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Mar
16
2013

KDP Select Tips and Lessons Learned

I’ll start by saying that I am by far NOT an expert when it comes to KDP select. But I do want to share my experience. When I started thinking about joining the program for one of my indie books, I google searched a lot to see what tips or tricks I could come up with. And surprisingly, it didn’t seem like there was much out there. Luckily, what was available was extremely helpful! And I’d like to think that my first attempt with KDP select might help others since I know my next attempt will be a more educated one because of the lessons I learned during this first experience.

I enrolled BUNNY HILLS AND BIKINIS into the KDP select program because my sales were stagnant. VERY stagnant. As in, I wasn’t selling more than a copy or two a month anymore… anywhere. So I figured I had nothing to lose by pulling it down from the other sellers and going exclusive with Amazon, a thing I still have my reservations about. What made my decision was when I admitted to myself that I wasn’t making sales anywhere but by going into KDP exclusively, I could guarantee some kind of new exposure. I didn’t know how much, but I knew it had to be better than the exposure my book was currently getting, which was little to none.

And wow, did this book get some exposure!!

How well did it do? On to the details…

In my online research prior to going free, I read that you should put your book free for more than 1 day at a time, and I whole hearted agree. Since I was eager to stimulate some sales and earn some new reviews, I put BUNNY HILLS AND BIKINIS up for free about a week after I joined the program. So I picked 2 days (Wed, Thurs). Some place had said that mid-week was best for free days. Others said it didn’t matter. So I went with Wed, and Thurs because that’s what felt right to me. Then I picked my final 3 free days to be a Wed, Thurs, Fri of the following month. I thought splitting it up would give me a chance to build some recognition, earn some new reviews and gain a little momentum before I did the 3 free days. During the 3 days, I’d hoped that I would be able to get some advertising booked which I didn’t have time for with the first free promotion. So that was the plan. Here’s how it all worked out:

I don’t know how these numbers compare to anyone else’s experience. Maybe they are actually terrible results, but to me, they are mind-blowingly awesome. Dipped in awesomesauce.

Prior to free days, BUNNY HILLS AND BIKINIS was sitting at a rank of 498,735. Yikes. I know. I told you my sales were stagnant. I should have said terrible. But this is why I tried KDP select!

Day 1 free (Wed.): Wow. I was super excited to wake up Wed morning and see that I’d already had 85 free downloads and it was only 8am! By 10am I’d had 240 downloads in the US and the rest of the world downloads were starting to pick up steam. BUNNY HILLS went from my terrible rank in the 400,000s to 4,089!!! I was overjoyed and glued to my KDP reports all day long. I couldn’t believe the numbers coming in.

End of FREE day 1: 2230 downloads in the US and another 168 worldwide! I was thrilled. Thrilled! And my rank at the end of day 1 was #230 in the kindle free store and #7 in free humor.

Day 2 free (Thurs): I woke up to being #98 in the kindle free store!!! #4 in free humor, #28 in free contemporary romance!!! I was beside myself. That day my book continued to be downloaded like it was going out of style. By the end of the day my stats were unbelievable.

End of FREE day 2: 7296 us, 371 UK, 25 de, 21 fr, 7 es, 22 ca      =       7742 total free downloads over 2 days.

Sales ranks: 

#46 kindle free
#1 humor
#14 contemporary romance
#28 romance

Wow. After that, I started selling paid copies. Not as many as free downloads, but way more than I had been previously selling paid. For the first time in a while, I was going to get paid for my self-published title! Now on to my second set of free days the following month. I was really excited for the last 3 free days to come. I had applied for advertising at all of the sites I could find that would list free books. And I hoped that one of the big ones would chose to list my book free on one of my free days.

Well, they didn’t. And my numbers were not as good the second time around either. But this is all part of the experience, right? So here’s what happened:

Prior to 2nd set of free days, BUNNY HILLS AND BIKINIS sales rank: 66,000 and change.

Day 3 free (Wed again) by end of day: as of 10pm downloads were: 546 US and another 36 worldwide. Sales rank was: #504 in kindle free store and #13 in free humor.

Day 4 free (Thurs) by end of day: as of 8:30 pm downloads were: 899 US and another 104 worldwide. Sales rank was: #364 in kindle free, #9 free humor, #93 free contemporary romance. (I hit as low as #64 in free contemporary romance in the middle of the day.)

