KDP Select and My Three FREE Days Experiment.

Hello Scribe’s readers. What a crazy week and a wild ride I’ve had. First, let me thank everyone who either downloaded SAVAGE CINDERELLA or helped spread the word that it was available for FREE for three days last week. And if you missed out, I’ll be using my two remaining “FREE” days at the beginning of June just before I pull the book down from the KDP Select program to upload it to Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. What does all of this mean? This post might be a bit long, but bear with me and I’ll explain.

Kindle Direct Publishing Select program is available to authors who upload their books to Amazon and agree to exclusively sell only on Amazon for a ninety day period of time. I won’t get into all the details of KDP Select since I’ll be covering it in depth soon on Market or Die with Jennifer Fusco and I want to focus this post on the results of the promotion. In short, one of the perks of being in the Select program is the ability to offer the book for free for up to five days during that ninety day period. The benefits of this are numerous. Allow me to share my experience with you.

On Thursday, April 19th, I joined fifteen other children’s, middle grade and YA authors who put all of our books for free for that day only. I used the momentum of that promotion and added two more free days for my book. Thanks to the organizational genius and diligence of our “fearless leader” Stacey Juba, the books were listed on dozens of sites that showcase FREE books. Stacey assigned each of us five sites to contact regarding the promotion. That means at least seventy-five sites potentially carried our free promo. It cost us nothing and was very easy and manageable. I also listed my book on the following FREE Book promotion sites:

E-reader News Today, Indie Book List, Pixel of Ink, Free Kindle Books Today, Your Book Authors.com, and Kindle Nation Daily, most of whom kept my book listed on their front pages for the entire three days. It might interest you to know that I had just come off of a ten-day Blog Hop with seventy-four other authors and had the opportunity to promote the event to the dozens of people who “hopped” by my blog to check it out or leave comments. We implemented a massive tweet and FB campaign as well with our social networks. 

My goals for the FREE promotion were as follows:                                                                                     

1)      Increase visibility/discoverability (Top 100 lists)

2)      Expand my readership/reach new readers

3)      Boost sales

4)      Get more reviews (I had only two reviews, both 5 stars before the promo started. This will become important later.)

I was stunned at the results and I’m still floating on the residual effects. Before I started the FREE days, I was feeling a bit discouraged. January, February, and March sales had climbed steadily and I half expected April to continue to climb since I had just released SAVAGE CINDERELLA (SC) in mid-March, thereby expanding my backlist, which should, theoretically increase the sales of all of my books. Not so much. Truth be told, April brought on a big fat stall in sales and I hadn’t sold a book in three days. As of April 18th I had sold 11 copies of SC on Amazon for the month. My Amazon ranking was somewhere around 80,000. Pitiful, I know! Sales of ON THIN ICE have consistently been good and I was at 58 sales for April. Not bad, but not nearly as good as the previous three months.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up on April 19th (three hours into the promotion) to 57 downloads and a ranking of 7,842 in the Kindle  Free Store. I watched throughout the day and was mesmerized as I saw the numbers soar. By midnight that night, I had 4,954 downloads and was #89 on the Free Kindle Books list. I’d broken into the TOP 100 list that would gain me the exposure I was looking for.

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of the numbers over the next few days, but by the time the promotion was over on Sunday morning, SC had 26,688 US downloads, 1,031 in the UK, 76 in Germany, 6 in France, and 1 in Spain (my first Spanish reader!) My book was #7 in the Kindle Free Store. There are other lists that are important to note here. Books are categorized into many sub genres when you list your book on Amazon. Authors get to pick these categories so it’s important to choose wisely. SC stayed in the #1 slot in my categories for the full three days.

The only downside I discovered is that I’ve gotten a few less than stellar reviews which has lowered my starred ranking from a lovely 5 star average to 3.8 stars. This is not an uncommon occurrence according to many indie authors who believe that this is due to the large cross section of readers who may not, in fact ,enjoy the genre but download anything FREE. There is also the belief that anything FREE is of lesser quality and value. 

The upside is that I met all of my goals and exceeded my expectations. Since the promotion ended on Sunday, I’ve sold 120 copies of SC with 45 borrows (for which I will be paid 2.04 each), and 30 copies of ON THIN ICE. HEAVEN IS FOR HEROES has sadly fallen off the radar with only 13 sales this month, and will have its own promotional resuscitation very soon. These are my current stats in the Kindle Paid Store as well as in my categories:

 Overall, a resounding success! It’s likely that the numbers will settle down again over the next days or weeks, but the boost has been encouraging and I am absolutely thrilled with reaching 28,000 potential readers. You couldn’t buy that kind of exposure and it really cost me nothing but a little time and effort. As always, thanks to all of you who continue to support my efforts and make this crazy ride such a blast to share.

 Questions? Comments? Do you appreciate FREE books as much as books you’ve paid for? I’m curious to know.


52 thoughts on “KDP Select and My Three FREE Days Experiment.”

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Lea. I can’t stress enough that I didn’t do it alone. Joining with other authors to cross-promote is an amazing tool and one of the best parts of the indie-publishing world.

