Why Amazon’s KDP Select Is God’s Gift to Authors

Last week I shared my results from direct marketing to Kindle readers through advertising and KDP Select.

I came down against the program overall based on my experience, but in today’s guest post, Jeff Bennington shows us the opposite point of view and shares some brilliant results.

We are all experimenting in this new world of publishing. There are no rules and what works for one book, won’t work for another, so it’s important to listen to all sides before trying something yourself.

It’s no secret that Amazon’s KDP Select offers free promotion to authors who enlist in the program. But what many authors don’t realize is how effective this promotion can be.

Some of you may not agree with Amazon’s monopolistic tactics, and that’s okay. Some of you, however, have jumped in with both feet. As an independent author, I’m in favor of KDP Select. My first promotion brought me into Amazon’s Top 100 (#55 Paid) and completely transformed the sales of all my books.

Before I signed on with KDP Select, I was selling 97 percent of my titles in the Kindle Store, so the switch was a no-brainer. I had been working on a few marketing strategies, and quickly I recognized that KDP was the spark I needed to start a fire.

Now that I’ve had a chance to play with this program, I think KDP Select is the best marketing opportunity for authors, hands down. Here’s why:

The KDP Select program doesn’t care if you’re traditionally published or self-published.

Enrolling your book gives you a chance to show the world what you can do, no prejudices, no preconceived notions. This is American Idol for writers at its best. You place your book on the stage, and if the cover is great and you’ve earned a few quality reviews, you’ll move to the next level of judging. There isn’t really a system of pass or fail, but if readers find your book attractive, it’ll sell in the Free Store. And I’m not talking about hundreds of readers—I’m talking about thousands, maybe tens of thousands. Where else can you jump-start the promotion of your book like that?

It takes a lot of gears to move a book up Amazon’s ranking system.

Gears can be anything such as great reviews, multiple titles by the same author, a strong author platform, previous bestseller, number of copies sold, etc. All of these gears can influence a book’s rate of acceleration through Amazon’s ranking system. The more gears you have, the higher you are likely to climb. Unattractive covers, poor reviews, and badly written book samples can throw a wrench in the cogs.

The good news is, KDP Select can add gears to a book—again, as long as it is attractive at first glance. This, among other reasons, is why I strongly encourage authors to pay for a quality cover. Your cover is your first impression. Get it right.

NOTE: After your free promotion is over, your book will now appear on hundreds, if not thousands, of book pages, thanks to Amazon’s “Customers who bought this, also bought …” element of their sales pages. This translates into thousands of tiny billboards that you didn’t have before your KDP promotion.

Layered marketing can enhance your KDP experience.

In the past, it took weeks before a book was listed as free. Now, if you plan properly, you can schedule up to a five-day promotion that has the potential to spin your book straight to the top. Believe it or not, this promotion can build enough momentum for your book to move up the ranks when it hits the paid store. This is possible because of the quick turnaround from free to paid. Amber Scott, from The Indie Book Collective, calls this type of momentum “traction.”

HINT: You can increase the traction, or torque, in your gears by scheduling a sponsorship with Kindle Nation Daily (or other book marketing site) on the exact day your book returns to regular price.

Amazon’s Top 100 Free and Paid lists are the equivalent of a billboard in Times Square.

Making it into either list will not only give you thousands of readers in a matter of days but will translate into more reviews and more sales. In my opinion, an author should plan her KDP promotion with pinpoint accuracy, throwing everything she has into that two- or three-day promo, because the more gears you link to your book, the higher you’ll go. And if you can gear your book into the Top 100, it will be worth every penny!

Authors are reaching the top faster than ever before.

The ability to schedule a promotion of this magnitude is absolutely unprecedented. Amazon has already leveled the playing field between self-published and traditionally published authors. KDP Select has given indies more exposure because publishers aren’t as willing to restrict their titles to Amazon alone, thereby giving us a bigger piece of the promotional pie. Although there is no doubt that the market is saturated with free and 99 cent books.

From my personal experience, and by helping other authors hit the Top 100, I believe that Amazon has created the greatest marketing system available to authors in the history of publishing. If an author’s book has nailed the important elements like a good cover, tight plot, good reviews, and professional editing and formatting, she can promote her book on an international scale like never before, all on a shoestring budget. Several factors will determine how long you stay at the top, but getting there can change everything.

Here are the facts regarding my royalties since I joined KDP Select.

Now you be the judge if this program isn’t a revolutionary program…

Month                    Royalties
September             =  $442
October 2011             =  $133
November 2011           =  $478
December 2011        =  $10,156 (KDP Select opens)
January 2012            =  $2,387

These are only U.S royalties and include my royalties from the Amazon Prime rentals. Obviously December will always be higher because of the Christmas rush. Currently, February is on par to match January but if $2,300 is my new “normal” than I’d say that’s pretty revolutionary.

