My KDP Select Experiment

Whew! My HIGH Blog Tour is over. So was it worth it? Well, all I can say is I’m glad I did it. I’ll write another post about the experience another time. For now, I’d like to write about my experience with KDP Select.

I’m sure that most of you are familiar with KDP Select. If you’re not, it’s basically a program for writers that Amazon launched not too long ago. It gives writers the opportunity to list their eBook for FREE for five days within a 90-day period—but they have to agree to sell their enrolled book(s) exclusively only through Amazon.  Some people don’t like this exclusivity, others don’t mind it. After researching online and reading success stories from other authors who have used KDP Select, I decided to do my own experiment and enrolled HIGH in the program in January of this year.

The Advantages of KDP Select 

I’m a new author. Aside from my blog followers, my family and close friends, no one else knew about my novel, HIGH. Other authors have said that giving away their books for free for one day, two days or even five days, have helped increase their sales later.

I wanted more sales. Most of all, I wanted more readers. So as much as it made my family cringe knowing I was about to give away my book for FREE—I went ahead and did it, and hoped for good—if not great results.

My First Try

A lot of the articles I read suggested that a two-day promo was better than one. But for some reason, I couldn’t do it. I was too nervous about the FREE promotion that I decided to try it for one day.

I picked February 20th, a Wednesday. I set my alarm for 7:30 a.m., and by 8 a.m., I checked to see how many units were “sold”. I was hoping for maybe ten or twenty. My eyes grew big when I saw: 192. When I checked amazon.com, I was completely surprised to see this:
1_Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 4.54.56 PM
I checked my status obsessively throughout the day, and I must say the experience was exhilarating.

By 10:30 p.m. I “sold” 740 units! This was my ranking at the end of the day:
2_Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 4.55.33 PM

For a first try, I thought this wasn’t bad at all.

The next day, I waited to see if my sales would improve. It didn’t.

My Second Try

I decided to do the FREE promo again for HIGH, this time on February 23, which was a Saturday.

By 2:30 p.m., this was my ranking:
3_Screen shot 2013-03-03 at 5.04.18 PM

At the end of the day, I was pleased to see a total of 1644 units “sold”. When I checked Amazon, I was thrilled to see this:
2:23:13 11 pm

The Results:
After my second experiment with KDP Select, I began receiving more reviews on amazon.com. I also noticed that my sales improved—not by a whole lot, but it was definitely better than before.

So would I do it again? Sure. The most important thing for me right now is to gain new readers. KDP Select has helped me do that. HIGH is now in the hands of  2,384 new readers. I think that’s pretty fantastic.

There are other perks to enrolling in KDP Select. Click here to learn more.

Have you tried KDP Select? How was your experience? Would you recommend it to other new authors? 

Why We Need Beta Readers and Editors

I recently mentioned to a friend that I was self-publishing my first book this November as an e-book, as well as a printed book. I told him that after I edit on my own, I will be passing my manuscript to beta readers, possibly a proofreader and after that, edit it again and then it goes to an editor.

To which he replied: “The editing process is never ending anyway. With the technology now with e-books, why don’t you just eliminate the beta readers and editors and publish your book now and get the readers out there to give their feedback and then revise your book again based on the feedback you get, and then publish it again.

My head spun a little.  So I said, “What do you mean? Revise my book again, even after I’ve already published it?” A bit confused, I added, “Why would I want to do that?”

He said, “Yes, keep revising the same book and publishing it over and over based on the feedback you get from readers.”

I asked, “The same book?”

“Yes, the same book. The one you have now,” he confirmed.

My head spun again. “You mean, just print what I have now and let the readers read and judge it without having beta readers read it first?”

He said, “Yes.”

I said, “But once my book is published—that’s it. I’d like to be done with it so I can move on and start writing other stories. Why would I want to keep revising the same book and publishing it over and over again?”

Completely nonplussed, I asked my friend what the advantages are of doing it the way he’s suggesting. To be honest, I don’t even remember what he said because it probably didn’t make sense to me.

For me, it almost sounds like he’s saying:
“Why don’t you rush and publish your book now, even if you’re not satisfied with it and it hasn’t been read by others who can help you polish it. Who cares? You’ll get feedback from readers outside anyway. You can use the feedback to keep revising and keep publishing THE SAME book, over and over again.

To me, it also sounds like: Why don’t you just put a product out there that hasn’t been tested? Who cares if it doesn’t work? You can keep revising the product anyway?

But wouldn’t I be setting myself up for failure by doing it that way?

