In last weekend's post, I discussed some of the reasons why I choose to keep my books enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select program, and subsequently exclusive to Amazon. My personal biggest reason is the option to run Kindle Countdown Deals. And while I've mentioned these deals in several of my blog posts in the past, I haven't yet written a post dedicated specifically to them. It's time to rectify that.
For up to seven days in a 90-day KDP Select cycle, participating books can be discounted as low as $0.99.
By itself, that isn't a tremendous advantage. One of the neat perks of self-publishing is that we indies have control of our prices, and can set our prices down to $0.99 any goddamn time we please.
This is true, but Amazon gives Select members a few incentives to make the Countdown a more attractive feature.
1. Continue making 70% royalties during the promotion.
Under normal circumstances, lowering the price of your book below $2.99 on Amazon means accepting a 35% royalty rate, rather than 70%. Discounting your books via a Kindle Countdown Deal allows you to keep making that 70%, even while the prices are discounted.
While the very act of discounting your book is an attempt to trade the money you make from individual sales for more sales overall and some added exposure, that additional 35% can really start to add up if you're moving a bunch of books.
2. Your books are featured on Amazon's Kindle Countdown Deals genre lists.
If exposure is what you're after, having your books featured on a list of special deals for a week is always a good thing. This is a place which people seek out, looking for new books to read at bargain prices. It's a good way for new readers to discover your work.
3. A little ticking clock on your book's Amazon page tells potential customers how much time they have left before the price goes up.
Maybe there's some psychology at play here. Maybe people see the ticking clock and think 'Holy shit! I've got to buy up all of that shit right now, WHILE THERE'S STILL TIME!!!' Maybe not. Maybe there's a degree of urgency which falls somewhere in between. I don't know. I'm no psychologist. But the clock is there, so I'm listing it as an attractive feature.
Making the most of your Kindle Countdown
If you choose to run a Kindle Countdown promotion, you're going to want to make the most of it, because you only get up to 7 out of every 90 days to run it. That's less than 8% of your book's continued running availability.
Now in theory, if you had at least thirteen titles, you could be running Kindle Countdown deals back to back indefinitely, always having the spotlight on at least one of your books, and hoping that readers will find your writing entertaining enough to go out and seek out all the rest of your books at their normal prices. I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has employed such a strategy. I've considered it myself, but have never actually gone through with it. I'm more of a fire-all-of-your-guns-at-once kind of guy. There are three main reasons why.
1. Flooding my category lists with my covers
It's one thing to have a single title showing up high in an Amazon top-100-in-a-category list, but it's quite another to be able to own the first page of that list outright. Even if a potential customer browsing the bestsellers' lists in their favored categories is intrigued by your solitary cover, they still might not be willing to make an investment on an unknown author. (Yes, the book is cheap, but here I'm talking about an investment in time.)
But if you have ten or eleven titles in the top twenty of a category that customer is browsing, he or she just might pause and wonder 'Who the fuck is this Robert Bevan guy?', and 'Why does it seem like I'm the only one who's never heard of him?', and when they click on your author page 'Holy shit! This is all on sale! I need to pick it up right now!'
So instead of having a infinite stream of mild interest, I'd rather bukkake my covers all over a list for seven out of every ninety days.
2. Author Ranking
Amazon doesn't only rank your books in top-100-by-category lists. It also ranks you as an author in certain genres.
Sadly, Amazon doesn't yet include "Comedy" as a genre in which they rank authors, but at least I've got "Fantasy" going for me. Breaking into the Top 100 Fantasy Authors list feels like kind of a big deal to me. Hell, some of you avid fantasy readers can probably name a hundred fantasy authors more famous than me off the top of your heads. But the combined power of three fantasy novels and eighteen fantasy short stories, all being promoted at the same time, is usually enough for me to hang out with the big boys, thus granting me an additional avenue of visibility, and a nifty screenshot for my Facebook page.
When you're a self-published author, marketing can be just as important a skill to master as being able to write a good book. I've discussed this before. You might have a decent following on Facebook. But the chances are, most of those people have already read your work. You can spam your shit on Twitter, but you've probably been doing that all along.
When promotion time comes along, coughing up a bit of cash is a time-honored means of getting your shit in front of potential new customers' eyes. This one's a difficult jungle to traverse. There's a difference between investing money in advertising and tossing it into a well and making a wish.
A BookBub ad, for instance, is currently a pretty surefire way to get a shit-ton of sales, but the downside is that they're notoriously unreliable as a means of a consistent marketing strategy.
What does that leave? For me, the most effective thing I've tried has been ads or boosted posts on Facebook. I experiment with it every time I run a countdown promotion, with results ranging from "okay" to "pretty good". Others seem to know exactly what they're doing, and have had tremendous success with Facebook ads.. I'm not going to pretend to be able to educate you on this one. I'm still learning myself.
But what I do know is that I'd rather shell out a hefty chunk of change four times a year to promote all of my books at once than spend a lesser amount continuously to promote individual books.
However you choose to go about it, it won't kill you to spend a bit of money to create a buzz.
Having said all that, I'm two days into my current Countdown promotion, and results have so far been less spectacular as they have been during previous promotions. Only my three novels have managed to reach the Top 10 on Amazon's Top 100 Bestsellers in Comedy list, and none of my short stories have yet broken onto the first page.
Could it be that I'm not targeting the right demographics with my ads? Or that I've mined out most of the potential readers from those demographics with previous promotions? Maybe.
Am I going to throw in the towel?
Of course not!
I'll forge ahead, find new groups to target, tirelessly pull new strategies out of my ass to call attention to this sale.
I'll write this blog post that you're reading right now.
One thing I won't do is quit moving ahead.
The most critical element to success is the refusal to accept failure.
If you're reading this between October 8 and October 15 of 2015, you can grab all of the books in the Caverns and creatures series for only $0.99 each!
As always, I invite you to join the party on my Facebook page. Stop in and say Hi!