Friday, February 3, 2012

I Am Neither a Pimp Nor a Whore, But I Market My Book

So the blog world from indie writers has hit a hot button issue and even poor The Passive Voice Guy is not immune to the fire and hate spewing forth.

The spark to ignite this wildfire of nastiness? KDP Select. As someone who has been on BOTH sides of the fence, maybe I can help make a little peace.


On a few comments and blogs lately I've seen writers who Tweet their book likened to "pimps." Apparently, I am "pimpin' my book." Momma needs a new pair of shoes!

This is utterly ridiculous. If you write a book, and publish it, you are not a whore OR a pimp to ask people to read it. You did that JUST by publishing. You put your words out there for whatever reason: to entertain, to educate, to share, to thrill, etc. It's seems rather self-centered to consider your motives to be higher or lower than another writer's noble intentions.

Me? I wrote CANCELLED to educate through fiction. Sex outside of marriage is still a big decision, even in our modern-everything-goes-society (and I'm not trying to be hypocritical, I had sex before marriage but I knew and prepared for the risks). Also, the only time a father can get custody of their child is if the mother is seriously flawed. I don't agree with that system. I know too many mothers that suck, plain and simple. There is no hard and fast rule you can make about how "good" someone makes as a parent based on their gender.

But I digress. I do not appreciate being labeled a "spammer" or a "pimp" because I tweet my book link and a tag line once every few hours. I'd rather get a link to a writer's book than a link to yet ANOTHER blog post on why indie authors need to edit. I like to RT book links because it helps any of my followers who read find new titles to consume. Authors who don't like other authors who do this, there's a very easy solution. Unfollow. And don't expect the rest of us to RT your links. We're only strong when we work together, not against each other.


Greedy? Out to make a profit? Yes. Evil? Meh, I can't go that far. KDP Select isn't going to kill Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble's failure to ACT is going to kill Barnes and Noble. And it sucks, because I love my Nook. But when Barnes and Noble gives me these results for the keyword "CANCELLED":

  1. Cancelled (my paperback)
  2. Noise Cancelling Headphones
  3. Noise Cancelling Headphones
  4. Noise Cancelling Headphones
  5. Noise Cancelling Headphones
  6. Cancelled (the nook book out for more than a month before the paperback and astronomically more sales)
It's clear to me they don't get it...yet. I have been to the site many, many times, I'm even logged in as ME, a person who has BOUGHT Cancelled the Nook book. I have NEVER purchased headphones. It's pretty safe to assume I'm looking for a book I've already bought to gift to someone (another behavior on the site I had done before).

There's a book I had to read before I started college called "Who Moved My Cheese?" It's about cheese (success) being moved and the difference between a mouse (business man) who sits still hoping the cheese will move back to it's original position and another mouse (business man) who chases that cheese everywhere it goes, (arguably picking up crumbs as he goes). At the time, I was pissed off my first "college" textbook read like a damn children's book. Now, 12 years later, I GET IT.

In this industry, the cheese is moving every couple of months. First, you have to make sure it has indeed moved. I did not jump on the KDP Select Bandwagon at first. I waited nearly 2 months. I wanted to see the strengths and weaknesses. I guessed at some of them, and I (and others) were right about some things, wrong about others.


  • It's not a magic bullet for everyone. There is a LOT involved with "going free" and most it has to do with the day you pick. Accidentally pick a day you didn't know 5 Mega Selling Authors were going to make their collection free, jam up the system, and oh yeah Amazon decides to change the whole site screwing up rankings and sales reporting? Ouch. Bad luck. Pick a random Monday at the end of the month as a test day, assuming you won't get anything like the results reported because it's too late, that was just the After-Christmas rush and race up the free charts? Cool. Good luck. 
  • You are stuck for 90 days with Amazon as your sole partner to find the cheese. 
  • Anything new that comes on another sales channel you don't have the flexibility to respond to. 
  • Write or wrong.. other authors will be upset. (Pun intended). There will be jealousy, feelings that you've "picked a side" and a little us vs. them.
  • Higher rate of returns.
  • Higher rate of returns. Wait, how is this both? Easy. Because that $0.00 stays bigger than the other price points on the KDP Select books, you get more reader who do that one-click thinking it's free. If they aren't Prime and borrowing, obviously it purchases the book on the credit card required on the Kindle account. Ca-ching. Now once the mistake is realized, there are readers who return the book. But I bet there are just as many who go "Oh, it was $2.99, not free. Oh well," because calling and cancelling the order/getting a refund for less than $5 is considered not worth their time nor do they want to admit they made a mistake. Same marketing type thinking that makes prices end in .99. Consumers think in the lower number... $2.99 registers a closer to $2 that one penny shy of $3.
  • Going free to gain exposure and the sales that come AFTER that.
I've seen some writings about how any author who makes "best seller" lists after going free shouldn't count because you didn't best sell anything, you gave away for free. I agreed with this BEFORE I went free. I also erroneously thought Amazon was moving these FREE books right into the best seller lists based on their FREE downloads. They are not. 

