Friday, July 13, 2012

A Look at the KDP Select Program

When I put the first in a trilogy of Post Cold War thrillers on Amazon for the Kindle, I decided to opt for the KDP Select program. I had heard lots of interesting chatter about how the free book option could affect sales. If you're unfamiliar with KDP Select, the author agrees to make the book available exclusively for the Kindle for ninety days. During that time, you have five days to offer free downloads. Also, Amazon Prime customers can borrow a copy from the Kindle Owners Lending Library free and the author shares in a pot of money that runs around $600,000 a month.

Sounded like a good deal. For authors like my friend Tim Hallinan, who has a new Poke Rafferty Bangkok thriller, The Fear Artist, coming out next week, it's a great deal. He gives away multiple thousands of books on free days, and he sees an uptick in sales of his other books. He also collects cash on borrowed books.

Unfortunately, I'm not in the same league as mega-sellers like Tim. I'm a small press writer with small press sales numbers. A couple of weeks after my book became live on Amazon, I used two free days. I promoted it on several groups, including mystery list DorothyL, in my blog, Facebook, and anywhere else I could think.

I checked my rankings frequently during those days, and it went down to double digits. My KDP Report showed almost 500 free downloads. Although it didn't approach Tim's numbers, I was elated. But as I kept checking in the days that followed, I found no uptick in sales.

I had hoped one result would be at least a few reviews. Didn't matter whether they were good, bad, or indifferent. After nearly three months, there has been none. Ditto for Prime borrowers. With the ninety days running out next week, I'm preparing to put the book up on Smashwords where it will be available for all the other ebook readers.

With three free days left before my time runs out, I decided to do a little experiment. I scheduled the gratis downloads but did no promotion. The only mention of it is on my blog, which has had only a handful of readers so far. Guess what I found. At 10:55 p.m. last night, the first day of the giveaway, 140 copies had been downloaded. It ranked number 49 in the suspense category.

How did people find out about it? Beats me. But I suspect the results will be the same as before. The Kindle will hold up to 1400 books. I expect most of those downloading my free book will leave it buried deep in the device's digital innards until God knows when. It was an interesting experience, but I don't think the Kindle Select program is for people like me. For those with a name that commands respect in the marketplace, go get 'em.


Steven J. Wangsness said...

I dropped by price on Smashwords to free, and in a couple weeks my book was also free on Amazon. There was an initial bump in downloads on Smashwords and now it's 2-3 day. I have no idea how many have downloaded it on Kindle, since (I suppose because I'm not in the Select group) there's no reports to look at. it went up to 1,000th (!) in the free store and then has since dropped to 2,000 or so. At this point I don't much care. Time to move on to something new. But it's certainly true that there are a lot of readers who won't pick up/download an ebook by a new author unless they can get it for free, which doesn't say much for the viability of epublishing for most new authors.

Morgan Mandel said...

Also, I've heard you need to do lots of promotion to get the word out. If you're lucky enough to be in the top 100 free bestsellers, that's when the magic happens.

I'm going to try it when my next book comes out, and see what happens.

Morgan Mandel

Jean Henry Mead said...

I had great results initially, selling over 600 ebooks in March, but that number dwindled with each month. I have a new book, Gray Wolf Mountain, coming out next month and will see how a few free days affects the other books in the series.