Has anything shaken up the book industry as much as KDP Select in recent memory? Low sales in December are being blamed almost entirely on the KDP Select program. Despite admonitions regarding joining the Select program, I decided to roll the dice and see what good, and bad, would come from the program. Here are the early results.
BRIEFLY, WHAT IS KDP SELECT?
I don’t want to spend much time on this, because all the information is available on your KDP page. Basically, the Select program is this: (1) you give up all rights to distribute your EBOOK anywhere but on Amazon (does not apply to paperbacks, doesn’t apply to any ebooks which are not enrolled); (2) consumers with Amazon Prime and a Kindle device can borrow your book for free (has to be a Kindle device, not just a Kindle app); and (3) based upon the number of times your book is borrowed, you get a slice of the monthly pie, which is currently $500,000/month.
TIMING IS *ALMOST* EVERYTHING
Part of the Select program is the ability to choose dates on which you want to promote your book for free. (As an aside, you can just change your price to $0.00 in KDP. I believe the only difference is that you won’t know, with exactitude, when the price change will take place). I chose December 27-28 to have two free days. Did I base my selection on extensive market research? Wish I could say yes. Rather, I picked those days because it seemed logical to me that people would have new reading devices from Christmas, and would want to download new books. Call it prescience, call it dumb luck, but people downloaded Enemy in Blue like it was a new Grisham book.
Enemy in Blue had around 800 downloads as of 8am MST on the 27th. Literally, every time I clicked the refresh page on my KDP monthly report, the number seemed to go up by around 100 downloads. I can tell you it was a feeling like no other, and I envy the big time writers that are used to this type of success on a yearly basis!
I think this issue of timing begs the question of whether now is a good time to run your free days? If push came to shove, I’d say hold off for a bit until people have had a chance to run through the books they just undoubtedly downloaded. How long is that? No idea, but my gut says that people’s readers are loaded with books right now.
IF TIMING ISN’T EVERYTHING, WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
I honestly believe timing was not everything. If my book had a big goose egg for reviews, I don’t think people would have downloaded it, free or not. If I hadn’t started #AmazonLikes several months ago, Enemy in Blue wouldn’t be liked and tagged as much as it is. If I hadn’t done the countless other things (blog tours, interviews, building a Twitter following, etc.) written about here on my blog in other posts, no 5,141 downloads. Finally, one more thing because this post is just as much about me assuring myself that I had some part in this near-miracle, but if I hadn’t taken optimization classes for every detail of my Amazon page, then “no go,” my friends.
In short, way back when I started writing this blog, I analogized the writing process to building a house. I started the analogy with a reference to putting in your foundation. All those efforts listed in the last paragraph? The foundation. Without it, simply no way people would have downloaded Enemy in Blue so much. Remember, even a free book costs time.
RESULTS SINCE THE TWO FREE DAYS
Obviously, a huge question is whether the success in those two free days has spilled over to the following paid days. Short answer, it has. Enemy in Blue was ranked #552 in paid books at its peak, which amounted to over 200 books/day. Sales have slowly decreased each day thereafter, with some of that necessarily flowing from the New Year’s break. (I don’t think many people wake up on January 1 with whiskey on their breath and say, “Durnit, I wanna read a book!”).
It remains to be seen what impact all the downloads have on Enemy in Blue. Hopefully, it will result in reviews, and word of mouth. Seems like a given, with that number of downloads. Also, I’m currently ranked #31 in Action and Adventure as a result of the whole effort, and peaked at #19. I believe that a big list such as A&A can drive further sales, as opposed to some of the strange, extremely niche lists that I see next to other books. I’m keeping track of sales on a daily basis, and will update the blog with that information in the future.
IS IT WORTH IT?
I’m frequently getting asked how Enemy in Blue shot up the charts, and whether Select has been worth it. Obviously, for me, it was. However, I would stick to my caution that without the proper elements (good cover, great reviews and not just 5 of them, likes and tags, best product description possible), I don’t think you will see tremendous success with the Select program. Plus, you will be limited selling on Amazon for 90 days. My suggestion would be to build that foundation for your book, and once you get there, pick a couple weekdays to offer your book for free. I have seen my best sales figures on Thursdays/Fridays.
One more tip from my time spent analyzing all this–having multiple books is another catalyst to success in using free days. Point in case? J.A. Konrath. The guy is a beast of an author. He has nearly written more damn books than I have on my bookshelves! A couple of his books were free at the same time as Enemy in Blue. I watched all of his books, free and paid, rise to the tops of their various bestselling lists. And, they’ve stayed there. So, if you can use the free days to help promote multiple books in a series, for example, then Select absolutely seems worth it.
I would be remiss if I sat here, writing this post, and failed to disclose that I’m hesitant to even publish it. I mean, I’ve just experienced success, but who’s to say that wasn’t a flash in the pan? Some cosmic alignment. I’m certainly not sitting here with any notion that “I’ve made it.” In fact, if anything, I’ve got more of a knot in my stomach now, as I watch my ranking oscillate.
That disclosure aside, here are some of my unanswered questions:
(1) How do you get the initial “burst” of downloads when your book goes free? This is the burst that puts you on a bestseller’s list, and being on those lists undoubtedly builds your momentum.
(2) How often should the free “tool” be used? As a part of the Select program, you can schedule five (5) free days in a 90-day period. Should that be your limit of free days in a quarter? At what point is more not better? I’ll be testing this in the next few months to further hone the results.
(3) The critical question–what is my royalty going to be calculated at for the borrowed books? If I’m making 40%, instead of 70%, is it worth it? Will it just result in a way for Amazon to pay lower royalty rates, while at the same time locking up its monopoly? Call me neurotic, but businesses exist to maximize their own profits.
WRAPPIN’ IT UP
If you came here looking for an easy answer and now hate me, don’t forget your New Year’s resolution was to go easy on other people, k? Bottom line though, and we always know it, is that hard work underlies nearly all success. Take some time to read the other blog posts on here, put some sweat and blood into your foundation, and then give Select a shot. If you have any questions/additions/comments, please add them to this blog post, and I’ll try to respond as quickly as possible!
Here’s to our mutual success in 2012!