Are Kindle Free Days Worth It?

Three months ago I enrolled my first novel ‘Carved in Stone’ in the Kindle Select programme.  I only did this because it was one of only two ways to give your book away from free on amazon.  If you want your book to be permanently free you can either sell it for free elsewhere making Amazon match the price when they find out or you can enrol it in KDP Select.  Kindle Select offers you 5 free days throughout the 90 day sign up period and I decided to go with that as there were other features that I thought might conjure sales.

Being a researcher, and being entirely new to this, I first went to Google to find out what other authors had done.  There were many stories to find, although often the experiments that other authors had done were on a previously published book that had not seen strong sales in a while.  Most of these books had been traditionally published initially and therefore already had their place in the market.  I read through many articles however and saw that many of these writers had not only seen significant downloads of their free book, but had seen increased sales after the free event and increased sales in their other titles during the free period.  It seemed that by giving a lot of books away it boosted your books ranking on Amazon after the promotion making it more visible to buyers.  It all sounded good.

The other thing I needed to know was when to put on my free days.  Amazon gives you free rein to decide upon this yourself, although they ask that a free period does not occur on the last day that you book is enrolled in KDP Select.  My 5 free days could be taken whenever I wanted and could be all at once in a five day block or separated as I saw fit.  Looking at the success that other authors had had, I decided to split the days into three individual promotion days and one two day final promotion at the end.

I then needed to know which days were best suited to getting the most downloads.  After all, I was doing this for recognition and perhaps reviews.  The general information I found was that weekends gave the most downloads but that sales didn’t pick up afterwards and that of the days of the week it was advisable to avoid Tuesday and Friday as there are so many books put up for free on those days and my little title would be but one tiny fish in a very large pond.

I finally settled on Saturday 12 September, Monday 12 October, Sunday 25 October and Wednesday and Thursday the 11-12 November.

Setting up the free days on my Amazon admin page was easy as there is a guide to follow and plenty of advice on the internet.  Once booked, days can be changed as long as the free period is not a few hours away.

Marketing

Now, I know that by offering a book for free I wasn’t necessarily going to get any takers.  After all, how would people even know that Carved in Stone was available for free on those specific days.  So again I turned to the internet.  There and over a hundred sites that will promote your free book via any combination of website feature, email, Twitter or Facebook.  Most of these are free, although they are massively oversubscribed and you stand only a small chance of being featured unless you pay a fee.  Others charge fees from $1 to $200.  I decided that I would market the book differently on each of the days I had chosen and see what worked for me.

Saturday 12 September

The book was added to Ask David, and Snickslist ($1) but I didn’t find it on any of the other sites I asked.  On the day, I sent out Facebook and Twitter posts and had friends share and like my posts.

By the end of the day I only had 93 downloads-not what I had read from other authors.

Monday 12 October

Listed on Snickslist and Ebookasaurus with Facebook and Twitter posts again, I only achieved 34 downloads-Hmm this was the point that I felt like packing it all in.  I mean if you can’t even give it away what’s the point?  But it got worse.

Sunday 25 October

On Snickslist again and Ask David, I thought I would see downloads in the hundreds as I was back to a weekend day, but instead I only saw 21!  I mean REALLY!

Wednesday and Thursday 11-12 November

On this one I decided to pay to advertise-not much ($11), but it was my last chance to get the readers I wanted so I paid for listings on Snickslist, EreaderUtopia and Free and Discounted Books on the first day of the promotion.  It was also listed on Ebookasaurus, but I didn’t see it on the other sites I listed it.  After sending out Twitter and Facebook posts again I achieved the grand total of … wait for it-79 downloads!!

The long and the short of it

During the time that my book has been enrolled in KDP Select I have seen no improvement in sales at all and only 3 people have downloaded my book in the Kindle Lending Library.  Of those that did get ‘Carved in Stone’ for free, I know of some who have gone on to buy book two, but they probably would have done this anyway.  As for reviews, well I gained 1 that I wouldn’t otherwise have got and that’s it.