If you have a long list of books that are selling in multiple outlets, you can always try one of your books to see how it fares for the 90-day commitment. If you are a new author, there is no better way to reach a large audience when you are starting from ground zero. But if you’re a new author and your quest for readers is coming up dry, I highly recommend the KDP Select program—it’s God’s gift to you.

Jeff Bennington is the author of The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe, Reunion, Creepy, and Twisted Vengeance. He is the founder of The Kindle Book Review, NexGate Press, and blogs weekly at The Writing Bomb.

The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe offers 229 pages of motivation, encouragement, insight into indie publishing, Jeff’s marketing and selling strategies, and advice from over 20 bestselling independent authors.

Image: Flickr CC John Catral

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Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for a really useful article. I’m coming to the end of my first novel and am looking at self-publishing routes, so this is both informative and helps squash my fears!

    Fingers crossed – I’ll be following your site for more tips.

  2. says

    Hi Joanna,
    Just checking in with you. To date, my Feb, Mar, April and May royalties are still exceeding $2K per month versus the <$400 a month this time last year. June will probably be a little lower, but after the Memorial Day, Father's Day and Mother's Day holidays I anticipate those numbers bouncing back.

    Currently, I see a clear drop in the KDP "FREEBIE" effectiveness already. Scott Nicholson and I both anticipated a 6 to 9 month life span for this program (assuming author saturation) and the program is definitely having that effect already. But overall I think the program still works for new books or when authors allow a larger gap of time between promotions.

    It does seem to me that readers are figuring out that they can "buy" really good free books. Still, I plan to ride this wave until it breaks, and keep my eyes open for the next swell. Again, I really appreciate the opportunity to share my experience.

    • Charles Frankhauser says

      Thanks for the encouragement regarding KDP. I have my best of 4 Kindle works on FREE over the weekend, 25-27 May and it’s my only hope of attracting readers that I know works. Anyone interested can use a search engine entry of “charles frankhauser amazon” and the cover of Atlantic City Nazi will surface; a click on kindle version gets it for free. All comments are welcome. Please enjoy the read.

  3. says

    I have not had a very positive response with the KDP Select program, so I am wondering if I did something wrong. I ran an initial two day promo on my book, Cora Flash and the Diamond of Madagascar (http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0075NS12Y), and had around 600 free downloads and managed to get to the top of my category. I thought I would stay in the top 500 for paid in my category, but no dice. I quickly fell back down to the ‘before’ rank. After using my remaining three days, the same thing happened – I returned to ‘before’ levels with no noticeable spike in sales at all. My 90 days expires tomorrow, and I am currently languishing in the charts. I am debating if I should renew the KDP select program or upload to Smashwords and see how I fare over there. Has anyone weighed the KDP Select vs. Smashwords argument?

    • says

      Tommy,
      I looked at your book and found a couple things that would effect your KDP efforts.

      ~ Your book is a 3 color children’s book (at least that’s what it appears to be), therefore, it has a “self-pubbed” look. It looks more like an adult murder mystery, only with a young girl on the cover which indicated a young reader would be interested.
      ~ The other books in the “Customers who bought this also bought” section are all children’s books. This is another indication that it is a children’s book. All of the covers shown are very colorful… this is your audience and your cover is not even close to the same look/appeal.
      ~ Children’s books are not one of the top selling ebook genres.
      ~ I’m wondering how much promotion you did to get readers to find your “free Book”. I list several ways to do this in my book and on my blog.
      ~ I’ve brought other authors out of the trenchens who were selling in the #500,000 ranking in the paid store, and brought them into the top 100 paid store.

  4. says

    Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for the comments.

    Yes, my cover design looks more like an adult murder mystery, but that was not my first cover. My first cover was very colourful but based on the “customers who bought…” results, I deemed it too juvenile. My audience is the 9-12 Middle Grade fiction audience, and I did not seem to be getting into those hands. I revised the cover to look a little more stylized to appeal to my demographic. (I discuss my cover issue in greater detail in my blog: http://tommydavey.blogspot.ca/2012/03/tale-of-two-covers.html) Future volumes in the series will be a similar design but with a different main colour to create a visually branded series.

    I feel a bit stuck right now as my referrals are all for books that are way younger than my demographic, and I am regretting the use of the KDP promo days as I feel it has affected my algorithm in a very negative way.

    I realize children’s books are not one of the top selling genres, but I was hoping to at least make an appearance in the top 20 of my sub-category.

  5. says

    I put my book in KDP select and did the free promo for 2 days and got over 5000 downloads it is truely a humbling experience to see your book go from the hundreds of thousands to #87 in the top 100 free and #9 in contemporary fiction. I think I had my gears right now let’s see if I can get traction and grow in the paid sales. FINGERS CROSSED!

