Testing out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal

Cover Pages

I’m trying out Amazon’s new Kindle Countdown Deal for a couple of my lesser-known books. I’ll save the great deals for Read Tuesday. 🙂

The ‘proper’ way to do this would be to plan it much further in advance, build buzz for your promotion, promote it actively the day of (and maybe the day before, too), and recruit help promoting your discount (this is why you need to plan far in advance) from bloggers, websites, and any of your contacts willing to help you spread the word among your target audience. You might even consider investing in an advertisement that would get you plenty of exposure among your target audience.

However, the tool is also new, so although the books that are taking advantage of the countdown deal already haven’t had time to plan for the promotion, they may be getting a lot of initial traffic from the many people who are checking it out. Once this effect wears off, you’ll definitely need to plan ahead and promote effectively to get the most out of this.

I chose a couple of my lesser-known books that don’t tend to sell well for my experiment. Partly, I wanted to save my more popular books to help, in a tiny way, entice a little Read Tuesday traffic. Also, sometimes an experiment on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell well on its own can provide a revealing marketing outcome.

One of the two books I chooe had been in free promos in years past, so I’ll be able to compare those results to the results of the Countdown.

Who else is testing out this Countdown Deal in the near future? (Not everyone is eligible. First, you need to be enrolled in KDP Select. If you’re just joining or rejoining KDP Select, you must wait 30 days. Even if you’re already in KDP Select, if you changed your list price in the last 30 days, you must wait, too. If your enrollment is expiring or renewing soon, that may also affect when you’ll next be eligible. Your list price must be between $2.99 and $24.99 in the US, for example, in order to be eligible.)

If you’re testing it out this week, I’d like to hear about it. Maybe I can find an excuse to mention it in a relevant post. And the combination of my data with your experience might be relevant for a future post. So if you’d like me to possibly discuss your promotion and your experience with it, please let me know.

The two books I’m trying out are:

(1) Formatting Pages for Publishing on Amazon with CreateSpace, Chris McMullen, B00BGPK70G, February, 2013. This book is geared specifically toward using Microsoft Word 2010 to format a paperback book for publishing with CreateSpace. It’s a short, concise book (104 pages in print, but the paperback version is 5″ x 8″ and divided into several chapters and includes figures, so the written content is much less). One reason that it doesn’t sell well is that my Detailed Guide is a better value, being much more detailed. Also, I don’t market the Formatting Pages book. I’m curious to see if the Countdown tool has any impact on a book that ordinarily doesn’t sell much.

(2) Far Out Multiplication Flash Cards 1-12 (Decorated with Solar System Photos), Chris McMullen and Carolyn Kivett, January, 2012. This flash card set is a book, not a game. The first half of the book consists of 1 x 1 thru 12 x 12 in order with the answer immediately following the question. The first half is designed for kids to practice and memorize. The second half has the cards shuffled, still with the answer following the question. Here, kids test their memory by checking the answer on the next page. The cards are visually decorated with solar system photos. There are two reasons that this book doesn’t sell much. First, I have another multiplication flash card book that has 11 reviews, while this one has none, so naturally people tend to buy the one that has all the reviews. Second, this book used to be more expensive than my other multiplication book, so the other multiplication book has a history of more sales (the other book is also part of a complete set). They are now the same regular price, so this book is actually the better value because it goes up to 12 x 12 instead of 10 x 10.

In the past, this flashcard book always did well with the free promo (over a thousand books in the good old days when KDP Select was new, and hundreds in later months), so I have something to compare it with. The free promo generally resulted in a boost of sales afterward. So I’ll be able to compare the overall effect on royalties, too.

Both of these books are presently $2.99 in the US and will be 99 cents during the Countdown promotion. The Countdown will be all day on Tuesday, November 5, Pacific Daylight Time (PDT).

In the UK, the price will be 0.99 pounds (I actually had to raise the price of one book slightly to make it eligible).

Both books have pictures, so the delivery fee is 50 to 60 cents on each book. This is important because my royalty during the promotion would actually be higher at 35% than at 70%. KDP doesn’t show you what your royalty would be during the promotion. So it’s worth checking your delivery fee and doing the math first. You’d hate to learn later that you were making one penny per sale!

So I first changed the royalty rate to 35% and republished. You can add the Countdown Deal while it’s republishing (check the box and select the Actions button on your Bookshelf). Note that you must change your royalty option at least 24 hours before your promotion begins.

Here is what you should do:

  • First try to create a Countdown Deal to see what dates you’re allowed to choose. This way you won’t waste your time for a promotion that you’re not allowed to schedule.
  • Next, check your delivery fee.
  • Now calculate your royalty at the promotional price. Subtract the delivery fee and then multiply by 0.7, like ($0.99 – $0.60) x 0.7 = $0.27. (If you don’t normally earn 70%, skip this step and the next step.)
  • Compare this with what you would make at 35%. If 35% gives you a higher royalty, you must change your royalty rate at least 24 hours prior to the start of your promotion.
  • Finally, schedule your promotion. Be sure to choose the start and end times in addition to the dates. See how many hours your promotion will last before you confirm. It would be very easy to accidentally make your promotion last just one hour without even realizing it!

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

Planet Flash Cards Multiplication Cover Thumbnail

Attending a Book Fair

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Allow me to share my own experience, while also providing a few tips for what you might do when you attend an author event.

