Bookbub and the decline of KDP Free Days

by Brandon Zenner

Image from http://www.frugalcouponliving.com/2014/04/10/free-kindle-books-410-read-tablet-pc-kindle/

Being a new author, book marketing and trying to increase my visibility has been the absolute hardest thing I’ve had to learn during my writing career. I didn’t know a thing about book marketing before I published my book, and I still don’t know much about book marketing several months later. I was all too happy when I received word that Bookbub had accepted my book to be featured on their email list. Happy and nervous was more like it. What if nobody downloaded my book? What a waste of money that would be. I decided on paying for a free promotion, rather than a reduced price, for two reasons: one reason was that I wanted my book to be as widespread as possible, and Bookbub’s estimated number of downloads ranged between 7000 – 25,000 for a free promotion. That’s a good number to spread awareness, and hopefully gain a few fans. The second reason was purely out of fear. I was nervous to spend a lot of money on something I had never tried. I had done a few promotions and features on other various websites, but there was never any payoff. So I did the free promotion, and when I woke up that morning and checked my dashboard, low-and-behold, I had already given away over 1000 books. And it was only 9:00 AM. That first day I gave away ‘thousands’ of books, and the second day I gave away many ‘thousands’ more. Without giving an exact number, it exceeded the estimate . . . by far. Bookbub did what it had promised, and distributed my book to readers all throughout the country and beyond. After the two-day free period, I was excited to see if my sales would immediately spike. My book went live on amazon in February 2014, and I’ve read countless articles about how much money many authors were receiving after giving away large numbers of their books through KDP free days. Before doing the promotion, I had only giving away a few hundred each free day, and made a sale or two following. How many sales would I get after giving away thousands-upon-thousands? . . . I didn’t sell enough books following the promotion to cover the cost. However, before the promotion, my book was at the bottom of the barrel, and now that it’s over, I’m still seeing a few sales a day. Not many, but a few. A start. The real positive experience I had with Bookbub was gaining exposure. Before the promotion my book had 19 reviews on amazon, and as of right now, while I’m writing this, my reviews are up to 73, and the promotion was less than a month ago. Now that it’s all said and done, would I do it again? Absolutely. There is no better way of spreading awareness, especially for a new author, when marketing is still a big grey-area. It’s well worth the price. I am very much looking forward to doing another promotion with Bookbub, but next time for $0.99 instead of free. I think I’ve given away enough free copies for now, and without a financial incentive, I don’t think I’ll be doing as many free days in the future as I used to.

– – – – –

Check out The Experiment of Dreams on Amazon.com

Writers’ Tricks of the Trade: Promoting a book through Amazon Select

by Morgan St. James

Image from http://www.mobilemarketingwatch.com/amazon-introduces-kdp-select-for-kindle-direct-publishing-authors-and-publishers-19903/

When the Kindle Select program was launched it gave authors the opportunity to give the Kindle edition of their books away free for limited periods of time–5 days within a 90 day period.

In order to participate in the program, the digital edition of the book has to be exclusive to Amazon for those 90 days. In other words, it cannot be available on Nook, Kobo, IBooks or any other ebook format. As the number of books being offered increased radically the odds for the indie author to get thousands of downloads, and hopefully many reviews, went down radically as well.

At this point in time, sometimes the Amazon Select promotions work, and sometimes they don’t. A lot depends upon how much promotion is done in advance and how appealing the book seems. After copies are downloaded, how many are actually read? Of those read, how many reviews are posted?

The numbers are all over the place, and a 10% to 15% return is actually very good. Some free promotions trigger paid sales afterwards and some don’t. In a nutshell it is a “crap shoot” but still worth considering as a means to get more exposure for a book.

One of the keys is promoting the promotion. If no one knows about the book or the offer, no one is going to download it. Many websites, both free and paid, are dedicated to bringing free and bargain books to the attention of readers, and it is important to submit the book to those sites so they can make their readers aware of your offer. Websites like the Author Marketing Club make this easier by having links to many of these sites that can be accessed from their page. Or the author or publisher can opt for a paid service that will do all the submissions. In addition to that, posts must be made at least a few times a day on all of the author’s social media sites. Remember not everyone is reading their Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter page at the time you post and yours might get lost in the deluge of posts, so it needs to be freshened frequently during the giveaway days. Another way to get the word out is to schedule tours of various blogs that concentrate on the genre of the book.

