Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writer Wednesday: Marketing Results for Kindle Countdown Promotion

The Akasha Chronicles, by Natalie Wright
For this Writer Wednesday, I want to share with you the results for my recent five-day Kindle Countdown promotion. If you're like me, you don't have unlimited funds to spend on advertising. Most of us need to spend our marketing dollars wisely. So many sites make big promises and grand claims. But which book promotion sites work? What's worth the money?

I don't have definitive answers to these questions, and what works/doesn't work for me may work/not work for you. But I'll share what I've learned from a recent promo in the hopes that it will help you when deciding how to handle your next promotion. NOTE: I'm sharing my real numbers. Some of you may sell this many or more books regularly without a promotion. If so, kudos to you! But I'm guessing (based on statistics) that many of you reading this post will find that your sales are similar to mine. I'm also guessing that whatever your level of sales, you can extrapolate my results to estimate what your own experience may be by using these same services.

In this post I'll focus on my experience with the Kindle Countdown deal option available to KDP Select authors. My Akasha Chronicles boxed set is exclusive to Amazon so I have run my Countdown deals promos with this book. It's typically priced at $6.99 (already a great bargain for three books!), so discounting it to 99 cents is a serious discount.

I ran my first countdown deal in April. At that time I sold about sixty books in a five-day promo period. That was decent and more than I typically sell in a whole month (my sales are averaging about 20-30 books a month this year on Amazon without running promotions). At that time, I paid for a Kindle Nation Daily ad - I chose the KF-KND option. Based on my experience from April, I decided two things. First, it is better to have multiple 99 cent days rather than only a day then raise the price in increments. Second, the KF-KND option on Kindle Nation Daily wasn't a very good option (the add cost me $99 and raised less than $30).

For my recent Kindle Countdown deal, I decided to price the book at 99 cents for five straight days. I took a gamble and set the deal days to run over the July 4th holiday. I know that people buy, buy, buy books during the week from Christmas to New Year, but I had no idea if people would be interested in/paying attention to book deals over July 4th. But my experience with it, as I'll detail below, was pretty good and I'd promo again during that period of time in the future.

I went back to Kindle Nation Daily (KND) and paid for an ad to run on July 2. I chose the KDD option this time (check out their site to compare the options). The result? I had 91 sales that day and reached the top 20 on the Young Adult Fantasy/Science Fiction charts and broke into the top 2000 overall. Though the numbers were good, keep in mind that because the book was priced at 99 cents, I made about 57 cents per book, so the ad did not pay for itself. BUT, it boosted sales over the next two days during which I had no ads/promos running. So total sales from July 2-July 4 was 123 books and total earnings was $71. I came close to paying for the KND ad. It's possible that KND ad may result in more sales for books in a different genre, such as thriller/horror or romance (very popular genres for Kindle books). Overall I was happy with the results of the ad and it got my promo off to a good start. Bottom Line: I can recommend KND generally and the KDD option has worked best, for me, of any of the other options I've paid for in the past.

I also tried two new promo sites during may last Kindle Countdown deal. I'm not sure how I learned about Book Basset, but I checked it out and thought it looked like a good option. I paid $21.99 for a one-day featured author spot that occurred on July 5th. Result? I sold 53 books that day and earned about $30, so this add not only paid for itself but made me a little scratch. Bottom Line: I HIGHLY recommend Book Basset as an affordable option for promoting your free books or countdown deals. I will definitely use this one again.

The other promotion I paid for was Just Kindle Books. The fee was only $15 so I figured "Why not?" My promo ran on July 6. I sold 10 books that day. The results were not stellar, but I sold more books that day than the next two days of the deal without any promos. Bottom Line: Just Kindle Books is a cost-effective way to promote free books and countdown deals.

All in all, I am pleased with the results of my most recent Countdown Deal. I sold close to 200 books worldwide in five days. I stayed in the top 100 on the YA Fantasy/Sci Fi chart that entire period. The net financial result is that made $1.39 in excess of costs! So financially let's call it a break even. In the world of book marketing and promotion, a break even for promoting a steeply discounted book is a pretty good result. I'll take it.