Day 5 free (Fri) by end of day: as of 9pm downloads were 1128 US, and 155 worldwide. Sales rank was: #498 in kindle free, #12 free humor, and at one point in the day I’d hit #90 in contemporary romance.

Not bad, but not as great as the first time either.

Final numbers free days 3-5:  1171 us, 128 uk, 19 de, 3 fr, 3 es, 6 ca = 1330 downloads total

Total free downloads in 5 days: 9,072

Not bad at all in my opinion. I know there are authors out there who will have better numbers, but considering I didn’t get any big advertising spot (but a few smaller ones) I’m pretty happy with these results.

So here’s what I learned and what I will apply myself the next time I venture into the KDP Select program with another book:

1. Book Free Days together in clumps. Maybe you won’t do all 5 at once, but definitely try to do at least 2 at a time to build momentum.

2. Pick your free days carefully. Beginning of the week, mid-week, end of the week or weekend—whatever you choose to do, you have to be confident in your choice. I read somewhere that mid-week days were better so that’s what I did. Someone else online (can’t remember who) say they thought Sunday was great. Another source (again I can’t remember who) said the beginning of the month was bad because there are too many free books so it’s harder to make a list. Others might think it’s better/worse to go free to coincide with a holiday or long weekend. I don’t know what’s true and what’s not. All I know is that you have to do a little research and then see what feels right to you and your book. Go with your gut.

3. Go with the flow. Be open to changing your plans and possibly using all 5 days during your first scheduled free run. After going through this process, I wish I’d added on my other free days to my first 2 so that I could have ridden the wave of downloads longer. I think I would have moved even higher in the top 100 free list with another day or two added on. But I held off doing that because I really hoped the advertising I’d applied for would come through the following month. Now that I know it didn’t, I wish I could go back and do all 5 days the first time. I also think my numbers the second time were so much lower the second time because all those 1st run downloads had already happened. Many of those 7000+ readers who downloaded my book the first time would have seen it again the second time but would also have no reason to download it again. So unless you’ve found a way to tap into a new market the second time, then perhaps the best time to reach the biggest amount of readers is on your first set of free days. Just a thought. I’m no expert!

4. Plan advertising to coincide with 1st set of free days. This is big. You really have to plan ahead for a lot of the advertising sites that will list free books. Sometimes as much as a month in advance. That’s why I ended up with 2 sets of free days. If you decide to break up your 5 free days into chunks, that’s totally your call and I’m sure you’ll still have some good results. But my advice would be to try and plan your advertising push to coincide with your 1st set of free days instead of your 2nd or 3rd set of free days. If you get a good wave going, you want to be able to maximize it with advertising by adding on another free day or two! Below are a few of the sites I used or tried to use for advertising my free days. I did make it on a few of them the last set, but I can’t tell you if they were helpful for sales or not. I have heard good things about the ones with ** beside them but don’t have the experience of my own to confirm it.

**Pixel of Ink

**Ereader News Today

Free Ebooks Daily

Bargain Ebook Hunter

 World Literary Cafe

The Ereader Cafe

5. Use social media to the fullest. Get ready to tweet, Facebook, pin or any other social media sites you use. You’re going to be online a lot! You want to make sure your followers know that your book is for free. If they haven’t grabbed their copy yet, now will be their chance. And if they have and enjoyed it, they’ll be happy to share the good news with their friends, family and followers too! Make sure to ask for retweets, shares, pins, likes or anything else you can think of. I also used Goodreads to send out an event notice to my friends so they would know the book was going free. You want to try and combine as many different avenues as you can to spread the word about your free book.

Make sure you use hashtags (#) on twitter to put your book into the different search filters. Some of the hashtages I used during my free days are below. Use them appropriately please!

#FREE, #freebie, #Kindle, #kindlebook, #freekindlebook, #kindlefreebie, #FreebieFriday, #Fridayreads, #amazon, #romance

I don’t know if my KDP Select results are typical, above or below average. All I know is that if I compare PAID sales before my free days to after them, I’m making more money from this book after going free. And I’m hopeful that these numbers will also roll over to my other books once my new found readers actually read the copy of BUNNY HILLS AND BIKINIS they picked up for free. Only time will tell.

Feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them. If you have any tips or tricks to share about your KDP Select FREE days experience, I’d LOVE to hear about them in the comments!