First, let me provide a little background for the event I attended.

Reading on the River

I attended a local reading-oriented event for children today called Reading on the River. There were a couple of hundred children and their parents. They had several reading-related activities sponsored by preschools and daycare centers, a magic show on stage, and even Smokey the Bear and a D.A.R.E. lion. Authors of children’s books were also invited (even little ole me).

They had given me information and forms to fill out a few weeks ago. They set up the tent, table, chairs, and even prepared the board shown above (it was placed in front of the pole, but after it blew over from the wind, I placed it between the poles; the aesthetic problem of the pole blocking part of the sign is totally my own fault).

What to bring?

First, do a little research to learn more about the event. What will be going on? What have other authors done in the past? Who will be attending? What is attracting these people to the event? Will your target audience be in attendance? This will help you decide what to bring. Past-year average attendance numbers will also help you decide how many books to bring; too many is better than too few.

Order copies of your books well in advance. It may take a couple of weeks to print a large order. It takes more time to deliver it. Order more than you need. Plan for the possibility of needing to replace defective copies. When the order arrives, take time to go through every book. Allow for time to replace defective copies, and defective copies of those replacements. Plan for the worst-case scenario, then you won’t be in the frustrating situation of not having enough books.

In addition to books, print out nice looking informational sheets. These should include your name, your books, pictures of your covers, blurbs for your books, quotes from any editorial reviews that you have permission to use this way, where to find your books (give simple, easy-to-type url’s), the url for your author page, your blog, your website, and your Facebook and Twitter pages, for example. The sheet should visually look impressive and the text and imagery should get your target audience interested in your book.

Tip: On the profile page at AuthorCentral, use the feature to create a simple url for your author page (probably, just your name at the end of it). It will take about half an hour for this to go live. Visit the link to ensure that it works, then copy and paste this into your promotional materials. This will be much easier for people to type than the url you see at Amazon. Note that you can only create one special url like this, so choose wisely. For example, mine is http://amazon.com/author/chrismcmullen (but yours won’t be this way by default; you must create this url from your profile tab).

If you have a promotion going on they day of the event and the day after, highlight this on your informational sheet; or you can include a CreateSpace or Smashwords discount code, for example (but note that some people will prefer to buy from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, for example; if you restrict yourself to one option, you’ll lose some sales).

A bookmark that looks appealing is a great promotional tool. If it looks like a bookmark you’d pay money for, but mentions your name and book and any other pertinent information, it will likely get used, which means your name and book will be seen frequently. If it looks like an advertisement in the shape of a bookmark, it’s less likely to be used. This may be more valuable than a business card, although you should have these, too, since they easily fit inside a wallet or pocket.

Prepare a portfolio. Do you have handwritten notes or hand-drawn sketches from when you were developing characters, working out elements of your plot, or choosing names, for example? These would be cool to include in your portfolio. How about a printed page showing several editing notes? Include your final cover, and perhaps a draft or two of your cover showing how it evolved. Your portfolio will be a handy conversation piece to get people interested in talking to you about your book. It will also help convey how much hard work went into preparing your book.

Think about how to decorate your table or booth with objects that relate to your book. Browse images of book fairs, readings, and signings online and you may get some good ideas to help inspire your own creative design. Small household objects that inspire your writing may be relevant; or souvenirs that relate to your genre (but be sure you don’t mind it getting handled, and there is the possibility of items wandering off). If you know someone who is into arts and crafts, they may be willing to help you decorate your booth or table.

If the venue is outdoors, prepare for possible weather issues. Remember, wind can be very important, too, not just rain or snow. Bring a water bottle and multiple writing utensils.

What else?

It may help to prepare a related activity. Since the event I attended was promoting literacy to children, I brought a large stack of Halloween word scrambles from one page of my latest word scramble book and passed these out. A few of the kids asked me for a pencil (I’m glad that I brought several, just in case) and worked on these at my table. They really got into it. A few of the younger kids needed a couple of hints. They really seemed to enjoy receiving a hint so they could still figure it out on their own.

In addition to interacting with people, passing out materials to your target audience, and perhaps selling some books (ask for their names and then sign the books), there are a few other things you should do. Interact with your fellow authors and exchange business cards with them. It’s important to build local connections and support groups. Meeting other authors in person is a cool experience, too. Also, get photos of the event to display on your blog and author page, especially a photo of you interacting with people in your booth at a busy event.

The most popular person in the author section at Reading at the River was an illustrator, Annabel Jones (check out the illustrations and fine art on her website). She had a portfolio of illustrations that she’d made for books. Annabel is an art instructor and artist. She’s made illustrations for authors who are submitting to publishers and she has an e-book. She had her artist tools with her and was creating watercolor caricatures of children for many parents (I got one, too).

One little girl fell in love with one of my books so I let her keep it. I gave a couple of more books away at the end of the event. I passed out several word scramble sheets. I didn’t sell anything (the spirit of this event was to promote reading and literacy), but several children and parents did browse through my books. If I attend in future years, I plan to bring several more books for younger children and give them away, too. There was a book zone where every child could receive a free book or two. Kids received stickers for engaging in activities, then traded the stickers in for books at the book zone.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)

I have some more images of the event below, including a bookmobile (I think it looks cool with the rays of sunshine radiating just before it). 🙂

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