I entered the book into this program as an experiment and I have my results.  From what I can see, the current KDP select system is not worth using.  Having your novel tied into Amazon only for 90 days is far too limiting and there don’t appear to be any benefits to the program at all.

So what’s next?

Well ‘Carved in Stone’ will be released from the program this week and I am going to do what I set out to before I got side tracked by KDP Select.  I am going to market the book myself and bear in mind that it is one of a trilogy and that I am an unknown author.  I would rather people read the first book for free and then buy the next two if they like it than stick out for pitiful sales of a book that no-one knows about.  I have good reviews but not enough of them and I don’t think my cover states obviously enough what the book is about.  I’m going to change the cover, pay for some advertising, put the book up on Nook and get more reviews. Watch this space to see how!

 

 

 

 

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New ways authors are finding of cheating Amazon’s Kindle lending systems

After finishing a rather dreadful boxed set of ebooks that I recently downloaded for free, I simply had to write this article.

The basics of KDP Select

For those of you not familiar with the KDP Select system, Amazon offers not only to publish your ebook for free and have it available on their website, but they have a programme called KDP Select that you can enrol your book in for extra features and possibly extra downloads.

I won’t go into every aspect of how KDP Select works for an author as I am saving that for when I report on my experience with it, for now I will only talk about the Kindle Unlimited bit (or Kindle Lending Library)

The entire time a book is enrolled in KDP Select it is available to ‘borrow’ for those people who have signed up for Kindle Unlimited for free.  Unlike listing your book as a free download, you actually get paid for these lends.

How an author gets paid through Kindle Unlimited (the Kindle Lending Library)

Each month, Amazon looks at how many people have subscribed to Kindle Unlimited (they pay a monthly fee) and sets a global fund amount for payments to authors.  At the end of the month authors get paid a portion of the global fund depending on how many pages of their books have been borrowed and read in that month.

In this way, an author gets approximately $1.70/£1 for each book they lend (provided it is a full length novel)

Before June 2015 authors were paid a set price per book, irrelevant of length, once 10% of that book had been read by whoever downloaded it.  Sounds great doesn’t it?  But there were authors who flaunted the system.  By producing short books, sometimes only 10 pages long, authors were being paid the full amount when only one or two pages were read, or in some cases as soon as the book was opened on a Kindle.  This meant that authors of full length works were missing out.

Amazon decided to put a stop to this in June 2015 and changed the way that Authors were paid.  Now, when a book is downloaded, the author is paid according to the number of pages that a lender has actually read-Yes, Amazon really does know that much about you from your Kindle device!

The new system was supposed to be much fairer and simply means that a 300 page novel is paid ten times more than a 30 page booklet.  Well, that’s what was supposed to happen anyway.

The new way that authors are boosting their payments.

Wanting to read other books in the same genre as my own (to check out the competition like you do), I downloaded a selection of free books a few weeks ago.  Four of them were compendiums of stories, bundles as they are called, from the same author/publishing house-I did not know this at the time.  Now all of these books were free and I am not a member of Kindle Unlimited so my downloads will have made the author/publishing house no money at all.  However, all of these books were in the Kindle Unlimited programme, so had I been a member I could have downloaded them through there and the author would have been paid.

Here’s the con – None of these books has a contents page.  They are just printed one story after the next and all you know as a reader is how many you’re going to get.  I didn’t count as I went.  I read two of the four books and just sifted through the other two because all have the same stories in them.  The publisher has just put the stories in a different order in each book.  When I read the second of the two compendiums however, I was really not amused.  The ‘book’  runs for just over 700 pages on my Kindle.  That’s a lot of pages to be paid for, especially as the same stories are repeated over and over – yes you heard me -THE SAME STORIES ARE REPEATED OVER AND OVER IN THE SAME BOOK!  The actual original content of the book is less than half of the finished length, but the clever bit is that there is a repeat of a story and then a new one is thrown in so you find yourself flicking through to get to the next one, to see if it’s new, until you reach the end of the book and Amazon pays out for the whole book as you’ve reached the end.

