Targeting the right readers

I’m currently running a final 3-day Amazon KDP Select free promotion for The New Sense before setting the ebook loose on Apple, Nook, and Kobo. This is my last chance to gain “internet airplay” before making the book full price for the foreseeable future, and on day two the targeting seems to be working! This is a distinctly female-oriented book. Hold on, there’s already a shorter phrase that encapsulates that concept: Chick Lit. Whatever you call it, The New Sense is currently sitting at number 3 in Amazon Kindle’s Free Women’s Literary Fiction chart:

Amazon Women's Literary Fiction screenshot 30-10-13 10am

This is cool, but what’s also great is that the book is ranked number 2 on Amazon Kindle’s Free Mystery, Thriller & Suspense chart:

Amazon Mystery Thriller Suspense screenshot 30-10-13 10am

I shall now continue tweeting and facebooking. It seems to work.

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The New Sense – free on Amazon!

My psychological mystery The New Sense is a free Kindle download today. Montrealers who read it will recognize a host of places (and maybe even some people).

The New Sense cover_72dpi

I have to get back to promoting the promotion now but if you want to know more, either click on the cover to read an excerpt on Amazon.com or watch this interview I did last year: LINK TO ME TALKING IN FRONT OF MY BOOKCASE.

If you’re looking for the Canadian Amazon link, click here.

For the UK Amazon link, click here.

And, what the heck, if you’re in Japan, click here.

Goodreads, USA.

In this post last month I commented on the fact that my Silent Symmetry free Kindle ebook promotion was far more successful in the US than in Canada and the UK:

On another note, if any self-published authors out there have the slightest idea why the Silent Symmetry ebook was downloaded over 2,500 times last week in the US but only 9 times in Canada and 58 in the UK, I’d love to hear their theories! Since Facebook,  Twitter and blogs are essentially international, I can’t for the life of me figure out why these figures are so disproportionately skewed in favour of the US. More copies were downloaded in India than in Canada where I live and wrote the book! As Jerry Seinfeld used to say, “What’s up with that?”

Well, Jerry, I think I’ve found the answer. I had never tried out website ranking site Alexa.com before, but yesterday I used it to check on the readership stats of a couple of indie publishing blogs (basically to figure out the potential reach of writing a guest post for them). Then, for the heck of it, I entered the Goodreads URL. Within seconds I had the answer to my conundrum. And I might have found an extra answer too! Scrolling down the Alexa page for Goodreads, I saw this graph and accompanying information:

Goodreads Alexa stats

I don’t know why this appears so small. Just click on it to enlarge. Sorry!

There you have it! 42% of Goodreads visitors come from the US, while only 3% are from England and 2% from Canada. Tellingly, giving my original observation, 16% come from India. All this leads to one inescapable conclusion: the Goodreads ad campaign that I ran during the promotion attracted far more readers who then downloaded a free copy than all of the tweeting and coverage on blogs combined.

Hold on a second, I hear you say – if that’s the case, and there are about 10 times as many Goodreads visitors from the US than the UK, how come the book was downloaded 50 times more often by Americans?

Good question! And the answer is also the extra bonus answer to my original question: First off, a chunk of those 2,500 Americans might well have heard about the freebie through sources other than Goodreads. Fair enough. And maybe Silent Symmetry also appeals more to Americans than to Brits. Also fair enough. The crucial thing is that Amazon’s free ebook charts create a chain reaction that tips the balance further and further in favour of a popular book (or at least their charts did until they were nerfed earlier this month; a topic I’ll be blogging about soon) because once a book appears in the top 10 of one of their charts, its visibility increases exponentially, which leads to more downloads until a critical mass is reached and there’s a nucl-ebook explosion. Groan.

Since Amazon’s charts are separate for each territory, the exponential impact of Silent Symmetry’s top-10 appearance in the US due to the higher Goodreads ad visibility wasn’t mirrored in the UK, where the Goodreads ads didn’t reach nearly as many people in the first place and the book only hovered in the top 100 freebies on Amazon.co.ok, thus creating no critical mass.

As for Canada, it just shows how Facebook isn’t really all that powerful for a free ebook promotion.

If anyone’s still reading at this point… well done! You deserve a free ebook. Sign up for my mailing list using the link at the top-right of the page and I’ll send you one.

