Home » Amazon, Ebook Lending, Self-Publicity, Self-Publishing Strategies » KDP Select Free Book Results

KDP Select Free Book Results

30 December 2011

Indie book marketer Rose Andrade has researched author reactions to Amazon’s KDP Select program that allows authors to sign up for the Amazon Prime lending program and offer their ebook at no charge for up to 5 days during each 90-day period:

For the past weeks I’ve obsessively searched author boards and blogs for information about results on KDP Select. I must have read every post about it. Okay, maybe not all of them, but most of them.

I wanted to answer the question: How is KDP Select working for indie authors? While I didn’t find a definite answer, I observed a wide range of opinions on the subject, and I saw consistent patterns, which I share below.

Indie author’s perceptions of their KDP Select’s “free promotion”results

Author’s responses fall into three main groups:

  • Outstanding performance group: These are the authors who reported excellent results. KDP Select’s free promotion propelled their e-books to the top of Amazon’s charts. They’ve seen thousands of downloads. They’ve also seen sales trickling to their other items. They know they’re part of an exclusive group who achieved something outstanding and are astonished by their results. A good example in this group is author David Wisehart, who’s currently blogging his amazing free promotion success (spoiler alert: almost 10K downloads!) and his sales volume after his promotion ended.
. . . .
  • Pleased majority group: Authors in this group are pleased with their results, even if those results are more modest than the group above. Most authors are in this category. These authors reported a wide range of downloads achieved by the promotion, ranging anywhere from 50 to 600. What binds such a wide range together is the fact that all of these authors reported they made the top 100 charts in their specific genres/categories, or even the Top 100 on Amazon’s Free on Kindle Store ranking.
. . . .
  • Unimpressed few group: A few authors are unimpressed (and even disappointed) with low download numbers. I encountered reports of downloads as little as nine, eleven, and fourteen after their promotions ended. (One post was all I could find where the author claims to have zero downloads. It wasn’t clear in the post if the free promotion was over or ongoing.)

. . . .

Genre matters: Just like with e-books, the likelihood of getting thousands of downloads and becoming part of the Outstanding performance group is higher if your title falls in one of the popular genres. I recall reading a post from an author whose literary title download volume was about 1/5 of her science fiction one.

. . . .

Your self-pub age matters: Many authors in the Outstanding performance groupappear to have (what I will call for a lack of better word) seniority. They’ve been at e-publishing for a while and usually have a number of selling e-books under their belts (and perhaps solid networking platforms).

. . . .

As you may have noticed, I didn’t address the number of “borrows” that indie authors are receiving, for a number of reasons, which includes the fact that not everyone is reporting them. Conversely, those who reported are getting very few borrows. It seems that overall authors are less interested in making money from KDP Select’s fund than having the five free promotion days to gain exposure. Therefore, the real value of KDP Select for indie authors seems to be the five days of free promotion and the opportunities those can create.

Link to the rest at EPub World and thanks to husband Curtis for the tip.

You can include Passive Guy in Rose’s “Pleased Majority” category.

About three weeks ago, PG self-pubbed a fantasy manuscript that had been sitting on his hard drive forever. He just slapped it up with no marketing support. Sales were minimal. Don’t be like PG with your book!

On December 27, PG signed the book up for KDP Select and started a five day free promo. As of this morning, he’s had 375 downloads and the book has climbed as high as #37 on Amazon’s epic fantasy list. No one has borrowed the book so far.

The Titanboar Touchstone is free through December 31 (and worth every penny).

PG had not planned to mention the titanboars on this blog, in part because of the frequent presence of far more skilled authors than he, but decided adding his experience to Rose’s research might be helpful to others.

Based on his own experience, PG consulted with Mrs. PG and one of her books, Cankered Roots, started a free promotion today. Unlike her husband, Mrs. PG is a real author and this is the first in a series of mysteries featuring two genealogists who manage to find murder clues in the family histories of the victims.