As an author, this seriously annoys me.  I spent months writing my book, editing it and getting it right.  Even since it has been up and available, I’ve made changes as I’ve had feedback from my readers.  Why should an honest writer get paid an honest amount and then be up against this despicable cheating from other publishers.  It was bad enough that I got four books, which all contain the same content – be careful, you have to pay for them now – but to have repeated stories in the same book, well, that’s just not on.

So, if you see this elsewhere, and I am certain that you will because wherever there are rules there are always going to be people trying to get around them, please report it to Amazon.  They don’t want their honest authors or readers upset by these unscrupulous charlatans either.

I will not state the books involved, they know who they are.

Wow! You don’t just need to do research to write you book. (Paid book advertising 2)

Having decided to take a more active role in selling my debut novel, I hit Google thinking that I would find websites that I could pay to advertise my book easily.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.

When looking to promote your free book days on KDP Select there are a wealth of helpful websites and blog posts listing various places (websites, Facebook pages, twitter feeds and more) that will advertise your free days, for free or in some cases for a fee.  When I had previously trawled these sites, uploading the details of my promotion at the time, I had seen that several of them offer paid advertising.  It seemed so simple.  I want to pay to advertised my book (okay, I’m only throwing a tenner at it, but this is an experiment!) and I thought that I could look through these sites and find the cheapest ones to spread my money the furthest-Hmm funny how nothing turns out as you expect.

There’s a catch, well if you’re me there is anyway.  The first problem I encountered is that although most of these sites do offer to advertise your work for a fee, most require that the book is on a minimum of half price sale at the time.  Well, if I’m going to be virtually giving it away why bother right?  I don’t think like that.  As I have said before.  I’m not in this to make millions.  Hell I’m not in this to make a living.  I just want some people to read my book so that I can build a steady  readership.  Perhaps discounting the book and advertising it will increase my sales.  The only problem is that the book is currently enlisted in KDP Select and I don’t have that option.  My last two free days are next week (yes CARVED IN STONE will be free in the 11-12 November) and I am not allowed to discount the book further than the $2.99 minimum it is currently priced at.

So once I had taken all the websites with that requirement out of the equation, that left me very little choice.

The next problem was price.  I’m not saying that I haven’t discovered good things about websites that charge up to $400 to advertise your Indie published book for a day, but that is simply out of my budget right now.  So a few more sites got dropped from the list.

Next came the issue of genre.  I made a mistake-I can admit I’m not perfect.  I wrote a book without any knowledge of the publishing and book selling industry and my book doesn’t fit into a specific genre.  I call it a steamy dark thriller-which it is, but that makes it difficult to place when your choices are romantic suspense, conspiracy/mystery or suspense thriller.  Hmm.  This problem is further compounded by the explicit sex scenes in the book.  I’m no prude-never have been, but it appears that these websites often are.  In favour of their more fragile readers, many of these sites do not accept erotica-fair enough, my book is not erotica.  It’s steamy, don’t get me wrong, and in places downright rough and very hot, but there are no whips, chains, riding crops or any other 50 shades type scenarios or toys.  But when they say erotica-read the small print here-they mean explicit sex.  So there went a few more websites.

And then there’s the review requirements.  Most sites left required at least 5 review – Yep got them.  With an average of over 4 stars -check.  On the Amazon.com site-ARGH! (Now is when I began pulling my hair out).  The whole point of this process is to get those reviews in America.  If I already had them I wouldn’t need to do this.

Okay.  So there was my list of woes.  I haven’t mentioned my bleary square eyes from sitting at the computer for two days doing all this, or my stiff neck, or my caffeine addiction, but wayhay, that’s life right?

Well after all this trawling I found two sites that I liked the look of.

