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 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.
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?