In my previous post I relayed some information on digital publishing, the emphasis being on the effects that a BookBub ad had on one of my novels. The ad was designed to inform BookBub subscribers that my ebook, FIREPROOF, would be available to download for free direct from Amazon's Kindle site (UK only -- I'll get back to that later). That meant that if you had a Kindle reader of any generation -- or indeed the Kindle app on your phone, tablet or computer -- you could read one of my novels for free. I held off on a follow-up post as I was aware that my publisher, Blasted Heath*, was pursuing a second ad for a second title.
UNDERCOVER, a thriller set in Belfast featuring undercover cop Cormac Kelly, is currently free on Kindle UK. The BookBub ad went out on Monday. Yesterday it outperformed FIREPROOF by hitting the number 1 spot on the Kindle chart. The highest FIREPROOF managed to reach was the number 4 spot. To put the ranking in perspective, that amounted to a little over 4,000 downloads in the UK for the week beginning 21st March. As the free-giveaway promotion only lasted for half a week some of those may be paid downloads (which won't be clarified until I get the royalty report for that quarter), but I suspect that the majority were free downloads. Free doesn't mean worthless, however. In the weeks following it, the number of Amazon reviews from readers (the vast majority of them positive reviews) almost doubled. Other books in my canon also experienced a small uplift in sales.
Last month I thought that FIREPROOF had been underperforming in the US Kindle charts. However, that was a silly error on my part. I didn't realise that the ad my publisher organised was limited to the UK only. Therefore my speculation on genre taste and definition was irrelevant. This was simply due to the fact that it's more challenging and more expensive to land an ad that applies to all of the Kindle territories. However, the fact that UNDERCOVER seems to have outperformed FIREPROOF could well have a lot to do with genre. The former most-definitely falls into the more commercial classification of crime fiction. The latter... it's a genre mongrel.
Since UNDERCOVER hit the number 1 spot (and held it for a day), it's safe to assume (even with a prudent mindset) that it's been downloaded in greater numbers than FIREPROOF was last month. I'll know for sure in a week or two when my publisher sends me the numbers. What I do know is that previous freebie giveaways without a BookBub ad have not been this effective in years (in 2012 two giveaways saw downloads in the tens of thousands between two of my titles without the ad).
Unfortunately, I can't see this trend continuing. Although BookBub's unique business model (at least as far as eBook promotional websites go) of taking on only the books that they see fit to advertise makes this a somewhat exclusive service, it's likely to hit saturation point or will give way to a different model. That seems pessimistic, but as self-publishing becomes more accessible and much simpler thanks to tools such as the Kindle Digital Platform (there are other outlets, such as Kobo, that are likely to offer real competition in this arena in the coming years) it gets harder to make a book stand out without a massive marketing budget. Most published and self-published authors cannot afford this.
On the upside, there are plenty of books to read out there.
UNDERCOVER is still free in the UK, but not in the US, unfortunately. Unless you're a pirate. If you are, and you feel a little bit guilty that your download in no way contributed to the feeding of my family I'll forgive you if you post an honest review somewhere. Seriously.
In the meantime, here's a link to my publisher's website where you'll find further links to the majority of my books. And if you'd like a free book without suffering pirate-guilt, from any of the writers in the Blasted Heath stable, all you have to do is sign up for their newsletter and pick one. Doesn't even have to be one of mine. More digital wizardry!
The next blog post is likely to be one based on a couple of writing podcasts that I enjoy for different reasons but also contribute to my writing in terms of knowledge, technique and inspiration. I'm also more than happy to answer questions about digital publishing (knowledge permitting) in the comment section.