Saturday, 1 June 2013

Poetry Publishing. Is Nobody Making an Income?

Following on from my previous post about whether the difficulties in poetry publishing are new, I also want to talk about another myth that's circulating. Just because poetry publishers have difficulties with low profit margins, no profit margins, or running at a loss, this doesn't mean nobody is being paid. A lot of people are making an income from poetry publishing and it's the publishers who pay them. That's why the profit margins are so low.

One thing I'm most proud of at Ward Wood Publishing is that we started during the recession, in June 2010, and it's so important for entrepreneurs to create work and income that then circulates and is paid out to keep other businesses going. We always use UK printers, and with a book a month we are continually putting work and income their way. Our fiction and ebooks do help us maintain this level of work - so don't be put off ebooks as they do help finance poetry and print runs.

I often see discussions online where people are saying that 'nobody is making an income' if the publisher isn't, including the authors. This isn't right. Author royalties are part of the cost per book to a publisher and we have to factor this in when calculating our profit and loss. We pay 10% of cover price royalties to authors. In standard publisher contracts with most companies, authors can also get their own books at discount, and these are the copies they generally sell at events either at discount or with a mark up. So royalties and selling their own books are two ways authors can make an income. Travel expenses to the regular live events they need to hold do cut into this or eat it up.

I have heard that some poets don't have a contract from their publisher, and they get no royalties. I do feel there should be a contract for various legal protections, but I can understand publishers perhaps taking the approach that royalties are paid on net income rather than gross income, and this would lead to no royalties once costs are taken out.

Some of our authors also get funding from various arts councils to travel to events, and even to dedicate time to writing a follow-on book once they have been published. Some get teaching posts and writer-in-residence positions. As publishers, we pledge the high entry fee to the major awards, and the full amount of the prize money would go to the author. Book sales even after a major award win or shortlist may well not let us recuperate the extortionate entry fees (up to £10,000 plus additional promotional tour costs if shortlisted).

Publishers make the full investment and take all the risk. When discussing the financial difficulty for publishers due to the low profit margins in poetry publishing, it's important not to imagine this means others, including authors, don't get paid. If we didn't have to pay anybody we would have a reasonable profit margin per book. We have a high turnover financially, but the problem is that the costs involved in producing a book, and paying authors and others, mean that the income is almost equal to the outgoings. For this to change, books need to sell more than 500 copies (which doesn't happen with poetry) as this is the point where higher volume print runs can reduce the cost per unit.

There is a very simple answer to this if people want to support publishers and keep publishing outlets open, and that is to buy poetry direct from the publisher whenever possible. This does cut out a lot of additional costs that I'll outline below.

One irony in poetry retail is that poetry lovers used to go to the trouble of buying direct from publishers in the old days, before the internet and when it was harder to get our hands on the books we wanted. This really did help publishers and authors. Since the internet made it easier to find and buy poetry books, people not only want to buy online, they have become almost addicted to the idea that Amazon is the one-stop place to get books and information about them (and the information about whether or not a book is available is very faulty on Amazon and loses many sales).

This brings me to the point where I can list the other people making an income out of poetry publishing - the middle men we need to go through to get the books to buyers, whether they shop in the hight street or on Amazon or Waterstones and other websites.

Retailers, both online and in the high street, insist on buying from their favourite wholesalers who get stock from a distributor. So we have to have our books warehoused with a distributor (Central Books) and with a top wholesaler that shops and Amazon will use (Gardners). They don't charge us for this, not even for the warehousing, but they each take a cut on all sales. We then also need a book marketing agency to rep our books to shops and they also take a cut. Yes, we can market books to shops too, but the book rep gets them into more shops and only charges commission per sale. So it is worth our while having everything in place so books can easily get into the distribution channel no matter how people want to buy.

An alternative is to use Print On Demand using Amazon, but this is more costly per book for the quality we need, and also it doesn't let us warehouse and stock enough books with the distributor and wholesaler (well we could but it would be an expensive way to do it). The advantage is the POD makes books available worldwide on Amazon, but other retail methods are important too so we'd need both approaches.

