J-Willy’s KDP Select Experiment – 1st Two-Day Promotion Report (March)

Well, after reading countless blogs from authors about their experiences with KDP Select—some wildly successful, others not so much—I took the plunge and enrolled my ebook Slow Your Prose: 25 Tips On How New Authors Can Improve Their Craft in late February. And man, let me tell you…

Wait, I don’t want to assume you know what “KDP Select” is. Call it another innovative promotional tactic in Amazon’s arsenal. If enrolled in the program, Amazon has exclusive rights to your ebook for 90 days, meaning you can’t sell the ebook anywhere, including your own website. That also means you have to disenroll your book from other distribution channels, such as Smashwords and its affiliates.

Now, this may seem kinda jacked up—like Amazon is on some type of Doctor Evil monopoly rampage—but it’s not as bad as you think. For one, most authors sell the majority of their books on Amazon, anyway. Also, Amazon Prime members can borrow the ebook for free; however, a “borrow” is another way to gain profit because authors get paid for each borrow from a monthly pool of KDP Select money (for March it’s $600,000).

Probably the most powerful feature of the program is you get 5 days where you can “sell” the book for free. Authors can set a free day anytime they want during that 90-day period. We all love “free,” but I’m going to show you how “free” turned into “paid” for this particular ebook.

BTW, for more information on KDP Select, click here:  Also, learn more about other KDP Select authors from the KDP Select News.

I enrolled in KDP Select for several reasons:

–       I wanted to see how a non-fiction ebook would do

–       I wanted to improve my Amazon ranking

–       I wanted more reviews

–       I wanted to resuscitate marketing for Slow Your Prose

–       I wanted to publish my backlist of short stories

–       I wanted to satisfy my curiosity

Of course, the number one reason was to improve sales. Slow Your Prose has been on Amazon since September 2011, but I had only sold around 10 copies (and that’s including the other distribution channels). I admit, I hadn’t promoted the ebook that much at all—nowhere near what I did for Sellout and A Hard Man is Good to Find—other than sending out a few PDF copies for reviews. As a result, the Amazon ranking dropped to its lowest at 475,195 on March 6th. That basically means the book wasn’t selling #$Q@!

By that time, the ebook had been in KDP Select for a little over two weeks (since Feb 20th). I also bought a one-month ad on Absolute Write to help increase sales, but had set the free days for March 14th and 15th. To break it down, here’s a quick time line and results:

2/20 – Enrolled Slow Your Prose in KDP Select

2/22 – Bought a $10 ad for a Free Book Showcase on World Literary Cafe (for 3/15)

2/22 – Scheduled promotion on Pixel of Ink (Free)

2/22 – Scheduled promotion on Indie Books List (Free)

2/29 – End of Feb. Hadn’t sold 1 book in Feb or Jan

3/5 – Bought an ad on Absolute Write for one month

3/6 – Lowest ranking on Amazon at 475,175

3/6 – Scheduled promotion on Ereader News Today

3/6 – Scheduled promotion on Free Book Hub

3/7 – Received my first sale in over two months (I suspect via Absolute Write)

3/14 – Free Day Promotion began. Announced on Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo Groups and Kindleboards. The book also showed up on sites mentioned earlier. Got 1 more 5-star review. Approx 3,500 downloads

Note: The book somehow ended up on other sites that I hadn’t scheduled. I think there’s some type of free-book website algorithm or something. It also showed up in Twitter feeds. That’s more visibility, so I wasn’t complaining.  🙂

3/15 – Free Day Ended. Got 1 more 5-star review. Total: 5994 downloads. The breakdown (including other countries):

US: 5961 Borrows:  3

UK:  30 Borrows: 1

Germany: 2 Borrows: 0

France: 1 Borrows: 0

3/16 – Went back to “Paid” status

Nearly 6000 downloads and 4 borrows. Crazy! Also, Slow Your Prose was #1 in two categories (Writing & Authorship) during the two-day promotion. For the entire Free Kindle Store, it peaked as high as 51.

Wow.  Not bad at all. 🙂

Now, I know you’re wondering what happened when the book went back to Paid status right? Well, luckily I still had the Absolute Write ad up and three new reviews (total average rating 4.9). The momentum has been moving along nicely, I must say. Since it went back to Paid status, the book has been hovering between 9000 and 13000 in total Amazon ranking (remember, it was once at 475,175). As far as the genre categories, it’s ranked #3 in Authorship and #14 in Writing (as of this writing). So far, I’ve sold 70 copies this month—70 times more than February and January combined because I hadn’t sold any at all in those two months (total copies sold doesn’t include the borrows). Even though 70 isn’t a large amount, it’s still pretty significant in comparison to the previous months. And March ain’t over yet.

One thing I didn’t expect was the increase in books under Amazon’s Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought pages. Prior to the promotion, if you had clicked on Slow Your Prose, you would’ve seen one book. No, not one page of books, one freakin’ book. Pretty sad when you typically see four books per page. Now? 25 pages of books! I think that gives Slow Your Prose more visibility—which is what we want, right?

