Seduced by the Dark Side: Amazon Select
Although I’ve run home businesses in the past (childcare, piano teacher and housecleaning) and I do my own taxes and manage to balance my checkbook every month, I’m not really a numbers-crunching kind of girl. However, it didn’t take an accountant for me to see two things with regards to my self-publishing venture:
1. My books didn’t sell nearly as well at any other venue as they did at Amazon
2. Trust No One, which never had been in Select didn’t sell nearly as well as The Good Daughter which had been in Select the first three months of its publication.
Now, I can state with some confidence that the only certainty in publishing is that the experience for each author is different. I belong to a couple of fabulous indie groups and there have been authors who sell loads of book on Barnes and Noble or iTunes. Not me.
With iTunes I had 3 sales in 6 months and 1 on Sony. None on Smashwords except for about 50 with free coupon downloads I’d generated and given away. I never uploaded to Kobo because by the time authors could upload directly, I’d already begun considering going back to Select. Granted, it took me a long time to decide. I’m not the world’s fastest decision-maker and giving books away seemed so anti-profit. However, I eventually came around and here’s why.
At Barnes and Noble I often sold less than one a day-for both books. There were two times I had good sales with The Good Daughter on Barnes and Noble. One was when I joined a Beach Book Blast sale with the WG2E group and lowered the price to 99 cents and the second time was when Vanessa Kelly with Love Rocks reviewed The Good Daughter. Numbers respectively for those exceptions were 149 sales at 99 cents and 94 sales for the Love Rocks review.
Whereas on Amazon, The Good Daughter had been in Select the first three months and by the third month I was averaging 3 sales a day-I know, not great, but not nothing either. I dropped Select after the first three months because so many authors recommended not upsetting readers by limiting yourself to Amazon and so I needed my book available everywhere, right? Plus, my run in Select was not doing as well as some other books. I think now it’s because I didn’t know much about categories and I had The Good Daughter in the wrong categories. Regardless, it's always been my best seller on Amazon and I’m leaning toward thinking it’s because it did have a brief run in Select.
The big puzzle to me, though, was that Trust No One didn’t do well on Barnes and Noble or Amazon either. Why? It’s possible I had it priced too high at $4.99, but dang, it was over 400 pages long and it was my Golden Heart® final book. It’s also possible it never found an audience, at least on Amazon, because it had never been in Select. Granted, when I lowered the price to $2.99 it sold better, maybe one a day as opposed to 2 or 3 a week, but still it was way behind The Good Daughter in spite of significant advertising dollars and time spent promoting, too.
I’ve watched friends who stayed in Select who put other books in and learned how to work Select and their books are doing much better than mine in terms of ranking. And the big advantage is they’ve had time to write more books while I've been spending time (and a lot of money) learning promotion and doing everything I could to find a magic formula to sell these books. It was a huge learning curve, and at least I have an idea now of what works and what doesn’t. But I want to spend next year writing new books instead of promotion.
As for promotion, there is also a lot more geared toward Amazon, although that is starting to change. Still, very few promos geared to Barnes and Noble has as good of results as those aimed at Amazon. At least not yet.
And one last thing I considered about Select-The Good Daughter received more reviews while it was in Select. It has 26 reviews now, while Trust No One just has 7. It’s harder to even buy promotion with only 7 reviews.
Yes, I know there’s no guarantee that Trust No One will do well in Select, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to try it at least for a run or two. I’m not losing much by pulling either one from the other sites. And hopefully I’m gaining something very important to me-new readers and time to write!
I have already had a two day free run with The Good Daughter over Christmas while I was waiting for Trust No One to unpublish from some other sites. It was a hastily put together promo with 12 other authors, no big sites picked it up although a few smaller sites did. It had 3688 downloads in the US and hundreds across the European markets and made #166 overall free in the US store which is better than it’d done before. After 3 days the sales back to paid, its ranking was in the low #4000s. Plus Trust No One got a bump and its sales ranking is in the #9,000s. It had been living in the 100,000s. So already in a few days I’ve sold more of Trust No One on Amazon than I sold in an average month on Barnes and Noble with both books.
Below are some numbers I used to compare the books on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
THE GOOD DAUGHTER:
First three months published on Amazon (Select):
US Amazon: 240
UK Amazon: 12
Free: 3796 (over 5 days)
Free UK: 297
TRUST NO ONE:
First three months published on Amazon (No Select):
US Amazon: 118
UK Amazon: 6
THE GOOD DAUGHTER:
First three months on Barnes and Noble
BN: 170 (includes one month price at 99 cents and it sold 149; the next month dropped back to 26)
TRUST NO ONE:
First three months on Barnes and Noble:
Below are numbers for both books during a time when both were published.
THE GOOD DAUGHTER: June – November
US Amazon: 1338 (this includes a 99 cent Ereader News Today paid promo)
UK Amazon: 440 (ditto ENT)
BN: 325 (includes the 99 cent special and Love Rocks column)
TRUST NO ONE: June-November
US Amazon: 190
UK Amazon: 35
So last thought-my whole viewpoint has shifted. I don’t look at it as giving my books away for free, but rather investing in promotion to reach a worldwide audience. And for a while I’ll be keeping my pricing at $2.99 instead of $3.99 and $4.99. Granted, they’re big books and size-wise are worth a higher price which is still substantially less than traditionally published ebooks of the same length. However, by keeping the price at $2.99 for a while, I’m hoping to lure more readers into taking a chance on an unknown author.
Yes, to many, I know Amazon is the Darth Vader of the book world. And yes, I’m aware there are dire predictions that the ‘Zon has plans to turn us indies over to the evil emperor to be destroyed. I get that, I do. But nothing’s saying I have to stay in Select. If it doesn’t work, I simply won’t renew. While nothing’s guaranteed, I’m hoping this is a solid plan for now.
So that’s my new strategy for this year. Questions? Comments? I’m no expert, but I’ll do my best to answer.
Native small town Texan Diana Layne is a homeschooling mom of six kids who grew up riding horses and motorcycles, practicing the piano and reading every chance she could. As an only child she kept herself entertained with imaginary playmates and now writes romantic suspense thrillers and historical romances. Her book The Good Daughter (Vista Security prequel) is a 2012 RT Book Review Reviewer's Choice Award Nominee for indie press/self-published contemporary romance, while Trust No One (Vista Security Book 1) was an RWA® Golden Heart® nominee. You can find Diana at www.dianalayne.com (along with all the social media stuff) and www.rubyslipperedsisterhood.com