Beyond KDP Select

I joined Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select in February, and ran a free promotion. I was one of the lucky ones. It was early, and the magic hadn’t faded yet. Through KDP’s free promotion, I managed to get my book to a whole bunch of readers, over 50,000 of them the first time around. Since then I’ve been trying to re-conjure the same magic with varying degrees of success. In this post I’ll tell you what worked and what didn’t work for me, before and after KDP. These results are based on the fact that I have one book published; authors with a series of books or multiple books have had different results, as reported in Rich Meyer’s excellent post here.

Previous to joining KDP, which is a division of Amazon, I tried several things to get word out about my self-published novel, My Temporary Life. I ran a .99 cent sale and advertised it as a Facebook event, I ran ads on Goodreads as well as Facebook, I promoted on a whole bunch of Facebook readers and writer’s groups, I became a presence on KDP Community Forums, Amazon Author Discussion groups, and Yahoo Groups, I participated in author chats that were intended to draw readers, I hired a small promo company who listed excerpts of my book on various sites, and I advertised on any free online sites I could find, including Craigslist. Yep, Craigslist. I began by advertising on Craigslist sites that were local to me, then I hit the cities where my novel was set, and then I hit other major centres too. It was all free, so all I was investing was my time.

Through all these efforts, I gained several new reviews and my ranking went to about the 80,000 level in overall paid sales. That ranking translates to-not a whole bunch of sales. There were self-published authors out there selling a heck of a lot more books than I was so, I knew I needed to try something different. That’s when I enrolled in KDP Select. KDP’s free promo opportunity was in its infancy and I was able to take full advantage of it. My book went to #1 as a free download, and then, when it went back as a paid sale, I hit the top ten overall, and stayed there for a little while. Things were good, and at that time there was a six week cliff that you hit, and when I hit it, my rankings dropped to the 20,000 level and stalled there. This was still significantly better than where I’d been previously, but once you have a taste of those high rankings all you want to do is get back up there.

In addition to having climbed high on Amazon’s lists, I also hit some independent best-seller lists, and began getting media attention from newspapers and magazines. I was mentioned in Forbes Online, Publisher’s Weekly, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Amazon even talked about me in a press release as one of their top Indie authors from the previous month. I thought this would help me find new readers and move me up the rankings again. Nopers, I had occasional sales spikes upwards but other than that not much changed.

I ran the Free promo with KDP again several other times. Each time I surged upwards in the rankings and, then started the same cycle again of selling some books at the regular price before hitting the six week cliff. Each promo helped me reach new readers, and was easily the most effective advertising I’ve done, but I never did reach the heights I reached with my first promotion. In fact after the last one I ran two months ago, the six week cliff, where your book sells fairly consistently before dropping off, became a three week cliff, and my rankings dropped to the 40,000 level instead of the 20,000 mark. Again, I knew I had to try something else.

The key with KDP’s free promo is to be listed on at least one of the two major sites that announce free books- and I’ve been lucky; both sites have been very good to me in terms of announcing my promotions. Recently came up with a sponsorship opportunity. This is how it works-they feature four books each day at a discounted price of .99 cents. I’m not sure how many subscribers they have, but their reach is phenomenal. I did it. My Temporary Life was one of their four featured books on Oct. 10th. In my next post I’ll tell you my experience with ENT’s Bargain Kindle Books promotion, what it costs, and how it worked out for me (and is still working).

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the administrator of and writer of seven published novels. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. You can learn more about Martin on his Amazon author page.

26 thoughts on “Beyond KDP Select”

  1. Interesting info here, Martin. I am curious to know what you said in your ad on Craig’s List and under what category you put it?

    Thank you for sharing your insights much continued success to you…well to all of us.

