KDP Select Still Works in 2013 (or how my novel was downloaded 17,000 times in 3 days)

One of my pet-peeves is the so-called marketing expert who has no proof to show for all their wisdom, knowledge, and so-called advice. With that in mind, I felt it is only right to let you know how my latest KDP Select promotion did. For those of you who follow this blog, you already know Why I’m All in With KDP Select. Still, there are many ways to drive a KDP Select Free promotion and over the course of no less than 10 KDP Select Free promotions since December 2011, I have tried many different approaches. I’ve done nothing at all to promote and let the Amazon algorithms do their work. I’ve joined tweet teams, used Facebook offers and goodreads ads to promote. I’ve paid for services like those offered by Ereader News Today, The Kindle Book Review, Kindle Nation Daily, Digital Book Today, and most recently BookBub. I’ve done free promotions on every day of the week and done one day, two-day, and three-day promotions. I’ve done combinations of all of the above, all in an effort to find the magic formula for a successful KDP Select promotion.

Meanwhile, like its rainforest namesake, Amazon keeps changing, adapting, and adjusting its processes, procedures, and algorithms. So as soon as I think I’ve got the “formula” down, it goes out the window with the next promotion. Other factors that have affected the success of my various promotional strategies include the increase of free promotions, free e-book sites to promote on, and readers with an overload of free and paid books downloaded. That’s why I keep challenging myself to find new ways to maximize this valuable promotional asset, because there is no single best way to do a Free book promotion.

With that said, let me also state that if your Amazon buy page has not been optimized (genre appropriate book cover, enticing description, good reviews), you should stop reading here and go get those things straightened out. If you have these bases covered let’s continue.

I started off 2013 with a free day in early January and had my best free promotion to date, over 5,500 downloads in a single day (more on my specific actions later)! I did another single day promotion in February and had very different results, only 699 downloads. Then in April, I decided to do a 2 day promotion at the end of the month where I would use my traditional freebie method on day one and a paid Book Bub promotion on day 2 to compare and contrast.

Here’s my typical KDP promotion process (and the one I used that got me over 5,500 downloads in January and 3,000 downloads on day 1 of my April promotion). It begins with planning. I typically set my promotional days around 6 weeks ahead of time on Amazon to give me time to sign up for all the various free e-book promo sites that will help push the book (many of which require at least 2-3 weeks notice).

I have found that combining a free promotion with a post promotion boost from one of the Indie friendly sites like Kindle Nation Daily and/or The New Kindle Book Review has helped a lot, so I typically buy one of their advertising packages (like this Twitterlicious package) where the good folks at The New Kindle Book Review and their legions of tweeters, tweet custom tweets about your book a few times an hour for 3 days basically magnifying the noise level around your book. When I have combined this increased noise level with the rankings boost my book always receives due to the free promotion, I have seen a nice sales bump in the wake of the free day or days.

Once my post free promo advertising is set up and confirmed, the day before the first promotional day, I sign up for a tweet team on The World Literary Cafe (you leave 2 tweets for other authors to promote and in return you agree to tweet for at least 10 authors the next day). Then I create my own tweets for the promotional day and mass upload via Hootsuite which allows me to schedule my tweets in advance (1 per hour) so that the day of the free promotion I can focus on posting on other social media properties like Facebook and Goodreads throughout the day.

The day of the promotion, I begin by creating a short links of my Amazon buy pages (US, Canada, and UK) using bitly (so I can track the clicks to my buy page) and then posting it on all my Facebook author and reader groups, my FB author pages, and my personal FB pages. I started using Facebook’s new offers tool last year to boost my reach beyond my pages existing “likers” and that has worked out great too. Then I create an event on goodreads, send to all my goodreads friends, and post in all the free e-book friendly groups in which I am signed up. I also post my links on genre specific google + and Linkedin groups.

After all this posting, it’s time to begin monitoring the increased noise. Using google search, I can track where my book is popping up in the previous 24 hours, I get notifications that my book and name is coming up in an increasing number of tweets, and I spot check the reports on Amazon KDP to see how many downloads I’m getting per hour.

