Where Readers & Writers Connect
If you’re an author with one or more books in the Kindle Store, you’ve undoubtedly heard of KDP Select. And, if you’re like me, you had more questions than answers about the program. Today’s post is dedicated to sharing what I’ve learned about KDP Select and the promotional opportunities built into it. In a subsequent post, we’ll examine the results of my recent eBook promotion via Amazon’s KDP Select Free Days.
Amazon Prime members get free shipping for an annual fee. KDP Select moves an eBook into a Digital Lending Library where Prime members can borrow eBooks at no cost, thus making membership in Amazon’s Prime program more attractive.
In order to enroll a book in KDP Select, the author/publisher must give Amazon exclusive digital distribution rights for a series of self-renewing 90-day periods. This exclusivity, by the way, applies only to the digital edition. Print copies of your books will still be available everywhere.
To get this catalog of borrowable books, Amazon pays a royalty each time an eBook is borrowed. The payment is volume-driven (Your Borrows/Total Borrows X $600,000). Monthly payments have ranged from $1.60 to $2.18. They further sweetened the pot by providing up to five promotional free days each 90-day period. About now you’re thinking, “Wait a minute, I thought my goal was to sell books, not give them away.” It is, but tests prove that giving away free eBooks generates word of mouth, resulting in sales and borrows.
At first I shied away from the program, viewing it as a thinly disguised attempt by Amazon to reassert its monopoly on eBooks. Their first attempt was the Kindle, which worked well until Sony, Apple, B&N and others introduced reading devices. I also resisted because I didn’t want to forego sales on these other platforms. An in-depth analysis of my sales reports changed my mind. I write in three genres, Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction and Christian Nonfiction. For reasons I don’t claim to understand, my Christian books sell equally well across all platforms, but Amazon is far and away the best market for my two contemporary novels, Promises and Lost. Armed with this insight, I moved them both into KDP Select. After all, what’d I have to lose?
When you enroll one or more Ebooks in KDP Select, the first thing you have to do is unpublish them everywhere else. I used this as an opportunity to re-edited Promises. It’d been on the market going on three years and I wanted to tighten and tone the content. Next, we re-formatted both digital manuscripts. I wanted the books to be as error-free as possible. And, since Claudia Monet, the MC in Promises, appears in ten chapters of Lost, we inserted a book promo and sample chapter of the other book in both of them. I hoped that by stimulating interest in Promises, I’d encourage the reader to buy Lost…and vice-versa. We also include a link to all of my Kindle books in every eBook…if you haven’t done this, you should.
Maybe you can’t tell a book by its cover, but a good cover sells books. Since you’ll be uploading new files anyway, this is the time to critically examine your cover art. Don’t make a change in the eBook without also changing the print edition; the covers should match. You may also want to revisit your pricing strategy. The eBook market follows the high volume-low margin model. Prices are trending lower and, according to a recent study, 40% of Kindle eBooks list for $4.99 or less.
While redoing things, visit your genre classifications too and fine-tune your choices. It’s important to choose categories which accurately reflect the content of your book. This is, after all, the search criteria most people will use to find you. Clearly, you can’t help yourself by lying. Tagging a cozy mystery a crime thriller, or a sweet romance erotica may generate additional uploads, but it won’t satisfy readers.
When doing research on how others utilized their Free Days, I found out that a successful promotion yielded what marketers call a tail. In other words, the buzz generated by putting all these free copies into circulation creates ongoing word of mouth that (hopefully) moves your book into an extended string of sales. Keep in mind that the numbers from earlier campaigns may be skewed. An enormous number of people received a Kindle for Christmas. Along with them Amazon offered a 30-day free trial in Amazon Prime. So, if you happened to be lucky enough to schedule your free days in the early part of the year, you no doubt got a boost in borrowing from the trial memberships and additional downloads from people wanting to load up their new Kindle.
Now it’s time to lock in some days. The first piece of advice I got was promote early in the week because Friday and the Weekend are prime selling days. I did a two-day promo on Wednesday and Thursday. Had I done three days, I would’ve added Tuesday not Friday. Another suggested you book your days individually rather than as a block. That way, if the promo opens on a Tuesday and belly flops, you can easily cancel the other days. This also allows you to instantly make a two-day campaign a three-day campaign if things are going good.
Booking individual days is a good idea, but when we study my graph you’ll notice Promises started slow and gradually built momentum. Why? Did a competing book hold it back at first? Does it take time for readers to become aware of your title? Was it influenced by the timing of tweets and posts? The moral here is don’t be too quick to pull the plug. My experience seems to say that once you earn a high ranking, the momentum is somewhat self-sustaining. You’re king of the hill and it’s up to someone else to knock you off, or wait until your campaign ends.
As the time for your free days rolls around, you want to try to gin up as much publicity as possible. Make posts on your Facebook page, utilize Twitter, Linked-In, etc. There are also websites specifically dedicated to free Kindle Books. (I’ll include a link list with the second post.)
You can, and should, ask your friends to help spread the word. Remember, success is seldom a solitary effort. Friends, good friends, whom you may have never met and probably never will meet face-to-face, can provide immeasurable assistance by taking time to share your Face Book posts and spreading the word via their blogs, tweets, etc. As tiny ants in a world of publishing giants, it behooves us all to extend a helping hand whenever we can.
Next time, we’ll examine the results of all this work.
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A former newspaper editor and publisher, E. G. Lewis’ articles have appeared in regional and national magazines. He is also the author of nine books. His latest, Martyr, Book Four in his Seeds of Christianity™ Series, was released in February of this year. He lives on the Southern Oregon Coast with his wife, Gail, also a writer. His book, LOST, will be Free for the Kindle, beginning Sunday, May 20th. through Wednesday May 23rd.