Monday, October 28, 2013

Kindle Direct Publishing Select Free Days. Read this First!


There are thousands of readers out there who will pay for your books but many of them will barely look at your novel without a sign it's worth paying for. Especially if you are a new author and without a huge following. 
One way to help get sales is to offer your novel free. This generates free ‘sales’ and looks good on paper, even if you don’t see money for those downloads. And, if you’re in this for the money, I feel kind of badly for you right now. (Imagine me patting your back and handing you tissues) I have done KDP Select free days about 10 times now and feel like a bit of a Select Amazon expert.
Amazon Headquarters in Seattle

For free days, I upload a version of my book that includes a note after THE END to ask if the reader sees fit to review, the author would really appreciate it.
In the days after free days, sales escalate. So do the reviews a week or two later. The ranking looks much better approximately two days later. Don’t freak the morning after free days when your book is 164,000 in rank. It’ll decrease as the day goes on.  Soon after, you’ll get reviews. Many of the reviews that follow your promotion will start out like this “I wasn’t sure what to expect but …”
Why do they expect so little? Because it was FREE! The expectation is less than if the reader paid $12.99 for an e-book download. It’s no wonder some of the best books don’t have all 5 star reviews.  Novel readers want their moneys' worth. I have yet to read Gone Girl because of the cost. Just sayin’. Oh and now it's going to be a movie, without my help.
                                                              Gone Girl Cast Announced

 If you have lots of reviews that are above 4 stars, you'll get more real sales eventually. This is fact. The readers who don't subscribe to free day lists on a daily or weekly basis will jump on board to buy the book when they see more reviews. Books with 200 reviews and over a 4.7* rating are more likely to catch on than 6 reviews and a 3.2* average. Do some hopping around on Amazon, and check out Safe Haven, Sins and Needles and Warm Bodies. I use those three because my novel was lumped in with them and I spent weeks/months watching. Two were movies and one was a breakout series that came out boom, boom, boom and caught on like wildfire.

I'm a stat watcher. I watch my stats daily, sometimes three or four times a day. When things are going well with a book, I’ve been known to wake up in the middle of the night and check stats. By stats, I mean ranking, not sales. It’s not necessary to check my sales if I’m looking at ranking on the Amazon list. Ranking reflects sales. Another thing I do is keep track of books that were published the same week as me. I love to reflect on how their sales are better than mine. From this obsessive activity, I’ve learned a lot. Here’s some of what I know to be true. The ranking is directly related to sales and sales are affected by :

1. 'NY Times Bestseller' at the top of the cover, or something similar
2. Lots of good reviews – Over 100 is good, Over 300 is better
3. Amazon Ranking (or Kobo etc) Less than 10,000 in Kindle books is great

The above indicators help a reader to avoid paying for a clunker. And there are a lot of poorly written books out there right now, with self pubbing at an all-time high.

4. Whether you have the power of a publisher or NY publishing house behind you.
5. Whether it's a series, or not. Series are BIG!!
6. COVER! Non-pro covers are overlooked on a regular basis. Pay the $200.
7. Whether the author has a following. If this book is the third of a series, the sales should be better than a first one with no second published.
8. Ads, marketing, word of mouth, BUZZ!
9. If you love ranking, find a rare category and boast that you are top ten in psychic romance. Sure it might be Romance, Suspense, time travel, werewolf, psychics but you’re top ten!

I watched Safe Haven rise to the top of the lists this year. And stay there. For a long time. Yes, Nicolas Sparks has a huge following. Look at the list above and the only one not used was #5, the series, and instead of that he had a movie with Julianne Hough and Josh Duhamel.

I also watched a novel (comparable to mine) rise to a USA bestseller in the last ten months. The author did free days with me, right after we both published late December 2012, both of our books did well, then she published the second and third in the series within two or three months of each other and her rise to stardom was imminent. The writing is pretty clean for a self- pubbed author, the cover is hauntingly compelling and she has over 200 reviews on each of the 3 books. Ta Da! She went free several times with the first one to get her stats up, published the second, went free to get those stats up and the rest is history. What this author did with her high concept romantic suspense novel that I did not do, was release 3 in one year, had a pro cover to start with, and who knows what else. I'm still watching her... Not that The Dream Jumper’s Promise was left in the dust. It’s done well for itself. Especially for a first novel, but without a second in the series to keep the readers engaged, I lagged behind.
And so, dear readers, these are my observations. I’m a huge fan of Free Days. And of marketing those days to the absolute max. When my thriller, Necessary Detour, went free over Valentine’s Day in 2012, with The Wild Rose Press, I had 42 ads out there to announce the deal. Some were free to me, some cost a few dollars. None cost over $20.  I got 35,000 downloads in 5 days and made almost $2,000 in the following month in royalties as well as landing #42 in Author ranking, above some very heavy hitters. That was a month to remember.

