The Amazon book ranks are like golf: the lower the score, the better you’re doing. So the 48 hours during which my main protagonist Emily Taylor (via my first novel, The Bridgeman) went from 96,339 to 398 was, to say the least, absolutely like getting a hole in one. (I’ve never gotten a hole in one, mind you, so I’m just imagining.) I liked to envision Emily touring the world.
I always had confidence in my writing. At school, at work, I excelled with words because I have been obsessed with them since childhood. I took workshops, classes, and read tons of how-to books, attended conferences, and went online to learn the craft and later, the business.
I also wallpapered my bedroom with rejection slips.
In frustration, I self-published the Emily Taylor mysteries and sold about 300 copies of each of the first three to my family, friends, and colleagues. The last one didn’t sell because I was sick the year of its release and couldn’t work at it.
Despite the modest success and the wonderful compliments from ardent fans, there was still something missing. In 2011, I found my missing part: publisher Cheryl Tardif of Imajin Books. Not only did my publisher like my writing, she is also a master with marketing.
Now I was beginning to get some confidence not simply with my novels but also with my ability to find a wider readership. Until the end of February, however, I was dismayed at how slow the Emily Taylor Mysteries were to catch on. My books are somewhat dark, not exactly classic mystery, and have a touchy subject at their core. But, dammit, they’re really good and they’re the kind of thinking book that I like to read! (That’s what I say when I have a couple of glasses of wine and feel really self-assured.)
What happened at the end of February? Cheryl Tardif, my publisher, enrolled The Bridgeman in the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program (KDP Select), which one writer (Joanna Penn) describes as the Canadian Idol for writers. (Although she said American.) If you have something to offer an audience, you need to let them know.
It’s a bit controversial, in that Amazon is attempting to push out all the opposition with this program (shades of a monopoly). We were required to remove The Bridgeman from every other distribution channel. Then we offered it for free for 48 hours. Here’s what happened to The Bridgeman, almost minute by minute.
At midnight on February 28, I started out with a rank of 96,339 (remember, this is out of millions) on Amazon Kindle. Only 13 sales and no borrows. We now place it in the hands of KDP Select and give it out for free.
By 8 a.m., I am up at 2,131 rank for freebies, with 802 downloads, no borrows. Because of the sudden movement, though, I appear on two bestseller lists: #17 in Kindle Mystery Women Sleuths and #50 in Kindle Thrillers Suspense. Guaranteed to stir more interest!
Later that day – 1100 downloads in the U.S. alone. Cheryl is encouraging: soon 1100 people will be reading The Bridgeman. They’ll tell their friends, and their friends will tell their friends…
Here is where I start to envision Emily's tour around the world.
Still later – 1157 US downloads + 61 in the U.K. My cousin in England is now reading my book! The rank: 134 on the free Kindles list. The coveted Top 100 Free Kindles is soooo close.
By this time, I am biting my nails and jumping up and down in my seat. Not only that, I open a bottle of wine…will I celebrate or drown my sorrows?
I tweet, facebook and google obsessively.
Suddenly, Cheryl’s messages begin to pop up regularly:
Congrats on breaking into the top 100 free kindles! Not everyone makes that list so you did very well.”
“2546 free d/ls in US and #87 Top 100 Free Kindle ebooks. This is excellent!”
“Over 4100 free d/ls now. Great first day, Cathy!!”
At 10:25 pm: 4439...
12:35 am: 5100...#29 Top 100 Free Kindle ebooks
Next day: 7220 downloads
By the end of the 48-hour freebies, at 11:15 PM: 9300 downloads. Almost 10,000 people have my book in their hands! Emily is touring the US, the UK, and Germany.
But it doesn’t stop there, and this is where it gets really interesting. Here are Cheryl’s messages one day later:
“75 sales” – then “118 US sales so far, 27 Kindle Owner’s Lending Library borrows” – then “You’re averaging 100 US sales a day this month. You have 300 sales so far, and today isn’t over yet” – then “You now have over 500 US sales. Congratulations, Cathy! This is very good! It’s only the 4th (of March)—and early. Your rank is just under 400” (398 to be exact).
By the 7th of March, I have over 700 sales.
I KNEW my audience was out there! And once they tuned in, I thought they would like my characters, my setting, the puzzles I laid out for them. Maybe even the social justice issues I wanted them to think about. The traffic has slowed a bit since then, but The Bridgeman is still selling more than before. I am determined to keep this momentum going, at whatever speed.
I might just leap on top of my roof and holler at the moon to spread the word. Until that sort of thing works, however, I’ll follow my publisher anywhere, including KDP Select, while I tweet, facebook, link, google....