My Experience with KDP Select Free Promo Days

This past weekend, we set Nimbus to be a free download using KDP Select. We did a Friday/Saturday promotion, and over the course of those two days, we gave away 879 copies of our book.

In doing so, we hit #1 in the free Steampunk store, and we topped out at #4 in Sci-Fi Adventure. We even made it to #524 in the overall free ebook rankings of all Amazon.

Nimbus - Number 1 in Steampunk

Which is freaking awesome. Fan-freaking-tastic, in fact.

So how did such stellar ranking affect our book? How do we feel about the KDP Select program so far?

Long story, short: it didn’t, and it sucks.

At least so far–in the immediate afterglow of the promotion.

The algorithms on Amazon’s side of things have obviously changed in the past year or two, and I understand that. Free sales no longer directly translate 1:1 into paid ranking once the promotion ends. I didn’t expect to maintain #1 and #4. I did, however, expect some ranking. Some positive effect for giving away almost a thousand free books across two days.

Instead, I wake up the following morning to find Nimbus at #341,119 in the Paid Kindle store, and not even listed in any of the genre lists it had topped just a few hours before.

Capture

And that sucks.

Not Unexpected

Now, I can’t say this isn’t entirely unexpected. I had read for a while that the KDP Select free promos have lost some of their luster over the past few internal Amazon updates. I just didn’t expect the transition back into paid to be quite so ridiculously jarring, given how well we ranked while free.

I never expected to be #1 and #4 in the categories forever, but I did expect to still be visible. Which is something we are not right now.

And–again–that sucks.

I mean, Nimbus is a steampunk novel, and there are only ~800 steampunk novels on Amazon. By any amount of pseudologic, one would think that having nearly 1,000 copies downloaded would be worth something. I mean, within a week of Birthright‘s launch, it was ranked in the Top 10 steampunk novels–and it wasn’t even steampunk. It was miscategorized and ranked, so I couldn’t imagine how well an actual steampunk book would do with this kind of exposure.

Well, now I can. And it ain’t pretty.

What Next, Then?

Well, next…we wait and see. We wait on reviews to trickle in from free buyers. We wait to see if paid readers see those reviews, and in turn, see our book. We promote ourselves the same way we had been, and we just wait and see what happens.

That’s the hard part. There’s very little we can actually do to affect what happens next. We either did okay with the promotion, or it was a mistake. We just can’t know that this early.

What we do know is that we got out book into the hands of 879 potential readers, which is a good thing. Especially for our other books. I haven’t noticed a marked improvement in sales for Birthright since the Nimbus weekend, but that’s not to say it isn’t coming. It just wasn’t immediate.

I do know that I’m rethinking my whole KDP strategy, which most directly means that I don’t think Austin and I are going to be doing more free days for Nimbus in the near future. We are going to talk it over, and it’s likely that we are going to look at getting our books on iBooks, Google Play, and Nook soon–if results from being Amazon-exclusive remain this lackluster.

Sure the exposure is great, and we had an absolutely brilliant time tracking the numbers and seeing our book skyrocket through the charts. But if that was empty success that doesn’t translate to sales or even real exposure, being locked into Amazon isn’t worth it if all we get for it are a handful of lends to Prime members and free promo days we don’t use.

Update: A Few Days Later

Now that a few days have passed, the rankings are changing. And I still don’t think that it had anything to do with the KDP Select promotion. I paid for a few gift copies for review–4 to be exact–and now, Nimbus is ranking as a Top 100 bestseller. In fact, both rank and sales have steadily increased since I sent those to reviewers, and today Nimbus was ranked at #20 in the Steampunk category.

So just for those number people out there: 879 free downloads doesn’t count as much as 4 paid downloads.

Is this hard, empirical data? Hardly. But I think certainly says something about the usefulness of the KDP Select free promos.

“Birthright” is Live on Amazon Kindle!

Birthright (The Technomage Archive, Book 1) Well, folks, after almost three years of writing, editing, revising, rewriting, and crowdfunding, Birthright is finally available for purchase (or to borrow for free if you’re a Prime member). Plus, if you were a Kickstarter backer, I already emailed you the link to download your ebook copies. (If you missed it, check your Kickstarter messages and/or send me a message, and I’ll resend it.)

It’s been a strange, nerve-wracking ride, so I’m happy to report the book is doing well. So well in fact, that it even hit #21 on the Amazon Steampunk bestseller list today.

Which is great!

(The only problem being that Birthright is in no way even remotely steampunk.) I have already contacted Amazon to get that fixed so readers don’t think they’re being misled.

I can’t help but find some irony in that situation, though–I billed Birthright as a cross-genre book all through the Kickstarter process, and within two days of its release, it crossed into a new genre all on its own. Atta boy, Ceril! Atta boy!

I’m working on the softcover and Kickstarter-exclusive hardcovers right now, too, and I hope to have them available for you backers soon. That process just takes a bit more finesse than the ebook process. I’d say I’m 75% finished with it, so it won’t be much longer for you guys to get your grubby little hands on a physical copy of the book, if that’s your poison of choice.

