Amazon has been an excellent choice for the D’mok Revival series. The first two months have been amazing. I wanted to share a little bit of what I’ve learned using their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform.
#1 SIMPLE TO USE
Once you’ve signed up, you get a publisher’s interface featuring reports, KDP sales options, and access to the publisher community.
If you want to change prices, add promotions, etc. you go either into your book product details, or the KDP Select options.
If you want to ask questions to the community at large, you go into the forums. As long as you read the “primer” posts out there people are typically friendly. Don’t just blindly ask a question without researching it first. People are NOT friendly when a quick read of a FAQ or primer would have answered your question.
There’s also great ways to monitor your book’s progress.
There are three core reports offered:
1) Month-to-Date Unit Sales
2) Prior Six Weeks’ Royalties
3) Prior Months’ royalties
The Month-to-Date Unit Sales report allows you to see how many sales have come in so far this month. The information provided includes: Units sold, Units Refunded (yes, I’ll get to this), Net Units Sold (Units Sold minus refunded), Free Units-promotions (from KDP promotions you can setup), Free Units-Price Match.
There can be up to a reported 5 hour lag in sales registering. Nevertheless, it’s a great tool to keep track of things. I actually take the data and put it into an excel document. It allows me to see daily and hourly sales trends for my series.
Prior Six Weeks’ Royalties allows you to see a rolling six weeks of royalties earned from your book(s). It’s typically generated at midnight on Saturday of each week. The information includes: Week Ending, Title, Author, ASIN, Units sold, Units refunded, Net Units Sold (Units Sold minus Refunds), royalty percentage (%35 or %70), Average list price, average file size (of your ebook that they store and serve), the Average offer price (which can very depending on cheaper prices found on the internet), Average Delivery Cost (for storage and transmission of your ebook file), and the resulting Royalty earned in US dollars.
Keep in mind, you only get six months. So if you want to trend this information, copy and paste it into an excel document. Also, there are 11 Amazon stores (US, UK, DE, FR, ES, IT, JP, IN, CA, BR, and MX). You get individual views of this report for each one.
Prior Months’ Royalties provides a rolling 12 months of royalties. This is generated on the 15th of each month. Unlike the other two, it creates an excel document you can download. The format of document is a little overwhelming. It provides the following information: Title, author, ASIN, transaction type (35%, 70%, or KOLL: Kindle online lending library—I’ll get to that in a bit), Units Sold, Units Refunded, Net Units Sold or Borrowed, Percentage of Borrows, Average list price, average offer price, average file size, average delivery cost, royalty. These columns are available for each of the 11 Amazon stores.
Because this is another rolling report, be sure to copy it down to your computer and store it. Once the information is gone, it appears to be gone.
#3 What to expect with Sales
Amazon does a great job of promoting your book in personalized emails with new and hot books to their user base. Since you’re book has the proper category tags, you know Amazon will send information about your book to the right audience.
If you have a well written book, it will get noticed and downloaded. As it becomes more popular your seller rank and book position will improve. To find this out, go to the kindle version product page for your book. Look in Product Details. You’ll find “Amazon Best Sellers Rank” and any earned category positions there. At one point D’mok Revival was ranking in three categories. Right now it’s just one. The numbers jump around every hour or two.
According to the publisher community at large, 300 books sold monthly is average for a well written work. How fast you reach this average, or how long it lasts depends on the popularity, and target market. Right now I’m around 375 and climbing.
#4 What to expect with reviews
The coveted reviews are hard fought to get. Marketing shows that 17 reviews appears to be the tipping point for people believing ratings. However, that doesn’t mean get your family and friends to put up great reviews the day after your book goes up.
The community at large says there’s about a 750 readers to one review average. As crazy as that sounds, it appears fairly accurate. If readers see a ton of reviews early on, they will get suspicious and despite a five star rating could walk away from your work. Also online shoppers have tuned into reviewer quality. They check to see who the reviewer is, what they’ve reviewed in the past (if anything), etc. There are also coveted Amazon reviewers that hold “rank” due to the number of reviews and number of times other shoppers have given their review a “thumbs up.” Reviews are not enough, it’s the quality of the review that will make or break your book in this important social aspect.
Leverage your social media outlets like your book’s Facebook page to ask those that have finished your book to post reviews. It may help, especially if they purchased it from Amazon and the all-important “Amazon Verified Purchase” tag goes on it.
Right now I have 4 reviews. Hopefully I’ll get more, with greater detail about what the person liked and didn’t like.
#5 What to expect with returns
YES, there are returns even with an ebook that cost someone $2.99. The average is somewhere between 3-6%. It’s hard not to take that personally, but you can’t. If you have more than that rate, you should seriously look at your work. Check the composition, the description to make sure the book is properly representing itself, the meta-data used to categorize your work and get the proper target market to you, and scour the reviews for anything that could explain why those returns are so high. I’m sitting around 1.6% and I’m very happy with that.
There’s another interesting wrinkle with returns. Amazon allows people to return an ebook for a full refund up to a week after purchase. They “could” read the book and just return it. However, this doesn’t appear to be a systemic problem, otherwise you’d see your return rates much higher.
The Kindle online lending library is for Amazon prime members. Any prime member can borrow an ebook for any length of time for free. Sure, this isn’t a SALE for you, however, you get compensated for the length of time a book is checked out. It seems like a pretty good deal so far to me. It’s an option you can set in the KDP options area for your book. I highly recommend it.
#7 Word of warning
Ever stare at a pot of water waiting for it to boil? Having access to near-real-time reports on your sales, and being able to go to your kindle version product page to check your rank can become obsessive. AVOID THIS. Check daily, or a few times if you’re really excited.
Understand your figures will swing up and down. Your rank will rise and fall. It’s how Amazon and internet sales go. I’ve personally been a little too observant of micro-trends (read as obsessive), and I’ve seen that times of day, stock reports, holidays, etc. all dramatically impact how many copies are sold.
What’s important is overall trends, not the detail of each transaction. Use this data for promotional materials (e.g. D’mok Revival broke the top 20 in the Kindle Alien Invasion category), gauge how effectively your marketing is resonating with the market. Just don’t dwell on it. Trust me, it becomes like a game to check it and hope things ticked up higher… Sometimes I got very disappointed when my rank fell versus going continually up.