Monday, August 4, 2014

Kindle Select Results, Caveat Auctore.

Louis Shalako

To keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting to get different results is a form of insanity.

I forget who said that, but it’s true enough.

I wanted a better fate for my new novel, The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue. 

Previous science-fiction novels such as Third World were essentially published and died. The same day.

I would be hard pressed to claim even ten copies of that book sold.

And yet I have always resisted the Kindle Select Program. Part of that was pure dogma. It is my opinion that authors and readers alike are served best by a healthy ecosystem, where no one party is dominant. But Amazon is dominant. At some point I just had to admit that and take appropriate steps. One reason for being slow to do that, is that I really wasn’t selling all that many books on Amazon to begin with. The same could be said of Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, Google Books…the list goes on. Barnes & Noble is my best platform—a platform that Joe Konrath says will die very soon now. If that happens, then I guess my sales are dead as well.

You can read all kinds of blog posts about how Amazon  will destroy literature and take over the world.

Some of that comes from  traditional publishing, and some of it comes from places like the Smashwords blog.

I owed it to myself to find out what would happen. Normally, I publish a book on Smashwords, Amazon, Google Books, OmniLit, etc.

Okay. So on my first free day, I gave away a grand total of 35 books through Kindle Select, in the U.S. I gave away four in the U.K., one in Germany, etc . I had one sale, through Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s new subscription service.

Using another pen name, I published another title. This one is a short story of 12,000 words, literary fiction, and it’s not the most exciting thing in the world. I would say that a book on friendship is not as enticing as a book about vampires, werewolves, thrillers, or the like to the modern reader. Romance books will beat that one every time.

Another challenge is how to promote any book these days. People rapidly tire of link after link on your Facebook feed, and there are so many voices on Twitter, your tweet quickly disappears, drowned out by fresh links.

I’m not real good about seeking reviews, providing advance reader copies, or anything, really.

When I’m done writing a book, I publish it and move on. If passive discoverability works, then it really ought to work here! The only positive news here is that Heaven Is Too Far Away, my WW I memoir/historical parody, sold four books in June through Createspace’s Expanded Distribution. Since I have no real way of promoting that book, it must be passive discoverability.

For what it’s worth.

As far as promotion on Kindle Boards, for whatever reason, I had never bookmarked my KB-Amazon Book Pages. I got rid of Internet Explorer, and then Google Chrome. It’s hard to even find them again. I don’t know how to upgrade my marketing images, the ones in the signature and on the book page itself. 

When I raised my prices last year, the novels were no longer $2.99, but $4.99 and up. You can only post free, or books up to $2.99 on Kindle Boards. Basically, I just stopped going there. That’s one less promotional tool to work with; and some say it is an essential tool.

So it is my own mistakes and my own lack of knowledge that really kills any attempt to promote any book. 

Low sales, low incentive to learn, I guess. And yet learn we must, or die.

So here’s what I learned from Kindle Select.

If your book is not in a particularly popular genre, your results will reflect that. If your cover is not that good, if your blurb is not that good, Kindle Select cannot save it. The date you choose has an effect. For whatever reason, I chose a holiday weekend in summer. I have three more promotional days for The Mysterious Case of Betty Blue, and another two and a half months of exclusivity before I can publish it elsewhere. This is the price of knowledge, one might say.

What’s really interesting is that when Amazon price-matches your book on another platform, (Kindle Select Titles are exclusive and I’m talking about other titles) your monthly result in terms of giveaways can be far superior to the Kindle Select exclusive promotion.

I know that for a fact, because I’ve given away 173 copies of The Shape-Shifters in the first four days of August. That book is not exclusive to Amazon. You can get it for free on any number of sales platforms.

Whether it’s caveat scriptor, or caveat auctore, (writer beware) all I can say is that unrealistic expectations and a distinct lack of skill in the promotion can kill a book pretty darned quick.

That’s why I try to write and submit short stories as much as possible. A sale is a sale, and it’s a ray of hope as well. As to whether I will write another novel and begin submitting to traditional publishers again, I don’t know.

For that you need the motivation, but more than anything you need patience—and some shred of hope that it will be picked up.

Who knows, it might even change my life.


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