Amazon, Ebook Lending, Self-Publicity, Self-Publishing Strategies

49 Comments to “KDP Select Free Book Results”

  1. PG, you have a novel! How exciting! Off to check it out…

  2. One thing to always remember is that you’re dealing with self reporting — so the “unimpressed” group is probably under represented.

    I remember when I was writing for eHow. (These were small, how-to articles — the equivalent of blog posts — the income was from advertising.) If you went by what people self-reported on the forums, the average income per article was a buck a month. So I started doing monthly polls and found that the actual median was 35 cents.

    That said, I have found that my own freebie experiments have been mixed, but generally positive, and dearly wish Amazon would stop playing games with the freebie feature and just let us have sales. I’ve done better with freebies on B&N (via Smashwords) than with Amazon, and I credit that partly to the fact that I have control over it.

    • Excellent point about self reporting, Camille. The same principle probably applies in many areas of indie publishing.

  3. I think I am probably going to be in the pleased majority category, because my 2 day free promotion of my first historical mystery just started today, but I already had 1000 downloads at 10 AM. and it is now 300 in the Kindle Free List.

    Of course I won’t be disappointed if I end up in the outstanding group, although the fact that I only have 2 novels out will probably preclude that outcome.

    What I am interested in hearing about most is if the rise in rank that accompanies a free promotion continues much after the promotion ends, and if the increased sales in both the promoted book and other books continued much past a week.

    If if does, and authors space out their 5 free days over the 3 month period, this might be a great way to keep interest high, so that as new Kindle owners finally make it through their first massive downloads of free, 99 cent, and classics and come looking for new authors-your book will still be high enough in the genre rankings to be found.

    As Kristine Rusch wrote about in her Holiday Surprise post, the buying patterns of Kindle owners are not yet at all understood. However, thanks to Amazon, we indies have another tool in our arsenal to help our books be “discovered.” And thanks to post like this one by Rose, we actually live in a publishing environment where authors can share information and help each other.

    Oh, by the way, the book is Maids of Misfortune, and it will be Free on Kindle today and tomorrow (Dec 30-31) if any of you like cozy historicals set in 1879
    San Francisco.

    M. Louisa

  4. I’m having success in the non-fiction space with it so far. I think it’s a game changer for us.

    • I would think with all the various categories in non-fiction, moving up in the rankings in some areas would not be difficult.

  5. Add one more download to your tally, PG. It looks like a fun book.

    You are a bit of a rotter, though, for keeping this under wraps. Depriving us of that little thrill from throwing another buck or two into the writer’s “yes, I will keep writing” fund.

    • Well, Jaye, I know the difference between real authors and myself. I can write a mean contract, but a book is something different.

      • Well, gee, PG, you write a pretty good book, too. I just finished TITANBOARS and I’m genuinely impressed. It’s absolutely delightful. I love the titanboars!

        Are you writing the next one? I’m dying to know how Jager makes out on the plains with the horses and the dredwolves and the titanboars and the emperor.

        • Thanks for the kind words, Jaye.

          The next book does begin on the plains. The dredwolves are happy to talk with Jager, but the subject is always the same – they want to eat him.

  6. P.G. Thank you so much for mentioning my article. I’m flattered. And congratulations on your book! You’re doing really well. And I’m off to Amazon go get myself a copy. Keep me posted. Happy New Year and thank you once again!

  7. I just downloaded your book, PG. You do some nice covers. :)

  8. Thanks for bringing Rose’s post to our attention. With 1500 or so downloads for The Gatsby Game, and hitting #40 in Contemporary Fiction, I guess I’m on the higher end of the “pleased majority.” Nice for a newbie like me. Now I’m off to check out your novel.

  9. I had already made my first book free a few other times in the summer, with 55,000 downloads, so I didn’t expect much. I made it free again the day after Christmas and was thrilled to get 15,500 downloads over a three-day period. I’m now flirting with getting that book into the 300s for ranking after a day and a half of being back to paid. In addition, I’ve had over 200 borrows. I know that isn’t a whole loat compared to others, but I only have a couple of books our to far, so I’m happy with it.

