Celebrating last place

Recently, on a whim, I decided to offer two of my books for free to Kindle users through Amazon.com.

If you publish through Kindle Direct Publishing you can enroll in KDPSelect, and one of the benefits of that program is that every 90 days you can offer your book to download for free for up to five days. The idea is that you can use these free days to build a following and if people got your book for free and they enjoyed it, maybe they’ll feel obliged to leave a review of your book on Amazon.com or tell their friends about your book. Most readers, I suspect, don’t realize how important reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations are to authors in their effort to find new readers. The idea of the free days is that you generate future sales.

When it comes to marketing my books, I’m still in the “write more books” phase. I am slowly putting together a future marketing plan, but based on what I’ve read from seriously successful indie authors, I continue to believe the most important factor for selling books is that I need to have books (emphasis on plural) for sale. I feel like I’ll get more serious about marketing when I’ve got five or six books available.

So I’m writing more Jackson Speed novels and not really focusing on book sales or marketing yet.

Up to now, my marketing has mostly consisted of the “Field of Dreams” marketing plan: If you write it they will read.

To indie authors who are highly focused on sales, I encourage you to find a better marketing strategy than the “Field of Dreams” marking plan because it does not work. You can’t just hit the “publish” button and start getting sales.

Occasionally I do some haphazard stuff – like scheduling free downloads – and sometimes I do some purposeful stuff to get an idea of what works and what doesn’t work.

My recent free downloads fell into the category of haphazard. I scheduled the free days “just cause.” Just cause I could. Just cause I felt like it. Just cause I didn’t have anything else to do at that particular moment.

If you own a Kindle or a similar device, you’ve probably scrolled through the free books to see if you could find anything that might interest you. The hope for an author like me is that by offering the books for free we may stand a better chance of getting noticed by people who are interested in books in our genre who otherwise would never know that we (or more importantly our books) even exist.

And the fun thing about free days – even though not a penny comes my way from them – is to watch during the day as the downloads move from a couple to a couple dozen to (sometimes) a couple hundred. Meanwhile, if you look at your book’s Amazon page, you also get to see your book shooting to the top of your genre in the free downloads section.

So last week I had two different books in the top 20 free downloads of two different genres.

The first Jackson Speed book, “El Teneria,” was ranked Number 13 in the war genre. And when I first logged onto Amazon the morning the free downloads started, my book of humor columns, “Four Things My Wife Hates About Mornings” was ranked at Number 2 in the genre Family and Parenting Humor.

Number 2! You can’t beat that unless you’re Number 1!

When I clicked over to look at my competition, I was a little dismayed to learn that at the time there were only two books available for free downloads in the Family and Parenting Humor genre.

I re-corked the champagne bottles when I realized that my book was ranked Number 2 out of 2. It’s like coming in second in a race and celebrating your success and then finding out that the only people racing were you and the guy who beat you: It just doesn’t feel as good to celebrate last place.

During the course of the day, though, the number of downloads continued to increase and my book shot to the Number 1 position in its genre. I had a Number 1 bestseller (minus the sales)! Even better, four other books popped up for free in my genre, so I wasn’t just winning a race of two, but I was Number 1 out of six.

Regardless of whether I am running in last place or 13th place or first place, the good part of that race was that a fair number of people have been exposed to my books who knew nothing about them prior to this weekend.

Books usually fall to tastes, and I realize that not everyone who downloads a Jackson Speed book is going to become a fan. My hope is that for every dozen or so books that were downloaded I can pick up a couple of loyal future readers. And if I’m lucky, those future readers will leave a review at Amazon.com. And if I’m really, super lucky, those future readers will encourage their friends to read “El Teneria” or “Four Things” at a time when I’m not doing free days and I’ll get real, actual sales that involve the transfer of money.

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