The Anatomy of a Launch

Let’s Get Digital 3 has been out for a week and has sold around 3,500 copies. How did that happen? Let’s take a look…

The Book

I released Digital 2 in September 2014 and it was maybe 60% new content, but the changes were largely superficial in the sense that it was an updating of the text rather than any kind of re-imagining. I decided early on that Digital 3 would be more revolution than evolution. As I detailed in this interview with Forbes earlier this week, a lot has changed in the last few years.

The whole text was rewritten from scratch – bar the odd sentence fragment here or there I couldn’t bear to part with – the only section that was spared a radical overhaul was the success stories at the back.

The structure changed noticeably too. The ten steps to self-publishing success are now at the very front of the book, and the deeper ruminations on the business landscape and so on are further back in the text. This wasn’t just a case of moving things around, it also signaled a shift in emphases from the why to the how. The chapters on finding editors and cover designers are much meatier now, delving into ancillary matters like writing to market and how to brief a cover designer effectively.

Lots of topics were severely truncated or just ditched – it’s simply less relevant today what’s going on with agents or in short story markets. Writers need less convincing to self-publish and more tools to do it effectively, and all of those deletions freed up a huge amount of space to devote a lot more time to marketing, things like Kindle Unlimited, or how to find your first readers.

And to communicate all that in two seconds to a casual browser, I had a plan… Continue reading

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Final Chance To Get Let’s Get Digital 3 at 99¢

Let’s Get Digital 3 is out. Hooray! Pre-orderers will have already received their copies, but  for those who prefer to wait until a book is live (I’m totally like this) you can still get it at the promotional price of 99¢. Don’t delay, as the price will rise tomorrow to $4.99. Them links:

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | NOOK | APPLE | KOBO | GOOGLE | PAPERBACK

I really hope you get a lot out of it, your support during the pre-order period was phenomenal – 2,500 writers have bought the new edition already. I hope I can repay that support with valuable information you can use to build your readership.

I’m sending out valuable tips every Friday to my newsletter – part of my new approach to email which has added a huge number of subscribers over the last week. If you want to see the kind of tricks you’re missing out on, check this example. And if that wasn’t enough, you also get a free copy of Amazon Decoded. Sign up here to get yours. Continue reading

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Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide To The Kindle Store is FREE

Amazon DecodedLet’s Get Digital 3 was announced this week and it is going very well indeed, with 1,000 copies pre-ordered already. The amount of sharing and recommending and tweeting has been spectacular – I’m very grateful to you all.

In fact, I have a gift for you.

Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide to the Kindle Store is now available. And it’s FREE. All you need to do is sign up to my mailing list to get a copy. That’s it. And you can unsubscribe right after if you wish, I don’t mind at all! Really.

If you need more convincing, here’s the blurb:

The author of Let’s Get Digital and Let’s Get Visible is back to reveal the inner machinations of the biggest bookstore in the world. By reading Amazon Decoded: A Marketing Guide To The Kindle Store, you will:

  • learn what “visibility marketing” is and how factoring Amazon’s bookselling philosophy into your promotions can boost your sales;
  • discover what goes into Sales Rank and dispel some remarkably common myths in the process;
  • understand the critical differences between the Best Seller list and the Popularity list, and why that is important for marketing strategy.

And you will get practical, actionable advice, turning all this new knowledge into marketing plans you can implement right away.

Amazon Decoded is exclusively available as a free bonus to my mailing list subscribers. Which means you can’t get it anywhere else. 

>>>SIGN UP HERE<<<

If you’re thinking “this sounds like an updated version of Let’s Get Visible” you’re right.

It’s essentially Let’s Get Visible Redux—a tight, 50-page book which covers how all the various parts of the Kindle Store work in 2018, and, crucially, how that must affect your marketing plans, with advice based on if you are wide vs. in Kindle Unlimited. Continue reading

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Pre-Order Let’s Get Digital 3 For $0.99

The third edition of my self-publishing guide — Let’s Get Digital — is available for the special pre-order price of just 99¢. Grab it while you can, the price will jump up to $4.99 right after the launch, which is pretty soon too: January 25.

AMAZON | AMAZON UK | NOOK | APPLE | KOBO | GOOGLE | PAPERBACK

I’ll get into what has changed in a moment (spoiler alert: everything), but I just wanted to stress that after the problems back in 2014anyone can purchase this edition.

It has been uploaded on a fresh ASIN, so everyone can buy and update their version for the minimum possible price — 99¢.

The third edition has been completely rebuilt from the ground up, reflecting the challenges facing both new and established self-publishers today, as well as the tools we have for overcoming those challenges. Continue reading

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New Year, Old Problem: Innocent Author Rank-Stripped For Third Time

Kristi Belcamino is really being messed around by Amazon. Yesterday morning, she was rank-stripped for the third time, and it appears to be happening every time she puts a book free – even before she hits the promo sites or moves up the charts.

Back in September, Kristi was one of the unfortunate (and innocent) authors who were unfairly rank-stripped by Amazon for several weeks. She had a BookBub promotion which catapulted her up to #3 in the Free charts on September 18, was then rank-stripped, and didn’t have the sanction lifted until October 22 – over one month later.

Along with all the other authors I wrote about in October’s post Amazon’s Hall of Spinning Knives, Kristi received the standard form letter about rank manipulation from Amazon KDP’s Compliance team, regarding her book Blessed are the Peacemakers.