    1. Hi Jacqueline, and yes, continued success to all of us for sure.
      I posted under “books” on Craigslist. Quite honestly though I don’t know how well it really worked. I’ve never had a reader tell me they found my book through Craigslist. That’s where it becomes really difficult to know what works and what doesn’t.
      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Good post, Martin. Yes, I think the power of the freebie-days are on their way out. I just read a post on Kindleboards that Amazon is getting tougher with free sites, as they end up paying a price to ship each free download. There was talk about KDP Select and what that meant for promotional days, but no one seemed to have a definitive answer. Here’s the link: http://www.kindlebo index.php? topic=131573. msg1941742# msg1941742

    1. It’s been an interesting process, hasn’t it, DV, and I can’t believe how quickly things can change in the space of a few months.
      After my book hit #1 on the free list I reached the top ten in paid. A friend of mine got to #1 in free a few weeks ago yet when her book went back to paid she barely broke into the top 100. There are other factors of course but it’s certainly tougher now than it was earlier in the year to have that momentum carry you to the top of the paid list.
      Thanks for the link and your comments.

  3. Thank you for such an interesting post. I look forward to your next posting. My book just came off the two days of freebies with KDP, which I found to be interesting and rewarding, but will now have to wait and see the true outcome of all those freebies.

    1. I hope the best for you, Donna, and now is the time to tweet and promote the heck out of your book as I’m sure you know.
      In my follow up post I’ll tell you about my ENT promo which worked fairly well too.
      Thanks very much for commenting.

    1. Um, total commitment including formatting (nope, didn’t do it myself), editting (twice), cover (free through Createspace), and advertising was right around $1,500.
      And, Jen, I’ve been very blessed that I’ve more than recovered that amount over and over again. For me it was a totally worthwhile investment.

  4. Martin, once again many thanks for sharing your experiences and for being so transparent with both your successes and failures. I know the results are very different for those of us with only one published novel as compared to those with several books to their names, so I find your experience to be particular relevant to me.

    I had disappointing numbers with KDP, with each time resulting in far fewer downloads than the previous time had produced. However, Wattpad invited me to be one of their featured authors and in 6 weeks,”Quintspinner” has had 176,000 free reads there, with many requests for the next book in the series, so, for me it was a much more effective way to introduce my novel to readers than KDP ever was. (Now I just have to get Book Two in the series published – hopefully this month!) Nevertheless, things change so darn fast in the world of book publishing now, that it’s hard to keep up with the next best way to promote.

    I am constantly amazed and motivated by your determination. Keep up the great work and best wishes for continued success!

  5. Dianne, those are phenomenal numbers, congratulations. That kind of motivation totally must have got you working on book 2. Remember to hit the bestseller list in Canada you only need to sell 5,000 (print) books. I fully expect to see you there in the near future.
    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Great post, Martin! I’ve had varying degrees of success with KDP Select promotions. I hadn’t heard of the two sites you suggested to post promotions, so I’m going to try to get my book on them for my free promotion this weekend. Thanks!

  7. Thanks for the post, Martin. When I did my free run back in May of this year, things had already begun to cool down. I had 17,000 downloads but they weren’t counted as 17,000 sales (which would have been the case just a few months ago), so my ROI wasn’t as good as yours.

    On a different note – even after I pulled my book from KDP Select, the numbers (sales + borrows) remain unchanged.

    I’m still thinking my strategy with my next book.

    BTW, when I looked up your book, I realized I already owned it, but hadn’t gotten around to reading it. That’s one reason, I suspect, we aren’t getting the number of reviews we hope to get – just too many freebies. In my case, I think I might have got like 2 reviews from 17,000 free downloads.

    Your book’s up next, not that I’ll be able to post a review, if Amazon continues to prevent authors from reviewing other authors. Which doesn’t make sense if you ask me – I was a reader long before I was a writer.

    1. Thanks for your input, and 17,000 downloads is very impressive. That’s a lot of potential readers.
      You’re absolutely correct about the overwhelming number of free books available. I’m currently on holiday and on a reading spree trying to catch up on the books I’ve downloaded but I’m afraid I never will, I’ve accumulated a ton of books on my kindle.
      So, having said that, thanks very much for taking the time to read mine, I really appreciate it.
      And, like you, I’d like to review some of the books I’m currently reading but with Amazon’s current restrictions I don’t think there’s any point in posting a review just to have them delete it.
      Good luck with your strategizing, I hope you manage to find lots of new readers.

  8. Excellent post, Martin, and thank you for your generosity. I don’t know how that old aphorism about the tight Scots originated (I actually suspect that it was an Englishman who coined it) but I’ve travelled the world and I have always found my fellow countrymen to be the most generous of souls.

    1. I agree with you T.D. and it’s up to you and I to change the world’s view of the frugal Scotsman (as long as it doesn’t cost any money to do it).
      Thanks for weighing in, appreciate it.

  9. Great info! I’m going to try Select with the re-release of my first novel. ENT ran a promo for my free sci-fi novella and I got well over 1,000 downloads in a day rom that. Granted I do have a pretty fair back catalog, so I hope this will work out for me. Heavens knows being a farmer isn’t paying the bills!

    1. Select is still “selectively” working. I had a response on my Facebook page when I posted this article from an author who did well with it recently and I know of a couple of other cases also. So, it’s not over by any means. I fully intend to utilize it when I publish my new book next month.
      The obvious things are still important of course-a good book, a professional approach, and smart networking, but there are always the intangibles too. How many other quality books are offered during your free run? What else is going on in the world during your promo? And, whether the stars are all in alignment? Oh, and don’t forget your tinfoil hat also. It’s very important to be wearing that during your promotion. Without it, there’s not much point is there?
      Thanks for your comment, Kathy, and good luck with your re-release, and congrats on your ENT numbers, those are far stronger than I managed.

  10. Thanks for your post, Martin. I did Select with the first book of my series, then pulled it so I could put it on other platforms. I never did enroll the second book in Select. Now book 3 is coming out in early December, and I’m debating whether to publish books 1 & 2 in an omnibus edition and leave it up on KDP Select indefinitely….

    1. Thanks Lynne. It’s really difficult to know, isn’t it. And, it’s even more difficult to know what’s going to happen in the next three months while your book is enrolled in KDP. It’s going to be an interesting Christmas selling season in Amazon Land, methinks.
      It sounds like there’s going to be a lot of us releasing books in December, good luck with yours.

  11. When I entered my second book into KDP Select, I also enrolled my first book in the series (which, until then, hadn’t been an ebook). This was in May and, admittedly, the excitement of KDP Select must have already began to wane. My promo days did not go as well as I’d hoped (only approximately 10k downloads between both books). But I can say that my sales bumped considerably after the promotional. So it did win out a little.

    I did not, however, choose to re-up for Select when the initial three months was up. I had had too many people ask for the ebook through other sources like BnN and Smashwords to keep the exclusivity in play.

    I’m always searching for new ways to promote, do giveaways, and reach new readers. It seems there is always a great site for promo that I haven’t heard about yet. I’m beginning to start paying my little niece and nephew to be my online “gophers” and find me information about marketing! lol From this article and the comments left, I’ve learned of three potential new avenues for promotion, so THANK YOU!

    All the best and BREAK A PEN!
    BC Brown ~ Paranormal, Mystery, Romance, Fantasy
    “Because Weird is Good.”

    1. Thanks BC, and that’s a great idea having your niece and nephew searching for you. In my next article I’ll share the results from the ENT promo that I did last month. It’s become a really viable option.

  12. Martin, although I’m still working my first book, I continue to follow your progress and appreciate so much how you are a “poster child” for paying it forward. I echo many of the other comments that I’m learning so much from you for when its my turn. Thanks for all you’re doing!

    1. Thank you, Karen, I’m having lots of fun. The upcoming article talks about my experience with ENT’s Bargain promo, hopefully it will be of some help to you also.
      Appreciate you taking the time to comment, thank you!

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