If you decide to do KDP and take advantage of the 5 Free days, here’s my gift to you. 

Do 3 of your 5 days at the beginning of the 90 days, and do 2 days, 60 days in. To advertise, log on  to see 20-30 sites that will advertise for your free days at little or no cost. Then sit back and watch. 
You’re welcome.


Kim Hornsby is the  author of KDP Free Days, a cheap eBook on Amazon that elaborates on how to get the most out of your Select Free days.
She's also the Amazon Best Selling Author of Necessary Detour and The Dream Jumper's Promise. He highest ranking as of November 10, is The Husband Hunt, a perma free short story that reads like watching a series of THE BACHELOR.


Monday, October 14, 2013

Writing Romance is Harder Than it Reads!

Ever read a romance novel and think "I could write this stuff!" Well you can't. Not without years of hard work, training and tears. For those of you who have the know-how, (and I don't mean the personal romance know-how) and the education, this doesn't mean you. I'm talking to the people who poo poo the genre and say it is easy to write a romance. If it were, wouldn't everyone do it?
If a romance author let you think you could do it without a degree in creative writing, or at the very least classes and workshops on novel writing, they are probably one fine writer. Making the story flow, making you feel you are a part of the story and can write like that if you tried, is the sign of a good writer. It might look simple, but it is not.
Thank God I didn't know this before I started my first novel. I said those above fated words while reading a Susan Wiggs romance one summer. It seemed to me that there was nothing to thinking up a compelling story and then just typing it out. No offence to the author but sheesh, just write a handsome man, a woman the reader would care about, a nice setting, story and BINGO! Publication.
I was so confident, I started writing in the fall and had a spring power outfit hanging in my closet for an inevitable meeting with my editor in New York.
In some ways it's wonderful to be so confident. I'd just been on a family vacation in Canada, over the border from Eastern Washington, and decided to set this blockbuster hit on a lake, like the one we'd just been to. And then I started writing. And deleting. And writing. And deleting.
This wasn't my first novel, but it was my first romance. I'd already written a Women's Fiction that had been rejected by some of the finest agents and editors in NYC, so you see, I wasn't totally green. Just unpublished and uneducated about the process of novel writing. Aside from a few workshops on the Hero's Journey, I had no clue. I didn't even read romance but after reading Susan Wiggs' novels, I thought I might start.

Then I read somewhere that the second book doesn't usually sell. It's purpose is solely to babysit the dust bunnies under your bed, The third book was the one that would sell. Regardless, I finished the book, sent out a queries, and got rejected by some of the finest agents and editors, not only in NYC but all over this fine country. It was unanimous. No one wanted it. No one wanted the first thirty pages, let alone the full manuscript. Although I loved the high concept, no one else did. I'd written a story about a modern day Goldilocks and the Three Bears, something that apparently would sink like a lead hard copy, and I was told repeatedly that it was a bad idea. It had either been done to death or couldn't be done, I can't remember which.
That was bad news to me, who had a series all planned out with Red Riding Hood and Jack and the Beanstalk about modern day women who find themselves in similar circumstances to the nursery stories. The completed romance was titled Goldy and the Bayers, about a rock singer who suddenly retires and escapes the media by hiding out at her lake house, only to find herself spying on the family next door - the Bayers.
The completed manuscript collected dust for several years while I continued writing. I'd gotten too far in to quit now. I had thousands invested in Writers' Conferences and posit notes and felt I owed it to myself to prove that writing a book and getting it published was super simple! Dammit!
When I saw a call for Fairytale stories by Entangled Publishing, I ventured under the bed to get Goldy, and sent the pitch to several other publishers while I was at it.
Then I got a shovel, a pick ax, and a big garbage bag and started editing and cleaning up the first three chapters. When several publishers asked for the full, I smirked and told myself to dig out that Power Suit for NYC. Turned out I hadn't exactly written a romance. No siree. According to several agents who almost considered representing me at this point in my almost career, the story wasn't formulaic enough. Apparently there is a definite formula to follow for romance and I hadn't done that. In the first few pages my hero did not catch the protagonist when she fell off a ladder in her Daisy Dukes, his hand getting tangled in the jean rips, until they broke apart, embarrassed. I wasn't sure what the formula was, but when one of the queried editors suggested some easy changes to make it fit the formula, I gladly said yes and signed on the dotted line. Thank you Ally Robertson!
Writing romance is not easy. And it isn't just me who's had a hard time at this. Most writers will tell you that if you think it's easy, the joke is on you. Writing a romance (and a believable sex scene, while we're talking about it) takes a ton of skill and talent. It is not the walk in the park it looks to be and next time you read a novel that's as smooth as a piece of crustless cheesecake, think about the craft that goes into writing your entertainment.
How about it writers? Anyone ever heard that romance writing is easy?

Kim Hornsby is the author of Amazon Bestseller, Necessary Detour with The Wild Rose Press, originally named Goldy and the Bayers.