Kindle, Exclusivity, and Branching Out

I self-published my first 2 short stories over 3 years ago. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I knew I needed to do something. I had 2 short stories that I liked, that I really liked, and couldn’t move on until I had done something with them. I had written other stories (one or two novels that no one will ever see, and a a few other shorts that felt more like writing exercises than true stories), but these two specific shorts kept nagging at me, chewing on my thoughts, begging for me to do something with them.

The first was ‘Soldier, Kraken, Bard‘. The second was ‘Redfall‘.

I had sent them both to Aesc, just to get his feedback, and let him know that this world we were building was gnawing at the back of my head, refusing to go away. I had a full length story started, probably in its second draft at the time, that expanded on the kraken from ‘Soldier, Kraken, Bard’ but it was (and still is) far from being complete.

Soldier, Kraken, Bard – short story

Starting Out with Self-Publishing

For months I mulled it over, thinking about what I could do. These two short stories were written, and I liked them, still like them, after they were done. I could send them out to online monthly magazines, but doubt crept in, chewing on the other half of my head. I had a kindle, and read short stories on it every once it a while. I liked reading on it, and still do. So I started to look into self-publishing, at least for these 2 stories, more as an experiment and a learning experience than anything else.

I did some research, finding that most people recommended either Smashwords or Amazon was the way to go for self-publishing anything. After looking at both for a bit, and owning a kindle which had never done me wrong, I took a serious look at Amazon.

Now, to be clear, I didn’t want or think that these 2 shorts were going to suddenly sell hundreds of copies or make me buckets of money. I did this to start the Legacy of Ash, to get this world Aesc and I had been playing in off the ground. A beginning to the Legacy of Ash was all I wanted, and in that they’ve definitely succeeded.

So, as I wanted to reach people and have them read these 2 stories, I opted for Amazon. Especially once I heard about KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited. For anyone who doesn’t know, Kindle Unlimited allows readers who sign up a pay a fee to Amazon to read books for free. The writers are then paid, based not on the sales of full books but by how many pages people read. And, more than that, KDP Select allows writers to make their books free for everyone (members of Kindle Unlimited or not) for 5 days out of every 90.

So, for 5 days every few months I could make these 2 shorts FREE. This, at first, seemed like the best way to gain an audience.So I did it. The only drawback to this was Amazon wanted you to sell exclusively through them. If their spiders found your book somewhere else, your book would get booted from KDP Select. Alright, I thought. I can deal with that. And for the last 3 years, it’s been cool.

Time to Move On

Redfall – short story

It’s been 3 years, and I’ve only gotten a handful of reviews. There are people following this blog, fans on Facebook, twitters on the Twitters, and they have all made a world of difference to Aesc and I. The reviews that have been posted, the feedback, and the connections we’ve made are fantastic. But this is still just the beginning of the Legacy of Ash. I’m currently seeking representation for a pretty slick manuscript, and Aesc and I have a stellar idea brewing as I write this (hopefully revealed in early this summer).

In the midst of all of this my books (3 shorts and 1 novella) have remained exclusively available through Amazon. And still with only a handful of reviews and sales.

Again, in the desire to be totally clear, I’m not blaming Amazon for anything. They provide a great service and a way for absolutely anyone to get their work into the hands of readers, charging the writer nothing up front, and that is an amazing thing. But those benefits I had hoped to get from being exclusive have not panned out. I am aware that this might just be a reflection of my writing. Doubt still gnaws at my head. Maybe I’m not good. Maybe my writing is crap. Or maybe people just don’t want to write reviews. (I have heard that only 1 in 50 people leave a review…which does actually fit…) But Amazon’s algorithms are based on reviews. You won’t reach more people without reviews. (Well…and blogging, and tweeting, and writing more…all of which I do as much as I am able.) But when we’re on Amazon, looking at a product, whether it’s a book, a lamp, or a wheelbarrow, most of us check the reviews.

So, I’ve been thinking lately of backing out of KDP Select just to see what happens. Posting these stories other places and just see what I can shake out.

The point of all of this is to announce that shortly, ‘Kraken, Soldier, Bard’ and ‘Redfall’ will be available on Kobo as well as Amazon. I’ve had to wait as the contract for each expires with KDP Select, and as they do I’ll be putting them up other places. ‘Grim Drifts of Sand & Fate’ will be available on Kobo after, followed by ‘The Sullen Feather’. And, just maybe I can do something about the prices too…

For the Future

I’m not sure what this means for future stories, and I am aware that I’m suddenly not going to rake in the reviews on Kobo or anywhere else I publish. This is just growth, a self-published writer trying some new things, trying a new market and hopefully reach a few more readers. Any other writers out there with similar thoughts or experiences?

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