Indie Authors – Latest KDP Select Results

indie author handbookIn the last couple of months I did a couple of Kindle freebies and I thought I’d share the overall results and my thoughts on the whole giving away books for free.  Since I have a lot to say on this, I’m breaking this up into two posts.  I hope you’ll come back for part two.

My first Kindle freebie was right at Christmas in 2011 and I just wrapped up a freebie (March 2012).  I have some generals thoughts about the program and the results others are seeing as well.  Also, I am focusing solely on US downloads.

Indie Authors – My First Time Giving Away Books

I enrolled my horror book, Nephilim Genesis of Evil, and This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies (the first in the Reed Ferguson mystery series)Nephilim Genesis of Evillast Christmas.  I ended up with both books downloading a respectable number (Nephilim 3,164 and This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies 2,868).  This wasn’t anywhere near what some others did, but it was still decent.  I did not get into the Amazon’s top 100 list, although Nephilim did get to #6 on the horror bestseller lists.

What worked:

Between Christmas and New Years I got a nice jump in sales, both books selling well (Nephilim over 300 copies in less than a week, This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies over 150).

My other books (Reel Estate Rip-0ff, The Sallie House: Exposing the Beast Within, and Take Five) saw a tiny bump in sales.

What didn’t:

I was a total noob and I didn’t have any advertizing around this, so this literally was a tweet, Facebook, and blog word-of-mouth effort.

DON’T enroll on Christmas day – my experience was that hardly any downloads occurred on Christmas day (my suspicion is that even though people got a Kindle for Christmas, they were too busy with family and fun to actually download any books).  Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas were great.

I used up all five days at once – don’t do it.  It just doesn’t seem as successful as two days in a row.

Indie Authors – My Second Time Giving Away Books

When I released my middle grade adventure series book, The Emerald Quest, I didn’t do much of any promotion, either free or paid (I was in a hurry to get the book out there, so I just went for it).  I did get it listed on Digital Book Today (Anthony, you rock!) but other than that, I tweeted about it and wrote a blog post.  I got a grand total of 603 downloads and no sales after the fact.

My theory on low downloads and lack of sales is that it’s a book targeted at kids, but parents were the ones downloading it (and probably not reading it since it was free – and thus they weren’t telling anyone about it).  It got onto some bestseller lists but in weird categories (boats and transportation), too.  I don’t know if it got into any kids’ hands.  I’ve heard other authors of MG/YA books not see a lot of results from the free days, but if you are an author with great results with a MG/YA book freebie campaign, I’d love to hear about it.

Indie Authors – My Third Time (Attempt) Giving Away Books

Now here’s where things got interesting.  I planned to do a short (one-day) freebie of Nephilim in March, just as soon as I could re-enroll it in KDP Select for another 90 days.  I paid for two Social Media Buzz days from two different places.  What ended up happening was I wanted to enroll on March 22 for the free day, then have two consecutive buzz days.  Nice, right?

Ah, I hadn’t counted on Amazon…my enrollment period ended on 12:00 AM March 20 (so early on the 21st).  I should be able to go in on the 21 at 0:01 AM and enroll for that day, right?  Wrong.  The first day I could select for a free day was the 22nd.  But that’s when my social media buzz was running, the piece that would help my sales after I’d been bumped into the bestseller ranks (hopefully) on the free day.  Ah, what an idiot I was (trying to schedule something right around the renewal date)…but I did learn something:

I’m not sure if the whole social media buzz works.  Two days of buzz from two different sites did not garner any great sales bump (it was next to nothing).  In theory, the buzz should’ve, regardless of whether my books were in the bestseller lists or not.  Now, maybe it was the book (although Nephilim has been my bestselling book to that date with 40 great reviews) or the cover (but everyone says they think it’s a great cover).  I don’t know, but I’d need more convincing to do the buzz again.

Indie Authors – My Fourth Time Giving Away Books

indie author salesThis past week I enrolled This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies for a two-day freebie.  I had brand-new covers for it and the second in the mystery series (Reel Estate Rip-off), plus a new third title (The Maltese Felon), and I released A Reed Ferguson Omnibus (all three novels plus the short story Elvis And The Sports Card Cheat).  I also have a lot more followers than I did last Christmas on my blog, Twitter, Facebook, and Triberr.  So a lot more social reach.

