Amazon’s KDP Select program has kind of been marketed as a Miracle Grow for Books. It seems that, whenever you Google something about KDP Select, you run into another article boasting about authors who got rich and famous from just using KDP Select and barely marketing their book at all.
Like a lot of authors who are having an identity crisis because of the eBook “revolution,” I decided to try the whole self-published route myself. My self-imposed requirements were that I would do minimal marketing, pay nothing to advertise or format it, and publish solely via KDP Select.
The test was this: was KDP Select worth it? Could it actually boost my book, and myself, into super stardom? Was it the future of books?
My first week as a self-published author
After formatting my book (which is really easy and I don’t know why people pay hundreds of dollars for it, I’ll write how to do it soon) and getting some artwork from my friend, I published my short story collection, “Technology and Culture Stink!”
Other than a few blog posts announcing the book, I did nothing. I let it sitting there, in the abyss of six-digit sellers. My mom bought one. A coworker bought one. That was it.
So, the first lesson here: without substantial advertising, people won’t buy your book.
No surprise there. Although I was vaguely surprised that no one reading this blog bought the book (and still hasn’t). Then again, I wasn’t.
My three days of KDP Select
First, let’s go over the stipulations of the KDP Select program:
- Your book is given away for free
- The price is matched if Amazon Prime readers borrow it
- It gets promoted under Amazon’s illustrious “Free” category
- You can’t have the book published anywhere else online
- Amazon recently changed the algorithm to make it much, much harder for KDP Select, self-published books to get popular
Ok. I was a little worried that you couldn’t even have a few short stories circulating from a much broader collection, but then I saw that Amazon allows you to use about 10% of the book in excerpt form to promote an eBook available via KDP Select.
I ran the KDP Select Promotion.
The Facebook effect
I made one pretty unfortunate mistake here: I promoted on Faecbook without tracking how many of my friends clicked the link. So, at the same time I ran the KDP Select promotion, I also promoted it on Facebook.
I curiously watched as my book rose the charts of the “Free Satire” category, where it rested at #4 and moved around between #4 and #10.
Oh, what’s the number of books you need to give away to get into Free Satire’s Top 10?
The results of the KDP Experiment
In three days, I gave away 85 free books and made zero dollars. One week later, I have sold one book and the collection has fallen into infamy again.
I was very, very surprised that 85 people decided to download “Technology & Culture Stink!” although I think a five-star review from a very close friend (read: mom) probably helped spur them to action.
How many people will read it? How many will review it? I’m not sure.
Here’s what I’m left asking:
Is 85 readers worth giving away your work for free?
I love the idea that eighty-five people downloaded the book, but I cringe at the implications.
Writers love to self-righteously proclaim that they don’t want to make money from their work and Amazon is calling the bluff. If readers become accustomed to getting great writing for free, why would they ever pay again?
We saw what this model did to the music industry… and that industry was actually popular and profitable before.
Are writers actually writing themselves out of jobs? If we aren’t able to spend hours and dollars marketing our work, should we not bother?
Also, if everyone can publish something and give it away for free, is Amazon actually destroying its own model by offering no quality filters?
Is KDP Select Worth It?
That depends what you’re looking for and what you put into it.
In a saturated market of free eBooks and confused readers, however, I can confidently say that it’s not going to make you rich or famous by itself. Amazon’s recent changes to the algorithm and a huge, huge influx of self-published books have basically made that impossible.
Will I do it with the new novel I’m working on?
First Photo Credit: Carlos Porto
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