Publishing-KDP-SelectIt is now one month since I enrolled three books in Amazon’s controversial KDP Select program. I approached this exercise with an open mind and have tried as best I can to measure the results based on the following six parameters that I set as my guide when I enrolled with  KDP Select. They were:

  1. Do the ‘free days’ of promotion increase a book’s exposure and gain reviews as well as a marked increase in sales following the promotional days? Or is it just a wasted exercise in giving away books that only serves to enhance the Kindle platform’s popularity?
  2. Do sales via Kindle  increase and adequately replace the percentage of sales that will be lost via Smashwords and its distribution?
  3. Will there be a measurable increase in overall revenue from sales and ‘ Prime borrows’ for these three titles that would justify the granting of exclusivity?
  4. Will the offering of free books during promotions damage or enhance book sales?
  5. Which of the 3 books performs the best, and worst in the program?
  6. What percentage of income will be derived from ‘borrows‘ by Amazon Prime members?

So how did KDP Select perform?

1. I set my free days of promotion in different lengths and days for each of the three books I enrolled. Surprisingly, the number of downloads for each book on a daily basis was eerily similar at around 400 copies. This prompted me to do some investigation into how people arrive at these free downloads. It was certainly not from interested readers landing on my Amazon book pages by chance.

What I found was literally hundreds of websites listing my books that use an RSS feed of the free books that are listed on Amazon Kindle each day. Most of these sites are updated hourly. In my opinion, this, plus the all too similar amount of daily downloads, indicates that my free books were ‘harvested’ by those who have an interest in collecting free Kindle books. As opposed to those who are genuinely interested in reading my books.

However, I did notice that when I listed a second free day for two books, the number of downloads reduced to about 250. I didn’t notice any additional reviews generated by these free days, but it is probably too early to judge this criteria.

2. While unit sales during the first month of enrollment were very similar to the previous month for Louis, one of the books that I removed from Smashwords distribution, the other, My Take Away Vampire saw sales increase ten fold. The third book I enrolled, The Vandal, is a new promotional book for my blog, but it did sell some copies, which was pleasing.

3. These borrows are a worry for me. Yes I got a few, but not enough to get excited about. Interestingly, I discovered that Prime members who do not have a Kindle cannot borrow books for use with a Kindle app for use on a tablet, phone or laptop. Additionally, I was surprised to hear from a few Prime members on Twitter that didn’t even know that they could borrow books for free.

4. In the case of My Take Away Vampire I probably have to conclude that the free days contributed to the increase in sales due to more exposure on Amazon’s ‘free bestseller’ list. It is also more likely though that this book is in a more popular genre than my other two books.

5. My Take Away Vampire did well for the reasons above but Louis maintained its normal average monthly sales. The new book did sell but not in startling numbers.

6. Not anywhere near enough ‘borrows’ to get excited about but one month is too short to get a suitable measure. It would seem that getting onto the Kindle Prime free borrow lists is the way to succeed. But this can be said of all listings. The higher you are placed, the more exposure you get.

So in conclusion. After one month I really cannot make up my mind on this with the three books I chose. What I can say though is that across all of my ten books, Amazon provides the bulk of my income and by a huge margin. It always has. So with that in mind, I have added three more books to KDP Select so I can get a better gauge of the results.

The proof for me in the end will be if granting exclusivity results in a marked increase in my overall average monthly income.

I will post again in a month or to with more data and hopefully my decision regarding KDP Select.

The KDP Select Experiment – One Month Later
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18 thoughts on “The KDP Select Experiment – One Month Later

  • 15/02/2012 at 3:53 pm
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    Hi

    I’m kind of with you. I had 1200 downloads of one title in the two days free I did–but so far, not one review. More downloads than I expected.

    Too soon to tell if it will get me sales–but since I wasn’t selling much on B&N, I decided to give it a shot with one of my titles.

    But, in addition, I did a contest in my blog for a $20 gift card through the end of the month–to see if anyone read it, to be honest. It’s worth the 20 bucks for me to find out.

