Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Doom! Destruction! Not...

As I write this, Jack Daniels ebooks currently occupy nine spots in the Police Procedural Top 100 paid list on Amazon.

Admittedly, the highest ranked book is Pushed Too Far by Ann Voss Peterson, where Jack is only in a chapter. But my first six JD ebooks are on there, as is Shot of Tequila (where Jack is a Detective in the 1990s) and The List (where Jack has a cameo.)

I attribute this good fortune to getting my rights to those books back (or in the case of The List and Tequila, getting rejected legacy publishers so I kept the rights), but also to another important promotional element that I've rediscovered.

Namely, the KDP Select program. Specifically, the ability to make ebooks free for 5 days. More specifically, the websites that mention free ebooks and drive traffic to Amazon.

How does this work?

In a nutshell, if you give away a lot of ebooks, and the ebook bouncebacks to the paid bestseller lists, getting it eyeballs. Once people can see your book, they'll buy it.

How many will buy it? This depends on a lot of factors. But as of 11am on Feb. 27, I have sold 21,358 ebooks, loaned 3829, and given away 223,167 so far this month.

Ann is also doing well, having sold 735 copies of Pushed Too Far since coming off the freebie promo three days ago. With borrows, she's averaging over $800 a day, on one title.

Ann and I have taken the same path to get here. We promoted the free ebooks on and

These last few days, I've gotten many frantic emails about Amazon's new policy, which makes writers worried that the free ebook golden goose will soon stop laying eggs.

In a nutshell, Amazon is telling its affiliates that they need to derive the majority of their income via sales. Here's the announcement:

"In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:

(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and

(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks."

Now, I really haven't really begun using ebook sites to actively promote my freebies until recently. In the case of BookBub, I don't see this as being a problem, because I believe they derive their income from author payments, not from the Affiliate program. But eBook Booster is a service that announces free ebooks on 50+ free ebook websites, and I believe some of these do derive income from links.

I'm not going to speculate why Amazon made this call. Frankly, it isn't my concern, and I don't believe it will effect me. I can still use BookBub, and I'm sure other free ebook websites will figure out some other ways to monetize their service.

Here are some options they have:

1. Stay in the Affiliate program, but only announce discounted ebooks, and don't use Affiliate links if they do announce free ebooks.

2. Charge authors to be listed.

3. Put ads on their websites.

If a site gets a lot of traffic, or has a big email list, there should be ways to monetize it other than through the Affiliate program. The websites that provide this service are essentially aggregators. The largest aggregator in the world, Google, seems to make money. Certainly these smaller sites should be able to as well.

And if not, it won't harm writers. Think it through. If a site closes, and no writer has access to it, no writer can use that site to their advantage.

In other words, even if all of these sites go under, the playing field will stay even.

Well, mostly even. If you're a smart author who has cultivated a fan database, you'll have the advantage by announcing to that base when your ebooks are free. Or if you have a popular blog, or website, or Facebook page, or Twitter followers, you're got a leg up on your peers.

I don't see this as being the end of free ebooks = sales. I see it as a small bump in the road that will resolve itself. Save your panic for something real, like the world ending on December 21, 2012.

Laugh all you want. It's gonna happen. Those Mayans were pretty sharp.