No one could answer my questions about Amazon rank, and Kindle Direct Publishing, so I decided to ask myself. This past month I took the plunge and followed the crowd into KDP, and the option for 5 free days out of every 90.
Here is what I learned. (Until Amazon decided to mess it all up that is.)
I self published in April of 2011. There was no fanfair, no book launch, I just put up my first short story sitting around 9k words and kept on writing. The price for my work? .99c
Here are some things I have learned since then.
1. Price does matter! Really, here are some figures from the last year.
It took over 2 months for anyone to notice the short and the sales litterally trickled in. One, two a month, at most I would see five. It took over five months to hit the minimum payout of $10. On a .99c ebook the author makes a whopping .35c per sale. (If you have filled out your proper tax form. If you haven't you have to pay %30 tax on that...yes .27c profit per book.) You could find more money on the floor of a grocery store. (My kids have proved it) And then I found out as a Canadian, I don't qualify for a direct deposit, so I have to wait until I make over $100 to be sent a cheque, but that is a whole nother post.
2. Amazon seems to have 3 seperate rankings for ebooks.
First they have free.
In this rank you need...a LOT of sales (no money made of course) to maintain a rank. However if you are on a free promotion with the KDP program, they (Amazon) will promote your book for you. Believe it or not, this is a really, REALLY good thing.
On my very first dip into the KDP pool, my full story, The Event, hit a free rank of 433 in the free rank scale. Amazing right?
The bad news with this? Your rank doesn't hold when you go back to paid. The free scales are completely independant from all other rankings on Amazon. If your book was at 960k before it went free, and you gave away 10k copies at free, once it goes back to paid it will be sitting right back at 960k. The good news? The exposure you can get will bring in some new readers, and hopefully, some new reviews. If you have more than one book out there you might find people looking for more of your work. Make sure you have some to give them.
Second is the .99c ebook.
Honestly, this used to be the best place to have a starting novel. Under Amazons old ranking system all book sales were grouped in the same pool. A cheap book meant you could pull in new readers, gain more reviews, and build a following for yourself. Under the new structure this is the new e-slush pile for all authors. In my experience, you really don't want to be in this group. Your sales in this rank must be maintained at all times or your rank will drop. The best I have ever reached in .99c was about 72k. Without maintained sales I saw my book drop in rank of an average 25k spots per 24 hours. Yes, I actually watched it plummit that fast. It was jaw dropping.
It is my own opinion, but I personally believe that Amazon wants the .99c ebook to disappear from the face of the earth.
Lastly we have the 2.99+ ebook.
This is where you want your book to be. Even at 10k words an author will still put hours and hours into a story like this. With your book priced at 2.99 you make a profit of 2.08 per book. You spent time on this book, revising, editing, re-editing, formating, why would you give it away for pennies? I spend more than this on a cup of coffee that I finished in 5 minutes, readers will easily spend this on a story that will take them 30+ minutes to read, and keep.
As an example, I have just released a bundle of my first 4 short stories. In an attempt to steer people towards them, I raised all the individual short stories priced at .99c for the last year, to 2.99 and priced the bundle at 5.99 What would you buy? Of course!
With the bundles release, I ran another free promotion of the first short, Past Jumper at the new price of 2.99, with one day free on KDP.
I woke up in the morning and loaded up Amazon to see if my story was going crazy! (I had dreams that it was! Seriously...)
Honestly, not one free download.
Wait! I don't know what happened, but by lunch the dl's started to trickly in. 30...56...100...in 24 hours I ended up with over 1200 dl's on my ebooks. Even 5 in Germany!
The next weekend I did a two day promotion of a .99c ebook with almost no sales at all. In comparison I got 55 free downloads. I watched the rank crawl, they capped at around 2600 in the free rankings, and was feeling okay with it. At least some people had grabbed it. Than it ended.
Boom! Ranking fell flat as a pancake with no eggs. To this day I still have no sales after the promo on the .99c collections. (I upped the price to 2.99 as well, if it isn't going to sell at low, might as well leave it in the higher bracket, I will free promo it again soon in hopes of gaining more interest, but I am not going to hold my breath.)
However, after the first promo on my 5.99+ books, the sales slowly started to come in. The attention I received from my free promo seemed to have helped. I watched sales climb on The Event, and it's rank held steady at around 24k for over two weeks. When the sales did tickle down, the rank did drop slower. Much slower. In a 24 hour period of no sales the Amazon rank would drop roughly 2k spots. A huge, HUGE difference from the .99c field.
So, if you have managed to stick with me this long, what is the point too all this you might ask?
I will sum it all up for you.
Respect your work. Your writing has value, your time is worth money too, and from the results I have seen on Amazon, readers are much more interested in the work that has a higher price tag. If you show that you respect your own work, so will your readers.
.99c is dead. Unless you really don't care for ranks, want sales, or like being noticed. I can't see a reason to have anything priced this low anymore. So far this month I have made more on my books than I did in the last 12 months. Why? I believe it to be the exposure I have gotten from KDP mixed with a handfull of author interviews, and a heck of a lot of self promotion.
KDP can really get your name out there. Even more so with a book set at full pricing. Free promos means more for 8.99 than it does for .99c.
On a completely different side note, this blog was intended to be finished at the end of July. I had hoped to have more concrete numbers set down for my 1st short of 5 entitled 'Past Jumper' however, Amazon decided that it needed a price reduction. (Yes, they can do that) and it is now sitting at .98c Dropping me back into the lower scales again. It's rank was around 90k before they dropped the price on me, and in one day it has fallen to 208k. Fastest drop I have ever seen. Thanks Amazon, glad to feel the sting of your whip.