My Take-Away on Tardif

When I picked up this book (on a KDP Select free day), I was sure I was going to hate it. I figured it would be another rehash of all the information that’s available on the web for free to any indie author with the brains to parse a Google search.

But then I read the first couple of chapters, and realized that maybe Tardif knew what she was talking about. Like many of us, she got burned by a vanity publisher; she got burned again by a badly-managed small press; she spent years schlepping her paperbacks from one personal appearance to another; and then she found KDP Select. Lucky for her, she hit Select in January 2012, when it was in its glory days; the $42,000 month she refers to in her title is March 2012, before Amazon instituted the big algorithm change that made KDP Select much less of a cash cow for indies.

That was then. What about now? Tardif told me via e-mail:

“This is what I observed after the May algo change, with my titles and those I publish via Imajin Books:

“1. It became harder to get into the Top 100 Free, but not impossible. I did it again.

“2. It became harder to get into the Top 100 Paid, but not impossible. I did it again.

“3. Two day promos no longer worked as effectively as 3 days, and now 4 days are what many books need to get onto those lists. 1 day promos are a complete waste of time and those doing them don’t understand LEVERAGE.”

She went on to say that an author can build that all-important leverage by following the other steps in her book, which include the usual stuff: a compelling cover image, a blurb that grabs potential readers, a thoroughly-edited story, a social media platform, and so on.

So despite Amazon’s algorithm tinkering, Tardif is still a big believer in KDP Select. She points out that participation in the Kindle Owners Lending Library is only available to e-books enrolled in KDP Select; she says two of her books last month had more borrows than sales. (Personally, I had just one borrow of my e-book during its KDP Select run, and I’ve heard of other indies having similar results.) So no, she won’t be abandoning Select any time soon. “I have not withdrawn any of my titles since I enrolled them early last year,” she said. “Why? Because I’m making damned good money, far more than I’ve ever made with the other retailers, even if I add them all up for the two years I’ve used them.”

She makes a compelling point for those of us whose books sell best on Amazon. And I did get some other useful information from the book, including the clearest explanation of the usefulness of Twitter hashtags that I’ve ever read anywhere.

However, I wish she had done a little more tweaking to the middle chapters, which consist of mostly-unedited blog posts from her KDP Select run last January. She also might want to think about updating the book to include the changes she has made to her strategy after the algorithm change. That would make it a much more useful read for indies in 2013.

Author: Lynne Cantwell

Lynne Cantwell grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan. She worked as a broadcast journalist for many years; she has written for CNN, the late lamented Mutual/NBC Radio News, and a bunch of radio and TV news outlets you have probably never heard of, including a defunct wire service called Zapnews. But she began as a fantasy writer (in the second grade), and is back at it today. She currently lives near Washington, DC. Learn more about Lynne at her blog and at her Amazon author page.

41 thoughts on “My Take-Away on Tardif”

  1. Thanks, Lynne. I gave this a quick read last night (hardly skimming at all 🙂 ) and agree with your take. KDP Select has changed, as you point out, but ignoring the specifics of what she did then there are a few things of value that someone could (and IMO should) take away from this book. (1) “Making it” is a lot of hard work. (2) It is tough to predict what will happen. (The book where she had the biggest success wasn’t what would have been expected based on past sales records.) (3) Experiment.

    Plus, the parts of the book with her history as an author is both interesting, for those who like that kind of thing, and demonstrate an attitude that I believe is as big a reason for her success as any particular retailers programs were.

  2. Thank you, Lynne, for the interview and for featuring it here.

    To address a couple of points you made…

    It should be made clear that when I say “leverage” I don’t just mean the usual things like covers, editing etc. That’s only the basics. I’m really talking about leveraging your promotional time and efforts. That’s what the strategies I use do. What makes them very different from what most authors do is HOW and WHEN I do them. 🙂

    I should also clarify that even after Amazon’s first algorithm change, I was able to make over $20,000 a month, though not every month. I earned over $210,000 last year with Select. $150,000+ of that came AFTER April 1st.

