The days of the indiscriminate downloading of free KDP Select books, if my recent promotion is anything to go by, seems to be well and truly over. KDP Select is now 18 months old (and that’s a long time in this ever-changing digital world) and the novelty factor for readers has worn off. Of course, that’s had an impact on writers, as Select was pitched to us as a product designed to help us sell more books and become visible on Amazon. While Select was new it worked brilliantly, for some writers, at least, particularly those with a backlist, who reported not just downloads in the thousands but an important spike in sales afterwards.
But last year Amazon made some changes to its Amazon Associates program, which meant that Associates could no longer promote free books in quite the same way. And now it seems, even the most successful indie authors are feeling the effect of the changes Amazon made, as writers are reporting a downturn in downloads and subsequent sales. To test out this theory, I went free, choosing Wednesday to Friday 24th-26th July, just before the summer holidays in the UK.
Because Revolution Earth isn’t mass market fiction that appeals to BookBub’s mainstream US readership, I knew that I would have to work extra hard to find readers, so for $40 I paid for eBookbooster to push the book to their 20 plus promotion sites. The sites that did feature Revolution Earth were: Awesome Gang, Author Marketing Club, Book Goodies, EBook Lister, eReader Perks, Free Book Dude, Frugal Freebies, Indie Book Bargains (UK), Indie Book of the Day, It’s Write Now, One Hundred Free Books, Pin Your Book and Sweeties Picks.
I had contacted Indie Book Bargains (UK) prior to the promotion, after a tip-off from a fellow indie author, as I was keen to recruit more UK readers. I also let readers on the UK Kindle Users Forum know as well as at Amazon Germany, as New Zealand is a popular destination for German travellers. If you have a book that might appeal to German readers here’s the link: www.amazon.de/forum/englischebücher on the thread: We Can Get a Book for Free?
Despite this extra help, we had a big drop in downloads in the US, where we managed only 676, when the three day promotion held on 31st August 2012, yielded 2842. And in Germany, when last time round we had 134, this time it was only 20. Of course, if we’d been picked up by one of the big freebie sites such as Pixel of Inx, the results might have been different but as they only feature a handful of freebies every day (as do BookBub), our results, I think, represent the reality of Select for the majority of writers. The power of these sites is enough to propel you into the top 100 in free Kindle books. Getting into the top 100 free list is crucial for visibility. The highest ranking we managed was #589 in the US on the 25th July and #577 in the UK free list.
This doesn’t make me despondent because I never believed the hype around Select in the first place. I have had similar ups and downs in my writing career and this is merely one in a long line of many. I thought I had it made back in 2006, when I got a book deal for two non-fiction travel and lifestyle titles, which I had high hopes of updating every couple of years. But two major events completely out of my control stopped all that: My publisher retired and sold his company in the same year that the books were published. And I only found out I’d been dropped as an author when my bio no longer appeared on my new publisher’s website. The second reason was, ironically the digital book revolution, which I’m now a part of, affecting the travel and lifestyle market. Suddenly travellers no longer wanted to lug around heavy guidebooks any more and if I ever do republish, (as I have got my rights back), it will be as an app.
So you see, I never had unrealistic expectations or get too excited about how much money I would make from Select in the short term. What benefits there are to writers like me, who haven’t had any increased sales as a result of their recent promotions, to stay in Select remains unclear, unless it is to recruit more readers, who might just leave reviews? I’m keen to hear your opinions and what you think indies should be doing to promote their work, so do let me know what you think.