A teaser banner is a big help. It can say more than just the book cover and should be alternated with the cover when posts are made.

As an experiment of the difference between promoting and not promoting the free days, the offer of Ripoff as a free Kindle book from July 30 through August 1 was submitted to more than twenty free and bargain book sites, blog and social media posts were made and continued to be made throughout the three days. The teaser banner was alternated with the book cover in various posts. As of 10:00 a.m. on the first day of the promotion, close to 1,000 copies had been downloaded–twice as many downloads as the total for a 3 day promotion of a different book a few months before. When the book makes it into the Top 100 of free books, or any particular category, it becomes far more visible to those looking for free books and the downloads increase rapidly.

When the time was up, over 5,600 copies had been downloaded and Ripoff went back to the normal $2.99 price. Downloads under the Kindle Unlimited program took over. I continued to Tweet and post, and while not super impressive, during the following week 40 KU and 6 paid copies were downloaded plus a few of my other books. One review was posted–only a 2 star–but the book obviously was not that person’s cup of tea. Everything they didn’t like, the 4 and 5 star reviews did like. More important, the book continues to have much better paid rankings than it did before the promotion.

When the Kindle Select period is up, it will be taken out of the program and made available on other platforms. I intend to promote 9 of my other books this way–one a month–but believe that the free giveaway of a particular Kindle book has a life and then it is time to make it available to Nook, Kobo, etc. You can always opt back into the program.

Writers’ trick of the trade for July 30, 2014: Promote your promotion if you want the best return.

Business Writing: Attractiveness Counts

by Al Borowski, MEd, CSP, PP

Image from http://smallbiztrends.com/2011/02/five-steps-better-business-writing.html

Successful Business Writing requires that you to make your documents attractive as well as informative.

Business letters, reports, e-mails, proposals, even memos benefit the author when these documents are attractive.

And, in most instances, the more attractive, the better the results you achieve.

You can make your Business Writing more attractive in at least three ways.

AVOID THE “WAR AND PEACE” PRESENTATION

When reading your document conjures up images in your readers’ heads of reading “War and Peace,” you know you are in trouble.

The first important rule to remember is the 5-18 rule.

That means no paragraph you ever write should contain more than five sentences. You may have more than five sentences worth of
information.

Big Deal!

Reading a five-sentence paragraph is definitely more attractive to your readers than reading a ten-sentence paragraph.

Either say what you have to say in five sentences or break a long, unattractive paragraph into two or even three paragraphs.

You shudder and blink when you see long paragraphs. Think what your readers are thinking. When paragraphs get too long, your
readers lose interest. When they lose interest, you lose. If you are looking for success in your writing, learn to hit the “Enter”
key more often so that your readers don’t get the feeling you are trying to impress them with your knowledge or your superior
writing skills. You were inclined to suffer verbal hemorrhages when you had to write a ten-page term paper in high school or fill
two blue books on a college exam. Those were the rules in school. You now follow a different set of rules in the business world.

Get the point? Which paragraph would you prefer to read? This one or the one above?

A document with shorter paragraphs immediately proves to the readers that your writing will be pleasing to the eye and not a
burden on their brain.

FLATTERY BRINGS MORE SUCCESS THAN BRAGGING

Attractive also means the readers will be drawn into your document because it addresses their wants, needs, desires, goals, budgets
or timetables. Flatter your readers by making them the Number One consideration in your writing, not how much you know, how
extensive you vocabulary is, or what you want them to know.

Here’s a tip for you. Imagine how much shorter your “War and Peace” paragraph would become if you used “use” rather than
“utilize” and “project” rather than “initiative.”

You also become more attractive as a “real” person when you use “do,” “happen,” or “occur” rather than “transpire.”

AIM FOR THE HEART AND THE HEAD

Your writing becomes more attractive when it appeals to your readers emotionally and logically.

It appeals to their emotions because they appreciate something created to solve their problem, fix their pain, or vault them into
a productive, prominent, profitable, or recognized position.

It appeals to their logic because they recognize the value your document delivers to them. If your writing is easy to read, easy
to understand, easy to remember, and easy to act on, your “Attraction Index” increases.

This is simple logic.

Easy equals attractive.

Long and complicated equals work.

Think Hawaii.. Now think IRS instructions.

That’s the power of attractiveness in your Business Writing.
Agree?

