Okay, so my blog post title is a little misleading.
I’ve openly expressed my belief that KDP Select is still to this day a perfectly viable option for newer authors looking to make a start in independent publishing. Have I fallen out of love with it a little since I first enrolled? Yes. But it still leads to more reviews. It still results in slightly increased exposure. And, if coupled with an advertisement at one of the major ad sites, it can still lead to a nice post-freebie boost.
That said, I’ve totally pulled all of my books out of KDP Select. Yeah — the program that I earned several thousands of pounds through. Call me mad, but I call it ‘building for the future’. I’ve had my start — made enough cash to support this whole writing thing for a decent amount of time — and I thank KDP Select for that. But the benefits were wearing thin. Free promotions weren’t really that viable an option for me anymore, especially due to the large advertising costs that accompany it (if any level of success is desired).
Oh, and don’t talk to me about borrows. I’ve never had much luck there, apart from a nice early October boost when Amazon decided to promote Killing Freedom for me. Nice of them.
However, a whole new benefit to KDP Select just arrived. It’s called Kindle Countdown Deals, and it’s that new feature you’ll have seen advertised over on your KDP dashboard.
What is the Kindle Countdown Deals feature?
Basically, it’s a tool that allows authors to run limited time discounts on their books. Customers will see the regular price crossed off with a ‘Save…’ label beside it, which is rather handy. There’s also a cool countdown clock ticking away to the end of the deal.
But the most attractive lure of Amazon’s FAQ is the news that ‘you’ll continue to earn your selected royalty rate during the promotion’. This means that instead of the $0.35 per 99c discounted sale (due to Amazon’s 35% royalties for titles under $2.99), each sale will be worth $0.70. That doesn’t sound lots for just a couple of sales, but imagine how well this could work during, say, a BookBub promotion. 1,000 sales at $0.35 = $350. 1,000 at $0.70 = $700. Kindle Countdown Deals doubles the amount you earn, which makes it an attractive option of those coupling discounts with advertising sites.
Another plus point with Kindle Countdown Deals is that it has its own dedicated website for readers to view. Separate charts mean enhanced visibility, and the fact that only a few thousand books will initially be enrolled may make it tempting for authors to throw their books back into Select.
Also worth mentioning is what I dub the ‘staggered price raise’ feature. With Kindle Countdown Deals, an author or publisher can set the discount to start at $0.99, then rise to $1.99 and $2.99 and slowly back to full price as the days go on, while alerting the customer how long they have left until the next price hike. This is a nice way to increase demand, and definitely one of my favourite features of Kindle Countdown Deals.
On the flip side…
That said, it’s not all rosy. Or more, as with every new program, there are grey areas.
First, a book has to have been enrolled in KDP Select for thirty days before a Kindle Countdown Deal can be triggered. But perhaps more off-putting to authors is the fact that a KDP Select free promotion and a Kindle Countdown Deal can not be run in the same ninety day period. On the surface, this seems restrictive, but I think it makes sense. Amazon don’t want authors or publishers abusing these tools.
The very fact that Kindle Countdown Deals is a ‘thing’ is probably due to the drop of effectiveness in free promotions. Remember when KDP Select free first came along? The tool, when used in the early days, was a foolproof method leading to independent success. I know authors today who have been able to quit their day jobs due to the effect early KDP Select had. And yet, that was due to a glitch. An underestimation on Amazon’s part as to just how effective the free tactic would be. Algorithms were tweaked, and now it’s a lot more difficult. I think the clear rules and boundaries set will keep Kindle Countdown Deals an attractive tool for a little longer without the need for a sudden shift in the algorithms.
But we’ll see. Indie publishing is crazy. Who knows?
Will I be trying out Kindle Countdown Deals?
As for whether I’ll be enrolling in KDP Select and giving a Kindle Countdown Deal a shot, I have to say I won’t. I’m focusing on a slow-build sales method going into 2014. I’ve learned a lot about publishing as a business in 2013, but mostly, I’ve learned that there’s a lot of bad advice out there. Not intentionally bad, just advice catered to a short-term, get rich quick approach. I’ve seen authors with guest posts and fancy covers and big promotional slogs fire out the gates only to crash and languish in the lower echelons of the rankings, tweet promoting one book and hoping that just maybe, an indie god out there will answer their prayers.
The get rich quick method is bullshit. Sorry, but it’s true. I’m telling you this now, well over a year into the publishing game. Young, yes, but I’ve done my homework and had my own experiences. If you’re in this to make money from one book, you might as well buy two lottery tickets per week. The odds aren’t much different. Seriously.
At this moment in time, there are 2,260,545 books available on the Kindle Store. I just refreshed and that figure rose to 2,261,001. To make a stable living from one book — promoting that one book and spending all your time, effort and energy promoting that one book — let’s say you need $5,000 per month. Which means, from one book, remember, you’d need to sell 1,433 copies per month. At $4.99. 2,500 at $2.99. Those numbers are the sort that books ranked (and maintaining) around the #2,000 mark on Amazon are bagging. Consistently. Every month. So in a sea of 2,261,000 books, that’s a… let me do the maths here. Okay, that’s a 1/1130 chance that your one book is going to break lucky and earn you a steady living. Probably nearer to 1/5000 that the one book will maintain that rank, but let’s be idealistic here.
One in one-thousand, one-hundred and thirty. Looking at things idealistically. And bear in mind those odds are growing every moment a new book is published.
This isn’t speculation. It’s raw data. But it’s not all doom and gloom. Unless you’re hoping to get rich quickly through publishing. But I’m not. I’m just steadily putting books out there. Writing drafts, rewriting those drafts, rewriting those rewrites, sending them to some betas, sending them to an editor, sending them to a proofreader, publishing, and repeating. All to the best of my abilities. Not rushing — just spending more time in the writing chair. Funny thing happens when you sit down and write instead of complaining you don’t have the time/effort/energy/motivation/ability to write. Wink face. Sorry if I seem snappy, but this is tough love, and you’ll thank me for it in a year.
In the early days, I prayed for a bestseller. I’m through with praying. Becoming one of the one in one thousand one hundred and thirty is out of all of our control. And sure — you can do all these tours and social media stuff, but even then, I’d say you’re cutting your odds down to one in one thousand or so. Buying two lines per lottery ticket every week.
But the more quality products we publish, the more those odds narrow. The more quality products we have available, the more we learn to stop relying on publishing a breakout bestseller and start focusing on publishing more good quality decent-sellers.
I guess my point here is that I’m kind of through with short-term solutions, and as appealing as Kindle Countdown Deals is, at this stage in my career, it isn’t for me. But credit to Amazon. I love those people a lot. Their platform is great. Their treatment of authors and readers alike is great. I’m not being patronising when I say this — I genuinely have Amazon and KDP Select to thank for my success. But right now, I’m trying something new. Maybe in the future, exclusivity will be for me again. Maybe I’ll dip a toe in the water in a few years or weeks or days. Just not now.
And you can do what you want. You can publish your book. Throw it in KDP Select and run a Kindle Countdown Deal. Experiment and have fun! But instead of thinking in terms of promotion, think in terms of writing. It’s the truth.
And I know, such and such a person told you that you need to promote and promote big on every social network to break out right now. But take a look at those people and see how many books they are selling before you follow their words like scripture. Seriously. I’d be a bit richer now if I’d followed that advice in the first stage of my career.
Once again, Ryan, thanks for the info and for breaking this down. I’ve been still enrolled in KDP and I feel like I’m trying to gain readership through various works still. Would you be willing to give some advice to authors who might just be starting out with this, but haven’t built a readership? I’ve tried Bookbub several times, but I’m not getting lucky enough to find any placement. Freebooksy has generated some downloads, but few sales after the promo ends. Any other Amazon Affiliates you are aware of? Peace to you and best of luck. Thanks again for your blog. Peace.
Hey Brandon — Thanks for the comment. I’d be happy to offer some advice.
Firstly, I’ve checked out your blog and it looks like you’ve got the basics spot on. Your covers are really cool, so that will serve you well in the long run. My main advice would be to keep on writing and only really consider marketing once you have a couple of books in a series, perhaps. If you are hoping to go the BookBub route, it may be worth finding a few people willing to review your book so you can hit the average of 20 reviews that they seem to have.
Freebooksy is okay, but my favourite ad sites are probably KindleBooks&Tips, Bookblast, and EReaderNewsToday. Check those out and see what you think!
Ryan, thanks for taking the time to reply. I appreciate your input and advice, and I will certainly look into these other avenues. Peace to you and the best of luck with your writing! Rock on!
One glitch to note: If your book is in both paperback and Kindle editions and you run a Countdown Deal on Kindle, the discounted price won’t be displayed on your paperback page. There it will still show the full price, so visitors won’t even know about the Deal.
I contacted Kindle about this. They said they’re aware of the problem but haven’t figured out a way to solve it. Kind of an odd failing for a giant that is otherwise known for its superior websites.
Cheers for that, Harwood. Good insight. I’ve yet to use a Countdown Deal as I’m not in Select anymore, so it’s nice to hear from somebody who has used it.
Great post Ryan! Have been thinking exactly the same myself for a long time: the most important thing is to have a good back catalogue of books to sell. Writers write books, not social media posts (or at least, that is their order of priority). This might mean your first book doesn’t take off. It might be your fifth or tenth book that really breaks your name out. But guess what? When it happens, your new readers will have all that back catalogue to mine. Writing is an investment, and all the best investments take time to mature.
(Curious that you and I are both British and both write dark thrillers. Maybe it’s something in our psyche!)
I agree completely, Alan. Great attitude. Keep it going!
Thanks for the insight! As an author with just one book, I’m so anxious to try new things to get my book out there. But I’m 25% through my sequel so I’m trying to redirect my enthusiasm toward my writing new book instead of solely marketing my existing book. It’s all about balance. Book tours can get reviews, and I’ll want reviews on both books before I do a BookBub promotion. And it’s nice to make a little money while I’m wrapping up my sequel. So it’s not like I don’t want to do ANY promotion for my first book, it’s just that I need to focus on that second book (and then a few more books after that!). Throw in there a few blog posts per week and it’s practically a full-time job, just one that pays worse than a part-time job. Anyway, it’s nice to stumble across articles from people who have been there and encourage me to keep doing what I’m doing – being patient and writing, writing, writing! Thanks!
Nothing wrong with promoting the first book as long as the promotion doesn’t eat into the writing time.
Keep on going!