As I get ever closer to setting up a pre-order for The Explorer’s Son, I’ve been taking peeks at the kboards and reading bits and pieces on The Passive Voice. And I’m starting to notice a few different issues that indie authors like myself are contending with, especially with Amazon.
- There is a growing consensus that free books, Select Free in particular, have a diminished effect. Amazon offers indie authors the opportunity to enroll in KDP Select. In return for not offering your books on any other sales channel, they allow you to mark your book down free five days ever quarter. Authors used to derive great benefit from this program, mostly because in the early days, Amazon would keep the free book ranked higher even after the free promotion is over. They do not do that anymore. This in particular is why it is almost meaningless if a book ranked even in the top 100 free books, and then the next day, the ranking in the paid books is even worse on account of using free days. And, many authors who have used KDP Select free days also suspect a diminished return on account of Kindle Unlimited borrows. Sometimes, readers will borrow the book rather than download it for free to keep forever, and therefore, as long as the book is in KDP Select, a reader knows they can read the book for “free” anytime, so there is no urgency for a reader to seek out days when the book is free. Authors with permanently free books like me are seeing a shift: fewer free downloads on Amazon, and more free downloads on other sales channels. Google Play now accounts for half of all downloads of The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning every month for two months running. And, for me at the very least, I’m also noticing that I have more international readers from Google Play, and more US readers from Amazon.com.
- The changing landscape of email promotions tools like BookBub. (Disclaimer: I’m not a big fan of BookBub. I have not attempted to have them accept my book, and as my free book is a novella length, it is not long enough according to their guidelines.) In years past, getting accepted for a BookBub promotion was akin to striking gold for an author. They could look forward to thousands of downloads of their free book for days and days to come, and surely at least ten percent of those people would eventually buy their other books… But, seeing the diminished return on Select Free days, along with the prohibitive cost of a BookBub promotion, even if they deign to accept your book, leads many authors to drop the price of their book to $0.99 rather than free, so that a) they get some sort of return on their investment, and b) so that their book stays in the paid book rankings on Amazon, not in the free book rankings. But here’s the thing: BookBub has said that they are more interested in doing free promos (they must have reasons, maybe their readers are complaining?). AND they like to see that a book is offered in more places than just Amazon. IMO, another strike for KDP Select.
- Reviews are getting more and more difficult to come by, or more difficult to deal with. Amazon does not make it difficult to leave a review, but what gets done with that review can have negative consequences. For instance, a fellow author in my genre may have a hard time reviewing my book on Amazon on account of Amazon feeling that this person is a potential competitor. (For this reason, I will often leave reviews of books I’ve read of fellow indie authors on Goodreads). Or, Amazon might decide (especially if the review is not a “Verified purchase” review) that it was left by a service that does paid reviews, and remove it. Also, ratings are not shown if an author only has the Kindle version on Amazon, only reviews. This leaves the opinions of many readers off Amazon completely unless the author offers a print version. And lets not forget that some legitimate reviewers are now afraid to voice their opinions about a book for fear of being stalked by an author who got obsessive about it.
- The above issues are leading indie authors like me to consider a different promotional approach. If you are an indie author, you might have noticed more and more chatter about Facebook Ads, Twitter Ads, and beefing up the email list. I first got wind of some of this when I listened to Mark Dawson, a successful indie author, talk on the Rocking Self Publishing podcast about how he has used Facebook ads to tremendous effect for building up his mailing list. The basic idea is to target the Facebook ads toward actual potential readers of your genre and target demographic. Apparently, it’s a complicated process to do efficiently, which is why other authors have had a hard time using FB ads and have instead resorted to the email promos (where you have the issues of the reviews and the requirements). Facebook ads are pay-per-click. This can also get expensive if you are not getting results, which is why taking some sort of training or course might seem to be an answer. My inbox is now loaded with info about courses and webinars (which tend to take place during the day, and therefore I usually cannot attend live on account of my day job).
- There are now new social media platforms to try out for marketing. Has anyone started using Periscope yet? It’s linked to your Twitter account so if you sign up for it, you can use your Twitter account details for Periscope as well. It’s a young platform, but I think it’s something I might be able to play with. There is also Blab, which is a bit like Periscope, only there are four screens for four people to, well, blab, with each other and with a live audience as well. There’s no app for Android yet, just iOS and Desktop, but with Periscope, I was already able to watch some broadcasts while on my phone. But the thing with new social media platforms is that they leave you with even less time for actual book writing and working and living.
Soon I’ll do an epic post on my new work flow for formatting EPUBs and MOBI files from Scrivener (and Sigil). Till then, I’ve got writing to do! Also, don’t forget to explore http://www.sbjamestheauthor.com while it’s still in construction stages and get a laugh!