Before I go on I would like to thank the Author Marketing club for there very useful Book Submission Tool where they have collated many suggested websites, not into a list but into a clickable page where a simple click sends you straight to the sign up for free book promotion page.  It’s brilliant and I highly recommend it for anyone seeking to promote their novel especially when it’s on promotion.

Author Marketing Club Book Submission Tool

I would also like to thank TCK Publishing for their Top Kindle Book Promotion Sites list.  Again a useful resource for anyone trying to market their book.  This one is better for 99p/99¢ promotions as the majority of the sites listed focus on those sales, but there are sites and prices for all options.  The list also gives you the Alexa ranking of each site, giving you an idea of the site traffic that you’ll be paying for.

Top Kindle Book Promotion Site from TCK Publishing

So I chose my two websites-

GoodKindles- who will do a basic advertisement for $9.95 and have little/no requirements

Book Goodies-who will do a basic advertisement for $10 as long as the book is priced under $3

So I just need to sign up right?  No.  Yet again I met problems: Two of them.

The first was easily rectified.  My book is in KDP Select and, as advised by amazon, the price is set at $2.99.  Even though I am in the UK, the price is set in USD.  So loading up my book to Book Goodies should have been easy.  It wasn’t.  After filling in their obligatory Author Interview form – Do please go and have a read, there’s a lot of information on there – I popped onto Amazon.com and discovered that my book didn’t qualify because it was priced over $3-HUH!

It turns out that even though I had set the price at $2.99, for some reason it as listed as $3.05.  I didn’t know why, so I emailed.  It turns out that if you view Amazon.com from America the price is $2.99, but from the UK there is an international Kindle delivery charge added making it $3.05(even though you cannot purchase the book from the American site anyway-I know as I’ve tried).  Hmm-why do they have to make everything so difficult?

Okay so problem one sorted-now for problem two.

Whilst doing all this research into the best places to advertise this book I found a few extra things out.  One of them is really obvious-People don’t like buying a book-at any price-if they see it a few days later for free.  I mean, well duh!  My problem is that I have CARVED IN STONE listed as free next week on the 11-12 November (that’s Wednesday and Thursday-so download it then and give me a review please!).  If I advertise the book, get sales and then they see the book for free I am going to alienate my customers which is the last thing that I want to do.

So here is the plan.

My book is in Kindle Select until the 20th November and is free on the 11-12th.  So, I am going to advertise it on the weekend in the middle.  When I have results I will post them here.

Now I’m off to take a nap.

Is it worth paying for advertising?

Depending on where you look there are authors reporting wonderful sales increases after paying for the advertising of their book on various different internet sites.  Whether through simple email blasts or pay per click, there are several authors who advocate spending a healthy budget on such promotional activity.

But for every one of those who say that it has worked, there are those that say that it didn’t.

The biggest issue for an unknown indie writer is the simple fact that they are unknown.  I wrote a book. I spent time, and lots of it, putting the story that has been in my head for years down in print.  I then decided to send the story out into the world.  I didn’t do it for money (if you’re in it for the money then quit now) or for the recognition.  I did it because I like my story, love my characters and want to share what I wrote with the masses.  But how do the masses know that I’m even here?

Carved in Stone cover

You publish your book.  You get friends and family to download it, read it and give it a review.  This goes well.  Everybody loves it.  They tell their friends and they read it too, some even put up a review.  They love it too.  You think you’ve made it and then you notice two things.  One, the sales fizzle out as everyone you know has already read it.  Two, amazon only puts UK reviews on the UK site.

I live in England and therefore, so do all my friends and family.  The reviews that I have (and those that amazon deleted because they thought the people too close to me!) were all posted on the UK site.  How do I go about getting reviews, or even sales, in the biggest marketplace in the world – the US?

For an unknown author like me there appears to be only one solution-Advertising!

