Kindle Select Tips

It was late after­noon yes­ter­day when I remembered that I’d signed up Déjà Vu for a one-day stint as a free­bie. This is pos­sible as part of Amazon’s Kindle Select pro­gramme. There isn’t a huge amount of data avail­able on this, so here are mine.

For the last three months or so, sales of Déjà Vu had been slow­ing (oh so tra­gic­ally, but you’ll hear no com­plaints from me about how well the book has done). In the UK, it’s March-May sales were 426, 124, and 96. For the US, those fig­ures are much smal­ler: 45, 21, and 26. The over­all sales stand at 9000 UK, 1487 US, totalling 10, 505 (the extra 18 come from Germany).

I’ve inter­preted these sales as show­ing suc­cess in the UK and, well, show­ing a lack of it in the US. One of the nice things is that 50% of the people who read Déjà Vu want to buy Flashback, even though it’s £1.20 more expens­ive.

By the time I remembered about the one-day free­bie, yes­ter­day, Déjà Vu had been ‘selling’ for a few hours in the US. At that point, 576 cop­ies had been moved in the US and only 126 in the UK. This puzzles me a little. Whereas the book doesn’t really sell in the US, there are more people ready to grab it for free. Perhaps, then, it is reas­on­ably attract­ive to the American con­sumer but not so attract­ive that they’re keen to pur­chase in large num­ber.

When I went to bed that even­ing, 2854 had moved in the US and 288 in the UK. This morn­ing, tot­ting up the final fig­ures, the US total was 5713 and the UK total 358. Déjà Vu reached at least num­ber four in both (free) sci­ence fic­tion charts each side of the Atlantic. With caveats, that sug­gests the US Kindle mar­ket is around ten times the size of the UK mar­ket.

Overall, then, I’d call it a suc­cess­ful pro­mo­tion. It’s worth bear­ing in mind that not many of those read­ers will read the book. Fewer still, maybe none, will post a review. The last pro­mo­tion I did was for Proper Job, my first — and per­haps last — com­edy nov­el. That shif­ted many free cop­ies but got no reviews.

How has the Déjà Vu pro­mo­tion impacted on sales? There’s a small effect. It might last a day or two.

I’ve sold 20 cop­ies in the US so far this month, and that com­pares with 26 cop­ies for all of May. Oh, and I see one refund! Flashback sales are up a bit to 5 cop­ies this month; last month it was 15.

In the UK, I’ve sold 25 cop­ies of Déjà Vu in June (cf. 95 last month) and 13 cop­ies of Flashback (cf. 73 last month).

For rank­ings, Déjà Vu is now at 1,997 in the UK, where­as pre­vi­ously it was float­ing around 10,000. It’s at 7,564 in the US, and has been hov­er­ing at 35,000 or so.

There are some stats I could prob­ably com­pute for the effect of the Kindle Select pro­mo­tion, but that would be overkill. Right now, I’d say it’s worth it, and the Kindle Select pro­gramme remains a great tool for authors pub­lish­ing on Amazon.

In terms of max­im­ising the bene­fit of the pro­mo­tion, you should — obvi­ously — try to get the word out on your social net­works without being too much of a tit about it. I try not to be a tit but my Twitter fol­low­ers could prob­ably tell you wheth­er or not I’m suc­ceed­ing. Yesterday, I was lucky that SF Signal retweeted a mes­sage about the pro­mo­tion to almost 7000 fol­low­ers, and I’d be will­ing to bet that con­trib­uted a great deal to the final US fig­ure of 5713.

I guess this is mar­ket­ing, but I prefer to think of it as let­ting people know about a book they might like. A Tweet is a tran­si­ent thing. I’m no fan of spam, and I don’t do news­let­ters.

Well, peeps, there’re the data. Not sure wheth­er they gen­er­al­ise, but there they are.

★ Is the Kindle Store 1000 Times Better Than Apple’s iBooks and Smashwords?

Probably not.

But the data for sales of my nov­el, Déjà Vu, which I’ve pub­lished on the Kindle, iBooks and Smashwords, point to a sales ratio of about 1000:1.

Kindle Sales

Déjà Vu unit sales per month, begin­ning in March, are: 320, 938, 915, 738, 844, 643 and 581.

Smashwords (this includes Barnes and Noble, and a billion other ebook stores)

For the same peri­od: 4.


For the same peri­od: 1.

Overall, then, the ratio of sales Kindle:other is 4979:5. Call it 1000:1. If Déjà Vu is rep­res­ent­at­ive of more gen­er­al trends (it won’t be; but it’s in the ball­park, I expect), the Kindle store could be around 1000 times more suc­cess­ful than the oth­er stores com­bined. Remember that the blurb, cov­er image and price are identic­al across stores.

What Leads to These Differences?

All of my mar­ket­ing — if you can call it that — has poin­ted people to the Kindle store.

Amazon has a lar­ger cus­tom­er base to begin with, so cross-pro­mo­tion will be more effect­ive. That is, when Déjà Vu is recom­men­ded to people who have a his­tory of buy­ing sim­il­ar titles, there are more of those people around to see the recom­mend­a­tion. It could well be that many people see Déjà Vu on Amazon when they’re not look­ing for it; few see my book on Smashwords or iBooks.

Amazon has a mature chart-based shop­front. I don’t think Smashwords does this very well. And when I (rarely) look at iBooks, the charts seem to be full of odd books, and they are all writ­ten by Jeremy Clarkson. Nothing wrong with that; but it sug­gests a smal­ler num­ber of read­ers.

For the ver­sion of Déjà Vu sold on Amazon, I can con­trol the look and feel of the ebook pre­cisely. The ver­sion sold on Smashwords is pro­duced using a Word tem­plate and, frankly, it looks like a piece of crap. Blockquotes don’t work prop­erly; indent­a­tion is shot to hell. Likewise, the ver­sion for iBooks looks awful. Now, ebooks aren’t meant to look beau­ti­ful — but the cre­at­or should be able to provide a well-designed doc­u­ment whose struc­ture melts away so that the read­er can enjoy the story.

A Caveat

It’s worth not­ing that both iBooks and Smashwords are push­ing huge num­bers of books. Scott Pack recently repor­ted large sales num­bers for Confessions of a GP. And my friend Stephen J Sweeney has been selling his Battle for the Solar System books like gang­busters across many plat­forms. But Amazon has the lion’s share of this mar­ket for now.

The Creative Identity

If you’re inter­ested in the cre­at­ive pro­cess at all, you’ve prob­ably come across a blog called The Creative Identity, run by Stephanella Walsh. It com­prises great essays on the issues involved in writ­ing. Stephanella also con­ducts inter­views. This morn­ing, there’s one fea­tur­ing me.

Almost a year ago exactly, in my second Creative Times, I linked to a fab­ulous, if slightly per­turb­ing, post by writer Ian Hocking. In it, he talked about giv­ing up writ­ing.

Later on:

Q: What is the writ­ing tend­ency you most deplore in your­self?

A: I haven’t learned to fully switch off the Evil Editor on the shoulder. This is prob­ably because I spent so long switch­ing him on.