Indie Authors – Latest KDP Results Part Two

In my previous post about Amazon’s KDP, Indie Authors – Latest KDP Results, I discussed indie author handbookmy endeavors in giving away books.  This post, I’m going to address a few thoughts I have on the state of KDP and what it might mean for indie authors.

Indie Authors – My Assessment of The Current State of Freebies

The marketing technique I hear other indie authors say to use (since KDP came about) is to give away books for free and then layer the free promotion with paid promotions right after the free days.  The idea is that on your free days you will jump into Amazon’s top 100 (and be on the genre bestseller lists as well), and then, when your book is no longer free, you’ll bump right over into the paid top 100.

I’ve heard that initially there were mixed results with this, and that as time has gone on, even the indie authors that have had success with this approach are not seeing the same success of late.  They are also struggling to come anywhere close to cracking Amazon’s top 100 (see Russell Blake’s excellent blog post The Dark Side of Free for more on this – read the middle part especially for the effects of the freebie on sales).

I’ve heard a lot of theories about why books that were highly ranked on the free side didn’t stay highly ranked on the paid side, especially of late.  I watched This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies go from #1,000 to #124,000 right after the freebie – then it immediately began climbing quickly as it sold.  The point is it didn’t cross over into the corresponding rank on the paid side like some indie authors had seen.  Some say it’s the lack of advertizing, or the glut of freebies makes it harder to climb the ranks and stay there when you switch over to the paid list.  Maybe, but as someone in the IT field, here’s my theory:

In December, Amazon was new to the game, too.  They probably hadn’t accounted for free books crossing over to the bestseller lists after the free days were over.  But once they realized what was happening, they got their programmers working on the back-end code and corrected this.  Now, when your books goes off the free lists, it ranks wherever it was before the free days.  If you get a bunch of fast sales right after your free days (most likely due to advertizing on key sites like Kindle Nation Daily and Digital Book Today), like I did, that propels you quickly back up the charts.

Indie Authors – Is It Worth It?

This is a tough question.  I would certainly try a free campaign again, but as a regular marketing campaign, I don’t know.  I’ve seen a jump in all my sales since my last campaign for This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies, but I also shelled out a lot of money.  I basically broke even for the five-day campaign – two free days plus paid advertizing afterword (although I would be in the hole over $100 if KND hadn’t refunded the cost of their ad).  Now I know you have to spend to make, but at some point, the making has to outdo the spending.  If break-even continues, I don’t know if I’ll continue.  But I’m still watching my sales.  What I’m hoping for (and it seems to be bearing out for the moment) is that people who read This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies will like/love it, and want to read the other books in the series.  If this trend continues, giving away the first book is great.

I would certainly consider giving away other books, just to get them in the hands of readers, but again, if it doesn’t result in an increase in sales, then it doesn’t seem worth it.

Indie Authors – My Recommendations

It’s hard to say what one thing might’ve worked.  I changed more than one variable from giveaway to giveaway so I don’t know for certain what worked and what didn’t.  But here’s what I would recommend to maximize your free days:

  • write a good book (this seems obvious but…)
  • make sure you have a lot (10+) 4 and 5 star reviews of your book
  • get your book listed on as many sites as you can
  • make sure you have a great cover
  • lower your price right before your free days to get it climbing the charts
  • do some paid advertizing but don’t go overboard
  • use social media like crazy to let everyone know about your book (the bigger Twitter and Facebook fan page following, the better)
  • do some guest blog posts right around your campaign

So, that’s my take on things.  In this ever-changing Kindle world, it could be different tomorrow.  I hope these posts have been helpful.

By the way, don’t give your books long titles (This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies) – do you know how much is sucks to repeatedly type that out :).  Also, don’t have an accent on your name (thanks Mom and Dad :)) – constantly changing the e to have an accent – ugh!

Thanks to you who have shared your experiences.  I would love to hear more so please comment with your thoughts.  We all benefit – thanks!

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.

16 Responses to Indie Authors – Latest KDP Results Part Two

  1. Jack Durish says:

    “They told me to blog” and I blog. “They told me to produce a video” and I produced a video. They told me to do a lot of things and I did them all. None of it sells books. People buy books if they’re good and they’re aware of them. I did everything I could to make it good, now I’m working on the awareness part. And, if I ever become a best seller, I’ll probably share the same advice.

    BTW, I’ll gladly accept any good luck tokens anyone is willing to send me…

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I hear you :). Word of mouth is still the king of advertizing. Thanks for your comment and here’s a good luck token for you.

  2. Excellent post Renee. As one of the few non-authors consistently following a lot of authors from a business perspective and with years in the retail book industry – here is my take in a nutshell and only concerning digital book sales.

    The results of a recent promotion in most cases will not equal the results of a promotion in Jan/Feb. Why? Essentially the book industry has relatively flat sales for 46 weeks out of the year except for a couple of minor spikes. Non-digital books sales spike around the Christmas holidays. During the last week before Christmas many books stores will have daily sales equal to a full week in the non holiday time period. This is much greater than many other retailers will see.

    IMHO the holiday selling season for digital books (at least this past year) was the 6-8 weeks after Dec. 25th because few people had books already loaded onto their new, shiny Kindles and tablets. Now many owners of Kindles have enough books to last them for a while.

    What I would like to do is to help indie book authors prepare for the next holiday season. Already? Virtually every retailer has national sales meetings in June/July where their holiday plans are “all ready finalized” because this is the period when they make all the money.

    As an indie author it is not too early to have 9 -12 months worth of marketing plans all ready in place. Those who do this will be the authors who cash in during the next holiday season.

