Tag Archives: KDP Select

To Select…or not to Select. That is the question.

PJ Sharon here on this chilly New Year’s Eve Day. Since I’m in the process of re-evaluating my first quarter marketing plan for 2014, I thought I’d share the results of my latest promotion. Most of you are familiar with KDP Select, Amazon’s 90 day exclusivity contract that requires authors to publish only with them for that time period. The perks of putting all your eggs in the Amazon basket are paid borrows by Prime members (average $1.94 per borrow), entry into their new “Count Down Deals” program, and/or the ability to run FREE promotions for five days of the 90 day period. A year ago, all of this was very attractive. Now, not so much.

Most Indie authors agree that running free promotions has been much less effective than it was a year or two ago. Now that the market is flooded with freebies and bargain books, it’s getting harder and harder to sell at any price—even FREE! Sales of my last published novel, WESTERN DESERT, book two in the Chronicles of Lily Carmichael trilogy, which released last July, reflect the drastic change. I’ll preface these results with the caveat that YA Dystopian is a hard sell across the board lately since that market is pretty much glutted. I also believe that book two in a trilogy is often tougher because folks won’t buy/download book two if they haven’t read book one, and readers don’t want to get hooked into a trilogy with no guaranteed release date of the third book.

Having said all that, I’m trying not to take it personally or be embarrassed about such a poor sales record. The fact is, I don’t think the numbers reflect the quality of the book at all. What reviews I do have, are excellent, and feedback I’ve had from readers has been awesome. So what’s up with the numbers?

Coming June 24th!
Coming June 24th!

I enrolled WESTERN DESERT into the Select program in October, figuring I would promote books one and two through Halloween, running my first two day FREE promo around the time readers might be drawn to Dystopian/Sci-fi-fantasy stories. I was part of a group sale, advertised on the usual 20-30 sites that promote freebies (some charge a nominal fee of $5-15), and did a social media blitz, including some blog appearances. The best I did was had about a thousand free downloads and sold eighty or so copies of WANING MOON, book one in the trilogy.

Now, I realize that those results meant that my book was in the hands of potentially a thousand new readers, and it did wonders for my sales rankings for both books during the sale, but being that WANING MOON was selling for the .99 cent price point, I made about $30. I’ll add that there was no after sale bump in numbers (meaning my sales flat-lined again immediately), and I’d spent my budgeted $100 for advertising the sale, netting me -$70 for my trouble. Consider the amount of time it takes to set up ads on 20-30 sites, schedule blog appearances, participate in social media non-stop for two days, and well…you get the picture.

I waited a couple of months, planned my last three day FREE run for right after Christmas, hoping to catch all those new Kindle owners, and promoted both books like crazy. As in, “Two Books for under a buck!” “Buy WANING MOON for .99 cents and download WESTERN DESERT for FREE!” I joined with Awesome Indies for their Holiday Bonanza e-book sale, promoted on 30 FREE e-book sites (I’m hearing now that it takes 50 sites to make a dent), and I scheduled mega tweets, FB, Goodreads, Google+, Pinterest, and tumblr promos. I spent my $100 budget, and had the support of dozens of other authors who tweeted, posted or otherwise shouted it to the world for me. Here were the results:

Worldwide (including a few downloads in Germany, France, India, Canada, and Australia—a new market for me!), I had a whopping 543 downloads of WESTERN DESERT and 39 new sales of WANING MOON. Oy! Hours of preparation, insane amounts of marketing, and yes, I’m down about $85. I did reach the #1,026 mark on the Amazon rankings in the Free kindle store, #2 in the Sci-fi/fantasy/Genetic engineering category, and #10 in the Dystopian category, but numbers bounced right back to oblivion when the sale ended.

