KDP Select as a Marketing Tool for Indie Authors?

KDP Select as a Marketing Tool for Indie Authors?

This article is about my recent experience running a free promotion on Amazon’s KDP Select program for my novel, FALSE POSITIVES.

Best Selling Techno-thrillers

If you don’t already know, KDP Select is a program that allows independent publishers to list their books exclusively in the Kindle bookstore with a few benefits and one fairly significant caveat.

KDP Select’s key proviso is its exclusivity clause.  Once enrolled, ePublishers are restricted from making their eBooks available anywhere else.  This includes other eBookstores like Barnes & Noble and Apple’s iBookstore for example.  It also includes—and this gets some people a bit riled—author’s websites.  In a word, exclusivity.

Amazon’s reasoning for this, according to their terms and conditions is that publishing elsewhere will “compete commercially” with your Amazon listing and potentially “diminish its value.”  Others such as Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, feel that the concept is much more sinister.  You can read his blog post entitled “Amazon Shows Predatory Spots with KDP Select” for more insight on that perspective.

On the bright side of this ostensibly dark tunnel, there is some light.  KDP Select only requires you to stay in the program for ninety days, and as J.A. Konrath says, “eBooks are forever.”  In other words, they don’t gather dust on the eBookshelf or disappear from stock like traditional print books do.  With this in mind, and the knowledge that Amazon does pretty much own nearly 90% of the eBook market (based on loose research), I thought I’d give it a whirl.

So what are the benefits?  First, but not foremost, is the enrollment in the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library.  This is another Amazon exclusive for members of their Amazon Prime program.  Amazon Prime members are eligible to “permanently loan” one book from the Lending Library per month.  As an aside, Amazon Prime is not that bad a program at all if you buy a lot from Amazon.  Even if you won’t find a lot of best selling authors in the Lending Library, the free two-day shipping may easily pay for itself depending on your spending habits.  The prospects of the Lending Library itself aren’t necessarily “a boon” for the indie publisher unless you’ve got a large number of books for sale, and even then, the jury is still out on this one.

In short, Amazon antes up a chunk of change to be shared among all publishers who’ve loaned books through their library.  At first glance, this is a fairly large pot, presently at half a million dollars.  The issue seems to me that this pot is diminished with every new book that gets listed in the library.  Plus, you’ll see a lot of big names now in the library now, including J. Carson Black, Susanne Collins, and Barry Eisler to name a few.  The more these folks sell—and I imagine they sell quite a few—the less “diminishing pie” there is to go around for the rest.

But have faith!  While loaning books from the Lending Library may not make you rich, I do believe there is a marketing aspect to be considered, which is critical for the self-published author who by definition lacks the backing of marketing machines of the traditional publishing houses.  The most important thing to any author is having a readership, and it may just be that the KDP Select program is one of the best ways to help indie authors get their books into more people’s hands—or onto their Kindles at least.

Possibly the biggest benefit of enrolling in KDP Select is the ability to put your eBook on “sale” for free in the Kindle store.  You can do this five times over the course of your 90-day KDP Select engagement.

I have just finished my first Free for a Day promo for FALSE POSITIVES.  Since it’s release on Christmas last year, I’d seen between 0-5 sales a day.  I’ll note that 99.9% of these were Kindle Sales via Amazon.  Within the first six hours of the promo, my book had moved to #15 and #4 on the Kindle Technothrillers (my niche genre) category on both Amazon US and UK.  I “sold” over 300 copies in the US and nearly 100 in the UK.  I had some great support from the Twitterverse and from fans of my Facebook page.  By hour 12, I’d reached #3 in the U.S. while I think the UK went to bed still at #4.

So how does giving away your book for free help with making sales?  Well, to be frank, I’m not sure yet.  I’ll probably post on the net effect of KDP Select free promotions once the dust settles.  However, my going theory for the moment is that with 400 copies of FALSE POSITIVES now “out there” the potential for word of mouth marketing has increased significantly.  Some of these might even generate book reviews, which could lead to better visibility as well.  Will that ultimately lead to future sales?  I’ll let you know.

