Do KDP Select Free Promotions Increase Book Sales?

Do KDP Select Free Promotions Increase Book Sales?

Amazon Best SellersI’ve 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 POSITIVES, into KDP select.

After using up my final few days of freebies, I’d given away over 800 copies of my book.  I’ve read some fantastic success stories where free promotions “sold” in the tens of thousands.  I’d attribute these successes to the marketing savvy of the author/promoter and how well the book is presented.

Yes, I do think that many people do still buy a book based on the cover even if it’s free.  But there are other factors in presentation, including the cover, such as your blurb, price point, and reviews.  Jeff Bennington has laid this out all very succinctly at the Writing Bomb, although I’m still on the fence regarding extremely low price points.

But, as they say, “mileage will vary.” Rose Andrade has written a very concise overview of KDP results on EPUB World.  She’s broken results down into three camps, which I believe are pretty accurate.  I’m posting personal thoughts and results for those who might find it helpful and/or interesting.

So 800 free copies… I must have actually sold some paid copies (hard to tell from the Amazon sales reports) during the free promo, as my paid sales ranking showed significant improvement once that metric reappeared after the free promotion ran its course.  Whatever I needed to sustain this, however, was missing, and as I’d seen during prior promos, paid sales rank steadily drifted downward post promotion.

Paid sales rank can seem to be somewhat of a fickle beast.  I’ve seen a single paid sale cut 100K or more off my sales rank.  My assumption is that these 100K books didn’t sell during the time mine did.   I’ve also seen similar shifts without having any sales, which I can only attribute to some time/sales calculation that I don’t really understand.  Regardless, during the free promos, I did see an exponential rise in my “free sales” ranking.  At one point, I apparently reached #1 for a bit (in Technothrillers), according to a friend on Twitter, but I slept through it.  In any case, anything toward the top of the “free best seller” list will give you “above the fold” visibility for anyone who actually views these lists.  Who actually looks at them, I’m not sure.

What is more seductive, however, is getting to the left side of this list, which is Top Paid—currently dominated for some time now by Suzanne Collins, who is obviously doing something very right.  I’m also pretty sure that she’s never been on the right (free) side of Best Seller’s list because I don’t think she’s never done a free promotion on KDP, which may be something to consider all by itself (although she does have her books in the Kindle Lending Library).  This may also be a sign that traditionally published writers simply get better exposure due to the backing of the big publishing houses.

So do KDP Select free promotions increase sales?  I believe the answer is:  it depends.  For some, yes!  A good example of a free promotion success story is detailed here by John L. Betcher.  For others, it’s no.  In my case, not really, but I do have a few final  inklings on KDP after having done this.

Inkling 1:  The Kindle Lending Library is not really a boon for the writer who is pricing their books at $3.99 or lower.  As one is only allowed to borrow one book per month, I think that people will want to get as much value as possible for their freebies.  Loaning a $5-$10 book from the library is a better value for most.  While I’ve not seen any real stats on this, I’d venture to guess that those sharing large chunks of the KDP lending pot are doing so by loaning higher cost books.  While this may seem to be a Catch-22 for the indie author, it might just be that the Lending Library is not going to be the gold mine some imagine it to be.

Inkling 2:  Authors with more books on the Kindle shelf will tend to see better post promotion sales.  The reason behind this is that once a person has received a book for free they are more apt to actually buy another (not free) book from the same author.  The downside to this is that if an author has given their only book away for free, there’s nothing left for the newfound fan to buy.

Inkling 3:  Those who’ve paid for a book are more likely to give it a review.  Anyone who pays for a book generally has more invested than someone who’s received it for free.  It’s my thought that the majority of organic (i.e. non-solicited) reviews come from those who’ve actually bought the book.  Often these are the best reviews, because the reader doesn’t feel obligated, or at least their obligation to tell others of the book comes from within.

