Monday, August 13, 2012

Things I've Learned Going With KDP Select

Recently I took the plunge with a publicist/marketing guru and made my five Indie titles available through Amazon's KDP Select. For those of you who don't know, KDP Select provides independent authors a chance to market their books to Amazon Kindle's Prime Membership for 90 days, allowing for free publicity in exchange for 90 days' exclusivity for e-books.

I released five of my novels on KDP Select, starting off by making the first one free to download for 3 days. Jefferson's Road: The Spirit of Resistance climbed steadily in the rankings, going from somewhere in the middle of nowhere to breach the top 40 free e-books of all kinds in less than 36 hours. I made it to the top spot in two categories (political fiction and men's adventure), as well as top spots in other significant categories.

 By the time the freebie was finished, I had given away over 6300 copies of the book. I won't see a dime from the freebies, of course, but the idea is that the exposure will help me sell more books in the future. After the book went back to "sale" (ie: costing money), I immediately plunged in the rankings, dropping to somewhere in the 500K range. A few sales later, I'd climbed back into the familiar territory of 40K to 50K.
As it stands right now, I've sold about twice my normal rate of sales for the month, and August is barely half over. I'm expecting to do easily four times my normal sales for the month.

There are definitely some things I've learned through the process that I think might benefit those of you considering something similar.

First of all, be sure your book is down from other sites for about two to four weeks before going live
with KDP Select. Like many authors, I've sold my books across a number of platforms, relying on Smashwords to do my distribution. When I started with KDP, I took the books off Smashwords and raised the prices from $.99 and $2.99 to $4.99 across the board. Unfortunately, there are a few other sites that are still selling my books at the old prices, and Amazon is still price-matching these books - meaning that I'm not getting the full benefit of the sales that I could be, even though I've done everything I can to take the books down
(that I know of!). This hurts the bottom line. Amazon could penalize me for still having the books available elsewhere, but they haven't done so just yet.

Second, be sure you identify your target audience. Figure out who reads your books (or reads books similar), and find ten to twenty blogs and forums where these people hang out. This'll require research on your part, but it's quite helpful. Go to these sites and be active on them for a month preceding your launch. About a week before you "go live," ask for permission from the site owner to post a note that your book is going to be free for a few days, and that you think their readers might enjoy grabbing a copy while they can. I had one site that approved my free book deal as an "event," only they did so the day the freebie ended. Yes. It took them that long. A little more lead time would've been quite effective, I suspect.

If you're not doing so already, be sure you have links and blurbs to your other books in the back of the one you're offering for free. You want to build up a solid readership among those who are giving you a try for the first time.

Build a decent website. I've found that Wordpress (gasp! I'm on blogger promoting another platform!) is quite useful in this regard. I don't know HTML, and being able to build a site with a WYSIWYG editor is quite handy. Include a section in the site where people can sign up for your newsletter. Try to publish something newsworthy at least once a month, though two to three times is better. Offer additional freebies, contests, giveaways and so forth. Your readers will want to know you, the author, so give them a view of your world.

And this almost goes without saying, but what the heck: have more than one book to sell. Spread your giveaways out a bit, so that people actually buy the book instead of just waiting around for another freebie. A week or two is plenty. If you have books in a series, don't offer the second one for free if you've just offered the first one. Those who are interested enough will fork over the cash to buy the second book. And that's what you really want to create: readers willing to buy your books.

My marketing efforts are continuing, so I'll keep you posted on what else I learn as this develops. Cheers!
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