Tag Archives: Book Discovery

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.

Advertisements

On KBoards Book Discovery as a Bridge Troll Catapult

Welcome back to my (so far brief) floundering series on promotional sites and their effectiveness. Most recently I’ve tried the KBoards “Book Discovery” promotion service (http://www.kboards.com/book-discovery-promo/). As they say, it’s a promotion opportunity “for newly-published or overlooked books”. Well, due to my utter failings at promotions (I’ll have to change tack again soon) this is exactly what my book needs.

First up, what’s their deal?

I’ve pulled this, almost verbatim, from their website.

What you get:

  • Inclusion in our Book Discovery Days post in the Kindle blog. We post these on Tuesdays and Fridays at about 4pm Pacific. The table is limited to 16 books or fewer, and includes a clickable book cover, links to your book’s page on Amazon, and a synopsis describing your book. The synopsis is pulled from the first 500 characters of the description of your book on Amazon.
  • A Facebook post about the blog post. The Facebook post may include an image showing book covers; for space reasons it is not guaranteed that your cover will be among those.
  • A tweet about the blog post to our KBoards Twitter followers.
  • An alert about the blog post in our daily e-mail newsletter.
  • A “KBoards Featured Me” badge to include on your author website.

Requirements:

  • Our family-friendly guidelines apply. No erotica – sorry!
  • Fewer than ten reviews on Amazon *or* an Amazon ranking of higher than 100,000.

To me, this sounds like an excellent opportunity, and the price is awesome. It cost me only $US15. The “What you get” list is very generic in its offerings, but this is to KBoards members, which, in theory, are dedicated bookies and so should be on the lookout for good deals. If you’ve read my previous blow spews about this type of advertising, you’ll know I’m highly skeptical of FB and Twitter spamming, but to this directed audience, it might be more effective that to the world at large. The KBoards blog inclusion and the alert sound very helpful though.

The requirements are awesome, and I’m highly appreciative to KBoards for even setting up this type of promotion, for this type of author. I really wish more services would try to help those at the bottom of the ‘recognisability’ spectrum, instead of only catering to those who can already afford to pay wheelbarrow-loads of cash to bump their books from 25k to 5k on Amazons lists. This alone makes the KBoards Book Discovery promo a great idea.

I just wish it was successful.

How’d it go for me?

Complete and utter failure!

More on why in the next (small) section, but first I need to deal with my numbers, or complete lack thereof.

Now, I did sell more copies during the time period of this promo, but 40% of them were before the promo even went out. I followed my usual process of keeping the promo separated from any other activities so I can see the effects of the promo in isolation, but I did reduce the price of my book and update the blurb on Amazon to add a heading line saying it was on sale for that week because of the KBoards sale. I then sold 40% of my extra copies before the promo, but after the price reduction and headline change.

I can only assume it was the headline that attracted (most of) my extra sales, not the KBoards promotion. How disappointing 😦

Why the crap results?

I have to be fair to KBoards and all of the other services that I’ve tried and lay the blame for my relative failure at marketing directly on my book, not these services. Even with ENT, my results were poor compared to the others in the same promo, so it must be my book, not entirely the service.

I’m looked at this topic before, and no doubt I’ll look at it again, but it’s the cover, mostly. My cover artwork is pretty well done (I like to think) but trankly, too dark (too much black) for the primarily US audience of these services. I’ve gone back to my cover artist a couple of times to get the artwork updated, but if you’ve ever dealt with a cover artist… well…

So look, don’t blame KBoards for my pitiful results, but also, do blame them. After all, half of their promo service is FB and Twitter based, which is pointless. No-one in history has ever bought a book based on a FB or Twitter blast from an advertising site. It just doesn’t happen. So it looks good on the promo site but doesn’t actually achieve anything or the author.

I also have to wonder about the effectiveness of the blog inclusion. Does anyone read that blog or those emails? I don’t know. KBoards is a massive website and is hugely popular (and deservedly so, because it’s excellent) but I’d guess people go there for the threads, etc, not for their blog. My completely unauthoritative guess is that the blog sits at the side of the site and is significantly less popular than their highly popular forums.

Where will I go from here?

I have 2 plans for the immediate future, which are relevant to you, if you’re reading this.

  1. I’ll research more promo services and try them out. I have the spare cash to give them a go, and the patience to try them all in isolation. It’s helpful as most other people don’t want to blog about these things unless they’re wonderfully successful.
  2. Perhaps more useful, I’ve got a thriller/crime novel coming out in a few months. I’m going to get professional, colourful cover artwork done, etc, and it’s much more “in” the genre which these services claim are the most successful. So I’m going to really push my thriller, by advertising it across all of the same services I’ve already tried with my fantasy book with the darker cover art. You should definitely check back in in a few months to see how all of these services, including KBoards, fare with a brightly artworked thriller.

I have to be fair to these services. I don’t like to unfairly crap on advertising services which in all probability work wonderfully for different genres with more competent advertisers (i.e., me), but in my case, this service did, legitimately, fail dismally.