My final thoughts for now…

How one makes this right (free) to left (paid) best seller transition is still somewhat of a mystery (to me at least), but I believe it all boils down (for the indie writer) to continued promotion and positive feedback from that all important person, the reader.  If you’ve got your cover and blurb polished to perfection, your book should sell at least a few copies even at price point higher than $5, and if those readers leave positive reviews, then you’re on the right track.  It means your book is not only worth reading, but it’s good enough for people to tell others about it, and that’s the best thing any author can hope for.

KDP Select has its pros and cons and its varying tales of success for the self-published author.  Will it equate to higher sales?  It depends.  Again, your mileage will vary.


  • John L. Betcher

    Thanks for linking to the blog post about my success on KDP Select using the free book promo tool. This is an update.

    I have given away three different titles between January 7th and February 8th — two free days each. In total, I gave away more than 65,000 copies of these books. Since the beginning of the first giveaway, I have sold more than 4,000 copies of the sames books, each priced at $6.99.

    The promos were an almost unbelievable success for my books. But then, I truly believe there was divine intervention involved. You see, I had asked God whether I should continue writing. This, I believe, was his answer.

    All the best to everyone.


  • Everett Peacock

    My experience is very similar, as a pattern of ups and downs. During the promo I moved more copies than I thought were possible. No really, more than anyone can move. 11,000 copies one day alone. Of course, my January experience was started on the 4th, after all those new Kindles were fishing around for something “free”.

    My paid sales for January were significantly higher than a rather dull pre-promo December. Under a pen name, as well as mine, I have 25 titles out there, so a big selection certainly counts, as you mentioned in your post.

    My February paid sales are running 50% of January’s pace, but have dropped off a cliff these past two days….but STILL ahead of December. Too much Valentine chocolate out there I guess…

    Even if you have one or two titles out there, you are still getting your name out into the Kindle-verse and that must count for something!

    One last thing I agree with you on…rock bottom 99c pricing never improved my sales. I believe those tactics might have worked in the early days of eBooks, but now with a larger and larger (and thus more established and sophisticated reading audience) coming online, those prices looks spooky. $2.99 seems quite popular lately, but I’m moving my entire library up to $4.99 for week, tonight, to compare how sales go.

  • Kim Aleksander

    Everett and John,

    Both of you have had some tremendous runs, and I applaud you. You guys really are great examples of how KDP can help indie writers not only get the word out, but explode onto the scene.

    While not everyone will experience the stellar results that you have, I do believe that Amazon has given indie writers an unparalleled opportunity for exposure. Like it or not, I can’t think of anywhere else (B&N, iBooks, etc.) that provides anything even close.

    I wish you both continued success, and I hope you continue to give back to the indie community by sharing your experiences for all to learn from.

    All the Best,


  • Michael

    Most definitely! During the two day free promotion my book, “The PC Power Pack,” ranked #1 for Computers and Technology. The book remained in the top ten rankings for over a week after the promotion.

  • “My experience with KDP Select” « Netting Tips

    […] Do KDP Select free promotions increase book sales? from Kim Aleksander – “For some, yes! … In my case, not really, but I do have a few final inklings on KDP after having done this.” […]

  • Brenton Harper-Murray

    Thanks for posting this in depth analysis! I posted my own critique on my site a couple months ago, but seeing your article and others like it pushed me over the edge. I just released my story “Snow Angels” on KDP Select, and will try my first give away on Saturday and Sunday.

    Here’s to the Amazon model!

    Here’s to the new flesh.

    1. Kim Aleksander

      Congratulations, Brenton and best of luck with Snow Angels.

  • Katharina Gerlach

    REgarding the 35% sales you mentioned in part 2 of this post: I actually went and asked an amazon employee about this. He said this always happens when someone from a country with no amazon store buys your book. (say someone from India or China buys your book through the website, you get 35% instead of 70%) He also pointed out that this is stated in the rules somewhere.

  • KDP Free Promotion Net Effect - Kim Aleksander

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

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