Amazon Kindle Free Promotions: Doing the math (mutter, mumble)

Let me be blunt. I write books. I’m an English brain. I hate math.

I’d go so far as to say: If math were on fire, I’d stand beside it with a placard chanting “burn, burn, burn”…

Yet this is a post about numbers. It has to be. I want to treat my writing as a business, and much as I’d love to put my head in the sand when it comes to numbers, the numbers are important.

So here’s a few for you.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know that my new contemporary novella, The Goodbye Ride, launched with a free promotion last Thursday. It was free for three days with the free promotion finishing on Saturday.

The best that I saw the novella rank was on Saturday morning when it reached #282 on the Free in Kindle Store rank (see below).

Amazon Best Sellers Rank:

#282 Free in Kindle Store

#13 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Women’s Fiction

#14 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary Fiction

In total, 2650 people took advantage of my free promotion to download the book over three days. I am over-the-moon thrilled with that.

The US was the most popular (1812); UK next (617); Germany (145); Canada (55); France (16); Italy (4) and Japan (1). The US would include Australia, and I’d say a big part of that 1812 would have been Aussies – wonderful RWA members and friends, and friends of friends.

An Aussie author I admire, said she’d heard that to break into the top 100 Kindle Free list, an author needs to be downloading about 1000 copies per hour. How spooky is that figure! For me, it felt like my sales averaged about 30 per hour, with Saturday (Friday night Australia time) probably hitting about 40/hour when the ranking reached its highest. You’ll forgive me at this point if I say, it isn’t an exact science. (I don’t like science either).

Now the real trick for The Goodbye Ride is what happens now. When the ‘Free’ status dropped out, the next figure I saw was something in the 300,000s… that’s bounced back today and last I checked, was in the 50,000-60,000s.

So if one begins talking about writing as a business, one must have a business plan. Right? And for me, The Goodbye Ride was a choice I made to put a second Lily Malone product into the big library in the sky – in hopes that would help boost my ‘brand’, find me more readers and in turn, help my debut novel, His Brand Of Beautiful, and the novels I’ll write in the future.

One of the great things about self-publishing is the ability an author has to control their own e-book content. I was able to put brief reviews for His Brand Of Beautiful at the back of the book, and mention this title in my author bio, along with my social media links.

When I look at Goodreads, since The Goodbye Ride launched, the number of people marking His Brand Of Beautiful ‘To Read’ has jumped by about 25-30. I can only attribute that to the ‘noise’ I managed to make (with the help of many friends) for The Goodbye Ride. I’ve also picked up two new reviews for His Brand Of Beautiful. 

They are small numbers, but they are massive to me, and they’re massive in percentage terms. It was only November 2012 when His Brand Of Beautiful was picked up by Escape; and it is only March this year that it released. So two titles in two months feels pretty special.

Today I read a post by Mark Coker, the CEO of Smashwords. Talk about timely! Whether you’re into self-pubbing or traditional publishing, a lot of what Coker says will be of interest to you, particularly when it comes to pricing. Many of the Escape Publishing titles (including His Brand Of Beautiful) are priced at $3.99 on Amazon, which has to be 20% cheaper than anywhere else. Coker says the $3.99 price point is the ‘best place’ to be in at the moment (although this might change)… and he says $1.99 is a pricepoint to avoid.

Enter my next mathematical problem. What do I price The Goodbye Ride? It’s a novella of 32,000 words. I’ve seen novellas of 14,000 words priced on Amazon at $1.99. I’ve seen books of 100,000 words priced at 0.99c and of course, there’s everything in between.

I really wanted to go with $2.99, for two reasons.

  • I think it’s worth it.
  • Amazon’s royalty options.

Yes, Amazon gives you options! You can “choose” (their word, don’t you love it?) whether you go for a 35% royalty or a 70% royalty but there are strings attached to the 70%. One of which is, books must be for sale above $2.99. (I think it was $2.99 to $9.99). The minute you price below $2.99, the 70% royalty rate is no longer an option for you. If anyone out there knows why Amazon does this – I’d love to know?

But, much as I’d love to put The Goodbye Ride in the $2.99 (because 70% sounds so much better than 35%); my gut tells me that’s too high to be competitive on Amazon. So if I revisit my goals for the book, and the plan is to use The Goodbye Ride to complement His Brand Of Beautiful and get a Lily Malone product in more reader’s hands.. then it doesn’t make sense to over-price The Goodbye Ride.

