KDP Free Promotion Net Effect

KDP Free Promotion Net Effect

KDP Select

This post is a follow up to my article, KDP Select as a Marketing Tool for Indie Authors?, where I began the discussion on how self-published authors might see value in Amazon’s KDP Select free promotions for gaining visibility and spreading the word about their work.

I initially ran my first free book promotion for FALSE POSITIVES on 7 Jan, 2012 after its Christmas 2011 release.  Just prior to the program I took note of a few key metrics:

  • Paid rank in Kindle books (US):  53,236
  • US Sales: 4
  • UK Sales: 0

The program began to run at about 12:30am PST—it takes a while for the status change to work its way through Amazon’s systems.  The first thing I noticed is that paid rankings disappear during the free promotion, which I guess is normal since the book is free during that period.

I did do some promotion in the usual spots, including:  FaceBook, GoodReads, KindleBoards, Library Thing, and Twitter.

I took the next measurement at 8:30am:

  • Free rank in Kindle books (US):  1,751
  • Free rank in Technothrillers (US):  4
  • US Sales: 156
  • Free rank in Kindle books (UK):  524
  • Free rank in Technothrillers (UK):  4
  • UK Sales: 55

I took the next measurement at 2:30am after the promo had run its course:

  • Free rank in Kindle books (US):  945
  • Free rank in Technothrillers (US):  3
  • US Sales: 339
  • Free rank in Kindle books (UK):  559
  • Free rank in Technothrillers (UK):  4
  • UK Sales: 82

Now here’s where it kinda gets interesting.  After a book comes out of the free promo, the free ranking disappears and is replaced by paid rankings.

At 5:30am PST on 8 Jan 2012, these showed as follows:

  • Paid rank in Kindle books (US):  25,535
  • Paid rank in Technothrillers (US):  88

There was no change in the number of sales, but my paid overall ranking was half (that’s twice as good) of what it was before the promo.  Plus, I was now in the Top 100 Best Sellers list for my niche genre.  This was a little confusing, and I had to wait a week for the Prior Six Weeks Royalties report to come out on KDP.

Interestingly, 300-odd “free” sales that came from the free promo in the US were recorded with the 70% royalty while 20-something were showing as sold with 35%.  There were also commissions showing, which I didn’t expect as the book was free.  So there is some weirdness here that I can’t really explain yet.

First, I’m going to guess that some people weren’t able to get the book free and actually wound up buying it.  I’ve got quite a few friends that live outside the US and UK, and I’m thinking this might attribute to the actual commissions seen.  Also, as I’d not ever put the book at 35% royalty, the only thing I can think is that Amazon does something wonky when the book is in flux between free and paid.  I’ve done a bunch of calculations, but I can’t figure it out.  All the factors just aren’t in the report.

So what happens to actual sales after a free promotion?  In my case, not a whole lot.  My paid sales rank dropped steadily after the promo, eventually reaching the point where it started before the promo after a few hours.  Actual sales after that returned to a measly trickle.

But!  An immediate skyrocketing in sales was not really my anticipated result here.  While it would have been nice, my actual goal was to get my book into reader’s hands.  And here is where the real marketing—that magic thing called word of mouth—may actually result in something.

Customers Also Bought

One very tangible and positive result is that FALSE POSITIVES now shows up in front of more people via Amazon’s “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” area.  While one may not immediately show up next to any best sellers, the book is being seen more, which equates to increased exposure for the fledgling Indie writer.

So what did we learn?  Well, there are those that question the wisdom of giving away one’s book for free.  First time authors—esp. self-published ones—are virtually unknown.  It’s my thought that a few hundred copies of a book in reader’s (i.e. potential fans) hands is marketing money well spent when compared to the pittance of royalties one would have received in selling those books.  And let’s face it, best selling authors sell *millions* of books, so why quibble about hundreds or even thousands for that matter?  I believe the only reason to fret about that would be that those free sales won’t positively affect your sales ranking as would paid sales.  But then, who’s to say that those free sales would have been sold at all without the free promotion?  For me, as a first time author with one book on the market, just getting known and not fading into obscurity is the key objective.

I’ve covered a final few inklings on KDP in my follow up article, Do KDP Select Free Promotions Increase Book Sales?


  • KDP Select as a Marketing Tool for Indie Authors | Kim Aleksander

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  • Addison Gast

    Thanks Kimmie for the report on your experiences with KP select. Interesting. so, it does really what they advertised–it gets your work into the hands of readers and hopefully, they will jot down the name and look for the sequel or another writing. I think that is a pretty good scheme of things especially if it is free. I have heard all the pros and cons I think about the exclusivity required but that is part of the deal and they explain it clearly up front. It will be interesting to see, say a year from now if authors that participated in this can honestly attribute increased exposure to it. Incidenly, nice web. Very clean.

  • Kim Aleksander

    Hello Mr. Gast,

    Thanks for taking an interest in my article.

    I think one benefit beyond having one’s name jotted down is the potential for reviews that may result from getting one’s book “out there.”

    Reviews are the “bread and butter” for all writers, and I do think that they may have a direct relation to potential sales.

    All the Best,

    Kimmie 😉

    PS: Thanks also for the nice comment on my web design!

  • [email protected]

    Our Kindle Select free promo experience was a fantastic success. We let T.A. Miles’ book Raventide have five days of continuous free promo. Overall it was downloaded over 1k times, and since then we’ve experienced sale numbers soar compared to what they were. I fully trust that it was the added visibility the free promo gave, lasting for as long as it did, that was responsible for these results.
    I’m glad to see that you felt positive effects, too, and I completely agree– the immediate issue for indie authors is how to get exposure. That’s 300 people more now that own that book than they used to. There’s no room to complain about that. I hope you start seeing the product reviews flowing in soon!

  • Richard Hoy

    Regarding the 70% / 35% weirdness…

    Amazon does not pay 70% across the board. It depends on what country the sale took place in.


    Co-owner, BookLocker.com
    twitter: @90daysofpromo

  • Rosalind Smith-Nazilli

    Thanks for that… Am also a new writer and have done previously as you did.

    It’s good to see your book floating high and as far as I am concerned the whole objective as a new author is to get your name passing around anywhere you can.

    Again thanks.. Shall be following you..x

  • Lyn Perry

    Thanks for sharing your experience. Takes some guts to put the numbers out there. Best wishes in your projects.

  • Eileen Robertson Hamer

    Thanks for the info. I just published my first book on Kindle (Chicago Stories: West of Western) and have elected to go with KDP Select, but have not yet set it up. From your experience, it looks like a good thing.

  • Dave P Perlmutter

    Great post Kim and some excellent tips. I am also a first time writer and will be self publishing my story as an ebook. My story is based on true events. I have already over 1,000 followers on [email protected] and I have had over 5,000 page views to my blog and currently just under 100 followers, so all going well. Many good comments also on the blog. Take a look as well, plus follow, http://thewrongplaceatthewrongtime.blogspot.com/

    I will be continuing to follow your blog and I hope I achieve as much as you and very well done Kim. Hope to us all……

    Best regards

    Dave P Perlmutter

  • Steve Douglass

    Very gutsy, precise and informative. Well done, Kim. If your readers get half the pleasure out of reading your book as I did, they’ll be enriched.
    Best, Steve Douglass, Niagara Falls, Canada.

    1. Kim Aleksander


      Thanks much for the very nice compliment. I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed FALSE POSITIVES, and I can only hope others will too!

      All the Best,


  • Bill Cokas

    Thanks for cluing us in on your experiment, Kim. I put two books up this week and absolutely zero has happened, so I’m planning a KDP promo next weekend for one day. How many days did you do? Wondering about blowing all 5 at once. My goal too is simply reviews and exposure. I’ll be reporting on my blog.

    1. Kim Aleksander

      Hi Bill,

      I ran my first KDP Select free promo for one day only and saw free sales as a result–though there was some “marketing” happening in various places. The second promo (and I think I made a mistake here) I ran for four straight days. In short, I “blew my wad” (that’s a money term not a porn term) a bit prematurely.

      Regardless, I would definitely try KDP Select to bump your exposure. Possibly spread out your free days more. Russell Blake has written in a lot of detail about his experience and shared some pearls of wisdom regarding this topic on his blog: http://russellblake.com/promotions-update-for-authors-only. It will be worth your time to check out.

      I’m on the fence about renewing my KDP Select when it expires in April. I don’t see other eBook stores doing as much for indie authors as Amazon does, but I might see what can be done on B&N and other places for a month or so and then possibly re-enroll if things don’t really move much.



      1. Patrice Fitzgerald

        Hi Kim: Great post — thanks for sharing your results. Back in January, I posted in some detail on David Gaughran’s blog about the way KDP Select free days worked for me. And work they did! If you want to see my numbers and the many comments that were generated, here is the link:


        I think it’s fair to say that I got such strong results because the KDP Select program was very new in December, and there wasn’t as much competition.

        Thanks for your blog — keep up the good work!

        1. Kim Aleksander

          Hi Patrice,

          Thanks for sharing. I believe I may have read this a while back, as often I do peruse David’s site.

          Congratulations on such terrific numbers. Do you think that “free” sales have actually tapered off since the launch of KDP Select?

  • Virginia Llorca

    If you have more than one book the effect seems a bit more synergistic. I notice slight sales bumps in my non promo books. I ‘m not gonna do past 90 days but rotate other books through. I did 2,2,and1 with freebie days but got better results with three and two. More often I’m noticing a rating here and ther like on Goodreads, so maybe more are reading. Only prob with select is I lose my Barnes and Noble sales which are always my best..

    1. Kim Aleksander

      Hi Virginia,

      Thanks for commenting. I think you’re right about the synergy in that if someone does read a freebie and they enjoy it, they’ll do what any reader does: they’ll look for another book by the same author.

      Question for you: Why do you think your sales are better on B&N when they don’t have any such program like KDP Select? Or have you leveraged other avenues to market directly to Nook owners?



  • Wayne Basta

    That matches my experience with KDP select. My book went free a total of 3 days during it’s time in the program. The first time, it climbed as high as #17 free in sci-fi and in the 500’s overall. There were close to 600 total downloads of the book during that day.
    I did that on the last day of Feb. Previously I had been getting a sale every 3-4 days. In March, after the first free day, it averaged a sale a day. The second time I tried it I did two days in a row and only had 150 total downloads only broke into the top 100 in sci-fi for a few hours..
    Sales have slowed down in April though, so it was a short lived bump. But it did get it in front of several hundred people who wouldn’t have read it otherwise. We’ll see how the long term build effect goes, especially with the sequel coming out soon.

  • Stephen Edger

    I enrolled my 2nd novel ‘Remorse’ for free for 3days in Jan 2012 and had over 1400downloads across UK &US but also an increase to paid downloads of my first novel too. My concern is the lack of increase to Amazon reviews as have had 30 in total but over 3100 downloads.

  • Sean

    “Interestingly, 300-odd “free” sales that came from the free promo in the US were recorded with the 70% royalty while 20-something were showing as sold with 35%”

    Sales via .com include those outside the US which don’t have their own kindle store. These sell at the 35% rate as there is no 70% rate in these territories, so the division is actual US sales versus non US sales using .com

  • Do KDP Select Free Promotions Increase Book Sales? - Kim Aleksander

    […] 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 I’ve learned after entering my book, FALSE […]

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