C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

FAQs: Leverage free to move more books

The question comes up constantly: Is the exclusivity of KDP Select and giving away books (“selling” free) worth it? 

Can't have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

Can’t have just one chip? Season One has five episodes. Get each one for 99 cents or get all of Season One at a discount for $3.99.

For many, it’s not worth it, but maybe that’s because they haven’t combined enrolment in the program with other tools. When the KDP Select program launched, it was lucrative and an excellent tool for discoverability. Now? KDP Select is not easy and perfect certainly. For instance, top free books used to be listed beside top paid books. Now free ebooks are found by clicking a tab. That’s an important difference. It cuts down on happy discoveries by kismet. People who find free ebooks now are searching for free books (and quite possibly are committed to never paying for a book again.)

However, Amazon is where I move and sell books and get traction with new readers.

Some authors seem to have success moving books on Barnes & Noble if they sell romance or science fiction, but generally? The alternative sales platforms are far less helpful than Amazon and KDP Select.

For instance, sometimes I can’t find books on Apple that I know are there! It’s also a pain publishing to Apple at all unless you go through Smashwords or Draft2Digital. (I used to like Smashwords but now I’m past impatient with their failures to upgrade their site.) Meanwhile, I sell little on B&N. Sony isn’t worth the time it takes for me to format for them even though that’s just a click of a button. Kobo does some things well and they’re in many countries. However, Amazon is preferred because it works best for me. (Maybe it’s different for you but if you’re doing better on a platform other than Amazon, statistically you’re an outlier.)

The alternatives usually suck.

The other book sales platforms continue to refuse to steal the best ideas (i.e. promo coupons from Smashwords; user interface and customer focus from Amazon. And they still wonder why the Mighty Zon is the big dog eating their lunch. True, KDP Select is not a flamethrower anymore. It’s a six-gun. However, the competition is still trying to figure out slingshots, so going with Amazon exclusively 90 days at a time is still the best bet.

Yes, be careful of exclusivity.

When you in enroll in KDP Select, do not set it up to automatically renew. Reevaluate whether the program is working for you every three months and change tactics as necessary. If it becomes intolerable for some reason, we can bail out within 90 days.

To make KDP Select work, use the Author Marketing Club and Bookbub wisely to make the promotion go big.

I recommend doing no more than two days of free at a time. Have lots of other books to sell, preferably series or serials. Pump those promo days with the tools at AMC (like the free ebook submission tool.) Bookbub is probably the best PR tool available. It costs, but that’s because it targets readers interested in your genre so it works. You can promote sales of free ebooks or discounted books (under $2.99.)

If your goal is visibility, being in KDP Select is only one tactic in a larger strategy. Brace yourself for bad reviews from the one-star wonders. That tells you you’re reaching new people who don’t get you. Don’t worry. Others will get you and what you’re doing. Giving away books so new fans can find you isn’t the death of literature. Obscurity is our enemy. Get the most you can from KDP Select and use these tools to avoid wasting your promotion days.

I highly recommend serialization.

It’s working for me. Episode One of This Plague of Days promotes all the other episodes in the serial plus sales of my other books. I give away individual episodes. However, I don’t generally give away all of Season One except to book bloggers for reviews. This Plague of Days is a sprawling story that’s my investment in a long-term career so I give away the appetizer but sell the other courses. All my strategies are long-term strategies.

Who shouldn’t use KDP Select to promote their books?

I’d caution anyone with just one book to hold off on great expectations and write more books before waging major campaigns. Once readers discover they love you, have something else ready for them to buy.

Don’t go big if your book isn’t ready for prime time. More publicity for a bad book will make it go down in flames faster. Get back to the keyboard instead, develop, work with your editor or find a new editorial team.

If you already have a huge mailing list and a substantial fan base, you have more options instead of relying on KDP Select and exclusivity could hurt your sales figures (though I’d still consider it for one three-month contract period at KDP Select.)

If you find me unpersuasive and giving books away in the hope of finding new readers offends you, don’t do it. Gifts should be given with a light heart.

 

Filed under: Publicity & Promotion, publishing, This Plague of Days, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Surprising self-publishing delays and how ebooks are not so instant after all

Ebooks aren’t quite as instant as you might expect. They certainly aren’t as instant as I expected. A couple of months ago, my friend Rebecca Senese encouraged me not to announce a publication date for my ebooks. Rebecca was an early adopter in the ebook craze and has formatted a ton of her short stories using Smashwords. She knows whereof she speaks…so naturally I considered her advice seriously before stupidly ignoring it.

I thought I could get the formatting and conversion done and once the ebooks were delivered to the various digital platforms, bang! The books would be up and available for at least a couple of weeks before my official launch date of November 1. I wasn’t rushing to publish. Editorially, the books are ready for the big show. Still, self-publishing guru Joe Konrath’s words were probably lurking somewhere in the back of my mind: “A month’s lost sales is a month you’ll never make up.”