But more important than the financial result, I got good exposure (and hopefully gained new fans of my work). As Hugh Howey and others have said, this is a marathon and not a sprint. We need to look more to the long-term than day-to-day results. So discounting a book and getting exposure is a good thing and one that is not easily quantified. (But seeing yourself hit the top of a chart is just plain fun!)

I plan to do another Kindle Countdown deal in the week between Christmas and New Year. I'll likely try a few new things again as well as go back to what worked this time. I'll keep you posted.

How about you? Have you done Kindle Countdown deals? What has worked for you to promote your deal? What hasn't worked well?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Sci Fi Friday: Newtonian Rap, Neil deGrasse Tyson and a Giveaway!

On Fridays I usually post a story culled from the news about technology that sounds sci fi but isn't. But today I have to pass along this bit of sciencey silliness. Each time I watch this it makes me chortle. I especially like the Neil deGrasse Tyson assist toward the end. Enjoy!

So who do you think won? If I reach ten comments on this post, I'll give away a digital copy of one of my book's to one of the commenters (picked randomly). So if you want to win a book, include your e-mail address in your comment so I can e-mail the winner :-)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Writer Wednesday: 3 Masters Speak About Show, Don't Tell

In search of inspiration for today's Writer Wednesday post, I opened my "Little Black Book of Writers' Wisdom" and don't you know it opened to a page of quotes that artfully and succinctly address the matter at the heart of excellent writing.

Show, don't tell.

I first heard the phrase at my first writer's conference back in the summer of 2009. I admit that I hadn't a clue what the phrase meant. And though I heard it repeatedly over the years, it seemed that people had a difficult time explaining what it meant.

Now that I've completed three novels and penned a fourth in draft, I've come to understand the phrase "show, don't tell." That's not to say that I never slip into telling. It's just less frequent now and on revision I *most of the time* catch it.

Showing not telling is such a vital requirement to writing a story well that I've chosen three quotes today to get the conversation going. First, from Anton Chekhov, a lovely example that explains the phrase perfectly:
"Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass." - Anton Chekhov
Have you ever heard a more perfect example of show? The "glint of light on broken glass." So many of us writers would have a tendency to say, "The moon was shining." Flat, passive and a tell, not a show. A more adept writer may say, "The moon shone on the glass." Better, but still fairly simple and uninteresting.

With attention to craft, a master such as Chekhov comes up with "the glint" on "broken glass." In just a few words, he shows us so much. The choice of words matter. Showing matters. And it's the difference between a novice and a master of craft. Do this in every sentence for an entire novel and you'll writer a novel that readers are excited to read.

But wait, here's another one to hit the point home.
"Don't say the old lady screamed. Bring her on and let her scream." - Mark Twain
Sometimes we talk about "on camera" and "off camera." Novice writers often "tell" us what happened "off camera" rather than bringing it "on camera" and showing the reader the action. I'm guilty of that. And it's a writing style that can quickly bore the shit out of the reader rather than engage the reader.

Anyone call "tell" stories (even your Uncle Fred who rambles on and on at family get-togethers). Anyone cal tell, but it takes practice, failure, re-writing, writing, and more practice to learn how to "show" a story (and if everyone could do it, then even your Uncle Fred would be a best-selling author). If the action is worth mentioning, considering putting it "on camera" rather than telling the reader what happened off camera.

The last quote today (remember I promised your three) is from E.L. Doctorow:
"Good writing it supposed to evoke sensation in the reader - not the fact that it is raining, but the feeling of being rained upon." - E.L. Doctorow
Take a moment to let that sink in.
". . . the feeling of being rained upon."
What does it feel like to rained upon? And when he speaks of feeling, does he refer solely to the physical sensation of rain upon the body? Or is there an internal emotion that arises upon being rained upon? Take a moment to consider how you can show both a physical feeling and an emotional response of a character in reaction to an event.

Have you even read a poem or a part of a novel that made you feel as if you lived what the character(s) experienced? If you have, chances are that the writer did a great job of showing rather than telling. The writer made you feel the rain. Wasn't it wonderful?

Have you found it difficult to see in your own writing when you tell rather than show? Do you think there are times when it's okay to tell rather than show? Do you have a quote or example of show, don't tell?