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The Book-Promotion Balloon: Where’s the Helium?

Top-100-Free-Merged [1]

Regarding the graphic above, man, was I glad I was able to bear down on those lolling tuna boats Dickens and Hugo—they need to get up from their on-deck hammocks and at least think about hitting the book-peddling accelerator before I catch them. Though I do hope I didn’t peeve dear Charlotte; however, she being the eldest of the sisters, she’s learned how to take these roller-coasterings.

[pullquote]But alas, all that glitters is not gold stars: this image of my book billowings was as ephemeral as the electrons it’s printed on.[/pullquote]

But alas, all that glitters is not gold stars: this image of my book billowings was as ephemeral as the electrons it’s printed on. A mere bit of pictorial whimsy, where I got to sit at the reading table (even if I had to use a high chair) with a pantheon of literary greats, but in truth, it’s one of those deceptive snapshots in time: if a photo is taken at just the right moment, a sedentary couch surfer might be seen to be leaping onto a moving stallion.

However, in the case of this Amazon KDP Select book promotion, my stallion never really left the stall. Here’s KDP Select in a nutshell, stolen from a post by CJ Lyons at Jane Friedman’s site: [2] “In exchange for giving Amazon exclusive use of a piece of digital content for 90 days, you receive five days (any five you choose) to make your digital content available for free, and you also get paid for any of your e-books that are lent through the Amazon Prime library.” (You will see in the Lyons post comments that the whole KDP Select process has fallen out of favor with authors as a solid promotional tack.)

However, the main point in this piece is not to dissect KDP Select, but to discuss the travails and treats (?) of book promotion in general, in a time when authors, even those thin-shouldered ones like me, must shoulder the book-peddling burden.

My Kingdom for a Review
My interest in using KDP wasn’t to later sell copies of that promoted novel, but indeed to induce some positive reviews, in the hopes that might promote, fiendish marketer I am, the sale of my short story collection, which had been published by a small press after my novel’s self-publication. People who had successfully used the KDP program had noted that it was often helpful in the selling of other works; you will see many authors sell a novel for .99 as a loss leader, while their other works are priced much higher.

And it’s not simply a matter of “either/or” in regards free or paid. Many self-published authors on Amazon and other venues commonly adjust the price of their work downward (including free) for promotional boost, and upward again to find a sweet spot where there are measured sales without a high-price deterrent.

I was quite successful in my promotion in NOT selling copies of the novel, as well as very successful in not getting reviews, and resoundingly not successful in getting new sales of the short story book. Broken down, the 5 days of free KDP promotion garnered 3,288 downloads.

[pullquote]I did get one review of the free novel: it was titled “Lame,” and its one-star designation says nothing happens in the book except some x-rated language.[/pullquote]

A month after my promo ended, I had 0 post-KDP sales of the novel. There was probably one sale of the short story book, maybe two. I did get one review of the free novel: it was titled “Lame,” and its one-star designation says nothing happens in the book except some x-rated language. Damn, I’m almost sure something happens, but I didn’t realize there was so much shitty language.

Looky at My Booky, Pretty Please?

The KDP Select giveaway for the novel took place almost a year after the short-story collection was released. I spent a fair amount of time prior to that (and prior to the book’s release) researching book promotion, mentioning the upcoming publication on my blog and contacting potential book reviewers a few months before that (and after). Some of the things I did:

I put together a landing page for the books with links out to Amazon and B&N:

http://www.tombentley.com/flowering-stories.php [3]

I implemented some (won’t break down specifically here) of the good pre-pub approaches in The Ultimate Book Marketing Master Spreadsheet:

http://www.lacbook.com/for-authors/book-marketing-plan-and-consulting/ [4]
 
Just prior to its release and for a couple of months afterward, I: