Tag Archives: KDP Select

Results of free run for Chameleon in a Mirror and further experiments

I promised to report the results of my free run last week with my time travel novel Chameleon in a Mirror.

In one word: mixed.

Altogether I managed to give away over 2000 books, many in places where I’ve never sold anything before. The only Amazon store where CIAM didn’t get any downloads was Mexico. And that was all without spending a dime, only announcing the free run on my blog and through the free sites listed here. On Amazon.de, CIAM even managed to stay in the Top 100 free overall for over three days. Today, the novel is in two Top 100 categories on Amazon.com:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #39,197 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#59 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > New Adult & College
#83 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Historical Fiction > Fantasy

The book had several borrows immediately after the free run, which has led me to re-enroll it in KDP Select. As long as it is still visible, I might manage to get a few more borrows.

So why is that mixed? CIAM is pretty far down in the top 100 categories it managed to get into, which means it will probably drop out of sight again fairly quickly. And in marketing books, everything is about visibility. If no one sees your book, no one will buy it.

On Amazon.de, despite being in the Top 100 overall for several days, CIAM is not in a single Top 100 category right now.

But I’m still hoping that all the downloads will lead to a few more reviews.

For my next experiment, starting Wednesday, I will be trying another Countdown Deal, this time with my short story collection, The Future, Imperfect.

The Future, Imperfect

The Future, Imperfect has a couple of strikes against it, the main one being that as a short story collection, it has gotten several bad reviews from readers who objected to the short stories being short. I’ve had reviews like that for all of my short story collections by now, so I’m used to it. Unfortunately, it makes it next to impossible to advertize those books, since most sites require an average rating of at least 4 stars.

Thus, comparing results would be like apples and oranges. Instead, I just want to see what strategies might possibly work to get my books selling again.

So remember, if you like dystopian fiction and you read short stories, The Future, Imperfect, will be on sale for 99c from Oct. 22 – Oct. 27. 🙂

E-book promotions: Countdown – meh. Permafree – yay! (kinda)

Way back in the beginning of November, I wrote about the new Kindle Countdown Deals that Amazon had come up with to try to make KDP Select more attractive to writers again. I signed up for a promotion with my collection of short stories, Dragon Time, and promised to write about the results after it was over.

Well, Nanowrimo happened, and then Christmas happened, and now we have 2014, and I still haven’t posted about my results.

There’s one good thing as a result of that, however, and that is that I have some data now to compare, since my Arthurian short story, Gawain and Ragnell, went free at almost the same time that Dragon Time was available as a Countdown Deal.

My experience of the Countdown Deal is that it’s worth next to nothing unless you have some big promotion going on to push it. This, of course, is true for a limited-time free promotion as well, and the Countdown Deal has the advantage that you are sill making money on your book, AND at better royalty rates. So if you want to shell out the big bucks for an ad with BookBub or one of the few other places that are still effective for moving books, you could earn back the expense for the ad much quicker with a Countdown Deal. If you sell next to no books on the other platforms, B&N, Kobo, iTunes, etc., and you’re willing to push the promo with paid advertising, the Countdown Deal might be an argument to return to Select. But I suspect only under those circumstances. Free promos aren’t worth much any more either these days.

For Dragon Time, I only announced the promo here and on my Facebook page, and tweeted it a couple of times. I sold one copy of the story collection.

At the time the Countdown Deal started and Gawain and Ragnell went permafree, the sales of my ebooks had come to a complete standstill. I hadn’t done any promotion for my books since May 2013, and every month thereafter my sales dropped more. The first week in November, I’d sold two books total across all my titles. And it ended up being my single worst month ever for ebook sales. (It didn’t help that some apparent “fan” went through my books, buying them and then returning them three days later. When you’re selling so few books, that kind of behavior becomes pretty obvious.)

But once Gawain and Ragnell was finally price-matched to free, an interesting thing started happening. The first few days, it didn’t have that many downloads. I did exactly the same promotion for it that I did for the Countdown Deal for Dragon Time, announced it here, on Facebook, and on Twitter. At first it looked to me like permafree was going to be the same washout as the Countdown Deal. But then somehow it started gaining traction, and by the end of the month, 342 people had downloaded the story. In December, it was a lot less, but still another 171. And that’s enough to keep Gawain and Ragnell in a couple of top 100 lists. Here’s where it is right now:

Download it! It's free!

