Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Kindle Select, That is the Question...

When I published my novel 'Threshold Shift' and short story collection 'Five Byte Stories', I hummed and harred about enrolling them in Kindle Select for about three weeks. For those of you who don't know, Kindle Select is an Amazon service where for 90 days at a time the digital rights of a book can be registered exclusively to Amazon. During this time it can be loaned out for free to Amazon Prime members, like loaning out a book from a library. For every loan the author gets a share of a pot of money set aside that month by Amazon. This doesn't affect sales of your book, (although recently Amazon have announced that to get 70% of profits for sales in India you must be enrolled in Kindle Select otherwise you only get 35% of profits for that region). Also as part of Kindle Select, Amazon offer a five day free book promotional period. The idea being that an author can make their book free for anything up to a five day limited period during the 90 days. (Amazon doesn't allow you to publish free books, but it will price match if you are offering your book for free somewhere else.)

Being new to the world of self-publishing my initial thought was to offer 'Five Byte Stories' for free perpetually and put in a sample chapter from 'Threshold Shift' in the hope of enticing readers in. I also wanted to put Threshold Shift into Kindle Select and go for the five day promo. There was my dilemma, by putting a sample chapter in Five Byte Stories I would be breaking the terms and conditions of Kindle select exclusivity if I enrolled Threshold Shift, so in the end I decided to hold fire on publishing Five Byte Stories elsewhere and just enrolled them both in Kindle Select.

Without really doing any research I released Five Byte Stories for three of the five days just to see what would happen. In that time I was surprised how with no advertising at all Five Bytes was downloaded 400 times across all Amazon published countries, with the main concentration being in the US. Admittedly this peaked the second day and then levelled off on the third. Being quite pleased by this a month later I released it for the final two days. During this time I put into action a promotional plan of advertising it on twitter, websites and facebook groups like Pimping Indie.  My facebook account was duly locked for 30 days for spamming, (which made me very unhappy, especially as I couldn't figure out what alarm had been tripped and why other people seemed to be doing the same thing quite happily. ) Anyway to cut a long story short in those two days five bytes was downloaded just 25 times. I came to the conclusion that my advertising was basically ineffective and all the downloaders from the first three days were the majority of the downloaders I was going to get.

30 Days later, with facebook unlocked, I tried again, this time with Threshold Shift. I was locked into Kindle Select anyway so figured I had nothing to lose. My sales of Threshold Shift were just about this side of abysmal anyway. Feeling a little blasé I didn't advertise the book on any websites prior to release. I did advertise heavily on twitter as I did previously during the second Five Byte campaign and when advertising on facebook I left out web addresses, which stopped me being locked out again. Thing unfurled very differently and over the five days, a Tuesday to Saturday, my book was downloaded a total of 1553 times, again mainly in the US but only just, the UK was very close behind

I had decided after the awful second campaign that this time I would run the five days consecutively rather than splitting them up. I had the biggest push of downloads in Day 2, and overall during the entire period I peaked in the free charts with the following:

Day 3 of the Campaign:

US : 742
US Sci Fi: 19
US Sci-FI Act Adv : 11
US Act-Adv : 17

Day 4 of the Campaign:

UK: 136
UK Sc-Fi: 2
UK Sci-Fi Act Adv: 1
UK Act-Adv: 4

Overall Downloads for the entire five day campaign were the following:

US: 796
UK: 722
DE: 33
FR: 1
IT: 1

Without knowing how Amazon works I have no idea why I managed to get more success in the UK than in the US. The download quantities were very similar, but I obviously picked up a higher percentage of total free downloads in the UK than in the US by a considerable margin. I have no idea why, even though I am from the UK, my book isn't advertised as a UK book. During the campaign I noticed free sci-fi books that were below my ranking in the UK were well above me in the US.

I'm speculating it was down to factors like my blurb and cover which I thought were good but maybe just didn't appeal to US tastes and did to UK ones. I'm also speculating that UK tastes for Science Fiction books are also a little different. Threshold Shift has always been a strange mix of sci-fi and western. In the US I was seeing mainly Young Adult books, Zombie apocalyptic books or Space Opera books dominating the charts. The story wasn't quite the same in the UK, at least from my perspective. It's also interesting to note that the sales I have had since the campaign have been mostly in the UK.

So what happens now? Well it was interesting, and I note that both Five Byte Stories and Threshold Shift are now thoroughly embedded in Amazon 'Customers who bought this item also bought' science fiction lists which can only help sales.I also have a better, if still a confused idea, of how Amazon sales work.  As of this week I am not in Kindle Select anymore and am going through the stages of publishing on Smashwords,which will eventually expose my books to a wider audience. I definitely think Kindle Select wasn't a wasted opportunity and it did get my books downloaded around 2000 times between them. That's 2000 potential readers who may like the books and tell their friends. How can that hurt?

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