But this last time, I did all this AND I scheduled a BookBub promotion on day 2. The way BookBub works is that every day they deliver e-book deals to over 1 million subscribers based on genre. Their database has come to count on the curated deals that BookBub offers, so if your book doesn’t meet their standards (cover and reviews), they will not promote your novel. They even let you know the average downloads seen in various genres (the current average for horror is over 4,300 downloads).

Clearly, day 1 was very successful compared to many of my previous efforts – I saw 3,000 downloads. But the next day exceeded even my wildest expectations. At around 10 am on day 2 I saw that I had crossed the 6,000 total downloads mark – basically I’d doubled the previous days downloads in only 7 hours. By noon I was at 7,000 and it continued until I topped out the day at 11,326 total downloads over 2 days and over 8,000 downloads on day 2 alone!

Still the point of the KDP Select program and the biggest benefits are the other effects it has on book and author discovery both during and post the promotion. During the promotion, One Blood reached #1 in both of its categories (Occult and Ghost Horror). It also reached #14 on the overall Free ebooks list – thus my visibility on Amazon got a significant boost. Post promotion, my sales have increased 800% in the 3 weeks since the promo (April was an abnormally slow sales month for One Blood, but still – 800% sales increase). My FB page likers, twitter followers, goodreads friends, pinterest followers, google + friends, and Linkedin friends have all increased. One Blood was also featured on over 25 websites during the 2 day promotion. My author website views also saw a nice spike.

In summary, KDP Select still works in 2013, free is not dead, and if used correctly, not only can you see more sales, but you can boost your overall discoverability!

Let us know your experiences with KDP Select in 2013 in the comments…

Part owner of Independent Publishing Venture, The Pantheon Collective. Award-winning, bestselling author of One Blood (under pseudonym Qwantu Amaru). Book marketing expert and social media marketing consultant.

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Posted in Book Discovery, Book Marketing
38 comments on “KDP Select Still Works in 2013 (or how my novel was downloaded 17,000 times in 3 days)
  1. globooks says:

    Great summary with much-needed encouragement. Tweeted to my fellow-authors!

  2. Thanks so much for this. I’ve left KDP alone for a while but about to dip in again.

  3. Impressive — but then you really did your ‘homework’!

  4. TaNisha Webb says:

    I think that free and/or cheap book promotion works to get people to download your book but it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve create a fan or that people have actually read the book. I think if you have several books and you’re ready to promote a new release offering one of your older books for free or cheap can help to promote the new release at a higher price. I think the real question isn’t necessarily if KDP is dead or ineffective, but are authors able to create a true fan base and get readers to download the author’s books at a higher price based on their love for the author’s work and not because they offered the new release yet again for free or a cheap price. There’s a huge difference. I think it would also be interesting to know what percentage of readers actually read free books as well because when I talk to many book clubs and avid readers it’s a small percent that actually read free or cheap books. Many readers generally have stopped downloading free/cheap books (unless it’s something that they are truly going to read or a BOTM selection) because they never read them. I have stopped downloading them as well because of the same reason. I always say that I’ll download it and just have something to read when I’m out of books to read, which never happens because I’m truly too busy reading the ebooks that I paid $5.99 or higher for and never read them. I do understand the concept of offering free/cheap ebooks in order to get exposure I just always question if authors are actually creating a true fan that will download an ebook or purchase a paperback at any price point that the author set or are they just downloading the ebook because it’s free. Just throwing it out there. What are your thoughts?

    • Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment, Tanisha. In my opinion, the point and benefit of KDP Select promotion is what happens AFTER the promotion. I agree with you that many readers are over saturated with free ebooks, but that doesn’t explain the increase in every important measure of discoverability that I have seen post promo days: Reviews go up, sales go up, likers on FB go up, Twitter and pinterest followers go up, the book is added to more goodreads bookshelves, my goodreads friend requests jump, my google + followers increase, and even visitors to my author website jump up. I don’t know a single other promotional tactic out there that does this across the board for book and author discovery.

      • TaNisha Webb says:

        I agree with what you’re saying to a certain extent. I think that it’s great to use these marketing tools in order to promote your book (for a short extended time) but I don’t believe that authors really know if they have created a true fan base that is actually willing to pre-order future books and ebooks, or purchase ebooks at any price point that you decide to set in the future that doesn’t require you to give it away for free or cheap. I think at that point authors can say that have a true fan base if they have fans that are willing to purchase a book at a higher price because the fan love your work versus someone downloading a book because it’s cheap or free. I hope that makes sense.

