You wrote the book. You did the research. You got a cover. Finally, you formatted the thing for Amazon Kindle and decided to try KDP Select.
Gleefully, you set up the promotion and let ‘er whirl. You scaled your expectations accordingly. “Maybe a dozen sales, not more… but, you know, maybe it’s the next Fifty Shades of Grey. A hundred sales.”
The downloads come rolling in like a tsunami – ten, twenty, a hundred downloads. Those are great, because it shows people are interested in what you’re writing. Or at least interested in stockpiling free books.
Then, it’s over and you wait for the “ripple effect” you’ve heard about… but nothing happens. That’s it. You just worked on a book for a few years and handed it out to anonymous strangers. You get zero sales from your KDP Select promotion.
KDP Select isn’t what it used to be
For me, this is personal. I tried to see if KDP Select was worth it, just as an experiment. Like a lot of other authors, I was too lazy to actually promote beyond it. I also wanted to see what happened.
That said, I had read about what Amazon did to KDP Select’s algorithms. Back in the days of yore, a KDP Select Promotion that did well would land your book square on one of the coveted “Top Kindle Books” charts, because downloads were calculated like sales. But Amazon changed that.
- During your KDP Select Promotion, your book – if it’s popular enough – goes to one of the “Top Free” charts
- My book, for example, got launched up to #4 in the “Satire” chart for free eBooks:
- After the KDP Select Promotion ended, the book immediately dropped to 400,000-something in the paid category
That’s why, if you use it in isolation, there’s a very, very good chance that KDP Select will never result in sales for you. Ever.
No one is looking at the top books in the 400,000 – 500,000 range.
There are other things happening here, too.
Amazon’s select few stories about authors-turned-millionaires inspired a gold rush of authors who were under the impression that KDP Select could rocket them out of obscurity.
That’s because it used to be possible. Until publishers complained about indie authors getting into the lists. Until they made their own eBook-exclusive imprints. Until the number of self-published books grew by 287 percent.
Half of self-published authors make less than $500. If you just depend on giving your book away for free to make money, you will make less than that.
So how should you use KDP Select now?
- Promote the first book in a series
- Tell websites that promote free books (like BookBub.com) about it
- Share the offer through Twitter and Facebook
- Grow word-of-mouth for the book
- Beg for reviews
I think the most intriguing option is using KDP Select to promote a book in a series. I found one good eBook through a tweet from a woman I followed based on her book marketing advice. The book was part one of a very long and exhaustive series, and free.
I downloaded it and sat on it for months, before I was out of everything to read and on a bus trip. Lo and behold, I read the book and was impressed enough to dig deeper into the series.
Reviews, too, are much easier to get if you give away the book for free… theoretically. But you need to badger people for them, either in the foreword or the acknowledgments or by begging for them on your blog and across social media channels.
The real lesson today is that KDP Select can’t be used in a vacuum. It is only one part of a book marketing strategy. The problem here, of course, is that you can’t sell your book on any platform other than Amazon if you choose KDP Select.
No sales from after a KDP Select promotion is inevitable if the promotion wasn’t actively promoting something other than your free book.
Authors who are planning a KDP Select promotion in the future now face a new question: How can you use giveaways to grow and sustain a readership?
Read more at For Writers.