Update:  A follow up to this can be found in my KDP Free Promotion Net Effect post.


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26 COMMENTS
  • Virginia Llorca
    Reply

    I would like to follow this blog. Y’all got a follow button or what?

  • Kim Aleksander
    Reply

    Hi Virginia,

    Thank you for your interest in my blog.

    There’s a couple of check boxes at the bottom of each entry in the “Leave a Reply” section. One’s for follow-up on any comments to the post article you’re reading (i.e. this article); the other is for any new posts (i.e. the whole blog).

    All the Best,

    Kim

  • Marion Spicher
    Reply

    Thank you for this clear and concise description of your experience with KDM Select on Amazon. Writing buddies have talked about it, but your post clarified it for me. Wishing you great sales. Reached your blog from twitter after you followed me. Intend to follow your blog as well.

  • Haley Whitehall
    Reply

    Great article explaining the Kindle Select program from an indie perspective. I will be interested in whether the free promotion helps your sales. I hope that the word of mouth spreads.

  • KDP Free Promotion Net Effect | Kim Aleksander
    Reply

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  • Sara Niles
    Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to post useful information…and congratulations to you!
    Sara Niles

  • Kim Aleksander
    Reply

    Thanks Maria, Haley, and Sara.

    I’m glad you like the article. I hope by making this info public that others can learn from it.

    As of now, I’m not sure–for me at least–that running a KDP Select free promotion has an immediate effect on sales. I also think that there are other factors involved, such as how many books an author has out and the number of reviews they have. I’ll be posting more about this in my next article.

    All the Best,

    Kim

  • Diana Layne
    Reply

    “In other words, they don’t gather dust on the eBookshelf or disappear from stock like traditional print books do.” The caveat to this is if you’re on goodreads and your book source is Amazon…then they will disappear from Goodreads unless you go rescue them. I have my only indie book in the KDP select at this moment, too, and it was in danger of being deleted off Goodreads. I was able to link my website url for the book info and upload the bookcover myself. As for the Select free day was it easy to pick the day? I’ve read of Amazon messing up the days before.

  • Kim Aleksander
    Reply

    Hi Diana,

    Thanks for taking the time to stop by. I’ve heard rumors about ASIN listings on GoodReads being taken down, but I haven’t yet found anything concrete. What’s the deal on that? Is this some sort of official policy or a bug?

    Picking the date for the promotion is very simple. The promo lasts from 12am to 12am Pacific Standard Time. I have noticed that this can be delayed on both ends as the change replicates across Amazon’s systems. The have a lot of servers.

    All the Best,

    Kim

  • Kim Aleksander
    Reply

    I did a little research and came across this: http://ow.ly/8DS4d. Apparently, this is an official action by GoodReads. Weird that FALSE POSITIVES is listed as safe and not needing a rescue.

    1. Diana Layne
      Reply

      Yes, that is the same thing I read. When I clicked on my Select book in the dashboard there was a little note at the top: warning, this book is in danger of disappearing, rescue it, or something to that effect. Interesting that your Select book is not in danger. However, I’ve also read on various loops, that books with valid ISBN’s from Bowkers, not just the ASIN from Amazon, have been threatened with removal and had to be rescued as well. Perhaps because the information was originally imported from Amazon? And apparently Amazon and Goodreads are not playing nicely–perhaps because they are competing factors? I think DD Scott plans to blog on this more at WG2E blog later this week.

      thanks for the info about the free days! Pacific Standard–good to know!

