69. HOW CONVERTING TO KDP SELECT GAVE ME AN AMAZON BESTSELLER

JK ROWLING, Stephen King, James Patterson, Lee Childs… you guys have a new rival.

Yes, seriously. Better start upping your game, looking over your shoulder.

Who is it?

Well, little old me, of course. Rippington’s the name, gangster fiction the game.

And my Boxer Boys series is about to take the world by storm.

How? You may ask. You were selling 200 percent of nothing a short while ago.

Let me explain…

I’M not a great fan of exclusivity deals. I figure that if you aim to sell books you need to spread your wings as wide as possible.

When I released my first novel Crossing The Whitewash I made sure it was available with Amazon, Nook, Kobo, I-Books and sympathetic book stores all over the UK.

The results were disappointing. Though I had a few people begging me to make the book available on I-Books, for instance, no one else seemed to invest. In fact, having made only two sales, I haven’t even been paid as the accountants at Apple deem it below themselves to transfer cash unless you have earned more than $10.

What I did find, though, was I sold more books through Amazon than anywhere else. Perhaps it was because I often targeted my Facebook Ads towards them.

two-covers

Anyway, when I launched Spark Out on July 10 I bit the bullet and entered it into KDP Select – just to see how it would go. In return for exclusivity they offer you a number of marketing options, including a “countdown deal” where you set the book at a cheaper price for a few days.

The other option – and the one I chose – was to give the book away FREE for a short period. This week I was delighted I took the plunge.

Spark Out went to the top of an Amazon Bestseller chart.

Admittedly, it wasn’t one of the big categories like thriller or action – but even so to see your book sitting above everyone else and be able to marvel at the fact you have had more than 400 downloads in just over two days is a pretty heartwarming feeling.

Particularly after marketing the book relentlessly through a live launch, blog tour and everything else, only for sales to be so insignificant they weren’t worth talking about.

So what made the difference? The fact that the book was a freebie, of course,  but also some strategically targeted ads to ‘help’ with visibility.

By enrolling exclusively with KDP Select you have a five-day window where you can offer the Kindle version of your book in a free promotion. I chose to start on August 8 and run the free promotion in one block. You don’t have to do this: You can spread out those five days across the initial three-month contract period.

I also decided to try something else.

Having had hardly a sniff of sales in the United States I decided to advertise the book on Instagram. This form of social media seems to be taking off over the Pond and many people tell me it’s the next big thing.

So I ran a £5-a-day ad on Instagram over here and a similar one in the States. These can now be set up through the Facebook power editor by clicking a few boxes. I had some nicely designed images from my cover designer J-D Smith and used these.

Alongside it I ran a £10-a-day ad with Facebook, targeting lovers of Martina Cole, Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane. I rather cheekily pointed out it might be the best thriller they’ve never read!

Having done all that, I sat back in hope rather than expectation.

These were the results after a day (UK top, US below)…

FirstNo1acrosspond

Amazing. Not only did the downloads start pouring in, but also I noticed people were paying for things. I couldn’t work it out. Spark Out was free. There was no option to pay.

Then it hit me like being bashed on the bonce by Reggie – my protagonist Big Mo’s tough-as-teak enforcer in Spark Out: People were not only downloading the new novel for free, they were actually PAYING for the book that started it all, Crossing The Whitewash. Happy days.

numberone!

So I had nearly two days at No.1 in Contemporary Urban Fiction, and a spell at No.2 in Urban genre fiction, only being pipped to top spot by Roy and Garry Robson, fellow Londoners who have their own little police series called London Large which is going great guns.

Now I am a convert to KDP Select, but it will be interesting to see what sort of visibility my books have once the promotion period is over.

67. The life and desperate times of a Kindle Scout-aholic

HI, My name’s Nick and I’m a Scout-aholic. It’s been 14 days since I last appeared in Hot ‘N’ Trending.

When I first tried Kindle Scout I thought I could take it or leave it… it was just an experiment to see how far I could go.

Then, after a few days, I found myself riding a wave of euphoria as my new book Spark Out appeared up there with the best, a little orange sticker next to it to say that it was ‘Hot’.

This lasted a few days, making me believe that everything was a doddle and before long my name would be in lights and a cool cheque for $1,500 would be in my pocket.

Then came the big comedown.

Looking at the stats, I can see it happened very quickly indeed. From a first day when Spark Out had over 600 views I found myself on the slippery slope, falling to as little as four views a day as I scrambled around on the floor pleading for just one ‘like’ or ‘share’.

Hell, if my Twitter and Facebook ‘friends’ combined was anything to go by I should be able to rely on 33,000 nominations. This whole Scout obsession has left me a shaking, nervnewbegous wreck, doubting myself and everything in which I believed, including my own mental strength.

What I should really do now is kick the habit completely, remove Kindle Scout from my favourites and refuse to look at it from now until the end of my campaign.

I might have to get someone to lock me in a room, far away from the temptations of a computer or phone, preventing me from logging in to Scout for the next eight days.