Only a couple of months ago, November 1 seemed so far off. It wasn’t an arbitrary date for me…at least it’s not psychologically. That’s when my career odometer turns over. Next Tuesday I am officially no longer a part-time massage therapist and stay-in-the-home-bunker dad. On that date I’m retired from twenty years of clinical practice in the treatment of sports injuries and broken backs and squeezed brains. I’ll be writing and publishing and podcasting full-time…oh my god! Next week! Jesus! Anyway, Rebecca was right, of course. It doesn’t pay to be inflexible because even though you can deliver the books — fully formatted and converted to specs — they still won’t be available for sale right away.

After delivery, Amazon can have your stuff up for sale within two to four business days. Great, right? However, Sony won’t have my ebooks available on their e-reader for weeks! I really wanted to hit the ground running and have all my books available across all digital platforms by the time I switched careers. I hadn’t considered how slow the word “instant” could really be. I’m not beating myself up about it. This is a learning curve and a huge milestone in my life does not translate to a publishing schedule. That’s an emotional attachment I’m putting on a business situation.

I soon decided I would use the delay as an advantage. I had wanted to say the books were available across all digital platforms, but Kobo still isn’t in my mix (and I’m still evaluating the worth of the Kobo platform to me.) I have The Dangerous Kind available most everywhere through Smashwords. All three ebooks are up on Amazon. Sony is the third most popular platform (behind smartphones and Amazon) so the wait is a bit frustrating. I don’t know why Sony takes so much longer than Amazon. I can only assume they don’t have the same resources for the task. However, the procedural delay will allow me to announce new platform availability over time so I can repeat my message and not feel so spammy about it. I also have some advertising plans to evaluate and pbook ARCs to publish so a little more time will allow me to hone them to a sharper edge. (And the paper books will take a long time, too. For sure!)

After all the work and coffee consumption involved in making an idea into a book, there’s nothing instant about the writing and editing process. It’s true for the production process, too, even when we think we’ve taken delays into account. It’s always later than you think!

CLICK HERE TO SEE A SAMPLE FROM

SELF-HELP FOR STONERS, STUFF TO READ WHEN YOU’RE HIGH

Filed under: DIY, e-reader, ebooks, Writers, , , , , , , , ,

Writers: So-called experts & the digital revolution

IRex iLiad ebook reader outdoors in sunlight. ...

Image via Wikipedia

I plan to attend a Writer’s Union of Canada publishing conference in a week. Industry experts will be talking about being a writer in the middle of publishing’s digital revolution. I’m really looking forward to attending, but I’m also prepared to take it all in with the cliched grain of salt.

At a previous publishing conference (different group, not Writer’s Union) I ran into publishers who were very resistant to e-books. Their opinions were so far off I have to wonder if they believed what they were saying. Some said the market shift to e-readers wouldn’t happen from five to ten years!

Meanwhile, I said e-readers would blow up on Christmas morning 2010 and soon got obnoxious and gloated about how right I was. E-reader sales did go crazy. E-book sales are climbing despite the industry’s growing pains.

This is bad news for bookstores. I bought my vast collection of books at bookstores, but no more. I use my library for some reading, but generally, I’m a buyer. I entered a brick and mortar bookstore for the first time since Christmas last week to buy reference books. The cost of paper books is such that I just can’t justify the cost of buying paper novels anymore. That’s what my e-reader is for.

Here’s the kicker: Sony obviously underestimated their own sales. They sold out of e-reader covers before Christmas and Sony won’t even receive new covers to ship until March.

The Writer’s Union conference is next weekend. Yes, I shall report what the experts have to say. I’m hoping this time it lines up with current reality.

Filed under: Books, ebooks, self-publishing, Writing Conferences, , , , , , , , ,

E-readers: I told you so (an indulgent post of self-congratulation)

A Picture of a eBook

Image via Wikipedia

UPDATE about the Big Picture

The trend is up. The sales of e-books outpaced the expectations of many industry experts through the fall. I have trumpeted the arrival of the e-book future here to the point of pedantry. And yes, I received an e-reader for Christmas. I’m pleased and impressed with my Sony reader. I predicted that e-readers would sweep consumers off their feet on their gift-buying sprees. I’m sure I can now predict the numbers bear me out.

Today I went out in search of a protector for my e-reader. I visited several stores. They were all sold out.

Oh, sure, now it looks obvious. It didn’t look so obvious when I was telling everyone about it last summer.

“Ha!” I say, and “Ha!” again.

Filed under: Books, ebooks, publishing, Rant, , , , , , , ,

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