Amazon recently announced a new program, Kindle Countdown Deals, and I immediately wondered will this be beneficial for indie authors, because let’s face it, with Amazon, there is always a catch. So I read up on Kindle Countdown, and yes, there is a catch. I also wondered if this new program will be anything like KDP Select was for indie authors, where many cashed in on giving away free books. Now, more than a month in, I’ve concluded that Kindle Countdown will ultimately fail. Read more for my reasoning…
Indie Authors – What Is Kindle Countdown Deals?
Here’s what Amazon says about Kindle Countdown Deals:
Kindle Countdown Deals is a new KDP Select benefit that allows authors to run limited-time discount promotions on their books, which can help earn more royalties and reach more readers. Customers can see the regular price and the promotional price on the book’s detail page, as well as a countdown clock telling them how much time is left at the promotional price. You’ll also continue to earn your selected royalty rate on each sale during the promotion.
Okay, that all sounds good, but lets break it down. Here are the pros of Kindle Countdown Deals:
- customers see the regular book price and a save label beside it, so they know that they’re getting a discount (good marketing strategy)
- the deal is time-based, so the customer knows when the deal ends, hopefully prompting them to act now (there’s a countdown clock for them to see)
- Amazon has a separate Kindle Countdown Deals page for books that are currently discounted through the program
- indie authors can raise their book prices in increments (start your sale at 99 cents, then move to $1.99, then $2.99 etc. until you reach full price)
- and, most important for indie authors, you can continue to earn your regular royalty rate during the promo (you can get 70% even if your book is under $2.99)
- free isn’t what it once was (more on this below)
- a book has to be enrolled in KDP Select for thirty days before running a Kindle Countdown Deal
- a book has to be enrolled in KDP Select, meaning your book is exclusive to Amazon (you can’t sell it elsewhere)
Indie Authors – Is Kindle Countdown Deals A Good Thing?
It would seem on initial presentation that Kindle Countdown Deals is a good thing, mostly because you now can get the full royalty rate for your books. But here’s the thing, in May 2013 Amazon tweaked its algorithms yet again, and now free books see little sales bump after the free days, and some indie authors have even reported that their books dropped lower in the sales rank than they were before the free promo days. Free isn’t at all what it once was, at least in terms of sales. So yes, you can have the countdown clock and get your full royalty, but what are you really gaining at this point? You might gain a few more readers, and some short-term sales, but what are you losing? I also find it interesting that not too many indie authors are talking about Kindle Countdown Deals – that seems an indicator that indie authors aren’t wowed by the program, or we’d be hearing how wonderful it is. It’s early, but I doubt that changes.
Indie Authors – Exclusive Doesn’t Pay Anymore
Many authors, myself included, have dropped out of KDP Select. We are now focusing on other sales channels, like Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Sony and more. Many are seeing decent sales on these other sites, so why would they quit selling their books there, risking losing their reviews, and more critically, their sales momentum, to go back to being exclusive at Amazon? I don’t see it happening.
Also, those that stay in KDP Select may have a harder time building sales momentum elsewhere. Right now, there’s less competition on these other sites. It’s easier to get noticed. The indie authors who stay too long at Amazon will be facing much higher competition. And now that advertizing with places like The Fussy Librarian, Bookbub, and others allowing indie authors to reach a much larger audience, we can see great sales boosts elsewhere as well. The last promo I did was great for my sales on Barnes & Noble, and I’m seeing sales elsewhere as well.
Indie Authors – Why Kindle Countdown Deals Will Fail
I realize that running free promos on Amazon is good for gaining exposure. But being exclusive to Amazon isn’t beneficial anymore. The way to go is perma-free (if you have a series), and giving away free books on all the sites, not just Amazon. This way, you get exposure everywhere readers are, not just on Amazon. And here’s why I think Kindle Countdown Deals will fail:
- too many indie authors have already left KDP Select and they won’t come back
- too many indie authors realize that long-term, consistent sales mean selling lots of places, not just one
- newbie indie authors will begin hearing about how KDP Select isn’t helpful anymore and they’ll leave the program
- Amazon will realize indie authors can offer books elsewhere for free (perma-free) and they have to match this (because Amazon price matches)
- Amazon screwed up with KDP Select – they didn’t realize how indie authors would exploit it and get a temporary sales bump after their books returned to regular price (Amazon wants sustained sales as well, like the bestsellers, not a flash-in-the-pan from a freebie boost) – thus the tweaking of algorithms – Amazon is smarter now and indie authors won’t see that kind of benefit again
Indie Authors – What Does This All Mean?
Amazon is not the only place to sell books anymore, and I don’t see that changing. Things have stabilized: paperback books and the Big Five publishers aren’t going anywhere soon. More ereaders emerge every day, each one a sales channel for indie authors. Amazon tried to corner the market, and although it has the bulk of ebook sales, other sites have not gone under, and they may even benefit from Amazon’s killing off the benefits of KDP Select.
It will be interesting to see what Amazon comes up with next to lure indie authors into an exclusive deal with them. It will have to be really good for indie authors to come back. And I also wonder if free is on its way out. Perma-free may work for a while longer, but I wonder if readers will ultimately decide that they’ll pay for books again, feeling like they’re getting better quality (just sayin’, I don’t necessarily buy that free means a book is crap, but I do still read this).
What do you think of Kindle Countdown Deals?