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How to Maximize Kindle Sales When You’re Traditionally Published
Written by
Brooke Warner
February 2013
Written by
Brooke Warner
February 2013

On our January 31 webinar, Cashing in with Kindle Books, Howard VanEs offered a lot of really solid information for authors regarding how to sell more Kindle ebooks. And because traditionally published authors don't have access to KDP, a lot of you were asking the question, How does all of the good stuff Kindle allows for self-published authors pertain to my book?

Here’s the scoop:

If you’re traditionally published, you cannot sign up for a KDP account with Amazon because your publisher controls the flow of information to Amazon, which you cannot override or control. It does this through a continual feed. Most publishers use a data solutions program called ONIX to do this.

But if you’re traditionally published, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have any control over what’s happening with your book. It does behoove you to be proactive, and to ask your publisher a few questions.

If you’re a backlist author especially, your publisher is probably doing nothing or next to nothing for your book. It’s your responsibility to keep it alive. Some authors are great at this; others not so much. If you’ve let your own book fizzle out, you want to be careful about how you approach your publisher. Publishers aren’t always super excited to hear from backlist authors. After all, you’re asking them to spend time and energy on a book that’s possibly not doing very much for them. In essence, you’re asking them for a favor.

Know this going in. Be tactful and ask if they’d be open to the following possibilities:

  1. lowering the price of your kindle book
  2. doing a zero-cost promotion for your kindle book

Other possibilities include nominating your book for Kindle promotions, like the Top 100 or the Daily Deal. These nominations can only come from publishers, but you should note that they’re very competitive, so your book (especially if it’s older) is hardly a shoo-in. Still, you can ask!!

A publisher is not going to do anything to promote your zero-cost or discounted Kindle book, so you want to go to them with a plan. This is where Howard’s 4-week webinar will come in handy for you traditionally published authors. You need to promote your own ebook, and you do it in exactly the same way a self-published author would. You get reviews, you ask for likes, you blast your lists, and you work your butt off to get those downloads.

I spoke to an old colleague of mine in book marketing about this last night and she said that the sales spikes you see after a free or discounted campaign are very real, and that these kinds of promotions are smart---IF you can get your publisher on board. Lots of them won’t want to do it, which is why, again, you need to go in with a plan.

I hope you’ll all consider Howard's four-week webinar (SEE OFFER HERE) for this.  We’re eager to help you sell more books and to help any author (self-published or traditionally published) figure out how to work what Amazon has to offer. Admittedly, it’s a lot.

Check out yesterday’s free webinar here.

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  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    @Kathryn, as a self-published author you cannot nominate yourself for either the Top 100 or the Daily Deal. If you are traditionally published, your publisher can nominate your work for these promotions. Part of making use of Kindle promotions as a self-published author is to land yourself on the Top 100 by performance, which a lot of self-published authors do. But this post was specifically about how traditionally published authors can try to benefit from Amazon promotions from their publishers. Thanks for asking!

  • Kathryn Meyer Griffith


    I have three self-published novels with Amazon Kindle...do you know, how DO I get them nominated for the Kindle promotions, like the Top 100 or the Daily Deal? I went to where your links led but found no explanations on how to get my books in them. Author Kathryn Meyer Griffith  [email protected]

  • Julia Fierro

    This is really helpful. Thank you so much!

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Thanks for your comment, Elizabeth. I can only speak from my experience at North Atlantic Books and Seal Press, but both of those presses have very deep backlists. And many authors don't really know what to do once they're backlisted because there are no further publicity efforts going on on their behalf through the press itself. So it's up to them to figure it out. Some have the savvy and wherewithal to keep their books alive; most do not. I talk to authors every day who published their books in the late 90s and early 00s and they are looking for opportunities to give their books new life. In my opinion, a boost in sales is a good thing, whether or not it brings them new readers. Most of those authors should be focusing on new books, but writers come to the table with all sorts of levels of understanding about the industry and what they "should" be doing. New media is truly the Wild West of publishing.