  10. Hey, PG. Thanks for the continuing stream of high-quality information. I’ve just gone out and downloaded your book as well.

  11. I don’t want to put a damper on all you excited authors (okay, maybe I do), but as a nook owner, I’m not at all pleased with this latest development out of Amazon. KDP Select has effectively removed thousands of ebooks from availability for nook owners. Which was their point, wasn’t it?

    Although I’ve read that many of those participating say they don’t have significant sales on B&N, they’re going to have less than that if they choose to limit themselves to Amazon exclusives. And, just like there’s a halo effect for other books by an author when one is offered free under the KDP program, I find myself grumpy and resistant to buying anything else by an author who, rightly or wrongly, gives me the impression I’m a second class citizen.

    Just something to think about.

    • Dear Elise,

      I can understand your frustration. But consider my frustration as an author who knows her book has a strong niche market that simply can’t find her book because the Nook store has such a bad browsing capability.

      There is a reason it took me a month to decide to put my first book into Kindle Select and that was because I didn’t want to take my book out of the Nook store. In fact, what I did was say I would wait and see if my sales on Barnes and Noble went up with Christmas sales to make the decision. But my sales didn’t. I have been waiting for 2 years for my sales on Barnes and Noble to develop, but, what I sell in the Nook store has actually gone down rather than up–even with the Nook taking a larger share of the market. In 2 years less than 500 people bought my book for the Nook compared to 15,000 on Amazon. And that is because the Nook store browsing system is so bad-compared to Amazon.

      Historical mysteries are a specific category that readers chose when looking for a book, but if you go to the Nook store, click under Mysteries, there is no historical mystery category. You have to know that you need to click on “other Categories” and even then the page is filled with 11000 books that have no particular coherence, and it is only if you scroll down to the bottom that you will see listed a number of random terms, that do include historical mysteries. These seem to be keyword searches or tags rather than browsing categories.

      If you go to the pubit category, same problem, no historical mystery category, you can go to the bottom and there is that random historical mystery listed with lots of others-but the list you get is the same from the regular store–it is clearly not pubit historical mysteries.

      Bottom line, direct your frustration at Barnes and Noble, as a Nook owner, demand that they come up with a better method of categorizing books, and then maybe more of us will keep our books available. But don’t expect us to forgo increased income with Amazon for a book seller that doesn’t do a good job of selling our books.

      I don’t mean to sound so grumpy, and I am sure that if I owned a Nook I would find the loss of access to books disturbing, but remember, the KDP is only 3 months commitment at a time, and no one knows how long the free promotion angle will keep working to increase sales, or for how many books it will even work. It is an experiment that it behooves authors to give a try, but may not work in the long run.

      However, if Barnes and Noble stepped up and showed it was interested in keeping indie authors and getting them better sales, I suspect many of us would be back in a heart beat.

      Amazon only gets a monopoly if its competitors don’t do a good job of competing.

      M. Louisa
      ps. At the end of my first promotional day, 8000 people had downloaded my book for free. For me it is not just about the money–I am not making a dime from those free downloads-and can only hope that sales will follow. It is about 8000 people getting a chance to read my work.

    • I’m a Nook owner myself, and I understand perfectly where you are coming from.

      For me as a writer, this exclusive is only for 90 days. I expect that my sales will drop back to a ‘pre-Select’ level in a few weeks.

      I used to have better B&N sales than Amazon. Then something happened and all my sales stopped. It may have been that ‘Nookboards’ changed hands and formats.

      It took me months to figure out how to set my profile back up. My threads no longer contained book covers – I didn’t have a signature line. None of the Moderators had been taught how to use the software, so they couldn’t help me either.

      There wasn’t any way for readers to find my Books on Barnes & Noble website. Their system isn’t streamlined enough for Indie writers to advertise on the site itself. Nor will advertising on Nookboard make up for that.

      The only way for me to advertise is word of mouth, and I can’t get that on the B&N website, or on Nookboards. I’ve still got a banner ad up for my 2nd book – it’s getting 1 or 2 hits per month.

      It has sold 4 copies since July, 1 of them in November, nothing since.

