A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to have my app Melodious promoted by Amazon in the US, Japan, Canada, Australia, and Europe. The promotion was through a program Amazon offers app developers called the Free App of the Day (FAD). Here's a rundown of my experiences with FAD, as well as advice on participating in the program.
What is FAD?
Amazon describes the promotion to developers as follows:
The Free App of the Day (FAD) is a curated promotional opportunity, where Amazon offers one paid app to customers free each day. Participation in FAD helps you gain greater exposure and drive significant traffic to your app. The apps we select are featured in some of our most visible marketing placements, including placements on mobile devices, Kindle Fire, and the Amazon Gold Box Best Deals page, and are complemented by social media exposure including a Facebook post and Twitter tweet. These placements and the exposure they provide drive significant traffic to the featured apps and allow the developers to grow their installed base quickly.
How my app was selected for FAD
According to Amazon's website, all you have to do is nominate your app by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In my experience, for your app to have a real chance of getting selected for FAD, you need to qualify for Appstore Developer Select status; this means compatibility with all Fire devices and HD-optimized screens, and adoption of one or more Amazon backend services (I made use of its Game Circle service for leaderboards and achievements).
If you want to improve your chances of getting selected, offer the ad-free version of your app, and make sure it doesn't contain links to any competitors. Also, as Amazon is a global online retailer, multilanguage support is recommended. When I first submitted my app for consideration, the staff at Amazon was helpful in giving me feedback and working with me to make Melodious a first-rate experience on Kindle Fire.
The timeframe from selection to the FAD debut
I received the news in October 2014 that my app had been selected, and the promotion ran in January 2015. During the three months from announcement to promotion, Amazon staff kept in touch with me as they ran additional testing on the app and put together promotional images for the big day.
How many downloads my app got
Over the course of the 24 hours that Melodious was Amazon's FAD, I saw over 80,000 downloads on Amazon. I was thrilled to see my app take the number one spot on the Amazon Appstore.
My only negative thing to say about the promotion is that, even with 80k+ downloads, I only saw about 25 app reviews. I wish Amazon would require users to review the app after a certain period of time in order to keep it on their device. I think that taking the time to rate the app is a small price to pay for getting a great game at no charge.
The promo's impact on my app in other app stores
While my app was being promoted heavily on Amazon, I saw downloads double on iTunes and Google Play. Melodious also showed up that day on Google Play as a trending app in its respective gaming category.
How long the buzz about my app lasted
After the promotion finished, I had two weeks of continued sales and downloads, which is not as long as I would have liked, though that isn't Amazon's fault. App users are always looking for the next cool thing.
If you're planning to do paid promotions of your app in other stores, I suggest that you try to do them in conjunction with the Amazon promotion. It's best to strike when the iron is hot as the old saying goes.
Will participating in the FAD promotion make me a millionaire?
Maybe, but it didn't make me one. At the time of this writing, I'm seeing about 25 purchases of my app's paid version on Amazon each day — that's more than double what I was averaging prior to the FAD promo and doesn't include the ad-supported versions of Melodious, which also have seen an increase in daily downloads.
Like most app stores, Amazon takes 30% of your margins. Melodious sells for 99 cents, so unless the trend continues for another 160 years, I won't be quitting my day job.
As an indy developer, the hardest thing after writing a killer app is getting it noticed. Most indy developers don't have $40 million to promote their apps.
Having your app featured as Amazon's FAD is a great way to get a lot of eyeballs on your app. It's free publicity and, short of getting your app featured by Google or Apple, I don't know of another way for your app to get so much free exposure in such a compressed period of time.
There is some extra work involved from a development standpoint — for example, it's unlikely your app will qualify for the program without at least some modification unless you were already heavily targeting Kindle Fire devices — and you will be giving away your baby for a period of 24 hours. I see it as a give-and-take relationship — you're giving away your app, and Amazon is giving away advertising and infrastructure.
Ultimately, the FAD promo is not going to make or break your app — that honor will always fall on you and the quality of your work. For me, it was an extremely positive experience. I make games because I love to make games, and when I release my next one, I hope to get the opportunity to participate in FAD again.
I realize that not every developer's goals and expectations are the same as mine, but if you're on the fence about participating in Amazon's FAD promotion, my recommendation is to go for it.
William J Francis began programming computers at age eleven. Specializing in embedded and mobile platforms, he has more than 20 years of professional software engineering under his belt, including a four year stint in the US Army's Military Intelligence Corps. Throughout his career William has published numerous technical articles, as well as the occasional short story.