Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Week In Review

Whew. It’s been a big week on the ebook front!

Two of my critique group are gearing up to release their first ebooks this month. Wishing them much success. I’ve seen the cover for the one I beta read and every time I see it I love it even more. I’ll have visuals soon.

I’ll be releasing the first volume of my Vet Tech Tales within the next few days, so I’ve been busy cleaning up and formatting those pages, plus writing a foreword for the series and the volume.

I’ve been working with MailChimp’s email tools to put together Steel Magnolia Press’ first newsletter for release next week or so. For a free service (for up to 2000 subscribers), it seems to offer some nice tools for producing a professional-looking newsletter in a wide variety of pre-formatted templates, plus the option to customize those templates. Since I can also hand-code some sections, I’m finding it versatile enough to work with. I’ve only run into a couple of instances where I wished it could do something without me having to code the complete newsletter from scratch, which I don’t think I’m clever enough to do on my own – at least, not without spending tons of time on research.

So far I’m liking it and would recommend it to any author or blogger setting up a newsletter or email capture service. If you go with their pre-formatted options, you don't have to know a lick of HTML to produce a decent-looking newsletter.

The true test, though, will come next week when we import about 300 more names into the tool. It appears to be straightforward enough ...

Amazon opened up its Kindle Lending Program -- which allows Kindle Prime members to borrow one book from its Lending Catalog free per month -- to everyone who publishes with them. With one little catch: whatever book an indie author elects to put into the catalog must be exclusive to Amazon. That means it can’t be offered for sale through any other distributor at all. As you may suspect, this has put a lot of folk into a terrible tizzy, with torches and pitchforks appearing on schedule.

First of all, the exclusivity and catalog featuring is completely optional. There’s no requirement for anyone to play. Second, each book in the program is only contracted to stay exclusive for 90 days, with optional renewal at the end of every 90-day cycle. Amazon has put up a pot of $500,000 to be split equally across the number of downloads. That means authors with one extremely popular book or with a lot of moderately popular ones will see a bit of income, while most everyone else will likely see nothing to a couple of dollars.

Fair enough. This alone would not entice me to throw my books into an exclusivity deal, especially as I price mine so low I can’t see a whole lot of folk using their one freebie lend to get a 99c or $1.99 book. But Amazon also now allows any author in this new “Select” program to make their book free for 5 days, spaced out however you like, across the store during that 90-day period. Having precise control like that is the bait tempting me to test this new program with my new, virgin Vet Tech Tales book. It’s a great guinea pig, being the first in a series and not up for sale anywhere else. And since the Steel Magnolia Press site sends buyers to Amazon (or BN) to make the actual purchase, I can put it the book up in our storefront, no problem. Plus, Amazon has hinted there may be other tools soon available to folk who opt into the “Select” program.

Do I think this program is right for every book and every author? Absolutely not. But for certain books and authors savvy enough to know which books those are, I think it’s another strong marketing bullet in the arsenal.

Two new Amazon ebook stores are in full swing (Spain and Italy), to go along with France, which opened about a month ago. This month, I’ve made 2 sales in the French store, both Spoil of War, which rocketed it to #1 in Historical Fantasy, #43 in all Fantasy and #464 in all of the English-language store on Friday when the second sale was made. Obviously not many English-reading French are buying from Amazon when you realize 848,000 books from were ported over for the opening of the store. And since Spoil is still hanging on to the #1 Historical Fantasy spot today, that means no other sales of anything labeled HF have happened between now and then. Still, it makes for a great photo op ;o)

Speaking of Spoil, it came off free in the US late in the day last Saturday, leaving the paid free list at #473. I had a stomach-lurching moment when it reentered the paid ranks at around #210,000, which is about where it would have been had it not sold a single copy in a month, and off of every list. OK, technically it hadn’t sold anything, but the Amazon algorithms had been counting free book downloads in a way that allowed free books that had done well to reenter the paid ranks at a decent ranking and to stay on the bestseller lists.

A lot of authors have reported that their books’ rankings sometimes don’t show up for days when the books transition from free to paid. Since my rank back on the paid list was visible within a couple of hours, I was simply privy to how the cycle normally runs behind the scenes. Apparently it takes a while to recalculate rank and filter downward (upward? There really needs to be a standardized way to refer to a book achieving a better rank). Spoil spiraled down and landed in the #3000 range, with visibility on the Historical Fantasy and Historical Romance lists. Yay! But how would that translate into actual paid sales? Getting to a good rank because of a short-term promo or by being free for a bit is one thing; sticking is quite another.

After about 6.5 days, it’s been holding its own, bouncing around in rank from around #4000 to #8000. As of 5:00 am CT Saturday morning, it’s at:

• Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,225 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
o #20 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
o #30 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

What does that mean in terms of number of copies sold? It looks like 106 copies have sold on at $1.99 since it came off free.

Spoil is also trying hard to stick in the Apple store as well. Right now it’s #4 Historical Fantasy, #66 All Fantasy, and #96 in All SFF. I won’t know sales till next month, but I was really disappointed to discover that if you go through a distributor like Smashwords to get a book into the Apple store, Apple doesn’t disclose numbers of free downloads. Apparently you DO get that info if you upload direct, but you need a Mac to do that and I’m Mac-less. Boo.

As far as Amazon deigning to pick up the two other books I'm trying to make free now, it hasn't. First there was a lag time in getting the search sites (like Google) to pick up the free price on Apple so the Amazon bots could even find the books listed for free in order to price match. Then the new "Select" program kicked in on Amazon and authors made nearly 1000 books free in the last couple of days. How Amazon will treat price matching to free in the future for books not in the "Select" program is anyone's guess.

Whether a promotion works short-term and/or long-term depends a lot on timing and luck and the generosity of readers. On Monday, SECTOR C was featured on the Kindle Books for a Buck blog. That resulted in a nice surge of sales: 46 copies in a little over 24 hours, which left the book at:

• Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,774 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
   o #15 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > High Tech
   o #16 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Medical
   o #22 in Book > Science Fiction & Fantasy >Science Fiction > High Tech

Ah, but I’d seen this before with SECTOR C, when another site promoted the book in October. Although the rank never got this high, the book lost rank as quickly as it gained it. This time, though, the promotion was a bit stickier.

Since Monday, SECTOR C has sold 81 copies on It only started slipping rank on Friday. Before that it was solidly below #7000. At 5 am Saturday, it’s at:

• Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #10,307 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
   o #34 in Books > Mystery, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Medical
   o #42 in Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Medical
   o #60 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > High Tech

One helpful bit is that Amazon added that first category, “Medical Thrillers,” on Tuesday (at my repeated prompting), which may have aided with the sticky factor this time around.

Off now to prep Vet Tech Tales: The Early Years for its exclusive debut on Amazon (and only you and I will know what that really means!).

No comments: