kdp selectI just re-enrolled Something in the Cellar for another three-month period of Amazon’s KDP Select programme.

For those of you who don’t know, KDP Select is Amazon’s exclusivity deal for authors. Basically, you pledge not to sell your digital book outside of Amazon for 90 days, and they allow you to promote your book for free for five of those days.

I’ve run a few free promos since launching my two short stories Something in the Cellar and Silhouette, to varying levels of success. I’ve experimented with different marketing techniques and different ways of spreading the word, but it seems I’ve finally found the one that works for me.

Note: I have written a follow-up to this post for writers considering KDP Select going into 2013. Consider it a belated part two – click here to read. I’ll remind you again after this post.

How I Hit the Bestseller Lists

kdp select horror number 1At the end of October, I ran a Halloween giveaway for Something in the Cellar. I had two free days remaining, so I figured I’d get them used before my KDP Select exclusivity period expired. I was contemplating uploading to Smashwords at this point as as successful as the free promos were, they didn’t really boost sales afterwards significantly.

Over this two day period, I gave away over 3,500 copies of Something in the Cellar, hit the top spot in both the Horror and Short Stories charts, and peaked at #75 in the overall Free Charts. If I’d been able to run the promo for another day, I’m confident I would’ve broken into the Top 10 with the momentum the book was being downloaded at.

Interestingly, I ran another low key promo alongside this one. I gave away copies of Silhouette, but only managed to obtain around 200 downloads. Sure — that’s 200 more readers, but not enough downloads to acquire a new awareness of my book.

What did I do differently?

promoted the sh*t out of Something in the Cellar.

Ask all successful KDP Select users how they consistently run successful free promos and they’ll tell you the same thing, over and over: you need to make as many big sites as aware of your free promo as possible.

I’m not talking about tweeting a few free promo sites on the day, or posting on the walls of four or five Facebook groups. I tried that, and it failed.

I’m talking about the hundreds of book promotion sites out there. In fact, the ‘secret’ in the title is something of a trick because there’s nothing secret about these places whatsoever.

I accidentally stumbled upon a free site when they listed my book without me notifying them. I noticed a spike in downloads of, let’s say, 10 per second, and this coincided with a listing over at ereadernewstodayImagine if I were to list my book with, say, ten sites with similar reputation… I thought.

Now, I’ve seen the rewards, and they’ve convinced me that KDP Select is the future, for the time being.

A word on KDP Select doubters: Not to patronise, but I have a feeling that the bulk of people who feel bitter about KDP Select are people who either 1.) don’t want to risk losing minimal sales over on Smashwords by going exclusive or 2.) have had a free promo go unsuccessfully.

My advice? Give it a shot, seriously. Like, a real shot. I love Smashwords and I really hope the other sites up their game when it comes to exposure as Amazon and KDP Select is miles ahead of the rest (see, I told you I still love them to bits in spite of recent hiccups).

To make things easier, here’s a five-step guide to ensuring the best Free promo possible. It’s the guide I follow, step-by-step, and it works for me. It will most probably work for you, but don’t burn my house down if it doesn’t or anything crazy like that.

1.) Inform the free book listing sites a month in advance

I’ve spoken a lot about free book listing sites in this post. Basically, if you let them know you are going to be running a free promo in advance, they’ll list your book for you. The ‘big three’ that you need to contact are Pixel of Ink, EReaderNewsToday and Digital Book Today. Be sure to read their rules in advance.

There are loads more free sites out there though. For this, I’d highly recommend signing up over at Author Marketing Club — when you do, they have a page with all the links to the major sites’ submission pages. Submit to as many as possible.

If you’d rather just have a list of sites to check out, skip to the bottom of this post from The Writing Bomb.

2.) Is your cover good enough?

People do judge a book by its cover, and always will do, even in the digital age.

Take a look at your cover. Is it really good enough? Could you see it on the shelves of a store?

If so, then all is well. You’re almost ready to go.

If not, then you should check out 99Designs. I’ve had a few debates/heated altercations with writers and designers who are dead against 99Designs as it takes the rights away from the designer, but hear me out. 99Designs enables you to pitch a cover idea to a crowd of people, and they go away and create them for you.

Personally, this is one of my favourite stages of the entire process. Seeing the hundreds of designs fly in was a lot of fun. I was delighted with the finished What We Saw cover, and will work together with my designer, Lloyd, again in future projects.

So, consider giving 99Designs a shot. It’s a great chance for new designers to get noticed, and established designers to have a bit of fun and make some cash on the side.

3.) Check your book files, and check them again

This stage is probably the most important of all.

You don’t want to give away thousands of books and find out you’ve made a major formatting error, right?

Download your book a few days before the promo starts and check everything is up to scratch. Then, download it again and check again. I’d even recommend having someone else download it and check it for you too.

Better to be on the safe side, right? A bad review based on formatting could damage your free promo, so be warned.

4.) Make sure you have a few positive reviews

Reviews are a big part of book sales and can really boost a KDP Select free promo. Fortunately, it’s easier to get them than you may think.

Consider running a giveaway for your book and asking the winners if they wouldn’t mind leaving a review. If your writing is up to scratch and everything else is fine, you’ll pick up a few positive reviews.

And, if your free promo goes well, you’ll gather more. I went from four reviews of Something in the Cellar to ten after my recent promo, so this can only boost future promos.

5.) Inform your readers

Of course, you need to let your loyal followers know about this KDP Select free promo too. I’d advise letting people know a few days in advance that you’re going to be going free via your blog. Surprise is good, but I’ve not seen it translate into a successful free promo with KDP Select just yet.

On the days of the free promo, tweet about it a few times and let people know how you’re getting on. Don’t be spammy, but share your excitement as you reach new milestones. Reached the Top 1000? Let people know! Share pictures, whatever. Have fun with it.

Which leads to…silhouette

Seamless self-promo alert: Silhouette will be free from Wednesday 21st November to Friday 23rd November (that’s next week for those reading live).

I’ll remind you again on the day if you’re an email subscriber (if you subscribe, you get the opening chapters of What We Saw for free) or if you follow me on Twitter/Facebook. I’ve got high hopes for this promo, so any word-spreading would be fantastic.

I’ll have more next week on the launch details of What We Saw. It’s getting very close to launch, folks…

Have a great weekend,


Do you have an KDP Select tips to share? Where do you stand on Amazon exclusivity? A blessing or a curse for authors?

Note: I have written a follow-up to this post for writers considering KDP  going into 2013. Consider it a belated part two – click here to read.