– – – – –

Check out Writer’s Block – Gone Forever on Amazon.

Tales, Sales and “Other Deadly Things” -Cover Art Revisited

by Nancy Tesler

Not just because they are colleagues and write books that I enjoy reading, but because by-and-large, they are good people. Authors help other authors promote their work. Mystery authors are particularly generous in this respect. Vicious as we may be on paper, we seem to lack the killer instinct where our colleagues are concerned. It’s not that the competitive gene is lacking. We’d all like to be as famous as Janet Evanovich or Michael Connelly or John Lescroart but if I became a NY Times best seller tomorrow (are you listening, God?) it wouldn’t impinge on their success one wit. If you like Janet Evanovich, you might like my books but you wouldn’t decide not to buy “Notorious Nineteen” if you had bought my “Slippery Slopes and Other Deadly Things” when she recommended it. We belong to organizations that foster this attitude. Sisters in Crime came into being to help female mystery authors, who were being reviewed less often than their male counterparts, bring their work to the attention of readers.

Image from http://nancytesler.wordpress.com/2013/03/07/tales-sales-and-other-deadly-things-cover-art-revisited/

I’ve personally benefited from this generosity of spirit. I’ve had author friends go out of their way to introduce me to a particular publisher or agent or reviewer. Some have briefly put their own work on hold in order to read my latest book and give me a quote for my back cover. But it’s not just personal friends who reach out to help and encourage. Which brings me to Elle Lothlorien, a bestselling romance author who I met at a recent mystery writers’ conference. In the process of readying my traditionally published back list for e-publication, I attended her workshop on eBook publishing which included a discussion on eBook cover art. After the session I asked her opinion about a book cover for the first book in my series, “Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things,” on which I’d been working with my cover artist and right arm, Karen Adler. Elle took the time to study it and to explain to me that the design was too busy–it would not work well in the digital world.
My original eBook concept for “Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things.”

Fast forward a couple of months. Taking her advice, Karen had created new covers for each of the five books with which I was extremely pleased. They were already up on Amazon, my redesigned website and my Facebook page – – and were generating sales!

I emailed Elle thanking her for her help and inviting her to “like” my Facebook page. The email exchange went as follows:
•NT: Hi Elle. Just wanted to let you know I finally have my backlist on Kindle.
•EL: I am so thrilled for you! I am sure I’m not the only one! Couldn’t be more thrilled for you!
•NT: Your advice on cover design was invaluable and I want you to know how much I’ve appreciated your making yourself available to answer questions about this strange new world. I’ve still got much to learn about marketing and follow you as a great example of what to do.
•EL: Your cover concepts are delightful and clever! (If you’re interested in more feedback, please let me know. I know better than to offer without being invited.) ….Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help in any way (including cross-promotion)!
Big, BIG hugs,
Elle

Another example of author generosity. But “more feedback?” Hmmm. Karen and I loved the covers just as they were, and Elle did say she thought they were “delightful and clever.” Then again, she’d said the cover concepts were delightful and clever. Hmmm again. After much soul-searching, we decided to subjugate our egos, let go of our “pride of ownership” and open up a phone dialogue. After all, our creativity was being challenged. We wanted to defend our “concept.” Didn’t Elle understand that the covers were telling a story? The cover art of “Pink Balloons” when originally published by Dell made clear that the story was set in suburbia—note, suburban houses in b.g.– it was a mystery—note the gun—but the balloons gave it a “cozy” feel. In our eBook cover, we also told the story but made it simpler than in our first attempt. The body in the water and the police tape on the ladder made clear that this was a murder mystery, but the balloons and the wonky font indicated “cozy.”

We were about to get a valuable free lesson in eBook marketing. YOUR COVER DOESN’T HAVE TO TELL THE STORY! IT HAS TO SELL YOUR BOOK! I pass along this little gem with love to any of my fellow authors who, like me, may not yet have quite “gotten it.”

WHAT I LEARNED

The digital world of Kindle and Kobo and Nook is not the same as a bookstore. Our books do not appear on bookshelves for readers to gaze at the full-sized covers and get an idea of the story within. For the digital world we authors have to alter our vocabularies to change the meaning of such words as “ribbon” and “thumbnail.” Ribbons are no longer pretty colorful things with which we wrap gifts or put in our daughter’s hair. Thumbnails are no longer things on the end of our thumbs.