  6. says

    Thanks for the tips. I’m currently doing a little research before I launch my first novel, Hindsight as an ebook this summer. This has been a huge help, especially the mention of promotion sites like Kindle Nation Daily. I’ll be checking that out riiiight…. now.

  7. says

    I am new to Amazon publishing. I started with a short story and will be publishing a horror novel very shortly. However I am curious where the numbers are to show how many downloads you get when you put them on the KDP promotions for free? I can only find the reports showing royalties. Can anyone help me out with that? Smashwords has a dashboard showing how many downloads and how many people actually clicked on my book. Is there some where on Amazon that shows the same amount?
    Thanks for your help!
    Jenn

    • says

      Hi Jenn,
      When you publish a book through KDP Select you can see all of your sales including rentals, free, and paid sales. Simply log into your KDP account, go to your “Reports” tab (near top of page), click on the “Month to Date” button. You will then be able to see your titles, units sold, units refunded (returned), net units sold, units borrowed, free-units promo, and free-units price matched (if applicable).

      There is also a drop down menu to see reports in all applicable languages. You’ll see , but as you scroll through that menu you’ll see .DE, IT, ES, UK, etc.

      • says

        I see this. Thank you for a such a speedy response. I have been working on uploading my novel(getting formatting write for all kindle platforms is kinda taxing.) I do the reports now. Thank you for assisting me. I have my novel in publishing status and hopefully it will show up tomorrow. I have enrolled in in KDP and will see where this ride takes me.
        On another note, I have read both of your books and they were great. Thank you for writing entertaining material.
        Thanks
        Jenn

        You can visit me at my site: https://sites.google.com/site/jenniferjcarr/

  8. LJBooker says

    No one seems to be mentioning the fact that the bestselling books that are in Amazon’s select program are not exclusive, like, for example, the Harry Potter books. Those are for sale at Barnes and Nobles Nook store. It seems that there are two sets of rules. Only the indie authors have to give up their rights to sell elsewhere. This way Amazon gets to brag ‘exclusive’ books, while undercutting the other stores with free popular books. And those free bestsellers are getting all the funds in the pot. This whole promotion is about putting everyone else out of business. Has no one else noticed this?

  9. c nesta says

    The KDP borrowing scheme seems worth a try. I have a couple of questions that I hope someone can answer however. I published my two long short stories, The Podesta’s Brooch and The Gray Stag and the White Lady, on both Smashwords and Kindle singles. Now, if I’ve understood correctly, I’d need to cancel the Smashwords entries to comply with the Amazon rules. Right? Since Smashwords distributes to Barnes and Noble and others, would canceling at Smashwords automatically cancel all the other distributors? Or would I have to cancel each one separately. Help appreciated!

    • says

      Yes, if you cancel at Smashwords, it cancels everywhere else, but it can take a few weeks, so make sure you don’t opt into KDP Select until you’ve done that.
      Consider whether you really want to do this as well, as it essentially cancels out all your history at those other stores. So if you have sales there, I would think twice.

  10. says

    I published “Sailing Through Spilt Milk” through CreateSpace almost 3 months ago. It is a humorous reminiscence of my adventures over a 70 year span; covers charter stories, youthful hijinx, dealing with cancer and keeping the love alive with an “admiral type” lady. It’s not an easy genre to push forward. My initial sales were great with excellent reviews. Now I see a lull. My KDP Select is almost up and I still have not used my 5 free days. I’m going to try it for 2 days and see how it goes. Then should I sign up again with KDP or head out to Smashword? ‘Tis a dilemma!

  11. says

    Thankyou for this article. I intend to do KDP this week – to compliment my 3 other books and within the 90 day KDP program launch 3 more.

    Can you tell us more about the 5 day promotion? What is it? ect….I am a newb…

    Appreciate everyones comments – I am willing to report back on our success…

    Warm Regards
    Eric Chief Instructor

  12. Craig says

    Hi Joanna, congratulations for the exponential leap!

    May I know, after your listing at Top 100 Free ends, how long it takes Amazon to put your book to the Top 100 Paid for Amazon kindle? Does this happen instantly, within hours?

    Looking forward to hear from you. :

    Thank you.

    • says

      Hi Craig, the algorithms have changed since this article was posted and most people don’t get much bump in sales at all. You are unlikely to end up in the Top 100 Paid even if you make Top 100 Free. Free is mainly to get readers to your work.

      • Charles Frankhauser says

        Hi Joanna, my memoir Miss Williams is free today on kindle 4/18/2013 and my other 3 works are all at ($0.99) because I want folks to read them. I agree with the fact that Kindle select is the best thing that ever happened to people who love to write and write what they love.

