Part of the problem with self-publishing is finding an effective promotion strategy. It’s not that opportunities are hard to come by, but that no author wants their marketing to be intrusive, or even worse, expensive. Price and ethics, unfortunately, are not problems for traditional publishers with giant marketing branches but they’re an endless headache for an independent.
When I published my short story, Christmas Past, back in January, I had very little idea of what to expect in self publishing. I didn’t expect my story to sell at all, then after it sold a couple of copies, I expected it to sell lots. Which it didn’t. I’m at a slight disadvantage, I’m an unknown author trying to sell a single short story with Christmas in the title as we move further and further from December.
However, like many self published authors, I entered my book into Amazon’s KDP select program. I wasn’t expecting much to come from it; the only reason I went with KDP was because I didn’t intended to fight with Smashwords’ ridiculous formatting standards. If I was going to be publishing solely to Amazon anyway, I might as well take the benefits. Now, a few months on and the whole world seems to be publishing KDP select results and mulling over the advantages and disadvantages. I thought I’d join the fray and share what hasn’t worked for me, and what has.
What hasn’t? The lending library for Prime customers. Perhaps this will benefit me in the future when I have lengthier books out, but right now nobody wants to waste their valuable free book borrows on a short story. Understandable.
What I can talk about is KDP select and free promotions. Free days have been crucial to me in the last few months. Originally, they were something of a disappointment. Yes, they’d get me a bundle of free downloads but they never translated into sales. Where they did benefit me was in reviews. My story currently has three reviews on Amazon.com and three on Amazon.co.uk. This isn’t a huge amount, but they all came after a free promotion.
However, what I understand now that I didn’t understand then is that you really have to make the most of your select free days. Don’t just make the book free, couple it with a big marketing push and ask your friends and family to push it a little too. I ran another free day this week, but I also tweeted about the book, posted to google plus and asked all my friends on facebook to help share the book too. I managed to break into a few of Amazon’s rankings and ranked higher than I ever have before. More importantly, the sale ended a few days ago and Christmas Past is taken in a few real paid sales since then.
Now, I haven’t made any real money out of it, but bumping from no sales to five or six in a few days is a really dramatic increase. I’m sure these will drop off a bit once my promotion wears off, but it’s a helpful indicator as to what works and what doesn’t. My only hope is that the effect is amplified when you have a greater, more diverse platform to promote.
My little short story isn’t much of a performer and it’s a struggle to sell every copy, so not everything I say will apply to other people’s books, but I hope my own little experiences are helpful to you.