    Getting reviews as an Indie author–though I have other work with publishers, is difficult to do. I have very few reviews on Kindle, and apparently, it’s recommended to have at least 10 before you do the free days.

    I also noticed my downloads doubled the hours it hit the top 100 list in Romance.

    My issue with AMAZON in general is the difficulty getting on those lists–there are categories it should have made–and it never did. Ones that didn’t even HAVE 100 free copies–that mine certainly fits in.

    I’m honestly more upset with Amazon’s category listing than with how my free days went. I’m not even worried about the lending thing. I did mine with KDP mostly so I could highlight the print version coming out next week. I’ll be interested to see how your sales ultimately go–and compare.

    Mine was only free over the weekend–too soon for me to know much

    • 15/02/2012 at 4:35 pm
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      I’m puzzled too Hope. For the life of me I just can’t figure Amazon’s categories and bestseller lists. I had one book hit number one in a category called ‘Theater’. What ever has a spy/war story got to do with theatrical plays? And who would think of looking there for a war story? Still scratching my head on this one!

  • 15/02/2012 at 4:00 pm
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    Your experience practically mirrored my own when I participated in a four day give away of my science fiction novel “Onet’s Tale”.

    In my case I was left with the feeling of having lived through a feeding frenzy. Just over 600 downloads happened. Mine was not the only book my publisher entered into the exercise. Five or six others were also free for a few days.

    For some reason my editor believes that it was a success, proving that the folk who downloaded really wanted to read the books. He raved about the ‘sales ratings’ for all the books. A stupid thing to take into account when they were not sold, merely given away.

    Bollocks – all they wanted was a book for free! He would have been justified in his deluded belief had the six hundred plus copies of my novel actually been purchased! So would I. At least I would have had the royalties. As it is I got didly while Amazon benefited.

    Will I participate again? What do you think?

    • 15/02/2012 at 4:30 pm
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      The odd thing for me Jack was how my books rose up on the perversely named ‘Free bestsellers’ lists. But then fell back down again when even more books were being downloaded.

      Louis went to No1 in War Stories on the back of 100 odd downloads, but then fell away to No4 when another 300 were downloaded. Go figure? Then of course when the giveaway days were over, poor old Louis plummeted to nowhere. Of course. He wasn’t free anymore!

      But then again, my little Vampire novella did well. Yes, lots of free downloads, but decent sales too after the freebies had stopped.

      For me, the jury is still locked up.

  • 15/02/2012 at 4:41 pm
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    Here is my thought on the value of free give-aways(for a short promotional period) and I could be wrong. It’s not an exact science, after all. Selling a book is in many ways all about buzz. The more people you get talking about your book, tweeting about it, “liking” it on Facebook, etc., the more likely the chances are of finding other readers. If your free book gets into the hands of readers who would not have otherwise bought it, it’s not like you are losing sales: they weren’t going to buy the book regardless. And if even a few of them tell a few friends, and those friends do buy your book (because it is no longer free), then you come out ahead. So basically, I am all for it.

    • 15/02/2012 at 8:47 pm
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      In a lot of ways I agree with you Jenny. I have always been of the thought that promoting your name as an author is far more important and carries more weight than simply flogging an individual book. To this end, I think free book promotion can work. I think Amazon’s 5 days in three months is a good ratio as well. It encourages rational and strategic use of this tool.

  • 15/02/2012 at 5:04 pm
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    Anybody know an editorial path to finding good ebooks in various genres? The idea being that somebody will winnow the sluff out so we don’t waste our time and money on ebooks with low chance of being entertaining.

    • 15/02/2012 at 8:52 pm
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      Not that I know of David. I’m wary of lists of ‘glowing five star reviews’ and rely instead on recommendation and using previews such as Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’. I have rarely been disappointed in my choices made this way.

  • 15/02/2012 at 9:08 pm
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    Thanks for the research, very interesting. I’m keen to find out if take up of the free offers varies between US and UK – my sense is that Uk readers are less likely to go for free offers/cheap books for some reason?

