How an Amazon snafu can ruin your sales after a promotion

Happy Tuesday! I usually post on Mondays, but yesterday got away from me and I’m sitting here trying to figure out how. Oh well.

claudia_kindleLast week, my novel, Claudia Must Die, was free for a few days. I promised some of you I’d let you know how it went. The simple answer is really well. It was downloaded over 6000 times. Also, it was downloaded in countries I don’t usually sell in, including: Italy, Japan, India, and Brazil.

There’s good news and bad news about after the sale. First the bad news. When my title was no longer free, Amazon’s ranking system was frozen. Usually they update the rankings every hour. At first I thought it was just my book. Then I noticed other authors experiencing the same issue. How did this hurt my sales? For starters, Claudia Must Die, wasn’t moved off the top 100 free lists for well over twelve hours. Because of this, people downloaded it thinking it was free and then returned it, and rightfully so. I feel absolutely horrible about the situation, even though I had zero control.

It also meant that when my book should have placed rather high on the top 100 paid genre listings, it didn’t since it was stuck in the free listings. I’ll never know how much this Amazon snafu cost me. What I do know is that when the situation was finally rectified, I sold over 100 copies. My hopes were for more and who knows if I angered potential fans who thought they were getting a free book.

There’s more good news, though. Since the sale, there have been seven more reviews for Claudia Must Die on (the US site). This is great news. All of you know how vital reviews are. Recently I read (and I can’t remember where) that only around one percent of readers leave reviews. For indie writers this is a serious concern, but more on reviews later.

Let me know if you have any questions or suggestions about promotions. Trust me, I’m not an expert, but I’m more than happy to share about my experiences.

About TBM

TB Markinson is an American who's recently returned to the US after a seven-year stint in the UK and Ireland. When she isn't writing, she's traveling the world, watching sports on the telly, visiting pubs in New England, or reading. Not necessarily in that order. Her novels have hit Amazon bestseller lists for lesbian fiction and lesbian romance. She cohosts the Lesbians Who Write Podcast ( with Clare Lydon. TB also runs I Heart Lesfic (, a place for authors and fans of lesfic to come together to celebrate lesbian fiction.
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44 Responses to How an Amazon snafu can ruin your sales after a promotion

  1. Boo Amazon for messing with Claudia!! Oh well, Claudia is so good that this little snafu won’t stop her. She’ll be at the top of the charts in no time :).

  2. What a bummer! One of those things you can’t control. At least you did sell some afterwards. My publisher ran a sale on one of my titles last year and I guess there were still a lot of downloads even after it went back to full price from .99 – and of all my titles, which was really cool. Did your other titles spike in sales?

    • TBM says:

      I did see spikes in my other sales, however, I also released A Woman Ignored last week so it’s hard to tell which bumped up which. Overall, last week was a great book sales week so I’m not complaining too much. There’s always that feeling of what could have been 🙂

  3. I’ve heard Amazon’s rankings have been freezing a lot lately. I wonder what’s going there.

    • TBM says:

      I haven’t been watching too closely the past few days, but I do feel for authors who have promotions going on at the moment. It was frustrating.

  4. Colline says:

    This was interesting to read TB.i did not realize how important the ranking in Amazon was.

    • TBM says:

      Oh there are many books with “secrets” of how to best the rankings. Haven’t read them. Several things factor into the rankings (Amazon hasn’t provided too much info about how they calculate the algorithm), but the two most important on the number of sales and reviews.

  5. Rotten luck and bad, bad Amazon. More success is on its way. Bravo.

  6. I’m sorry to hear about your issue with Amazon, TB. Don’t fear, you’ll be back on top in the future.

  7. lexacain says:

    You got 6000 to download the free copy and then got 100 buying the full-priced one? Wow!! I’d call that super successful!! That’s about 200 times better than I’ve ever done – though my publisher won’t allow my book to be free. Just 99 cents, then back up to regular price of $5.95. I would love the success you’ve had. That’s why I’m self-publishing from now on. Thanks so much for this info. I have high hopes for the future! 🙂

    • TBM says:

      I’m happy to have helped! And let me know if you have any questions about books to read about self-publishing or websites. I’m sure you already know, but willing to share who I trust.

