The Four Month Kindle Experiment: Why I Wouldn’t Recommend It

For the past 4 months, I’ve had 3 products available on the Kindle. These products formed part of the ‘How To Network Fast’ e-course that I took off the market in mid 2011.

I believed that the products no longer resonated with my work, and was questioning whether I wanted to continue working in the industry. I figured that I’d be better off repurposing the content for a new platform and learn as much as I could.

Amazon is an amazing marketplace. But, to really succeed you’ll have to put in just as much effort, for less initial return, then a traditional launch. This is good for people who can afford to take a long range view. For many of us, it’s just not feasible.

Here’s what I did

I wanted the experiment to be a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ to test what type of return I’d get. To accomplish this, I:

  • Converted the products to kindle format. This can be a very time consuming if, like myself, you don’t know what you are doing. Naomi Niles from Intuitive Designs converted my books.
  • Created a very basic cover. I didn’t want to invest too much into this experiment. I know my covers worked against me because the marketplace is hyper-competitive.
  • Uploaded the books. This was easy and was done within 24 hours. I was frustrated at the categories I had to choose from, as my guides are rather niche. I didn’t put that much effort into the description.
  • I created a very basic author page.
  • I enrolled my books in the Kindle Select Program. I did 2 seperate free promotions for different titles.

I tweeted about them occasionally. I tried not to leverage my brand too much as I wanted to see what I could achieve.

My results

I made about $60. I have no idea where the sales came from, although some people did tweet me when I did the free offers.

I had one review from a person I met during blogchat.

By all accounts, this experiment was a failure. Yet, by actively participating and watching others, I learned so much more then most people.

Here’s what I learned:

The KDP Select ‘Free’ Promotion isn’t as effective as it used to be.

I had about 10 sales in the following two weeks after running a promotion for my twitter guide. They’ve slowed down now to about one a week. I’ve had no traction with my guest post guide since that promotion finished a week ago.

I was one of the first in the community to take advantage of these types of promotions. By the time I promoted my second book, many other people were trying similar techniques. This meant that I was competing with a lot more people for attention.

Just switching it to ‘free’ used to suffice. Now, you need to run a full launch campaign for a free promotion if you want it to truly have an impact.

People have higher expectations, despite the lower price points.

Many people think that they can put a poorly edited product online and, due to the lower cost. the readers will be okay with that.

Your readers will be. In fact, many of them will be excited. However, those who haven’t been exposed to your work before will often be disappointed. I bought Carol Roths Entrepreneur Equation for just 5 bucks. That was a product that was well written and incredibly useful. The cover and marketing were extremely professional.

When you put a product on Amazon, you think you are just competing against similar people in the blogosphere. The reality is that you are also competiting against people who take self publishing a lot more seriously then you do.

You may think ‘That’s no biggie,’ and that’s fine. But you may be damaging your referrability in the long run by releasing a product that is considered to be substandard on that marketplace.

You have to put in a lot of effort if you want success.

It’s no longer enough to just put a product out there and hope for the best. You have to:

  • Have an initial ‘boost’ of sales, or free downloads, in order to get enough traction to show the algorithms that you’re awesome.
  • Engage in outreach with buyers or influencers in order to get reviews. Reviews are what can make or break your product launch, especially with new buyers.
  • Be consistently innovating and experimenting to take advantage of the new changes.

Just look at what Sean Platt is doing. That guy is having a lot of success, but he has to continually hustle and market to do so. He has to create a lot of books to take advantage of cross promotions and up-sells. I think his work is amazing, but his kind of output is not something that everyone can replicate.

What do I recommend?

Your choice depends on a lot of variables. I used to fantasize about creating a business around mini ebooks. Last year, I got into a debate with Catherine Caine aboutit. She tried to make me see that it just wouldn’t be sustainable. I was naive and thought the quality of work would speak for itself. As a writer, who wouldn’t hope that buyers would flock to a product?

The reality is, most of us don’t have the time to wait and experiment. I could have earned 10-50 times that amount by pricing more realistically. Just read this article about making more money from few sales.

We have to pay bills. Businesses pay those bills. The Amazon marketplace is still evolving and it’s too new for most of us to make a full time income. There are many exceptions, but a lot of those people got in first and have been working their arse off ever since.

I think it’s admirable to experiment with it as part of an overall strategy. And, perhaps split your ebooks across multiple marketplaces. Muck around with launch strategies and learn.

I just believe we need to be more realistic about our goals and expectations.

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