What KDPS can do for you

Amazon.com-Kindle-Direct-Publishing-KDP-SelectThere has been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about Amazon’s Kindle Select program. For those not familiar with it, enrollment in the program allows you 5 free days in every 90 day period during which you’re enrolled. You don’t have to do anything except choose your days; Amazon lowers the price to $0 and then raises it back for you. It also allows your books to be borrowed by those who are members of Amazon Prime. You get paid out of a general fund for each of your borrows. The price per borrow is figured out by taking the total number of borrows across Amazon for the month and dividing it by the number of books enrolled. The pot for July was $1m, so it’s not chump change. The payment per borrow normally comes out somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.

Another author, Michelle, who has just released her debut book and who has an interview here as our first Saturday Coffee with Authors, sent me an email this week asking about KDPS. I thought I’d just share my reply, since it covers a lot of how to use – and not use – the program.

  1. When do you put the book on sale for FREE?  You get 5 days per 90. You can do it any time. I don’t think there’s a “best time”, but when sales slow down is probably good. Melissa Foster suggests putting the book at 99c for a couple of days after a good free promo, but I haven’t found that generates much in the way of sales myself. Maybe if you really promote it, but… *shrugs* I’m on the fence about that one. Sales are pretty slow right now for everyone, and apparently will stay that way for another month or so, so you could use the free to generate more traffic during the summer doldrums.
  2. Do you wait until after sales die down from the launch? (see above) I never had a big launch spike in sales. It’s always been a slow and fairly steady climb. If you do get a good launch bump, then in 6 weeks or so, if they start to dip, it might be good to give it a try.
  3. Do you keep it there for two days or one? You get 5. I’ve done 1 day, 2 day, 3 day, and I’m trying out 5 day this week. So far, doing one 2 day and one 3 day has worked well, but we’ll see how the 5 day ones go (I’m doing a 5 day for Undaunted Love, a 5 day for BUT GOD, and a 5 day for my hubby’s book, all this month). Joe Konrath does 5 day periods with great success and follow up sales, but… he’s Joe Konrath! And he has a TON of books. I have staggered promotions through the 5 day period, knowing, of course, that BookBub is the giant-slayer of the moment and putting that on the first day.
  4. Do you have to use the FREE feature? Nope. One benefit is that your book can be borrowed if it’s in KDPS. But unless people know about it, they won’t know to borrow it… And going free can get it up on the free bestseller list. I’ve found that my borrows are greatly increased after a success promotion.
  5. Does putting it on sale for FREE allow you to move to a “best-seller” status if enough people buy it? Is that the draw? Yes. Undaunted Love is currently #2 in over Free Bestsellers and #1 in Religion and Spirituality. When I did IXEOS free with a BookBub ad in June, it was #1 in all 7 lists it’s in, plus #8 overall. That leads to more downloads, and potentially people at least saving a link to your book or putting it on a wish list for later purchase. It also drives people to other books, if you have a series. IXEOS: Rebellion has sold 100x more books since the successful free promo than it had before. (Literally!)
  6. I don’t understand why authors want to give their books away for free. Because word of mouth is the best advertising, and the more people who read your book, the more people who know about your book. And not only THIS book, but other books. If you can get 10,000 people who will buy EVERY book you write, isn’t giving some away well worth it? Plus it doesn’t “cost” you anything, since they’re ebooks.
  7. Will it raise more hype so those readers tell others and they buy it when it’s not on sale? Yes, see above
  8. Have you seen a rise in dollar sales once the FREE period is over? Potentially. As I said in #1 and #3, some do, some don’t. A lot depends on how high you get on the lists. Your book doesn’t stay on the lists after it’s done being free, so you need people to see it then (Twitter, FB, etc).
  9. Do you recommend using this feature if you don’t have any other books for sale? I use KDPS just like stores use loss leaders: to drive traffic to my other books.When I published Solomon’s Throne, I enrolled it, because I had The Hoard of the Doges (book 2 of the Quinn Adventures) coming out in less than 3 mos. I hoped to drive traffic to that book, and it has worked for that. However, without a second book direct readers to, it is more of a way to get in front of readers. And that is NOT without value. Just don’t have huge expectations from those early promos. I was THRILLED with 800 downloads the first time I did it (with zero promotion). That was 800 people who might read my book. Expectations are everything!
  10. Is there anything else you can tell me about KDP Select I should know? Ha!  The algorithms are always changing, and the bang isn’t as great as it used to be (which was before my time). But I personally think it’s a great boon to indie authors. I don’t care if my book is pirated or someone gets it free. That’s another potential fan, and more potential word-of-mouth advertising. It’s no different than doing giveaways for paperbacks on GR, except it’s free to you – no buying the books, no postage. I’m a fan of doing it for book 1’s of any series (never book 2 or later), and for authors with more than 1 book. The main thing, once you have other books, is to promote the free days so you get a lot of downloads and then drive buyers to your other books.