      How do I justify leaving that book up on Barnes & Noble when I can’t get it noticed, even after paying for advertising on Nookboards since July? I’ve given way 54 copies on Smashwords – had ZERO sales on that site.

      As a writer, I can only shake my head in utter frustration.

      I took my oldest book to KDP Select on 12/12/11 and watched it come back to life. I was SURE that my B&N sales would take off come December…but they didn’t.

      I contacted B&N’s Pubit in June and asked if there was a way for them to promote my book in exchange for an exclusive launch on their site.

      I didn’t get an answer.

      Bob Mayer was able to get an exclusive launch with them. His book was free for 5 days. His book was a HUGE hit on B&N – so he brought that success with him when it went to Amazon.

      (I was GREEN with envy, but I’m no Bob Mayer.)

      I think Amazon saw that – and jumped on that idea like a duck on a Junebug. Only they threw it open to everyone.

      Which brings us to date.

      If I could have done the same thing on B&N, I would have. I still would, because I own a Nook and I think competition is a wonderful thing.

      But no-one was given the option at B&N.

      Maybe if their customers complained, they would get the message.

    • If it helps, I’ve got my short stories still on B&N as well (via Smashwords, which is currently paying me 3x as much as Amazon) — but I actually agree that B&N’s browsing is… Well, bluntly, it kinda sucks. Not totally sucks, but a lot more than I’d like. My particular quibble is that their “also-bought-X” list for books is really small compared to the 100-ish books that Amazon will potentially show. I know I’ve made a few hundred “sales” on this fantasy freebie and this SF one, because Smashwords tells me so. But I see 3 “also boughts” on the first, and 6 on the second! I’m lucky enough to have one or two of those freebies on the “also-bought” lists of a couple of other books there, but that’s a mere 2 chances to find my stuff randomly.

      Compare with Amazon: this non-free short story has fourteen screens of up to 4 other stories (54 other links). Lots more chances for someone to discover other stories! (And at least one of those links comes back to me — that story has a hundred other stories linked! So mine, though small and niche, has a prayer of being among ‘em.)

      Which is to say… I totally understand and sympathize with being ticked at this exclusivity thing. I personally believe competition is necessary to keep Amazon being author-friendly. (Much like frequent beatings are necessary to keep my copy of MS Word friendly… And it’s quite useful to me, when properly subservient!) But B&N could be doing a lot more than it’s doing, to be competitive. Makes me want to just bite something!

      (Sony ebooks is just as bad for “also bought” lists — they give five freebies. Diesel just makes me facepalm; my fluffy SF has “more like this” that are four erotica stories! (*beth files a ticket; that’s just egregious*) And Kobo has one of my stories listed twice, with different ISBNs… Is it any wonder Amazon’s dominating the e-book market? Most of it is that they’re just plain better at showing appropriate e-books to readers who’ll want them!)

      • Just as an update, the ticket I filed? They have their programmers looking at it, and the books have been filed properly. Props to Diesel ebooks for fast action! (Amazon’s support people all seem to have names that evoke India, and I haven’t had a satisfying interaction with them in the two times I’ve contacted them… :( )

    • As both a Nook owner and an author with a significant number of books at BN and Amazon, I thought long and hard about going with Kindle Select for the 2 books I did. Even today I’m debating if any of my other titles now at BN should be removed to go to Kindle exclusively. After my free weekend, maybe I’ll know. Or if my novella leads to sales of the novels aligned with it, it’ll be a more obvious choice for me.

      I had the 1st book in my Bad Apple trilogy free at Smashwords only in epub format. 500 copies were downloaded in 2 weeks. Maybe it lead to sales of 10 copies of Book 2 & 3 at BN. That makes a Kindle free weekend very attractive.

      I like the audience at BN a lot and they like me, especially the middle readers. But BN the company isn’t doing much for me as an author. That’s the real issue. Over the year, I sold thousands more books at Amazon than BN and you start to say “Shouldn’t I maximize this?” I’m sorry this exclusivity in trade for visibility is Amazon’s policy. I’m sorry I have to pay for propane and it’s cold here during the winter.