        I do interviews and have several different Facebook and Twitter accounts and a Goodreads (Most people that review on Amazon will also review on Goodreads so I’m not sure that anyone can really say that they have a following on Goodreads or at least that the majority of the people are new followers) account for my various literary ventures and have over 20K people that follow me plus many others that reshare my info to reach an additional 70K+ so I get the importance of increasing awareness for your product but I think what’s different from some of today’s authors and some that have truly put in work is that the relationship that bind the author and the readers and book clubs is lacking, which is why some authors feel that they have to offer their books for cheap/free for an extended amount of time. And honestly, if authors would market themselves prior to releasing their books and really put in the work beforehand, word of mouth would help them get into more book clubs and readers because people listen to book clubs more than anyone else, including the reviews that some authors pay for. So my point is, that cheap/free books will never outweigh hard work and building relationships with readers and book clubs. Finding a way to get your books in front of people that works for you is great. Getting all of the people that downloaded your book to actually read it…doesn’t happen. To me, there’s a huge difference. I think it’ll be interesting to see what the actual fan base is for authors that do not offer cheap/free ebooks and I think should be the real focus and not necessarily how many downloads you receive. JMHO

        Anyways, good luck to you and thanks for the response.

      • Completely agree, Tanisha. Downloads do not equal an audience. My philosophy on getting discovered starts with writing quality books with great editing and professional book covers. Step 2 is to optimize your buy pages across the web (goodreads, smashwords, Amazon, B&N) by writing great copy and getting good reviews and blurbs. Step 3 is pricing the book to move…I have an 9 time award-winning novel but I strategically decided to price One Blood at .99 because that lowers the barriers readers may have to trying out a new author. My next book will be 2.99 and the one after that will be $3.99 and so on and so forth. If I keep writing great books, my audience should follow me up.

  5. I also had a great experience with a KDP Select promotion in March of this year. 27,000 free downloads, an improved Amazon ranking, and 1,800+ books sold that month.

  6. S.C. Barrus says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your process. I’ve been toying with free days as well, but as of yet I’ve only pubbed a short so I can practice for the upcoming novel.

  7. bberntson22 says:

    I took some of this advice and posted weeks in advance on various free ebook marketing sites, plus put a few other books up that I had in the cellar. After a year of using KDP without any real marketing savvy, I suddenly did much better in the course of three weeks than I had for a whole year. With sales dropping and virtually turning non existent for the last few weeks, my question becomes: How do you generate sales after the free promotion ends? I mean, I had a good spike there for a while, but nothing close to what others are having with their success. Or is that more or less something you have to leave up to the readers and give them time to actually read your work, review, and all that, kind of like letting the books germinate in the field. Still, I know it’s a grueling process. And I think the major key might just be sticking with it, publishing more work, and keeping interactive. At least, I’m not sure what else you can do. Thanks for the post, though. Great stuff!

    • How many downloads did you receive and did you receive a sales bump in the wake of your promotion?

      • bberntson22 says:

        I sold about 70 units in five weeks after the free promotion ended. Then, things just tapered down to almost nothing for the last few weeks. So, I was curious how to keep sales generated, or if that was even possible, or if you just kinda had to wait for the readers to decide. I mean, that’s nothing to complain about. Don’t get me wrong. It was a noticeable shift for just trying out, and that was without taking the advice of really submitting your book to the free promotion sites like Authors Marketing Club, etc. I had about 2500 downloads with Castle Juliet and When We Were Dragons had about 700, both YA, but they appeal to all ages.

  8. This article is a great help – thanks! I’ve recently published my first ebook with Amazon and have signed up for KDP select – my first free promotion is this weekend!
    It messes with my head a bit the amount of self marketing people are doing to promote their book. I don’t know how people have any time to do anything else – especially write their next book!
    At least now, with your article, I know some other places I can promote and sites that help!

  9. Eric Rasbold says:

    I came across this looking for “average kdp select download” Not bad, you are the first hit. I have 12 books recently uploaded to Amazon and just enrolled one of my key titles: Energy Magic, book for select – it is free for the next five days!!