Poetry book sales in the lower hundreds aren't a terrible thing. In fact I have a feeling poetry is thriving more than ever and has never been more popular. The problem is that, because we are paying so many people out of each book sale, the profit margin is low. If publishers aren't too savvy financially they can even get into a loss-making situation.

So please don't think nobody is making an income. A whole set of businesses are kept going by publishers like us and that's one of the achievements I'm most happy with during a recession, along with the opportunity to keep publishing outlets open for exceptional authors.

Entrepreneurs creating work for individuals and other businesses are a key factor in helping to pull us out of recession and we should probably get funding for that reason alone! We've done it all without funding though, as publishers anyway. Individual authors should keep applying for funding.

If you've been interested enough to read this far I'd just stress one point. The way to solve the problem for publishers is to buy direct from publisher websites as it makes a huge difference not having to pay the commission to distributors and wholesalers, and they are definitely doing fine with the bestsellers they also handle.

There really was one great thing about the Good Old Days and that was direct sales from publisher to buyer.

Friday, 31 May 2013

Can Poetry Publishing Pay For Itself?

I was asked to answer this question on another blog (by the poet Judi Sutherland), following on from the closure of some publishing companies, and the decision of  one of the main companies, Salt Publishing, not to publish single poetry collections any more. My answer grew so lengthy that I think I should blog it!

I’ve been involved in poetry since the 1970s and it has never paid. This discussion has gone on throughout the decades, so we aren’t in a situation where poetry is somehow doing worse. In fact I can see poetry is more popular than it has ever been (you can see that by the participation all over the internet and the thriving live events all over the UK and Ireland).

People talk about print runs of 1,000 in the old days, but I have been told publishers used to get funding if they said they needed a print run of 1,000 and they sent out loads of free copies to dispose of them. A friend of mine used to get 5 review copies of each book by some publishers. There were regions that were particularly known for getting this kind of funding and publishers acively moved there to get it. This is why there’s still some doubt over whether funding should be allocated specifically to print runs. It’s quite hard for a poet to know how many free copies have been sent out, although I’m sure some big name poets sold well and would know by the royalty figures how many books were bought.

I also think we’re in a much better situation for poetry sales than the one I remember in the 70s, 80s and 90s, thanks to the internet and the ease of finding and buying poetry collections. I used to have to travel from Canterbury to the Compendium Bookshop in Camden, London, to buy poetry because you just couldn’t find a selection in bookshops. And I’m sure the Compendium was good but didn’t stock all the poets I would like to have found.

The problem isn’t whether or not poetry is popular, or whether or not it’s easy to buy books. The problem is that people enjoy poetry in many ways (my teenage sons loved it at school too, so education isn’t the problem as all their mates enjoyed it and even wrote it), but people don’t want to buy books.

Why don’t they buy poetry books? They only buy a poetry book if it’s so special to them that they want to read it over and over again so they want to keep it on their shelf. They have to buy a novel to read the whole thing, but they can hear whole poems at events and hear and read whole poems on the internet. They don’t have to buy the book. And it would be a mistake not to share our poems online or at events because…. 90% of poetry book sales are at readings and you absolutely have to have a following. What makes some books so special that people want to buy them and keep reading them? That’s one of the things that makes a poetry collection sell and we all know which books we have on our shelves for that reason and what it is that makes them collectable.

It’s great reading all the ideas from various people who have suggested what publishers should be doing to sell more books, and I always look in the hope of seeing something I haven’t tried. But publishers really have tried all of it and much more. I sometimes think many publishers don’t like to depress poets by telling them how much is done behind the scenes.