    • Having given my hubby a nook for Christmas while I got a Kindle Fire, I have been comparing book availability and ease of searching with en eye toward launching my own book. I am disappointed in what I find on B&N right now because I try to hard to support them. On the other hand, my husband *loves* his nook while I have found the Kindle Fire heavy and the web browsing slow.

      You might try looking for some of the ways to load books in different formats onto your nook. He loves his e-ink, so I know that’s one thing hubby is going to look into. If anyone has any bad experiences with this I would like to hear any warnings!

  12. Rose mentioned me in the outstanding category, and I’ve been blogging this week about my results.

    Devil’s Lair went free for two days, and in the following seven days it earned about $3800 in the US Kindle store, not counting whatever I might earn from the 734 borrows.

    It’s been a very merry Christmas. :)


  13. How. Friggin’. COOL.

    Just finished the first chapter and am muy impressivo mi amigo.

    No “aw-shucks”ing this one either, you’ve got talent mate. Well done and how friggin’ cool!

    Thought I remembered you mentioning something like this ages ago, and I wonder what was the impetus to chuck ‘er out there in the world like that. Either way, well done!

    Now I’m going to lay on the couch, watch the wee ones play Wii and read your book. Yay!

  14. I’m in that middle group, I guess. I put a book up free for three days–actually today is the last day–and I’ve had about 1700 downloads. This pleases me enormously, although I do wish I was in David Wisehart’s class. LOL

    I’m all for Amazon giving authors the chance to *free* promote for a limited period of time, but I also wish they’d put the time the author has chosen, 1-5 days on the book’s page, so the reader knows it’s a limited time offer.

    My book goes off free in the next few hours, so now I’ll wait to see if the promo has increased my tepid sales.

    My book is here: http://amzn.to/u0v0Ou

  15. Oh, and I meant to say that I went right over to Amazon to download your book. Looking forward to your fictional achievment!

    The Titanboar Touchstone

  16. I’m in the fourth category, that is I didn’t enroll my books in KDP Select because exclusivity was a dealbreaker for me. I’m still glad to see that so many authors are successful with it.

    I just downloaded The Titanboar Touchstone BTW and am looking forward to reading it.

  17. Congratulations on publishing your book! I’ve been visiting your blog for quite some time now, and was delighted to download your novel today. :)

    I was also delighted to find my name mentioned in Rose’s article as an example of the “Pleased majority group.” I agree with Rose that genre appears to make a difference in sales, and I decided to experiment with that. This past week, I added three more books – the novels in my trilogy of THE FISHERMAN’S SON – to KDP Select and ran a free promotion on each book, one at a time for three days. I decided to experiment with THE FISHERMAN’S SON Trilogy because I’ve had luck with it since 2003 when I originally self-published the first book in the series, and then again after the entire trilogy was published by indie press. At this point in time, all three books have received many wonderful reviews from professional reviewers and the first book in the trilogy has received a positive review quote from bestselling author Piers Anthony.

    The results of this experiment have been exciting. During its free promotion on Amazon.com, THE FISHERMAN’S SON (Book #1 in the trilogy) received around 1,300 downloads; THE CITY OF THE GOLDEN SUN (Book #2 in the series) received around 228 downloads; and RETURN OF THE GOLDEN AGE (Book #3 in the series) received around 411 downloads. All three novels were also downloaded in the UK and Germany. And as of right now, three days since I ran the free promotion on THE FISHERMAN’S SON, I’ve sold 118 copies of this book on Amazon.com. This is a significant increase, as I had previously been selling only 1 or 2 copies of this book on most days, and 10 copies of it on the best sales days, prior to running the free promotions. (When I commented on Rose’s blog earlier today, I had only sold 104 copies; it’s been exciting to see sales accumulating throughout the day every day for the past few days.) I’m looking forward to trying more experiments with different publications through KDP Select. :)

  18. I’m one of the ‘stunned and ecstatic” group.

    (Didn’t she have one of those?)

