Portals and Publishing Plans

It’s a new year and a whole new challenge in the Wild West of indie-publishing. Algorithms are on the move and have been changing over the past month in particular, which means that we indie-authors need to try some new marketing strategies.

First off, FREE is working less well at all portals. This makes a lot of sense. Free books take server space and display space on the site, without generating any revenue for the author or the portal. This is fine in the short term and it’s particularly good if it leads readers to try a new author or a new series of books – which they then purchase. But what happened in 2012 is that many readers – particularly on Amazon – became accustomed to reading only free books. Free began to work less well in the fall, even on Amazon, and the Amazon algorithm has been steadily changing over the past few months to give free books less visibility and less power to lift an author’s sales. An author cannot make a book free directly on Amazon without using the KDP Select exclusive content plan – Amazon must choose to match a free price posted elsewhere – and I believe that they will cease to do that very soon. I think that KDP Select will be the only way to make books free on Amazon very shortly.

Secondly, the battle for digital customers outside the US is on. The primary players appear to be Apple, Amazon and KOBO. Each company is vying for market share, particularly in the UK, Australia/New Zealand, Canada, and the English book market in Germany. These international markets – and others – are the ones that will see the most aggressive price matching and promotion in 2013. Remember that Amazon encouraged free reads in the US in order to drive sales of Kindle. Now that the US market is considered to be reaching maturity, all players will be less aggressive with marketing efforts in the US and turn their attention to new horizons. This also feeds the impulse to focus on paid content. I am noticing that Amazon is price-matching free on my digital books in the UK and not the US, for example. This is probably happening because I have good sales on Apple and KOBO in the UK.

What does all of this mean for you?

• First off, DOUBLE TROUBLE and THE BEAUTY BRIDE will not be remaining free reads. They’ve both had a good run of it and lots of you have tried them out. They are already not free (or not consistently free) on Amazon.com for US customers. Because they are still driving some sales for me at Apple, KOBO and B&N, I will leave them free at those portals until the end of the month. Amazon’s Terms of Service require that the price set on their portal be equal or lower to all others, so it is possible that they will take exception to this strategy of mine – particularly if they stop matching the free price in any territory. If that occurs before the end of the month, I will unpublish those titles at Amazon until the end of January.

In February, I will have no free titles, so grab your copies now.

I’m still thinking about KDP Select and the ramifications of the 90 days of exclusivity required by that program. My experience with KDP is that it’s very hard to fulfill the exclusivity requirement once a book has been published and distributed. It’s hard to call it back from some of the portals serviced by Smashwords, and Amazon does police the exclusivity. (Rightly so. It’s the terms of the deal.) So, it’s easier to put a brand new title in KDP Select. The issue is that I don’t have any more backlist titles to publish. Now that I have quite good sales at B&N and KOBO and Apple, I’m not fussed about holding back new content from those of you who shop at those portals. OTOH, it’s entirely possible that Amazon will sweeten the KDP Select terms to entice more authors to sign up.

January tends to bring changes in the new Wild West, so I’ll just wait and see what opportunities arise.

• In terms of those non-US markets becoming the new focus of 2013, I’ve updated the links on my sites to include links to some of the other Amazon portals, as well as other portals overall. There are nine Amazon portals now – US, UK, DE (Germany). FR (France), IT (Italy), ES (Spain), JP (Japan), BR (Brazil), and CA (Canada) – but I’ve provided links to the ones where I sell best. That’s US, UK, DE and CA. Similarly, Apple now has 80 portals. I’ve only provided the link to their US site. The list of buy links is getting long (and unwieldy) so I’ll have to think twice about adding anymore.

• I am still trying to update my content on B&N, as their server has been uncooperative for the past month. I need to get those new covers and new editions up there, and am hoping that once everyone gets back from the holidays, that things will get sorted out there.

• I did upload a batch of new content to Overdrive’s Content Reserve in December, which is being processed, checked and made available by them now. Overdrive is a portal that services libraries, but also feeds digital content to consumer portals like Waterstones in the UK and Books-A-Million in the US. The new covers and new editions (with more links) should appear shortly on those portals, as well as new titles. The Coxwell Series, THE RENEGADE’S HEART and THE COUNTESS were my six new titles sent to Overdrive.

• My big task for January – other than writing! – is to publish my titles directly to the Apple iTunes store. Currently, they are distributed to Apple from Smashwords and that can be a long transition. In order to have more control over the titles and maybe more promotional opportunities, I’ll publish directly. My sales at KOBO have increased dramatically since I began to publish directly through their portal, so I’m hoping the same magic works at Apple. The transition should be invisible to those of you who shop at that portal, but we’ll see. Whether you buy the edition distributed through Smashwords or the one I publish directly, I’ll still get paid. 🙂

So, that’s my plan for this month! Back to writing now!