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,686 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)

#11 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#28 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Myths & Legends
#48 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

This is what’s so good about permafree — it gets one of your books where people can see it. And the downloads are cumulative, so I don’t lose that ranking. Yes, this is a lot lower than the story was the end of November, but it is still in those crucial top 100 lists.

November ended up being my worst month for sales ever. But in December that trend actually turned around. And not only did I sell more books, I sold more of the 2.99+ books like Yseult (which is where the money is, with the 70% royalties) than the cheaper ones. This month so far, I’ve been selling about a book a day, all at 2.99+. That’s still not very much, I know, especially not after those amazing stretches I’ve had when I sold nearly ten books a day.

But right now I’m just glad the downward spiral has been reversed. 🙂 And I’m determined to get a few more permafree books out there, once I’ve caught up a bit on the big translation job.

So anyway: download Gawain and Ragnell! It’s free, and you’d be doing me a big favor! *g*

Related posts:

“Amazon trying to re-Kindle interest in KDP Select: The new ‘Countdown Deals'”

“Promoting Ebooks with KDP Select”

“Dragon Time” live as Countdown Deal, and “Gawain and Ragnell” finally free!

I posted yesterday about the new KDP Select “Countdown Deals” and my decision to give it a whirl with my YA short story collection, Dragon Time. It took a while, but the sale is now live:

Also, I am very happy to announce that today Amazon finally price-matched Gawain and Ragnell, and it is now permafree. Download! Tell your friends! Send links to everyone who enjoys Arthurian fiction! *g*

I want to thank everyone who tattled on me and helped to make this novelette free. Cross your fingers for me that it helps with sales of the other Pendragon Chronicles books. 🙂

Amazon trying to re-Kindle interest in KDP Select: The new “Countdown Deals”

I published my first ebook, Yseult, in January 2012, pretty much simultaneous with the introduction of KDP Select. I opted in and set my first promotion for a mere week after publication — and I didn’t have a clue how lucky I was. I got a couple of quick reviews as a result of review copies I’d given away, and my brand new little baby (or rather big fat hunking baby — the hard copy book comes in at over 600 pages) got picked up by no less than Pixel of Ink, which at the time was *the* way to ensure that a freebie promotion would be successful.

Back then, using free days with KDP Select was an excellent way for a new indie writer to gain exposure and (after the free run) sell books. That first month as an indie publisher, I sold 242 books. I added more titles, mostly collections of my previously published short stories, and by spacing regular free runs across all my titles, I could increase my visibility as a whole and ensure that I continued to sell books.

But then Amazon made a couple of “corrections” to how free downloads were counted towards popularity and sales rankings (the infamous “Amazon algorithms”), and they hid the top 100 free book listings on pages that didn’t as easily show up when browsing. Free days became less and less effective as a marketing tool, to the point where it now is basically useless, unless you have a simultaneous ad running on Bookbub (which is very pricey).

Nowadays, you have to pay to give books away.

As a result, I and many, many others have been pulling out of KDP Select. Why have your books exclusive to Amazon when it doesn’t do you any good, right? Now Amazon has introduced something new to make Select more attractive to writers again: what they call “Countdown Deals.” This is how it works:

– Your book can be discounted for up to seven days. The duration of the sale is visible on the book’s page on Amazon, as well as the regular price, so that readers can see that they really are getting a “deal.”

– Your royalty rate remains the same even while the book is on sale. So instead of getting only 35% on a book marked down to 99c, you get 70%. The income is still naturally quite a bit less, but if it results in increased exposure, it’s worth it. And it certainly beats giving your book away.

– Amazon has set up a dedicated “Kindle Countdown Deals” page at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals – but of course there is no guarantee your Countdown Deal will get listed.

I don’t have many books in KDP Select anymore, and those that I do are basically there because I forgot to take them out, or I’m too swamped to upload them elsewhere. But hey, I’ve decided to give it a whirl, see if it’s any better than free days. Amazon has made it quite easy to set up a promotion. Here’s a screen shot of the first page of my books:

On the dashboard, you click on “Manage Benefits” and then just fill in the details for your sale. I decided to go with a seven day, single price 99c sale of my short story collection Dragon Time to test the waters, starting tomorrow Nov. 4 and going to Nov. 10. You can also have a sale where the price gradually returns to normal. For example, for my Dragon Time sale, I could have increased the price halfway through the sale to 1.99 if I had wanted to.

