Tag Archives: Kindle Select

My Self Publishing Journey: Potholes Ahead

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image8529767One of the risks of working with vendors who are the sole proprietors of their businesses is that when they have Life Events, those bumps in the road affect me, too. The editor who was working on BLAZING A TRAIL: YOUR SELF PUBLISHING JOURNEY had such a Life Event, and that delayed her work (quite justifiably) on my book, putting me about a week behind schedule.

It was a blessing in disguise. Just as I was finishing the recommended edits, I learned from Ed Robertson’s post  that Amazon has contacted its affiliates and made some adjustments to the agreement with them, effective March 1st. The delay gave me the opportunity to revise the chapter on being exclusive to Amazon to reflect the potential consequences of this action. Amazon told its affiliates:

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:

(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

These changes will probably cause the sites that Kindle Select members use to announce their free promotions to drastically reduce the number of free books they feature. Bargain book sites will have to filter the submissions somehow, probably by ramping up the filters they already use, like the number of reader reviews a book has,the star rating, and early submission (1st come, first listed).  The most popular sites, such as Ereader News Today, have already been doing so.

This doesn’t mean that Kindle Select is completely gutted. Even if your book isn’t listed on one of the big sites, a free promotion will still result in more exposure, just a lot less. Your book’s post promo bump in sales will be much smaller, probably, and the reader reviews it gains will be fewer. With the utility of Kindle Select compromised, fewer authors will be interested in being exclusive to Amazon.

I’m speculating, but I think the net effect of this will be the resurrection of 99 cents as a promotional price. If a bargain site can’t get paid as an affiliate for promoting free books, then it will promote cheap books. And readers who had begun to shun .99 as a sign of inferior quality will start to see it as a deal again. The problem for Amazon is, if it want’s to keep Kindle Select alive, is that authors don’t need to be exclusive to Amazon to price their  books at .99.

Of course, this may not be a problem for Amazon. If a book is sold for .99, Amazon gets 64 cents. If a book is downloaded for free, Amazon gets nothing, and if the free book was found through an affiliate link, it had to pay for the privilege, too.

So, if you’ve been relying the free promotions Kindle Select made so easy to promote your books, keep your eyes on the road ahead. You may want to take a different route.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: The Results of Experimentation

First an announcement:

Next Saturday I’ll be on a panel about writing at the Himmel branch library.

ROMANCE: MORE THAN 50 SHADES

The Saguaro Chapter of the Romance Writers of America (RWA) will present a panel discussion, including:

  • 12 pm to 1:30 pm – A Q&A, lead by Jesse Petersen, Roz Denny Fox, Connie Flynn, and Frankie Robertson. Topics covered will be creating characters, starting the book, sagging middles, and ending with a bang.
  • 2 pm to 4 pm – Vicki Lewis Thompson, Mary Tate Engels, and Cynthia Garner will facilitate a workshop in which participants create a heroine.

Seating is limited to 50. Call 594-5305 to register. Registration begins January 22.

The talk starts at 12:00 noon. I hope to see you there!

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I mentioned about a month ago that the results of taking LIGHTBRINGER and WITH HEART TO HEAR down from Kindle Select and making them available on Smashwords and Nook had been distinctly lackluster. At that time I’d sold only one copy of WHTH on Barnes & Noble. Sales on Amazon weren’t a lot better. So I lowered the prices on both to see if that would stimulate sales.

The answer is: No.

What did work was running a fairly successful free promo on Kindle Select for DANGEROUS TALENTS. Sales of DT and its sequel FORBIDDEN TALENTS improved significantly, and LIGHTBRINGER ans WHTH also enjoyed improved sales on Amazon. On Nook I sold one more copy of WHTH. In two months LIGHTBRINGER sold nothing on Barnes & Noble. Even so, I was reluctant to pull the books off of Nook and return them to KS because so many authors are saying, “Diversify!”

So I asked my circle of self-publishing friends who are on several distribution platforms where their sales came from. The two who write erotica and erotic romance said a significant percentage of their sales came from Nook. The other two, who write mystery and romance, said almost 90% of their sales came from Amazon.

Based on this info I made the decision to pull LIGHTBRINGER  and re-enroll it in Amazon’s Kindle Select program. (WHTH is still available on Nook.) I wish KS didn’t require exclusivity. I wish I could use their tools and still have my books available for all of the readers who chose Nook or Kobo over Kindle. But the Nook and Kobo readers aren’t buying my books. The Kindle readers are. Now.

At some point in the future I’ll probably try diversifying again. At a different time of year. With different books.

This is the nature of experimentation. You try something. You measure the results. You create a hypothesis, change a few variables, and experiment again to refine the hypothesis. Eventually you develop a theory that guideS future experimentation. And if you’re lucky, you become wildly successful along the way. 🙂

I’d love to know what results other writers out there have had. Over the last year, where have most of your sales come from?

