Monday, February 4, 2013

Is There Gold in Them There Hills?

Part I

by Connie Flynn
This is the first in a series of two to four posts about how to 
succeed in independent publishing on Kindle.  

When it comes to promotion, one of the most powerful tools for an Independent eBook author is Amazon's (KDP) Select program. In case you've never heard of it, this is the programs where authors are allowed five free promotional days if they participate for a minimum of ninety days in Amazon's Kindle Select Library Lending Program.

Giving away books is a time-honored tradition.  When Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER was first released, the publisher flooded the Chicago, Illinois RWA conference with several thousand books. It paid off because OUTLANDER became a runaway bestseller.

But is that true of Kindle giveaways? When Kindle first introduced the "free book promo" days, authors were delighted. Downloads of free books often hit ten, twenty, even thirty thousand copies or more. When these e-books return to paid status, the sales generally remained brisk and lifted the sales of other titles (assuming they had them). This happened because high activity churned the free titles so that they appeared more often on random pages (you know, the recommendations that say that people who bought a particular book also bought yours).

Lately, though, authors have noticed a definite dip in the sales boost of the "free book promo" days. Rumors abound about why this might be. Maybe the novelty value of free books is decreasing. Maybe some of the books out there weren't worth reading even if the price was right. Maybe the goose that laid the golden egg has died. Maybe — and this appears to be a favorite —  Amazon has changed the formula (you may have heard it called algorithms) they use to churn the titles.

Nobody is actually sure. What they are sure of, though, is that the value of the sales boost has declined since the first "free promo book" days.

So why this little slice of KDP history? Because it's heralding a period of uncertainty. We don't have much information to explain why eBooks sales are fading or to know if it's simply a natural phase in the cycle of a new product world.  We simply don't know what the futre will bring. So we must plan our own strategy today, based on what we do know.

What do we know?  Well, first, we know what kind of writer we are. Are we solely self-published, previously traditionally published or still traditionally published while putting our out-of-print titles on Kindle?  Are we famous, or not so much? Do we have internet skills? Social networking skills? Book design skills? Computer skills? Are we good at planning, managing money, managing a schedule? Are we diligent about doing boring day to day tasks? Do we have a large production budget or are we chef, cook, bottle washer and server all in one?

If you're already established and earning a steady income on Kindle, then you can probably move onto another blog. But if you've had brisk sales that have dropped, or poor but steady sales, or have been on Kindle so long without action that you're collecting cobwebs, you probably want to keep on reading. And also write down the answers to the questions above because when you know the answers you'll know what to do next. What comes after that may still be unknown but you'll have made the step that begins the journey.  This post will quickly cover what you'll need to know to establish yourself on Kindle so I'm going to assume you're just stepping into the self-publishing experience or are moving forward from a small presence that you want to expand.

You will have a big advantage if you already have . . .
1.    A Kindle account
2.    Two or three finished novels or two novels and a novella.
3.    A working knowledge of how to set yourself up on Facebook, create a Twitter account, and design a simple blog or website.
4.    The funds to pay for book conversion and cover design or the know how to do it yourself.
5.    A willingness to learn whatever is needed.

Assuming you have none of these, set up your Kindle account first.

Next, finish, revise, or polish your books. Take time to have several friends read, proofread and give you feedback.

Simultaneously, set up your social media (Facebook/Twitter/blog/website) and get comfortable in the environment.  Begin cultivating future reviewers and fans.

Scour the internet for sources to convert your books to eBook format or read up on how to do it yourself.

Okay, this is only the start. Next month I'll go into more detail on how to set up your blog, customize your Twitter page, get friends on Facebook and so on.

The books of Connie Flynn, a bestselling, award-winning author of ten novels and several short stories, are getting some positive attention from eBooks readers these days. She writes in several genres, including paranormal romance, romantic comedy and romantic action/adventure, contemporary fantasy, and mystery/suspense. Look for several new releases from her and her alter-ego K.C. Flynn during 2013.

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