It will be interesting to see what good this does, if any. I’m suspecting the exposure won’t be enough to make KDP Select attractive enough to return to, at least not for most of us. But we’ll see — starting tomorrow.

I will naturally report my results when the promotion is over.

Related posts:

E-book promotions: Countdown – meh. Permafree – yay! (kinda)

“Promoting Ebooks with KDP Select”

A new story collection and upcoming freebies

Most of my time lately has been spent working on the new collection of stories I wrote with Jay Lake. A few years back, we collaborated on a number of stories together, both science fiction and fantasy. When I started switching from traditional publishing to ebooks, I told Jay I could put together some collections of our fiction. But since I always have more projects than time, I kept putting it off. Then recently I learned that Jay’s battle with cancer has taken a turn for the worse, and I figured I better finally get on it. (As opposed to my writing buddy, Jay, I don’t go into personal stuff a lot on this blog, but for the record, I had a crying fit before I realized I had to shift priorities a bit.)

The first book of our collaborations that I’m doing is science fiction and includes five previously published stories (two of which were reprinted in Year’s Best anthologies), as well as two stories new to this collection. I’m not done with formatting it yet, and I still need to write a blurb (always particularly hard with collections, gah). But here’s the second version of the cover:

Please let me know what you think!

The other big project that I’ve been working on this week is FINALLY PUTTING TOGETHER A PRINT VERSION OF YSEULT! I splurged and bought a license from Book Design Templates. But if you click on the link, don’t believe that marketing line about your book “looking this good in just minutes.” Having some base styles already designed, and by a pro, is definitely a time-saver, but I’ve spent most of the day today importing Yseult into the template, defining styles, looking for import mistakes (e.g. I lost all of my italics and have to find them again in another window in Word), etc. — and I’m still not done. But since that whole procedure is definitely worth a blog post of its own, I won’t bother you with any more detail now.

I also spent a fair amount of time organizing some freebies for the coming week and notifying sites that will still carry announcements. I’m slowly moving my books out of KDP Select. Of the twelve ebooks I have out now, five are still in Select (one by mistake). Of those that are still in, several will be free next week. I did some overlapping in an attempt to get more of my books on my other books “alsobots” — something I’m not having much luck with. I suspect that’s because I don’t write exclusively in one narrowly defined genre. The readers who enjoy Yseult and Shadow of Stone may well have absolutely no interest in Looking Through Lace, and vice versa. So be it. One of the things I love about being an indie author is that I can write whatever I want, without someone else pressuring me to watch out for my BRAND. Ok, so it means I’m going to continue to sell modestly until I get enough out there in ALL the genres I like to write — or a miracle occurs. But the thing is, I really enjoy the freedom. 🙂

Anyway, here are the upcoming freebies:

Dragon Time and Other Stories – April 29-30

Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife – April 30 – May 4

Beyond the Waters of the World – May 3-4

The Future, Imperfect – May 4-5

Enjoy!

Eating my words: preliminary results for free promo of Shadow of Stone

I’m running a free promo for Shadow of Stone right now, which I had intended to be the last. At the end of this term in KDP Select, I was going to take the book out and offer it elsewhere.

But now I have a dilemma. I’ve had very little time the last couple of days, and I didn’t do any announcements for the freebie like I usually do. An ad got cancelled at the last moment as a result of the changes Amazon is making to the Amazon Affiliate program, and the book didn’t get picked up by either of the big sites, POI or ENT. It did get picked up by Kindle Tips and Tricks and Top 100 Best Free Kindle Books, which certainly helped.

And what happened? I’ve given away over 2000 copies, almost cracked the top 100 free books, and have sold 25 copies of Yseult since the free run started. That’s almost a third of my sales of the book for the month.

Normally, 2000 copies given away wouldn’t get me anywhere near the top 100 list. So I’m wondering if it has to do with a lot of blogs abandoning ship since Amazon announced the change to Amazon Affiliates. I don’t want to go into that in detail, so if you’re curious, I suggest reading Michael Gallagher’s post on how it is going to effect him and his blog.

