Mark Young is stopping by to talk with us about a program offered by Amazon. He was a police officer in California for twenty-six years; an award-winning journalist in the San Francisco bay area; and a Vietnam veteran. Today he writes about fictional characters who relentlessly drag him into their own tumultuous worlds.
Welcome, Mark! What can you tell us authors about KDP Select?
We struggle to stand out from the crowd in this highly competitive world of publishing. New writers strive to get their book in front of readers for the first time. After all, we reason, if readers can be enticed to taste our writing sample, they will be caught up in our world of fiction. The rest will take care of itself. Right? Hmmm.
Along comes a program that promises to get your book out in front of the pack. To freely promote it for up to five days if you will sign up for a three-month deal giving Amazon exclusive rights to sell your eBook. For that period of time, you must take your eBook off the digital shelves of all other publishers.
Is it worth it?
Answer: It depends.
If you are one of the lucky few who have a contract with a traditional publisher, and that company is willing to work to actively promote your books, then the answer is, “probably not.”
If you are an indie author with a developed readership base that generates good income, then the answer is, “probably not.”
However, if you’re like me, indie author trying to develop a readership beyond the scope of Kinko’s publishing, then the answer is a hearty, ear-shattering “Maybe!” Okay, you can see I am somewhat conflicted here. Right now, I’m staying with the KDP Select program for the near future. On January 8, 2013, I will pull out. I think the program has served its purpose for me.
Let’s turn the clock back seven years. I struggled to get my novels police procedurals and thrillers without profanity, explicit sex, and limited violence before acquisition editors in both the CBA and ABA markets. A few editors took my novels before their respective committees, but I could never get past that point. Thoroughly discouraged, I kept writing and submitting for five years without success. Then, three novels later, I began reading about other indie authors enjoying success getting their works out there without the help of traditional publishers. I felt I had little to lose.
In early 2011, I came out with my first novel, Revenge, as an eBook, published through Amazon’s KDP program, Barnes & Nobel (BN), Smashwords and other publishing platforms. I offered a print version through Amazon’s CreateSpace, but my main focus was on selling eBooks because I believed it to be the wave of the future. I wanted in on the ground floor. Later that year, I came out with my second novel, Off the Grid.
Sales for both novels surged right after each release, and then began to taper off. I mean, REALLY taper off. For example, in June 2011, between the release of my first and second novel, I sold only one book. I started to think maybe I’d made a mistake. When my second book came out six months later, sales started to climb, but I was only selling between twenty and forty books a month between the two novels. I heard, and I am beginning to believe, that with each book you add to your stable of novels, sales will rise exponentially in the eBook trade. Once on the digital shelf, they are there for life. They don’t disappear once sales start to slack. But still, I would have to write a lot of novels to ever make a decent income. I settled down for the long haul and continued to write.
In late 2011, I began to hear whispers about the KDP Select Program and decided to give it a whirl eight months ago. I was totally unprepared when the publishing tsunami hit.
In February 2012, I gave away 48,344 copies of both novels, and sold 6,765 copies. My novels rose to Amazon’s Top 100 Free list, reaching a #1 ranking, and both novels landed on the midlist of Amazon’s Top 100 Best Selling list. One novel remained there for about four days, and the other for two days. In addition, Revenge ranked between #1-15 on Amazon’s Top Mystery, right up there with some of my favorites like Michael Connelly, John Lescroart and Tess Gerritsen, throughout most of February. Off the Grid did similarly well in the Thriller genre against such authors as Lee Childs and David Baldacci.
As of a month ago, more than 80,000 copies have been downloaded by readers, combining the total number of free and purchased copies. Now that might not roll James Patterson’s socks up and down, but to an indie author like myself this equates to one word, Wow! And, hopefully, it inspire writers like myself to persevere.
Now, let me finish before you all run out and sign up for KDP Select. In March, Amazon must have changed their internal matrix system and all these numbers starting plummeting. Between March and June, I ran two more two-day promos, but I never enjoyed near the success. The novels did reach the Top 100 free list and bestseller the second go around, but only one reached the Top 100 Bestseller list after the third promo. Based upon these results, I removed both novels from the program and returned them to all the other platforms. Gone were the dreams of stellar sales and a fat bank account.
Though Amazon sales sagged, they still registered twice as many books each month as before the Select program, while BN and the other programs performed dismally. Regardless, I determined to stay away from the Select program indefinitely to see if I might build a broader base of readers. Then, a month ago, Amazon came up with a new ranking program on its Authors Central site. This is a web page where authors can promote their books, interact with readers, and display all their books in one place on Amazon. Amazon created a special ranking page where authors can see exactly where their books stand among all the others. My two novels are ranked in the following categories: All Books; then segregated between eBooks and print books; then further segregated by subgenres of Thriller, Mystery, Police Procedurals and so forth.
Before this new ranking program, an author had no idea how their novels were doing once they slipped off the Top 100 of whatever list they might be on. Now, Amazon shows you exactly where your novel ranks with just a few clicks, no matter how high or low your ranking might be. It also shows you over a year’s period of time how well your novel is doing. It was this new perspective that changed my mind.
I saw prior to the KDP Select program how little I sold, and I was able to chart the numbers since, including rankings. Based on what I saw, I went back and re-upped. This new contract will carry me through the holidays and hopefully connect me with all those customers waiting to test drive their new Kindle Fire tablets and all the re-vamped readers.
To this point, KDP Select is working for me. It has put my novels in the hands of more than 80,000 reader since I published with Amazon, beyond any numbers BN, Kobo or any others publishing platform could offer. For me, these numbers are staggering. This might all change tomorrow.
One last word about KDP. Authors need to look down the road beyond tomorrow. Exclusivity has never worked well in any market, including publishing, in my opinion. I hope to build a long-term relationship with many outlets and many companies. That means that Amazon must stand with the others, unless, of course, they offer me a Thomas & Mercer contract, then I’d reconsider. See! Everything changes.
Is KDP Select right for you? Only you can decide.
You may visit Mark at his two blog sites:
Mark Young, where he writes arresting fiction, one character at time
Hook’em & Book’em, where mystery readers, writers and law enforcement connect.