"Roundheads and Ramblings"
In March and April I experimented with Amazon's "KDP Select" program. One of the main advantages, they say, is that an author can plan several "Free Days" promotions. The concept seems clear, and it follows a well-known advertising pattern. When a new Starbucks opens, they offer free samples, hoping that one taste will bring customers back again. In the same way, offering some of one's books for free promotes more readership, and the effect carries over when the promotion is finished. Readers who sample one book are expected to be more willing to purchase other volumes by the same author.
Did it work? To a certain extent, it did, but I have a few doubts. Enthusiasm ran high for the books I offered for free. A few readers chose to download "The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux" during the free promotion. Sales for that particular title doubled over the next six weeks, although the total for that 20-year-old book was not exactly overwhelming.
The larger effect, however, had to do with the next promotion, where downloads of "A Scratch with the Rebels" were ten times as numerous. And after that, the promotion of "Beyond All Price" took off for the stratosphere. Downloads mounted into the hundreds, a multiple of 100 books downloaded for every one of the "Dilemma" downloads. So it works, right?
Maybe not! The enthusiast did not last. By the time I opened the give-away offer for "The Road to Frogmore," readers appeared to be tired. Give-away numbers fell off again, down to about 25% of the previous offer. But what was worse, regular sales started to fall off, too.
Now I understand that there are readers out there with good intentions but poor follow-through. They snatch up a free book, planning to read it, but somehow, it just never gets opened. I've done that myself. So the reader who has now downloaded three books but not started any of them may be disinclined to add a fourth to the "good-intentions" pile. OK, fair enough. You probably lose interest in a cup of coffee that has been allowed to get cold, too.
But I wonder if there isn't something else going on. I recently reviewed my own reading patterns in my Kindle library and I find that the more I pay for a book, the more inclined I am to read it, regardless of content -- something about belonging to a generation that was taught that you get what you pay for, perhaps. (Which is why, perhaps, people are still willing to pay more for a Starbucks coffee than they are for a similar beverage at McDonalds.)
At any rate, I'm not going to be offering any more free promotions in the next few months. My experiment distributed a grand total of 985 free Kindle editions, which is about as much as I can afford to do. That should be quite enough to keep those readers busy for a while. Now we'll test the rest of the theory--the part that says, "The more books people read, the more they will want." (Books, like coffee, can be addictive.) I'll be keeping fingers crossed for improving sales figures on my newest books.
My two recent publications, "Damned Yankee" and "Yankee Reconstructed" are obviously connected to one another. They are the first two volumes of a series based on the fictional Grenville family of South Carolina. Volume one is set in the Civil War; volume two covers the years immediately after the war. (And yes, volume three is already in the works. I've finished one draft of the first sixty-percent of "Yankee Sisters." ) Faithful readers can expect the third part of the series to appear sometime in early 2017. And if you haven't met the Grenvilles yet, now is the time to start reading.
One final reminder: the jury is still out on Amazon's "Kindle Owner's Lending Library" program. My books have been enrolled for the past six weeks, and I am pleasantly surprised to see how many people have joined the paid-subscription plan that allows them to read as many books as they like. The reports that come to me show only the number of pages read, not the number of readers, but the page totals are higher than I expected. The benefit there, from my point of view, is that I get paid something for each page read. It amounts to only a fraction of a cent per page, but it's still an income generator.
So I encourage you to keep reading, in whatever fashion suits you best. If you are a "Prime" member, you can download one Kindle volume for free every month. If you join the KOLL subscription plan, you can get as many books free as you want. And if you are not the joining type, please remember that most books on Kindle cost less than a large drink from Starbucks. That $3.99 to $5.99 book will last longer than your Starbucks double latte, and without all the calories!
order books on Amazon, you must, of course, open an account and provide
a credit card number. Beyond that, you can simply order one book at a time
for your permanent electronic library, just as you have always done. But
if you are looking for "deals" you may want to try one of these
Amazon Prime costs $99.00 a year, but it carries valuable benefits. You
get free two-day shipping on anything you order from Amazon, and that
includes everything from appliances to groceries. You also get unlimited
access to music, unlimited cloud storage for your photos, and access to
over 800,000 Kindle books. Through KOLL (Kindle Owners Lending
Library), you can borrow one book a month with no due dates. If you are a
Prime member, seven of my books will now be available in KOLL.
Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service that costs $9.99 a month.
You can subscribe one month at a time, or for various longer periods
depending on how much you want to lay out in advance. This gives you
free access to over a million books and thousands of audiobooks. And as
explained above, seven of my books will now be available in Kindle
Unlimited. You can download up to ten at a time, and once again there
are no due dates. You keep them as long as you like.
both these options, the Kindle editions remain the property of Amazon,
and you are expected to return them when you no longer want them. I get
paid based on the number of pages you actually read, so long as you read
at least 10% of the book. (Of course, you won't be able to put mine
down, so that limitation does not bother me.) And you don't have to
read the book all at once. You can start it, put it down for a month or
more, and then go back and read some more. I get paid for the total
you read, no matter how long it takes you to do it.
the other part of the deal that I get for entering my books in KDP
Select and giving Amazon exclusive rights to distribute the electronic
editions. For each book, I can run a five-day free promotion offer in
every ninety-day period. (That's something that is not allowed if the
book is available on other distribution channels.) That's obviously a
great deal for readers. But what do I get out of it? Well, it puts my
books in the hands of more readers, it encourages Amazon to do separate
promotions of books that do well when offered for free, and, with luck,
the increased readership will produce more loyal followers and more
reviews on Amazon -- which in turn brings in more readers. Here's the Free Promotion schedule for this cycle.
