Part three, on KDP Select and BookBub, is available here.
Several months ago, I hypothesised that the changes in Amazon’s affiliate terms and conditions would lead to the self-destruction of the KDP Select programme. While my hypothesis may have appeared a little over-the-top, perhaps even laughed off as sensationalism, a trip over to kBoards (great place, btw) is enough to convince any author that KDP Select free is both 1.) dead, and 2.) pointless. I hate to say ‘I told you so’… No, that’s a lie. *smug grin*
I’ve been enrolled in KDP Select with What We Saw, my debut novel, for nine months now. Things have changed, mostly for the worst. However, contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think that free is dead, just yet. I want to share my experiences with you, and hopefully you’ll be able to make an educated decision as to whether KDP Select free promotions are worth the three-month exclusivity. I want to try to help you decide whether a KDP Select free marketing strategy is relevant to your needs. Hopefully then, you’ll be able to seriously consider whether it is for you, and if not, weigh up the potential alternatives.
My experiences with KDP Select free runs
I’ve talked a lot about KDP Select free runs in the fourteen months of this blog’s lifespan, and yet, my experiences with free runs themselves haven’t really changed. When I promote my books to free promotion websites heavily and in advance, sometimes setting aside a marketing budget for increased exposure, I tend to end my free runs with the downloads in the thousands, giving me a nice boost in the popularity lists and bringing in a few sales over the coming four weeks.
One thing I have learned about KDP Select free runs is that they are essentially dead to authors hoping to simply click the ‘go free’ button for a couple of days and expect a strong run of downloads/post-freebie boost. Personally, this doesn’t affect me — KDP Select has relied on an ad-supported approach since I started publishing, so I sadly never had the opportunity to try the programme when it was really at its zenith.
My strongest free-run came in March, when I paid a couple hundred dollars for a BookBub ad and gave away 40,000+ copies of What We Saw over a three-day period. In the month that followed, I broke the $1,000 earnings threshold (bear in mind I only had one novel available at the time), which, to-date, is my best month of sales.
My most recent KDP Select free run was for The Painting, which wasn’t enjoying the sort of sales I felt it deserved. I organised a low-key free run, with a few ads, the main one being with Freebooksy, and gave away 2,000 copies or so. It wasn’t a 40k run, but considering I just wanted to give this novella a visibility boost, I consider it a success. Since the free run, it’s selling one or two copies a day, which isn’t loads, but better than prior to the free-run. I imagine this will dampen when the free downloads filter out of its 30-day rolling sales average, but I’m prepared with a new release to counter that.
What makes for a successful KDP Select free run in August 2013?
What does all of my experience teach us about KDP Select free runs in August 2013 (and I say August because the rules are constantly changing)? Well, firstly, my earlier posts on KDP Select are still as relevant today as they were at the time of writing, in some aspects. KDP Select free runs increase visibility and boost sales, but only when supported by advertising. This has been the case with all of my free experiences in the past, and while the visibility and sales boost isn’t what it once was, it can still help lift a struggling title and bring in a few cash sales/also-boughts/etc.
That said, I’m growing sceptical of the long-term benefits of free. As I predicted earlier in the year (y’know, when everybody dismissed me), 99c has largely replaced free as the de-facto promotional method. We have the influence of BookBub and the change in Amazon Affiliate terms to thank for this shift. I think it’s a healthy change in the long run, as dedicated Kindle readers seek out bargain books after being scared away by a fair number of low-quality freebies.
If I were starting today, would I enrol in KDP Select? I know you’re going to hate this answer, but I’m really not sure. It depends what you want, I suppose. Do you want instant visibility? Do you want to build your mailing list and pick up a few reviews and also-boughts? Then maybe try KDP Select, but make sure it’s an ad-supported free run.
Do you want to bring in some extra cash? Then I’d put your book on sale everywhere and run a series of 99c promotions. Advertising is much more important with 99c promotions than free, mind. It’s easy for a reader to download a hundred free books, but a hundred 99c books is a hell of an investment. If you do run a 99c promotion, make sure you have plenty of nice reviews so you can contact the main bargain book ad sites: BookBub, EreaderNewsToday, Kindle Books and Tips, and BookBlast are all good options with an almost guaranteed return on investment.
When should I make my book free?
Although all of this seems rather doom and gloom for KDP Select free, I’d argue that free itself is far from dead. In fact, free is a potentially priceless (geddit?!) tool in your marketing and promotion strategy, and it comes in the form of perma-free.
What is perma-free? Perma-free is something many authors are having a lot of fun with. Lindsay Buroker argues that it’s the one marketing and promotion strategy that worked years ago for independent authors, and will continue to work for years to come. The premise is this: you give your readers something for free in order to lure them into the rest of your series. In business terms, this is known as a loss-leader.
This loss-leader could be anything from an introductory short story, to the entire first book in your series. The rules are simple: make sure it’s frigging brilliant. You want to use this perma-free release as a hook, then reel the reader into buying the rest of your series. Also, make sure the perma-free release is related to another of your books/series in some way. It’s all fair and well making a short story perma-free, but if it has nothing to do with any of your other releases, then your reader will likely move on in a confused shuffle.
I’m throwing the KDP Select freebie dice one final time.
What We Saw, my debut coming-of-age mystery novel, will be available for absolutely zero-cost tomorrow and Friday, supported by a BookBub advertisement. You can pick up your copy here. If you don’t want to wait, it’s only $3.99/£2.99 right now.
This is the final time the book will ever be free. I’m curious to see just how much free has changed since March, when my free run brought in thousands of downloads and a wealth of reviews. After this, I will be tweaking my promotional strategy and launching my books on all platforms.
For other platform readers, you can expect to see the following existing releases available in B&N, Apple, and Kobo stores in the following months:
What We Saw: August
The Painting (The Watching, #1): August
Killing Freedom: October
So long, KDP Select. I hope to leave you with an absolute bang… that will force me into changing my mind and re-enrolling everything once again…
How have KDP Select free runs fared for you in 2013? Have you noticed any changes, improvements or otherwise?
PS: on borrows — I hardly get any, unless I’ve just had a major free-run. If you get a lot of borrows, then maybe this is a case in KDP Select’s favour. That’s something you have to work out for yourselves based on your own experiences.