Friday, August 31, 2012

Experiments in Independent Publishing

Several weeks ago I used three of my Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) free days and watched 10,110 people download my novel, Beyond the Will of God. The book is currently priced at $2.99 (that will change in the fall and go up to $4.99). By most accounts that's a fairly successful KDP promo. Unfortunately, Amazon has changed their algorithms around in the past few months. Whereas once my successful free days would give a novel lift in the Amazon ranking system that would extend past the promo, now their calculations give my book very meager support. Within a few days Beyond the Will of God had dropped from being in the top 20 popularity list for mysteries out of the Top 100. 

I'm not complaining. There are many benefits to getting exposure to 10,000 ereaders in a three-day period. The main one, obviously, is that my book is out there. When people like it, they'll let others know. Amazon's networking approach to sales is also impacted. My book will show up on lists like "Customers Who Bought..." and "What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?". I'm still receiving 2-3 purchases a day. 

What's most intriguing to me here, though, is that in order to achieve that huge number of downloads I followed the advice of another author and went to town promoting my free days through Twitter, Google+, and nearly a dozen websites that promote "free" books. One thing I found in this whole process was that there were a number of what I call "robot sites" that manage to track down free stuff for listing online. See HERE for an example. I don't know how they come up with their data. Many of them aren't even book oriented. And there are dozens of them. 

I have two promo days left on my KDP account and my agreement with Amazon for exclusive rights to Beyond the Will of God ends on September 9th. I don't know if I will extend that agreement. I'd like to promote the ebook at Barnes and Noble (they do carry the paperback already), Smashwords, iTunes and other sites. Although, I'm not sure at all whether they will provide me any further sales edge (Amazon is freaking awesome, to tell the truth, in their reach). 

At any rate, I'm using my last two promo days this weekend (September 1-2) but being quite laissez faire about the whole thing. I'm not going to post to Twitter and I've only posted to one indie website with free listings. I will likely post to several FaceBook sites because they're easy and I think a lot of folks pay attention to them. But I'm basically just going to let it ride and see what happens. 

I will document what I do, but the point here is to see what happens just modestly getting worked up about the promotion. My hypothesis is that I'll get over 1,000 downloads with very little work.

This all came to me because of two insights: 

1) As I watched my account rack up 10,000 downloads, I realized that people who go for "free" stuff are possibly not the same as those who are truly interested in books and that there are dozens of sites online appealing to these Free Folk. (You can read an article I posted this week at A Knife and a Quill  called "The Challenge With Free").

2) Earlier this year I posted my collection of short stories, Trying to Care, without any networking at all. It got 500 or so downloads in two days. I have no idea where anyone found out about that book. It may just be that folks page through the Free Kindle listings on Amazon and pick out what they want. 

So this is an experiment. I'm also using up my free days because I was completely non-strategic and rather haphazard in my planning. Partly, what I want to do here is give Amazon one more opportunity to show me why KDP has any value. We'll see, I guess. I know this isn't a controlled experiment. You can't really do that in the world of books. They don't give you enough meaningful data. That's okay. I don't need to report to a board of directors. I'll report back here next week. You know what they say, "It's good enough for blogging."

In the mean time, I don't care if you read my book, just read somebody's book. It's the best form of ESP I know of and it's very good for you. 

Happy Labor Day!


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