All of our books are easily available on Amazon and for bookshops to stock. I have book reps going round the UK, Ireland and parts of France continually repping the books to shops. I see bloggers saying that getting books into shops would help and they think publishers don’t try, but it’s really hard getting poetry into shops (managers tell me they can only sell the famous names) and bookshops stocking a book don’t make a definite sale – unless a customer goes in and buy it, the books do all get sent back for a full refund. That’s the standard way retail works in bookselling.

Publishers aren’t stopping now because the situation is worse. There has always been a turnover of publishers, with new ones setting up and some closing down. When I set up Ward Wood, Roddy Lumsden warned me not to, and told me that over the years he had seen so many publishers set up then stop when they got ‘exhausted, bored, or bankrupt’. We each step in and take our turn as part of the collective effort, and it’s the collective effort that’s another of the answers to this problem. I won’t be closing down though – I don’t want to suggest that, but it’s normal that there is a turnover of poetry publishers.

It really is hard work promoting poetry, and it’s like hitting your head on a wall. You can be very experienced at PR (I am) and do a massive amount of work to see a trickle of sales at the end of it. And each sale feels like a halleluia moment.

The amount of work I have had to put into promotion and sorting out the distribution channel has meant I no longer had time to do my paid work – I had to give up £400 per week as a freelance journalist and webcontent writer (I didn't realise this was going to happen and might not have taken the risk if I had known). And poetry publishing work is non-income. So when people suggest all the extra marketing work that could be done, bear in mind that it all takes time, and that time is also something that takes away your income. I could only do it because my father died soon after I started Ward Wood and left me some savings.

Poetry sells in the lower hundreds with a lot of work by the publisher and the poet. Sales and income aren't everything. An excellent book, good promotion, and hopefully some additional successes like award wins and shortlists, all help establish a poet's name. I always tell authors I can try my best with sales and we do sell as well or better than many other similar presses, but one thing I can guarantee is that a good publisher can help an author get noticed and establish a name and good reputation. It isn't all about money, although money is clearly a problem if it's making companies run at a loss and close.

But we do it. We do it because we believe in poetry with a passion. That’s why publishers have always stepped in to keep publishing outlets open and I suppose they always will. I hope ebooks will help poetry in the way I find they help novels and I’m starting to believe that they will. I’ll be experimenting with 5-day free promotions to see if they boost sales after the free period. This has really worked with fiction and it would be a pity if it didn’t work with poetry. It would cut the cost of the print run (although I always also have print books as they’re so important for the way poetry sells at events and for people who want a treasured signed copy to read many times). Ebooks can also have a low cost and still help as the number of sales is higher, and a low cost doesn’t seem to cut into print book sales for some reason, it boosts print book sales too.

So my answers would be:

1. Publishers probably need to be selling something else and not just poetry. Our fiction does help but I wouldn't say it's easy to sell novels. It is a specialisation and we're up against competition from the very big players and their huge promotional budgets with novels. Nonfiction is probably a good idea and is the bestselling form.

2. Supporting ebooks to help poetry publishers who make them available. Even if you hate Amazon, you can really help publishers by buying their ebooks.

3. For print books buy direct from the publisher’s website rather than Amazon. You might be surprised to find publishers have great discounts on price, much better than Amazon. Each sale from our website is worth 19 times as much as a sale from other places due to all the middle men. Think about it.

4. The very simple answer – just buy books. Unfortunately, even the poets and poetry lovers aren’t buying enough books, not by a long shot. If you want publishing outlets to stay open you do have to buy their products.

Monday, 18 February 2013

How to Get Your Book Displayed on Ebook Reader Websites During Giveaways

There’s a huge and growing number of avid readers, hungry for ebooks, as Kindles and other devices have helped people discover or rediscover reading addiction. That love of books, the feeling of getting lost in a book, the desire to read book after book -  it all seems to fit well with an ereader that lets you carry a number of books around in your pocket, and people find themselves reading more than ever before.

