KDP Select – a week later. The price of one’s soul.

It’s been a week since my free promotion. And what a week it’s been! It’s time for the first summary of my life after KDP Select.

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Thousands of free units downloaded over two days
  • #1 on UK Historical Fantasy Free Best Seller list
  • #1 on US Historical Fantasy Free Best Seller list
  • #2 on US Young Adult Free Best Seller list (only kept off the first place by Artemis Fowl)
  • #5 on US Fantasy Free Best Seller list
  • #112 on US Free Best Seller list overall
  • Sold more books in two days than in an entire month previous
  • #47 on US Historical Fantasy Paid Best Seller list
  • #17 on UK Historical Fantasy Paid Best Seller list
  • A full week on paid Best Seller lists

More detailed summary (with charts!) :

Before.

I’ve launched the book in the beginning of July. The book was selling, but very slowly. The sales refused to pick up no matter what I did in terms of marketing. Blogging, tweeting, interviews, buying ads, getting reviews – none of this worked to even budge the book up the sales ranking.

I’m not that great at networking and self-marketing. I’m not good at making friends. I like to write books, not talk about them. Word of mouth was never going to take off properly for me. KDP Select was the one last promotional tool left in my arsenal.

There seems to be a general consensus that KDP Select is not as effective as it once was. I can easily imagine that being the case: nothing is as effective as it once was, due to sheer number of books published while the number of readers remains more or less steady. So it was with heavy heart and some trepidation that I put the book out for free. Just two days out of five available, in case it turned out to be a complete failure.

Preparation

Last month I ran a poll on this blog, trying to figure out what improvements I can make to increase the sales (or, in this case, giveaways). Cover design and product description were the most complained about, so I introduced some changes to those. Nothing too drastic – I still think my cover art is pretty awesome for the target audience – but I like to think it mattered a little.

I ran a Goodreads giveaway of the paperback, to pull in some more interest before the main thing.

I submitted the info about the promotion out to three websites: eReader News Today, Pixel of Ink and Kindle Nation Daily. That last one was paid, the other two were free – but they had to choose my book out of many others submitted for that day.

There are many more sites that do this kind of thing, but not all of them seem worthwhile. I’ve since picked up two or three other places I am likely to submit the next time, but overall the three above are the big guns in the free promo business. Of course, like with everything else, the forums and blogs claim that they are “not effective as they used to be”. God forbid anything was actually easier than it used to be in 2011…

The Promo

The promo ran through September 3rd and 4th. Bit of a miscalculation on my part, and lack of research – the first day was Labor Day in the US, which probably is not a good day to do any sort of launch. The numbers for the first day were not terribly impressive, although still more than what I expected.

It was on the second day that everything took off. Not only did the Americans go back to their schools and workplaces, two of the three sites above picked up my book and posted about it. The downloads quickly climbed into thousands. It was then that I have reached the tops of free best seller lists in my respective categories. I also learned the importance of Pixel of Ink, which didn’t go with my promo: all the books that overtook me on the way to the gold were the ones featured on PoI. I definitely need to get there next time.

The week after

What happened next was a week of euphoria. The sales picked up like crazy. In two days I sold more than in all of August. By yesterday the number trebled. On my best day I climbed to Top 50 in Historical Fantasy charts, and breached 9,000 in ASR. I started getting unsolicited reviews.

Even more importantly, the second volume, “The Warrior’s Soul”, until then pretty much neglected, started selling as well, and by Tuesday got into some of the best seller lists on its own. I now had two books on the Alternate History list. The KDP bump was definitely working.

The aftermath

It’s still too early to say how long this will last. The sales are still at a decent level – hard to tell if they’re rising or falling or staying mostly the same. My ASR has been fluctuating a bit more than my sales numbers do, although that may have to do with an experiment in changing one of the categories (what’s that old saying? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). I’m still easily discoverable through Popularity rankings though (#6 on Alternate History, #33 on Historical Fantasy – Kindle Edition – at the time of writing) which, according to some, matters more than ASR.

More importantly, even if all of this giddiness ends soon, I would never have dreamed of achieving these kinds of results in such a short time. In a matter of two days my book has gone from being virtually unknown, except to a few of my friends, to a best seller, overtaking on the way some famous names and titles in the genre. All this at a cost of a few thousand giveaways and 90 days of exclusivity.

So, is KDP Select worth it? That depends. If you have an already built-up network of friends and acquaintances who can bump you up to the top on the launch day, you may not need it. The increase I observed may be, possibly, replicated using other means. But if all you’ve got going for is a well-written book and nothing else – then it’s a damn effective tool.

