Is the KDP Select Free Promo Still Worth the Effort?

KDP Select Free Promo – August/September 2012

KDP Select, launched in December 2011, sold itself on the premise that if authors made their ebooks available for free for a limited time, this would lead to an increase in sales. In return, authors had to sign up to distribute their ebooks exclusively on Amazon.
For a number of authors the free downloads have resulted in a big bump in sales – although the anecdotal evidence is that month on month, those free promotions are yielding far fewer downloads than they once did. But Amazon has been working hard behind the scenes to keep its authors happy and in August this year the company announced not only the launch of Kindle in India but that India was going to be the latest territory to be included in the Select program. The ability to sell our books to one of the world’s largest English speaking countries is an opportunity not to be missed. At the same time as India came on board, Amazon launched its latest Kindle ereaders, one of which, the Kindle Paperwhite will be on many a Christmas wish list.

I had enrolled in Select in June 2012 and had sold a modest number of copies of Revolution Earth. By August sales began to slow down and by the middle of the month I decided I needed to kick start the marketing process. It was time to think seriously about using up some of those free promo days in Select.

Never before had I given away my writing for free, and to me, it seemed risky: I still had to overcome my reservations about giving away a book that took six years to write and which had cost £500 to produce. And if there was one thing I was fairly confident about, it was that I’d got the costing right at $3.15/£1.99. But then it hit me that it doesn’t matter how well a book is priced, no-one can buy it if they don’t know it’s there in the first place. And so, I figured, that the benefits of the free download did in fact outweigh the risks and went ahead.

I felt more confident after reading thriller author, David McGowan’s blog post on Goodreads about the promotional sites where you can advertise your freebie. I picked a date at the end of August and gave myself ten days to let everyone know. Many of the bigger sites recommend you give them four weeks notice in advance of your promo and I soon realised that I might have left it a bit late.

I chose to make use of just three free days, rather than the full five you are allocated and I ran the promo over a weekend, starting at midnight on Friday 31st August. Midnight PST (Pacific Standard Time) is 8.00am BST (British Summer Time) and as I now live in the UK the timing was ideal. Amazon do warn you that the promo may not start exactly on time, so be careful about scheduling any automatic tweets too early. I had to reschedule a few of those as it was 9.15am by the time the promo finally kicked in.
And here is what happened:

In total there were 3197 downloads – the majority of which came from the US but with a small but significant number from Amazon in Germany. I had an inkling that a book with an environmental theme might appeal to this market, thanks to the feedback from a German/Kiwi on Authonomy. And I knew that New Zealand is a country that attracts travellers and settlers from Germany and The Netherlands.

So how has the freebie impacted on sales? Since the promo there have been 32 purchases and 4 borrows so far. This might not sound like much and I could, no doubt have received more if I had pitched the book as a mainstream thriller – but I didn’t want reviewers coming back to me later on complaining that they thought they were getting a Lee Child action thriller when the book has a non-linear structure in the first few chapters, (ereaders seem to suit a more straightforward narrative), it’s set in New Zealand and Australia and one of the main characters is a chippy young woman with a social conscience.

I asked for feedback from fellow indie writers on Authonomy on how their free promotion went and thriller writer, Terry, who was kind enough to share his stats received double the number of downloads that I did – at 7,500. He had 5000 in the US and 2500 in the UK although only 9 in Germany. Since the promotion, he too has had a spike in sales with 50 in the US and 70 in the UK – as well as 5 borrows.

Terry ran his promotion for only two days and if I was doing this again I would keep it to two days. The first day of my three day promotion I received around a quarter of all the downloads; it went very quiet on the Saturday but on the final day we both found that things began to go crazy – particularly in the US as the deadline approached.

I am pleased with my modest results. I now have 25 pages on and 20 pages on of – ‘people who bought this also bought this’ – which is very useful to me to find out what other books in my genre have been purchased and what the best price point is ($3.15 and under). I haven’t regretted the promo at all – I’ve learned more about book marketing in the past three months as an indie than I ever did having a publisher that marketed my book for the first six months and then sold the business to another publisher who did no marketing whatsoever…..

I received a number of re-tweets and mentions in some of the smaller sites. I didn’t get picked up by Pixel of Ink, which, if you are lucky enough to get promoted by them, can have a major impact on the number of downloads you receive. Another Authonomy colleague received 11,000 downloads from both the US and UK after their support and this bumped her sales from a handful to around 30. I did get featured and re-tweeted by the friendly folk at: Free e Books Daily, Book Your Next Read, Squid Inc,The Digital Ink Spot and Free Book Dude.

One thing I would say is that how many downloads and sales you will get does depend on what sort of genre you write in and not everyone agrees that giving away free books is a good thing. If I was doing this again I would start at least three weeks in advance of the promo and definitely give Pixel of Ink another shot. But whether you choose to go down the Kindle Select path or not – good luck to you all!

3 thoughts on “Is the KDP Select Free Promo Still Worth the Effort?

  1. Jeff Currie

    I have used KDP Select to various degrees of success in terms of downloads and sales post-free Using KDP Select to make your book visible to potential readers is key. KDP boosts books into the “visibility zone” and this is where readers find you and sales happen. It has become increasingly important as KDP has evolved to use sites such as Freebooksy during your free promos. When I have taken the time to list on as many sites as possible, downloads have been greater, therefore post -sales of my book have been greater. So far, for me, it HAS been worth the effort. But I weigh its worth periodically and think of it as another tool. When it is no longer effective, I will naturally reconsider participation and exclusivity with Amazon.Thanks for allowing me to add your post my collection of KDP Select Experiences on my blog.

  2. Lambert Nagle Post author

    I think you’ve got the right attitude, Jeff. Select really is just another marketing tool and I think we all need to assess our marketing strategies periodically to see what’s working and what isn’t.


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