  8. cheriereich says:

    Ugh! Amazon’s great, except when it doesn’t work. But that’s great that the book was downloaded over 6000 times and you got some sales from it too. The potential for new fans to buy your other works is great, so you may see an increase in sales over all in the upcoming months. 🙂

    • TBM says:

      Yes! Help me stay positive. Overall, I’m really happy with my first free sale. It worked. And I have my fingers crossed that I’ll garner a few fans. Thanks, Cherie!

  9. Sherri says:

    Glad you had some good news TB, but sorry for the bad. I hope that all the downloads will pay off in the long run. I’m getting ready to read Claudia as I come to the end of the book I’m reading now and can’t wait 🙂

  10. Chrys Fey says:

    I’m sorry about the Amazon error, but it sounds like you had a successful sale before that happened. And seven reviews is definitely good news. When Hurricane Crimes was free I had maybe 3,000 downloads (I was new) and I think 3 reviews. Haha!

  11. Wow! Six thousand downloads! That’s fantastic. And it’s amazing that another hundred people bought your book after the freebie period ended. Even though Amazon screwed up, it sounds to me like your experiment was a huge success. If a hundred people bought my book, I’d probably swoon. I may have to look into doing a freebie. The ninety-nine cents promotion I ran only had modest results. Then again, your stellar results could just be because your book is so damned GOOD! 🙂

    P.S. I finished (and reviewed) “A Woman Lost” and am about 60% through the sequel. Good stuff, lady!

    • TBM says:

      I wasn’t sure beforehand, but after this experiment I say yes, Give it a go. I did pay for some advertisement, which helped immensely. But there are a lot of sites who will list your book for free, which I also used. Not sure what route you want to go.

      Thanks so much for your review!

  12. I am sorry about your snafu, but you should be thrilled to see that despite the statistics you have so many great reviews of your books on Amazon!

  13. That’s an amazing amount of downloads! Blah on the Amazon freeze, though. That sucks. Sounds like your promo was a success.

  14. Oh geez I’m sorry this happened to you. But major kudos on your downloads, that’s fantastic.

  15. Kimberly says:

    Wow, TB, 6000 is amazing! And then 100 sales in a week – that is so awesome! I’m sorry about the whole getting stuck thing though – I bet you will have a lot more sales!

  16. In a perfect world, writers would only write and other people would do all of the promotions, including dealing with the snafus and other unforeseen issues. Put it in your next novel and get monetary revenge!!

  17. Everything has a downside. But this one sounds like it hits the top of the down list. I can’t imagine giving away that many copies of a book you worked so hard on. I’m only on chapter 7 and really want more time to read. I hope things get better with Amazon. The bigger they get the harder they fall.

    • TBM says:

      I want the same thing: more time to read. Before I went down this path I thought I would be able to write in the morning and then read in the afternoon. Oh, I was so naive! Writing is a full-time job. I do hope you get to read more when you get a chance. Cheers!

  18. I’ve seen these errors on Amazon before. A book is supposed to be free or discounted, but on the full page it isn’t. The rest of your news is fantastic, though.

    • TBM says:

      Yeah, overall, the sale was a success and I’m happy with that. And the reviews are still coming, so that’s really good news.

  19. Sounds like a great sale, even with the glitches.

  20. Hey, I’d be happy with 100 sales. Well done! And more reviews are always good. I’ve seen that 1% statistic hold up, unfortunately. It stinks, but what can we do?

  21. I can’t really get reviews for my second book on Amazon. It’s slow going. People love to review on Goodreads, though! Sorry you had all those snafus. That’s ridiculous. Amazon needs to get that stuff fixed.

  22. cleemckenzie says:

    There are times I think everything’s conspiring to make me fail. I totally understand the frustration. So much work and then this!

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