This hunger for books has led to a growth in the number of reader websites, selecting and offering ebooks. For an author or publisher it helps to get books listed on these sites. During the latest Ward Wood giveaway of V.G. Lee’s classic comedy novel, Diary of a Provincial Lesbian, I tried out all of the listing sites I could find to see which were most helpful and which would list books for free. As always, I found the pros and cons and offer tips to those of you wanting to submit your own books to these sites.

There are a few important considerations if you’re thinking of releasing a book with a giveaway promotion. The first is that some of the best sites get thousands of books submitted every day, so they make their selection process easier by asking for a number of reviews on your book’s Amazon page, and a minimum average star rating of 4. One site (Digital BookToday) asks for a minimum of 18 reviews. It’s a good idea to build a number of reviews and a good star rating for your book before running the promotion. Easier said than done, I know.

The second thing to remember is that some of these reader sites like to be informed up to a month in advance (including Pixel of Ink, which is one of the best known so very useful). Others like to be informed at least two weeks in advance (including Kindle Book Promos and The Kindle BookReview). So you need to plan in advance and set yourself a schedule of tasks. These tasks become more time consuming as the giveaway approaches so it’s a good idea to allocate tasks to a few people in order to make the most of the opportunity.

In order to submit your book to these sites you will need the ASIN as they all ask for it. This only gets allocated by Amazon when a book goes live on Kindle, so if you want to submit to the sites mentioned above you’ll need to publish the ebook at least a month in advance of the promotion. If you’re planning a promotion on a book you already have available there’s no problem.

We were launching Diary of a Provincial Lesbian with a giveaway, so we didn’t want to have it available too long before the first day of the giveaway. This made it difficult for us to submit to some of the reader sites, but we did try just in case. The results have been so helpful that I’ll definitely submit to all possible sites for all of our promotions.

Give yourself plenty of time to submit to the reader sites because there are more than 50 that I have seen so far. I was especially grateful to a site called eBookBooster which gives a listing of these sites with links. This made a very repetitive and time consuming task much easier. I might have given up without it and certainly wouldn’t have found the sites. I’d recommend going to eBookBooster to guide you through your submissions with all the links in the side panel. There are also some more sites that collect links to good reader sites, including Author Marketing Club. I found good reader sites myself but eBookBooster and Author Marketing Club will give you a great start.

Most of the sites have online forms for you to fill in, and they ask for the same information, so it helps to have it prepared so you can copy and paste. If you’re lucky enough to have an assistant or long-suffering friend or partner you could ask them to help. You need a photo of the book cover, plus the title, author name, brief and catchy book description, the ASIN, link to the book on Amazon (usually in the US or UK or both), and perhaps an author bio and the category/genre. Some may ask you for something unique about the book to let them know why they should choose yours rather than somebody else’s.

Many of the sites ask for ‘no erotica’, so you’ll need to point out that your book is not in that category if it has a title or cover suggests that it is. There are genre specific sites (like Erotica Every Day) that might be better for you write in this category. Again, the excellent eBookBooster website gives links to genre specific sites for erotica, sci-fi and young adult. Some of the sites cover all genres and organise them neatly for readers to find their favourite type of book.

The next step, after submitting to the sites that ask for the book details well in advance, is to separate the sites that want submissions on the day of the giveaway from those that want information just before the giveaway. The eBookBooster website divides these, and I was curious to see which websites would display our book even though we were submitting at the last moment.

I was also curious to see if they really would display our book, as they tend to say they consider all books but ‘for guaranteed inclusion on the site’ you can pay. This is often a small amount, just $5 in many cases, but it would add up. We did get included although we didn’t put budget into this part of the promotion.

I've seen stories on the Kindle Boards forums about authors and publishers who have paid about $50 to advertise on some high traffic reader sites, and they sometimes get a very high number of downloads during a giveaway (20,000-30,000 but it's not guaranteed and many don't achieve this with advertising). Although we don't do this, some of you might be considering it.