But if there are fewer freebies out there, and it’s possible to get better results with a free run, then perhaps it makes sense to stick it out a little longer. I’ll wait and see what the borrows are like after Shadow of Stone goes back to paid, and then I’ll decide. The handful of sales on B&N and Kobo aren’t worth it if borrows for the book pick up again. But it totally depends on what the bounce will be after this free run is over.

In other publishing news, I finally got “The Leaving Sweater” uploaded to Amazon and Draft2Digital, but it’s not yet available. I will let people know when it is.

And I only have another 4 chapters to go on this pass of Chameleon in a Mirror. Almost done! 🙂 Brainstorming of A Wasted Land is coming along as well, just slowing down a bit.

Latest free run for Yseult and some thoughts on KDP Select

My sales this month have been pretty pathetic, and that after awesome months in August, September and October. Partly it might be due to the fact that I was gone for over two weeks, plus frazzled before and jetlagged after. My online presence diminished to near-invisibility, and I can’t help but think that played a role in my diminishing sales.

Another thing that’s hurting me (and others) is that free runs are becoming increasingly ineffective for boosting sales. There have been a number of discussion threads about this on the Kindle Boards, but what it comes down to is that with the glut of free ebooks from all the authors in KDP Select, readers aren’t grabbing everything that looks remotely interesting anymore. Add to that a change in algorithms on the part of Amazon, in which books given away free count a lot less towards popularity and bestseller status than they had previously.

Fewer books given away + unfavorable algorithms = limited sales after free run

Take my most recent freebie, for example, my fantasy collection Dragon Time. Short story collections are notoriously hard to sell, but when it was free in February for two days, I gave away over 3,000 books. In the weeks following, I then sold over 100 copies. The last free run it had in October, I only managed to give away about 350 copies. Since then, it’s sold one copy and been borrowed once. With results like that, KDP Select is useless as a marketing tool. As a result, I have decided (once again) to slowly start pulling my books from KDP Select and try getting them up in other stores. The last time I did that, with Yseult in May, it was a disaster. Smashwords took forever to publish it, and when it did, it wasn’t approved for extended distribution. After six weeks and seven whole sales, I took it back down again and returned to KDP Select.

The plan this time is to go directly to B&N and Kobo, the stores that account for most sales outside of Amazon. Those stores also allow the author to upload epub files, which I can generate with Scrivener, rather than the elaborately formatted doc files Smashwords requires.

That said, I’m having a surprisingly good free run with Yseult this time. As I write this, it is at #106 in the free Kindle store, and doing very well in it’s categories:

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Arthurian
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy

And that all without getting picked up by the “biggies” Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink. But I’ve been featured on a lot of smaller blogs, one of which, XTME, has led me to mark my best showing on Amazon.de to date.

#22 on Amazon.de

I also want to thank all these other wonderful folks for helping me get the word about about Yseult. Perhaps some of it will help sales pick up in the last part of the month:

Kindle Books and Tips
The KindleBoards Blog
Free Ebooks Daily
Kindle Buffet
eReaderiQ
FreebooksHub.com
Daily Free Ebooks
e-Literati (another German site)

The need to do a bit of promotion has sidetracked my Nanowrimo project a bit, my Pendragon prequel. Ygerna is presently at 12,092 words. I know that for a “novel in a month” that’s a pretty poor showing, but I’m not too worried about it. It’s coming along well, and I’m having fun with it — that’s the main thing.

Could group promos be the wave of the future for indies?

As folks who occasionally stop by this blog may have noticed, I participated in a group promo for fantasy ebooks last week, Summer Solstice Free Fantasy. 23 authors who hang out on the Kindle Boards got together and offered a total of 29 books for free on June 20-21.

Chris Tarwater, husband and promotions manager for his wife Tristan Tarwater, had the idea for the promo and did most of the organization, including putting together the site and having a banner made. For those of us interested in participating, there were a few requirements:

– The book or books to be in the promotion had to be Fantasy
– Books with no ratings were fine
– If the book did have ratings, it had to be at least 4 star avg.
– Book(s) had to be available for free on June 20-21

Chris’s plan for the group promo included:

– Group advertising
– Cross promotion on Facebook, Twitter, blogs
– Submit to the usual suspects (a lot of the “usual suspects” can be found in my post on Promoting Ebooks with KDP Select)

