Before You Go... Elmore Leonard

A notification and rating shared from my Kindle on Twitter after finishing “Djibouti” by Elmore Leonard

As part of my ebook promotion efforts I spent part of the weekend revising The Rocks, Sydney — A Self-Guided Walking Tour, one of my self-published Kindle ebooks. My main goal was to get more Amazon reviews, the lifeblood of sales to new readers. I also wanted to capitalise on the Before You Go… feature, which allows readers to share with friends and followers on Twitter and Facebook that they’ve finished the book.* (They can also rate the book the same way.)

Customers who bought...

Customers who bought Frommers Australia (2011) are shown my book as a suggested companion title.

The Rocks guide spent last week shuttling back and forth between No. 2 and No. 10 on the Amazon bestseller list for Sydney guidebooks. It’s only 99 cents, which makes it easy for people to add it to their cart on impulse when making a bigger  purchase, like Frommer’s Australia ($12.49 on the Kindle).

The more people who buy it, the more it will be recommended to other people buying ebooks in the same category and a virtuous cycle of sales is created.

The goal of my ebook promotion efforts at the weekend was to do what I can to make that impulse decision as easy as possible. To do that, I want to get the review numbers up. At the moment, despite being in the Top 10, it has only one review. If it had more, I think it would be easier for potential readers to say what the hell when they see a suggestion like the one in the picture.

The number one tactic for getting reviews on Amazon

Ask for them. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… Readers don’t know that reviews are important to us, our sales and our success. If they did, more of them would leave reviews because they’ve made a connection with us through our books, a connection we can use to ask politely for a favour.

On the page after guide content finishes, I ask my readers to consider leaving a review on Amazon. It’s not pushy; I just say that I’m grateful for the reviews I receive and that I read all of them. I put a link in the text to the ebook’s Amazon page. I don’t think many people would type a review in the Kindle’s web browser, but the link is handy if they’re reading on a Kindle app on a device with a proper browser.

I certainly don’t think this is going to put the number of reviews I get through the roof; but it increases my chances of improving on 99.8 per cent of readers not leaving reviews.

Before they go…

On the same screen I mention there will be a chance to rate the guide and share the rating on Twitter and Facebook when the reader turns the last page of the book, thanks to Before You Go… I think this is important to mention because I suspect some readers might otherwise never turn the last page of the book.

I became even more certain of this after finishing Elmore Leonard’s new novel Djibouti at the weekend. I have the text size on my Kindle set to the third smallest option. Even at that size it was about 10 screens from the end of the story to the end of the actual ebook. In between the last words of the story and the Before You Go… screen was an about-the-author section, a list of his 40 novels that took up several pages, the copyright notice, and screens and screens of postal addresses for his publishers around the world.

E-publishers are stuck a little between a rock and a hard place. If you put all that stuff at the front of the book, it eats into the 10 per cent free sample. You want that sample to give readers a flavour of the book, not a heap of administrative detail with the merest hint of the actual story. With Before You Go…, if you put all that stuff at the end of the ebook, you will have fewer readers reaching the end of the book and triggering the Before You Go… options. Who, after all, routinely reads three screens of office addresses after they’ve finished the story?

The end of Leonard’s novel contains a ridiculous amount of junk. Even in a print book in this digital age, Harper Collins need only include a URL to Leonard’s bibliography and their international contact details. In the interests of ebook promotion that material needs to yield. Put all that fat on a website, leaving the front of the book free to hook readers into the first 10 per cent of the story and the back of the book free to get them promoting it with Twitter and Facebook.


Trading further on the idea that you don’t get if you don’t ask, my revision of the Rocks guide also included adding a page recommending my other Sydney walk, Sydney Opera House & Botanic Gardens. I used the link that takes readers to the specially formatted page on Amazon that allows them to buy and download the ebook with one click. (The page you see for each book when you’re shopping on Amazon from your Kindle.)

That guide hasn’t been doing as well in the bestseller list as the Rocks guide. I’m hoping that promoting the connection between the two ebooks will boost sales. I will of course be reporting back on that here.

* Before You Go… is part of the Kindle Software 3.1 update that is still only available as a preview version.

Via Steven Lewis’ Kindle Writers blog


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