For those of you who are new to giveaway promotions - if you're asking yourselves why someone would pay to advertise a giveaway, it's because a giveaway promotion that gets thousands of downloads leads to sales. In my experience, each 1,000 books given away lead to 100 books being sold in the first few weeks after the promotion ends. Sales then continue at a less intense level. The author's name is also more widely known in the international market, and other books by them also sell, including print books.

The websites that included us at short notice were:  FreebieBooks, ebooklister, My Book and My Coffee, Free Books for Kindle (efreebooks), Snicks List, Centsless Books (which picks up the highly ranked ebooks) and the beautifully named Free Book Dude. Addicted to Ebooks listed us later, and it's worth looking at this and all the other sites to see if they will also consider listing your book if it isn't a giveaway (quite a few people are asking me about that).

We also had the book listed on HotUKDeals which has really helped with two of our giveaways – the fact that most posts aren’t for books on HotUKDeals means that the books stick out from the crowd.

Some sites let you enter your own giveaway, including SuperE-books, which felt a bit complicated as it involved registering to use the Wordpress site yourself. I’m used to working with Wordpress, so did find my way around it and got our book included. Being able to list your own information is a bonus as it can be done even if you’re having to do it at short notice.

With some sites there’s a questionnaire to be used for an ‘author interview’ so you’ll need to ask the author to do this if you’re the publisher. These were Free Ebooks Daily and Rainy’s Book Realm. With Rainy’s Book Realm, the website links to a group on Goodreads, so you can actually list your own book in the Goodreads group forum under giveaways.

One final way you can get your ebook listed on websites is to find the Facebook group for the site. If they let you list your Kindle book on their Facebook wall, this often has a feed to the website and it can show up on the main page.

Once again, thanks and credit to the people who put together the information at eBookBooster and Author Marketing Club, as most of the sites mentioned here can be found with links neatly arranged on their websites.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Diary of a Provincial Lesbian by VG Lee Free for Kindle and the Free Kindle Reading App

For 5 days over Valentine's weekend we've been giving away VG Lee's novel Diary of a Provincial Lesbian on Kindle. If you don't have a Kindle you can download the free Kindle reading app from Amazon.

You need to download it from the Amazon site for your country and it's available on all Amazon sites around the world, including:



Free Kindle reading apps are available here

Diary of a Provincial Lesbian is a book that can be enjoyed by women and men, by anybody who has ever asked themselves the question: ‘What is love?’ The heroine, Margaret, thinks she has found love, until her partner Georgie gives her the classic book Diary of a Provincial Lady, and an empty diary where she can record her own life.

The following year will bring changes she doesn’t expect, to her life and to herself. In this novel, filled with the comedy and sadness so typical of all our lives, VG Lee shows what love really is, if it’s expected to last beyond the first thrill of meeting.

She also shows the importance of other types of love – the love of pets and of friends, and the importance of accepting those close to us with all their faults. As always, VG Lee makes the reader laugh out loud and also cry, and by the end of the novel the main character and the readers are no longer the same.

VG Lee’s novels have been endorsed by Sarah Waters, Stella Duffy and Time Out, and she was shortlisted in the Stonewall Awards for Writer of the Year at the end of 2012. She is also a stand-up comedian and regular comedy feature writer for The Lady magazine.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Support the Homeless in International Poetry Competition to Win Book Publication

The cold weather is with us so do help support the three Cold Weather Shelters assisted by the Lumen and Camden poetry project. You could also win publication of your own short collection in our annual competition. There’s less than a month to go until the closing date of February 14th, but the sooner you enter, the sooner we can pass all money raised to the organisers of the Cold Weather Shelters.

This year’s judge is the acclaimed American poet Anne Stevenson, who has been a chair of judges for the T S Eliot prize. Andrew Motion is patron of this poetry project, which is essential to keep the Cold Weather Shelters going.

Previous winners are Bob Cooper (2012) and  Caroline Squire (2011), and their short collections An Apple Tree Spouts Philosophy  and The Ideal Overcoat are on sale, with all £3 of the cover price going to the same charity. Nobody involved in organising this competition takes any income from it.