    Any other ideas? I would love to hear them because I also need successful indie authors. Good luck to all indie authors.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for that detailed comment – and some great points that I hadn’t thought of :). I’ll jump on board for the holidays now – tell me where to sign up on your site lol. Seriously, you have been awesome in helping me – my fellow indie authors, check out Anthony’s site and services, you won’t regret it.

  3. Thank you again for the valuable information. It’s also interesting to read people’s comments.

  4. Dan says:

    Great post and good advice. I am currently doing the KDP select thing at the moment and have had – favourable results. Although if I’m being honest, I really don’t like the exclusivity clause that Amazon put into the KDP select thing (meaning that you can’t sell ebooks anywhere else).

    Even though I’ve had a few more sales than I would normally, I don’t think I’ll do it again. I think I mainly did it to get my book out there and spread the word a little more – although there are better ways of doing that.

    Thanks for a great post!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts – I find that you are not the only one who may not do KDP again. It will be interesting to see if after the glut of free books there is more success because not as many people are doing it…we’ll see.

  5. Caleb Pirtle says:

    KDP and giveaways may work long term. They may not. But right now and in an ever-changing world of independent publishing, KDP appears to be the best marketing tool we have to sell books.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      That’s hard to say. I’ve heard people get phenomenal results after paying for a Kirkus review, and others it’s been using Twitter. I don’t know…thanks for your comment.

  6. CP Moore says:

    I went for a free weekend, not to boost sales after the fact (because, as you say, your ranking on “sold” remains the same and you only fly up the free charts), but instead to increase the number of downloads to increase the pool of people who might write a review when they’ve read it. More reviews mean more visibility when searching for books on Amazon – and I’d like to think I’m confident enough in my work that once it starts cropping up in more result lists, the cover, the blurb, and the reviews will be enough to make a sale.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I hear you but if you read the post that Russell Blake wrote (it’s linked in the post) one downside of free is that people end up writing poor reviews because they aren’t in your genre but downloaded a free book. I’m not sure I agree with him, but it’s a thought. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Great post, Renee!
    I have a theory on why the free days aren’t working as well as they used to. If you are in IT, maybe you can prove/disprove it.

    In February, when I did my free promotion, I noticed that while my free downloads didn’t count as sales (because they weren’t) they DID factor into the book’s popularity. That may be just as important as sales, in the end, because depending on how you buy your books on Kindle, books are shown not by sales but by popularity. As a result, my book had record sales in February.

    When I did the same promotion a month later, however, it was a lot less effective. I did get fewer downloads but they were still significant. But I noticed that NONE of the books that were free around my day, including ones that “sold” much higher than mine, were factored into popularity this time.

    I think that’s why the sales have now lagged. In December-Feb, getting a lot of downloads could boost your book’s popularity significantly. In March and April, that was no longer true. So the sales bump afterward was much, much lower.

    Just a theory.

    Thanks again for the post!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      There has been more written by some others about Amazon’s algorithms, etc. so I’m going to do a quick post about that, and I think the results you’re seeing tie right in with that. I’ve wondered about the whole “free” thing, whether that’s the type of “buyer” you want, but the nice thing about KDP was that it got you ranked on the paid lists. If that’s no longer the case, what’s the point? I appreciate your thoughts on this, many thanks.

  8. Renee (I didn’t try to put the accent on because I haven’t figured that fine point out),
    I am in the same boat. My thinking is that Amazon will have a new next best thing for the KDP authors out shortly. If it doesn’t, then many of them will jump ship from the exclusive deal. On the breaking even point, a Kirkus review is $500 and it carries no guarantee that it will be a good one, although the author can veto the review if it is bad, i.e., Kirkus won’t run a bad review if the person who paid the money for it says not to. That’s still an awful big financial risk for a book priced at a few dollars. I work Twitter a lot and I don’t think it accounts for many direct sales, although I do think it is a good, free way to circulate your name and establish some good friendships with like-minded people.
    As to reviews from free books, I thought going in that a lot of downloads would produce a good number of reviews, but I haven’t really seen it. I think the better procedure for obtaining timely reviews is for authors to form a co-op of sorts and make their books available to members of the co-op so that they can write reviews. I have been fortunate that most of the reviews I have received from readers have been positive, but I do believe there are those who download free books and write bad reviews without any skin in the game. That just is what it is, I suppose.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      lol I didn’t think of my followers trying to put the accent on :). I agree that Amazon should rethink things or authors will drop, just like they were/are willing to drop Smashwords/B&N for Amazon – it’s all about the sales. We will chase the money (and why wouldn’t we). As for Kirkus, I don’t know – I’ve seen authors get a lot from it (some known like Darcie Chan, some that I’ve spoken to that want to remain anonymous because their fellow indie authors have jumped on the whole “pay” for a review bit), but I haven’t yet heard of those who might’ve paid for a review and didn’t see results. It’s so hard to say what works – I think genre plays into this more than people want to admit.
      And as for reviews, I have no idea. I’m not sure the co-op would work for two reasons: 1) would the authors be honest (I’ve seen too many times where an author doesn’t want to give a bad review because “If I do, they may give my book a bad review, even if they liked it”. Sad, but I’ve seen it happen. 2) I’ve seen Amazon reviewers wonder about a plethora of positive reviews when they thought the book stunk, and speculating that the author got a bunch of friends/authors to write positive reviews. Do I agree with either mentality? No, but it’s out there.
      Nothing is easy here is it :)? Thanks for your thoughts, I appreciate you sharing.

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