Advertising your book, especially for a new indie writer like me, is something of a maze.  There are so many sites out there offering book promotion that you can spend days, possibly even months finding them all and checking out what they claim to do.  I’ve already dabbled a little, asking for my free book days through kindle select to be advertised for free, but for every ten sites I’ve asked I’m lucky if one actually puts up the post.  They do guarantee a listing if I pay a small fee though.  A small fee can range from $1 to $200 for a day.  So what do these sites offer?

Well all of the sites claim to have a following in the hundreds of thousands through twitter.  But we all know that many of these twitter names will be simply false.  The sites also claim to have vast mailing lists-again, how do I know if these are legitimate readers who have signed up for these lists of not?  The simple answer is that I don’t.  The sites also claim to have thousands of hits a day.  I have no way of checking this.  I don’t know any of these sites.  I could trawl the internet all day looking for opinions on them and I would find good and bad in all cases. The only way to see if advertising will work is to try it.

Working with a tiny budget initially (lets say £10) I am going to pay to advertise my book on as many sites as I can before my money runs dry.  To recoup my initial outlay I am going to have to sell 10 books more than I would normally expect during the same period.  That formulates the bare bones of the plan, but I have a couple if issues I need to work out first.  Of course the first one is to choose the sites I’m going to use so watch this space to see what I decide and the second is that my book is due for its last kindle free days on the 11-12 November.  Having now experienced the highs and lows of the free book promotion that kindle offers, I know that any increase in ranking through sales before a kindle free day is wiped out after it i.e. if your book was ranking at say 65,000 (trickling) after the kindle free days it suddenly drops to 250,000 because you haven’t had any sales in that time period.  However, this is an experiment, and a small one at that, so I shouldn’t really worry about it.  The timing may well be dictated by the sites I sign up to anyway.

So the plan

  1. Find the sites
  2. Upload the details
  3. See the sales (I’m not holding my breath)
  4. Report back

Sounds simple doesn’t it?  Well we’ll have to wait and see!

The free promotion results!

Carved in stone was available for free on 12 September for one day only.

Carved in Stone cover

Being new to marketing I focussed the promotion of the free day on Facebook.  I sent out three separate posts about the event and shared each of them three times during the day.  The results were that I had many people like and share my posts, particularly those that were sent out mentioning that I was a local author in Tewkesbury.  How many of these shares resulted in someone downloading my book I cannot tell you because I had two other prongs to my advertising, but it was nice to see my book out there.

I approached four websites for free advertising and saw my advert on only one of them during the free promotion (askdavid.com).  I can’t complain about the lack of uptake of the advert as I did leave the promotion late in the day to organise and only gave the sites three days notice to place the ads.  Next time I will know better.

One site I paid for.  For the princely sum of $1, Snickslist advertised my book for the day of the promotion.  I have to say that I like this site.  Registering is easy and uploading the advert was simple.  I probably should have spent more time making something eye catching to draw people to my ad rather than the hundreds of others, but as you need to upload your ad on the day of the promotion it was way too early to be thinking straight.  (Next time I’ll know better).

I also set up a Twitter account (and no I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with Twitter) and sent tweets about the promotion to ten sites, many of whom re-tweeted the ad.

All in all I think that I did okay for a first promotion.  I certainly didn’t get the thousands of downloads that some authors have managed but I got enough to be keeping my fingers crossed that some of those readers will leave me a positive review or two to further boost sales.

The main thing that I am taking away from my experience of this promotion is to be more organised.  Just placing your book for free is not going to get you sales. Your book needs to be visible so that you connect with the right readers.  I have four days left during my current cycle of Kindle Select to run free book promotion days.  I am going to book all the dates now and start setting up my advertisements now for all of those dates and not work one day at a time.

Watch this space for dates.I

12 September-First free promotion day!

I have decided to offer book 1 of the Monochrome Destiny series ‘Carved in Stone’ for free on Saturday 12th September, to increase readership.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/books/B011J5P3AQ

Carved in Stone cover

Marketing for this event will be through Facebook, twitter, four lovely websites that advertise free download days and word of mouth.

