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.