OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn
If you want to sell books, you need to find readers. Although there are a lot of ebook vendors out there, Amazon is currently the dominant player and there are a lot of readers who own Amazon Kindles/Fires and who shop on the Amazon store. I am one of them.
There are a few things you can do to market direct to these people, and you don't need an existing platform to do it. You don't need a blog or a twitter presence and you can still get thousands of sales or downloads of your book.
You need to use some of this budget for professional editing and cover design, and some of it can be used for promotional activity. There are a number of sites that specialize in promoting books to avid Kindle readers. These sites have lists with tens of thousands of readers on them so they can be a powerful way to boost sales and get your book moving on the Amazon charts.
In 2010, I used Kindle Nation Daily to promote Pentecost and it shot me up the charts. Pentecost reached #1 on Movers & Shakers, #4 in Religious Fiction and #93 in Thrillers. This year I decided to use PixelofInk.com as KND had increased in price and also had little availability for the time period I wanted.
The promo is a 1 day event with lots of other books also promoted that day. I paid US$250 for the promo of Pentecost, again counting on the first in the series dragging Prophecy up with it.
Copies of Prophecy sold: 57 @$2 = US$114
Total income: US$394.
Given the cost was US$250, financially, this was worth the promotion.
But the impact on the Rankings was also fantastic. Pentecost reached #5 in the Action Adventure charts and Prophecy reached #88, so both books were ranking together, and Prophecy debuted in the charts above Lee Child. Awesome! Pentecost also reached #82 in the entire Amazon.com Kindle store. We still don't know how the Amazon algorithm works but rankings, sales and reviews definitely play a part.
Will I do it again? Absolutely. (But remember, every book is different so don't assume that what works for me will also work for your book. It's all experimentation!)
My tips for getting the most out of the experience:
- Have a great cover and back blurb
- Have 10+ reviews of 4 stars or more on the sales page already – this social proof will help people to buy
- Use great pricing. 99c will get you into the bargain area which will elicit more sales, although clearly higher pricing will result in more revenue for less sales.
- You can find out more in the Author's Corner on PixelofInk
If you're not aware yet, KDP Select is an Amazon Kindle opportunity that allows you to put your book into the Amazon Prime lending program and receive a percentage of lending income from a fixed monthly pot. It also allows authors 5 days in a 3 month period where they can price the book for free. Previously, the only way to do this was to ‘game' Amazon by setting the price to zero on Smashwords and waiting for their algorithm to pick it up. But now there is control over the period of time so you can coordinate your promotional period.
Free is basically a marketing activity. The aim is to get eyeballs on your book and to pick up data from the Amazon algorithm that may help your book when it goes back to paid. Most authors have experimented with some form of free but it works best when you have multiple books. Here's NY Times bestselling author CJ Lyons on how free worked for her, and this was before KDP Select.
In order to be in the program, you have to put your book exclusively with Amazon for that 3 month period. You can then choose to renew or opt out again.
There have been some prominent indies in both the For and Against camps for KDP Select but I wanted to try it for myself in order to give a more informed opinion. Obviously the results will be different for every book so this is hardly the last word on the subject, but it is my experience.
How I used KDP Select
As part of the launch for Prophecy which is $2.99, I included Pentecost in KDP Select, hoping that people would get the first in the series for free and then buy the 2nd since the price is also pretty good for that. Given that Pentecost had already sold over 17,000 copies prior to this promotion, I figured I would get new readers.
I initially set the promo for 3 days but increased it to 5 once I got to the top of the Action Adventure charts in order to maximize the impact and downloads. I shared the fact it was free on Twitter and Facebook but that was about it. I know there are a number of sites that promote books as being free and also people who watch the lists, so no extra promo was really needed.
I did have to remove Pentecost from Smashwords in order to do this which meant the book wasn't available on the other ebook stores.
Results from KDP Select
I started the promo on Sat 5 Feb and very quickly I was on the top free listing for Action Adventure. On Mon 6th Feb Pentecost reached #1 on Free for Action Adventure on Amazon.com and #2 in the UK. It stayed there until the promo finished.
Total downloads of Pentecost over the 5 days: 10,836
Total sales of Prophecy over the 5 days: 294
Was it worth it?
For me, I don't think so. The uptick in Prophecy sales was quite small and I think a lot of people who get free books just get a lot of free books. They don't necessarily need to buy books anymore as so many are free. How many of those 10,000 new readers will convert to fans of my fiction? It will certainly be a small percentage but perhaps the same number who would have bought the book over that period anyway, as I have quite consistent sales every month.
On the lending aspect, only 20 copies of my books have been lent in the last month. That's not significant data at all but it does show that lending doesn't work for all books as an income or promotional activity.
I also had to remove my books from the other platforms. I now have to republish them so I may have missed out on sales during that period as well. As much as I personally love Amazon as a reader and an author, I actually don't like being exclusive to their store. Even though I buy there exclusively, it doesn't mean other people do and I want to be available everywhere.
Will I do it again? Probably not, for fiction anyway. I might experiment with non-fiction. That doesn't mean it's not good for your book/s, but it's my own experience. I have a guest post coming soon from an author who totally loves KDP Select, so we all have different experiences.
Have you tried direct advertising or KDP Select? How has it worked for you?
Want more tips on how to sell more fiction?
I have now been selling my fiction for over a year and I've experimented with a lot of different strategies and tactics. I have also changed my mind on a lot of things and believe that selling fiction is quite different to selling non-fiction.
I share my findings in this recent webinar recording: How to promote your novel: 21 ways to sell more books online. It's just US$21 and has some rave reviews. Click here to read more about it.