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How to be visible on Amazon KDP

(37 Posts)
leonardthelemming Sat 30-Apr-16 00:38:31

I've just found this forum and I'm hoping someone out there will have experience of this. I had a look at some of the threads and there are people who have used KDP and been pleased with the results.

A bit of background - sorry if it's long...

I started writing YA fiction in 1998 and self-published a series of related short stories (same characters) over four volumes between 2000 and 2003. I sold some, but had no real idea as to how to promote them. Yet those who read them seemed to like them, which helped my confidence at least! I wrote these under a pseudonym.

Then I was asked to write an educational article for a magazine aimed at sixth-form students. I ended up writing 24 of these, from then until the present day. Most of them were commissioned, and I actually got paid (!) so at least someone thinks my writing style is OK - for non-fiction at least. I used my real name when writing these.

But since I retired in 2013 I've been wanting to go back to YA fiction. I read about 70 novels by other people in order to get a feel for the genre, and then wrote my first YA romantic fiction novel last year. Three months to write, six months to edit, cut, rewrite, etc.

I thought I would try KDP and finally published it at the end of October. Unfortunately, it's currently languishing below position 2000 in its category. And I don't know what to do about it.

It seems to be a chicken and egg situation. In order to read it (and possibly review it) people first need to find it. They are unlikely to stumble upon it unless it's in the top 100, yet to get there it needs sales and good reviews.

Some people have read it - but these are people who I've mentioned it's existence to. And it seems to appeal to a wide age range (14 to 64, that I'm aware of). I've had some good feedback too, but how on earth to make it more widely known?

Any advice would be most gratefully received.

schmalex Sat 30-Apr-16 07:07:54

I'm not an expert on KDP, but social media is very important for marketing to teenagers. Are you on Twitter, Instagram, etc?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sat 30-Apr-16 07:51:22

It's very hard to make a book visible when you have only written one. The more successful KDP authors have huge numbers of titles out there. You can boost sales by being very active on social media and doing giveaways and publicising them on Goodreads etc, but it's still a very small number of sales for the amount of work.

Can I ask why you haven't gone down the mainstream route and tried an agent and publisher instead? It sounds like you are serious about your work and willing to put the graft in.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sat 30-Apr-16 07:57:21

Have you thought about putting your older self published titles on KDP too, so you have more of a presence?

What sells books online is the hook. Is your hook appealing enough to make people take a chance on you?

Also, is your blurb as good as it could be? Do you want to link and we can tell you if you are making any obvious mistakes with that bit?

Madhairday Sat 30-Apr-16 08:46:41

Yes, a good blurb is vital. I've seen some blurbs on kindle which are basically huge long info dumps with no hook, but I'm sure yours isn't like that. Do link it here and we'll have a look. Also, what do you have it priced at? Some can be too high and ones that are too low or even free often sink into oblivion because people assume they won't be any good. I'm an avid reader of kindle books and happy to pay about 1.99 a book (or more) if it draws me in.

I'd be happy to take a look for you, as I write YA myself I like to read a lot in the genre.

At the moment I'm pursuing the agent route but have considered kdp and probably will if it comes to nothing. At the moment I have a twitter account and a website. I'm fairly active on twitter but as far as I can see the self-pub community there are simply throwing out their books and re tweeting others all day but sales don't seem to necessarily result. Someone told me the best way to get sales is to write more books, like Countess said.

Good luck!

leonardthelemming Sat 30-Apr-16 11:21:44

Gosh! So many helpful replies. Rather than quote, I'll try to answer all your queries with this update.

I really don't know enough about social media. I used to be a teacher and I kept away from it - for no really rational reason, I suppose. Since the middle of last year I've had a Facebook account in my real name and I have mentioned the new book on there. I very quickly aquired a moderate number of Friends - former colleagues and pupils mostly - and some of them have bought it. I have considered Goodreads and perhaps I ought to do that. I've also produced business cards with the book details - mini blurb and QR code linking to Amazon - on them. I've given some to random strangers that I've met on trains, in McDonald's, etc. But I find that a very difficult thing to do. I have my own website, but again people are unlikely to stumble upon it.

I don't really know why I haven't tried the agent route. Procrastination may play a part - I have very little idea how to go about it and seem to put more effort into writing than promoting. I have made a note of publishers who handle similar work, and am starting to wonder whether I ought to try with agents. But I think fear of rejection is the main reason. It seems commonplace. I've never taken rejection well, and I suspect it will be worse now that I'm on long-term medication which has depression as a side-effect. And I suppose I don't want someone else messing about with my work, although, tbf, the editor of my educational articles very rarely wanted anything other than the most minor changes. But the publishers always changed "realized" to "realised" to conform to their house style. (I used the OED spelling conventions - fussy, I know.)