    Regarding the blog posts, which make up less than 50% of the book and no longer appear online, they’ll be getting an edit during the next update. It was far more important to me to get the book out now and into the hands of my author friends. Our industry moves far too quickly to wait and my goal was to help authors, which I’m happy to report, this book has done. 🙂

    And finally, the only change I’ve made to my marketing since Amazon’s numerous algorithm changes (they do this all the time so I don’t let it worry me), is that I now do 4-day promotions instead of 2 & 3-day ones. That’s it. I’ll experiment with that for a while and see what happens.

    That’s what’s so exciting about our industry. It’s full of mystery. 🙂

    Cheryl Kaye Tardif
    International bestselling author

  3. Hi Al,

    I’m glad you got something out of my book. That’s why I wrote it. 🙂

    You’re completely correct about 1, 2 & 3.

    But I knew CHILDREN OF THE FOG would be successful and do well. I’d planted enough seeds for it. I just had no idea how big it would be. lol

    And yes, attitude has EVERYTHING to do with success.

    Cheers and best wishes!

      1. LOL, Linton. The “algorithm hanky-panky” has been going on forever. Amazon always tweaks their site, how people find things when they search, how books are rated and ranked etc. If you read J.A. (Joe) Konrath’s blog, he talks about this too–and how Select is not dead yet. And that’s a very good thing for those of us who haven’t jumped ship yet. 🙂

  4. I’m glad you asked Cheryl about her experiences post algorithm change. Very relevant, thank you.

    I have mixed feelings about KDP Select, despite seeing 50/50 sales/borrows of my children’s novel. Much higher ratio of sales to borrows of my non-fiction titles. Perhaps that is the difference.

    I wonder if 90 days in KDP Select then staying with Amazon without the exclusivity and releasing everywhere else is worth a try?

    So many Canadians are loyal to Kobo, I don’t want to be unavailable for Kobo people!

    1. Hi Michelle,

      I’m Canadian. I’d love to be loyal to Kobo, but they can’t/don’t offer me the same opportunities that Amazon does, as a writer. I’m hoping some day I’ll be able to re-distribute via the other retailers, but they havde to make it worth my while. I did this for too many years where I made little income. If I’d done the 90 days Select and then got out, I wouldn’t have made even a quarter the income I made last year.

      PS: There are MANY Canadians with Kindles. 🙂 I have 2.

    2. It’s tough to think of abandoning readers on *any* platform, Michelle — I am right there with you. For a while last year, my books were selling better on PubIt than they were on Amazon. Now, I’m not sure I’d miss much if I dropped everything in favor of KDP Select.

      BTW, what you’re suggesting — going with KDP Select for the first 90 days only, and then releasing the book everywhere — is exactly what I did last year with the first book of my urban fantasy series. It seemed to work pretty well. But my daughter who works for B&N was a little hurt. 😀

      1. I so agree, Lynne. It wasn’t an easy choice for me to go exclusive with Amazon. In fact I started Select late because of my ambivalence. And I blogged about how upset I was about that clause.

        Thank God my daughter doesn’t work for B&N. Eek…I’d never hear the end of it.

        Just be brave enough to experiment. That’s the lesson I learned very clearly last year. Take a chance and jump in, especially when Amazon provided an easy out. 🙂

      2. Thanks for your comments Cheryl and Lynne.

        I’m in a dilemma now. I’m publishing a book aimed at authors in a few days and I wasn’t going to enrol in KDP Select.

        So now I’m wavering!

    3. Hey Rich,

      I recognize your pic, so I’m sure I’ve seen you around online.

      “So I’m not sure it matters either way anymore – if you find your audience, you’ll make a little cash.”

      It only matters if you want a bigger income. I don’t have an outside job subsidizing my writing career. I write full-time and am the publisher at http://www.ImajinBooks. Basically 2 full-time careers. So for me, I want to be paid well for my time/craft/efforts. So Select still works for me. But when it doesn’t, I’ll move on. 🙂

      Best in success!

