Amazon May Madness – Worth it?

During May this year, The Dragon’s Blade was put on a promotional Amazon sale for the first time. This was a major experiment and one of the main reasons I turned to Acorn Independent Press when publishing the book. Normally large scale promotional deals are not available for self-published authors. In fact, outside the Kindle Countdown Deal and Bookbub, few come to mind, but please correct me if I am wrong.

So how does it work? Well, Acorn are treated by Amazon as a ‘white gloved’ account holder. White gloved accounts most commonly refer to agents who publish their clients’ novels directly to Amazon. The idea is that there is already a quality check barrier in place by the agent, or in this case, by Acorn, and so Amazon offers the chance to apply for sales much like larger publishers.

When an opportunity to apply came up, we submitted The Dragon’s Blade and thankfully were successful in getting into the UK May Madness sale. Amazon reduced the book from £3.99 to £0.99 for 21 days and began promoting it as part of the sale. Although I am not sure exactly how Amazon went about promoting the sale, whatever they did worked, as book sales spiked in ways they never would have if left alone.

So let’s look at some numbers. Prior to the start of the sale I had 479 adds on Goodreads and my highest climb in the UK Kindle store was perhaps #50 in certain categories and around #3,000 in the overall store. After the sale I had 650 adds on Goodreads and my rankings peaked in the top 5 in my categories and #187 in the overall store. But rankings are tricky things. The actual number of books sold was just under 900.

Selling that many books – in one month and in the UK alone – is definitely something to be pleased about. But this was diminished somewhat by the reality that the book was up for 99p, which works out as only 41p for me. This is still far more than you would make by reducing the price of the book yourself, however. Normally a book priced at 99p falls into the Amazon’s 35% royalty rate, whereas if it is discounted as part of a selected deal you still retain the 70% royalty rate regardless of the discounted price. All in all I made about £369 from the sale or roughly the equivalent of 185 sales at regular price. In cold financial terms the sale wasn’t able to recuperate the money I have given Acorn from their small cut in the total sales since publication last year. However, whether you go traditional or indie, getting exposure as a new author is insanely hard. Those 900 sales in such a short space of time will boost visibility, the number of reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, and hopefully spread more word of mouth. Prior to the sale I had 38 reviews on Amazon UK and now I have 50.

If you are wondering whether reviews are actually useful then I’m here to tell you, they are. As an example, in order to submit to this UK May Madness sale a book had to have a minimum of 25 reviews on Amazon. Though this may seem like a low figure, in reality so few books even make this mark that it is actually very fair. It’s tough out there folks. I’ve also read that other Amazon algorithms only kick in once you reach 50 reviews; others claim you need 70 or more for that. Regardless, reviews are essential for the life of a book. If it doesn’t reach certain numbers then Amazon won’t notice it and the book will become buried. If you want to help out new authors, I cannot stress enough how important it is to review and rate a book on Amazon and Goodreads if you enjoyed it.

Was the experiment a success then? Absolutely. It has helped ease my mind about keeping the book under Acorn’s distribution and with any luck we can continue to get into new promotions and gather even more readers. If you’re a self-published author or considering it, you may want to investigate whether indie presses can offer similar deals. You may also find it worthwhile and beneficial.

For the sake of fairness, I should note that such Amazon promotions require you to be Amazon exclusive to submit and stay exclusive for 90 days after the sale. This is Amazon throwing their weight around a little but for me it has been worth it. I could count the number Kobo sales on my hand before that.

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