    I agree with you that those authors who will most benefit from the Kindle webinar are self-published authors. I just got a lot of feedback from people who were saying that this had nothing to do with traditional publishing, and I disagree. Traditionally published authors need to be proactive and understand how Amazon and Kindle promotions work. They need to be engaging with their publishers and asking their publishers how they can continue to promote their books. Most backlist authors just fall off the planet, and then their books eventually go out of print. I know a handful of authors I've worked with over the years, however, who have continued to stay engaged with their publishers and who have kicked ass (yes, self-fulfilling prophecy for sure). But part of this has to do with being engaged and learning about what's happening in publishing----digital, traditional, and self. I see my agenda here as being information-driven, nothing more. So no personal criticism taken in the slightest. Thanks again.

  • Elizabeth K. Burton

    This isn't intended as a personal criticism, but the information contained here, once again, is really aimed at those who want to self-publish or who may have been signed by an old-school publisher.

    First, the reason backlist titles don't fare well may not be a lack of support from the publisher but the unwillingness of the author to do what needs to be done. Having decided there's no hope for further sales, they refuse to engage in online marketing, usually with the excuse that they either don't understand it or find it unpleasant.

    Second, lowering the price of a book won't generate readers. Sales, maybe, but not readers. It doesn't take much exploration to find that people may take advantage of a deep discount, but if they aren't familiar with the author that alone isn't going to encourage them to actually read the book. I know people with hundreds of ebooks they've downloaded for free or for a dollar or two, and they honestly confess they doubt they'll manage to read a fraction of them.

    As for cost-free promotion, we do that constantly, but the publisher, who may have a hundred or more books to promote, can't replace an author who has done adequate research to identify his or her market and who then works to engage with that market. Most online marketing fails because the author is marketing to such a broadly general group (paranormal romance readers, mystery readers, etc.) they haven't a prayer of being heard in the noise of the hundreds of thousands of books being published every year.

    Sadly, the other problem is that some authors, having given up on getting a contract to New York, feel they've "settled" for one from a small, independent press. They don't expect to sell any books, because all the "really published" authors tell them they won't. Self-fulfilling prophecy—it's pointless to market because they aren't going to sell anything anyway.

    All the independent presses I know are very active both promoting their catalogs and support authors' efforts. There's no need to "approach" them. However, most of them also know what does and doesn't work for their press, and ignoring their experience in favor of general advice is unwise in the extreme.

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    Hi Jennifer,

    We have our own KDP profile for all SWP books. Authors can let us know if they want to enroll their books in KDP Select and which days they want to run their promotions. You have your book up for 90 days and you can run promotions for five days total, which we recommend splitting into two separate promotions---one three-day and one two-day.

    We are uploading keywords for all the books, and will begin to ask authors to weigh in on this process. You'll be getting an email! You can also determine your categories here, though those are a little more straightforward.

    When I published my book, I started by putting it out on all online retailers. It was out on B&N, Indiebound, etc. for quite a few months (Sept-Dec). then in January I did the promo to get a second wind. That's when I designated it for KDP Select and did the free giveaway. I just did one three-day giveaway so far. I think I'll do another two-day one in Feb. It's always good to link it to something if possible: New Year, New You; V-Day; spring cleaning; something thematic that will help you promote.

    Loving your book, btw!

  • Jennifer Richardson

    hi Brooke,

    How do you recommend She Writes Press authors use KDP?  Will we have access to our KDP accounts/need to set them up?  For your own book did you start with KDP and then broaden distribution (or plan to broaden it) after 90 days?


  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    This is great news for you, Madeline. It's nice to work with a publisher who gets the value of these kinds of promotions and who will work with you! Thanks for being on the webinar.

  • Madeline Tasky Sharples

    Dear Brooke,

    My book was published by a small press, and my publisher makes very good use of KDP program. He just offered my book as a free giveaway for the third time (to jump start more sales, he says), and put it on KDP again. As I listened to your webinar yesterday I felt I was getting all the benefits of Kindle even though my book is traditionally published. Thanks so much, Madeline