Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Going Viral on Amazon. Some Hope.

You can read the 'some hope' in the title ironically or literally. It will be a while before I can see the lasting effects of the giveaway of my novel. It's now the 5th and final day, and downloads have averaged 100 per day. I'm now on about 500 and will see the grand total in the morning. The difficult task will then be seeing if the novel can stay high in the rankings when it's no longer free, and the only way this can happen for a book is if it goes viral in certain ways and takes off on its own.

When I thought about having a giveaway I was concerned about possible negative effects, but I hadn't realised what some of the good effects could be. Along with the pleasure of being able to give a book to so many people, the giveaway has also continued to lead to sales of printed books from various retailers and from me directly. These sales aren't huge, but all small publishers and most poets and literary fiction writers will know every sale is a cause for celebration.

This time last year we invested money in hiring a PR company for Ward Wood books in general and I can say this giveaway has achieved far more than the PR company did and without the £2,000 or more a PR company costs. I've compared notes with another author, and between us we have tried out two of the better known PR companies for publishing. PR agencies usually charge a fee that only covers one press release circulated and follow up phone calls, and this can lead to very little in terms of press and media coverage. I said I would give figures openly in these blogs, so this is what you can expect to pay and what you can expect to receive for your money. Sometimes they also circulate review copies for you, which is an easy task.

It worries me that the responsibility for PR could fall more and more to authors as the trend increases for self-publishing. As an author/publisher I can understand this as I'm a traditional publisher for our authors, but need to hire external editing and promotion for my own books if I choose to keep them with our company. For this reason I was thinking of going with another publisher for my next book, specifically because self promotion just isn't as effective as somebody else doing it for you, but the giveaway has made me reconsider.

The amount of work I put in as a publisher to promote books by our authors just couldn't be paid for if authors had to pay the £50 per hour charged by PR companies. It takes continual press releases tailored for each news item that could get coverage for an author and more than the 6-8 weeks that consitute a promotional campaign led by an agency. The work never ends, as bookselling is incredibly hard.

I really didn't expect the giveaway to lead to better results than the PR agency, but it wasn't hard perhaps.... In just 5 days the book has got to 14th position in the literary fiction ranking on Amazon UK, and has been in the top 10 on Amazon US, moving about between that position and the top 40. I've realised part of the reason the downloads are higher for Amazon US is that Ireland and India are also included on that site.

When I look at reports from PR agencies authors have used, they tend to lead to one or two reviews and maybe a broadcast. In just 5 days I've been asked to provide a reading to be broadcast on the popular Homegrown Podcast run by Nic Treadwell after he downloaded the book, and he has also asked to broadcast another Ward Wood author VG Lee.

There has been increased traffic to the Ward Wood site, leading to sales of books by our other authors, and small publishers particularly need people to buy direct from them. For some reason people always seem to buy from Amazon, so it's quite ironic that a giveaway on Amazon could help us achieve the sales direct from publisher we really need. I think the interesting discussion about publishing that has grown up around the giveaway has led to increased awareness and sales direct from the publisher.

Feedback from others during the giveaway made me realise the importance of encouraging people to click the Like button by books and to post reviews as this moves a book up in the Amazon rankings. I haven't been too successful at this as I don't like to harass, but was very encouraged by a review that turned up out of the blue from James Lawless, an Irish author, who I didn't know at all (which makes it even better) and who really 'got' what I was doing with the dystopian themes in the novel. You can see the review here and it will also go on my page on the publisher website.

If the book manages to stay high in the rankings it will have a chance of maintaining the high level of visibility needed to take off on its own. There's a limit to how much help a book can be given to keep people aware of it, especially when you have full-time work to do. Constant promotion by the publishers and authors could also put people off.

Anybody with a Kindle or other ebook could consider going onto forums, like Kindle Boards and Mobile Reads Forum. On these sites it's important to take a genuine interest in the discussions, but they do also give links to your books (especially Kindle Boards where they will help you put the covers of your books on all your posts with links to Amazon). They also have places to promote your book, and it's important to keep any self promotion strictly to the boards where this is allowed. I tested out the effectiveness of both of these sites on Tuesday night by posting after a long absence. Downloads of my novel went up by 21 in a matter of minutes, meaning that people were clicking on the links to my books from the messages even if I wasn't self promoting.

The period after a giveaway shows if people who have downloaded the book have enjoyed it enough to Like it on Amazon and to post reviews, or one sentence comments. If enough do, the book will stay visible in the top 20 or top 100. They might write about it in other places and ask the author to be interviewed or broadcast. Whether or not this happens for my book, it has become clear to me that it certainly can happen and the giveaway is well worth considering for authors and publishers.


  1. I've collected my free copy, Adele, and plan to read it over Christmas. Thank you!
    Nairn Kennedy (Bungle)

  2. This, and the earlier blog, make very interesting reading. And congratulations on the success of your giveaway. The Kindle sales from Finland also go via Amazon USA, which would further explain the higher figure from there.

  3. Ah, Amazon hog the sales to themselves from these bookloving countries! Thanks, both of you, for commenting. I have more to report about what happens after a giveaway. It's quite a learning experience, and a very useful one for authors and publishers. There's much that I couldn't have guessed without trying it out myself.

  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


Web Statistics