Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

“Reading and writing are acts of empathy and faith. Guard that trust carefully — in this rapidly changing business, it’s the only sure thing.” ~Erin Keane
"Never give up. And most importantly, be true to yourself. Write from your heart, in your own voice, and about what you believe in." ~ Louise Brown

"Write something to suit yourself and many people will like it; write something to suit everybody and scarcely anyone will care for it."
~Jesse Stuart

"A writer's job is to take one thing and make it stand for twenty." ~ Virginia Woolf

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cracking the Kindle Code with WiDo Publishing

I've spent the past ten months trying to crack the Kindle code for WiDo Publishing. (For some reason I keep typing code as coke. Excuse me while I go get a soda.)

Okay, back again. *slurp guzzle*

I've learned a few things (my TOP TEN). Later I'll explore them all further as I need fodder for posts.


1. One bad review can drop sales and ruin the book's Kindle ranking for a really long time--until a few positive ones pop up to counteract.

2. Summer is lousy for book sales, except for the bestselling author releasing a long-awaited blockbuster in the making. Ebooks are no different. Fortunately, sales pick up come winter.

3. Christmas is great for book sales. Publishers will fund their entire year on what sells during this season. After the holidays is also fantastic for ebook sales as people with their new Kindles look for stuff to download. I guess what I'm saying here with #2 and #3 is that ebook sales are cyclical just like regular books, or any kind of retail sales.

4. Enrolling books in KDP Select brings higher exposure and greater sales that more than compensates from lost income from Nook sales and other venues. When WiDo Publishing put its titles on KDP Select, income from Kindle downloads and borrows increased tenfold almost instantly and has maintained a steady level even with the summer doldrums. Yes, it would be nice to accommodate people without Kindles, but when you're a small publisher trying to survive in a competitive market, you go where the money is.

5. Keep tweaking that book description. Imagine one million potential buyers viewing your book's item detail page on the Kindle Store. Getting it right brings immediate results, i.e. increased downloads.

6. Don't assume a book is being ignored because people can't find it. Hundreds of potential buyers are searching for something to read on their Kindles. There are reasons a book isn't selling-- fixable reasons. (See #7)

7. If a book isn't selling, it's most likely due to:  a. Poor description (see #5 on this list)  b. The sample chapters have a major problem with the writing, the editing, or the formatting, or perhaps all three. c. There's one or more reviews that are killing sales. (See #1.)

8. Covers can be changed easily on the Kindle. If everything possible has been fixed and it still isn't selling, try changing covers.

9. Low price doesn't guarantee high sales. Try giving away a book that has problems and you'll see what I mean. Dropping the price isn't always the solution. First, fix the problems. (See #7.)

10. Certain books sell better on Kindle than others and so what? I write contemporary women's fiction about family life. Am I going to throw that out and write erotica since it's selling like crazy right now? No, because I write what's in my heart. If I tried to write about a shirtless Scottish guy with a ripped kilt, it would come across as fake and lame and no one would buy it because readers can recognize false writing in the first paragraph.


This list can apply to both self-published and traditionally-published authors. Authors have a lot of power to impact marketing, it's not just the self-published who should be involved in improving their books' sales and visibility.

Please share your own ideas and experience! Feedback and sharing in the comments will make this post better, and I thank you for it.


  1. These are great. I've not yet gone down this path, but if I do I'll like to remember your pointers. There's so much out there we writers have to do besides writing.

  2. Great advice. Much as I love print books, I love how many people are finding it easy to grab whatever they want for their Kindle. It's a case of making sure people can see your stuff so they can decide if it's what they want!

  3. These are awesome! I'm going to tweet this fabulous post.

  4. Much to learn from this post!

  5. Such useful information! Also more reasons why I don't think I could ever handle self-publishing.

  6. Thank you for sharing these discoveries, Karen. It's highly appreciated. I've wondered about sales during seasons, rankings, and such.

  7. Great job on this, Karen. I'm taking notes and passing it on.

  8. What I discovered about Kindle is that I am *not* the only person to not have one. When telling avid readers I know about The Voice of Thunder being available on Kindle before the print edition- I got an almost uniform "I don't have one." A couple, so eager to read it, downloaded the free application so they can read on their PC. But this requires dedication. I don't even read my critique writer-friends’ manuscripts on my PC, I print a hard copy. {One of my readers read the whole thing on her phone. I should have sent her chocolate for this! :)}
    Since my book is aimed at MG, I did a little informal research as to the reach of Kindle to that age group. Seems very few read this way. Kindle is yet to become ‘kidle,’ no kidding. (Couldn’t resist.)
    In other words, Kindle, while tailor-made for light chick-lit and genre mysteries, and of course the erotica you mentioned, is not everything.

  9. Great info Karen! Lot's to learn in that business...

  10. I guess things selling more at Christmas is across the board - the papers here are already advertising the top ten must have toys for this Christmas!! LOL!!!

    Yay for writing from your heart and not what's the current fad at the moment! Take care

  11. Wow, that is all so interesting! I'm so glad you told us about it Karen! I'm totally taking notes. ;)

  12. #7 is a good reminder to get the description right. I do think the cover is just as important as well.

    Thanks for an informative list. Very helpful.

  13. Please don't ever write about any shirtless guys in torn kilts or anything in that genre. There's enough of that out there. Readers need more life-affirming stuff whether they know it or not.

    These are all interesting points to consider and they make sense. Too bad there's not an exact perfect formula for success.

    Tossing It Out

  14. It's amazing that Kindle Select has such an instantaneous - and big impact. I hate that Amazon is grabbing so much power, but if they're giving people what they want I suppose they deserve that market share.

    Yeah, with what's hot in e-books right now, Three Daves is downright prudish, eh? ;p

  15. This is really interesting, Karen. Thank you so much for giving us your insight.

    I haven't enrolled in KDP Select yet; I heard it makes your work more prone to plagiarism. Is that true in your experience?

    Good to hear about winter being a great time to publish as my next book is released end of November.

    1. Donna, I'm not sure why a book on KDP Select would be easier to plagiarize than any other ebook venue. I'd be interested to hear why that would be the case.

  16. Great information, Karen! Thanks for sharing:).

  17. Great list, Karen! I especially like #10 -- first and foremost, you have to write what draws you as a writer, and not just what you think will sell, because (as you note) readers recognize authenticity.

  18. Low price on a bad book just means that many more people will read it and add to the bad reviews.

    1. Excellent point, Diane, and then you have a downward spiral on that poor book. Free promos can have a similar effect.

  19. Great information. I write women's fiction too. Not erotica. And not romance.

  20. Another helpful post for writers. I agree that you have to write for you, not for what you think may sell. And it sort of annoys me that so many really good books may linger and not get sold while others about shirtless guys and all that will become best sellers.

  21. This is a wonderfully helpful post. Thanks so much for the information!

  22. Amateur writers should read this post, who knows this is what they need to have a hit book.

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  23. FABULOUS LIST/ post, Karen! Thank you so much. You have answered my question about enrolling books in KDP Select bringimg higher exposure and greater sales that more than compensates...
    I'm about to launch an ebook and I'm worried that my description isn't good enough...

  24. I'll have to look up KDP Select. I haven't even heard of it.

    Great list of lessons learned, Karen. :)