Silent Symmetry’s final Amazon KDP Select free promo

Tomorrow marks the 180th day since Silent Symmetry was published on Amazon. In that time I’ve used eight of the ten KDP Select free days allowed by Amazon to get the book into the hands of about 6,000 targeted readers. As I wrote somewhere else, for an unknown novel by an unknown author, this is the equivalent of major radio airplay. Is it translating into sales? Slowly but surely. And as the first book in the Embodied trilogy, I’m looking at the long-term picture in terms of building an audience.

summer-sound-large-view_l

Summer sounds of Silent Symmetry

I’m using the last two free days today and tomorrow, so we’ll see how many new readers will come on board. I’ve also taken the first steps towards publishing Silent Symmetry for Apple iPads and iPhones, and for the Nook, Sony and Kobo ereaders (I have to wait till at least Thursday to publish according to the KDP Select agreement) so I’m excited to be able to get the book into the hands of a bunch of people who might have been missed so far.

It’s all about the readers. And the ereaders…

Photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren / Foter / CC BY-NC

If an ebook soft-launches in the Amazon forest, does it make a sound?

My YA novel Silent Symmetry is ready to go out into the world. It will soon become one of a million virtual maple seeds spinning to the forest floor. Will it take root? Will it grow? My research has shown that the ways of ebook marketing are a mystery to writers everywhere. No one knows what works. No one has the magic formula or the secret recipe. Okay, I’m out of metaphors. Oh wait, here’s another one: it’s a crap shoot. For every poorly written 50 Shades that hits the big time, there are probably thousands of great books that never quite take root. Ah, the forest metaphor returns…

A future book.

A future book.

All this woodland imagery is no accident. Whether you think of it as the world’s biggest jungle or river, Amazon is also the world’s biggest ebook store. Although its competitors (particularly Apple and Barnes & Noble) have made advances in the last couple of years, something like 75% of all ebook sales are through Amazon. There is a positive and a negative aspect to this situation. The plus is that if an author gets any kind of visibility on Amazon, they have a good chance of selling their book. But the problem is that Amazon has also found ways of controlling the market. One way is the company’s KDP Select program.

In a nutshell, Amazon has set up a fund for KDP Select titles so that an author receives a royalty when their book is borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library. In exchange, the author has to grant Amazon a 90-day distribution exclusivity period. Not all ebook authors are happy about this, and with good reason. Any author with a book that’s selling well in the Apple iBookstore would be crazy to withdraw it for three months on the off-chance that it will be borrowed a few times. But for a new work, there’s very little downside and one huge upside to enrolling in KDP Select: five days of free giveaways, scheduled whenever the author desires.

Amazon doesn’t normally allow authors to price books at $0.00. However you might be thinking, why would an author give away all that hard work for free? The answer is promotion. Many websites and blogs feature free ebooks. The key to visibility in the dense Amazonian jungle is twofold: positive reviews and sales ranking. So telling review sites that your ebook will be free for two days next week means that there’s a chance they will feature and review it. Regular readers also trawl Amazon for free Kindle books, so they may also download the freebie. Although this might seem like a lost sale, it isn’t really. I think it’s similar to the radio/record store model of content distribution. It’s like you’re broadcasting your book in the same way that a radio station plays songs. For an unknown artist, this visibility (Really? visibility on the radio? Bah, I can’t come up with a better word!) is priceless and should translate into in-store sales. And it’s the same for an ebook.

eBooks ain't noise pollution.

eBooks ain’t noise pollution.

So the idea is that you build an audience through the judicious use of these five $0.00 KDP Select days in combination with reviews and being featured on free eBook sites. Then when the freebie period is over, some people who are prepared to pay for your book will actually see it on Amazon and be able to read reviews. If the book is any good, this should start building a market for it. And once the KDP-exclusive 90 days are over, ship it out to Apple and the rest and hope that your book’s new-found readership spills over by word-of-mouth (or word-of-web) to create sales through those lesser, yet still significant, distribution channels.

I finished the final coding of Silent Symmetry today. The formatting is good, the Table of Contents works and the copyright page is written. I’m going to soft launch it on KDP Select this week with a placeholder cover. The real cover should be ready in a week or two and uploading it will just take a few minutes, but it’s worth me rushing the book onto Amazon because I want to the KDP 90 days to start right away. The sooner they start, the sooner they end.

It’s quiet in the forest. So quiet you can hear a young leaf unfurl. Shhh…

Photo credit (tree): arielmatzuk / Foter / CC BY-ND
Photo credit (radio): bricolage.108 / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA