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

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Amazon: My last stab


Free promotions sure aren’t what they used to be. Last December, with Amazon’s old algorithm, friends of mine made big money. Success on the free list actually translated to success on the paid list. Then everything changed and many of us have been slow to react, me included. I notice that, among my writer friends, many (most?) are selling their books on KDP Select exclusively, five free days and all, for the first three months and then they aren’t renewing with KDP. They’ll continue to sell on Amazon, but there are plenty of other places to sell besides Amazon. After that first three months of trying to take advantage of the Amazon advantage, they put their work up everywhere else, too. That’s what I’m doing with the foundation book of my crime novel series, Bigger Than Jesus.


Bigger Than Jesus is available for free in ebook form

until Friday, and then that’s it.

As The Hit Man Series continues, I don’t know if I’ll go exclusive at all, even for those first three months. The math just doesn’t seem to add up to a marketing strategy that’s advantageous. In truth, it hasn’t been helpful to many indie authors for some time. I stuck with it because of the timing as my previous books launched. I have three books to release before Christmas and the eggs won’t be going into one basket anymore.

Someone asked me recently, “What’s the latest success strategy for indie authors?” I encountered some resistance when I replied, “There isn’t one.” We’ve had the publicists, advertising, press releases, blogging, podcasting, Twitter (and various  derivative Twitter strategies), Facebook, Pinterest (maybe?), the 99 cent strategy, blog tours, free, Goodreads, book bloggers, etc,…. Some combination of these elements may work for someone. Though they’ve all been effective for someone individually in the past, no one strategy seems to deliver a knock-out punch. When I say there isn’t one, I don’t rule out the possibility of their effectiveness in the plural, if you have the time to do all that. (You don’t. Go write instead.) 

Which brings up the question: Will Amazon change its algorithm again so it makes sense for us to stay exclusive with KDP Select? Who knows? Amazon’s algorithms and their rationale may be deduced, but are never made explicit. That information is solely on a need-to-know basis. (Apparently, we don’t need to know.)

Amazon is good at what they do — or has been — but it’s unreasonable to expect they’ll be right all the time, even with their vast resources. More to the point, Amazon’s looking out for Amazon, not me. My evidence is they aren’t making the exclusivity clause worth it for a lot of authors (even the true believers who, in the past, made a lot of dough.) I’m losing sales on other devices because I’m not selling enough with KDP. The Amazon sales don’t make up for lost sales elsewhere. Listening to my writer buddies, it’s clear I’m not alone in that assessment.

This is a business decision and has nothing to do with damning Amazon. I’m not one of the haters whining about monopolies and painting Amazon as a bully. The market is a competition and Amazon is on top because they made a lot of great decisions early on. However, I’m not looking for a new mom to take care of me, either. Being indie doesn’t mean supplanting one boss with a new boss just because it’s easy to go on inertia and formatting anew is a pain in the ass. Next month, as soon as my three months are up, Bigger Than Jesus will be available more widely (Hello Kobo, Nook, Sony, your smart phone, your iPhone, your iPad…maybe even your toaster.)

As for book marketing’s next knock out punch? People will tell you they know what the next big thing is. Some will even try to sell you books based on giving away one ultimate secret of indie author success. I think those people are often well-intentioned and they give out a lot of good information. I’ve read a bunch about marketing ebooks lately and, frankly, I’m also skeptical about some of those easy, plug-and-play answers.

Only one strategy I know of seems like anything close to a sure thing and (WARNING!) it’s a slow, steady grind. It’s not a popular idea because it’s not easy and quick. 

Write more books.

(Do a great job!)

Put them up.

(Do what promotion you can that doesn’t interfere with your writing schedule.)

Write more books.

(Make sure they are wonderful.)

I aspire to inspire, but as for marketing? Hm. Sorry.

“Write more books” is honestly all I’ve got in stock at the moment.

I’ve said it before and it’s still all I have to say on that subject.

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10 Responses

  1. eden baylee says:

    Hey Chazz, I’ll tweet you with a current Forbes article that talks about FREE. It’s an interesting take on it, different from yours.


    • Chazz says:

      Thanks, Eden. I read the Forbes piece. Congrats on your mention. Its conclusions sounded optimistic, which does not match my mood at the moment.

  2. Reena Jacobs says:

    I tried Kindle Select between January – April with a couple of my books. Like you, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. Before the introduction of Kindle Select, free meant something. If Amazon priced matched a freebie elsewhere, it meant a huge boost once the book was in the paid list again. With Kindle Select the freebie is open to EVERYONE, making it not so special any more. All it costs is an exclusivity.

    With freebies not being special and so many authors jumping on the ship, it decreases the need for readers to purchase books. After all, there’s an endless supply of free reads out there. And many of them are decent.

    These days, the key to success seems to be a combination of building a fan base (fast/slow–doesn’t matter as long as it gets done) and writing the next book.

  3. Reena Jacobs says:

    Also, even though many writers have come to see the Kindle Select program isn’t that great of a benefit, Amazon will always have another author to replace the last which dropped out. I see it happening with other types of advertising. A few authors jump on a product early and see big success. Then the stragglers come behind and try to repeat the process but don’t see the same benefits.

    It’s kind of like the pyramid schemes. Those who get in at the ground floor are on top, while those who come after are just throwing their money away on false hopes.

  4. Chazz says:

    It will be interesting to see how this develops. I understand Kobo will have (or already has) *unlimited* free days of promotion (compared to KDP Select’s 5 in 90 days.) With a flood of free (as I believe you pointed out in a previous comment), why would anyone actually buy a book again? Unlike rock bands who can promote a tour with giveaways, we really can’t cross-promote much that pays beyond more books. And so, I’m off to write more books, merrily. Hope it’s not false hope.

  5. Chazz – I’m completely in agreement. Still appreciate Amazon immensely but I think you’ve got it right. In a general sense, there’s no magic formula. Return to the writing is what it’s all about.

  6. I agree with your main proposition, i.e., that the key is to have a growing inventory of books available. As to exclusivity, I am not ready to abandon it yet. The “borrows” are still a big part of sales on KDP and a lot to sacrifice. I am with you completely when you say no one has it figured out. All we can do is keep writing the best books we can and keep listening to and learning from what other writers find that works. Thanks for the great post.

  7. Loved this post Chazz. I appreciate the expression of reality!

  8. I’m with you. I like the KDP select exclusivity for 90 days but then I’m jumping off the bandwagon. It’s just not enough OOMPH to keep me, either. Oh well, I do hope they come up with SOMETHING. Maybe choosing a couple of indies once a week to be advertised by them if the author is a KDP select participant. Who knows? Great post! WRITE ON!

    • Reena Jacobs says:

      Hi Jo,

      Amazon already advertises a couple of indie authors each month in the KDP newsletter. The thing with the newsletter is they typically promote authors who have already shown they can be successful.

      In addition to the newsletter, they also feature some authors on the front pages. Keep an eye open, you’ll see.

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