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My KDP Select Free Experiment: 3 days free, & the aftermath

Guest Expert: Laura Pepper

As part of the KDP Select Program, where books become available to borrow as part of the Kindle library lending program, authors/publishers can also set the book price for free for up to 5 days out of every 90. This can be 5 consecutive days, or it can be broken up however you wish. (This option is available by going to your KDP bookshelf, checking the title you wish to make free, and then clicking “Actions” on the upper left side.)

I decided to enroll a 10,000 word non-fiction wedding guide into KDP Select and make it free for 3 days over the weekend of January 27th-29th. While some people advocate not going free over a weekend because these are the biggest book selling days, my goal was to have as many downloads as possible and I figured I would have more brides attention from Friday – Sunday.

Before going free, I was selling about 50 copies a month, plus in December I had about 10 borrows in the Kindle lending “library”. The book has been on the market since October 2011, so this was it’s fourth month in the world and I wanted to give it a boost. I have done very little marketing and PR for it, except for a few guest posts on a couple of wedding websites, and it’s not my main book which sells as an eBook for $3.99, and in paperback for $14.95. Therefore I had a very much “nothing to lose” attitude about it.

Originally the book was going to be free for two days, Friday 27th and Saturday 28th. My reasoning was that one day was not enough to build momentum, but three days might be dragging it. So initially I set it for free for two days and here is what happened:

Day One, Friday 27th January.

Woke up at 7am to 350 downloads. I was pleasantly surprised since I had only tweeted and facebooked about it once the previous night. Checked downloads later that day (around 4pm) to find out I was at 700 downloads, ranked No.1 in weddings, and No. 3 in the budgeting category.




Wow, that wasn’t as hard as I was expecting! I was kind of baffled as to where all the downloads came from… until I remembered that weeks before I had submitted the listing to Indie Books List free listings. Thanks Indie Books!

Day Two, Saturday 28th January.

When I checked first thing in the morning, I had surpassed 1000 downloads. I did a quick Google search and realized that among the guide – 51 Ways to Save Money & Still Have a Chic & Fabulous Wedding – had sort of gone viral among money saving websites! There was page after page of google listings on sites like MoneySavingMom, SmartCouponing, HappyMoneySaver and so on.


By the end of the day there were 1500 downloads and it had reached No. 1 in both the wedding and budgeting categories.


In the Kindle Free Rankings, it got down to 147. If I was blase about this experiment before, seeing that ranking somehow lit a fire inside of me and now I desperately wanted to reach the top 100!

Despite initially listing it for 2 days, KDP allows you to change this, so I extended it to a third day to see if I could crack the top 100. Wouldn’t that be a dream? I tweeted and facebooked like crazy. I added a notice on my website about the book being free. I crossed my fingers.

Sunday 29th January

Here’s what happened on day three:


’51 Ways’ remained at the no.1 spot in both wedding and budgeting all day, and the ranking got down to #127 in all free books when I hit around 2539 downloads. At the end of day 3, I had hit 2977 downloads but I couldn’t crack #127. Obviously there is going to be a massive difference between the #100 position and #101 and so on, since once you crack the top 100 your exposure is so much bigger. I was pretty happy with #127 anyhow.

Day 4 (The aftermath)

Here’s the part you really want to hear about, right? :) While it might be all well and good getting downloads during the free days, I think what we all want from KDP Select is a boost in sales following the free days.

On Day 4 the book went back to $0.99 on Amazon. Scarily, the book shot back up the rankings (remember ‘up’ is the wrong way!) to a position far higher than it was in the first place (somewhere in the 200,000s). I later learned that this is normal, and it takes a while for a book to find it’s feet when it returns to the paid rankings, so don’t panic if this happens to you too.

At the end of the day it was back down to #1 in weddings, #7 in budgeting, and had a overall ranking of #5,858 in the Paid Kindle listings.

A great bonus is that there were plenty more “Customers who bought this also bought this” results (16 pages worth!) which is FANTASTIC visibility and one of Amazon’s best internal marketing features.

Here are those sales figures you want:

End of Day 4 (Back to Paid): 23 Sales

End of Day 5: 25 Sales

End of Day 6: 15 Sales & 6 borrows

End of Day 7: 12 sales & 1 borrow – Ranking up to 20,000 again.

Days 8-12: Selling about 6 copies a day, as well as 2 borrows a day. If it stays at this rate this month, I will be selling about 180 copies/ month which is at least three times more than I was before the KDP Select free experiment. If it goes back to pre-experiment in a couple of weeks, then it will be a shame, but I don’t think there was anything lost. Bearing in mind that I have barely done any marketing for this book, those figures aren’t too bad at all.