Ribbons are the thumbnail-size string of book covers that float across the bottom of your screen on Amazon. Woe be unto the author whose cover is cluttered with extraneous images. In thumbnail size the reader’s eye will pass it by and settle on the bold, simply designed graphic that “pops.” In Elle’s Digital Book World blog in which she uses my old and new book covers as examples, (aha!— what she meant by “cross-promotion”) she makes the analogy that if you lined up a bunch of beautiful blondes in a row and threw in one brunette, your eye would be drawn to the brunette, beautiful or not.

Final eBook cover for “Pink Balloons and Other Deadly Things”optimized for eBook marketing.

“Designing a kick-ass book cover for the Kindle store is one of the most valuable marketing and discoverability opportunities an independently published author is likely to have. When designing an eBook cover, you MUST assume that every potential reader will see it first as a thumbnail on Amazon’s suggestive ribbon and not as a full-sized graphic.” – Elle Lothlorien

Another shock to my system. YOUR BOOK TITLE and YOUR NAME aren’t as important as the graphic! “What?“ That was hard to swallow. The reason is that the title of the book and your name will appear alongside the cover which the reader will see AFTER your cover has grabbed his or her interest. Of course, this advice is for the indie author. It doesn’t apply to a big name author whose name sells the book and whose publisher will design the cover.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Below are my five covers, the top line Karen’s original designs – the bottom line, her revised designs. I leave it to you. Which ones grab you? For me, there’s no contest. Thank you, Karen for your patience, your creativity, and all your hard work. And thank you, Elle, for spreading the word!

I welcome your comments. You can contact me at nanmys@aol.com or follow me on facebook at www.facebook.com/nancyteslerauthor. Be sure to check out my latest book, a gripping romantic suspense entitled “Ablaze.”

How both my books reached #1 on Amazon

by Nicholas C. Rossis

Image from http://www.worldsworstnetworker.com/1-in-6-countries/

I’ve been reading contradictory opinions about book marketing and what does and doesn’t work, so I thought I’d share my personal experience on the matter, warts and all.

I am the author of the epic fantasy series Pearseus, and published simultaneously the first two books on Amazon KDP. I went exclusive with Amazon because I had a non-existent fan base (what people call Author Platform, which is really the websites, blogs etc. that mention you), so I figured I had to start by introducing my books to the public. KDP allows you to reach an insane number of readers, and handing free copies for five days seemed like a small price to pay.

My reasoning was that a first-time author would have a hard time reaching readers at a time when 1,500 books are published daily on Amazon alone. I figured I’d follow a five-step plan:

  1. 1. Write at least two books
  2. 2. Publish simultaneously
  3. 3. Cross-link the books
  4. 4. Give away each book for a 2-3 days each month, but never both books at the same time
  5. 5. Build a fan base

Ideally, number 5 would have come at the beginning, perhaps a year in advance. However, I was too absorbed with writing to work on that.

So, on October 17th I published the books. Shortly afterwards, I started my Twitter account. I had a better fan base on Facebook, with some 300 Likes, and experimented on building a Tumblr blog. This has now (d)evolved into a place for me to see photos and quotes I like, with just a dozen followers, whereas the Twitter account has mushroomed to over 3,500 followers.

Following an early start of some 20 sales, mostly friends and relatives, things crawled to a halt. Then, I started my free days. Believing my second book to be stronger, I decided to promote that. I focused on weekends for my free days, and used the Self Publisher’s Showcase and the Author Marketing Club’s Free Kindle book submission tool to advertise it. The Author Marketing Club (AMC) page lists 24 sites that will list your free ebook, either for free or for a small fee. I spent almost a day setting up my listing with half of these, and paid some $40 in total, then waited.

I had some 270 downloads on a Sunday, which means I had reached 270 readers I had no chance of reaching otherwise. So, from my point of view, it was very successful, however it failed to translate into sales: I sold maybe a dozen books during the rest of the month.

In early December, it was time for my second giveaway. Once again, I used the Self Pubisher’s Showcase and the AMC tool, this time publishing on the second half of the list. I had also written a couple of guest blogs pieces, the most successful of which concerned my thoughts on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing and the funny story of how my dad learned I had become an author.

The number of downloads was almost exactly the same, meaning I had now reached a little over 500 readers. However, the post-giveaway sales effect was once again limited and faded rapidly.