The winner is chosen on the strength of just one poem, and as part of the prize they will be helped by a professional editor to complete a short paperback collection with 20 pages of poetry. They will also get an invitation to read in one of the popular Lumen and Camden venues, will receive 50 copies of their collection, and will be well promoted.

The entry fee has been kept deliberately low at £2.50 per poem (up to 40 lines) or £10 for six poems, so that everybody can enter. In its first two years the competition attracted around 1,000 entries each time, raising between £1,500 and £2,000 for the charity. There are also regular open mics and poetry performances in the Lumen and Camden venues where the homeless sleep during the cold weather, and where more money is raised.

These poetry events raise thousands of pounds each year, and every year we try to increase our support. The Cold Weather Shelter organisers say they couldn’t survive without the contribution made by poetry. The events and the competition are the brainchild of the poet Ruth O’Callaghan, who has been running the Lumen and Camden Poetry series of open mics and performances for six years.

The open mic events are held in the two venues where the homeless sleep in the Cold Weather Shelters. They are at 1 Buck Street, Camden, and 88 Tavistock Place, Kings Cross. A listing of events and information about the Lumen and Camden Poetry project is on

Details (Please share these if you can):
Judge: Anne Stevenson
Prize: Publication of short collection for one winner, 50 free copies, launch event and promotion.
Closing date February 14th 2013.
Poems up to 40 lines. Proceeds go to three London Homeless Cold Weather Shelters.
Entry fee: £2.50 per poem, 6 for £10.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Going Viral on Amazon. How We Did It

I promised an update to what happens after a giveaway, and the answer is that we learnt from the experience with one book and are now on our second giveaway. It has gone viral on Amazon in the UK. By this I mean there are now downloads every second even if we do nothing to promote it. The book is Joe Stein’s crime novel Another Man’s World.

I should make it clear, in answer to some queries, that I don't count this as 'viral' because we have given away a lot of books. It has gone viral in that we don't need to do anything and the downloads are continuous. As professional publishers we can't nag individuals to take a free book to support us - people who may then let the freebie languish on their ereader or computer. We need a meaningful giveaway where we promote as we would any other book launch and people decide for themselves whether or not they want the book.

Even if you aren't thinking of a giveaway, many of these tips can be used to get a 'paid for' book high in the Amazon rankings, and getting high in the rankings is the key to going viral as potential readers and buyers find your book easily when browsing their favourite genres. I'll cover the subject of 'paid for' books' in another post and you need a much lower number of daily downloads to succeed (which is still hard to sustain).

To help authors and publishers do the same thing I’m going to explain the methods used. But first I’m going to answer a question I’ve been asked by other publishers during the giveaways. They want to know if giveaways devalue books if people start to expect books to be free.

The answer we have found is that the opposite is true. During and after the giveaways we sell more ebooks and more print books. This lasted through December after I acted as a guinea pig and we experimented with a giveaway of my novel.

December is a slow month for small publishers as buyers tend to get the books major publishers are putting huge promotional budgets into for the Christmas market, and bookshops actually return a lot of books to publishers to clear the shelves for these bestselling books. They won't accept any new books until January.

Instead we had one of our best months so far for both print books and ebooks and I’m sure the giveaway helped with this. So my conclusion is that a giveaway doesn’t devalue print books and actually leads to more sales.

The book given away also helps get the author’s name very widely known and can reach an international market if the promotion is done well, and this leads to more of their other books being sold. After the giveaway the book that was given away also continues to sell, as reviews start to make their way onto the internet later.

We have also decided that it works to keep ebook prices lower, as this not only leads to more ebook sales, but also leads to more print book sales.The royalty on an ebook at a low price is quite close to the royalty of a paperback (where the royalty is 10% of cover price due to our higher production costs) so this works out well for authors. Even at our lower price of about £1.50 the author gets a royalty of about 50p as Amazon and other costs take a third, and the rest is divided 50/50 between the author and publisher under the terms of our contract.

