14 July 2012 - 2:55 pm

Publishing on Kindle: thoughts and experiences

I published the first two Apocalypse Blog books (Book 1 and the prequel, Book 0) through Kindle Direct Publishing back in September last year. In March and April this year, I managed to get Books 2 and 3 out (respectively).

My sales weren’t great at first. I sold a few handful books every month and the Amazon ranking was around 500,000 (out of more than a million books). It was slow and I figured it would take me forever to earn enough royalties for a payout. I don’t have the time or money for a lot of marketing, so my chances of climbing the ranks were down to luck.

Then something unexpected happened. In March, my sales spiked significantly – I noticed that the rankings were at 200,000 and rising. At first, I thought it was the release of Book 2, even though I had done little promotion to warrant such a change. Also, all of the books were selling well, not just the new one. Bewildered, I looked into it further, curious about what might have caused it.

What I found was that Book 0 was now available for free. Amazon doesn’t allow authors to offer books for free (outside of the KDP Select program, which I haven’t tried yet); the only way for it to happen is through price-matching. It seems that they had noticed that I have Book 0 available for free through other stores such as Smashwords, Apple, and Barnes & Noble, and matched the Amazon price to it.

Mystery solved! As hundreds of copies were downloaded, I bewilderedly watched the Book 0 rankings soar, dropping digits off until it was hovering between 1,500 and 4,000. It even made it into triple digits a few times.

Not only that: Book 0 made it into Amazon’s top 100! In the Science Fiction chart, it has been as high as the top 30, and usually appears in the top 100 listing somewhere.

Better yet, books 1 and 2 also started doing well as a result (the ones that are not free!). I believe it was a mixture of knock-on sales from Book 0 and the increased visibility of the series as a whole. When Book 3 was released, it galloped up the charts to sit with the rest of the (paid-for books in) the series.

The paid-for books have had pretty steady sales over the months since Book 0 went free. It wasn’t a temporary bump of sales; if it was, it hasn’t ended yet! The paid-for books are all currently sitting around 50,000 in the rankings (there’s some variation, but that’s where I usually see them). That’s in the top 5% of all the books on Amazon!

I’m so proud. Self-publishing feels like a shot in the dark to me, putting my work out there because I want it, with little idea about how worthy it really is of taking up space on people’s shelves (virtual or otherwise). But it’s selling and people like it. I can’t say how happy that makes me!

I can see why the publishing houses are leaning towards preferring series rather than standalone books these days. The knock-on sales are fantastic.

Now I’m looking forward to the next ebooks I might release – Starwalker – and I’m wondering how I can make this work again. I need a free first book to pull people into the main series. I don’t have a prequel for that series! Not yet, anyway. It something to think about!

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