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

The Art Of Self Promotion

I suck at it! But I’m learning…P1010700

Here’s the scenario. Two weeks ago I’m sitting in a doctor’s surgery for a regular glucose tolerance test. (For anyone not in the know, these take two hours and in that time you have to sit still and do nothing for the duration). For a working mother, permission to sit still for two hours and do nothing is BLISS…

I opened my book (at the time, The Chimney Sweeper’s Boy), and I had my Kindle on stand-by. I chose an unobtrusive seat, fluffed my feathers, and made myself comfortable.

Ten minutes into my ‘alone time’ the surgery receptionist sat by me (the surgery was empty) and said:

“What are you reading?”

I showed her the cover of the Chimney Sweeper’s Boy. “This.”

“Is it good?”

“It’s okay.”

“I don’t know what’s struck me lately, but I’m in a book-reading mood. Do you know of any good books?”

My heart starts beating faster. His Brand Of Beautiful. Tell her, His Brand Of Beautiful. “Well… what do you like to read?”

“Oh. Anything. I don’t know.”

His Brand Of Beautiful. Tell her, His Brand Of Beautiful. Tell her House For All Seasons. Tell her Under The Hood. Tell her Fast Forward. “If I think of something, I’ll let you know.”

Now – there will be those out there (Jenn J Mcleod, Juliet Madison) who all cringe on my behalf and say: WHAT A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY!

I was way too shy to own up to having just written a book. Opportunity missed.

All this ‘promotion’ discussion reminds me of a line the real estate agent used when she was discussing the marketing program for selling our Hahndorf house. I wasn’t certain I wanted a sign out the front and she looked at me and said: “Lily… You can’t sell a secret.”

How those words have haunted me since my book launched in March. It’s hard to turn around a mind-set of not wanting anyone to know you’re writing… and turning that around to wanting everyone to know you’re writing.

Outside of Facebook friends, I’d hardly told anyone. Not friends. Not family.

And then of course, I suddenly want sales for my book. Because I’m serious about turning my writing into my second career. My 5 and 10-year goals are to increase the amount of income my writing can substitute from my ‘day job’… I’ll call my writing my own, personal, Self Managed Super Fund.

One month after my launch and my desire for sales is trumping any shyness I had.

Here’s some examples of my growth:

At the weekend, we had a family reunion. It would have been my granddad’s 100th birthday on Sunday (were he still alive) and my mother’s side of the family all got together at an Aunt’s farm for a big birthday shin-dig. Here, I actually ‘fessed up to having written a romance book, telling them my author name and the book title, and how they could buy it. (If they didn’t mind the heroine letting loose with the odd F-word and could handle steamy sex scenes and would still send me presents at Christmas.)

Yesterday, my boss told me she had asked the ladies in her bookclub if they’d be interested in me talking to them about e-publishing and my blog and my book… All these ladies know my family (particularly my father), and if you asked me a year ago whether I’d like this particular group to know I was writing, I would have said: “No Way Jose!!!”

This time around, I’m actually looking forward to it. Though they’re all on Pain Of Death not to breathe a word to my old man!

And finally.  I had a follow-up appointment at the Doctor’s surgery on Monday, getting the results of the tests from two weeks prior. This is how the conversation went:

“Hi Jane. Are you still in your book-reading phase?”

With a double-take that I’d remembered, Jane says: “Yes. Actually right now I’m reading Jim Stynes biography.”

“I have a couple of book names that I wrote down for you, if you’d like them?”

“Yes, please. That would be great.”

So I handed her my handwritten (because I’m not yet organised enough to get bookmarks or business cards or that sort of thing), notes with the names of: “His Brand Of Beautiful by Lily Malone”; “House For All Seasons by Jenn J McLeod”; “Under The Hood by Juanita Kees”; Fast Forward by Juliet Madison; “White Ginger by Susanne Bellamy” and “Fractured by Dawn Barker.”

You can’t sell a secret… It just took me a heck of a long time to realise this!