On Prodigal Bridge Trolls & Homecoming Dances

When I first published Equivocal Destines, I enrolled it in Amazon’s Kindle Select program. They “recommended” it and after some quick research, it seemed like a good idea. I wasn’t happy about it’s conditions, but it worked out OK. In brief:

You enroll your book(s) in KDP-S and you get fancy benefits:
  • You can set the price of your book to free for 5 days out of every 90 day enrollment – which is actually highly restrictive as most other sales channels will let you set your book to any price you want, including free, for as long as you want. It’s the only “free” option on Amazon though, so – in theory – good for marketing. I used this enrollment period to do a bit of free advertising (free book, not free service) and it all came to naught, so this isn’t worth squat in reality.
  • You can lend your book to Amazon Prime and Amazon Unlimited customers. You still get about $2 for each copy lent. Now this was something I could really get behind. It was another way to make my book available to lots of people, for a better price, and I still get my $2. Awesome! In reality, I lent a whole bunch of copies and haven’t seen a cent from Amazon for all of it, but it’s a good, ethical theory. Amazon’s now changed the pricing policy, but that’s a topic for another time.
  • You get prioritised advertising space – for whatever that’s worth for my completely unknown book. Not incidentally, that’ll probably be the topic of my next blog spew, so stay tuned.
There was also a single, massive downside. You have to make the book exclusive to Amazon for the 90-day enrollment. Now this is something that I find highly unethical and abusive. It was because of this rule that I removed my book from KDP-S and published it elsewhere.
Now, it feels good to have your book available in all of the stores, and it’s also a lot nicer and more ethical to have full rights to your work, instead of ceding some of those rights to Amazon or anyone else. The problem is, all of the other stores are completely ineffective. I’m going back to Kindle Select now.

Back into the fold

I was with KDP-S for 1 iteration of the standard 90-day enrollment period, then I didn’t renew it and published at Kobo and Smashwords, which in turn published my book pretty much everywhere else. In that 5.5 months, I’ve sold a measly 5 copies in stores that aren’t Amazon. I used to rent a lot more copies than that each month on Amazon, and that was only days after releasing my book and having done absolutely no advertising.
I recently read Mark Coker’s recent diatribe (from Smashwords) about KDP-S, and I agree with pretty much everything he says, from a ethical perspective, an industry perspective and a financial perspective. He’s absolutely right that KDP’s exclusivity clause is unethical (my words, not his) and needs to go. Like he admits though, I have prioritise the rent that I have to pay. More than that though, I have some serious misgivings about all of the other storefronts/sales channels.
  1. Only Amazon actually makes a serious attempt to put unknown books in front of potential buyers. I’ve looked into the advertising options at Apple, Kobo, etc and found Amazon to be far superior, even in their evilness. Basically, Amazon’s better at making money for themselves, by (accidentally) making money for me.
  2. It’s not even possible/easy to advertise outside of Amazon myself. I’ve used KBoards, ENT, BookBlow and BookGorilla and they all just want a direct link to your book on Amazon US. I don’t know how to advertise my book outside of Amazon, or outside of the USA. I have a proportionally much higher number of fans in the UK but I can’t even find an advertising service to reach more of them. All of the big services are USA-centric and Amazon-centric, so why should I care if my book’s on other sales sites if the advertisers don’t?
  3. No matter what you may like or dislike about Amazon, they’re still the place to be. Sorry, but it’s true. I wish the other sites would put as much effort into the whole process as Amazon does, but they don’t, so Amazon it is for me, and if it’s going to be Amazon, and Amazon is willing to give me more for free by rejoining KDP-S, then so be it.

I’ve done a bunch of rounds of advertising but my book’s still languishing in obscurity. This isn’t the place to speculate at length about why (dark cover art, unadvertisable genre…), but it does provide an opportunity to really test the pre-KDP-S vs. post-KDP-S landscape. I’m going to re-enroll and just leave it for a few weeks to see if my sales (and rentals) magically increase. If they do, with no further input from me, then we’ll all know that Amazon’s background magic actually does alter your book’s placement by being in KDP-S. A lack of movement might just mean my book’s not appealing, but time will tell.

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7 thoughts on “On Prodigal Bridge Trolls & Homecoming Dances”

  1. Appreciated your October 17 and all that follows in this selection of blogs. I’m nodding yes at every point though I live and work in the USA where, as Clarke remarked, there is a kind of marketing board in the US/UK bed. (Amazingly Amazon refused an order from me yesterday even before the order form come up, because the computers doubted that I would be able to pay in US$$! It’s surprising that Amazon would make such an error.) Ignore the Gravatar links below.

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    1. I begrudgingly agree. I re-enrolled and made more money in a month from lending than I did in 6 months of having Equivocal Destines on virtual shelves at Apple, Kobo, B&N, etc. Another thing people might not realise is that KU lending can be more profitable. I make about $1 from a paperback, $2 from a Kindle edition and $2.80 from a KU lend. That’s because my 112k-word book works out as 585 normalised pages. I’m happier when I make more money and the reader isn’t inconvenienced. Amazon might be evil, but they know how to keep authors of long books happy.

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    1. Waaaaiiiiiit!!!

      Please don’t take Mt experience too literally. I didn’t have much success but I will definitely use them again. Remember (if you read my related blog spews) I blame my genre and cover art at least as muchildren as anything else for my results. I’m planning out a thriller/murder mystery now and I absolutely WILL use BookBlow to spam it out to potential readers (and blog about it). Results in 1 genre with 1 style of book can’t be over-interpreted. I’very been reading a lot recently about other people’s experienceso and apparently BookBub still sits way out on top but the others are still useful. I plan on testing them all across 3 or 4 genres for a real comparison.

      So, what’s your genre and how bright and attractive is your artwork?

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      1. My genre would be categorized as a military history memoir. I have one book out (TOPGUN DAYS) and another coming soon. You know what, my publisher set up a weekend where BookBub promoted my book and sales went through the roof for 4 days!

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  2. BookBub’s an entirely different beast to Book Blow. The general chatter on the internet is that it is the last bastion of guaranteed sales and popularity. It says nothing at all about the successes or failures of Book Blow. I wish the other sales channels had (half) the pull of BookBub.

    Still, historical / military fiction is likely to do well across more sales channels than fantasy… or so says my completely uneducated guesswork on the topic, based mostly on the sales channels’ stated audiences.

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