So, what are the techniques for getting an ebook to go viral on Amazon? First of all it has to be an excellent book as people won’t support a giveaway otherwise. I believe people know they can trust Ward Wood to be publishing good books, and they also trust Joe Stein as his crime books have good endorsements from reviewers including Crimespree Magazine. The paperback of this book sold well and has a high ranking.

So the first tip is not to give away poor quality books in order to promote your other books. This book is excellent and people downloading it are now also buying the next in the series. They are also buying more ebooks from across our list as they like this one. Don’t give away anything less than your best writing. It’s your showcase to the world. This book has been out in paperback, and it’s worth doing a giveaway once a book has had time to prove itself.

We learnt from the first giveaway that it’s vital to set a low price for the ebook, so that after the giveaway it will revert to this price and this will help keep it high in the paid Kindle rankings, as people who have just missed the giveaway will still be tempted if the price isn’t too high. The Amazon servers update slowly, so a book manages to stay high in the free Kindle rankings for about a day even if it has a price.

We also learnt the importance of being in the right categories. Amazon allows two categories for a Kindle book so we put Joe’s in Crime and Thrillers. In fact we have now learnt that you can put a book in a subcategory and it’s also in all the higher categories, so you can put a thriller in a subcategory of crime and it will also be in all the categories above that. Which means we could also put the book in a completely different category - Action and Adventure for example - but I have a feeling that might devalue how good the author is.

There are thrillers in Action and Adventure and it's easier to get a ranking in the Adventure subcategories, so if you have this kind of book you might want to consider it as a step into the rankings. The same is true of other genres and categories - research into books like yours can show how the successful authors and publishers are getting high rankings. Which categories are they in?

You can change the categories during a giveaway and it’s worth doing this if you need to as you really must get into the top 20 ranking for a category. My novel got high in Literary Fiction, while Joe’s has got high in Thrillers. Some categories are easier to get high in, and it’s worth choosing an easy-to-get-into category to help increase the downloads by making the book highly visible to people searching for books in their favourite genre. 

Thrillers is a difficult category to succeed in – it took 400 downloads a day in the UK alone to get Joe into the top 10. But you can aim for a subcategory of Thrillers and move up. For example, under Crime and Thrillers you could click on Thrillers, then another subcategory, and you would get a ranking more easily while still being in the harder categories of Crime and Thrillers. 50 downloads a day could get you a top 10 ranking in the lower subcategories. (20 downloads a day can maintain a ranking once the book reverts to 'paid' status).

Sorry if this sounds complicated but it makes sense when you are setting up your Kindle book. When choosing a category you are given a list of possibilities and when you choose fiction, nonfiction etc you are given all the subcategories. Click on them to find the subcategories of subcategories. When potential buyers look for books on Amazon they do the same thing, searching for fiction/nonfiction and then being offered subcategories. Amazon actually has one of the best methods of helping buyers search for books in their favourite genres.

The next step we took was to have a Facebook event for the launch of the giveaway (and we will also have a Facebook event for the final day), with links to the book on Amazon sites and a reminder that people don’t need a Kindle. They can download the free Kindle reading app from Amazon. It’s also important to let people know they have to use the Amazon site for their own country, or many get confused that they can’t see the offer if they click on a link to the wrong site. You do need to build a large Facebook group for an event to help get a giveaway started, and you do need to be patient as many people do want their hands to be held. The clearer your messages the better the pick-up rate of the giveaway will be and the fewer requests for help you will get.

We then sent a message to all 461 members of the Written Word social network, which is part of a voluntary project for writers I've been running for 6 years. I'm also involved in writing groups in the virtual world of Second Life and can send notices to more than 2,000 writers and booklovers there. People on Second Life are very supportive and the two bloggers who helped by writing about the giveaway are both people I have met through this virtual world.