 

 

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About the author

Heather

25 comments

  1. Lacey Wolfe says:

    Great tips. I’ve done the KDP select as well. And like you I found my first set of free days were much better than the second set. I even tried one to break it up as (2 free, 2 free later on, then 1 free). I will say, doing only one day free hardly resulted in any sales after. I’ve yet to try 5 free in a row. Perhaps with a future book I will.

    Great post. I bookmarked for reference to the great site you included!

    1. Heather says:

      Hi Lacey, Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience too! It makes total sense that numbers would be better the first time around than the second, but it was hard to realize that before doing it. Hopefully our experiences help future indie authors make more educated decisions!

  2. Debra Moore says:

    What kind of money did you make after the freebies? You said it was more, but approximately how many more copies?

    1. Heather says:

      Hi Debra, I won’t share the exact $$ amount I’ve earned or copies sold as paid. What I will say is that my sales after free were huge compared to before free. Now they’ve leveled out again although I’m still selling more copies consistently than I ever have before, which I think is the most important thing. I’m sure the amount I’ve sold is still small compared to authors who are selling ‘well’ and consistently, but for me the difference before and after was huge.

      1. Debra Moore says:

        Well, I think it’s terrific! Good for you! I didn’t mean you should share your dollars exactly; I was just wondering what kind of increase you saw after the freebies went out. Sounds like you did well! Congrats and here’s wishing many more sales for you!

  3. Cynthia Woolf says:

    Great post. My last two free days are coming up and I’m going to try some of your suggestions. Hopefully they will work. Thanks for the ideas.

    1. Heather says:

      Good luck, Cynthia! I wish you many happy freebie downloads and sales!

  4. Lawna says:

    Great information Heather! I enjoyed the read. I have a free book out right now and it’s amazing to watch the numbers. This is my second time at doing this and I agree it totally helped with sales. Thanks again.

  5. Lorrie Anson says:

    Very information post, Heather. I’ll be referring to this when I go live with my debut novel. Hearing one’s real life, blow by blow experience gives me a a great perspective versus looking at some dry How To instructions. Thanks for sharing and continued success with your book.

  6. authorsofmainstreet says:

    I grabbed a copy of you book and I can’t wait to read it. I have one book left in KDP Select and I’ve had mixed results with the program. Wishing you lots of luck!
    E. Ayers

  7. Christine M. Fairchild says:

    I’m glad you did well, Heather! A few points:
    1) I’d love to know how your BORROWS did, since this had been a changing beast for authors as of late.
    2) Stats show that Friday/Sat/Sun are the worst for promos. Monday/Tues/Wed are best. So looks like you had crossover. I’ve been stuck with late week promos, due to whatever reasons, and knew they were not ideal, but still managed good numbers thanks to lots of promo sites and colleague support 🙂 So like you said, it’s really dependent on your footwork–you can’t expect things to happen on their own with Select.
    3) The big sites now need 6-8 weeks advanced noticed. So what I advise folks now to do is a 2/3-day promo as soon as they enter Select then apply to the biggie sites for the next promo immediately, so you do your final promo near the end of your 90 days. That way you have experience and way more advance notice to get things in order. ALSO, you must have a certain # of high-star reviews for the big sites to accept you. Again, that first promo usually gets that ball rolling by getting you a big batch of readers.
    4) Downloads are higher at the beginning of the month. But like you said, there’s more competition for those ad spots now. So mid month is the next best thing.

    Again, great article and thanks for sharing! You may want to try another 90 days on Select and get on those big sites.

    OR go for an ad with BookBub with your book at 99cents. You will earn your money back for the ad ($380 for romance category) and then some! Also, you can do ENT for a % of sales (it’s super cheap!) But you should wait to be back on B&N, Kobo, Apple. That ad will boost your numbers on those sites. So when you’re ready to leave Select, you have another couple promos you can do 🙂

    Good luck!
    Christine M. Fairchild
    http://EditorDevil.blogspot.com

    1. Heather says:

      Hi Christine! Thanks for adding these great additional tips!! As for borrows, I had 23 after the first set of free days and another 3 so far after the second set. I don’t know if those numbers are good or bad since I’ve never had my book be borrowable before.

