KDP Update-The Things They Didn’t Bury

Self Publishing

The last day of my free promotion for The Things They Didn’t Bury expired last night at midnight and after three days of watching my rank fluctuate I topped out Sunday morning at #75 in the Top 100 Free Amazon Bestseller’s List!

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Downloads started trickling in Friday morning and by noon I was averaging 50 downloads an hour—which is pretty accurate since I was frantically checking throughout the work day every chance I got. At first I was like…is this real? Can they really be calculating it this quickly and are there really that many people digging through Amazon’s inventory five digits deep? When I started the free promotion my rank was around 30K and I was surprised that people had even found the book. But they did and over the weekend my rank just kept climbing higher and higher until I finally cracked the top 100 list!

I was a little surprised that the top 100, though it definitely increased my visibility, didn’t necessarily increase my downloads. There was a huge surge of them all day Saturday but after I reached the top 100 list on Sunday, they started to finally slow again around 3PM. The last I checked before I went to bed I was #100, just about to fall off the list.

By the end of my KDP free promotion days I had a total of 3,855 downloads!!!!!!

I’m not sure if this is normal or if this is some kind of miracle. I can tell you that it sure feels like one. 3,855 people have downloaded my book. 3,855 people might actually read my book and half of them might even finish it. Half of those people might even like it. And half of those people might even tell their friends! Which is all I can hope for at this point. As of right now, almost 24 hours after the promotion has ended, I’ve only had 2 actual sales. Not sure if that elusive “bounce back” phenomenon is supposed to be instantaneous but it looks like word just hasn’t traveled fast enough yet.

I’m still crossing my fingers but, for me, this promotion has already been a huge success and totally exceeded all of my expectations. Honestly, I’m still stunned. I just can’t believe so many people were moved by the blurb, the cover, and the sample chapters to actually download a copy. Though, for me I think that trifecta was pretty essential and that’s the only advice I would give to anyone considering joining KDP Select and taking advantage of the free promotion days.

My essential ingredients to a successful promotion:

1.       Invest in a great cover. Writing a book is hard and it’s a little insulting when non-writers try to insinuate that it’s not. We should have just as much respect for artists and graphic designers who have invested both time and money in honing their skills and not assume that just because we downloaded Photoshop that we can slap something together just as good ourselves. Expect to spend in the triple digits. But trust me, it’s worth it. I can only assume that since my cover was the first thing people saw as they were scrolling through the ridiculously long list of free books on Amazon that that’s what enticed them to actually click on the link and read the description.

2.       Write a killer blurb. Writing blurbs is hard so take your time. Again don’t just throw something together. Examine blurbs of books that are similar to your own or just blurbs that really entice you to want to read more. It takes practice. I’m still learning how to get it right but I do understand that there’s a specific formula when it comes to writing a successful blurb and that if I do it right it can make the difference between someone buying my book or passing it by.

3.       Most importantly write a good book. Always be conscious of putting out a quality product. The Things They Didn’t Bury probably went through 8 drafts over the course of two years. Is it perfect? No. Nothing is ever perfect but I never tried to abandon it before it was ready; before it felt complete and before I felt like I’d use every skill in my arsenal to get it in the best shape I possibly could. But like I said, nothing is perfect and seeing as I am just a mere mortal nothing I write ever will be. But that doesn’t mean it’s not good enough. And that doesn’t mean that I didn’t almost drive myself insane trying to get it there.

Have patience. You will finish the book when you finish the book and daydreaming about how much money you’ll make once it’s published is the last thing you should be thinking about. It’s a waste of time and only distracts you from the most important part of being a writer—writing the damn book.

Last, but not least, I did submit the book to some websites that feature free kindle books. It’s hard to say how much this influenced the overall outcome of my promotion. I was tagged in a few tweets from people who’d seen the book listed on one of these websites and decided to purchase it so at least I know the book was actually visible and that the submission forms I filled out weren’t for naught. I found the link to a website called Author Marketing Club via Gwen Bristol’s blog. From the linked page you can submit to various websites with one click. Frankly it’s way too simple and convenient not to try it yourself. I even submitted to Booksy.com who hand select which books they feature. Luckily my book was chosen and they even sent me this cool badge!

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I’d love to hear if anyone has some comparative results from their own KDP promotion.  The only way we can really take advantage of information like this is if we share with each other so please feel free to leave any insights and/or personal testimonies in the comments!

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Taking The Plunge With KDP

Self Publishing

So I’ve decided to take the plunge. I’ve never been a fan of exclusivity but I’m also not a fan of the artist’s purgatory better known as corporate America—a place to which I’m currently slave until this whole writing thing takes off. And if I’m going to be completely transparent here, I mean totally and shamelessly honest, The Things They Didn’t Bury has been on sale for almost 3 months and I have sold 10 copies. Yes. 10. Every single one of them to someone I know by name.

Discouraging? Definitely. But I’ve got patience, I’ve got the will to experiment, and I’m just wrapping up book 2 which means my virtual shelf space will no longer be the equivalent of a black hole by the end of June.

A lot of writers seem to be split on the subject of KDP and going all in with Amazon. It’s controversial and a little scary—especially for us indies who tout our independence like some war wound we acquired while trying to learn HTML and format our e-book for free, or from the amount of money we got misled out of while trying to find a decent cover artist. It’s intimidating to put all of your eggs in one basket, and according to some ideology, just plain wrong.

My biggest trepidation with KDP was its effect on readers. Luckily all 10 of mine have kindles but what if some didn’t? Would they feel slighted? Would it matter at all? Obviously, exposure is everything, and as a new author my goal is to reach as many potential readers as possible—whether through my blog or other social media, through ad space, reviewers, or retailers. And I wanted those readers, regardless of which reading device they owned, to be able to discover my books.

But here’s the issue. I can make my book available on every e-book retailer, I can make the file DRM free, I can give over a hundred copies away for free, which I did. But I’m still a new author—an obscure anomaly that no reader is scrambling for, that no reader is seeking out, or even giving a second thought. In fact, none of them even know I exist.

So even before tackling the hurdle of actually selling copies of my book to strangers, I have to conquer the hurdle of being invisible. And I think KDP can help me with that.

Now, why would I want to participate in KDP free days when I’ve already given away over 100 free books, none of which have translated into any sales? Well, first of all, giving away free books is always a gamble. There are a lot of factors at play. When I reached out to book reviewers I sent out almost 150 emails. Approximately 30 responded saying they would review my book, and in the past 3 months only about 10 of them actually have. Maybe they got busy. Maybe they just didn’t like the book. These are things I can’t control.

Other things I can’t control are who enters a giveaway I may be hosting on my blog or someone else’s. Maybe they don’t read contemporary fiction but they entered anyway just to see if they’d get lucky. Maybe they enter every contest they find. Maybe they don’t even read. Finding the right readers, the right audience—it’s like finding a needle in a haystack—and them finding your book, well that takes a needle, a few stars aligning, and some divine intervention. And when you consider the size of a blog’s online readership versus the size of Kindle owners, they’re not even comparable.

Amazon is huge.

So while I may enter into the abyss that is KDP Select, competing with every other self-published author and free book on the market and getting sucked into further obscurity, I also might find that one reader who is looking for a book just like mine. That one reader who will tell their friends and their family and the clerk at the grocery store and that guy across from them at the gas pump. They’ll tell their Facebook friends and twitter followers and the people in their Friday night book club and their Sunday morning bible study.

That’s the goal. So I’ll start with KDP, trading temporary exclusivity for the hope that I’ll find my readers, one by one until one day all I have to worry about is writing amazing books for them and all they have to worry about is reading them.