Two weeks ago, I wrote about why I was giving away my latest novel as part of Amazon’s KDP Select program. Now that the offer is complete and I’ve had a week to see some results, I thought I’d share how it went and whether I think it was worthwhile.
To recap the advantages of Select, once you give ninety days of exclusivity to Amazon, your Kindle ebook can be borrowed by members of Amazon Prime as part of the Kindle Online Lending Library. Amazon has paid around $2.25 per borrow in the past, but they recently announced that, for the months of December to February, they have added a $1.5 million bonus to the normal pool of money allocated for borrows. Depending on how many additional authors enroll in KDP Select, it means the amount per borrow could go up substantially during this period (Amazon won’t report the figure for December until 2013; they always tell authors after the month is over).
The other advantage of Select is the ability to give away your book for free for up to five of those ninety days. The days don’t have to be sequential, and you can opt to use only a portion of them or none at all. For my book, The Roswell Conspiracy, I originally chose three days, December 5-7.
To promote the giveaway, I let all my fans know on Facebook and Twitter and asked them to share the information with their friends and followers. I also filled out forms on two dozen blogs that promote free books. Five of those sites ended up promoting the book during some part of the giveaway. Blogs that I didn’t solicit also picked my book to promote.
Thanks to those mentions, the free downloads did so well that I decided to extend the giveaway for the full five days in a row. The Roswell Conspiracy had risen into the free top 100 on the Kindle store, so I wanted to continue the momentum. The giveaway ended on December 9 at a number nine free overall ranking in the Kindle store, with 25,343 downloads.
I think that’s a pretty sizeable number of downloads, although it’s impossible to tell how many of those downloaders will end up actually reading the book. When I set out on this experiment, I expected the benefit to be primarily in the long term, with reviews trickling in during the coming months. I also hoped that those who read The Roswell Conspiracy would like it enough to buy my other books.
What I didn’t expect was the short-term boost. As I anticipated, the sales ranking dropped substantially from what it was before the free giveaway since I had sold zero copies on the days it was free. Despite the drop in ranking, I started to see noticeably stronger borrows and sales immediately. My theory is that Amazon’s algorithms had linked my book with all the other books that people had downloaded during that time, so that it appeared in a large number of “Customers who bought this item also bought” scrollbars. The Roswell Conspiracy was therefore seen on many more pages within the Amazon bookstore. Even though the book was no longer free, the important thing was that people could see it existed.
Because of these sales and borrows, the book’s ranking started to go up quickly (borrows seem to be accounted for in the Amazon ranking, though no one knows the secret formula). Before the giveaway, my sales ranking was hovering around 12,000. Within three days, The Roswell Conspiracy got up to the 600 range. It’s now been a week since the giveaway ended, and as I write this the ranking is 1105.
My conclusion already is that the giveaway was worth it. I’ve had enough borrows to completely make up for the income I expected to lose on Nook, iBooks, and Kobo over the next three months combined (remember Select’s exclusivity requirement). And the sales alone have already equaled my earnings from Kindle in the entire month of November. In addition, the number of reviews has increased by 50% in the last week over what the book had received in the previous four months, and they’ve been overwhelmingly positive.
I don’t know if this boon will continue. One downside of using up all my free days at once is that I can’t use that as a tool to juice sales during the rest of the exclusive period. If you’re thinking about enrolling in Select, remember that one anecdote doesn’t equal data. I can’t say how well this program will work for others, but I’d love to hear in the comments about positive or negative experiences from people who’ve done it before. I can tell you that I’m happy I tried it.
Those are fine numbers, but not the numbers authors were getting a year ago from KDPS. Especially authors like you, who have a track record. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done, but recent (anecdotal) data tells me it may be a wash.
I have one short at .99 on KDP Select and another available at .99 (not Select). When I put the Select short on promotion, in a day I received 49 downloads. After one month at .99, another promotion yielded 51 downloads for the day.
Whatever that means, hopefully 100 more people read it. That’s really all that matters to me, other than the 20 purchases at .99, which were probably all from friends and family! 🙂
I’m not sure how the borrowed/lending library works, I just joined the Select in an attempt to learn my way around the site. My first short initially turned out horrible when displayed in my Kindle for iPhone. I was horrified, but then was able to fix the formatting and reload.
It takes a bit getting used to, but now I’d like to try out the other platforms. This is all way time consuming, but I understand the benefits when you finally get the hang of it and get your name out there. It could be a money making machine for the right author with trending stories. *cha-ching*
Thanks for posting this, Boyd. It’s always helpful to me to read anecdotes from other authors on their experiences.
I’ve used the Kindle Select program for books written in my other writing life, and it’s always been pretty successfu—but the benefits are definitely long term. As the reviews trickled in (most positive), my sales rank increased on both books in the program. And my Kindle sales account for about 90% of my sales anyway, so the exclusivity wasn’t a major issue.
I’m running a post-Christmas giveaway on my new romantic suspense/mystery novel. I figure there will be alot of new e-readers out there and folks will be shopping for new free books to load up so it may offer a great opportunity to build my audience.
I’m trying out a new marketing/branding strategy as well, so I’ll report back when I see how it all works out.
Thanks for sharing, Boyd. It’s amazing what new and exciting opportunities we have to market and sell. I’ll be trying the same experiment as you in February. I’ll let you know the results.
So, Boyd. What do you think you’re missing, if anything, by being exclusive to Amazon? Do you feel that by being part of KDP Select you’re missing out on significant sales on Nook and iBooks?
Wilfred, I’ve made up for lost sales on the other platforms through the borrows on Amazon. When I decide to go back to Nook, iBooks, and Kobo, I’ll be starting from scratch on those platforms. I think it may depend on the genre as well. I’ve heard from some romance authors that a high percentage of their sales are on Nook, so enrolling in KDP Select wouldn’t make as much sense for them.
Regarding the first comment, it’s definitely different than it was a year ago when people were putting books on Select and then selling 10,000 copies or more after their giveaway. One, Amazon has clearly changed their algorithm since then (a book’s free ranking used to transfer directly over to the sales ranking; not now), and two, many more authors are enrolling in Select today, so there’s more competition.
Thanks for sharing your experience with us, and all this info, Boyd! And congratulations on your success! So glad it worked well for you! I’ll definitely be trying the freebie thing one of these days.
About being paid for books borrowed – I’ve been enrolled in KDP Select for months and have had quite a few of my books borrowed, but nowhwere can I find any reference to receiving payment for those borrows. I’ve just looked through my November sales report again and the sales on my two books have been great, with the royalty amounts listed, but although there have been quite a few borrows as well, no mention of payment for that…? Does that happen only a few times a year, or what?
Maybe if Boyd doesn’t know the answer to this someone else might?
Thanks a lot!
Thanx for sharing Boyd. I have a backlist title in Select and haven’t triggered the giveaway yet. Still learning about all this stuff.
Thanks for the report, Boyd. Select may be a good move for new authors especially, who don’t have a name or a following. Go out with a killer book and get some readers from it. The real money is downstream, with more content. But as a lead generator, it could be one of the best.
Of course, “killer book” is the key, as always.
Jodie, I just started on this, so I don’t know how the borrow reimbursement works. I was assuming it’s simply direct deposited like your sales income is.
I agree that it’s all about producing great content, Jim. BTW, I loved your article in Writer’s Digest this month. So great to see familiar names there.
Thanks, Boyd. And I agree that Jim’s article in the WD is excellent! But then I’m a huge James Scott Bell fan, and have been for years!