Three months ago I enrolled my first novel ‘Carved in Stone’ in the Kindle Select programme. I only did this because it was one of only two ways to give your book away from free on amazon. If you want your book to be permanently free you can either sell it for free elsewhere making Amazon match the price when they find out or you can enrol it in KDP Select. Kindle Select offers you 5 free days throughout the 90 day sign up period and I decided to go with that as there were other features that I thought might conjure sales.
Being a researcher, and being entirely new to this, I first went to Google to find out what other authors had done. There were many stories to find, although often the experiments that other authors had done were on a previously published book that had not seen strong sales in a while. Most of these books had been traditionally published initially and therefore already had their place in the market. I read through many articles however and saw that many of these writers had not only seen significant downloads of their free book, but had seen increased sales after the free event and increased sales in their other titles during the free period. It seemed that by giving a lot of books away it boosted your books ranking on Amazon after the promotion making it more visible to buyers. It all sounded good.
The other thing I needed to know was when to put on my free days. Amazon gives you free rein to decide upon this yourself, although they ask that a free period does not occur on the last day that you book is enrolled in KDP Select. My 5 free days could be taken whenever I wanted and could be all at once in a five day block or separated as I saw fit. Looking at the success that other authors had had, I decided to split the days into three individual promotion days and one two day final promotion at the end.
I then needed to know which days were best suited to getting the most downloads. After all, I was doing this for recognition and perhaps reviews. The general information I found was that weekends gave the most downloads but that sales didn’t pick up afterwards and that of the days of the week it was advisable to avoid Tuesday and Friday as there are so many books put up for free on those days and my little title would be but one tiny fish in a very large pond.
I finally settled on Saturday 12 September, Monday 12 October, Sunday 25 October and Wednesday and Thursday the 11-12 November.
Setting up the free days on my Amazon admin page was easy as there is a guide to follow and plenty of advice on the internet. Once booked, days can be changed as long as the free period is not a few hours away.
Now, I know that by offering a book for free I wasn’t necessarily going to get any takers. After all, how would people even know that Carved in Stone was available for free on those specific days. So again I turned to the internet. There and over a hundred sites that will promote your free book via any combination of website feature, email, Twitter or Facebook. Most of these are free, although they are massively oversubscribed and you stand only a small chance of being featured unless you pay a fee. Others charge fees from $1 to $200. I decided that I would market the book differently on each of the days I had chosen and see what worked for me.
Saturday 12 September
The book was added to Ask David, and Snickslist ($1) but I didn’t find it on any of the other sites I asked. On the day, I sent out Facebook and Twitter posts and had friends share and like my posts.
By the end of the day I only had 93 downloads-not what I had read from other authors.
Monday 12 October
Listed on Snickslist and Ebookasaurus with Facebook and Twitter posts again, I only achieved 34 downloads-Hmm this was the point that I felt like packing it all in. I mean if you can’t even give it away what’s the point? But it got worse.
Sunday 25 October
On Snickslist again and Ask David, I thought I would see downloads in the hundreds as I was back to a weekend day, but instead I only saw 21! I mean REALLY!
Wednesday and Thursday 11-12 November
On this one I decided to pay to advertise-not much ($11), but it was my last chance to get the readers I wanted so I paid for listings on Snickslist, EreaderUtopia and Free and Discounted Books on the first day of the promotion. It was also listed on Ebookasaurus, but I didn’t see it on the other sites I listed it. After sending out Twitter and Facebook posts again I achieved the grand total of … wait for it-79 downloads!!
The long and the short of it
During the time that my book has been enrolled in KDP Select I have seen no improvement in sales at all and only 3 people have downloaded my book in the Kindle Lending Library. Of those that did get ‘Carved in Stone’ for free, I know of some who have gone on to buy book two, but they probably would have done this anyway. As for reviews, well I gained 1 that I wouldn’t otherwise have got and that’s it.
I entered the book into this program as an experiment and I have my results. From what I can see, the current KDP select system is not worth using. Having your novel tied into Amazon only for 90 days is far too limiting and there don’t appear to be any benefits to the program at all.
So what’s next?
Well ‘Carved in Stone’ will be released from the program this week and I am going to do what I set out to before I got side tracked by KDP Select. I am going to market the book myself and bear in mind that it is one of a trilogy and that I am an unknown author. I would rather people read the first book for free and then buy the next two if they like it than stick out for pitiful sales of a book that no-one knows about. I have good reviews but not enough of them and I don’t think my cover states obviously enough what the book is about. I’m going to change the cover, pay for some advertising, put the book up on Nook and get more reviews. Watch this space to see how!