    1. I agree. Misha. If it’s good, it’s good, no matter what I’ve paid for it. I do think though, that it’s somewhat hardwired into our unconcious mind to expect less when we get something for free. This seems like a universal attitude and I do wonder if it comes through when people read something they’ve not paid for. Across the board, free books get lower review ratings so I wonder if it has more to do with reaching readers who might not otherwise have purchased this type of book and simply don’t enjoy the genre or story because it wasn’t what they would normaly read, or if we’re just tapping into a much bigger cross-section of readers and getting more of a variety of opinions. Or the possibility exists that the book just kind of sucks:-) I’ve gotten enough positive feedback from other people than my friends that I’m not taking this to be the case:-)

  1. Fabulous, PJ! How did you get listed on Pixel of Ink? I’ve heard it’s hard to get on there. Thanks for posting this — I’m going to be doing KDP starting in May with free days the weekend of the 11th.

    1. Pixel of Ink has a Young Edition where they post free YA reads. I can’t honestly remember if they posted the book or not. I know it was up on Kindle Nation Daily and E-reader News Today which are the other two biggies. Good luck with your promotion!

    1. Thanks J. Being a part of the Indie Romance Ink and YARWA loops has allowed me some fantastic opportunities to join with other authors. I highly recommend it, but like everything in this business, it requires a commitment of time and effort and keeping up with the happenings on the loops is a huge challenge.

    1. Thank you, Savannah. It has been a great week, but keeping the momentum going is the tricky part. This promotional journey is definitely a roller coster ride and requires ongoing attention. Typically, we get these bumps after a big push and then things die down again. I think the trick is putting in place some things you can do consistently along the way. I recently read a marketing book that suggested making a long list of marketing strategies and implementing three per day for each book. For me to do that, I either have to give up writing and spend all of my time promoting (which just cannot happen!) or I need to hire a virtual assistant (which I am looking in to:-)

  2. I lust after a well written book. So, for me, free is excellent b/c I explore them all. And, increase my reading fundementals. Reading and writing partnered well is like taking a college literature course. The Kindle is critical b/c I barely have anymore room in my 1000 books, partial Library of Congress. The Library of Congress is mostly art, architecture, interior design, (heavy sigh) and now novels and how to write fiction. Thank goodness for free and for the Kindle. Good post Paula.

    1. Thanks, Gail! WOW! I would love to see your library some time. It sounds amazing. And yes, the Kindle is a HUGE space saver. One of the problems I find though, is that the books are “out of sight, out of mind.” I download more books than I have time to read and then they just kind of get lost in my cyber TBR pile. I’m finishing up Jessica Andersen’s latest and then I’ll dive into Kristan Higgins new little gem. I’m always inspired to write after reading her books. She has the most wonderful way of crafting a story and the way she puts words together on a page is a true delight.

  3. I’m curious how you listed your free book on the Kindle Nation Daily site. Did you pay to have iit listed? I can’t find any way to do it for free.

    1. I just went back and checked. You are absolutely correct. It’s the only ad I paid for and it cost me $29.99. Well worth the investment IMO. Thanks for checking in.

      1. Here are a few more ideas for free promos:

        Super E-reads (Friday Freebies)
        I-self pub (freebies page)
        Women’s Literary Cafe (free Book Friday) (think they’re becoming World Literary Cafe
        Frugel E-reader (Wed.?)
        Gemma Halliday(FB free book Friday weekly giveway)

    1. Exciting and emotionally exhausting, Louise! I’m going to need a vacation soon to come off of this adrenaline rush:-)

      1. It is unbelievable. myself and others I’ve talked to had trouble not checking the reports…LOL keep in touch – I had 2 free days Friday and Saturday, so i’m in the same boat as you. new. and learning.

  4. Congrats on your super results and thanks for sharing. Re the perceived value of free books, I don’t even remember if a book was free or if it was purchased. I have so many books on my kindle but I do eventually check every one, and I’ve found several new authors that way.

    1. Thanks, Bev. I have several that I haven’t read yet. When I download a free book, I usually read the first few pages and that determines where it goes in my TBR file. i download a tone of free marketing books, writing craft books, and business type books, some of which I will probably never get to, but I love having them at my fingertips when I’m out in the world and forced to wait in some line somewhere. I love my Kindle!

  5. Paula, excellent results for an excellent book. I have found many a author on the free list. Once I read the free book and like it, I go back and buy everything that author wrote and read it. Enjoy your success. I loved everyone of your books. Marian

    1. Hey Marian, thanks for the support. So happy to hear you liked the book. I think lots of readers do the same thing in buying more of authors they like. Free is a great way to try someone new.

      I try not to take reviews to heart, but the negative ones always give a bit of a sting and are great fuel for the “Doubt monster.” We could always do something more and better with every story, so when we get feedback about something we once questioned ourselves or forgot to add into the book, it’s hard to let it go. But alas, holding on keeps us from moving forward and I must get on with writing the next book as they say:-)

  6. I do appreciate free books as much as ones I have bought. I have discovered several new authors this way and purchased their other books. I might not have taken the chance otherwise. What I have discovered since I bought my kindle is that I no longer buy books that I feel “iffy” about. There are too many free books to risk my money on books that don’t grab me.

