KDP Select Freebies Revisited, Yes, Again

Free BeeI kinda missed the freebie boat. I hadn’t got to marketing Trucking in English when the KDP Select model changed and the overnight successes weren’t happening any more. I’d not have been one of those anyway, you need a pukka novel for that, but reading what experts such as Martin Crosbie had to say, it seemed as though the era of nice sales spikes might have gone as well. Martin’s article How I run my KDP Select Promotions, concluded that freebies can still help but it’s more of a lottery than it once was.

I decided to try it anyway, not so much for sales but because I was struggling to get the review numbers I needed for some of the bigger marketing sites. I thought maybe people who downloaded a freebie would be more likely to write a review in return. I also had a more existential question to answer. My stuff isn’t obviously interesting to most people until they get stuck in. When you do mad things in case they’re amusing, and then write about them when they are, your titles can feel so niche as to appeal to almost nobody. I knew that once I persuade someone to try one, they love it and buy the other, so maybe if all it took was a click rather than the untrousering of a dollar or few, more people would dip toe in water.

So, I planned my freebie. I opted to run all my five days together, to give the book the best chance of gaining some traction. I used the excellent list of free book promo sites that Martin compiled for IU, giving each site a month’s notice of the full five days, to maximise the chances they’d list my book. I only used free listings, assuming I’d not recoup any outlay. I did not tweet or Facebook it (I’ve spammed my friends enough) but I did list it here on IU.

I took careful notes and learned some things. Here they are.

People will take a chance on something weird if it’s free. Trucking in English was downloaded 4,500 times. This is nothing compared to many other genres but for a book about trucks…I was happy.

Freebies do well internationally. A lot of downloads were from Germany, Italy, India and Japan. I will now reread the excellent guest post Do you have a global marketing strategy? by Birgit Kluger, and do as it says.

Five days is enough time to get an obscure genre into the top 100 free and to the top of relevant categories. By the end of day two, TIE was #1 in Essays and Travelogues (which makes a change from topping the charts in the utterly pointless Professional and Technical>Automotive>Trucks and Vans) and by half way through day four it was #59 in free downloads. Top 50 would have been nice, but I was hoping for top 100 and got there.

Sales spikes still exist, albeit kinda small. I sold 50 or so copies in the rest of November, and 20ish in December, which is up a bit on my usual pathetic dozen-a-month.

People do review freebies. I shot from 7 reviews pre-freebie to 29 afterwards. I now have enough reviews for some of the fussier promo sites, which is great news. However, more reviews has meant more mixed opinions. This is perfectly fair of course, except people don’t necessarily do their due diligence for a freebie. I’m fine with valid criticism but some of the complaints really could have been covered by reading the blurb…and then getting a different book. However, I understand from those wise folk at Indies Unlimited that a wide mix of reviews, top-heavy but including a one-star or few, is actually a good thing for sales. And mine continue to be better PF (post freebie!)

I’ve been targeting the wrong market. Here’s the big thing I learned. I thought I’d written for armchair travellers and that real, live truckers would hate it…but I was surprised by some delighted and glowing reviews from within the trucking community. I will be touring truckstops with posters later in the year as a direct result of this little exercise.

I won’t do another freebie until the next two books are out but the exercise was an excellent tool for information gathering. If you’re not sure of your core readership, or need some more reviews to help you hit the big time, I’d suggest still doing it despite the changes.

Author: Carolyn Steele

Carolyn writes websites, copy and nonsense about emigrating. She also occasionally ambles off to do something daft in case it’s interesting enough to write about. Her latest book grew from the blog Trucking in English, and you can learn more at her blog and her Amazon author page.

17 thoughts on “KDP Select Freebies Revisited, Yes, Again”

  1. We anxiously await the sequel. “Trucking In French”. πŸ™‚ Are you planning on doing a Countdown for it next cycle?
    This is kind of the “new Select decision mind-messer” these days, huh?
    I just did a freebie promo with 15,000 downloads.
    Now… what do I do next? Offer it free again next time? Its already been had for free by anybody who wanted it on all my mailing lists.
    Go Countdown? Offer all those freebie-grabbers the chance to buy one? Why?
    Or get off Select and put it on SmashWords, widen the market?

  2. I enjoy reading the mixed reviews on the Kindle Freebie program. I know some people have had major success using it. I only tried it once, had a bunch of downloads, but not a single review or spike in sales. The longer I’m at this the more I’m convinced we all have to find our personal recipe for success, and the more information we have about all the avenues, the better off we’ll be.

    1. Melinda, I had the same experience. Thousands of downloads, not one sale, and no participants in the lending library. I also got ONE review–a two star that had me scratching my head.

      I’ve had better results with using other marketing tools than Kindle freebie. I’m also convinced that my book marketing path is elsewhere.

  3. Thanks for the honest report, Carolyn. Congrats on a bump (in sales) as well. I love your breakdown. Good luck with your upcoming books.

  4. I love Amazon and that’s the only site I put my books. I’ve read Martin Crosbie’s book several times. I’ve read David Gaughran’s, Let’s Get Visible, several times. Until I did a free promotion my titles were sucking mud. The competition for visibility is fierce. The only way to get visible and stay visible is to promote. Following a free promo in November, December sales topped 900 books. Thus far paid promotions on priced books in January has not moved above 50 books. I paid Bookgoodies $70 to put a 99 cent Christmas Book in their much hyped Christmas book Guide. That promo did not sell a single book. I am trying to sort which sites I buy paid promotion on priced books have the best track record. It behooves us as authors to pay attention to stats. If one buys promo on Book Gorilla, you have to pay a premium for your title to be featured. BG’s Bounce rate is almost 55%. That means viewers are looking at only the first page and moving on. So–if one’s title is buried on page 3, don’t look for sales, because Alexa says BG’s Bounce rate is near 55%–that means its subscribers look at the first page and move on. It cost $150 to have a title featured on the first page! I’m new at indie authorship–but, Boy! The road to sales is bumpy and costly, and I really, really like to keep a little $$$ for Bingo. So. When I have the extra cash, I’ll promote. When I don’t, my books will just have to be happy living in obscurity.

    1. I do wonder if the tips and tricks vary for different genres too, But you’re right, we need to pay attention, especially if we’re dropping hard-earned cash.

    1. So do I, Yvonne. I enrolled my latest book (a self-publishing guide) in Select just to see if I was missing out on anything. Turns out I wasn’t, but now I’m missing out on Smashwords/B&N/Apple, etc., sales.

  5. Congrats, Carolyn! Great to hear the freebie worked for you. I had good luck with free runs for the Pipe Woman Chronicles over the summer but kind of bottomed out this fall, and have gone back to straight KDP and Smashwords. Maybe I should rethink that…

  6. That’s a fantastic result, Carolyn – congratulations. I think doing the 5 days in one hit is a great idea. All too often people have to hear about something a number of times before they decide to give it a go. Five days gives them, and you, that extra bit of time for decision making.

  7. I tried KDP Select and had some success with it, but since I have multiple short stories and novellas in different channels (i.e., Smashwords, Apple, B&N, etc), I’ve found that works best for me in terms of increasing sales for my novels.

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