  • Wendy Jones
    Reply

    Excellent blog, really great to hear an authors perspective. From a readers perspective can I say that I have read free books from authors and then have bought other books by those authors. However, I am not sure if this is the case with everyone. I read a comment on Facebook where a questions was asked about how many free books people had on their kindle as opposed to paid for books. The proportion was quite high in favour of free books. So I would agree that the jury may be out on whether free books are worth it to individual authors. I for one, however, and grateful

  • Kim Aleksander
    Reply

    Thanks, Wendy.

    It’s nice to hear a reader’s perspective as well. I’m a reader too, and I will pickup free books if I come across them and they look like I’ll enjoy them. If I’m hooked, I’m also likely to buy more from the author if they exist. If not, I’m likely to remember their name when they come around again with a new release.

    So, in a sense, while free promotions might not immediately equate to an increase in sales, I do believe it gets an author’s name out, which is a good thing.

    Best,

    Kim

  • James D. Kellogg
    Reply

    Interesting post, Kim. Thanks for the insight. I just went to KDP select with my novel E-Force and I very hopeful that it will help. It’s a cool book, but sales are almost non-existent. One reason is that it is priced too high at $4.99 for a first-time author. I have a publisher and virtually no control over price. I’m hoping KDP will help get the book out there so that word-of-mouth marketing can give me a boost.

  • Kim Aleksander
    Reply

    Hi James,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment on my post.

    There’s a lot of talk on eBook price points. One of the best I found was on The Evil Genius Chronicles, where he advocates $2.99 as the ideal. In my (admittedly short) experience, I’ve found that the price is not a huge factor. I’ve sold more books at $4.99 than I have at any lower price, including 99¢.

    Personally, if I put on my reader’s hat and think about how I buy books. It’s really not based on price. This is especially true if I already know and like the author. The indie author’s biggest challenge is becoming known and liked. I think that KDP Free promotions are a good way to go about doing this, probably more-so than a low-price point.

    Lastly, if you have a publisher that controls the price of your book, how is it that you are able to manage your own free promotions? I would imagine that they’d be controlling this as well?

    Best,

    Kim

  • Kate
    Reply

    Thanks for the description of this program. My question is how do readers find the books that have been put on free promo in kdp select? I’ve just published my first ebook called How To Find The Heart Of Bali and scheduled it for a 1-day free promo. Today is that day, but when I go to the site for the book, it’s still being charged the normal price. I’ve checked the report for my book and it says the free promo is “in progress”. So where is that happening? I’ve looked everywhere to find an answer to this question, but so far, no success. Do you have an explanation?

    1. Kim Aleksander
      Reply

      Hi Kate,

      The time that a KDP free promo kicks off is 12:00am Pacific Standard Time. After that it can take up to a few hours or more for the changes to ripple through the Amazon systems.

      The good news is that I’ve just checked myself, and I’m seeing your book listed for free.

      Enjoy,

      Kim

      1. Kim Aleksander
        Reply

        One more thing on this. I notice that you live in Indonesia. Amazon does some funky things when you are not configured as being in the country you are looking at.

        For example, if you are looking at the US store and your billing address is somewhere else, you’ll more than likely see a $2 surcharge added to the price of your book.

        Not sure if this is the case with you or not, but I thought I’d mention it.

  • CG Blake
    Reply

    Kim,
    Thanks for sharing your insights on the KDP Select program. I’ve been considering enrolling my novel in the program. A friend of mine did and his work was downloaded 5,000 times in one day. That is a huge audience. Good luck to you with your novel.

    1. Kim Aleksander
      Reply

      Hi there, CG.

      5000 is indeed a high number. Milage does vary. Not all will be read and probably fewer will become reviews, but in the end, I believe that any exposure better than none for the indie writer.

      Best of luck,

      Kim

  • Lisette Brodey
    Reply

    Hi Kim:

    Thanks for a great blog. I have three titles on Amazon, but none of them qualify for the KDP program and I have been thinking about trying it for my next book. Your very informative blog has been of great assistance.