Granted, I was unable to procure ads on the really big sites like Book Bub and a few others which require as many as twenty-five reviews these days to even be featured and are very choosy about what they pick to advertise, but really? For the work involved and the investment of time and money, it feels like I’ve run a marathon and placed next to last. A far cry from last year’s FREE promo for SAVAGE CINDERELLA  when I boasted 40,000 downloads between my two day and then a three day promotion. The best part was the over 800 direct sales in the weeks after my free run. Yikes! What a difference a year and-a-half makes. Even HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES and ON THIN ICE promos last year at this time did much better than my 2013 efforts for my Dystopian reads.

It would be nice to get a few (hopefully good) reviews out of the promotion and getting my name out to new readers is always a good thing, but all in all, the Select program has little left to offer me with this book series. Perhaps when I publish another Contemporary YA romance, or when I have a boxed set of all three books in the trilogy, I’ll give it another go, but for now, KDP Select is a losing proposition for me. Of course, take all this with a grain of salt, because I’ve heard of a few other authors on my loops who are still pulling in good numbers with Select. Go figure!

What do you think? Have you had better results? How did you do it? Am I missing something?

Is it really all about the numbers?

So long Christmas TreePJ Sharon here, coming to you from the hills, and enjoying country life. As many of you spent Superbowl Sunday watching football, laughing at commercials, and being entertained by Beyonce, I was out ringing in the spring. For me, the beginning of February marks a turn toward warmer weather and longer days. I know there will likely be plenty more cold and wintery weeks ahead, but I figure there are less ahead then there are behind. It’s also my birthday month—time to reflect on where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Whether we’re talking about football scores, rising temperatures, or adding another year to my age, life seems to be all about the numbers these days. It certainly is when it comes to the book promoting business. Sales figures, rankings, budget—all very important to pay attention to when seeing what’s working and designing any future marketing plans. One of the benefits (or curses) about Indie publishing is that you have immediate access to your numbers. You can follow your rankings and sales to determine if your current promotion is working or if you need to change tactics the next time around.

I’ve done a few FREE promotions through Amazon’s KDP Select Program so I feel like I’ve gotten pretty good at them. Whether they are as effective as they once were, or if all of these FREE books are killing the publishing industry are topics for another day. For today, I’m happy to share the all-important numbers of an Indie-published author trying to make a dent in this tough book economy. Last week, I had my second Contemporary YA novel, ON THIN ICE, available for FREE for three days. I thought you’d be interested in seeing how one of these FREE runs is done, and decide for yourself if it’s worth the work and expense.

Pre-FREE
January 1-25th 20 copies sold (2 borrows) (I won’t include all the foreign sales, but this title does tend to sell well in the UK)
Amazon Ranking: #75,623 in Kindle Store

FREE Run January 26-28th
Saturday, Jan 26th
7,984 downloads
Amazon Ranking: #64 in Kindle Free Store
#2 in Kindle store>Kindle e-books>Teens>Romance

Sunday, Jan. 27th
4,171 additional downloads
#19 in Kindle Free Store (highest ranking achieved in Free Store)
#2 Kindle store>Kindle e-books>teen>romance

Monday, Jan. 28th
3,791 additional downloads
#1 in the Teen Romance category…woohoo! Not bad for a book that has been on the “shelf” for a year.

Also notable were the foreign downloads. It’s always so cool to imagine people overseas reading my books!
UK=143; de (Germany)=24; France=5; Spain=2; Italy=1 (crazy Italians!); Japan=3; and Canada=15

Now, realize that when the book went back on sale in the paid store, no one had actually purchased it in three days so the ranking dropped to about 245,250th in the Amazon Paid store (yikes!), but once post-promotion sales started, the rankings jumped back up and hovered between 11,000th to 15,000th all week. I got a slight bump from pre-promo sales of 1-3 books a day to about 10 a day. That’s already beginning to fall back down to about 5 a day with total sales since coming off the FREE promo adding up to 50 copies of that one title sold in the past week. That’s more than double what I sold in the first three weeks of January. I’ve seen a slight boost in sales of my other titles as well. There have also been 24 borrows (as good as sales at $1.81 per borrow), and I’ve gotten a few positive reviews for ON THIN ICE.
Not the results I’d hoped for, but worth the effort? Sure. So here’s how I advertised the sale.