The question now is, how to maintain the momentum. Do I even need to do anything – except writing and releasing more books – considering nothing I did before mattered? Will the books just keep on selling at the current level, or will it all suddenly die and I will have to think of something else? Only time will tell…

Charts

The following are ASR and sales charts for my two books, showing the before and after of KDP promotion:

ASR Ranking. Promotion ran 3-4th September
Sales, absolute, during the last six weeks

A note on the reporting problem: My launch happened to come on the day when KDP reporting infamously broke. For almost a week we had no knowledge of the real numbers sold, mostly in Europe. Some download numbers continued to trickle into the report even yesterday. It does seem to be fixed now, but it had been a few nervous days for everyone using the system.

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17 thoughts on “KDP Select – a week later. The price of one’s soul.

  1. KDP Select free promo is only effective if you can drive traffic to your other non-freebie titles. The simplest way to achieve that to put an in-your-face Amazon Affiliate Widget right there in your book description. The thing scrolls and grabs their attention. If they abandon your freebie and go check out another title of yours, its not exactly a loss.

    Can you put a Flash widget in description? You may ask. Yes, pretty much everything, including social networking widgets like a tweet box or Facebook box in there. After many month of investigative work, I’ve discovered KDP’s dirty secret. It’s all recorded in my book “KDP’s Best-Kept Secret Revealed: How to Embed Videos and Widgets in Your Book Description.” Take a look when you get a chance and see if you like the way I do it: http://amzn.to/1evdevT.

  2. You think Labour Day was bad, I accidentally scheduled mine to start on US Election Day. Whoops!

    But it actually turned out all right. Now I’m just eagerly awaiting the much-prophesied sales spike.

  3. James – Thanks for witty, informative insights into KDP Promotion process. Which day of the week do you think best to launch a promotion? Are weekends and holidays the worst time or best time to launch promo?

    Your generosity in sharing your process with others will come back to aid you. You will sell a million books, I feel it in my bones!

    1. Thank you for the kind words 🙂 I don’t really have enough data to tell for certain, but I get the feeling holidays in general are not the best time to do any promos or launches, especially of something as intangible as ebooks. People don’t spend so much time at their computers, and they don’t check their social networks and e-mails. There’s a reason why the biggest sales in US happen on the day -after- the big holidays 🙂

  4. Congratulations on a successful promotion and a big thank you for your generous and detailed account. I’m a complete novice … slowly learning. I’d never even heard of PoI. And I feel a little like you: if only it was last year when everything was reportedly much easier! But we are where we are, so it’s gratifying to hear that KDP still has some effectiveness. Would you do the paid promo with Kindle Nation Daily again?

    My fingers are crossed for you that your sales keep going up and up and up.

    1. If I do KND promo again, it would be with a different book. I don’t think hitting the same readership with the same book twice is effective – they saw it once, those who wanted, bought it, those who didn’t then probably won’t now.

  5. Your article comes at a perfect time for us as we navigate the KDP waters here in the Caribbean. Glad it went so swimmingly across the pond. Did you do your own cover? So PoI is the tsunami of the industry as well? Thanks again Mate! Best, Alex

    1. Hi Alex, the cover art was commissioned from deviantart, but the lettering and setup was all ours.
      I hope to one day experience the “PoI bump” yet, I will have more data to go on then 🙂 Not sure what their selection process is though…

  6. I’ve been where you are, though it was 5 months ago. Pretty much the same kind of chart (though I think my numbers were a bit higher. I cracked the top 100 Free in the general kindle score (reaching 79, I think) as well as #1 in all of my sub-categories, and sat in the high 1000s for a couple of months afterwards.

    Don’t get discouraged when your book slips back down the charts. Unless it ‘hits’ and you become a Kindle superstar, it *will* slip as more books enter the market and as more people push their books up with promos. I had a nice ride for about 10 weeks after my first promo.

    Since then, KDP promotions have given me nice boosts in sales, but they only last a week at best. In the meantime, I’m working furiously on completing my next book.

    I think the key to ‘making it’ as a writer is…to write. Very few people will hit the lottery of literary stardom and make a fortune off one book. The vast majority of writers have to keep writing month after month In order to make a living at the craft.

  7. Firstly, really well done on your sales!

    Really great breakdown, thanks, this is useful information for those of us considering how to market our books. Given what you said about it helping the sales of your second volume as well, I might wait until I have two books in my series before I consider going with KDP select.

    Good point about Labor Day – since US is by far the biggest market, I’ll watch out for their holidays when I work on any promotions.

    I’ll also be checking out those publicity sites you’ve listed as well.

    Thanks again.

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