  8. deborahjhughes says:

    The first time I went free, I managed to coincide those days with ads in Pixel of Ink, The Kindle Book Review and Digital Book Today…I had 22,000 downloads and made it in the top 5 over all and #1 for the ghost category! Much as I loved the exposure and was thrilled to freakin death, my book did not continue to sell all that well once the promotion was over. I’m averaging about 10 to 15 a day now (with no advertising at all) but considering all the downloads, I have not received that many reviews. The second time I tried it (with my second book), I had about 11,000 downloads total and made it in the top ten overall. But again, sales did not spike up afterwards and I’ve hardly received any reviews. I think the free books are starting to lose some of their edge due to the saturation of the market. My mom reads a LOT and she goes after every free book she can get her hands on that interests her…but even she was complaining how there were just too many to choose from. I’m getting ready to release my fourth book and I will probably try going free with the first book in the series because…as you say, even a few downloads is better than none! Coinciding your free days with advertisements and exposure on different sites will go a long way into taking advantage of those precious free days Best of luck to you!

    1. Heather says:

      Wow, Debroah! 22,000 downloads is amazing! That’s why it’s so important to try and get on the big sites I guess. Next time I’m really hopefully I’ll get on Pixel of Ink. Thanks so much for sharing your stats with us!

  9. Kristina Knight says:

    Great tips, Heather! I haven’t SP’d anything – yet – but I’m making notes …and I hope to dip my toe in those waters soon. 🙂

    1. Heather says:

      Thanks for stopping by, Kristina!

  10. Sandy Loyd says:

    Thanks for the info, Heather. I also had a free day with my latest and my statistics are close to yours, but i did a Romantic Suspense. My sales were pretty good for the first few days afterwards, then they nosedived as did the borrows. I have gotten 4 reviews, which are like gold, and the only reason I did it. I’m hoping I’ll get more reviews. I wasn’t picked up by the big ones either, but I had another book on sale at the time, which I think helped my overall ratings with Amazon.

    I’ve done 3 books so far (upon release). The first one back in September was a huge success. In 2 days I downloaded almost 13000 books, with increased borrows and many sales after it ended. Unfortunately, the next 3 day promo did squat (October) and the sales were no different before the promo as after it with very little borrows. The second book in select earned about 7,000 downloads in 3 days (Nov) but negligible sales – very disappointing. The last 2 day promo was in the toilet and made me want to skip the entire program. I decided to give it one more try (last week) which is my latest. Overall, I’m beginning to think it’s a wasted effort. I’m on the fence about my next release next month. I guess it all depends on how many sales I make in the other 3 books I have that are in the same genre. The good news is they are all doing better since I included links and bonus reads in the freebie.

    1. Heather says:

      Hi Sandy, I was definitely in the program for the reviews too. I’d been sitting at the same number a long and had so much trouble finding a new batch of readers. KDP Select helped me do that and now that reviews are starting to come in, it feels so good!

  11. Diane J. Reed says:

    Wow, thank you so much for sharing these tips, Heather–you’ve given me hope! And it’s so generous of you to let the rest of us benefit from your experience. Very grateful!

    1. Heather says:

      Thank you for coming by, Diane. I’m happy to share my results. When I was looking for information, there were many different blogs that came up. I don’t have a lot of experience, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to share it!

  12. Gemma Juliana says:

    Thanks for this very helpful insight into your results. For someone on the threshold this is timely. I was planning to do the 5 days all in a row but now I see the wisdom of doing 3-2 or 2-3 to get some reviews and hopefully get the second round covered in some of the e-reader blogs. It’s an ever changing landscape, so the more we share, the better chances our efforts will be effective. Best of luck with ongoing sales and promotions!

  13. Frankie Robertson says:

    Using Kindle Select has been the single most effective thing I’ve done to promote my books. I’ve found that running the promo late in the month increases borrows, too, which we also get paid for. 🙂 Even better, when I recently ran a promo for DANGEROUS TALENTS, the sales of FORBIDDEN TALENTS jumped, too.

    I usually run my promotions for three to five days. In the past I’ve let them finish on a Monday, but recently I’ve read that having the free days finish on Friday so you can take advantage of weekend sales is better. I’ll try that next time.

    BTW, I love your cover!

    1. Heather says:

      Thanks for sharing your additional tips, Frankie! I think the next time I do my free days, I’m going to try M-F and see what happens.

  14. Tamara Hunter says:

    Thanks so much for the frank information, Heather. I’m considering this in the future and will definitely apply your tips. Congrats on having such a good run with KDP.

  15. A Writer Inspired says:

    I am so glad you posted this. There isn’t as much info out there about this. The details are fabulous and very helpful. Thank you for sharing this! I will try to do the same when it’s my turn.

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