I did try to give copies away using Mumsnet but fell foul of the Talk Guidelines by posting in Teens. My reasoning was that if it was free it wouldn't count as promoting, but the thread got taken down anyway. About 50 copies were downloaded though, and I got useful feedback from the mother of 14-year-old twins. She felt it was appropriate for age 14 and up (and her daughter loved it, apparently). It isn't just for teens though - it's about teens, but three of my seven test readers were in their twenties, and they enjoyed it too.

I have put my other books on KDP too. Pricing is an issue. Everything I've read until now says that sales increase if the book is cheaper. Now, in the light of what I'm reading here, it seems as if the reverse maybe true - up to a point.
I originally intended to make it free at first, but found that isn't an option. 99p is the minimum price I can set. Yet there are lots of free books on Amazon. It's very confusing. I think Amazon will price match if a book is available at a lower price elsewhere, so all my books are also available on Smashwords. Except for the latest one, which doesn't meet their content guidelines.

As for the blurb and the hook - if people can't stumble across it they're not going to read the blurb anyway...

One thing I would have the confidence to do - and would quite enjoy - is book readings in schools, but I have no idea whether schools would be interested in inviting unknown authors. If anyone has experience of this I'd love to hear about it.

You've asked for a link - is that really allowed? After my experience of trying to give books away I'm a bit nervous of breaching the Talk guidelines.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sat 30-Apr-16 13:45:25

Mumsnet don't mind if you post a link for purposes of feedback - people do it all the time when they are selling houses. But if you don't want to risk getting it wrong again you could always pm us.

Abraid2 Sat 30-Apr-16 13:51:53

You could try doing a Bookbub promotion alongside a Countdown promotion on KDP. You will need quite a few reviews on Amazon for them to consider you, it changes periodically, so check on the site.

If getting reviews is a problem, consider joining a syndicate that buys up review slots on Netgalley.

Here is a syndicate I have used:

More reviews equals far more visibility on Amazon, it's the way their algorithms work.

Abraid2 Sat 30-Apr-16 13:59:59

Sorry, I have just seen that you haven't had anyone else look at your YA book? Did I read that correctly? Hold off getting any reviews until you to do. You need to tet used people critiquing and editing your work before you publish if you want to move up to the next level, it's part of being a professional author.

Don't put up any books on KDP without having them at the very least copy-edited, preferably structurally/developmentally edited, too. Or let a friend who has a good command of English read for you as a bare minimum and a knowledge of how novels 'work'. You won't spot everything, nobody can. But you can bet your life that a reviewer will, and it's better to find out while you have a chance to do something about it.

Madhairday Sat 30-Apr-16 14:03:12

I think mnhq are happy for posters to put links up for feedback here in creative writing, quite a few do. I'm happy to look at it if you'd prefer to pm.

leonardthelemming Sat 30-Apr-16 19:30:50

More reviews equals far more visibility on Amazon, it's the way their algorithms work.

I know. It would be really helpful if I had some.

Don't put up any books on KDP without having them at the very least copy-edited, preferably structurally/developmentally edited, too. Or let a friend who has a good command of English read for you as a bare minimum and a knowledge of how novels 'work'. You won't spot everything, nobody can. But you can bet your life that a reviewer will, and it's better to find out while you have a chance to do something about it.

I've got that wrong then - although I suppose I could always take the books down again. On the other hand, I did spend more time editing and proofreading than I did writing in the first place. I gave copies of the book to seven people (aged from 17 to 64) and made changes in the light of their comments.

You need to tet used people critiquing and editing your work before you publish

I'm not totally unfamiliar with this, because all my magazine articles were edited. They were non-fiction of course, but it was rare for the editor to ask for any changes.

I think mnhq are happy for posters to put links up for feedback here in creative writing, quite a few do.

OK - here goes:

Abraid2 Sun 01-May-16 09:29:35

I been a professional writer and editor most of my life, and my novels still get edited very rigorously by other editors!

They save me from myself and make me less anxious about book reviewers.

Abraid2 Sun 01-May-16 09:46:46

Editing means different things at different stages. Developmental editing is more about structure and character development than use of language or typos.

The boards over at Kwriters are very good for advice on all aspects of self-publishing. When I was having a 'gap' between publishers, i.e.the first one dropped me, grin I self-published two books and found some really good advice here.

schmalex Sun 01-May-16 13:22:42

I would definitely second the need for a professional editor. I am traditionally published and my editor always makes changes that make the book better. You just can't see it yourself and every writer has weaknesses. It's quite different from being edited as a journalist as a novel is such a large and unwieldy beast.

I also don't mean this to be disparaging, but I think your cover could be more professional looking, which probably means you need to spend money on a designer.

