Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Why I'm leaving Amazon's KDP Select program... and how I'm going to save you 99 cents

Having signed up to Amazon’s KDP Select program for most of the year, I’ve decided that it’s time to experiment with making my books available on other platforms.

KDP Select requires you to make Amazon your exclusive sales platform for a period of 3 months at a time. In return, they give you the option to make your book free for up to 5 days in that period (normally the lowest you can price your book is $0.99), and your book is eligible for lending in the Kindle library (which means you get a royalty for each ‘borrow’ by an Amazon Prime member).

I’ve had mixed results with the free promotions tool. In theory, the benefit is that if lots of people download your book for free, it bumps it up the sales chart and means you appear in the ‘customers who bought this also bought this’ cross-promotion. I had some success with this a few months ago when a free promo over three days led to several hundred paid sales of Halfway to Hell.

Lately, however, I've found that the free promotions have been having less and less of an effect on paid sales. I’ve heard that Amazon has changed its algorithm so that free ‘sales’ no longer have an impact on paid sales rankings… rendering what was the main perk of KDP Select pretty much useless.

So my decision is a no-brainer – I’ll still be in a relationship with Amazon, but it's no longer fulfilling all my needs. Therefore I’m going to screw around a bit behind Amazon’s back and see other sales platforms on the side at weekends.

I’ve uploaded all of my Kindle books to Smashwords. It’s not as pretty as Amazon at first glance, but I quickly discovered that the formatting and submissions process is much, much more straightforward compared to Amazon's borderline-sadistic formatting gauntlet.

Smashwords allows customers to buy directly from them, and also distributes books which meet their vetting guidelines to Amazon’s competitors, like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Sony, Diesel etc, meaning your ebook isn’t limited to Kindle owners. Smashwords provides an even better royalty rate than Amazon (80% as compared to a maximum 70%), and you have more control over how you choose to sell your book. You can specify any sample size up to 50%, and even better, you can make books free all of the time.

Obviously, I don’t want to make my all of my books free, but this provides a great marketing tool that is, at present, jealously-guarded by Amazon. I’ve blogged before about my idea of using short story bundles as ‘singles’ to promote my ‘album’ (i.e. the novel), but this lets me go one step further.

I’ve selected one of my short stories – ‘The Room’, from the collection The Misfortune Teller – to be permanently free through Smashwords and its associated vendors. ‘The Room’ is a 4,000-word psychological thriller, a sort of Facebook-age Rear Window. I picked it for a couple of reasons: firstly it’s one of my best stories, and secondly because the subject matter is appropriate to an electronic book marketed via social networking. Naturally, the package includes the first chapter of Halfway to Hell. By making the story absolutely free to anyone, I can get the maximum number of people to read it. If the people who read ‘The Room’ like it, they’ll read the sample chapter. If they like the sample chapter, they can buy the book.

Smashwords doesn’t have the same kind of traffic as Amazon, and most people don’t sell as many copies through this platform as they would on Amazon, but the flexibility you get makes it more than worthwhile.

The other thing I’m hoping will happen is that, now that I’ve also published ‘The Room’ to Kindle at the minimum price, Amazon will honour their price match promise and reduce the story to free for Kindle as well. I've already sold one copy at 99 cents, which actually irritates me. I don't want to sell one copy at 99 cents, I want to give away thousands of copies at 0 cents. I want to give as many people as possible the opportunity to read my work gratis.

If you’d like to be one of them, you can download your free copy of 'The Room' for any platform direct from the link below.

As I said, it’s also available at Amazon, but don’t buy it from there as it will cost you 99 cents that you don't need to spend. Feel free to use Amazon’s ‘report a lower price’ button to nag them about this – it would help me target a whole lot of Kindle customers with some free publicity… and that’s the only kind of publicity I can afford.

The Room - a tale of murder in the social networking age
Available free for all formats from Smashwords

Also available (but not yet free) from Amazon US and Amazon UK
He had two problems: a broken leg and terminal boredom.
The long days and nights alone in his flat after an accident lead an incapactitated young student to renounce his aversion to the internet and take his first tentative steps into the world wide web.
Before long, he finds himself entering a new kind of social network: an online self-help community called simply 'The Room'. The experience of eavesdropping on the lives of others quickly becomes addictive, and the members of The Room seem welcoming enough.
But then something changes: a man called Bryan confesses to a murder. It could be a fantasy, or a sick joke, but it's not. And the terror doesn't stay online for long...

THE ROOM is a tale of murder in the age of social networking. A dark psychological thriller of curiosity and killing that has been called a Rear Window for the Facebook generation.
Also includes as a bonus feature the first chapter of Gavin Bell's full-length thriller: Halfway to Hell.
Short story length: 4000 words approx.
THE ROOM is also available as part of the story collection THE MISFORTUNE TELLER: 3 STORIES OF CRIME

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