    I am curious to see what the results are for free downloading, I am hoping that people will read the free one and then like what they see and download some of the paid ones in the series.

    What I really would like is some honest reviews…keep them coming and good luck to all you writers out there.

  10. Tony Cleaver says:

    Wow. What a generous amount of information. I’m going to use this post as a sort of road map in my upcoming book launch on Amazon. Your model is awesome. One thing I noticed throughout (that I haven’t seen in similar posts on the subject) is your use of the term “discoverability.” Very intriguing. Can you suggest any further reading where the ‘discoverability’ factor is concerned?

    • Thanks for the comment! On discoverability, I have a unique take from many authors. Most people still talk about building an author platform but I think this was more important for traditional bookstore sales. For today’s digital environment, it’s all about being discovered by readers. In addition to this site, I also recommend Digital Book World. They have good information on the topic as well.

  11. Joy Fridman says:

    Thank you for all the great information. I’ve just started with KDP select, without much knowledge. I guess next time I will be more prepared. It is the second free day and it “sold” (downloaded) about 550 copies so far. Is there anyhting big I can do during, or most of the big promotions need to be done 2-3 week before the KDP Select free days?
    Thanks,
    Joy Fridman
    Author of children’s book: Landon and the Dragon

  12. ctfranklin28 says:

    Reblogged this on This College Dropout.

  13. tonycleaver says:

    Omar,
    In the fifth paragraph above, you mention ” I typically set my promotional days around 6 weeks ahead of time on Amazon to give me time to sign up for all the various free e-book promo sites that will help push the book…”

    I’m zeroing in here on “various free e-book promo sites.” Could you please list some of those sites? I was able to find worldliterarycafe, based on your ‘ tweet teams’ link; and for that alone, I owe you one. It seems there is even much more available there than you even alluded to. So, I’m wondering what other ‘free gems’ you might be able to steer us toward. And I’m quite serious when I say that I owe you one- what might be the most helpful? Can I tweet you? Buy a book somewhere? Something else? Just let me know.

  14. This is encouraging and discouraging at the same time. The encouraging part is the increased discoverability and chance of follow on sales. The discouraging part is having to use paid advertisement to achieve the download rate. A year ago, I achieved 16000 downloads in 3 days without paid ads. The follow on sales last for a month, with the 7 day post free sales at 585. This year, I will be releasing another book and will feel pressured to resort to paid ads. The follow on sales will likely be less and not enough to cover the cost of the ads. But thanks for sharing your results. I’ll likely blog mine too. My results from last year are here http://www.rachelleayala.com/2012/10/broken-build-tops-16000-kindle-select.html [feel free to delete link if it’s not appropriate]. Anyways, the arms race escalates. 🙂

  15. M. Eigh says:

    KDP Select free promo is only effective if you can drive traffic to your other non-freebie titles. The simplest way to achieve that is 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 investigating 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 my way of getting it done: http://amzn.to/1evdevT.

  16. Pam says:

    Just curious. How do you run a promotion on Bookbub while offering it for free via KDP? Bookbub requires that your book NOT be discounted anywhere else for at least 6 months prior to advertising with them. ???

    • Hi…great question. Book bub actually promotes the free book and this is not in violation of their policies. I have run 2 book bub promotions in conjunction with my Free KDP days this year.

  17. Madge says:

    Has anyone found any specific days of the week to be better than others to run a free promo?

    • Hi Madge,

      My personal experience has been that Monday-Wednesday are the best days and that the beginning and ending of the month are the best times to run this. What has your experience been?

  18. Completely agree–BookBub is the best. My latest (just ended, Nov. 1-5, 2013): 86,000 downloads in 5 days. 40,000 downloads on the “BookBub Day.” My best one: Jan. 1-5, 2013. That time I didn’t pay for BookBub, but they picked me up without telling me–but I sure wouldn’t want to count on that–these days, I pay! During that period, I got 92,000 downloads, and it definitely has translated into sales every time.

    For Romance, I’ve found Friday-Tuesday is the best. I always use all 5 of my days, since I’m paying for the promo and I want to capitalize on the momentum. Plus, to tell the truth, I can’t be bothered to do it in smaller chunks, LOL.

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