In March, my history books will be available:
- "The Dilemma of Arnulf of Lisieux" from March 14 through March 18.
- "A Scratch with the Rebels" from March 28 to April 1.
In April we'll do the creative biographies:
- "Beyond All Price" from April 11 to April 15
- "The Road to Frogmore" from April 25 to April 29
And in May the historical novels will be on offer:
- "Damned Yankee" from May 9 to May 13
- "Yankee Reconstructed" from May 23 to May 27"
What is World Book Night?
World Book Night’s mission is to inspire people who don’t regularly read, or have access to printed books, to sit down and read a great book by giving them one of 30 carefully chosen titles… for free. The books are chosen by a panel of librarians and booksellers, and this year they include:
• Girl With a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier
• Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
• The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
• Bossypants, by Tina Fey
• The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster and Jules Feiffer
• Playing For Pizza, by John Grisham
• Montana Sky, by Nora Roberts
• A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, by Mark Twain
• Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris
• The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
• and 20 others (Unfortunately, my book is not one of them, but I'm working on it!)
The books’ authors waive their royalties and the books’ publishers pay the production costs of specially-printed World Book Night editions. Bookstores and libraries come onboard as community host centers for the 25,000 volunteer book givers who will be distributing half a million free books.
While it's too late to become an official volunteer book giver for this year's event, it's not too late to choose to participate in a way that feels good to you.
What can YOU give away (or do) to support readers and writers on World Book Night--April 23rd?
Here are some possibilities. You can:
• Have a book giveaway for one or more of the books you've written--print OR ebooks.
• Go through your bookshelves and "recycle" books you're never going to read again (or ever) by giving them away to friends and family, donating them to your local library, or finding other creative ways of getting them back into circulation, whether into your local or online community.
• Give away services or a product that helps writers write or promote their books, through a contest or random giveaway (that's what I'm doing).
• Blog about the joys and benefits of either reading or writing... or BOTH!
• Brainstorm a totally unique and fun way to support readers and/or writers on World Book Night.
INCLUDE YOUR NAME AND E-MAIL ADDRESS
TELL ME WHICH ELECTRONIC FORMAT YOU PREFER (KINDLE, NOOK, ETC.)
I'LL ENTER YOU IN A DRAWING TO WIN A FREE ELECTRONIC EDITION OF "THE ROAD TO FROGMORE."
Katzenhaus Books is on Thanksgiving Break, but while we take time to give thanks, eat too much, do a little shopping, and get caught up on a backlog of housekeeping chores, faithful readers can find some bargains here.
First, over on Smashwords.com, those of you who use e-readers or who like to read on your computer, will find three of our books on sale for just $0.99 each. They all come in various e-formats, including .mobi, .epub. and .html. Start by entering the following link:
To purchase The Road to Frogmore, enter coupon code GA66L at checkout.
To purchase Beyond All Price, enter coupon code AA23P at checkout.
To purchase The Second Mouse Gets the Cheese, enter coupon code ZN52K at checkout.
All three coupons will expire sometime near midnight on Monday, Nov. 26 (California time).
_ _ _ _ __ _ __ _ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ __ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ___ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ __ __ _ _ _ _ _ _
If you'd rather get something for free, take advantage of the FREE DAYS at KDP Select.
Those are my gifts to you for being faithful readers during the past year. Happy Reading!
I'm swamped today -- checking the final proof pages of "The Road to Frogmore." So here's a post from another blogger about the current state of KDP Select. To see the whole post and comments, click here.
1. One of the basic elements in an author’s decision is whether he/she is selling a lot of ebooks outside of Amazon. If you’re selling 40% of your ebooks on Nook, you definitely don’t want to turn those royalties off to sell exclusively on Amazon.
2. The free pricing promotion used to be the best part of Select because it could goose sales rank and push a book into the top 100 in a genre or higher for much better visibility. Lately, free pricing has lost its luster in spurring “sales” because a lot of authors are doing it. Authors suspect many readers download free books that they never read, so authors don’t get many flow-over sales from free books into paid books. Additionally, some authors and analysts believe Amazon has modified its sales rank algorithm to give less weight to free “sales” than it does to paid sales.
3. Some people generate quite a few borrows from the Prime Lending program and regard those as the equivalent of sales. This seems to be the biggest draw at the moment, but its success varies a lot from author to author. Borrows do seem to be treated similarly to paid sales for Amazon sales rank purposes.
4. Nobody seems to be selling much in India, so the higher level of royalties there doesn’t mean much.
5. Fewer authors are putting all their books into Select. Typically, they’ll list one book to see what happens with borrows during the 90 day period, then take it out of Select to see if there is any increase in sales.
If you still want to try it, here are some tips I'm trying to follow this week.
1. Use your free days carefully - never on a weekend, and never around a holiday. Free promotions that occur in mid-week, particularly Wednesday and Thursday, are most successful.
2. Publicize heavily. Send notifications to designated twitter
sites such as free kindle, kindleebooks, KindleUpdates,
etc. Use hash marks, like #free, #free ebook, or #freebies. Contact websites that publicize such offers. GoodReads will publicize your offer as an event, for example. Let your friends know -- especially members of online writers' groups, and ask them to retweet.
3. Don't expect miracles, but recognize that any new reader you pick up may come back to purchase your other books. Without readers, our books can't communicate, and this is one way to increase your readership.