So if you haven’t already, hop on over to Amazon and snag your copy of some technomagey goodness, or at least put it on your shelf on Goodreads to remember for later. Tell your friends, and if you’re feeling gracious, toss up a review somewhere after you’ve read it.

And again, thank you. From the absolute most sincere place I can conjure–thank you. Without y’all and your support, getting this book out there never would have been possible. This book is as much yours as it is mine. So really, thank you for being so awesome.

Nimbus is…done. #sadface

Nimbus Volume 4Last April, Austin and I launched NimbusIt was an exciting project, and we approached it with zeal. We talked, we outlined, we wrote–we pretty much dreamed about our little steampunk world. And now, almost a year later, we have finished drafting the novel. I spoke with Austin last night, and we finished our final chapters within hours of each other.

All that’s left is final edits, proofing, and review. And then we’ll be done. Done with Nimbus.

We’ve absolutely adored working together, getting to know all of you through this project, getting to know each other better, and learning about the world and people of Nimbus. And it’s over now. The story has been wrapped up, and the conclusion is–to us, at least–satisfying.

Writing the last Rucca chapter honestly left me sad. For everything the character was, I felt like I really got to know him. And I liked the fella. So writing that final sentence was hard. But I did it. I feel good about it. When I hit CTRL-S and watched that Dropbox icon move from blue to green, I felt like I was going to cry. Outside of revisions and a few short shorts we have planned, that was the last bit of Nimbus  left.

It’s over. It’s done. Our novel, our experiment, our attempt at making steampunk fun and cool is finished.

Parts 1-3 have been available on Amazon for a while, and Part Four will be there within a few weeks. Austin and I will meet within the next few days to read and give notes on our final chapters, then we move into final proofing and revisions. So you folks should have Part Four in your grubby little hands soon.

But I just wanted to let you know that it was done.

[Guest Post] – Top 5 Ultimate Batman Villains of All Time

There are literally hundreds of villains in the DC universe and Batman has tangled with his fair share while protecting Gotham City from the dregs of humanity. But of course, some are more dangerous than others (poor Ventriloquist…stuck committing crimes through a Tommy-gun toting dummy named Scarface). Here are just a few of the most memorable villains to go up against the Dark Knight and truly earn his ire.

Catwoman

The hero usually gets the girl, but this nimble minx certainly makes him fight for it. A staunch feminist at best and a man-hater at worst, this villain has a love-hate relationship with the one bat that can best her, and she fluctuates between wanting to play house with him and tear his eyes out. Eventually she always seems to lean towards the latter (thank goodness for those of us that love a good villain!). But whether she’s catapulting over his head (pun intended) or giving in to the temptation to smooch him, this black cat seems to bring the Dark Knight nothing but bad luck when she crosses his path.

The Joker

Few villains in the Batman universe have more reason to hate the caped crusader than the gangster he dropped in a vat of chemicals, especially since the experience turned the Joker’s visage white, his hair green, and his mind to mush. The result is a crazy criminal mastermind hell-bent on destroying Batman and the city he protects in the most cruel and inventive ways possible – so long as they’re fun. He and his posse of and purple-clad miscreants terrorize Gotham City with both a snappy fashion sense and a sense of humor.

Ra’s al Ghul

His name translates to “the demon’s head”, and this is a fitting descriptor for Bruce Wayne’s one-time teacher. Okay, so he was actually only a mentor in the movies (in the comic world he tried to enlist Wayne as a sort of heir in his genocidal plans, which Wayne refused). But it’s no surprise that the two would be enemies; al Ghul is apparently over 500 years old (thanks to the discovery of a life-giving spring) and determined to use his many well-honed skills to eliminate the majority of the human race in order to restore balance to the world.

Two-Face

This unpredictable scoundrel makes Batman’s life hell, at least when the coin flip tells him to. As the former district attorney, Harvey Dent tipped the scales of justice. But as half-crazed Two-Face (so named because one half of his face is horribly scarred by acid) he lets Lady Liberty decide; his misprinted dollar coin has her face on both sides (with one side is scratched). This dichotomy makes Two-Face one of the most difficult villains for Batman to fight since he never knows what’s coming.

Scarecrow

This psychologist-turned-super villain is nothing if not a gas, and he uses his fear-inducing chemical cloud (along with a creepy scarecrow mask) to frighten his marks into submission (whether they are helpless patients or cape-wearing heroes). You could play Zombie Games 365 days a year and never come across villains this devious or devoted to their craft, and he certainly packs a psychological punch when poking around in Batman’s fractured psyche.

Evan Fischer is a freelance writer and part-time student at California Lutheran University in Thousand Oaks, California.

New 52 Justice League vs. The Ultimates

I’ve seen three new comic movies this year: The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-man, and The Dark Knight Rises. They were all incredibly different experiences–Spidey was fast and fun, Batman was gritty and epic, and Whedon’s superteam was witty and heartfelt.

The Ultimates 3 - Number 5 Cover

The one thing they all had in common, though, was each new movie made me miss reading comics a little more each time. Until I just couldn’t stand it any more.