Chris submitted the group promo as a whole to the various sites that list freebies, while each of us participating submitted our books individually. He also organized ads for the promo, which we contributed to as a group, making the cost much more manageable. It was actually the first time I’ve paid for advertising for my ebooks. 🙂

But what gives a group promo like this a dynamic that goes far beyond a little extra advertising is all the people participating. There were a number of things that helped:

– We created an Amazon list with all of the books free on Amazon (some of the books were only free on Smashwords), and about a dozen of us added a free promo blurb to the beginning of our book descriptions shortly before the promo went live. That way, anyone who nabbed one of my books, frex, via an individual listing, would be made aware of the group promo and perhaps be inclined to call up the list and see who else was participating. In this way, when any of us got picked up by POI, ENT, or Digital Book Today, it might also result in extra downloads for those who hadn’t made those lists.

– Those of us with special connections or strategies promoted the group as a whole rather than just our own individual books — which can also be a much bigger draw. For my own part, my German connections resulted in a noticeable number of hits to the group page. I had recently been contacted by Daniela from the German reader site “Verlorene Werke” about a guest blog (my novel Yseult originally appeared in German translation as Flamme und Harfe, so I have a few readers in Germany). When I sent her the article, I also told her about the group promotion, and she posted about it here.

– While not all of us were actively promoting, there were enough people with different friends / followers / subscribers / whatever who were passing the word along through various channels that we as a group were able to reach a much wider audience than we would have as individuals.

During the promo, I gave away a total of over 15,000 books on Amazon.com, plus a few here and there on other Amazon sites. That was over four books, two of which were free three days and two for only two. (Some of us extended the promotion for an extra day to try and take additional advantage of our run.)

Since the (extended) promo ended on June 22, I’ve sold 105 ebooks and had 6 borrows. (My total for the month is 222 / 25.) Yseult and Shadow of Stone are both on the third page in the popularity rankings for historical fantasy. While this still doesn’t come near the results of my very first ever freebie promo back in January, it’s the best I’ve done since Amazon changed their algorithms in March. May was a total washout for me, so I am very happy with the results and will definitely participate in (and maybe even organize!) group promos in the future.

Cracking 1,000 ebooks sales (and other good news)

Sometime this week, I seem to have cracked the magic number of 1,000 ebook sales. We will see if this gets me into more “also bought” lists or other kinds of nifty attention that will help my visibility! It would be lovely to just lean back and get more writing done, but I don’t think it’s going to happen. Besides, those sales are across all my titles, and I’m not sure if the good stuff I’ve heard about kicks in for total sales, or only if a single title passes the 1,000 mark. If it’s single titles, I still have a way to go. My best seller (not to be confused with bestseller!), Yseult, is at just over 450 sales now. I’m also not sure how borrows factor in. I’ve had a little under 200 borrows (over all my titles) as well.

But however these sales get counted on Amazon, and despite the fact that the summer slump is hitting me hard, I think I can still say I’m off to a good start on this new indie venture. 🙂

Unfortunately, I still don’t have Shadow of Stone ready for publication. On this final editing pass, I’m up to chapter 25, so that should be only another day or two. Then I need to update the map for this book and do the formatting. I’m now shooting for a publication date of June 5.

To hopefully coincide with the release of the next book, I have three free promotions scheduled for next week:

The Future, Imperfect, free June 2-5
Looking Through Lace, free June 4-5
Dragon Time, free June 4

I got some nice feedback yesterday that I want to pass along. Looking Through Lace got a lovely review that you can read here. And Webbiegrrl based a great blog post about indie promotion on my post about going free with KDP Select.

I wish everyone else encouraging developments in their writing!

Last freebie for “Yseult” today and tomorrow, March 26-27

Before I take Yseult out of KDP Select, I’m using up my free days for a final 48 free promotion. KDP Select has been very good for me (at least most of the time), but I won’t know how much I might be selling elsewhere if I don’t at least try. So the beginning of April, I will be putting Yseult up on Smashwords, and fairly soon thereafter it should be available on B&N, iTunes, etc. (assuming I get the formatting right that is, and Smashwords Meatgrinder accepts it!)

So please, if you don’t have my big fat Arthurian fantasy yet, please grab yourself a copy! And if you do have it, pass the word along. It would be nice to see Yseult leave KDP Select with as big of a bang as possible. 🙂