But now what?
At this point, you can go in three publishing directions: traditional, indie, hybrid. In today’s publishing world there are so many options and very few closed doors.
If you decide to indie publish you, again, have options: a paperback and/or hard back book, an ebook only, or a combination of both paper and ebook versions. So many choices!
If you publish an ebook, your first big question to answer is: how will you distribute it? What venue will you use? There’s Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Nobel, Kobo, and more. This is where I am in my explorations as a hybrid author. I have a novel, Hidden (a teen historical adventure/mystery) and Lotus Shoes, a short story from Ancient China and a prequel to Hidden. One reason I wrote my short story was to use it in experiments with finding a readership.
Amazon is, famously, the guerrilla in the room when you have an ebook. It’s both big and assertive in the ebook market. I decided to try their programs first. To have complete access to their marketing programs, Amazon requires that you distribute your ebook (and this only applies to your ebook, not your paperback book) exclusively through their Kindle program. I did that. Both Hidden and Lotus Shoes are only available as ebooks through Amazon’s KDP program. Hidden is available at $2.99 and Lotus Shoes at $0.99 as ebooks.
Once Lotus Shoes was exclusively with Amazon’s Kindle, I put it in their Free Book Promotion program. In this program you can offer your ebook for free from one to five days within a ninety day period.
You may well wonder why is it such a great idea to offer your book for free when you are trying so hard to sell it? Amazon would say: marketing. So, as I indicated above, I decided to see if this marketing strategy was any good and what I could learn from it.
I put both ebooks up in the Kindle KDP program on June 14th and took no further action. As far as I know there were few to no sales for 3 ½ weeks. (It’s very hard/impossible to get real numbers in real time.) I then put Lotus Shoes up for free for 3 days—Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday. I picked these days because—from the chatter on the web—these seemed to be the most popular download days and this specific pattern seemed to have the most success.
By the end of the third day, Lotus Shoes was ranked #1 in short reads for teens and young adults. Woot! Such rankings are ephemeral in the ebook world, of course. And by the next day Lotus Shoes had begun moving down the rankings, into #15. But--#15 was great, too, before this experiment it was not even on the map! And in the category of teens, historical fiction, Asian it was still ranked #5 the day after the free days. Plus, I now showed some actual sales of BOTH Hidden and Lotus Shoes. So, the free days boosted not only the short story I had in the promotion, but my ebook novel that was not in the promotion. There was definite carry-over.
Every day the rankings changed—downward. But that is to be expected, since I didn’t have any other promotional activities going on. I wanted to see the fallout on my ebooks from this program.
First, I discovered that my stories could be among the top ebooks within my niche. Result: Psychologically, that was a shot in the arm. J Economically, not so much. L Why?
Because, second, while I knew I was working in a small niche, this experiment gave me a much more concrete idea about how small that niche is. Result: I now realize I have to grow my niche and I’m working on this.
Third, the Kindle KDP Free Book Promotion program gave both of my ebooks greater visibility for the following two weeks after the free download period. I couldn’t have bought better advertisement. If someone typed in certain key words or combinations of key words (short story, teen, historical fiction, Asian) Amazon offered up Lotus Shoes within the first screen or two for top picks. Even Hidden often came up within the top 60 choices. Before trying the free promotion these two ebooks were largely invisible to anyone looking in these categories. Result: the sales for both of these ebooks has increased since the promotion ended.
This was a small, highly informal, experiment, but interesting on many levels. Have you used Amazon’s Kindle’s KDP free promotional program? If so, what results did you have? What did you think of your experience, whether good or bad?