I had 8,250 downloads of CANCELLED in 24 hours. I don't consider that best selling, even though I made it to #12 on the Free Fiction Chart and #3 on the Free Contemporary Fiction Chart. I DO consider that a Top Downloaded Title, as I beat out over 70,000 other books.

After you go free, Amazon dumps you right back where you were in the sales ranking before you went free. For me that was #249,000 something. The difference? You are now an Also Bought for the books that were next to you. So you are now part of a loose team of books, that just had amazing exposure, branded together. As they see sales, you see sales, and vice-versa. This is why it takes a few days for sales to really ramp up because some books may not come off Free status when yours does etc.

To make the best-seller status AFTER you go free, you still have to make the physical paid sales on that day. Last night, I made it to #1238 in Paid Kindle and #74 on the Women's Fiction Best Seller list. I had over 100 sales in 24 hours (might be more, KDP is screwed up). I'm not a mega-seller. But CANCELLED is a best-selling Women's Fiction book. 

Yeah, but you only got those sales because you went free....

And others only got their best selling status because their publisher pasted the book cover on every bus, subway, and taxi in major cities. Or after buying a $250-$500 advertisement on a reader blog. I didn't trick any readers into buying my book. I didn't tell them it was going to bring them fame or fortune. I didn't hold a gun to their heads as they nervously clicked "Buy Now." I participated in a marketing campaign that gave away my book for free. I even got my first 1-star review for my trouble! :) 

Giving away a free sample is as old as commerce itself. I chose to use KDP Select to see what it could do for exposure to my first book a month and a half before my next book comes out. I don't regret it, and I wouldn't have regretted it if I only had that 21 sales I received on the first day after. Before KDP Select, I was convincing one reader at a time to buy my book, with the highest month's sales ever recorded at 28 on Amazon. I don't have hundreds of dollars to spend on marketing, right now, but I can give 90 days of exclusivity. I may not be in a position to do that next year when I have a larger following on multiple devices. Being in business is all about leveraging what assets you have at the right moment, and that's not always money. 

So let's all remember we are in this to get our books read. One of the best ways to have that happen is convincing readers to buy the book. And to do that, readers have to know the book exists. So as long as the marketing is positive and ethical, I won't begrudge your attempts to rise above the din, and I'll cheer you along the way! We all have to write, publish, and promote the best ways we can. That's what this indie hokey-pokey is all about.

A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble 

WIP: STONE. Can Melanie Stone let her mother back into her life and kick out the creep trying to worm his way in? March 2012.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

My KDP Select Team (Other Books)

I know, "Elizabeth, when are you going to shut up about this KDP Select thing?" Soon. I promise. But I need to explain something I haven't seen explained ANYWHERE else. Let me introduce to you, my KDP Select Team:

See those books were next to me on the many Free charts that I was on. I was only free for a day, many of these titles ARE JUST now coming off free. And why are they on my "team?"

Because if you look at their listings, my book is on the first few pages of their Also Boughts. So for the next few days, when someone clicks on the books above, my book will be right underneath with "Customers who Bought This Also Bought...."

And this is why I ran my "Test" Now that I know how the algorithm works (and I knew vaguely before this, but this is very specific) I can use it to my advantage. Next time I go free, every book next to me on that chart will be tweeted by me as much as I can to encourage readers to buy it for "Free" as well if they've bought my book. Why? Because where you rank on the Also Bought pages depends on how many readers who bough one book also bought your book. This time, I'm only on the first page of two books' Also Boughts. I was also only free for one day. Most of these books have been free for at least 2-3 days.

I did think, but didn't behave like this, when I was free and sharing a few links of other books that are free "Aren't I just helping my competition? After all, if readers get their book, I'll bump me down in the rankings." NO. I mean, yes, that can happen, but remember those free rankings DO NOT just shuffle over to paid. Your goals while you are free are:

  1. Get as many people as possible to download your book.
  2. Get as many people as possible to download other books in your genre so you are "connected" to them when you all go back to paid as an Also Bought.
  3. Try not to wear out your computer's refresh button.
So I hope that adds a little more illumination on this whole "go free" business. It's not a magic bullet, as clearly I am not #1 on the paid charts or anything, but it is a strong method of getting your book linked to other books in the Also Bought category.

