[To read my post about last month's experience, please go here.]
As most readers know, I recently published a nonfiction book titled How to Get Started as a Technical Writer. I published it only on Amazon, but in both a Kindle and print (Createspace) version. I also gambled by enrolling the book in Amazon’s KDP Select program. Here’s the tale of the second full month of my experience with Amazon and the KDP Select program.
Like last month, I did very little promotion. I updated Twitter and my blog when the price changed, and commented on a few blogs and LinkedIn professional groups related to the book’s topic.
KDP Select results
Last month readers got three copies; this month, seven. Amazon hasn’t released the number of borrows or dividend amount yet, but it’s been around $2 the past two months. So, estimated April royalties for Select: about $14. For April, Select accounted for about 15% of all books sold.
I sold 48 copies in April, or about 60% more than March (31). Thanks, everybody. Here’s the breakdown:
Finally, a few sales outside the US! And look at that–even one German and one French customer wanted a free copy. Zehr gut, C’est bon! However, non-Select sales for the Kindle stayed exactly the same: 30 copies. The difference this month was print–I sold only one copy in March, but 11 copies in April.
Once again, I sold at least one copy (Kindle or print) almost every day–26 out of 30 days, anyway.
And another bit of news: I placed two copies of the book with my local public library system. Turns out it’s simple to do here: I e-mailed the librarian, and she told me where to send the copies–and thanked me for them. Once the library got them, it took about three weeks before they appeared in the catalog, ready for check out. Somebody checked one out almost immediately (I swear it wasn’t me).
Halfway through the month, right after a free promo day on the 14th, I raised the price from $2.99 to $3.99. Readers didn’t flinch–sales stayed even. I’m considering dropping it to $2.99 again, but I’m beginning to think that $3.99 is the new price point.
Giving books away
I gave away 44 copies on my only Select free promo day. Like last month, I announced it on Twitter and my website a day in advance. Unlike last month, however, I didn’t find the promo appearing as re-tweets and on “free today for Kindle” websites. The low number of free copies was very surprising–but to be honest, I’m not sure what it means.
Like last month–no effect on sales, with one exception–there was a six-book day 48 hours after the promo ended–and that was it. Nothing.
It seems clear that Select free promo days are a bust for my title, and maybe for nonfiction in general, especially “how to” titles like mine.
The effect of sales on Amazon rankings looked just the same as last month: a sharp spike after a sale, a sharp decline within a few hours, and no real impact on sales no matter what happened.
What’s confused me about ranking claims by other authors is that they see the “free” rankings and equate them with the “paid” rankings. When my book came off of the free list, it went imediately down to the appropriate level on the paid list–way down at first. I don’t see a correlation between a climb in free rankings and paid rankings. I even asked a friend who’s a former Amazon employee. He agreed–free books are likely treated through a separate algorithm.
The implication of this, of course, is that the Select promos are mostly crap–at least for nonfiction titles. More and more, any impact on sales after the promo look a lot like luck.
Oh, and–here’s the best ranking I saw for my book in April. It’s similar to March:
When did that happen? After selling 4 Kindle copies in a day. Apparently, that’s all it takes to have your book do better than 93% of all other Kindle books out there. Heck, even on the worst day, my book still remained in the top 10%–unless, that is, I misunderstand what “Best Sellers Rank” means.
Summing it up
I still can’t find much nonfiction data to go on. The more I learn, however, the more I believe that nonfiction is an entirely different animal on e-readers like the Kindle. The two main differences?
- Reading experience
Almost always, fiction (and creative nonfiction) is a linear experience–that is, you start at the beginning and read pages in order. For a book like mine, you’re likely to want to flip around–go back to an exercise, reread a list, or look up a link. The Kindle interface is tailor made for linear fiction. Apple’s iBooks interface treats nonlinear books better, but the result is still about the same.
- Lack of complementary sales
Readers typically buy a nonfiction book to learn about a specific topic or to solve a specific problem–in the case of my book, how to get a job as a technical writer. They don’t often think “hey, I have to get this guy’s other books!” though I’ve done that myself–but even then, it’s case-by-case. Fiction readers? If they find a writer they like, they may buy several of his titles, especially if its a series.
The net result? Lower sales for nonfiction e-books. I’m not certain of this, of course, but I’ve yet to find a strong counter argument. Nonfiction continues to rule the print book world, by the way (on Amazon and elsewhere), which may support at least one of the two points above.
And now for the rest of the summary:
- KDP Select didn’t do much for sales: I think the third (and likely final) month of Select will round out the story for me. But so far? It’s a bust.
- Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday were the best days for sales: Every week, especially Wednesday. Maybe people get to the middle of the week and realize “oh my god, I need a new career now!”
- Tuesday and Saturday were the worst days for sales: Without fail, week after week.
- Ranking still had no impact on sales: I just didn’t see it. A Best Sellers rank of 24,000 and 110,000 saw the same sales volume. A ranking of #2 and #21 in my category–same thing.
There’s one more thing: print and Kindle versions don’t help each other. This is stupid, and speaks to Amazon’s real strategy for book sales. I e-mailed Amazon support, asking why the print price of my book was crossed out and the Kindle version presented as a cheaper, “you save $xx by buying this version” copy. The reply? Here’s the key bit:
“…at Amazon, we believe in passing on any savings to our customers, and since in most cases digital books cost less to store and to distribute, we recommend reflecting this in the price.”
That’s right–the Kindle version is promoted because it’s cheaper to buy and store. The real reason, of course, is twofold: Amazon is promoting their Kindle device, and because they see a higher margin in electronic goods. I understand all of this–but what’s alarming is that Amazon automatically discourages customers from buying print books. And if what the support person said was true–then why doesn’t Amazon offer me 70% of a $1.99 e-book’s price?
Stay tuned! I’d be grateful to hear your thoughts on what you’ve read here. Did I miss something? Know of any strategic resources that might help? Please drop me a line, or share them in the comments below.