 

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My Self-Publishing Journey: Kindle Select Update

I mentioned in an earlier post that Amazon has been changing its algorithms for Kindle Select so that books using the free promotion days no longer get  the significant bump in sales they once did. Since then I’ve read more about this, and realized that none of my books were  in the program during the golden or even the silver age of  Kindle Select. In the early days (less than six months ago) books could expect hundreds or perhaps thousands of sales after a free stint. That had changed by the time I signed up. Which is not to say it can’t still happen. It can, as Edward W. Robertson (no relation) experienced with the aftermath of the free promo of his book BREAKERS. But as Ed recently posted, Amazon’s changes to its algorithms has changed the game for many self-publishers.

After an amazing amount of close observation, number crunching, and analysis, Ed determined that Amazon has been testing not one, not two, but three different algorithms, each with different consequences for self-published authors. It’s unlikely that Amazon will go back to the old way of weighting free downloads equally with a sale. In fact, as Ed mentions at the tail-end of a recent podcast interview, there’s evidence that more expensive books are weighted more heavily in Amazon’s popularity lists than cheap books are. (Time to raise the price on those 99 centers!) This makes some sense. A book that costs $4.99 or $7.99 requires more of a “buy in” on the part of a customer than a free book or a 99 cent book does. The buyer must want it more to spend more, so Amazon gives that purchase more popularity “points.”

These changes are also the topic in Russel Blake’s post. His take on the future of self-publishing is more negative than Ed’s, but his basic premise is sound: Amazon is in business to make a profit, not to support indie authors.  Amazon will make changes to its algorithms with that goal–to maximize profits– in mind. Some of Jeff Bezo’s business decisions will benefit self-publishers, some will hurt us, and some will have a mixed effect. Working with Amazon is like sleeping with an elephant, after all. They may not mean you harm, but you feel it every time they twitch.

Personally, I think Amazon will choose a middle ground between equating a free download with a sale and not recognizing it at all. I think they’ll continue to use an algorithm that counts free downloads as 10% of a sale. If they don’t do at least that much, they’ll be missing a chance to increase sales and profits from indie authors (minimal though they might be to Amazon’s balance sheet), and authors will stop making their books exclusive to Amazon through Kindle Select.  In that case Amazon might as well discontinue the program altogether–which I doubt they want to do.

It has been ten days since LIGHTBRINGER  went back to paid status after its most recent free promo. So far the post-promo sales for LIGHTBRINGER are comparable to what I experienced after my other two free promotions. The book’s sales numbers aren’t as amazing as some other authors experienced in the first months of the year, but they are an improvement over what my books were selling before the the promotion. While I would have loved to have experienced those phenomenal rebound sales, I think the smaller bump in sales may be more sustainable (also due to the change in Amazon’s algorithm). And since I’m in this for the long haul, that’s probably more important.

What’s the take-away from all this?

  1. Amazon will continue to experiment with their algorithms.
  2. It’s harder to make a killing using free promotions through Kindle Select than it used to be.
  3. There are still benefits to using Kindle Select.
  4. Focus on what you can control: writing a good book, with good editing, good formatting, a good cover, and a good product description. Rinse and repeat.

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My Self-Publishing Journey: Kindle Select Revisited and a FREE Book

I just read posts by Phoenix Sullivan and Edward Robertson (no relation) that contain important information for anyone planning to use Kindle Select’s free promotion days as a springboard to success for their indie published book. Basically, in a nutshell, Amazon has changed its algorithm again (possibly in anticipation of a change in the agency pricing model they’ve been working with for the last several years) so the free downloads of Kindle Select books are no longer weighted as favorably as they used to be in the sales reports. That means the books downloaded for free won’t help your book move up the best seller and popularity lists as much as they did in the past.  (They still help, just not as much as a paid sale.) It also means that your book’s rank will remain more stable. When every Tom, Dick, and Mary put their books up for free, the rush of free downloads won’t overwhelm your book’s sales rank.

Does that mean you should abandon Kindle Select as a strategy for getting your book noticed?

Both Phoenix and Ed say KS still has its uses. It’s just not as much of a magic bullet as it used to be.

Going free for a few days will still get your book into the hands of readers who might not otherwise have taken a chance on your book. Not all of those downloads will get read right away, and not all of those will translate into future sales. But some will. In direct mail advertising, this is called the conversion rate. The ratio of sales to advertising “units.” That’s what your free books are:  advertising units.

What will I do? I’ve scheduled a free promotion of  LIGHTBRINGER starting today. I scheduled this before I read these posts, and I don’t see any reason to change my mind.  Sales of LIGHTBRINGER have dropped off to pre-free levels, so I figure I might as well go for it. Even if the “3 day bump” in sales (an increase in sales that used to come come about 40 hours after the free promo ended) is much smaller than it was the first time I did it, it still will help get my book into more readers’ hands. As Ed mentions, word of mouth is still the best advertising a writer can hope for.

What I think this means is that indie authors will have to focus on the basics again: writing a good book, good formatting, good cover, good reviews.  And a willingness to experiment.

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