      • Jeff Bennington says

        I agree, Joanna. Although there are still benefits to KDP Select, I think Amazon has nearly disconnected any FREE success from linking to the a PAID rollover. In my opinion, after hitting #1 in the free store 3 times, and working with authors who’ve hit #1 in the free store in recent weeks (as of 9/16/2013), it is clear that the KDP Select is now best used as a LOSS LEADER only, not to gain sales. That’s unfortunate, but also a good thing. It seems that the best possible promotion at this time is either spending huge amounts of time and money promoting (paid/blogging/ads) or using Bookbub.com (if your book qualifies). And with such little value in promoting a free book, KDP Select is hardly an incentive for exclusivity–now–as apposed to when I wrote this post. Thanks again, Joanna, for the platform.

        Jeff Bennington
        The Indie Author’s Guide to the Universe

        • says

          Jeff,

          Thanks for weighing in again. Like you, I was a big proponent of KDP Select Days, but I am leaning toward getting out of the program when my next term expires. It is useful for selling sequels, but not as valuable for sales itself.
          That said, I was encouraged to see your Reunion on BookBub yesterday — and see that it performed so well. I was afraid that after promoting my book for free for so long, it would be harder to coax readers back into paying for it, even if it was just 99 cents. But Reunion’s success makes it seem like that’s not a problem. Do you agree? I’m not sure when the last time Reunion was free prior to yesterday’s sale?

          Thanks,

          Rob Blackwell

          • Jeff Bennington says

            Hi Rob, Thanks for the note. Reunion was free around 9 months ago. And that’s how long it takes before BB will allow you to “re-promote” a book even as a 99¢ book, because they don’t want to offer a 99¢ deal that was free only a few months prior–I’m just learning that–and they’ve tightened their policies more in the last month.

  13. Charles Frankhauser says

    I agree with the majority of authors that realize the value of free KDP promotions. Without the free promotions my over-the-top great historical romance set in the 1930’s involving the Hindenburg tragedy would have remained essentially unread without bringing the entertainment value to many of my unknown but potentially adoring fans. “Author, author” one might dream hearing but for the fact that without Amazon and Kindle my works would remain undiscovered by the reading public. To show my versatility, the genres are varied. The titles compel one to “Look Inside.” Atlantic City Nazi; Slush Pile Inspector, Tango Boat Dancers, and the memoir Miss Williams all have been and are in the process of being offered (when allowed) Free to my expanding fan base. I love writing humor.

  14. says

    KDP Select free promo still works if you can drive traffic to your other non-freebie titles. The simplest way to achieve that to put an in-your-face Amazon Affiliate Widget right there in your book description. The thing scrolls and grabs their attention. If they abandon your freebie and go check out another title of yours, its not exactly a loss.

    Can you put a Flash widget in description? You may ask. Yes, pretty much everything, including social networking widgets like a tweet box or Facebook box in there. After many month of investigative work, I’ve discovered KDP’s dirty secret. It’s all recorded in my book “KDP’s Best-Kept Secret Revealed: How to Embed Videos and Widgets in Your Book Description.” Take a look when you get a chance and see if you like the way I do it: http://amzn.to/1evdevT.

  15. says

    Unfortunately I’ve had a different experience. Amazon removed my books because it violated their terms of service/ They stated that the books had to be exclusive to them in order to qualify to stay in KDP Select. My book had been pirated so what control did I have? I put in requests to get the book taken down, but to read Amazon’s email, you’d believe it was me who pirated my own book! So I’m not in KDP Select now, but as I have a Master’s in Marketing I had better put it to use.

    http://johnhennessybooks.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/torrents-of-abuse-how-should-writers.html
    Legit buyers are still out there, and the print version is out next week.
    http://www.amazon.com/Dark-Winter-Book-One-Circle-ebook/dp/B00G559BB8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389986013&sr=8-1&keywords=dark+winter+john+hennessy

  16. Jean says

    KDP Select is certainly not God’s gift to Canadian authors with Canadian subject matter. Their Countdown sales are totally barred from Canadians.

    I have spent 15 years building up a website in Canada and when I tried a Countdown, it did me more harm than good. Almost everyone interested in the sale was Canadian. But Canada’s .ca site is not allowed to have Countdown sales (or even the ‘Look Inside’ feature) so they could not even see the sale.

    Some gave up, some thought I was falsely advertising and some ran into problems trying to change their country settings.

    One who did manage to see the sale and buy forwarded me an email from Amazon that ordered her to send them her ID or never again buy from the .com site. They talked to her as if she was a criminal!

    I had been excited and worked hard to promote my Countdown sale, but it turned into a fiasco where I probably alienated more people than anything else. And I can’t support Amazon’s discriminatory and over-controlling policies.

    Verdict:
    Select may be fine for Americans – and British who are also allowed into the ‘special-people’ circle. But if you are publishing Canadian content – or for other reasons marketing to Canadians – forget about it!

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