Amazon: Field leveller or overlord?

Amazon kindle select has been a useful tool for me in my first few months in the indie-publishing world. But has now run it’s course in being helpful and turned the corner to become a hindrance.

For those who don’t know what select is, essentially it’s a 90 day programme that authors sign their books up for. We make our ebooks exclusive to Amazon and their lending service for Premium Amazon members. This means we cannot sell our ebook through any other outlet, including on our own websites.

In return we get 5 days of 90 in which we can offer the book as a free promo. This is really useful for getting the book linked to other books in the genre, getting on sales charts, and therefore more visibility, and getting readers who will hopefully review the book or try another title from the same author.

The usefulness of this free promo has recently been hobbled somewhat but as I don’t do algorithms and stuff you can find out how so elsewhere.

I’ve found the select programme useful up until now but things have happened that are making me remove my books from the programme.

I want to distribute my novel Bobby’s Boy elsewhere. Smashwords, apple, Barnes & noble etc. amazon will not let me do this while in select. I could live with that in the short-term, say 12 months or so, but Amazon have shifted the goalposts twice over in recent weeks.

Firstly they’ve prohibited soliciting readers for any author. Yep, we’re not allowed any promo anywhere on Amazon for our books or we get told to remove it or they’ll remove us. The books that make Amazon themselves money? Not helpful.

Secondly I get email after email from the masters telling me to make sure the content in my book belongs to me or they’ll pull it from sale. Essentially, because I promo excerpts from my books on my own blogsite and others (remember I can’t promo on Amazon) their net scanners/snoopers email me accusing me of putting stuff from the net in my book. “no it’s the other way round you clods”. Still I have to notify them of every site I post excerpts on to prove the book’s authenticity.

Whilst I greatly appreciate the forum and outlet that amazon gives authors I hate being monitored in this way.

Thirdly, reviews from professional reviewing websites are now being prohibited on Amazon. Friends and family in unlimited numbers can post as many reviews as they like, but genuinely impartial reviewers are being blocked as they are “professionals”.

Lastly: I recently secured a deal to distribute my novel in every library in North Lanarkshire (and the possibility of uk-wide distribution). A deal like this is huge for an indie-author but contravenes the Kindle Select agreement even though the books will be distributed for free by the libraries.

I want as many people as possible to read my books and a free outlet by the libraries is ideal.

So bye kindle select.


How I self published: Part 4: Marketing

Should I use Amazon’s Kindle Publishing, Smashwords, Goodreads or POD services like Lulu and Createspace?

The simple answer is to use them all, but I advise a staggered approach. Here’s my strategy for maximising exposure of my books and hopefully sales:

Before publishing my debut, full-length novel, “Bobby’s Boy”, I put together a short (100 page) non-fiction book titled “Paddy’s Daddy” (a series of short-stories linked together from related blogs which I’d written over the course of two years, detailing my fall into and recovery from severe depression) and self-published it on Amazon’s Kindle platform. I did this around two weeks before publishing my main project, and for two reasons:

Firstly, I wanted to experience the process of self-publishing on the initial platform I planned to use (Kindle). I wanted to learn the ins and outs of formatting the text, cover design, enrolling in Kindle Select, and the foibles of having a book on Amazon and (hopefully) selling.

Secondly, I wanted to use this wee project as a way of getting my name out on Amazon and hopefully gather a few positive reviews in preparation for my main book launch.

This strategy worked well for me. I shifted 450 copies of the book in one week (80% on free promo), found the book connected to others frequently (“people who bought this also” section) and was fortunate to receive 11 positive reviews for the short-story collection.
The book achieved its purpose of exposure, and is still doing modestly well. In hindsight though, I’d have left at least a month between book releases.

I also put “Paddy’s Daddy” out as a paperback using the Createspace facility. To date, not a single paperback has been sold. I’m rather glad of that as I made a hash of the inside formatting of the paperback and the cover was blurred. I learned some valuable lessons about the proper use of this site, which was the whole point. I would go through the Createspace process again for “Bobby’s Boy”, but would take more care to create the perfect interior and exterior, possibly I’d hire help for the cover. I will be replacing the paperback of “Paddy’s Daddy” in the near future with a more suitable version.

So, on to Smashwords, Goodreads, Lulu, Apple, B&N, Nook etc:

My strategy has been to use the Amazon Kindle Select free promo option (like the hoor it is) for the stipulated 90 days sentence, after which my books will both be placed on the virtual shelves of all the above outlets. Why wouldn’t I?

The way I see it is that I’ll use Amazon and its Select program for initial exposure, see out the 90 days, and then put my books in as many “shop windows” as I could find. If you want to sell books, you’ve got to make them available to every customer, on every platform, right? Why limit it to one (massive) outlet in Amazon?

I’ve got until June until my Kindle select sentence is served and between now and then I’ll be publishing “Bobby’s Boy” as a paperback using Createspace in the US, and Lulu in the UK.

(Oh, and I’ll be writing my next book, “Naebody’s Hero” too.)

Bobby’s Boy is available on Amazon now: