1st March is a day where everything changes (again) for KDP Select and, more specifically, the promotion of free eBooks. It’s news that will affect all authors, whether partaking in KDP Select or not, so I suggest you read on if you haven’t already heard the news. It’s made me blog on a frigging Saturday, goddammit, so if that isn’t an indication of the scale of the news, then I don’t know what is.
It all started with an email from the Amazon Associates programme on updates to their affiliates terms. I scanned through it: the usual minor update here and there. Then, somewhere around the middle, the following lines stuck out at me:
“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”
At first glance, this probably seems pretty impenetrable, so I’ll summarise the key points (which I’ve also highlighted in bold) before assessing the implications this has on the future of KDP Select, free eBooks, and whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing in the long run.
- ‘If you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks…’
In other words, the big free eBook promotion sites, such as Pixel of Ink, Ereader News Today, and Digital Book Today. They primarily promote free Kindle books, do a damn good job of promoting free eBooks, and are integral to the success of KDP Select promotions.
2. ‘You are not eligible to earn any advertising fees during any month in which… 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded…’
20,000 ebooks might seem like a lot, at a glance, but think about this. There are hundreds of free eBook promotion websites out there. Every day, they each list something like 15-20 books (on average). They’re probably going to be giving away a few thousand free eBooks a day through their own affiliate links, let alone a month. Furthermore…
3. ‘You are not eligible to earn any advertising fees during any month in which… 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered are free Kindle eBooks…’
In other words: if a book promotion website is giving away loads of free eBooks for Kindle and not advertising enough paid books, then the book promotion websites don’t get their monthly advertising fees through the Amazon affiliate programme. Edward Robertson reckons that, on average, the majority of the book promotion websites give away free eBooks at a 15:1 ratio compared to paid books. They need to get this average down to 4:1 if they are to succeed, or in other words, post four times as many paid ads as free ones.
What does all this mean for the future of KDP Select?
In a nutshell: it means that the previously foolproof (see here and here) tactic of listing your book with a load of brilliant free eBook promotion websites is going to get a hell of a lot harder. Over the following weeks and months, we’re going to see a mad scramble from the book promotion websites to reassess their outputs to fit in with the new Amazon Associates terms.
How does this affect authors like myself, who have had great success with KDP Select? It makes it harder, theoretically, to rely on the free promotion websites to enjoy a successful free run during KDP Select promos. All we can do is sit and watch these fascinating developments unfold. I do, however, have a few theories as to where this could all lead:
1. A daily decrease in the number of free eBooks will lead to another free eBook boom
I imagine a lot of authors will hit the panic button and pull out of KDP Select as a result of these updated terms. Personally, I can’t wait for my next free promotion, if just to assess how everything changes as a result of these rule modifications. I have a gut feeling that the reluctance to make eBooks free will encourage the organic rise of free eBooks on their climb to the top of the charts. In other words: with fewer major free eBook promotion websites to plug freebies, there will be more chance of success by simply hitting the ‘Go Free’ button and waiting for the results.
2. The rise of the 99c eBook
Perhaps the most likely outcome of all this is the resurgence of 99c eBook promotions. With new rules for the book promotion sites to adhere to, I imagine we will see a bigger push for advertising discounts rather than free eBooks. The result? A second wave of 99c craziness. In a sense, I think this is a good thing: the change in rules will encourage authors to develop better business skills, instead of simply hitting ‘free’ every month. It encourages budding entrepreneurs to contemplate their decisions and rethink marketing. Or maybe it kills KDP Select. I don’t know yet.
What should I do with my KDP Select enrolled eBook?
I’m interested to see where this leads. I imagine some smaller free eBook promotion sites will close. Probably some bigger ones, too. Others will adapt. Sites like BookBub already prove that running a sustainable free eBook/paid eBook promotion website is more than possible.
Personally, I’ll be re-enrolling What We Saw for another three months in KDP Select and watching the results very, very carefully. We could see the rise of the KOLL and more organic climbs up the free charts.
Or, we could see a lack of free exposure leading to the collapse of the free eBook tactic.
It’s somewhat timely/frustrating that I should have to write this post just a day after I, once again, talked up the benefits of eBook promotion websites on gaining visibility. But that’s just the nature of the game — it’s always changing, always adapting.
Personally, I think KDP Select will survive these changes, as will 90% of eBook promotion websites. But don’t underestimate this — whether it seems like it or not, it will be one of the major events of 2013 in the mad, mad world of indie publishing.
In slightly more positive news, I’ve just completed the first draft of my third novel! It’s a crime/detective thriller surrounding the discovery of an unidentified girl, dead, in a dingy side street brothel. It’s also the first in what I hope will be a very, very long journey with Officer Brian Drake. I’ve absolutely loved the time I’ve spent in his fascinating shoes (I’m not sure he literally has fascinating shoes), as well as all of the great supporting cast. It’s by far the most fun I’ve ever had writing a first draft.
The book will be out towards the end of 2013 as I’m putting it to one side to rewrite my second novel, Killing Freedom, which I’m just as excited about. Killing Freedom will be out this summer, so expect more news and attention in the coming weeks and months.
Of course, to hear about both books as soon as they are released, be sure to sign up to my new release mailing list for notifications. I only ever send emails out when I launch a new book, and I absolutely 100% would never pass on your details, so you can safely head over to this link here for spam-free reassurance.
Oh, and What We Saw is still 99c/77p for another day. To grab your ultra-crazy-priced copy, head over to the following link for Kindle: http://bit.ly/WiKQEE
Have a great weekend,
I think Amazon is just doing what Google does with their updates…weed out people who are looking for loop holes in favor of people who are providing better products. I’ll still be putting out my book on KDP on 3/5 without any qualms.
It’s certainly an interesting move, Tyler, but not entirely unexpected. I honestly believe the main worry here is to those websites who have basically built a business on offering free eBooks could technically lose their month’s earnings overnight. But y’know, it’s their turn to adapt, and there’s not much us authors can do about that but sit and watch. How they choose to adapt… now that will have major implications on our near-future. Interesting times!
Yea, I think it will be tougher for them to adapt than us writers!
Interesting thought. I’ve been helping authors promote their free KDP select books for some time now. I’ll be interested to see if this really makes it harder for my promotions to be successful.
Thanks for the comment, Kate. Please keep in touch with results – it would be great to hear how things change. And best of luck! I’ve got a lot of respect for promotion helping websites, as outlined in my two KDP articles, so I really hope it goes well.
So far I’ve only had one website e-mail me about the Amazon changes. The last promotion I had done was set up before the change (but active during it) and it went rather well. I’ll be interested to see what the next free promotion brings :). I am so thankful for all the websites that take the time to promote author’s books. I believe those have been a big key in the successful promotions I have run.
I do find these changes interesting. I heard recently that the changes could be part of a larger strategy. Free books helped the Kindle outsell the Nook. Now that the Nook business may be declining further, free books are less important in the overall business objectives. It seems to make some sense. Also, I’m curious, how much will these sites lose in revenue if they exceed the parameters? Just curious…
Thanks for a great post and congrats on completing your draft!
It’s interesting for sure – I just received an email from FKBooks&Tips the other day saying how they are opening paid advertising spots, so it seems that the big sites paying attention are wising up and adapting to the changes. I’m sure many more will follow!
And thanks, Kellie. Very proud of this new draft. Letting it settle while I rewrite novel 2 at the moment, but I’m very much looking forward to revisiting it!
I think it’s a great idea. Why should Amazon pay for advertising that has zero chance of giving them revenue. Discouraging that type of business model is just good business. Now, if they wouldn’t be such a douche as to ban all NC residents from participating in their affiliate program, I would be ecstatic.
Thanks for the comment, Danielle. I agree that in the long-run, this is a good business decision. It’ll be interesting to watch this play out, that’s for sure!
What would happen if the “free” sites didn’t post the free offers with their associates codes, but only put the codes on the books that cost something? Wouldn’t that keep Amazon from being able to trace how many free ebooks were coming from a given website?
That’s a good point, Jeffrey. It’s a loophole I’m intrigued to know more about. I’m sure we’ll hear more in the near future!
Ryan, your blog is a gem! This post explained it all to me. I’m even more thrilled now that I got that free spot on Bookbub.
Great blog Ryan..:) I am new to amazon affiliates program and so your post explaining the new rules was very help ful. 🙂
What is the % revenue given on kindle eBooks by amazon to their associates?