Then, in late December (21-22) I had my third giveaway. Again, I tweeted about it, this time sending direct tweets to some of the friends I had made, asking them to retweet (I felt embarrassed doing so, but I bit the bullet and groveled. It paid off, as you’ll see). I also used the Self Pubisher’s Showcase and the entire AMC list, spending some $60 to ensure my listing. I had also increased awareness of my book with some more interviews and book features. Finally, I later realized that the giveaway had been picked by a kindly Reddit editor, which helped.

This time, the giveaway reached almost 4,000 people, astounding me. Based on the strength of that, the book reached #1 in Metaphysical and Visionary and #73 in the entire Free Kindle Store (it helps picking less competitive categories for your book). Within a brief, ecstatic moment, I had become a best-selling author, reaching #504 in Author Rank for Science Fiction.

So what did all this mean for my sales? It translated into some 40 sales of the other book, some 40 sales the next month with no advertising or promotion, and a couple of reviews.

I was still unsure as to why the sudden success, so in January I only promoted Year 18, the first book in the series, using up all 5 free days simultaneously, as I realized the 3-month period had almost expired and I had run out of days. People say the best days are Thursday, the weekend and Mondays, but in my experience it’s more like Thursday, Sunday and Monday.

During the five-day giveaway, some 400 copies were downloaded, helping Year 18 reach #1 in Metaphysical, thus creating another best-seller. This time, however, sales of the other book remained pretty steady, at a couple daily.

As you can tell, I’m still experimenting with my marketing. It feels great to think that some 5,000 people have downloaded my book, although I’m aware that maybe 10% of these have actually read them, and very few reviewed them.

So, what conclusions have I drawn from my first 3 months of marketing efforts?

  1. It’s best to have more than one book out there. One book’s free days led to the sales of the second book picking up substantially. The effect seems to grow exponentially, from what I’ve heard.
  2. Don’t let marketing distract you from your writing. My marketing efforts distracted me from my writing for a while, but also allowed me to make new friends who have offered to beta-read and help out with my next book. I’d now like to focus more on writing, and have the third installment in the series ready within a couple of months (I’m now two thirds into the first draft).
  3. Because of the free days, 5,000 people will now influence where Amazon displays my book. That, to me, is the most important thing I’ve gained; the “people who bought this also bought Pearseus” recommendation is a huge asset.
  4. The fact that both books have reached #1 at some point is a great selling point. Buying a book from an author you’ve never heard before is a risk. We all have limited time, and too many books to read. “Author of the international best-selling series Pearseus” sounds much more convincing, than “new author”. It doesn’t sound too bad as an answer to the dreaded question, “so, how’s your book doing?”, either.
  5. If I have enough time (I do juggle a morning job and a family, too), I’d like to get more involved with Goodreads, Reddit and KBoards. But as Rayne Hall said, you can only manage one social medium properly at a time (she’s considered somewhat of a Twitter guru, so be sure to follow her).
  6. Free days do work, just not as people expect. If your expectation is that you’ll publish a book, give away a million copies and sell hundreds of thousands because of that, you should probably prepare for disappointment. Free days are part of a greater strategy – it’s a marathon, not a sprint, as I’m fond of saying.
  7. Make sure you have some reviews from your friends and beta-readers ready as soon as you publish – and certainly before you start your giveaways. Few readers will download something just because it’s free; they also need to feel there’s at least a chance of reading it eventually. Also, it’s a good idea to ask for a review at the end of the book (Kindle now does it automatically).
  8. Do everyday something to promote your book – be it a tweet, asking for a review or telling someone about your book. But don’t forget you’re a writer, not a marketer (I know I’ve said this already, but it bears repeating. Too many Indie authors publish one book and market it ad nauseum, losing their focus). From what I’ve read, most authors need at least ten books before being able to live off their books.
  9. My number one conclusion? Before starting any marketing, be sure you have the best possible book you can. For a remarkably small fee, I used the great editing services of Tahlia Newland, and I didn’t regret it. I also had a dozen people read it, to make sure we had weeded out as many typos as possible. I’m not saying you should wait until your writing is perfect to publish – for there is always room for improvement – but that you should confident it’s the best possible book you can write. Just because it’s so easy to get published nowadays, you shouldn’t rush to do so without checking thoroughly. Typos may be inevitable, but make sure they’re as few as possible before you publish.

– – – – –

Check out his book on Amazon.