First of all, why would I risk my reputation as a first time author and publish a book that’s not polished? Just to get it out there because I can keep revising it anyway? It doesn’t make sense. Also, what happens to the printed pieces?

After researching, reading articles and posts from other writers over the last 6 months on self-publishing and e-books, and seeing the results of self-published authors, my friend’s comment didn’t make any sense to me. I can think of a hundred reasons why I do not think his idea is a good idea. For one, beta readers are there to help you. They will read your book and critique it and give you helpful feedback. If I rushed and published my book now and eliminated the beta readers and editors, I would probably get feedback, but none of which would tell me if I made a typo on page 40 and 180, or that I should rewrite a sentence or a paragraph because something is missing, etcetera. Regular readers won’t give the same feedback. They will give general feedback, but won’t go into specifics like beta readers and editors do.

There are many reasons why a lot of e-books fail and why some succeed. I’ve read a number of posts from self-published writers who all give the same advice:

  1. First, write a good book.
  2. Get people you trust who aren’t family to read it and give you honest feedback (example: beta readers) before you publish.
  3. Hire an editor.
  4. Create a great book cover.
  5. Have a marketing plan.
  6. Know your target audience.

I’m sure my friend meant well. Maybe all he was trying to say was take advantage of technology. But even then, some of the things he suggested didn’t make sense.

At the end of the day, I am still sticking to my plan. My manuscript will still be going to beta readers. I personally believe that having them read it and critique it will help me polish my book before it gets published.

Here are links to some posts that I’ve recently read on self-publishing and why beta readers are important:

http://crimefictioncollective.blogspot.ca/2012/08/three-mistakes-you-dont-want-to-make.html

http://jennymherrera.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/four-reasons-why-you-need-beta-readers/

http://saraflower.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/beta-readers/

What do think? Eliminate beta readers? Rush and publish and keep revising and publishing the same book over and over again?

An Interview with Author, Stephen Clarke

I am pleased to announce that today’s post will feature my interview with the witty and funny author, Stephen Clarke. If you’re not yet familiar with Stephen and his books, this is the time to get to know him. I promise you that by the end of this interview, you will probably find yourself reading his website and purchasing his books.

I met Stephen briefly at the Paris Writers Workshop I attended last month. He spoke during the lecture on Literary Trends: Self-publishing and E-books. The panel consisted of a few self-published authors who shared their stories of how they got published. Each story was unique and eye-opening. Stephen’s in particular, amused me, made me laugh, and of course—inspired me.

What’s so inspiring about Stephen’s story was how he used his determination, his creativity and his sense of humor to reach his goals. He went from being self-published to selling his books to a publisher. It goes to show that as long as you keep going, keep believing and keep writing—you too, can get there.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is my interview with author, Stephen Clarke.

During the Paris Writers Workshop, you mentioned how you initially self-published and sold your books in a trolley around town. Tell us a little bit more about that experience.
SC: It was very liberating. I was told by several professionals in the book trade that my novel, A Year in the Merde wasn’t worth publishing. So I did it myself, the old way, that is, by finding a printer, a cover designer, and getting the software to lay out the pages. I was then free to do whatever I wanted, so I had fun with the blurbs, doing collages for the cover, adding fake endorsements, even the copyright disclaimer had jokes in it. I got 200 copies printed up, but I decided not to let anyone know I was self-publishing, so I invented a fake publisher called Red Garage Books and claimed that “we” (it was never clear who “we” were) had discovered this great unknown called Paul West, who’d written the all-true exposé of life in a big French company and couldn’t reveal his identity for fear of being fired or assaulted. I then started trying to sell the books door to door in English-language bookshops, and sold almost no copies at all until I got a mention in a freebie newspaper, after which suddenly I was getting 100 orders a day. I then sold the rights to a “real” publisher, who clearly thought the book was worth publishing after all. That’s a very brief resumé. What I remember most is six months or so of solid work (that’s after the novel was finished), a lot of panic, several troughs of despair, and a hell of a lot of fun.

With the recent success of e-books, should writers still consider traditional publishing first?
SC: It’s entirely up to the writer. Obviously e-books are a lot less difficult to publish and ship, but you miss out on being able to hawk them to bookshops, so I don’t know. If you want an instant world market and know how to use the social networks, I’d say go for e-books. In any case, Americans seem to have forgotten how to turn the pages of actual paper novels, and the rest of us won’t be far behind because we always end up following the American lead in technology. I’m sure my iphone will soon have a real-book detector fitted, and if it smells paper pages nearby it will refuse to turn itself on.