Why not try sending your ms out to a handful of agents and see what happens? Being rejected is nothing to be ashamed of - it happens to all of us.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sun 01-May-16 16:04:35

The covers immediately struck me as not doing you justice. You need your book to look like a trade published YA in your genre if any readers are going to give it a second glance.
Bespoke designers are £££ but fear not, what you can do is find a readymade cover online - Google premade book covers and you will find several sites with plenty of perfectly professional looking covers from £20 upwards. It is less important for it to be specific to your book than for it to look like it could have been published by a mainstream publisher.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sun 01-May-16 16:12:13

Re the blurb, I have seen a lot worse and it makes me expect a competently written book, BUT it doesn't really sell it hard enough - it doesn't tell me what is special about your writing or your story and why I should pick it off the shelf as opposed to any other book.
Writing blurbs is blooming difficult, but it is one of the skills you have to get to grips with if you care at all about getting readers.
It's hard when your story is not particularly high concept. A lot of the books that have broken out of Kindle obscurity to become bestsellers are massively high concept and hooky (Astronaut stranded on Mars! Teenager fights zombies to save little brother! Humanity confined to silos viewing outside world through murky window!)

leonardthelemming Sun 01-May-16 16:33:33

Lots of helpful advice - thank you. Looks like I need to find myself an editor! I failed to mention that I'm an associate editor for the magazine I write for - but as shmalex points out, novels are different.
Interesting comments re the cover. I ran it past my test readers and their opinion was that simple is good. And my wife hates books where the cover doesn't relate to the story. But in the light of comments here, I may well reconsider.

ImperialBlether Sun 01-May-16 17:22:58

Does anyone know why the 'Look inside' feature isn't available for the book? I don't remember choosing to have it or not have it with my books.

OP, I think you get five days of free copies. Be warned, though, that you can 'sell' a lot when it's free, but then they can give you bad reviews. The other day I put my books on for free - in a day 1,500 copies were downloaded. The next day I sold 32 copies, but then I got a pretty horrible review and I would have preferred not to have sold those books and kept my review average up.

Why haven't you at least got friends and family to review it? Having a few reviews will help a lot. Don't write one yourself as Amazon will delete it. If you share your Kindle with your wife, then she can't review it, either. Just a warning as this comes up on the Kindle forum all the time.

I think the blurb makes the book sound interesting, but I would edit it a bit. The last two sentences: "Is there even a chance of a Happy Ever After? For any of them?" should be one: "Is there even a chance of a Happy Ever After for any of them?" And you say, "And then there's Tarquin." Well, what about Tarquin? I guess you want a kind of cliffhanger but given we know nothing about Tarquin, it doesn't work that well.

Best of luck with it. Personally I've found it difficult to market Kindle books - I have blocked a lot of self-published writers on Twitter as all they do is advertise their own books.

If you have confidence in the book, have you thought of approaching agents?

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sun 01-May-16 18:23:15

I just downloaded the free sample. It gets off to a cracking start. I don't think you should be shy about submitting to agents, though I don't think you will get anywhere with something you have already self published but which hasn't sold many.

But I do think you should put the glossary at the end, not the beginning. It's offputting to have to page through it before you get to the actual story.

ImperialBlether Sun 01-May-16 18:29:07

Countess, I think I'd just pull it off Amazon and send it off to agents - he could always explain he put it on there but found marketing it too difficult. According to the agents from Janklow & Nesbit at the MN Publishing Day, agents are used to seeing self-published books.

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sun 01-May-16 18:36:21

Oh, that's good to know, Imperial!

Madhairday Sun 01-May-16 18:40:51

I've just tried to download it op but the page went all odd so I'll try again later.

First impressions on the cover is that it looks like a non fiction book - I'd think it was some kind of self help book (sorry) although I get the concept of the eight figures. It doesn't scream YA.

Blurb seems OK, at first I thought it was too many characters to include in one paragraph but then realised that this was the whole concept so got it and it did peak my interest. Blurbs are really, really hard and that's one of the better ones I've read.

I'll leave a review once I've managed the download!!

leonardthelemming Sun 01-May-16 20:23:39

But I do think you should put the glossary at the end, not the beginning. It's offputting to have to page through it before you get to the actual story.

I've actually been thinking of cutting it altogether!

TheCountessofFitzdotterel Sun 01-May-16 20:31:26

Yes, not a bad idea. I don't think you need it. Or have a vastly abbreviated one of under a page if there is anything you think could really do with explanation.

leonardthelemming Sun 01-May-16 20:43:02

I don't think you need it.

I've recently re-read Gemini Rising by Eleanor Wood - it's set in the UK and manages without one. Of course, since I'm British I wouldn't expect to have a problem with it. Perhaps Americans do.

But since I've found a missing closing quote it may be worth doing a revised version - perhaps with a new cover...

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