Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Getting Booksales on Amazon - and Everywhere Else

There are two distinct venues for selling books - Amazon and Everywhere Else.

There are two distinct venues for selling books - Amazon and Everywhere Else. (itunes/Noot/Kobo/Google Play)
(photo: Nicholas Eckhart)

This separation was made clear to me when I worked to publish a large handful of books to Amazon that I'd already published elsewhere.

The test was to port 30 books to Amazon which I'd already published on Google, iTunes, Nook, and Kobo.

Two-thirds made it, and I'm still waiting for the last four after three days handling Amazon's queries.

The results of this are analyzed here, here, and most of all - here.

This morning, after spending last night publishing to Google Play and Kobo, the problem of how to sort this out as a working assembly line was still racketing around my head as I walked the pastures checking my cows and enjoying the warmer weather this snow-filled March finally provided.

Book Marketing Research comes first.

One might think that Amazon would be the lowest common denominator, since they are the most restrictive.

But that's throwing away a lot of marketing mojo that any public domain book already has.

The sales from any book come from
  • The author's brand
  • The book (series) brand
  • The cover
  • The description
  • The price
(Features like "look inside this book" and reviews are icing on the cake. Amazon is the only ebook distributor which uses or emphasizes reviews.)

When people are looking for a book, they are looking for an author or title - and places like Google Books already send people your way based on the established link-mojo that these have.

Selling on Amazon usually means making a new version or a completely new title for any given book. This means you will be marketing (via search engines) from scratch, other than including the author's name.

(I recommend search engine marketing as it's affordable to indie authors/publishers - as long as you incorporate it at every step of your publishing.)

This gives us two camps:
  1. Amazon, which wants distinctive titles for their Kindle books (which will help sell your hardcopy versions.)
  2. Everwhere else, which will send you more traffic if you do use the original title and author. 

Why bother with Amazon?

Because they still have somewhere under 50% of the ebook market, and will feature your hardcopy version right alongside.

Why not? 
Amazon is the pickiest about Kindle books and can leave you re-handling the submission two and three times with their queries.

Why bother with Everywhere else?

Because you are throwing away 50% of the ebook market if you don't. Also, as I'll go over shortly, you'll make money from the other distributors while you are still waiting for a the first sale from Amazon.

Why not?
I have gotten next to no rejects from publishing on the other four main distributors (iTunes, Nook, Google Play, and Kobo.)  They all will accept just about every book as long as it passes epubcheck (has no internal errors.)  

Note: I'm now working at completing my second dozen-dozen books, so I've got some history at this. 10 rejects out of 30 compared to 2 or 3 from several hundred. Which burns more of your time?

How to line this up for profits.

You do your market research while you are selecting your titles to publish. Search for the Kindle title of the original book. Use the search bar on Amazon to give you ideas about what terms should be in your book title. 
  • If the book doesn't have a Kindle version at all, you publish it as fast as you can.
  • If Amazon is giving away a free version of it, you are going to have to make an "(annotated)" or "(illustrated)" version of it.
  • If Amazon is selling the only Kindle version of that title, then you are going to have to have a completely different title. They don't have to accept your book.
Those steps add to the bulk of your other market reseach, they don't replace anything.

The publishing sequence:

  • Original books should start at Leanpub, then get ported to Amazon and everywhere else by Lulu. That gives you great royalties at the start, plus a built-in affiliate sales link for your readers to evangelize for you and get paid. (Meanwhile, you can use the extra time at writing your next book or marketing this one.)
  • Public domain books start at Lulu, but are then ported by you to all the other distributors.

This probably means two versions, one for Everywhere Else, and a tailored one for Amazon. First send out the regular public domain book everywhere as an ebook. If it sells well, then create a hardcopy (trade paperback) and get this distributed by Lulu via their Global Reach - which shows up on Amazon almost immediately.

Depending on your Kindle research, you'll have to decide if you are going to have to make a radically different book for Amazon. More than likely, you'll create a bundle out of various combinations of your public domain books, with a hardcopy version as well. These titles then get finessed as above - before you publish them.

Your collection/bundle of ebooks can go everywhere.

It's possible, depending on what you find in your Kindle research, that you can create a book with the original title/author and add in other material. Then you are just fine.  But don't stress trying to get a one-size-fits-all approach in your publishing. And your title for sale in Amazon can have a slightly different title to get it approved on Amazon than other places (with the "annotated" or "illustrated"). You could even have a different cover if you have to, with that title on it, maybe a little editing on ebook's meta-data as you think it may need it.

What you want to watch for is having to create two versions of any book for any reason. That's just a built-in headache later on.

The ideal is to have the Kindle/ebook cover match your title/author of the hardcopy version. Ebooks help sell hardcopy versions.

The short answer is: publish single books on Amazon if you can, but otherwise just sent the collections their way.

Why Everywhere Else will make you money faster than Amazon

  • The other distributors refer books by author, book series, publisher. 
  • Amazon refers by what is selling best, and what has reviews.
Only Amazon uses reviews - and one reason they bought Goodreads. Google will pull in reviews from all over the place, but doesn't use them in there recommendation algorithms.

If you don't have reviews on Amazon, you won't get listed as easily.

Amazon, like most distributors, will push what's selling ahead of what hasn't. They may even have more titles than any single other distributor, as they've been hyped more than the rest for self-publishing, and have encouraged this through their Kindle-only promotions.

Books that don't sell well really don't sell on Amazon. They get buried - fast.

If you have one decent seller on other distributors, they will recommend other books by you and/or in that series - so chance discovery of unknown books is better.

All distributors will give you a fleeting chance on their "just released" areas.

Otherwise, you have to count on your sending traffic to the buy-links by your own search engine marketing, plus your own email list.

Once you start getting reviews, your book starts up the rankings on Amazon and then you start getting accelerating sales. (Which is why the get-rich-quick publishing books tell people to leave reviews as a promotional tool - only works on Amazon.)

Something like 80-90% of the books on Amazon get nearly few or no sales at all - ever. (It's in that Anderson "Long Tail" book.)

My own experiences proved this out. The books I published elsewhere were bringing me enough income to cover my bills long before I got more than pennies  every month from Amazon. Finally, some of the Kindle versions started getting reviews and payments from Amazon's network eventually started paying double from Everywhere Else - chiefly from one bestseller - which proves the Long Tail theorem.

Money first started coming in first from Everywhere Else, and only later from Amazon - over a year later.

That's why (along with ease of publishing) you first publish to Everywhere Else and then last to Amazon. That also gives you time to be distracted by Amazon's queries. Your publishing needs to pay for itself - or you'll always have to keep your day job to pay your publishing bills.


Use Amazon first for market research and last for publishing.
Everywhere Else gets fit in between.

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