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