I gave myself a $100 budget figuring I would make up the cost with a post-promo sales bump of about 50 books. I’ve broken even on the promo after one week. Running the promotion on a Sat.-Mon. made it easier for me to be there to monitor results and landed at the end of the US Figure Skating Championships, which I wanted to honor by giving the book for FREE that week and getting it into skater’s hands.

I contacted the following sites several weeks (a month ahead of time in most cases):

Book Bub-It cost me $30 to advertise my FREE run but they are the current “premier” advertising site. It costs more for other genres, but most people are saying it’s worth the ad cost, especially if you’re offering a discounted book.( .99-2.99)
Story Finds-$20
Authors on the Cheap-$25
Book Goodies-$15 for 3 day ad.
Bargain e-book Hunter-$5
Orangeberry Book Tours-$10

The following sites were free to advertise with:
(ENT)E-reader News Today (they book up months in advance and sometimes aren’t open for scheduling), Indie Book of the Day, Pixel of Ink, Awesome Gang, E-reader Café, Free Book Dude, Ask David, Books on the Knob, Free Booksy, The Kindle Book Review, E-books Habit, YA Promo Central, Book Blast (Kindle Fire Department), and I did a post on the Readers Guide to E-Publishing (RG2E) on Saturday.
You’ll find many of these sites and their links listed on Kindle Book Promos at Kindle Book Promos and Media Bistro/Galley Cat.

The day of the sale, I also posted to Snicklist, Addicted to e-books, Free Kindle Fiction, Good Reads (Free Romance Books group), Google+, World Literary Café (WLC), and as many FaceBook pages as possible that had to do with Figure Skating and the US Championships—(Stop back next week when I’ll be talking about niche markets).

Some of the sites have restrictions (many won’t publicize erotica-not that I’m writing that, but some of you are), and some have some gate-keeping systems in place. Digital Book Today requires 18 reviews with an average 4.0 star rating before you can advertise with them. It took some time to weed through all of these sites, but now that I have my list and links, it only takes me a few hours to set up a really comprehensive and relatively inexpensive promotional blitz. Of course I also schedule my tweets to go out three to four times a day, ask my network peeps to spread the word, and spend some time promoting on Face Book throughout the three days.

I know it sounds like a lot of work. That’s because it is. I haven’t found an easy way to reach this many new readers so quickly, or give my sales a boost in any other way that doesn’t require an equal amount of effort or money. I try to do one big promotional event per month. February’s event will be a three day FREE run with HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES right after Valentine’s Day, hoping to hit those new Kindle owners whose thoughtful men bought them an e-reader. After that, these two titles come off of the Select program and will be available once again on BN and Smashwords. I also plan to upload them to I-Tunes and Kobo this go around so that they are available on as many distribution channels as possible. Then I’ll leave the kids alone to see how they fend for themselves while I focus my efforts on gearing up for the release of book two in The Chronicles of Lily Carmichael, WESTERN DESERT, due out in June. It’s going to be a busy spring!

As far as other promotions, there are always the .99 cent sales, blog hops, blog tours, Good Reads giveaways, and contests. Each requires effort and planning and will yield different results depending upon the genre you write in, whether it’s your first or fifth book, and how the wind is blowing on any given day. All we can do is keep writing, add quality material to our cyber shelves, and hope our sails (and our sales) catch the wind when it blows our way.

Today’s Unlocked Secret: Don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Like age, the number doesn’t define us. How we navigate the rough seas tells us who we are. Happy sales!

Any questions?