Fingers crossed that I manage to achieve some exposure and increase my number of reviews, particularly in the US as reviews on amazon.co.uk do not appear on amazon.com-annoying really.

Having looked at many other peoples experiences with free promotions online I really do not know what to expect as there are claims of anything from 44-30,000 downloads achieved.  Not being overly optimistic, and considering that I haven’t been particularly organised in advertising the event, I am aiming for 200 downloads.  Watch this space to see what I achieve.

The Third Book

Readers will be pleased to hear that the third book in the Monochrome Destiny series is almost complete.

For those waiting for the third and final instalment, I can promise even more danger and even darker times for Robyn and Andrew.  Will they ever get the happy ending that the both deserve or has it all been for nothing?

Follow this page to keep updated of my progress.

Why Self-Publishing?

After following the traditional route of sending out chapters of my book “Carved in Stone” to publishing agents, I decided that I had not the time, nor the stomach, for the inevitable rejection letters.  To be honest, I never thought the book was devoid of merit and at least that kept me from putting my head in the oven about it.  What I did think however, and I am sure that there are those who would disagree – but frankly, that’s you own opinion – was that I had not written the right kind of novel for the British publishing market.

You see, I like to read fantastical novels about action, adventure, danger and romance, most definitely romance and not the sloppy sort.  What I really hate to read – in fact, I would rather boil my own head than even pick up – are books on depressing abuse, child trauma and general wrist slitting ‘oh woe is me’ stories that make the reader depressed.  I never could fathom why anyone would want to read something that made them feel worse about life.

After looking at what was being championed by the British publishing houses, I realised that my fictitious, action packed, dark and sexy story was not exactly up their street.

My alternative was therefore to approach American publishing agents and houses.  But there was one teensy little problem with that.  As much as I would love to have an agent guide me though the dark, twisted forest that is publishing, I am afraid of flying.  I am positively terrified of crossing the Atlantic with all that turbulence, in a small metal tube built to a budget and flown by someone I don’t even know. Call me a control freak, but that’s the truth.

So I came to a decision, somewhere around my fortieth birthday, that I would try self-publishing the book.  And that’s exactly what I did.  “Carved in Stone” was uploaded to amazon along with its sequel “Written in Blood”.

My original intention, being an unknown author who has already written the third novel and started on two other stories, was to release the first book for free and charge a minimal amount for the second.  I’m not looking to get mega rich over this, I just want to see my work out there, get some followers and hopefully give my readers a few hours of indulgent pleasure.

That is when I hit problem number one.  Amazon doesn’t allow you to publish books for free.

So now you know why I am on this journey and the first hurdle I have encountered.  Keep following to find out my next step.

T L Blake – Excited and a bit bemused.

Monochrome Destiny Series – Book one CARVED IN STONE available at amazon now!

Carved in Stone cover

Determined science teacher, Robyn Darrow, has started a new life in the sleepy rural idyll of Porthmollek. But Porthmollek has secrets and outsiders are not welcome.
Handsome, but arrogant, Andrew Obursen knows all too well that there is rot in the small town, but he has his own reasons for keeping quiet.
When fate drags the two together after the disappearance of a colleague, Robyn and Andrew think that their only problem is the unwanted attraction that they have for each other. But it soon becomes obvious that the disappearance was no accident and that Robyn and Andrew may, in fact, be next. . .

Please note that this book contains adult sex scenes and swearing.

 Use this link    http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B011J5P3AQ

My Self-Publishing nightmare

This page will follow the trials, tribulations and downright scary, anxiety and fear inducing horrors of the self-publishing world.

So, I have written a book.  And I thought that was the hard part- well now I know differently.

The story that as ratted around in my head for years is now in ebook form and available to download.  The only problem is – how can I make readers aware that it exists?

Follow me to see the plans, the actions and the results of my daily grind to find not fame but followers.