Overall, I think KDPS is still a great tool for authors. Notice I said tool. It is not the end-all-be-all solution to your marketing problems as it apparently once was, back in the dark ages of KDPS (about three years ago!). But it is still a valuable tool to drive sales, get your book in front of potential fans, and generate both reviews and word-of-mouth advertising. It is most effective when you have more than one book, but debut authors can use it as a way to introduce themselves to their brand new audience. Most indie authors publish much more prolifically than their traditionally published counterparts, so it can be especially good to time free promos with the release of a new book. That way, a reader who just loved the free one can go spend a few bucks on another by her new favorite author. As long as you go into your enrollment in the program with realistic expectations, it’s definitely worth the few hassles that go with it (exclusivity to Amazon being the main one).

NOTE: If you do enroll, make sure you go back after a day or so and uncheck the box for automatic re-enrollment. You may choose to re-enroll, but it’s better for you to decide than for Amazon’s system to just keep you there. Once you’re enrolled, you’re in for 90 days, so make it a deliberate choice!

Yep, I’m a bestseller! (What???)  You can find all my books on Amazon!

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “What KDPS can do for you

  1. Very good overview. I’ve mainly used 5-day promotions and had my best result a year ago for a giveaway for which I did absolutely no promotion (go figure!). For some reason people suddenly started downloading by the thousand but only from Amazon’s UK site. Best part though is that I then sold several hundred copies full price in the next few weeks.
    I’ve also tried a 3-day and 2-day split with some success. I agree you need other books for people to turn to after they’ve read your free one. (I also sold more copies of my other books immediately after the promo mentioned above.)
    I would add that recently the numbers seem to be falling – but maybe that’s because people who download free books have already seen mine and are after something new!

    • I think you’re right overall. The algorithms have changed and it’s not as good as it used to be, at least from what they tell me. The after-free sales seem to be the most hurt. But I still think it’s a good deal for authors, if you go into it with the right info and expectations! 🙂

  2. Reblogged this on Huw Thomas and commented:
    An excellent overview that’s well worth sharing with any other indie authors out there unsure how Amazon’s KDP programme works:

  3. Honestly, I’ve tried KDPS for all my books and saw no change in sales and never had one borrowed. For me, I’d rather leave my options open to sell my books on multiple websites than be trapped in KDPS’s exclusivity clause for 90 days. I do sell plenty of book’s via KDP, but saw no change when using the KDPS features.
    I find Smashwords’ coupons, whenever-you-want free listings and non-exclusivity to be much “friendlier” (and more profitable/productive) than the KDPS – I also keep my books on KDP to keep a wide range of sales options.
    That said, glad to hear it worked for you and others!

    • It funny, isn’t it? You just never know what will work. I had very little success on Smashword, Kobo, Apple, and minimal on B&N, so for me, the exclusivity isn’t an issue. But then others like you, for no apparent reason, have the opposite be true. Which is why you just have to keep plugging at the whole thing and not give up! Thanks for reading!

  4. Reblogged this on Library of Erana and commented:
    Many authors do not like the idea of free books but KDP Select is one way of getting a book “out there” whether it will lead to paid sales, reviews and such like is open to question. Some get a lot of benefit out of KDPS and some don’t. Many authors prefer to cast their net wider and use other platforms. Anyway here are some of the facts.

  5. Great article, and it came at a perfect time for me. My book is up in about 3 days and I was wondering if I should re-up with KDP. I think I just got rolling with Amazon and I just might try another 90 days. Thanks!

    • I’m glad it was helpful! I had my first novel, Solomon’s Throne, on for 2 cycles July-Feb, and I decided to expand my distribution by going to other outlets. But the minimal sales there (and lack of places to promo those sites) didn’t make up for the lost borrows. I think everyone’s experience is different, but KDPS works for me. 🙂

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