But I’d always find some excuse to get out – work or some such.

To be honest it feels like the last-chance saloon as I sit here staring into space, hoping people might take pitch on me over the remainder of my sorry campaign.

Even now I am afraid I can’t resist asking for your sympathy vote while nominations are still open.

“Please guv’nor (or lady), spare me your nomination. I’ve a wife, two kids and a rather hungry Periscope goldfish to support. Click here for Kindle Scout, vote and, you never know, I might be able to sleep tonight.”

(doffs baseball cap in humble fashion)

…and a very good night to you all

 

 

66. BUSKING FOR A BIG BREAK: ONE WEEK INTO KINDLE SCOUT

I FEEL like one of those lost souls wandering tube trains late at night, putting little packs of tissues on the seats with a short note to explain their dire circumstances.

When they return later asking for a donation in exchange for their kind gift, most of us pretend not to notice them, even though the strong smell is pretty hard to ignore.

Your heart tugs at you, telling you that to dip into your pocket and hand over the meagre change that lies there among the shredded tissues would be the humane thing to do and could make a world of difference to this person’s life.

Your head warns you that it’s the start of the slippery slope: TV programmes and newspaper articles have alerted you to being taken in by professional beggars. They dress down deliberately and even sit in a bath of urine before hitting the streets and robbing good, honest, hard-working people of their cash.

So you put your head down and pretend you are reading your Kindle while waiting for the scruffy oik to move on, which seems to take an age.

You hope that after his shift ends he won’t be returning to a rat-infested squat, but to his four-bedroomed country mansion in Epping, therefore fully justifying your ‘snub’.

OK, maybe that’s a bit over the top, but I don’t like begging for anything. This week, however, I have tried every far-fetched scheme in the book to garner support in my bid for a Kindle Scout contract.

I hadn’t attempted this route to publication before. With my first novel Crossing The Whitewash I took it all on myself – the writing, the research, the cover, the formatting, the uploading, the pre-publicity, post-publicity, the placement of the book, the emails alerting book shops to its availability, the launch: the whole kit and caboodle.

I’d heard about Kindle Scout, of course, but it seemed like just another popularity contest and I doubted many people actually succeeded in their task.

spark-out-cover-medium-web

Two years on, though, and I took the plunge. Having heard a bit more about it I decided I would enter Spark Out for a Scout deal. If it failed I was no worse off for the experience – If it succeeded? “Woohoo!” in the words of Homer Simpson. That’s a $1,500 advance that will immediately cover my costs of enlisting proof readers, editors, cover designers and all, even leaving me some money for social media adverts.

A week in and I am addicted, but as someone who just wants to write books and get them into the hands of as wide an audience as possible, I’ve started to scrape the bottom of the barrel in the search for support.

KSdayone

It began pretty well, my Facebook chums and Twitter acquaintances all weighing in during the first few days. I jumped straight into the Hot and Trending category and stayed there for four days.

Now, though, I’ve slipped out of it, and I am wondering how the hell I can revive the interest.

I have resorted to doing Periscope readings of parts of the book, the equivalent of the busker in the underground holding out a cap and hoping someone will show their appreciation when all they are interested in is getting from A to B.

Today I have even gone through my Goodreads list of friends, sending some of them personal messages and hoping that even though they don’t know me from Adam they will take pity on a poor writer and click the link to my Kindle Scout page.

scouting1stweek

Perhaps things will pick up as I get closer to the end. If they don’t, though, I will just have to throw myself on the mercy of those nice people at Kindle Direct Publishing and hope their editors believe Spark Out is worthy of their charity… together with a nice, juicy contract.

  • Sound familiar? Let me know your Kindle Scout experiences in the comments

 

65. BREAKING NEWS: I’VE ENTERED THE KINDLE SCOUT PROGRAMME AND NEED YOUR HELP

IN the social media kindergarten where all the kids are holding their hands up shouting “Me! Me! Me” I’m appealing for people to help me get my squeaky voice heard.

I’ve been reluctant to try these voting schemes before as I’m such a shy, retiring personality I worry I’ll end up with ‘Nil pwan’ like the very worst Eurovision song contest performer.

Sometimes, though, you must be brave and bite the bullet.

This morning I stepped into the unknown and put my second novel Spark Out up for a Kindle Scout contract.

spark-out-cover-medium-web

The way it works is that you give all the details of the book, submit the manuscript, cover and other relevant information about you as an author and your previous work – in my case the first book in the Boxer Boys series Crossing The Whitewash – then have a month to convince people it deserves to be published.

Once that period is up, those nice people at Kindle Direct Publishing will make a judgement call on whether your work has garnered enough interest to carry their stamp of approval.

If it has you will then have all the power of Amazon behind you in terms of marketing and publicity – a useful tool I’m sure you’ll agree.

Once the campaign is up and running I will provide you readers with further information on how you can lend me your support.

With a $1500 advance also on offer if the book is successful I will be off to buy a mansion in the Maldives and you’ll never hear from me again.

That, at least, has to be worth your vote.