The other steps are mainly the same ones described in my previous blog posts. One addition is that I have realised how useful Goodreads is. I am in a number of groups on Goodreads and each group has one forum to allow author/publisher promotions, so I put news of the giveaway in those. It definitely made a difference on the second day, when downloads were starting to slow down. At that point Joe was nearly in the top 100 ranking for all books on Kindle but not quite.

You can also Google websites that let you list free Kindle books and you can find quite a few of the good ones listed here. Other sites not on this list are bargainebooks, Ereader News Today, Free Kindle Books and Tips and The Cheap.

I should also have stated the obvious in my previous posts, which is that you can list your giveaway in a daily thread on the Kindle forums for your country's Amazon website. They like people to put all the giveaways in the same thread for each day, and this does also help keep the thread being bumped into first place in the forum as new posts are added.

By putting the notices on Goodreads and also getting some support from two bloggers, Colin Bell and Selby Evans, we managed to get Joe into the top 100 ranking for all Kindle books on Amazon UK. Once the book was in this top 100 the downloads started to roll in every second, at which point I think we can say it has gone viral.

Another addition to the techniques used in our last giveaway is that the book was listed on the Hot UK Deals site. We didn’t list this ourselves: somebody found the deal and listed it here and I was told about it. It’s important not to use this site to self-promote in any way as that isn't permitted, and the site lets members list good deals they find and others can rate the deal as hot or cold. The site is full of wonderful freebies and discounts so it’s very popular, and Joe’s book took off as a ‘hot’ deal due to member voting. I’m sure this has helped as his offer has stayed on the ‘Hot’ page. It has had thousands of views. Although we didn't list it, I did link to the offer in every way I could (Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin etc).

When you post news of your own books on Goodreads and other forums, it's worth keeping an eye on how many views your posts get. Some groups on Goodreads are larger and more active than others. The main response we get is from a different and extremely popular website - Kindle Boards - but if you use them, do be sure only to use their Book Bazaar forum, as self-promotion isn't allowed anywhere else. The Mobile Reads forum is also good, but again it's vital only to post where author self-promotions are allowed as the admins of these sites are very quick to remove people otherwise.

You do need to be prepared to put time and effort into the initial promotion so that a book can go viral, and I find it's best to have a 5-day giveaway, the maximum Amazon allows in a season. This gives enough time to move up in the rankings, and as some books are on shorter giveaways they will vanish from above you. Of course you do need to keep a high number of downloads per day to maintain your position. Groups on Linkedin provide an extra place where you can be taking part in discussions about ebooks and talking about your giveaway or promotion.

The more of these approaches you can use in the first day, the more chance you have of getting a high ranking and going viral so the book starts to do the work itself. It's a lot to do on your own, so careful planning and others allocated to do various tasks would help. But for most of us it really is a go-it-alone process, or an author and publisher process.

Joe isn’t a self-promotional author, but he is an excellent crime author, and his book going viral does show that it can be done even by an author who shies away from the limelight. Joe did send the news to his email list, and it’s important for authors and publishers to build an email circular. We also sent the news to our Ward Wood email following.

Your email list is incredibly important, especially if you are an author, as you can encourage friends and family to support you. Just sharing the giveaway on their Facebook wall, tweeting about it, or mentioning it on a blog, will make an important contribution. Joe is an ex-boxer, like his main character Garron, and still trains teenagers who got excited about joining in with their Facebook walls once the book went viral. In fact seeing the book getting higher did get people excited about helping, and sometimes being given a book encourages people to enjoy the fun of this challenge and the thrill as a book moves up in the top 100.

One final tip I would give is that authors do need to ask people to help out with a blog or a share on Facebook and Twitter and so on, and I do the same on their behalf. We do have to be careful not to nag and spam people so I don’t push anybody. But it seems support isn’t given unless you ask. People need to be invited to take books, or to buy books, or to help with a blog. Even if you ask, you’re unlikely to get more than a few shares and retweets, and just a couple of blogs. But they can make that difference and push you up into a ranking that helps you go viral.

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