    I have many friends who have been a part of the program with varying results. One of the cons I have seen is that people who paid nothing for the book don’t respect it, and therefore will leave nasty reviews without a thought. But I’d like to hope that those people are in the vast minority, and, as you say, this is a great opportunity to increase our readership.

    I am still confused about one thing. I’ve been reading different blogs on this and have heard that rank is affected by free downloads. Is that true or not? Some people I know who have had hundreds of downloads do not have ranks that reflect this. Do ranks affect only paid sales?

    Thanks again.

    Best,
    Lisette

    1. Kim Aleksander
      Reply

      Hi Lisette,

      Thanks for the nice comments. I believe you are kind of right with regards to “those who have paid nothing not respecting a free book” in that a lot of free sales will never be read; however, I can’t imagine someone who received a free book would be more inclined to leave a negative review over someone who’s paid for a book. I’d say the opposite would be true, as I think people who have shelled out money are more likely to feel an investment above and beyond the time put into reading a book.

      Anyhow, to your question. To the best of my knowledge, free sales do not increase paid sales rank. The main thing you will gain is exposure, which can then possibly turn into actual paid sales. There are some funky things that occur just before and after your book goes free, but it’s hard to say what is really going on. If these have any impact on actual sales rank, I’d say it’s probably minimal.

      Best of luck with your writing!

      All the Best,

      Kim

  • Steve Douglass
    Reply

    Nice job, Kim. You have a way with words. For the edification of your readers, I have read FALSE POSITIVES, and enjoyed it thoroughly. For those who would like to read my review, please refer to the book’s Amazon listing.
    Wishing you much success in the future,
    Steve Douglass, Canadian indie author.

  • daphne dangerlove
    Reply

    I think Select has a lot of value for new authors. There is really no better way to break into the Amazon environment (unless you already have a mailing list). For new authors it helps to make their book pages less lonely–filling in your also bought slots and then putting your book on other author’s pages.

    It also lets you get your feet wet when it comes to promoting your book over Twitter, Facebook and various blogs dedicated to that purpose. I have an extensive list of blogs, facebook pages and twitter accounts on my website here: http://theselfpublishingtoolkit.com/kdp-select-free-promo-resources/ If you decide to do another run, those might be useful.

    I think that free run also helps get a few reviews as well and once you have those you can do a second free run and get picked up by more blogs and increase your promotional reach.

    Like you mentioned Select is only for 90 days which is the perfect amount of time to perfect your listing, tweak your book description, author bio and get everything set just right on Author Central. Then your book really is ready to go out into the world.

    Have you published on other sites since you’ve run this promotion? I have had the best sales on Amazon to the point that it isn’t worth the work to have my books anywhere else.

    1. Kim Aleksander
      Reply

      Hi Daphne,

      Thanks for commenting here. You make some very good points, .esp considering what an author goes through at “ground zero” when they are first starting out.

      Amazon has done some great things, and one of those is providing an opportunity for first time authors to actually get published. Any author will tell you that rejection during the query process an emotionally trying endeavor. I think that rejection from literary agents is often the #1 reason why many writers give up their dream; and while I do actually believe that some should never give up their day job, there are some great indie books out there that would have never seen the light of day if it weren’t for Amazon’s KDP program.

      I think you’re spot on in that populating your page with “what others bought” and reviews are both important thinks that add a certain amount of “credibility” to one’s “Amazon platform.” While I do agree that Amazon is pretty much king of the hill–well over 90% of my sales have been through them–I also think that Select’s restrictions can delay the building of a platform on other eStores. Also, some feel that Select is predatory in nature.

      Regardless, I wasn’t deterred from trying it out, and I do recommend it for anyone who sees the program’s benefits, as long as they understand the restrictions and are cool with them–at least for 90 days.

      Best,

      Kim

  • Do KDP Select Free Promotions Increase Book Sales? - Kim Aleksander
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    […] written about KDP Select as a Marketing tool and the Net effect of KDP free promotions in prior blog posts, so this is a wrap up of what […]

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