Are you an author who is trying to decide whether to do KDP Select, or who has done it with unsatisfactory results?
I want to share my experiences with you. Please note this is my opinion only (along with solid research). Feel free to disagree.
First off, I’ve been part of the program since launch last year. You can read a few of the other articles I’ve written about my positive experiences with it. What I want to discuss with you today are some of the specifics people ask me:
I’ll answer what I know, what I’ve gleaned from talking with Amazon directly, my own experiences, and what some other authors who know far more than I have to say.
1) SHOULD I RUN MORE THAN ONE BOOK AT A TIME FREE?
Obviously, if you only have one book it’s a no-brainer. However, if you have more than one book, is it a good idea to take them all free at once?
No. Think of your one free book as a kind of tease, to get the customer to walk in the door. Once they’re in, they want to look around, see what else you have to offer. Amazon has told me on three separate occasions that the authors with the best results (meaning the most downloads followed by improved sales and rankings) only offer one free book at a time.
But let’s get down to brass tacks. I just took Mancode: Exposed free for two days, this past Sunday and Monday — mostly because I had a few days left and wanted to use them. While I usually recommend you create a BIG hoopla around your free days, I didn’t do much save a guest post, a Facebook ad, and some social media shout-outs. I had a few thousand downloads, which is low (for me). In the past I’ve had anywhere between 50K to 80K downloads. But what’s more important is what happened to A Walk In The Snark: (which I kept at its normal price of 2.99) it went from around 85K and on two lists (Motherhood and Emotions and Feelings), down to about 60K. (As for Mancode, I’ll review below.)
2) WHY IS MY RANKING SO LOW WHEN I COME OFF FREE?
I’m no math or algorithm expert, but I do know this: when you book first comes off free, you will either completely lose your rank or be ranked WAY higher (high = bad; low = good) than you were before. Don’t freak. This usually only lasts for about 6 to 24 hours, and it’s because Amazon is taking into account your downloads (see below) in order to re-rank you. Again, nobody knows the exact specifics of Amazon secret, mysterious Fort Knox-like algorithms, but people smarter than me have some good guesses.
So Mancode: I took it off free and ended up in the 98K and off all lists. I didn’t panic though, and when I checked tonight, I’m here:
I’ll note here that my normal price for this book is $3.99. As an experiment, I took it down to $2.99 to see if it made any difference in my rankings. The price change has not taken effect yet, so these ranking above are based on the higher price.
3) WHAT IS THEIR ALGORITHM?
Who knows? As I mentioned above, I defer lots of people smarter than myself, though I do love to read prolific author and brilliant book strategist Lindsay Buroker. From an article on how the algorithms work:
the popularity list is the accumulated sales of a book’s last 30 days compared to those in its category–but free books given away only count for roughly 10% of a paid sale, and price is factored in as well, in that the higher your price, the more each sale counts for on the list. Lastly, borrows aren’t counted as sales for purposes of popularity list rank. The formula looks something like this:
(sales + (0.1 x free downloads)) x (unknown sales factor) / last 30 days
A simpler way to think about it is gross revenue earned by your book over the last 30 days (with an additional boost depending on how many copies you’ve also given away). I’m not sure that’s a 100% accurate way to put it, but it fits the data we’ve seen well enough to work as shorthand.
To me, knowing or not knowing the algorithm doesn’t change what I do as an author: advertise, connect with people on social media, guest post, and write more stuff. I don’t know that it’s worth getting caught up in it, for those of you who love spreadsheets and numbers and math — knock yourselves out.
4) IS KDP SELECT WORTH IT?
Absolutely. For me, it’s been wonderful in terms of visibility and exposure, as well as sales. I can tell you that on the months where I have a free book, I sell hundreds more after a free promotion. Sure, I get some cranky reviewers who picked up my book free, but so what? My books have been through the ringer before they ever get to market (critique group, betareaders, professional editor, proofreader, formatter, etc.). I know that what I’m putting out there is the best possible work I can produce. If people don’t like it, I cannot help that. I can learn from it, if the criticism is helpful, but if it’s just a rant, well…moving forward.
I had a good ten months or so of data to base my decision to take Snark free. Over 93% of my profit came from Amazon sales. I think when I left Smashwords, I had a negative balance, and had sold maybe five books on B&N. So, duh. Keep in mind also that this is a KINDLE only program, meaning your paperbacks can still be sold everywhere. AND people don’t need a Kindle to read eBooks from Amazon — they have free apps for smartphones, computers, and tablets.
The other critical component of the KDP Select program that often goes unmentioned is that we are paid on borrows (not a component of rankings though), usually more per book than my normal 70% profit on each sale. Sure, I have way more sales than borrows, but so what? To me, it’s worth it. Totally. And finally, for the month of December, Amazon doubled the amount in the pool, so if you haven’t signed up, now would be a good time to go for it!
Friday update: Here’s my latest Mancode: Exposed rankings since lowering the price to $2.99:
Saturday update: Here’s my even more updated rankings (at $2.99):
I’ve love to hear your thoughts, experiences, and criticisms of KDP Select.
Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published by Shadow Teams NYC and represented by Lisa Hagan Books. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.