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Friday, November 11, 2011

Five Books Near The Top Of Kindle Best Sellers Lists - How Did That Happen?!?

My son repeatedly encouraged me to put my back list on Kindle. Late last year I finally agreed to give it a try. I thought it might sell a couple of copies a month, and would keep him happy.

As I predicted, the first few months saw a few sales, but nothing to get overly excited about. Then the numbers started growing. July doubled June. August tripled July. September tripled August. October doubled September. I am now selling in the thousands of copies each month.

As most of you know, I write both short humor essays and comedic novels. My collections of essays are all stories that go their start in my syndicated newspaper column that ran in American and Canadian newspapers from 1994 - 2007. My novels include a darkly comedic mystery called Crossbow (think Fargo without the wood chipper) and a family relationship comedy, The Plight Before Christmas.

So how did that happen? Let's look at some of the reasons for their Kindle success, and what you need to do to spur on your own sales:

  1. I keep the Kindle prices at $0.99 each. Oh sure, it was a bit of a gut wrenching decision to keep them priced that low, and to accept the lower return on a per book basis, but in the end the quantity of sales is far outpacing any reduction in royalty.
  2. While I have spent years building my platform and reputation, with three major book awards in Canada, and thousands of publication credits to my name, it all went out the window with the switch to Kindle editions. I had to find a way to reach the readers who have embraced the new technology. I have talked to dozens of people to get their opinions about what they want to see on their Kindles, and determined that there was in deed a market for my material.
  3. I have marketed my books at every opportunity. That includes the usual avenues of Facebook and Twitter. It also includes everything from sitting around a pool at a resort in Belize where I counted almost 20 kindles in the hands of the other guests (in a resort with only 30 units), press releases, radio interviews, online interviews, and direct mail to contacts that I thought would be interested in the books. I spend several hours each day just working on book marketing.
  4. Repetition is vital. It's often been said that it takes up to 7 marketing contacts before a sale is made. Don't just tell your Facebook friends and fans about your new book, once. Tell them several times, but spread it out so that the frequency does not become annoying.
  5. Yes, it helped a lot that I had a platform before I started marketing on Kindle. The same could be said about my traditional books before the first one of those came out in 1999. If you do not have a platform now, start building one by getting your name out there as often as you can. Attend writer's conferences, festivals, and even local critique groups to make yourself known.
  6. Treat your readers well. If you receive fan mail (or hate mail) answer it promptly and politely. Don't argue if they tell you they don't like your book, thank them for their opinion, and listen to what they are saying, because they may not be the only ones with those opinions. When people buy the paperback version of The Plight Before Christmas, they can request a free signed custom bookplate for their book(s). If a book club is reading one of my books I will attend their follow-up meeting either in person, or by video connection. Just letting people know that you do those sorts of things gives them a positive impression about you and your work.
  7. Make sure you have an Amazon Author Central page. It is the easiest way to direct your potential readers to your books. If you don't have one, go to and get one!
  8. Create a Facebook page for your book. It may not have a lot of people signed up, but it gives you a chance to interact with people who have read (and enjoyed) your book.
  9. Always be on the lookout for a marketing opportunity. When I teach book marketing at writers conferences I always get the deer-in-the-headlight looks when I tell them that they will have to do a lot of marketing. Believe it. The really hard work starts after you have typed 'The end.'
  10. Read Carolyn Howard-Johnson's book The Frugal Book Promoter. It will give you far more ideas than I have the time to give you here.
So yes, in January I sold just 3 Kindle editions. Ten months later, my October sales were in the thousands. Five of my books are near the top of the Kindle Best Sellers in Parenting & Family Humor list. Two are on the Christmas lists. It takes work, but anything worthwhile does. You need to decide for yourself if your book is worthwhile. Hopefully the answer to that comes easily to you.

Best Sellers in Parenting & Family Humor

The best items in Parenting & Family Humor based on Amazon customer purchases. (Learn more)

When My Mind Wanders It Brings Back Souvenirs
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I Think I'm Having One Of Those Decades
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I May Be Big But I Didn't Cause That Solar Eclipse
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Holly Jolly Frivolity
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The Plight Before Christmas
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Gordon Kirkland At Large

Writings and Wramblings from the Wandering and Wondering Mind of Gordon Kirkland