Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Newbie Does KDP Select, Part Deux

The single most controversial, hotly-debated, praised and reviled issue among Indie authors is whether or not to participate in Amazon's KDP Select program.  For the uninitiated, Amazon allows authors to offer their books for free for up to five days over a 90 day period, in exchange for being the book's exclusive vendor.  In the early days, this promotional strategy proved to be a goldmine for fledgling Indie authors who were just discovering the joys of Amazon's publishing platform.  Successful free day promotions begat boffo sales and Indies rejoiced at having found a bonafide path to bestsellerdom.

Alas, the secret got out and the marketplace was flooded with free books, which meant the novelty wore off.  "Free" began to lose its luster and those who'd once sung KDP Select's praises decried it as a waste of time that did nothing to boost sales of books and urged others to get out of the program while the gettin' was good.

This past December, I executed (if you could call it that) my first KDP Select run with "Live and Let Die."  To be honest, I completely half-assed it.  My book was new and I had no visibility, no reviews or traction of any kind.  I knew I had these five free days to use, so as I was falling asleep on December 24, I decided to make the book free December 26-31.  After scheduling my days, I promptly dove into the wine and Christmas cookies and called it a day.

I didn't have blockbuster numbers – 773 downloads worldwide – but honestly?  I was happy.  This was 773 strangers in possession of my book, which meant 773 potential new readers.  Above all, it was much-needed exposure.   I didn't get the coveted bounce back in sales, but I was okay with that.  Like I said, exposure is exposure.

When I released my second book, "Sweet Little Lies," I determined I needed to be a bit more prudent and actually develop a strategy around my free days.  I know, I know, what a concept.  As a result of my advanced planning,  here are the cumulative results:
- 10,562 total downloads worldwide
- #35 in the free Kindle Store – the entire store

  - Reached #7 in Amazon's Top 100 Paid Crime Bestsellers (it's kind of bananas to see your book sandwiched between James Patterson)
Reached #3 on Amazon's Movers and Shakers list



- The book has continued to appear on Amazon's Top 100 bestselling Crime and Murder lists.

I was thrilled with these results – beyond thrilled.  I'm still carving out a name for myself, so anything I can do to get my books into the hands of readers, I'm in and I'm in big.

The strategy I followed took a lot of planning, but like I said, I'm thrilled with the results.  Here's what I did:

- Once I released "Sweet Little Lies," I provided copies to book bloggers I had relationships with and asked if they'd be willing to provide an honest review whenever they got a chance.  Unlike when I did my free run for "Live and Let Die," this time, I already had a few reviews.  Fortunately, they were positive reviews.

- I scheduled my first two free days about a month after my book was released.  I scheduled two more free days about a month after that and scheduled the final free day on my birthday in early September, which was a Saturday.  Weekends are notoriously slow days for downloads, so I wasn't holding out hope for a bonanza that day.  I should also note there was a glitch on Amazon on my final day, so my book was only free about 15 hours.  Amazon granted me one extra free day as a "make-good," so I had six free days total (ok five and a half, if I'm being technical).

-  As opposed to waiting until the day before, like I did the last time, I submitted my free days to book sites well in advance of my first free run (about a month ahead of time), which meant I gave myself a greater chance of actually being listed.  I utilized Author Marketing Club's free book submission tool and used this list compiled by bestselling author, Cheryl Bradshaw.  Thanks, Cheryl!

- I didn't pay for inclusion on any sites or do any paid advertising at all around my free runs.

- When I did my second two days, I submitted only to the Facebook sites.

- When I did my final free day, I submitted to a handful of the big sites.  By that point, I had a number of positive reviews (a requirement for most of the bigger book sites), so I was able to actually get listed.

- I purposely staggered my free day submissions among the book sites/ Facebook pages/Twitter feeds.  I wanted to rotate my exposure to different audiences.  Plus, some sites will only allow you to submit your free book every 30-60 days, as they want to provide fresh options to their readers.

While a lot of Indie authors are jumping off the KDP Select bandwagon, I'm hanging on for the time being.  I'll be playing it by ear, though, because for all I know, my next free run could tank.

I don't think KDP Select should be used as a long-term sales strategy.  I think it's a great way to launch a new title and gain much needed exposure, which in turn, will translate to readers.  I'm of the belief that you do your five free days then move on.  Once you complete your exclusivity period with Amazon, upload your book to Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, etc. in order to increase your sales and your exposure (Speaking of which, "Sweet Little Lies" will be available on those outlets starting September 18.). 
Of course, the best way to market your current book is to write the next book.   Because after all, THAT's what it's all about.

And on that note, back to writing.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience. Its good to get such a detailed description of different experiences with KDP

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  2. Thanks, Elaine. I hope there are some helpful nuggets here. :)

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  3. I used KDP Select last year and had some success, but ultimately decided wider distribution is best for me. I have short stories with their own covers for free, however. Still, I use them as "bread crumbs" to build a fan base and hopefully, sell more novels. I wish you luck! Check out my blog "50 Reasons Why My Debut Novel Sold 10,000 Copies" for other tips.

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  4. TPC3,
    Sounds like you've found the path that works best for you. Good luck to you as well!

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