Coker also says:

“When an author sells a book, they receive two primary benefits.  1.  They earn the royalty from the sale. 2.  They earn a reader, and a reader is a potential fan, and fan is a potential super-fan who will rush to buy anything you publish, and who will evangelize your book to everyone they know. I’d argue that readership – the key to building your author brand and fan base, is more important to your long-term success than a dollar in your pocket today.”

I agree with Coker’s premise. So that’s my decision to make now, or over the next weeks and months. Where to price the book? How long to leave it at once price point before changing? I see no point in being stubborn about it and leaving it at $2.99 if it isn’t moving. No sales achieves me nothing.

I’ve chosen the Kindle Select program, which means The Goodbye Ride is exclusive to Amazon for 90 days, and within each block of 90 days (should I renew), an author can access 5 free days for promotion. I’ve seen people advise that if you’re going to make your book free, bump the price up so that people think they’re getting a real bargain… along the lines of, if it’s 99 cents normally, they’re really not saving a lot by getting it free.

There’s so many tips and tricks to learn. It’s lucky I like marketing. I like marketing much more than I like maths!

In the meantime, if you’d like to check out The Goodbye Ride, please click here. And for His Brand Of Beautiful, click here.

p.s. I just joined the Twittersphere… something else for which I have The Goodbye Ride to thank. If you’d like to connect with me on twitter, you can find me @lily_lilymalone

My First E-Book Experience

All being well, His Brand Of Beautiful will be published as an e-book in the new year, so I figured it was time I owned a Kindle and thanks to hubby Santa, my wish came true.

I’ve just finished my first e-book. Ex and The Single Girl, by Lani Diane Rich. This was a freebie plugged on Jennifer Crusie’s website some time ago that I’ve had sitting in my Amazon store, just a-waitin’ the Kindle.

So, some first impressions of e-books v print books.

It is SO light. Amazingly so. No RSI in the wrists reading anymore. And when I put it on my bedside table, or the kitchen bench or any handy horizontal surface, well, I feel rather stylish. (Hey, I don’t feel stylish very often – work with me). It’s so very pretty in its little leather satchel!

Now if I had my choice again, I think I’d like a ‘touch screen’ option, rather than press buttons to turn pages. But that’s being picky. Sorry Santa.

The viewing quality is great. I was reading it outside yesterday and there wasn’t any glare from the overhead sun, and I’ve discovered how to make the font bigger… useful given the champagne downed in this house Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Without making any comment on the book itself, it had a few formatting errors that were annoying. The scene breaks were non-existent, which meant every now and then I was completely thrown by paragraphs that continued a new scene from the ending of an old one. No paragraph space. No ****. Nothing. (My blog wants to throw in a line of white space below – but imagine if it was closed up and you’ll see what I mean.)

Here’s an example:

“Bastard.” I swiped an empty bottle of chardonnay off the coffee table and into the trash can, trying to work up some anger. It didn’t come. I put the trash by the door and wandered into my bedroom, falling asleep to thoughts of old flames and British Flyers.

“How’s that eggplant?” Peter asked. I looked down at my plate. I’d had one small bite and was still chewing.

See?

And hunting for that scene just told me a downfall of e-books. How do you quickly skim through to find a specific page/scene?

Aha! She says all-knowing, after five minutes of faffing about because my Kindle doesn’t have touch screen (sorry Santa for being ungrateful) pressing buttons… You can search the book for ‘eggplant’…

As a marketing module, this Kindle is amazing. Every time I close it, when I come back they are promoting a new title. I imagine they have a way of checking my profile on things such as Goodreads or books I’ve browsed at Amazon and they think, right, this girl’s a good fit for the latest Patricia Cornwell Scarpetta book, let’s see if we can sell it to her. Come in sucker…

After I’ve got rid of the marketing page about Patricia Cornwell’s new book, I’m at the same page where I left off. I don’t need bookmarks (proper ones that the kids giggle as they steal) or dog-eared pages that my husband grizzles at me about. I can lay this Kindle down whichever way I like and I don’t get nagged for ‘breaking that book’s back’.

