When to Lower Prices. When to Spread Out.

This indie author thing I’m doing doesn’t come with a definitive handbook. Why hasn’t someone written it yet? “Guaranteed Success for the Indie Author.” That could be a big seller.

I’m just slightly over the three-year mark of publishing indie, so I still feel like a newbie in may respects. I have learned a few things, thankfully, and I don’t make as many mistakes as I did on my first release.

In 2015 I released my fourth novel, completed my fifth, and got a good chunk of my sixth written as well. Now that I have a small list of available books and others on the horizon, I have to begin to strategize differently compared to when I started this fun adventure.

Amazon has of course been my main-stay through all of this. I’ve counted on KDP Select as a means of getting my name out there through offering free promotions and deeply discounted promotions. I’ve had a number of successes through this method, but now that I’ve reached this point, I started to realize that I want any reader on any device to be able to have access to at least some of my books.

So I’m in the process of removing my first two novels off of KDP Select and will be publishing them through Smashwords for optimized distribution through many different channels. The point of this move is this: if someone by chance runs across my name, website, or Facebook page, I want that person to be able to run into my books regardless of whether they read via Kobo, Apple, or B&N. I feel like I’m finally at a stage where I need to be everywhere.

Maybe I’ve waited to long to do this. It’s impossible to tell, but I’ve made the decision to permanently lower my prices on my first two novels and broaden their scope. We’ll see how it goes.

My two most recent novels will continue on KDP Select because I see the value that I’m getting from that program.

So here’s to trying new things. I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have.

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To Give Free or Not to Give Free: An Indie Author’s Dilemma

I’m back staring at the same promotional dilemma that seemingly doesn’t have a great answer: is it still worth it for indie authors to offer e-books for free?

Three years ago when I jumped into the indie foray, the answer in my opinion was a  resounding ‘yes!’ But now, I’m not so sure.

My free Kindle days over the past two years have been less frequent, but they have also met with less downloads than I achieved back in the “hey-day” of free – 2013. (At least that was my experience)  With my first and second novels, I’ve received massive amounts of downloads which led to many reviews and even some residual book sales. But my experiences of 2014 and 2015 have altered my thinking.

First off, it must be said that there are fewer and fewer sites which will advertise free books without wanting payment. But even the times that I have  paid for advertising, I haven’t had huge downloads (average amount only) and I’ve noticed no up-tick in sales and no noticeable reviews which I can link to the free downloads.

Second, is there such a glut of free books on the market that readers just  stock their devices with reads most of them  will never get around to reading? I think it’s true. Members of my friends and family are examples of this.

I have run numerous 99 cent sales and they have been met with varying success. Sales definitely pick up and then eventually fall back down again.

Is it now better to build in some perceived value by not offering free books anymore? The book market has certainly been devalued. Of course, no author thinks their writing is worth only 99 cents, but there is not a lot of other tangible options available except for running the occasional sale and trying to hook in new readers.

I haven’t ever tried to run a free book promotion through BookBub (nor would it be assured because of their selective nature), but I’ve read accounts of other authors that in the case of BookBub, it is worth it because of their massive exposure. So is that the answer, only offer free books if accepted through BookBub?

Of course, I have no answers. I’ve read a lot of other blogs on the topic, and opinions vary widely. I’m currently on this policy: I generally raised the prices of my ebooks and work hard  to promote during promotional periods. I have no plans to offer free books again anytime soon, though I won’t rule it out completely.

How about you? Any thoughts or wisdom on the topic you’d like to share? I’m all ears!

KDP Free – My final results with debut novel Beauty Rising

I first published my debut novel, Beauty Rising, in early December 2012. I decided early on that I wanted it to be part of Amazon’s KDP program so I could take advantage of offering it for free several times as a way to introduce my writing to the world’s general readership. Here is my analysis of what went right and what went wrong.

Over the past 6 months, I have offered Beauty Rising for free on Kindle only three times.

  • Early Feb 2013 – 2 days
  • Early May 2013 – 2 days
  • Early August 2013 – 5 days

Every three months I offered it for free. I didn’t want to overwhelm the market, and I wanted it to slowly build momentum overtime. The results? Fantastic. I couldn’t be happier.

All in all, more than 22,000 readers downloaded Beauty Rising. Wow! They took a no-risk chance on a no-name author.

After each free promotion, sales most definitely ticked-up, as others said they would, and then tapered back down.

But for me, sales are completely secondary for my first novel. Do I believe it’s worth a $2.99 read or more? Yes, I do. I’ve been blessed with wonderful reviews that have been extremely encouraging.

Now the big question is this: what will those 22,000 downloads mean for my second novel? Obviously, I have no idea.

I hope enough people have connected with my writing that they will be willing to purchase my next one. That remains to be seen. Ideally, I’d never have to give away another book the rest of my life. But once again, I’m in this for the long haul, so only time will tell what marketing strategies are needed.

KDP is a major marketing blitz for any unknown indie author. How else can you generate this much publicity? How else can you get your writing into the hands of 10s of thousands of eager readers? As far as I know, there is nothing that can touch KDP for the indie author.

With two months left before the release of my second novel, Beauty Rising will now be going off of KDP and I plan to make it available for the Nook and possibly other formats starting in September.

Publicizing your indie novel is a lot of work, AND a ton of trial and error. But one thing has proven to be indispensable – free Kindle day promotions.