Practical things to consider:

Where are your sales? Are your sales on B&N, Smashwords, iBooks etc anything worth writing home about? Mine weren’t and I had no problems with taking them off these platforms. If your book sells well on these sites, going exclusive on Amazon’s KDP for 90 days might not be a smart move.

Reviews: Part of the reason I wanted to do the KDP Select free days was so that I could get more reviews. I’m still waiting on the reviews… and I think it’s very possible that people who download free books aren’t actually reading most of them! But if you could do with some more reviews (and frankly, who couldn’t) this is a great way to find them.

Do you have another book at a higher price point? It’s too early to say whether the experiment has had any knock on sales on my main book, but early figures suggest it has. This to me is the biggest advantage of enrolling in KDP Select.

Get your book listed: While social media is great, to really get the word out about your book, consider submitting your listing to one of the following sites.

INDIE BOOKS LIST

WORLD LITERARY CAFE

DIGITAL BOOK TODAY

KINDLE BOARDS –> The Book Bazaar

I’m still baffled as to how all of the money saving websites found out about my free book, but I’m not complaining. One thing I learned from this experiment is that it’s very valuable to get exposure on money saving sites that are not just for books. Too often authors are promoting their books to other authors, as well as hard-core readers. There are a lot of people out there that just pick up a book once in a while and don’t hang out on reader/ author sites. Consider sending a press release or notification to more general money-saving sites (such as MoneySavingMom, HappyMoneySaver etc) ESPECIALLY if your book is non-fiction.

Whether your book is non-fiction or fiction with non-fiction hooks (setting, themes etc) consider sending an announcement to general websites in your niche/ area too. For example if your book is set in small town Texas, or has a character who overcomes an eating disorder, contact sites that deal with these topics and tell them about your book. Your target reader is right there.

And remember! Don’t be a sheep. As I talked about in this post on the 30 Day Books blog, don’t just dive in and try things because everyone else is. As with everything book marketing related, it’s important to have a long term strategy, and the decision of whether to enroll in KDP Select or not should be beneficial to your long term goals.


Laura Pepper Wu is a writer and the co-founder of 30 Day Books: a book studio. She successfully marketed 30 Day GMAT Success to become the number 1 selling GMAT guide on the Amazon kindle, top 10 in print, as well as in the top 3 of all study guides on the Kindle. She blogs about her marketing experiences at 30daybooks.com/blog/. Laura is available for book marketing consultation and advice, and would love to hear from you! laura (at) 30daybooks (dot) com, Twitter – @LauraPepWu

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12 comments on “My KDP Select Free Experiment: 3 days free, & the aftermath

  1. [...] What happened when I went free for 3 days, and more importantly, what happened afterwards? Find out here! [...]

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  2. Lauren Clark says:

    Great posts! Thanks for sharing your findings and recommendations!

    Lauren Clark

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  3. James W. Lewis says:

    Congrats on your success! I plan to include three novellas in the program soon, but my main focus is to see how their sales will affect the sales of my two novels that AREN’T in the program. Can’t wait to see!

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  4. Well, this was certainly a timely post … I did the KDP free promotion thing last weekend … I had 2900 downloads on Northern Cross and 600 downloads on Headwind … now, I too am waiting for some sort of residual bounce … or reviews … or anything.

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  5. Day seven … so far, nada.

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  6. Laura Pep Wu says:

    Keep us updated Christopher!

    Here are some more sites to submit your book for free to. I will keep adding as I find more:

    http://www.pixelofink.com/category/free-kindle-books/

    http://thefrugalereader.wufoo.com/forms/frugal-freebie-submissions/

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  7. It’s now been a couple of weeks and no new sales or reviews … sigh … anyway, thanks for the links.

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  8. Great recap on using your KDP select days. I think using your free days in combo’s of two or three produces much better results than one day here and one day there.

    Don’t just rely on Amazon. Get your marketing machine going before, during, and after the promotion. It will pay $’s.

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  9. Jay says:

    I’m feeling your pain, Christopher!

    I had my book “Mr Something” up for free over Easter. I had 5500 downloads, hitting #54 on the Fiction list, and #1 in Action/Adventure.

    Then afterwards – nothing. No extra sales, no more reviews…a little disappointing.

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  10. Vikram Vikram says:

    Fantastic insight. Thanks Laura! It will be interesting to see what percentage of readers who get the book for free leave reviews.

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  11. Jay, I finally started to notice a bump in sales … about two weeks after the freebee promotion …nothing to get excited about, but an improvement … let me know if you see anything. By the way, stop by my blog: http://essenceofperformance.blogspot.com/

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