Sunday, March 1, 2015

Learning From Amazon KDP

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It's comforting to know that my writing career follows my reading patterns. And by comforting, I mean it's a tad disconcerting.

I read prolifically. And I read things all over the map, though I gravitate towards genre fiction. But the popular stuff? I usually catch it late into the game.

There are over 40 Discworld books. I waited years to start reading them, because I didn't know where to start. Strangely enough, according to the author himself, the answer is NOT at the beginning. I always suspected as much. Terry Pratchett is nearing the end of his career, and I'm only five or so books in.

There's good and bad to this pattern. For instance, I only had to wait about a week for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows to come out. Most of you waited a LOT longer than that. Ha, ha.

How does my writing career reflect this? In reading, I often find myself starting things long after they've become popular, and often after the series have ended.

And, possibly, I've started indie publishing a tad late as well
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I've used a trial of Kindle Unlimited to read a number of  How to Promote your Kindle Book Beyond All Reasonable Expectations books. Every single one of them advises you to 1) Enroll in KDP Select, 2) Do a free giveaway on your book and 3) Promote that giveaway in various ways.

Here's the thing. They all go on to say, "This used to work really well. The more you gave away, the higher your book ranked, and this translated into more real sales when the price went back up. Too bad Amazon changed the formula."` It'd sure be nice if someone would write a book that reflects the current amazon strategy.

I managed to reach #11 on one Amazon list during the promotion. But the book fell off the radar as soon as it went back to full price.
Graph of my free downloads, with no context other than date.

Free books help, but nowhere near the extent they used to. I'm convinced that the more books I have available, the more giveaways will generate sales for my other titles. And, the giveaway did translate in more reviews. I went from two 5 star reviews, to six total reviews. Five of them 5 stars, and one 4 stars, for an average of 4.8.

I learned a lot in the promotion. For instance, I learned the books were right. The first 2 days generated the most downloads, so it would have been better to spread the 5 days out over a couple of different promotions.

I also realized that I have no idea which promotions worked. I paid for a promotional gig on fiverr.com, having my book tweeted about to about 70K followers. I also submitted my book to multiple sites and email lists. The thing is, I still don't know which ones actually promoted it. And as for the fiverr gig, there's no way to know how many of those 70K followers are bots and how many are real people. I suspect the answer would disappoint me.

Here's my takeaways from the first KDP Select free book promotion:


  • Find a way to track which promotions are working.
  • Limit the giveaways to 2 days at a time. Promote each of the days differently, to see what works.
  • Be aware that the more titles available, the more overall success I'll have in total sales.
  • If nothing else, the freebies can help generate reviews. Remember to ask for reviews when promoting the freebies.