-to-action, win or lose, then unfollow us. I’ve written to Amazon about this, and all I get in return is boilerplate copy talking about how it’s their policy to not reveal follower counts.

Well duh. I know it’s your policy…

The policy is stupid and needs to change. And I don’t use words like “stupid and needs to change” very often.

Until Amazon changes this policy, the best you can do is track your book launches, launch-to-launch, to see if your Amazon following is having any impact. At this point, unfortunately, it’s a wash for me. But until Amazon lets me see a simple count of my followers, I have no valid metric to use to analyze my results.

So, I’ll end with two things to say to Amazon:

  1. Good job! Thanks for the awesome new tool!
  2. Get with it. Let us see a simple count of the followers we have. We don’t need or even want to see their names. We just need a total.


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About Nat Russo

Nat Russo is the Amazon #1 Bestselling Fantasy author of Necromancer Awakening and Necromancer Falling. Nat was born in New York, raised in Arizona, and has lived just about everywhere in-between. He’s gone from pizza maker, to radio DJ, to Catholic seminarian (in a Benedictine monastery, of all places), to police officer, to software engineer. His career has taken him from central Texas to central Germany, where he worked as a defense contractor for Northrop Grumman. He's spent most of his adult life developing software, playing video games, running a Cub Scout den, gaining/losing weight, and listening to every kind of music under the sun. Along the way he managed to earn a degree in Philosophy and a black belt in Tang Soo Do. He currently makes his home in central Texas with his wife, teenager, mischievous beagle, and goofy boxador.

Comments 23

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    2. There was a bunch of viagra-related text ads interspersed in the text in that particular post.It’s disappeared now. Looks like your host fixed it before it became a problem 🙂

    3. Oh, and I forgot to say: I couldn’t agree more with your comments on both the point of giveaways, and the need to see how many followers we have (a gripe I also have with LinkedIn). At least you know how many *new* followers you have because of the giveaway, since that number will equal the number of entrants.

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  1. I tried this too with 20 ebook copies of a book – a cozy mystery with a Halloween theme – I desperately needed reviews on (still do), politely asking for reviews from all that won it. I set it to 1 in 200 and ran the contest for 7 days. Amazon gave away 11. None of them gave me a review even though the winner’s note copy politely asked for the same thing. I chose to take the other 9 codes and give those away to people who agreed to do an honest review. Of those 9 codes, 3 worked and 1 person gave up and bought the book. None of those four people have ever reviewed it either so either the book stinks or no one has read it.

    Regardless, Amazon giveaways are good for exposure but little more. If you’re giving away hard copies maybe it’s better but for eBooks, don’t expect much.

    One tip: Lower the price of your eBook to $.99 before you buy your giveaway copies. Save yourself some money. If you can do it in conjunction with a Kindle Countdown deal promotion or right before or after, so much the better. Some readers will just buy the book.

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      I agree with lowering the price before you run it to save money. But I disagree on the exposure statement.

      I don’t think Amazon Giveaways are really meant to generate reviews (or even sales) of your book. If you look at the “calls to action” they offer you, It’s intended to grow your Amazon (or social media) following. You won’t see immediate results from an Amazon Giveaway if you’re using it to build your Amazon following. Where you will (should) see results is the *next time you publish*. That’s when those new followers are going to get direct mail from Amazon and be plugged into the Amazon marketing machine.

      I wouldn’t recommend running a giveaway for the explicit purpose of generating book reviews, though. You may get some reviews as an added side benefit, but I don’t think that’s really the primary thrust of an Amazon Giveaway.

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  2. Was just looking into running an Amazon giveaway today but decided to Google first hand experiences and your blog popped up :). Good breakdown of the pros and cons of the giveaway and great tip on lowering the price before running the giveaway!

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  3. Super helpful! I was shooting for Twitter follows (which I got), but your point about the Amazon followers and *potentially* improving your Author rank sounds like a much better option.

    As far as I understand it, Amazon doesn’t “help” at all with promotion, right? That part is all up to us. I just kept tweeting it out, pinned a tweet, and did a small amount of posts on my FB author page.

    Great stuff, thanks!

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      Glad to help! Amazon helps with marketing to some extent, but the specifics are known only to them. Based on all sorts of factors, which probably includes the alignment of planets, your book will be included in marketing emails sent out to Amazon customers. You may also appear on other product pages under the section, “People also bought…”.

  4. Hi, thank for the post very helpful. Just had a question, though you might have some input, as the Amazon website isn’t really helping. I recently ran two giveaways. The r first one was a randomized giveaway and the second was ran as a sweepstakes. The randomized one was not promoted as much but the sweepstakes was heavily promoted, yet the first one had almost doubled the amount of entrants than the sweepstakes. Just wondering what happened and if you maybe experienced anything like this. Just trying to determine what would be most effective to get people to read and purchase my book.

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      There’s an old saying about marketing that is as true as it is frustrating: “We know that half of all marketing works. We just don’t know which half.”

      My strongest recommendation when it comes to book marketing is to build as extensive an author platform as you can. It’s going to take time to establish that platform, but it pays dividends in the end. You may be interested in this reference:

      I attribute more than 80% of all my sales to people who already follow me on social media and read my blog articles. Your platform may end up looking different, but the idea is to establish yourself publicly as a content provider of some sort. As people consume your free content, they inevitably get around to checking out your for sale content.

      Hope this helps! I empathize with the frustration! I’d like to answer your question more directly, but Amazon has yet to become truly transparent in their metrics. For example, we still can’t determine exactly how many people follow us on Amazon at any given time.

  5. Thanks so much for all this useful information, including the answers in the reply section. Just stumbled on your blog today by Googling it. This will really help with my ongoing marketing. Many thanks.

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  6. Thanks for this amazing blog post, Nat. I must confess that I learnt a lot from your knowledge base shared here. I started running Amazon giveaways just to increase my Twitter following those days. Later I found that the Twitter followers option was removed from my dashboard. I don’t know if it applies to all accounts though.

    So the next option was to do Amazon Author page follows. I wanted to know how to see your followers when I stumbled on your post. In the end, I learnt more about the giveaways benefits generally.

    Going forward I will continue with the Author page follows option.
    Thanks again, for sharing.

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      I’m glad you found it helpful, Solomon! It’s been a while since my last Amazon giveaway. I’m going to have to experiment with the system a little more and report my findings.

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