So I’ve spent the better part of the last week sorting and organizing my old comics collection, and I’ve narrowed down my reading to two specific categories: Marvel’s Ultimate Universe and DC’s New 52.

The two universes share a common foundation: a fundamental reboot of continuity and intertextual narratives.

Having narrowed down which comics universes I was going to be working through, I figure there’s nowhere better to start than with each company’s signature superteam titles: The Ultimates and Justice League.

The Ultimates - Number One CoverNew 52 Justice League - Number 1 Cover

Apples and Oranges?

While The Ultimates was not the first Marvel Ultimate title–it was the third, two years behind Ultimate Spider-man and Ultimate X-Men–it has become a kind of flagship comic for the universe since its inception in 2002. The titular superteam has been through four limited-run series and innumerable tie-ins and crossovers.

The New 52 Justice League, on the other hand, has just under a dozen issues, no major tie-ins or crossovers, and hasn’t even hit the one-year mark of its launch. It’s still an embryo by comics standards.

That said, it’s not fair to compare the current state of The Ultimates to the New 52 Justice League. So I’m going to talk about their debut story arcs, both of which coincidentally run right at six issues.

Ten Years Ago…

Marvel was floundering. They were on the verge of going under and would do anything to revitalize themselves. They sold movie rights to their properties willy-nilly, and they used the Ultimate line of comics to prove that you could tell great superhero stories in a modern context with relatable, human characters.

The Ultimates -  ThorSo in 2002, The Ultimates launched. It was written by Mark Millar and focused on what it would be like to put together the world’s first superhero team (in a world where superheroes were just going public, mind you).

Sound familiar? It should. If you’ve seen any of Marvel’s Phase One movies, up to and including The Avengers, they pretty much lift Fury’s assembling of the Avengers from how his comic-self put together The Ultimates.

But here’s the thing: The Ultimates isn’t about superheroes. Not really.

Issue 1 opens with Captain America talking to soldiers in WWII, and from there, you learn about Bruce Banner’s inadequacy issues, Hank Pym’s violent streak, Tony Stark’s megalomania and alcoholism, and Steve Rogers’ old neighborhood going to hell.

You barely see the superheroes themselves. Because the story isn’t about the action and the spectacle. Sure, they fight a rampaging Hulk, and there are some fantastic action shots of Captain America dropping a tank onto Smashy McSmasherson’s head, but that’s pretty much contained to about one issue. The other five are about the people it all happened to.

Ten years ago, Millar did the same thing to The Ultimates that Whedon did to The Avengers: he took something larger than life and made it personal. He told a good story.

Ten Years Later…

So with The Ultimates being my decade-old touchstone for how to tell a good superhero story, I downloaded some Android comics apps for my Galaxy Note and snagged the first few issues of Justice League.

Issue 1 was okay. The art was pretty (Jim Lee), and the writing was solid enough (Geoff Johns). It had Batman being all gruff and no-nonsense as he met up with Green Lantern for the very first time. Not Bruce Wayne and Hal Jordan–Batman and Green Lantern. 

New 52 Justice League - Batman

They bicker, Hal makes a few jokes, and eventually they uncover that there’s something up with these “Mother Boxes” that are appearing all over the world, so they seek out Superman. Again, not Clark Kent–Superman.

New 52 Justice League - Superman

Which makes sense because these guys don’t know each other yet. The next few issues are other heroes finding the Mother Boxes and being teleported together and forced to fight alongside one another as Darkseid pops out of a boom tube.

Long story, short: day is saved, heroes get a medal, and the New 52 Justice League is founded.

And by the end of it all, the reader knows absolutely jack-squat about those people. They know Green Lantern likes to play bad cop, that the Flash is a cop, and that Cyborg has daddy issues. But as far as emotional connections, resonance, or even a reason to give a damn?

It ain’t there.

The New 52 Justice League is all spectacle. It’s fun, sure, but there’s no real story there. There was no reason to care about Darkseid destroying the earth. There was no real fear for the characters because I didn’t know them.

And after seeing The Dark Knight Rises and watching The Man of Steel teasers, I can’t help but feel that the New 52 did the exact opposite of Millar: they took stories that are grounded in the personal (Bruce’s parents’ deaths, Clark’s relationship with Ma and Pa Kent, Hal’s arrogance, and Diana’s isolation) and made it all larger than life.

Which is a shame.

The Ultimates Number Two Cover - Iron ManLesson Learned?

Maybe it’s too early to tell what’s going to happen with the New 52. But after reading Justice League and a few other titles, I can’t help but feel that DC dropped the ball. Not that I want DC to have an Ultimate-style universe like Marvel, but with over 12 years of seeing why fans respond so well to Marvel properties and the Ultimate line itself, I’d think that DC might try to emulate that themselves.

Instead, New 52 feels like more of the same from DC. They’re trying to make their new lineup more accessible, which continuity-wise, I guess it is. (Though, I bet we can give it 5 years and there’ll be another reboot or Crisis of some kind.)

I think, though, that someone at DC missed the part of the memo saying that being accessible doesn’t have to equate to being simple.