(**Or, "How My E-book Rose to Number Two at Amazon Kindle, and Found Its Way Into the Hands of 33,703 People in Three Days")
I've spent the last 15 months conducting my own unofficial consumer book-buying behavior survey and here's what I've found: there are seven reasons why Amazon is going to rule the book-buying world soon, if it doesn't already. But it didn't take me 15 months to figure that out; it's only taken two weeks.
That's because 33,703 people downloaded copies of Sister of Silence, my free e-book, during the Memorial Day weekend recently. The demand sent it shooting up the company's Top 100 Free Kindle list.
Which brings us to Reason #1: Amazon sells the Kindle, arguably the most popular e-reader on the market. But get this: if you don't own one, like many of my readers, you can download a free app that allows you to read any e-book on your phone, tablet or computer!
So while Kindle owners and other e-book lovers downloaded anywhere from eight to 14 copies a minute, Sister of Silence reached number 20 within hours of being listed as a free e-book. Then it climbed to number three, then number two, where it stayed from the morning of May 27 until the sale ended at 3 a.m. (EST) May 28. Given that there are several thousand free e-books available to Amazon customers at any given hour, it's amazing that mine would even break the Top 100.
This could just be the most important reason why Amazon is going to rule the (book) world. It's Reason #2: KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) gives customers free e-books.
They do this because it never hurts to give away free product. (Remember the "loss leader," items you got at the grocery store, which is why you went there in the first place? No matter that while there, you also bought a cartful of groceries, to boot.) It's simply a way of getting customers to come into your store, and Amazon does it better than most online retailers -- which benefits readers and authors.
For example, my e-book went on sale at midnight, Friday, May 26 (PST). I was ecstatic when I realized so many people were downloading my book the numbers were changing every two or three seconds. With an average of 11 downloads each minute, 660 copies of my e-book were being downloaded every hour!
By the time my title hit number three, it was across from one book in E.L. James' red-hot Shades of Grey trilogy. Ditto for number two. None of the actions I took during the previous 14 months to promote my book -- sending out advance review copies, emailing press releases to major literary publications, or paying for advertising and marketing -- accomplished what Amazon did in less than 48 hours. Nor were those efforts as exciting as seeing my book right up there, next to two best-selling titles by a world-famous author.
Since then, sales have continued to climb and remain steady, averaging more than 100 a day. Prior to the free e-book promo, I was selling an average of 80 e-books in any given month. Therein lies the problem: to sell those 80 e-books, I felt like I had to constantly put myself on display or force myself upon the public, like a cheap strumpet or the telemarketers we all hate.
Leading us to Reason #3: Authors want to write. No more, no less.
You see, with sales like this, I now have more time to write. That's the real reason Amanda Hocking went with a big publishing house. "I am continuously overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do that isn't writing a book. I hardly have time to write anymore, which sucks and terrifies me," Hocking lamented in her March 31, 2001, blog post.
It's the same reason most authors would do the same, if they got the chance: we don't want to be forced to sell our wares. We just want to write! Someone else can sell them for us, and we aren't really choosy about who that is, just so long as it isn't us.
Therein lies the rub, though. In today's publishing world -- which has not only been turned on its head, had its pockets emptied and been taken to the cleaners, all in one fell swoop -- authors are forced to market and promote their own books. Once upon a time, the biggest publishing houses would have done that for us. Now, though, these big houses aren't even doing it as much as they once did. (Unless you're a mega-celebrity author.)
Because Amazon has come along and offered small, unknown authors (like me) not only a reputable "location" from which to sell their books, but also the opportunity to play the game squarely against big-name, established authors, more and more author wannabe types are diving right in.
I call this Reason #4: Amazon levels the playing field.
Some of them are hitting it big. Like Hocking, among others. But even if they're not, authors aren't at the liberty of the Big 6, who calls the shots and then gives the author a small percentage of the book's retail price tag.
This would be Reason #5: Authors can set their own price.
Thanks to Amazon (be it the online retail giant's Kindle or CreateSpace arm, for those of us who also offer paper books) authors are free to name their own price. They can even name their own royalty, either 35 or 70 percent. This way, you see, everybody gets a chance to be just like William Shatner. Now tell me, what traditional publishing house lets an author do that?
Prior to the three-day free promo, I was reaching as many people as my few measly tweets and Facebook posts could reach. But that's no match for the sheer power of Amazon's Kindle numbers: 33,703, to be exact.
This is Reason #6: KDP helps authors reach new readers.
As an unknown author, I can beg readers until I'm blue in the face to write a review for me. But that doesn't mean they will, or that I'll even know who my readers are, to be able to grovel before them.
Not so with Amazon! All those 33,703 readers have to do is tell two other people about the free book they downloaded and loved reading, and those two people will tell two people and . . . so it goes.
As of June 7, 65 readers have reviewed Sister of Silence. Prior to May 28, when the free promo was rolled out, it took one year to get 47 reviews. Now there are 18 more -- 18 -- in less than two weeks.