So would I say KDP Select was a success? Simply put: Hell-to-the-yeah! Of course, the true test is maintaining the momentum long after the free-day promotions, and I hope to keep it going. Now, will it work for you? Can’t say. If mulling over whether or not to enroll your book, I guess the first thing to ask yourself is am I really selling that many copies on other sites, anyway?

Next up to bat (April 2012)

Now, mark your calendar: The next promotion starts April 11th. By then, I also plan to have my new ebook Premature Eradication in the KDP Select rotation, my first novel in the program. At least one of P.E.’s free days will be the same as Slow Your Prose—meaning you can get two of my books for free at the same time! How ya like that?

This next time around, here’s what I really want to see:

–       If I can top the number of free and paid downloads from March (aiming for 7,000 free and 200 paid!)

–       If stacking promotions for both books will send free and paid downloads through the roof

–       If downloads of Premature Eradication will improve sells for my other novels

–       If I can get a high Paid ranking for Premature Eradication after the promotion ends

–       If I can keep this party rollin’!

Check back the week of April 16th for J-Willy’s 2nd KDP Select report. I may even have my third book in rotation by then, a sexy novella entitled What Plays in Vegas. It should be interesting! Can’t wait to see…

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7 Responses to J-Willy’s KDP Select Experiment – 1st Two-Day Promotion Report (March)

  1. Chanta Rand says:

    James, this is awesome! Congratulations on your success with the program. I am a firm believer in KDP select. Like you, I thought it might increase my number of reviews, my ranking, and most importantly, my sales.

    I used it with my book TOO HOT TO HANDLE, which I self-published on December 11th. I did my free promo days on 12/17, 12/24 and 12/25 (figuring to capitalize on the holidays and all the folks who may have received Kindles for Christmas). I didn’t do as well as SLOW YOUR PROSE. But I had 1,445 downloads during those three days. It also catapulted my book in the ratings and it garnered great reviews too. Since then, it has been doing quite an impressive job. It’s sold over 1,355 paid copies since January of this year. And it’s had 157 borrows.

    I do fear that Amazon is slowly becoming a monopoly with KDP Select, especially since you can’t publish your book anywhere else during those 90 days. But what’s an author to do? It’s like you said: many of us sell most of our books through Amazon anyway. That’s the first place people go to look for a book – especially with the steady erosion of brick and mortar book stores.

    So, I decided to do KDP Select only for the 90 days and then at the end of that period, I added my book to Smashwords and other affiliates. In my case, by the time the 90 days were up (March 9th), I already had my next book (YOU’VE GOT MALE!) ready for publication on KDP Select. This way, I’ll always have at least one book in the KDP Select program, and basically, I’ll let Amazon promote for me.

    I KNOW Amazon pushes and promotes the KDP Select books over other books. I’ve seen the results. Frankly, it’s in their best interest to do so. If one author has a positive experience, he/she will tell someone and so on an so on. The better their authors do and the more authors that reach the Millionaire Club, the better business gets for them. One day, they could become too big and powerful, but right now, I ain’t mad at ’em.

    Also, I know I’m getting off subject here, but Amazon’s platform is a whole heckuva lot easier to use than Smashwords. The conversion on SW takes too dang long. That’s time I could be spending writing! In the meantime, I wish you the best of luck with your writing, your publishing business, and your KDP experiment. Take care!

    Chanta Jefferson Rand

  2. P. Elaine says:

    James, I want to thank you for the wonderful and insightful way you broke down your succes on KDP. I have been thinking how to get my book sales going again. Time to get them off my self imposed hiatus and get my writing back on track. I have been puzzled by the different emails flying around the group, regarding how to publish in ebook form and the different avenues available and you answered most of my questions in your write up here.

    So Thank You again.

    P. Elaine Archie

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this information. I was wondering how it would work for a nonfiction book.

  4. Thanks, James, for this insight on your experiences with KDP Select. It seems to have worked well for you. I am currently working on my next work, which I will release only in e-book and enroll in KDP. Like Ms. Rand,I intend to always have at least one work in KDP at all times. Your results helped me make that decision.


  5. Kimberly says:

    Thanks for sharing your results James!

  6. Steven Lewis says:

    Hi James,

    Thanks for your comment on my blog. KDP Select has certainly turned out to be better than I expected, although I still don’t like the “loan” metaphor for ebooks.

    In terms of slowing your prose, I don’t know if you saw but the Taleist Self-Publishing Survey has turned up that the highest-earning self-publishers take more time over each word — http://blog.taleist.com/landing/taleist-self-publishing-survey/.

  7. Yamilu says:

    Theresa, my book CHOSEN was right behind Abducted on the free list. Now I see why I never moved to your #1 spot– I *only* had 34,000 free dwnoloads. ;)I got a lot of flack from people when I decided to make CHOSEN free. It had done well in December (I think our books hung out together in the romantic suspense list then too) but had slipped quite a bit in rankings. I figured what could it hurt to put it for free for two day? I’d lose two days worth of sales, (about 200 books) but hopefully make up for it selling more of the second book in the series.About 10,000 BUYS later of CHOSEN and a 400% increase in sales for the sequel. I’d say my “calculated risk” as I called it, paid off quite well. Thanks for sharing your numbers!

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