Blessings,

PJ

Marketing Makeover

As the end of 2012 looms on the horizon, I’ve been working on my first quarter marketing plan for 2013. Being a relative newbie to indie-publishing with much more to learn, I’ve been studying the results of my first year efforts, and in retrospect, I can say I’ve definitively learned one thing. Well, I’ve learned a LOT actually, but one thing in particular stands out for me. I’ve learned that there are no constants in this business. What worked for one book didn’t work for others. What worked yesterday might not work today, and no matter how hard I work, there is an element of luck and timing that I have no control over. PJ Sharon here, welcoming you to the Writing Secrets of Seven Scribes. Today, I’ll be sharing what I think is a more focused approach than my previous “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” marketing plan.

Not that I haven’t had some moderate success with this approach, but like any business, the only way I can survive is if I trim the fat so to speak, and look for areas where I am wasting my time, effort, and resources. To that end, here is what I plan to do differently in 2013.

1) KDP Select-The exclusive 90 day enrollment that I did last spring with Amazon for Savage Cinderella was by far the most successful (at least in the short term) promotional tool I found. With 39,000 downloads, a temporary spot on the top 100 list, and a significant uptick in sales for several weeks after my FREE days, I felt like I was seeing some real progress forward. However, shortly after coming off the Select program, my sales declined in June, and the numbers tumbled every month after that for my first three books. I heard from industry veterans that the best way to rebound was to publish another book, which I did in September. Despite a month long blog tour and several group promotions, I have not seen much improvement in sales since then.

I resisted continuing with the KDP Select program because I didn’t like the idea of exclusivity, and I was hearing that results for the Select program had reportedly not been as good as they were last spring. That being said, I’ve decided to take the plunge again—for several reasons. I would be foolish not to tap into the Amazon pot that is set aside monthly to be divided amongst Select participants, paid out for “borrows” from the Kindle Lending Library. With 1.5 million dollars available for December (twice the norm), “borrows” should offer authors a nice Christmas bonus. Being able to offer my books for FREE for five days during that 90 day period without jumping through all the hoops of playing the “price matching” game is a simple and effective marketing tool. It also helps me to increase my reader base and my visibility, which are probably the greatest challenges that an author must focus on.

So I’ve revamped my cover for Heaven is for Heroes Heaven is for Heroes 72 dpi 600x900 WEBSITE USEand enrolled both it, and On Thin Ice, into the program for the next 90 days. That means Only Savage Cinderella and Waning Moon are available on all platforms. If all goes well, when my 90 days are up, HIFH and OTI will go back onto all distribution channels and I’ll put Waning Moon into the Select program for a few months prior to the release of Western Desert, book two in the trilogy. I hate feeding the Amazon “monster,” but until I see real sales on B&N et al. I can’t pass up the opportunity. I literally have made an average of $15 a month from B&N—and less through Smashwords–hardly worth giving up potentially hundreds of sales through Amazon.

This is where I was supposed to mention earlier that both Heaven is for Heroes and On Thin Ice will be available for FREE on Amazon this Friday and Saturday, December 22-23. If you haven’t read them, I’d love it if you would download them or tell anyone you know who might enjoy some YA romance drama. The more downloads I have, the closer I’ll get to that top 100 list so all those new Kindle owners can find me after Christmas. I appreciate it!

2) I’ll keep exploring available social media platforms-I now have almost 500 FB likes and nearly 1000 Twitter followers, which is where I have put my focus over the past year. I’m not sure how that translates directly to sales, but it sure helps me connect with some great authors, bloggers, readers, reviewers, industry professionals, and some all-around awesome people. Since word of mouth is still the best advertising, it’s clear that social media is here to stay and is a useful medium to help get the word out. I would like to try to focus on finding what works for me and best helps me connect with my target audience. That will include more time on sites like Good reads, Pinterest, Tumbler, Wattpad, and Kindle Boards.

3) Budget funds for paid advertisements and production costs. Short cuts are not the way to go in this business. It’s a very competitive industry and becoming more so every day. Hiring a cover artist, quality editors, and paying for advertising that has proven to be effective are worth budgeting funds for. My husband and I doing everything ourselves at first seemed like a way to save money and maintain control of my product, but in the long run, I can see I didn’t give my books their due.