    “Let’s Do Lunch” was #2 on Adult Fiction and #5 on the UK Romantic Suspense Bestsellers List for a week.

    Since the end of the promotion 12/17/11 I’ve had steady sales and been on the UK Bestsellers lists for Adult Fiction, Romantic Suspense and Thrillers & Suspense.

    “Let’s Do Lunch” was dead in the water. Now it’s a viable book with steady sales. I can’t say enough. Even today it’s still on the UK charts.

    This is today’s charts:

    UK Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #6,456 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
    #42 in Books > Fiction > Erotica > Adult Fiction
    #60 in Books > Fiction > Romance > Thrillers & Suspense
    #60 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Romance > Romantic Suspense

  19. I am 34% through Titanboar. It isn’t great, but it is pretty good. Good enough that I sent it to my 12yo twin sons’ Kindle Fires. Cankered Roots is next up in the queue.

    I would expect that this program will be most helpful to genre series authors.

  20. NOTE TO KDP AUTHORS by way of Laura Resnik –

    If you have not gotten your October EFT payment yet (which happened to some of us, although Amazon did also pay a number of authors early) you need to be aware that due to a glitch in their system, your payment info may have been rest to “check” instead of electronic payment. You can change this by logging into your KDP account and double-checking your payment options.

    In fact, even if you DID get paid, your information may have been reset after the fact, so everybody should be aware of this glitch.

    It’s really too bad that Amazon hasn’t bothered to notify authors who didn’t receive their payment this month about the issue…

  21. I’m happy to give your book a shot, you give such great information! I’m even willing to gamble that it’s worth every penny of 99 cents since it isn’t free anymore. :)

    I’m getting ready to launch and has definitely given me the most well-rounded information so far. The comments even help give all side of the issue.

  22. [...] I clearly had reached my goal of making Maids of Misfortune more visible! The morning after the promotion ended, Uneasy Spirits still was in the #8 spot and Maids of Misfortune was in the #3 position. Clearly it was now easier for readers to discover both books with these high rankings. I am not the only author to report this sort of success, see this post and comments on the Passive Voice. [...]

  23. [...] The Passive Voice blog. GA_googleAddAttr("AdOpt", "1"); GA_googleAddAttr("Origin", "other"); [...]

  24. Although at first I was baffled by the KDP program, and did not see many advantages, reality has a way of sobering an indie fellow. Reality is that I sold very few eBooks of “Arboregal, the Lorn Tree” on Smashwords channels of distribution. I had nothing to lose by un-publishing on Smashwords and going with KDP. Surprise, surprise! My eBook went up in rank from 82,000 to 652 in the Kindle Free, and 14 in the Mythology section on the second day of the free promotion. I am still baffled, but in a good way.

  25. I am in and did one free promo which got me a bunch of new readers and a few more purchases. I haven’t had any borrows yet so I may not renew the enrollment.

    The thing is, I don’t really understand how the free promotion is different from changing the price of my book to $0 and promoting the heck out of it for a few days then putting it back up to regular price. I might have missed something, but Amazon didn’t promote me (I didn’t really expect them to).

    • Dear Perry,

      When you publish with KDP, it was my understanding that you are not permitted to put a price at $0, so the only way to do that used to be to put your book at 0 elsewhere and hope Amazon discounted you because you are not permitted to have a lower price on any other site.

      So the “Free Promotion”carrot is not that they are promoting you, but that you can do what traditional publishers have been always able to do, set a price at 0 for a short time promotional purposes.

      I have been very fortunate that the 2 day promotion has resulted in a lot of sales and also borrows, which I will post about at the end of the week. Whether this is a one time bump, how long it will last, whether doing another free promotion in a month or so will have the same effect, all that is up in the air and will have a lot to do with if I choose to renew.

      M. Louisa Locke
      author of Maids of Misfortune and Uneasy Spirits

      • I had forgotten that. Thanks for reminding me.

        Well another reason for giving exclusivity for at least the first 90 days of a book’s release. I did get more readers through the free offer.


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