  5. I’ve let most of my books lapse out of KDP Select, except the best-selling one and the 99-centers, which I use for borrows and loss leaders-via-freebies respectively. My sales have been comparatively high, especially not having run a free book for over two months. So I’m not sure it matters either way anymore – if you find your audience, you’ll make a little cash.

    –Rich Meyer
    :”Saint Clair, Pennsylvania’s Best-Selling Author of 2012″

  6. Congratulations on all your success, Cheryl. Great article, Lynne. I personally don’t see the harm in locking lips with Amazon for the first 90 days and then letting KDP Select expire and distribute elsewhere. I have made more sales on Amazon than with all other venues combined, however, I will say that running a KDPS promotion did not boost sales in a memorable fashion. It did, however, get BAD BOOK some reviews I doubt it otherwise would have received – so, exposure for free is better than no exposure at all.

  7. Very interesting article, Lynne. We could debate the merits of Select for a long, long time. I was lucky enough to run a freebie last February and had a similar run as Cheryl. Unfortunately I couldn’t get new product out fast enough to keep the momentum going and my numbers dropped, and although I did get into the top 100 once more my sales never hit the highs they had previously.
    You’re right, they were the “glory days”, now we just have to find the next idea that will help us find new readers.

  8. Picked this up as well, based on recommendation from another writer. Haven’t finished yet, but…pleasantly surprised. 😉 I generally avoid anything that has a title in the “How I made A Zillion Bucks in a Month, and You Can Too!” vein. 😉

    So far, well written, decent material. No regrets about buying it.

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thank you for taking a chance on my book. Believe me, I feel the same way, but I couldn’t think of a better title. The book really is all about how I did it. I think the difference between mine and most of the other book marketing books is that I show you EXACTLY what I did, I don’t just allude to it. I give you every step and the results.

      Most of those who follow all my steps are seeing better results and sales. Those who don’t, won’t see any difference. Then there are the ones who only “read” my book. If you don’t do, you won’t get results.

      I never was one to mention my numbers or income before. I only started speaking out when I saw such a drastic jump in income in March 2012. I took a photo of that $42,000+ check and stared at it for days after I deposited it. LOL.

      I’ve met authors who have made more than I did. Most, though, have made much less. I’ve been on both ends. And I’m excited about what the future holds for authors. 🙂

      1. Cheryl, if I had a check that big, I wouldn’t just take a picture of it — I’d blow it up to 16×20 and frame it! LOL! Congrats again on your success. 🙂

  9. I picked up this book too and have yet to open it! I am always sceptical about people who write best-sellers about how much money they have made.
    Thank you for looking into it. I’ll definitely read it now I have read your take on it. I’ve not tried KDP Select but I can feel an urge to give it a go creeping up on me.
    Really nice to see that Cheryl has dropped by too. *waves*

    1. Hi Carol *waves back*

      Ironically, I steered clear of most books by authors who claimed huge success too. And some authors have been very boastful about their sales–for years. Like I mentioned above somewhere, during my Select experiment was the first time I ever spoke up about my numbers. It’s not something I’m completely comfortable with.

      But I did it for one reason: I saw a lot of writers hesitating about KDP Select and I wanted to help/inspire them by showing them that with the right tools, approach and some work, you CAN increase your sales. I’m not promising everyone will make $210K. And I kept this book priced low so it would be affordable; this isn’t my “money-maker.” I write suspense and that’s where I made the big money. 🙂


  10. This is a highly interesting article, and on the basis of the info here, I’ve just bought and started reading the book. I am going to enjoy it, particularly as she writes from the experience of being outside the US, a barrier which has often put off non-Americans (such as myself, I’m a Brit) from looking at indie pubbing. Thanks for this!

  11. Good article and interesting comments too. I’m also a Brit (Hello, Damon!) and on the strength of the feedback above, I’ll be buying this book today. Thank you for writing this article, Lynne!

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