    • 15/02/2012 at 9:21 pm
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      Interesting point Helen. From my own numbers, yes. My free book downloads from Amazon.co.uk are only about 10% of those downloaded from Amazon.com. But as I said in my post, I believe there is some form of ‘harvesting’ happening from the US site. For what end I don’t know. Yet! It’s the RSS feeds of these free book offers each day that smell a little sinister to me.

  • 16/02/2012 at 4:14 am
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    Besides the insights gained from evaluating the specific titles you have enrolled in KDP Select, there is another potential benefit you might measure: the halo effect. This would be any incremental sales of your non-KDP select titles that you feel you might have got due to having some books promoted via KDP Select.

    Not sure how you would measure that though. I suppose it shows up in your check of overall monthly income, to see if an increase can be attributed to titles both in and out of KDP Select. If you did no other promoting but via KDP Select, I guess it could then get full credit for your boost.

    • 16/02/2012 at 9:29 am
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      Thanks for your thoughts Todd.

      Actually I think the halo effect you mention is what I refer to as author promotion. That is, using these promotional days as a way of keeping an author’s name under the noses of readers. Of course you need a few titles to do this.

  • 16/02/2012 at 7:27 am
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    Hi Derek, and thank you for such a marvelous evaluation.

    Here’s my little contribution :-)

    I had 2 promotion days in December and sold 35 books (8 of those are borrowed)
    I had no promotion days in January and sold 8 books
    I had no promotion days this month and sold one book.

    As much as I hate to admit it and wish there was more freedom, what is happening is obvious.

  • 16/02/2012 at 9:20 am
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    Pretty clear Louise. While books are up high in the free bestsellers they get attention, and some sales. But when the free days are over and they fall out, they’re back in the swamp again.

  • 16/02/2012 at 9:32 am
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    Hey Derek. I enrolled two books in KDP Select a few weeks ago. Ran a one-day free promo for each and had about 800 downloads for one and 600 for the other. Since then I’ve sold about 100 copies total, and while sales are a little slower this week than they were last week, I’m still selling 3 to 5 copies a day with spikes of up to 10 sales on some days.

    I don’t know where sales will be two weeks from now, but for now I can tell you this comes from virtually no self-promotion whatsoever. I plugged my books on Facebook and about half a dozen of my sales came from there. The rest, I assume, are the result of the Free Promo day and all the Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought lists my books wound up on. It also helps that for one book I quickly receive two 5-star and two 4-star reviews, which I’m sure is a rare circumstance for a newly self-published title.

    I’ll come back with an update in a few weeks.

  • 16/02/2012 at 9:48 am
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    I’m coming in a bit late in the game, but it’s been interesting to read all the comments. Derek, I’ve downloaded most of the books you’ve had on free promotion, and I plan to read every one of them. But as you know, time is limited so it may take me a little while. I loved “My Takeaway Vampire” and I’ve almost finished “Feb the Fifth” but I allow myself only an hour a day for reading, otherwise my WIP suffers. So while I agree that probably a lot of the downloads are from harvesters, I believe that there are some genuine people among them who really want to read your work.
    Your results have inspired me to write a prequel spinoff (short story) of my trilogy, which I will publish exclusively on KDP Select, to see if I can draw people in. I don’t feel bad about it, because all non-Amazon customers have had the advantage of the first in the series that was free for months everywhere else, so this will be a little present just for Amazon customers. Let’s see if I can win some hearts. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  • 16/02/2012 at 9:57 am
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    I’m honoured Niki!!

    Both that you’re reading my books and giving me a great plug at the same time! :)

    I’m sure a percentage of free books are read and that’s the whole idea. Even if it’s only 5% it is worthwhile.

    But on the point of publishing with KDP Select, it is worth noting that your book can be accessed and read by readers without a Kindle. The Kindle App on iPads, smartphones and PCs allows almost anyone to read your book on almost any device whether it’s a free book offer or a sale.

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