The nice thing about Indie publishing is that I can make changes whenever I want. The books won’t be taken off the market if they don’t sell in a month or two. My backlist can become my front list if I want to start a new advertising campaign and change up the cover, try a new venue, or target specific groups of potential readers. The sky is the limit, but it all costs money, so I’ve realized that I have to budget money to give the books their best chance to succeed.

4) More than anything, though, I’d like to become more organized about my time management-This is a business. But without writing good books in a timely manner, I will have no business. That means that the writing has to come first. I’m not kidding myself into thinking I’ll be able to keep it all under perfect control, but I will budget my time differently, allowing for 50-60% of my time to go towards production of new material, with only 40% of my time spent on administrative details.

There have been times over the past year where I haven’t written a word on a WIP for weeks because of getting caught up in all the crazy business chores and responsibilities. I’m finally beginning to let go of all that, and bring my focus back to the writing. If it means less time building my network or promoting the books, then so be it. And if I only get one quality book out this year, then that’s okay with me, too–though I’m planning for two and possibly another short story.

Most importantly, staying healhy, sane, and having some fun along the way is much more important to me than sales figures these days. When I start stressing about all the “to-do’s,” I remind myself to relax and enjoy the ride. You never know what’s going to come over that next big hill.

What will you do differently this year?

The Many Faces of Promotion

PJ Sharon here, and I thought I would address a topic that every author struggles with. Promotion. It’s difficult for most of us to toot our own horn, let alone jump up and down shouting about our books to the ethers. Even if we  overcome the discomfort of having to talk about ourselves and our books, the work only begins there. I wanted to share with you some of the promotional efforts I’ve learned about over the past year ,and their effectiveness in today’s market.

KDP Select-You probably remember my FREE promotion through KDP Select (read about the details here). For authors uploading their books to Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing, the Select program has lost a bit of its charm. With so many FREE books flooding the market, the five FREE days are not producing the same outstanding results they did even a few months ago.

Blog Hops– A group of authors get together (I think 10-20 max works best). Someone creates a landing page with all the details and rules, and everyone works together to encourage readers to “hop” from one author’s web site to another, entering to win prizes in a massive giveaway. Entry can be contingent on “liking” a FB page, signing up for a mailing list, or “following” you on Twitter. Prizes often include free e-books, gift cards to Amazon or B&N, or even a Kindle or Nook if authors want to chip in and do a big giveaway. With 20 authors, it’s only about $5 each. Hops generally have themes. They are a great way to network with other writers, meet potential readers, and gain some exposure without much cost other than your time. Check out the “Summer Splash Blog Hop,” hosted by a few friends of mine.

Facebook Contests-This one you need to be careful with. FB has some rules about holding contests and you can read them here. I haven’t done this yet, but may at a later date—once I study up on those rules. It seems like a great place to hold contests since there is so much visibility. You can also set up FB Ads that target your specific audience. You decide how much you want to spend per day and they will help you create an advertisement for your book. I’ve heard mixed reviews on the benefits of this and have not yet tried it.

Blog Tours- Blog tours are great for a new release. Essentially, you contact bloggers who have a readership that might best fit your book. Contact them well ahead of time (at least two months before your tour), and ask them nicely if they would consider allowing you to be a guest on their blog. Offer to write an original post that might be appealing to their readers, or ask if they have set interview questions they would like you to answer. Be professional; don’t make them do the work. Have your post to them by whatever deadline they’ve set, including any pictures, book cover, bio, buy links, and a short excerpt or review of your book, as well as any contact info you’d like them to include, such as your FB author page, Amazon author page, website, or Twitter handle. A blog tour can be as jam packed as you like, but remember, more is not better when it comes to promo. Your peeps who are helping spread the word will get as tired of seeing your book as you do of shouting about it. I think 4-6 weeks, 2-3 posts per week is a healthy tour. That is 10-20 posts at targeted blog sites. You can hire someone to set these up for you for anywhere from $20-$75. Or you can do it yourself. On the day of your “appearance,” plan to check in frequently and respond to comments. Blog tours are still one of the most successful promotional tools you can use. It takes a bit of research to find the right blogs, but for a small yearly fee, you can join a site like Author EMS, and there are amazing resources available to point you in the right direction. That site is worth every penny!