The real test will be: will I read my Kindle in the loo? I have books that only ever get read in the loo. Right now I’m on Lord Of The Rings, so my loo-reading basket is well and truly full for at least another month. That’s a dang big book! If my Kindle makes it to the toilet, it will be my best booky friend forever.

But I wanted a signed copy

Oops…

In our family the news is out. My two lovely Aunts have heard from my mother that I have a book contract in the wings and one Aunt said to mum… “I want a copy of Lily’s book and I want it personally signed…”

My mother dutifully passed on this message yesterday and the conversation went like this:

“That’s great, Mum. But it’s going to be an e-book.”

Cue silent pause, which I fill. “It’s an electronic book, Mum. You need a thing called a Kindle to read it.”

“Oh. It’s not a book then?”

“It’s a book. It’s just not printed out.”

“Oh,” more pause. “How much does a Kindle thing cost?” Her voice goes a little squeaky at the end.

“You can get all types, mum, with a zillion bells and whistles, but the one I want for Christmas is about $120.”

“Oh.” Brightens. “It’s not thousands then.”

“No. Not thousands, mum.”

But I can’t imagine either of my Aunts rushing out to buy a Kindle. And my mother has yet to master the sending of a text. She is certain if she touches a computer she will break it, and the idea of using a mouse makes her look for the highest place to leap.

Make no mistake. My mother is still thrilled, but I don’t think the idea of there being an electronic book ever occurred to her, much less that her daughter might write one.

I shall have to sign my Kindle and let my Aunt read it there… 😉

What a week it’s been!

I can’t think of many bigger weeks in the life of Lily Malone.

First: We sold our house. The cooling-off period ended at midnight last night, and that means the deal is done. In the new year, we’ll be moving interstate to Margaret River. (Anyone who knows me will understand my excitement about that!) Margaret River means WINE… So does South Australia of course – this is the wine state! But for me, Margaret River is also a move back to family roots. My mum and sister are still there. My best friend – who gives me wonderful fodder for my heroines – is currently in Perth but she’s planning a move down south to Margaret River too. So it’s exciting times in 2013. We’ve been in South Australia 12 years early next year. I can’t believe how quickly it’s all gone… Two ‘real’ careers, a part-time job, two kids, one loved-and-slaved-over debut book later…

When I picture myself next year, I’m in my office/study/writing nook, with my fingers tripping light-music across the keyboard and I’m near a big picture-window with a view of the forest… sigh… (Work with me here: this is still dream-land and I can picture next year as rose-coloured as I like! My children don’t demand apples and repeat viewings of Shaun The Sheep when I’m in the midst of writing my steamiest sex scenes in my Margaret River dream-land!)

Now – it’s not often that you’d have to decide between the sale of a house and a move interstate for priority with the SECOND huge news of the week. I have a publishing contract on the way! My first one. I am so very excited. Nah. Excited isn’t the word. I’ve been pinching myself all week. Each morning I open the email expecting to see a note that says: ‘oops, sorry… my mistake. I confused your story with someone else…’ 🙂 (This, my wonderful best friend tells me, is my self-doubt speaking!) Self-doubt, take a hike!

It seems like there is a huge amount of opportunity in the industry at the moment for debut authors. I think it’s the e-publishing revolution doing it. e-publishers don’t have the upfront costs of print so they can take more chances on newbie authors. The big pay-off for those publishers will be if they discover a voice the reading public loves. Move over 50 Shades and Stephenie Meyer… here comes… Ainslie Paton, Juliet Madison, Lily Malone???

Juliet Madison wrote about her ‘call story’ on her blog this week. I so understood how she felt.

Today we have friends coming for pre-Christmas lunch at our house, something we do each year. (I’m making moussaka & cherry icecream – ahem, not together in case you wondered). I digress! None of those friends know that I’ve been writing. I’ve kept it under wraps for two years and only just started coming out of the closet in the last six months.

My husband is off to buy champagne, (Brian Croser bubbles – they’re wonderful for a special occasion). Our friends will all think we’re celebrating the house sale and Christmas… I’m not sure yet whether I’ll mention the ‘other’ news. But as I sip my fizz, I’ll be toasting my huge secret too. And maybe I’ll let the cat out of the bag.

I look forward to relaying my own ‘Call story’ soon.