Indie Authors – Is Amazon Kindle Countdown Deals Beneficial?

indie author handbook

Indie Author Handbook

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.

Kindle Countdown Deals

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)

Kindle Countdown Deals - incrementsSounds great, right?  Not so fast…there are negatives to Kindle Countdown Deals:

  • 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 free tagexclusive 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?

About Renée Pawlish

Award-winning author Renée Pawlish writes the bestselling horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, the Reed Ferguson mystery series, short stories and non-fiction ghost stories.
This entry was posted in Indie Author Handbook, Promoting Your Books and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Indie Authors – Is Amazon Kindle Countdown Deals Beneficial?

  1. Kathy says:

    Thanks for this overview. I was wondering about the ins-and-outs of the Kindle countdown. So what kind of promotion did you conduct that helped your sales to improve at Barnes and Noble?

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I did a Bookbub promo – they are WAY too expensive and I’m considering not using them again, except to promote a perma-free book. They do have a great reach, though, I can’t argue with that.
      Thanks for your comment.

  2. Toby Neal says:

    I rode my first KDP Select Discount Deal all the way into the Top 100 on Amazon, and sold 2500 copies at .99 in one day with a Bookbub. Even two weeks after, back at 4.99, the book was selling well. I’m going to experiment with all channels with my next title in January, very interested to see if I’ll be able to beat the great effect of a Discount Deal. Granted, the book was super strong and had never been on sale…but that will also be the case with the new title I try non-exclusive in January (if Bookbub accepts it).
    Toby Neal, author of the Lei Crime Series

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I wouldn’t consider your case “typical” as you’ve built a strong following (which is great, I’m not criticizing :)) and I think your titles, of late, have done well anyway (correct me if I’m wrong). For the average indie author, I doubt Kindle Countdown Deals would do much for them (I’d love to hear from others, btw), any more than KDP Select and free days is doing much for them.
      And even if it does, there are just too many authors that I’m hearing of who have already bailed on KDP Select, and Kindle Countdown Deals isn’t enough for them to leave the other sales sites – that’s what will cause its failure. Once authors leave KDP Select, there isn’t an incentive to come back…it’ll be a slow death, but a death just the same.
      Thanks for sharing!

  3. Countdown deals are good – it creates a sense of urgency, especially if a reader has almost decided to buy a book. I wonder why Amazon allows us to run countdown deals only once every quarter even if we have not utilized all the promo days? They should make it similar to free books.

    As a reader, I wish there was a way to track individual books for deals – If I want to buy a book and it’s on a deal, I would be more inclined to buy it immediately. Maybe Amazon could have an option of tracking the book and informing us (through email or something) when price changes.

    I am not sure if I would use it to discover new books/authors – free promotions are better for that.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      The concept is great, especially for readers, and you bring up some nice things that Amazon should consider. My point is that as authors flee (or have already fled) KDP Select, Amazon won’t have books to promote. I don’t see authors coming back and having to be exclusive to Amazon just for Kindle Countdown Deals. They’re getting too much traction elsewhere…
      Thanks for the comment!

  4. Very thoughtful analysis, thanks Renee! I plan to try this countdown deal at the end of January (yes, I had to wait a month for my new book Luna Rising, the Full Saga that came out in December!) and I’m wondering whether it will work out…

    It’s interesting because the Full Saga (volumes 1-3) is on KDP Select, hence exclusive to Amazon, while I left the three volumes in the series (separate publications) everywhere, on Smashwords etc I wonder how the discount deal will impact the rest of the series. Of course, to make matters more complicated, I put the first volume in the series perma-free on Smashwords but it still has to show up free on Amazon (it’s 99 cents there)…How long does that take? And is there anything one should do to “nudge” Amazon?

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’d love to hear your results. I put This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies on permafree and Amazon matched it right away. From what I’ve researched, the key is to be free on B&N, Kobo, and Apple, then Amazon picks it up quickly. Mine was free on Kobo and Apple and Amazon matched right away, even though the book has yet to go free on B&N. The only way to nudge Amazon is to have people report they’ve found a cheaper price elsewhere. I think I should do a post on this :).
      Thanks for you comment and good luck!

      • Sebastian says:

        I’ve had a book for free for three months on all the other sites you listed, including B&N, and mine is still 99 cents on Amazon. I know people have reported it, but Amazon still refuses to make it free. It is at their discretion.

        • Renée Pawlish says:

          That is weird. Mine went free on Amazon within 24 hours. Maybe sales and rank are a part of it. With Amazon, who knows?
          Thanks for commenting and I hope Amazon catches up with your book.

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