Paid Ads- These are hit or miss. Sites like Kindle Nation Daily and E-reader News Today can give you a nice bump in sales and exposure, but they are a bit pricey ($50-$299) for a one day ad. If you are doing a big promotional push and you have some expendable cash, go for it. But you’ll have to plan ahead, since their ad space fills up months in advance. I’m also not a big fan of advertising in publications like RT magazine or RWR. Yes, you might get some nice exposure, but for the hundreds of dollars you’ll spend, you won’t recoup the loss in sales generated. Those magazines are targeted more to writers than readers, although RT ads can get you a review that might give you some nice street cred.

The list goes on, of course, and includes book signings, Good reads giveaways, On-line book launches, and Twitter parties. You can also hang out on sites like Shelfari, Kindle and Nook Boards, or Wattpad, where you will likely find your audience just waiting to connect with you, their next favorite author. There are endless ways to promote and no one size-fits-all promotional plan. Be creative, pick one or two ideas that work with your social media platform, and jump in. I try to do one big marketing event per month.

This month, I’m part of a YA Note Passing promo with a dozen other YA authors. It’s a fun way to find some new YA readers and writers, and give away some great prizes. You can find details on our landing page which is the FB page of Sykosa, a very troubled young lady who is our head note passer. My main character from Heaven Is For Heroes, Jordie Dunn, will be getting some shady advice about her love life from Sykosa on Friday at YA Beyond. I hope you’ll pop in and say hello.

The bottom line is that it’s not all about “BUY MY BOOK!” Promotion is about reaching out and connecting to readers. Have fun with it, try not to stress out, and if all else fails, enlist your friends to toot that horn for you. Happy promoting!

Questions? Promotional opportunities you’d like to share?

The End of Select

I’ve come to the end of my ninety days of exclusivity with Amazon’s KDP Select program. That means that I’m now able to upload and distribute SAVAGE CINDERELLA on other sales channels, such as B&N,  Smashwords, and coming soon, Kobo. I thought I would give you my final analysis on my experience.

PROS:

1)      All sales on one distribution channel. Easier accounting and focused marketing plan.

2)      Cross promotion opportunities with other KDP Select participants.

3)      Five days to offer the book FREE in an effort to gain exposure and readership.

4)      Participation in the Prime Lending program (approximately $2 per borrow).

 

CONS:

1)      Narrows your readership to Kindle owners, and may alienate Nook or I-pad owners.

2)      Contributes to Amazon’s attempt to monopolize the e-reader market.

3)      Unable to post excerpts for advertising purposes.

 

MY RESULTS:

Sales for Savage Cinderella from March 15-June 10                       1,253

FREE Downloads                                                                              ~ 40,000

Borrows                                                                                                       247

These numbers do not reflect sales of my other titles, hardcopy sales, or foreign sales. I did notice that the numbers remained steady for both of my other titles on Kindle, but very few sales of HIFH or OTI were made on B&N or Smashwords, which has been my experience from the start. Prior to publishing SC with KDP Select, with two titles available, I had sold aproximately 1500 e-books from September to March, primarily on Amazon. So in three months of going with the Select program for only one title, I’d sold almost as many as in the prior six months. 

 Another benefit to the Select program is that Savage Cinderella made it onto the Kindle Top 100 FREE list twice during the ninety days, and has received thirty-one reviews, culminating in an average four star rating.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the outcome of my KDP Select experience. I’m not sure if I will do it again, only because I think it’s generally bad for the publishing industry for any one entity to have exclusive rights to our work, but I can’t deny the short term benefits are very enticing.

So what do you all think of KDP Select? How do feel about exclusivity in publishing?