Hello,

We detected that purchases or borrows of your book(s) are originating from accounts attempting to manipulate sales rank. As a result, your sales rank will not be visible until we determine this activity has ceased.

While we fully support the efforts of our publishers to promote their books, we take activities that jeopardize the experience of our readers and other authors seriously. Please be aware that you are responsible for ensuring the strategies used to promote your books comply with our Terms and Conditions.  We encourage you to thoroughly review any marketing services employed for promotional purposes.

You may email us at crm-sra-compliance@amazon.com with any questions.

Thanks for publishing with Amazon KDP.

Regards,

[Name Withheld]
Kindle Direct Publishing

Kristi did as anyone would in this situation and asked for more information, as she was confused and didn’t understand what she had done wrong. But Amazon refused to engage meaningfully on this, or to provide any evidence for its claims. Continue reading

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BookBub CPM Ads and Wide Distribution

I decided a while ago that I was going back wide with all my books. Sales were pretty anemic to begin with (readers don’t magically discover books), but then I put together a little marketing plan. I don’t want to invest too heavily in pushing my historical novels until I have a couple more books in my series out, but I was curious to experiment with a few different approaches for pushing wide books.

After nabbing an International-only BookBub Featured Deal for Liberty Boy, I decided to build a little campaign around it, particularly looking at sales internationally, and off-Amazon. When you are in KU, it makes sense to concentrate sales. As detailed in this post from August, visibility turns into borrows and the best place to do that is in the US Kindle Store, where you can be more aggressive with ads and bids and have some confidence it will come back to you in page reads.

Wide is very different, as I teased out in this other post from October. One key point is that it doesn’t really matter as much where your sales come from. A sale in South Africa or the Netherlands, or on Google or Kobo, has nearly as much value as one in the US Kindle Store (visibility there is still the ultimate, but not as lucrative without reads). Continue reading

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The Birth of the Kindle

The 10th birthday of the Kindle was on Sunday, which has been met with all sorts of retrospectives. Getting less coverage is that it’s also the tenth anniversary of Amazon’s self-publishing platform. In this excerpt from the forthcoming third edition of Let’s Get Digital, I argue that the real revolution is something else again which is also ten years’ old this month: the Kindle Store itself, which didn’t just open up publishing by allowing anyone to sell their books, it also democratized which books get recommended.

I’ll be posting in more detail about the launch, and the two books on marketing which will follow. Digital 3 won’t be available as a free update like last time, as that caused way too many problems. However, I will be making the pre-order available for 99¢ so that anyone can update for the minimum possible cost.

Sign up here to get an email when it’s released. (And feel free to ask in the comments about all of this.)

Digital is heading to the editor today – so this is unedited. Please excuse any errors.

Chapter 11 – The Birth of the Kindle

It’s almost exactly ten years to the day that the first Kindle was launched—as I write these words, at least. There are a lot of interesting articles circulating about the launch on 19 November 2007 and it’s funny looking back at that first device, which resembled a slimmed-down fax machine. I remember thinking no one would ever use such a clunky thing to read a book, and they certainly wouldn’t pay $399 for it!

The future makes fools of us all.

But maybe Jeff Bezos isn’t quite as visionary as popularly depicted because that first Kindle sold out in five-and-a-half hours. And it didn’t just sell out, it sold its entire Christmas stock. Amazon wasn’t able to put it back on sale until April 2008—five months later. It’s amazing now to think that even Amazon didn’t realize how much latent hunger there was for digital reading.

What happened next is well-known: successive iterations of the Kindle were released with better specs, greater capacity, and new features, always allied with a lower price. The display got crisper, the device got lighter, performance improved, and Amazon began selling Kindles internationally too. By the time the third-generation Kindle came out in August 2010, the price had dropped from $399 to just $139. This lower price point ushered in the digital revolution in earnest. Sales of what became known as the Kindle Keyboard exploded, and kickstarted a corollary uptick in the sales of ebooks; all these new Kindle owners had devices to fill. Those first hardy self-publishers mapping out the digital landscape during Christmas 2010 reported a massive boom in sales, one that made plenty of writers (like myself) take a serious look at self-publishing for the first time.

The sudden flowering of digital reading and ebooks and self-publishing puzzled many long-time observers of the sector. Ebooks had been around since 1971 when Michael Hart typed up the Declaration of Independence and made it available to download on a rudimentary precursor to the internet. The first patent for automated reading is older again, filed by Spaniard Angela Ruiz Robles in 1949—although the concept itself can be traced back to author Bob Brown’s manifesto from 1930 called The Readies. In terms of commercial availability, ebooks were purchasable on floppy disks since the 1980s, ebookstores had been around since the early 1990s, and dedicated devices were available since Sony launched the Data Discman in 1992—a full fifteen years before that first Kindle.

So why did ebooks suddenly flourish? How did Amazon essentially create the modern ebook market? Why did Amazon end up being the dominant force rather than, say, a first mover like Sony? These questions are easier to answer if you realize something important: it was never about the device. While Amazon is responsible for many hardware innovations, I don’t think anyone would argue that the Kindle Fire is higher spec than the iPad, and Kobo arguably led the way for many years in terms of dedicated e-readers without grabbing Amazon’s market-share.

It was about the store. Continue reading

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