A robotics engineer asks his business partner to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble 

WIP: STONE. Can Melanie Stone let her mother back into her life and kick out the creep trying to worm his way in? March 2012.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

#ROW80 Another In a Long Line of "I Screwed Up."

"Step right up, folks. This here's the rootin-in-tootin'est most AMAZONing ride we got!"

"How many tickets, sir?"

"Why just 90 tickets, there, young lady. You think you're strong enough to take on this here roller coaster."

::gulp:: "I. . . I'll do my best, sir."

::Maniacal laughter ending in a sneer.:: "Hold on tight, lovely....MWAHAHAHA."

On Monday, I took a spin on the FREE Rollercoaster Ride Amazon offers to indie writers called KDP Select's Free Day. :) Cancelled by the way, is now a Top Ten Downloaded Ebook. Here's how the ride went for me:

Got about halfway up the first hill, and I can't see the top. It just keep climbing! The rollercoaster didn't stop until my little ebook car reached #3 on the Contemporary Fiction free charts and #12 on the Free Fiction charts. Holy crap, the Amazon theme park stretches further than the eye can see! (I ended up with 8,250 downloads in 24 hours).

The Rock Bottom

Then WHOOOOOOOOOOOOSH. You hit rock bottom. And I panicked. You see, the rhetoric has been (from the complainers) "They go free, race up the charts, and then they're just right up on the best seller list. It's not fair!" I misinterpreted that. You see, there is no sideways "Everyday I'm Shufflin'" to the paid side of things. Nope. Amazon drops you right where you were BEFORE you went free (#249,227 for me). You have to climb your way back up! THAT'S why authors are saying they have "best-selling" status after going free (assuming they do). 

I tried out a higher price, $4.99, thinking it might help set me apart once the book came off free. Nah. It's sinking like a stone. I sold 20 copies yesterday (31 but 11 were returned), and made it as high as #4,760. That is still phenomenal. Highest I've ever been before that was #12,000 something, that was after selling 18 books at $.99 as part of a book launch in November. But I'm an indie, I can right a ship as it's listing.... I just lowered my price to $2.99. 

So, 8,000 downloads later, I'm feeling awesome! No I didn't have runaway sales success right after, but I sold more than 3 times what I had the entire month in one day. (I only had 6 sales in January before going free). 

I wasn't as productive, what with the roller coaster and all that. I did however work on my reader site, got the original first chapter back up as an extra. Also, I am getting WAAAAAY better at putting on my OWN oxygen mask before helping others. Because I do so many other things; formatting ebooks, helping with websites, etc. I managed to not stress myself out by remembering that *I* have to come first. A sick, frazzled Elizabeth Ann West helps no one.

So I am still at only 5,000 words on STONE. But don't worry, unless I can't make great progress before next week, I'm not panicking. It's written, it just really needs to be typed. 

I also need to finish those signed ebooks. 

I have two files to format. (one in my possession half way done, one on its way possibly, next week). 

And best of all, that roller coaster ride gave me a confidence that is going to help carry me through this tumultuous year of writing and publishing. Maybe I won't be a best seller this year, but I managed to beat out over 69,988 other free fiction books on Monday, and that's something!

UPDATE: Just got my first 1-star review. I'm very surprised. I thought I would be way more upset, but I'm not. I almost find it funny, as horrible as that sounds. I'm a little intrigued that it lifts some pretty unique phrasing from a 4/5 Black Dresses review I got on Chick Lit Is the New Black that I tweeted out while I was free. The first problem was the ending for the reader, but it's pretty clear in the reviews and product description it's not a formula romance. And the reviewer has no other reviews. If it's a real reader, I feel bad that they didn't like it, but it wasn't a craft issue, so there's nothing I can really do about it. The reader just didn't like the story line.

I got another 5 star review from another reader who made me laugh. I got bonus points for a MC carrying the "idiot's ball" not to just move the plot forward, but out of "human, understandable motives."

So going free brought a ton of firsts, and man do I feel awesome about it. I just wish I didn't have to go exclusive for 90 days with Amazon to gain this amount of experience in 48 hours.

A robotics engineer asks his business partnerI to marry him, but a previous one-night stand is having his baby. CANCELLED is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble 

WIP: STONE. Can Melanie Stone let her mother back into her life and kick out the creep trying to worm his way in? March 2012.

Don't forget, I have many, many friends who are also part of a Round of Words in 80 Days. Please make sure you visit their blogs and give them some comment love!