    1. Excellent point Jon! I think a lot of people feel the same way. There are so many wonderful free and inexpensive ($2.99-$3.99) books out there, that I have a hard time justifying paying more for something unless I really HAVE to have it…like the latest Kristan Higgins book, SOMEBODY TO LOVE.

  7. Congrats on the numbers! I also tried the “free” downloads, within the KDP Select program by putting up three of my books for the free promo this weekend. Christmas in July had close to 2000 downloads and pushed me up the ranks to 202 this morning. Yes, it gave the ebook visibility but as for actual sales…not much. As Collette Thomas I put NIght Fantasies as well as a short fiction piece titled Goin Down and those had close to 1000 downloads and pushed their ranking up as well. The only plus is the visibility, but regarding sales…not sure what works to push those. I do hope readers will actually “buy” my other books, which is the goal of this weekend’s efforts.

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Collette. One thing to remember is that all of those people who downloaded the free book won’t necessarily read it right away (if ever, I’m sad to say), but some will. The increase in sales for the free book once it goes back up for sale are from the increased visibility, but increased sales of your other titles might take some time. Give the readers a chance to read the free book, love it, then go looking for your other books. It’s a bit of a waiting game and it’s hard to tell what drives sales from day to day, but having your book in the hands of a few thousand new readers has got to be a good thing!

  8. Your experience seems to be pretty typical. The bad reviews for Free books are typical too. So weird that people judge things more harshly if they’re free. Also, they read something out of their genre if it’s free and then pan it because they hate the genre, so it definitely skews the review system. Thanks for the report!

  9. Hello! I’m a fellow YARWA. Thanks for sharing your experience with us. Just a quick question: I thought Pixel of Ink and KDN weren’t free, but worked with a sponsorship system. Is that incorrect?
    WELL DONE!!!!

    1. Hi Marion, welcome! You are right about KDN. There was a small fee, @29.99 to list the book even for free. But POI, I just uploaded info to their site about the FREE promo. I don’t know if they posted it or not.

    1. Thank you, Ally. So far, so good. My sales bump over the past few days has made up for my slow start to the month. We’ll take it and say thank you, right?

  10. Wow, Kuddos to you!!! I value my books whether free or paid:):) Though I’m more likely to pass them along to others without expect of return if I got them for free, so I guess buying them with my hard earned money lends more ownership to me.

    1. That’s an interesting perspective, Jamie. I’ve heard from other indie authors who’ve done free promos that there is a high rate of returns after the book goes back up for paid. Not sure what that’s about, but it seems to be happening to me. As many sales as i’ve had over the past few days, (almost 200), I’ve also had 20 returns, much higher than the norm. Strange business this indie pub world!

    1. Try not to stress Katy. I know that’s easier said than done, but it comes when it comes. I would be much further behind the curve without all the loops I belong to that are such a huge wealth of information and support. That and a lot of luck and good timing. You are doing the right thing starting out with a blog tour. That will get you used to carving out time for marketing and putting yourself and your work center stage. Exposure takes time and repetition, so just keep chipping away at it. Little bites, remember?

  11. Oh no! I “bought” it, then instead of hitting “download and tranfer via USB” I hit “delete.” I was worried about my cat (eye injury) and not paying attention. Well, looks like you’re getting fans! Good luck.

    1. Bummer Diane! If you can wait until June there will be two more free days then, so keep your eyes open for details. I’ll also be participating in a two week .99 Book blowout with the Indie Romance Ink group where I think I’ll be putting up my other two books for that price. Great way to stock up on beach reads on the cheap!

  12. Great job, PJ. I plan to indie publish one of my WIPs — and you know to whom I’ll turn when the time comes to get it out there and sell it! Thanks for the great info.

    1. Awesome, Suze! You are such a wonderful writer. The world needs to see your work, my friend! I knew I would pull you over to the dark side eventually, hahaha.

      I’d be happy to help in anyway I can.

      1. Aw, thanks! I hope to have a long novella/short novel (50-60,000 words) done and indie-pubbed by the end of the summer. We’ll see!

  13. That is a lot of downloads. When I put my first YA Angel ebook as free in December, I was amazed at the numbers soaring. They still are. I think that even if someone has downloaded your ebook because it is free, then it is someone else that is reading your work. It still makes it worthwhile.

    1. I totally agree! The reason we write is to share our stories with the world, and the best advertisement is word of mouth. The only way to spread that word is to get as many people reading the book as possible. Once enough people read, love, and are compelled to talk about it, books gain momentum. Some authors have qualms about giving away their hard work, but I’m a firm believer of sowing seeds and reaping the rewards. “Give and it shall be given unto you…” Jesus is never wrong:-)

  14. Thanks for the tips. I have my eBook A child lost in flight scheduled for KDP free days next weekend (31 Aug to 3 Sep). I will follow some of your inputs including tweeting and contacting the listing sites

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