What advice can you give writers who have been rejected by Literary Agents?
SC: Either find another one, or don’t – it’s a very personal relationship, a bit like finding a sexual partner. Someone might think you’re cute but hate your smell. The same goes for agents, except your idea is the cuteness and your style the smell. Just because one or more says no, it doesn’t mean they all will. On the other hand, there are those who prefer to do without…

What advice can you give writers who have self-published but are struggling with book sales?
SC: Look for niche markets. If your book is about French blue cheese, make sure you’ve sent emails to every magazine, website, club and trade union dealing with France, cheese and blue things. You have to plug yourself non-stop. I still do this. Any time there is any friction at all between France and the Anglos, I will tweet about it, and any journalists interested in my opinion on the subject will get an interview. You have to be a blatant self-publicist, even if you’re doing OK.

What do you think makes a good story?
SC: Absolutely anything that grabs readers’ attention. The same story told by two different people will be as different as Shakespeare and Barbara Cartland. You have to make sure that your version is gripping.

What do you think makes a good writer?
SC: The ability to finish writing their book. And the voice. You have to find your own voice, your very own, personal way of narrating.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
SC: I am re-reading an excellent comedy novel called The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, by David Nobbs, and have just finished Robert Harris’s latest, The Fear Index. Though I prefer his historical stuff.

What is your favorite thing about being a writer?
SC: Giving readings and seeing people laugh.

Thank you Stephen for letting me interview you. It was a lot of fun.

Stephen’s book, 1,000 Years of Annoying the French is #1 at the Amazon.co.uk’s French History chart.

To purchase Stephen’s books, please visit his website or go to Amazon.com.

Look for Stephen on Twitter: sclarkewriter

E-books and Publishing

E-books, self-publishing and traditional publishing have been topics I’ve touched on a lot on my blog. I think as a writer who is “waiting” to get published, I’ve slightly become obsessed with hearing about experiences from other writers of how they got published, whether if it’s through a traditional publisher or not. I guess part of why I am so curious is because I am trying to decide which route to take, once my first novel is edited and ready.

If you’ve written a story and queried a few agents, got signed and not long after, got published—congratulations.

But if you are one of those who have been rejected many times, but still have stories brewing in your heads and you still keep writing books, I say, don’t ever give up. You are a writer and you will get published.

I’m sure you’ve all heard about the e-book millionaire, Amanda Hocking. What I find so inspiring about Amanda’s success story is the fact that despite being rejected by many publishers she didn’t give up. She almost did. But something inside of her told her that she had to try again. Good for her. Now she has a huge following and her stories are read all over the world, and she is only in her mid-twenties. During one of her interviews, she mentioned that she told herself she would get published by the time she was 26, and she was right. But it’s not about getting published at 26. It’s more about setting a goal and owning it. She set a goal, owned it and believed in it, and she succeeded. She didn’t let the agents and publishers decide her fate as a writer.

So how did she do it? Why are her stories selling so well, despite what publishers thought, and why are other e-books not as successful?

This is what I think: Amanda captured a huge audience the moment she published her first book and she sold them at the lowest price, knowing that she would write trilogies. She knew that charging less for the first one of each series would encourage the reader to buy it and decide whether or not they’d want to pay more and keep reading the rest of the stories. Turns out, they liked it so much that they continued buying her books. They wanted more, so she wrote more and she just kept going.

But not all genres can have trilogies and not all genres have an audience as big as hers.

No problem. We’re not all trying to be like Amanda Hocking. But we do want to be successful in whatever genre we write. So what do we do to have successful e-books?

Based on the things I’ve learned recently, especially from the workshop I attended a few weeks ago, here are a few things to consider before self-publishing:

  1. Don’t rush. If your book is not ready, don’t publish it.
  2. Edit, edit, edit before publishing.
  3. No matter what, unless you’re a Graphic Designer, DO NOT design your own book cover. Unfortunately, people do judge a book by its cover, and if it doesn’t look professional, they may not buy it.
  4. Advertise 6 months before publishing.
  5. Self-publishing means you do all the work. Advertising is part of your job.
  6. Make sure you have a platform. Knowing that you have followers before you publish helps you sell your books later.
  7. Even though self-publishing means you do all the work, you can still ask for help or hire professionals to help you edit your work, design your book cover, etcetera. Remember, this book represents you.
  8. Know your audience and market to them.
  9. Network.
  10. Keep writing. Write and publish a book every year. You want your readers to keep buying and supporting your books.

It’s a good feeling to know that getting published no longer means it’s only up to “them”. With the options we now have out there—it’s really up to us to decide when we get published.

Best of luck.