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Maximizing Your Amazon Kindle Sales

After reading the two recent blog posts that refer to the ongoing digital eBook wars between Amazon and its emerging enemies, a client recently requested a little more info on the Kindle process, and some of the info I dispensed resulted in the following:

To recap, Amazon currently offers authors and publishers 35% in royalties from sales of digital downloads per book. They keep a whopping 65%. Due to the release of a new Apple tablet (supposedly due in March) Amazon is planning to revise the royalty scheme come June of this year, to compete with what Apple is currently offering in royalties, that being 70% to authors and publishers. But Amazon will match this only if your book qualifies by being priced between $2.99 and $9.99 in June, when the new scheme takes effect. The book must also list at a price that is 20% less than the print version, and the price listed for the digital version must match the list price of the same book while it’s listed on competing eBook retailers’ sites.

My advice to this client was to list the digital version of his book at a greater discount than the 20% threshold proposed by Amazon. The reason for this, based on experiments conducted by big and small publishers alike, is that potential customers are flocking to cheaper priced books in droves. New Kindle book titles listing on Amazon top off at $9.99 on average, while the hardcover versions are still being offloaded at brick-n-mortar stores with retail prices well above $20.00. Sales of hardcover books are dipping as a result. Amazon Kindle book downloads topped sales of print version books this past holiday, and the Kindle itself was their top selling product. There is a major shift coming in the book industry, and self-published authors and publishers would be wise to adapt and adopt now as opposed to later.

Book execs who are still holding out saying that they won't give books away for free, or sell cheap, will suffer in the end when they find that their companies are left behind following the shift that's coming. Either jump on the bandwagon or get left in the dust. The same thing happened in the film industry when sound was introduced in the 20s. Many studios saw it as a passing fad and didn't adopt till the early 30s. Same goes for the introduction of color in film, and now, in our day, what James Cameron is proposing with evolved motion capture technology, digital film, and the advanced 3D used for Avatar. Get with it or get left behind. Hard copy materials like DVDs and printed books will eventually get pushed aside completely once we fully enter the era of digital downloading. Digital is the end result of all this, and the "green initiative" will be a big reason why the world is led to adopt it. I see it coming.

At any rate, pricing the book at a steeper discount than the print version of your book will result in greater digital downloads, thus creating exposure for the author and the author’s title(s). My client asked what the digital price of his book should be given that the print version would be around $12.00. I proposed $3.99, which would give the author close to $1.40 per sale, and that he should think of it as found money, because he would have been relying solely on sales of the soft cover anyway. What’s more, it costs nothing to set up a Kindle title on Amazon, so the found money principle remains in play. But anything priced higher than $3.99 will struggle to find buyers willing to download, especially true when the author is relatively new, or unknown, or both. I would also try Kindlizing a few of your older books and kicking them around at the minimum $0.99 allowable on Amazon, and have them spur sales of your newer books. The author's name would begin to circulate more and more based on digital downloads. The more downloads, the more exposure. The cheaper the digital books, the more downloads you get. Get it? It all results in more sales. When Google Editions goes live, you'll want to get in on that also. Ditto the new Apple tablet that is supposedly coming out in March.

Then, Come June, when the 70% kicks in at Amazon, I would price all new(er) books at the minimum $2.99 list price allowable, and that would result in more than $2.00 per download in kickback to you, the author. Plus, it's more attractive than $3.99. More sales . . . more exposure! Simple as that. As mentioned, while it is proven that dropping the price of your Kindle book to the minimum $0.99 currently allowable will spur sales, I'm not saying to drop it to $0.99 permanently. Try it for three months, tops. The idea is to get ALL of your books to sell as well as the best selling title. Another idea is to drop the price on books that are selling at a slower pace. Remember, lots of digital downloads results in more eyes seeing your name and book, and more customers searching for other books you’ve written or published, thus creating exposure! Don’t feel that you cheapen your title by practically giving it away. As Ahmad Williams, another client of mine, says, free is actually a business model. Many companies drive business by giving or practically giving products and food away.

Whether or not the print versions of your books are selling, seeing revenue from Amazon Kindle and the eBook market in general takes one key thing: exposure. If people aren't aware that your book exists, they won't buy it. Exposure will allow Amazon customers to see a shiny cover of your book in a category listing their browsing, and the book will be selling for $2.99, or $0.99, or $3.99 or whatever. The point is that they will see it. In order to get potential buyers to see your book on Amazon, however, you have to make those category listings. What category listings am I talking about? Well, they are the subcategories for your book, and you’ll see them as follows (note the bold item below):

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #4,954 in Kindle Store (or whatever the overall rank.) Then below this:

Popular in these categories:

#4 in Kindle Store > Kindle Book > Fiction > Literary Fiction

Amazon has this to say about the category sales rank:

What Category Sales Ranks Mean

While Amazon.com Sales Rank is a good indicator of how well a product is selling overall, it doesn't always indicate how popular an item is among other similar items. Our category sales ranks were created to highlight those categories where an item really stands out. We choose a few categories where the item has a high ranking in relation to other items in that category, and showcase them on the product page. Like Amazon.com Sales Rank, these category rankings are based on Amazon.com sales and updated every hour.

Once you hit those subcategories, you have to keep selling in order to stay there, because Amazon will only sub-rank the first 100 books for each list. Once you go over 100 in each subcategory, the sub-rank number disappears.

Landing in the subcategories results in your book making the all important category lists, where many an Amazon customer finds their books. And the higher you rank in the subcategories, the better. But in order to get there, you have to sell at a rapid pace (essentially this amounts to a minimum of one download a day). Therefore, not only is pricing your book appropriately crucial in this respect, but also properly listing your book by genre and subject matter. Put it this way, making $3.00 on three sales of a book priced at $9.99 may suit you, but I’d rather see $0.35 on 100 digital downloads a month for three months that result in 300 people telling their friends and family about a great cheap book they found by a new author/small press. If customers can find your book, chances are they’ll buy it. And the more customers, the greater the odds.

In other words, exposure! It’s the key to sales.

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