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February 26, 2009

Kindle for Authors

Kindle ought to be the answer to an author's dream But, for now, it is an almost insurmountable marketing challenge. Read on to learn what I'm trying

No expensive software or hardware is needed to create a Kindle book. Assuming you can write to begin with, you can create a book with Microsoft Word or similar tools (HTML is best but .doc works) and easily upload it for Kindle publication; the details are here on Amazon. Two or three days later your book's in the Kindle store. Amazon pays you a 35% royalty on the suggested retail price (which you set).

You can get a book out fast. You can address topics as timely as last week's installment of TARP. And no publisher or agent is going to tell you "no" or "rewrite and I'll think about it".

What's not to like? Well, for starters, no one is going to know that your book is there.

Amazon does some marketing to Kindle owners and highlights new books on Kindle – but, understandably, these seem to be books which already are hits or are from hit authors. If you're already a hit author, your publisher is worrying about all of this and not you. So, as is almost always the case for unfamous authors, you've got to do your own marketing.

Unfortunately for authors, readers, and even Amazon, there doesn't seem to be a practical way to market Kindle titles which are not on the best-seller list. You can be found by a diligent searcher; your title can certainly be located by someone who is looking for it or for books by you; but you don't have any good way to snare new readers.

Physical books can be advertised and promoted in various ways; all of which are expensive for new authors but some at least verge on the practical. Display and clickthrough advertising can both work because anyone who can read is a prospect for a physical book. But so far there are only an estimated half million Kindles out in the world so, even if you do a very good job of reaching people who are interested specifically in the art of tulip growing as you've explained it in your book, most of your tulip growing readers aren't prospects for a book on Kindle and won't be for some time to come. So you can't sell Kindle-only books through vertical marketing.

What you really want to do is reach those people who own Kindles. After all, there only 230,000 titles available for Kindle; the categories are thin; Kindle fans have to be content starved. They can instantly download a free preview of your book and fall in love with your prose – if they only knew your book existed. That's where it would be good to have help from Amazon – even if you have to pay for it; but none seems to be available. So far I haven't gotten any responses from Amazon to questions on how to market a Kindle title even though my book hackoff.com: an historic murder mystery set in the Internet bubble and rubble was an early Kindle title and is also carried in hardcover by Amazon.

One opportunity, of course, is to promote your book on your own blog (see example in the paragraph above in case you missed it). Probably all your readers don't have Kindles but at least the ad is free. But you can do better than that. If you write interesting posts about Kindle, then Google will send Kindle owners to your blog to read your posts (and the promotion for your book).

I stumbled into this by accident, not by thinking. Since Kindle 2 was released, there's been a surge of traffic to Fractals of Change from people doing searches for "Kindle web browsing" and "Kindle Internet". I posted on both of these topics over a year ago but the posts still appear near the top of the first page of search results for these terms. Clearly these readers are interested in Kindle and presumably its content. It took me a week to realize that I ought to put an ad for the Kindle edition of hackoff.com at the top of the right sidebar of this blog even though I was already thinking about how to promote the Kindle edition. Duh! Too soon to know how effective it is.

The second self-help marketing attempt I'm making is through an Amazon marketing program called BXGY (Buy X Get Y). You can attempt to buy placement for your title with some other presumably better-selling title so people who look at that one will also see yours and get a two-fer offer with some savings. This one isn't for the faint of heart. The minimum cost is $1000 for a month long promotion. So what I tried is pairing my book with best-selling Kindle titles that I think appeal to the same readers. It doesn't say anywhere I can find on the Amazon site whether you can actually do this pairing with Kindle titles and I'm only interested in a Kindle-pairing because I only want to pay to reach Kindle owners. Even if it works, you don't get back direct results from Amazon and have to guess how much the pairing affected sales during the month you paid for.

Will let you aspiring e-authors know if Amazon actually accepts the pairing request and, if so, how it seems to have done. Also would be glad for any hints from readers on how to promote a Kindle title.

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