The results: This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies downloaded 10,612 copies in the two days.  Not bad.  I had scheduled a Kindle Nation Daily paid ad for the first day after the freebie, plus a few other social media buzz days in the next few days.  I had knocked the price of This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies down to 99 cents just prior to the freebie days, and I left it there in the days following the freebie days.  I ended up selling almost 400 hundred copies in five days.  However, once the social media buzz was over, it’s been a slow sink (This Doesn’t Happen In The Movies sits around #6,705 on the Amazon ranking as I write this post).  But I’m seeing a huge jump in sales of all my other books (except the middle-grade book, The Emerald Quest).  What I really like is that I’ve seen the Reed Ferguson short story selling well (it wasn’t before).  The other two books in the Reed Ferguson mystery series, and the omnibus, are selling well, too.

What worked:

I think a couple of things resulted in the huge amount of free downloads:

  • I got on Pixel of Ink – everyone talks about it being a great place to advertize your freebie, but it’s a crap shoot as to whether you will get listed.  You have to alert them weeks in advance and there’s no guarantee.  I got lucky here.
  • Digital Book Today is great and growing and I was listed there as well, I know it helped.
  • I found out after the fact that I got listed on a few other sites (I’m not even sure how, I don’t think I submitted to them so it was organic).
  • I redesigned my covers and they look better and have a better film noir feel.

In terms of sales afterward, Kindle Nation Daily was big, but they had the price wrong ($3.99 instead of 99 cents).  This was corrected at about 9 AM but who knows what sales I might’ve missed here (they were superb though with this and actually refunded my money for the mistake).

Digital Book Today is also great with paid advertizing.  The social media buzz, I don’t know.  In this case, it appeared to help, but the biggest sales were in the two days after the free days.

What didn’t work:

  • The snafu with Kindle Nation Daily – I have no way of knowing if/how much this hurt sales.
  • I should’ve lined up at least a few guest blog posts to help with sales.
  • I didn’t get above about #1,000 on the Amazon bestseller rankings.

As you can see, my marketing efforts were across the board, and my success rate was across the board as well.  I also think that the current state of freebies, in just a few months, is not even close to what it was in the first month or two after the program started.  I think a lot of factors played into this, and in my follow-up post I’ll address this.

What are your thoughts?  If you think I was a dummy in how I did things, I’m happy to hear it, just be nice :).  What success have you had?

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.

22 Responses to Indie Authors – Latest KDP Select Results

  1. Elle Ashley says:

    I just appreciate you sharing your experience and learnings, Renee. They are extremely insightful and beneficial. I will definitely be looking forward to your second post!

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Sure, I’m glad to help. My way of thinking is we can all “make it” as they say, and I can share and pay it forward :). Thanks for your comment.

  2. Caleb Pirtle says:

    Thanks for the update. I have had similar results with “Place of Skulls.” It seems that KDP and giveaways is the best option running these days, but I wonder how long it will be a strong and viable marketing plan. These things often go for boom to bust in a hurry.

  3. Thanks for sharing this information. I’m in KDP Select, but I haven’t chosen to use my free days. I am very lucky that my book is selling well and continues to climb the rankings. I have researched the idea of free days, and I’ve found that you’re not alone in that many books have a rise in sales after free days, but it is temporary. You were much better than I would be in your marketing push, and I wonder how to use those kind of strategies without the “free” days.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I’m curious, what is your genre and marketing efforts so far? It is a crap shoot and I’ve got ideas on the whole thing in my follow-up post. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Interesting stuff, Renee. I’m learning from your posts.

  5. MJ Donnery says:

    Thanks for this informative post Renee. I’m about to publish a book of poems with KDP Select…wish me luck!:)

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Good luck – as I said, it’s a crap shoot, but you can see decent results :). Thanks for your comment.

  6. Great information! It’s always great to see another author who’s not afraid to share important information with the rest of us! Will keep reading your posts! Thank you

    Armand Rosamilia

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      I don’t see where it hurts :) and paying it forward can help. Thank your for the comment and I hope you’ll find future posts interesting. Good luck to you.

  7. Renee,

    I am experimenting, too. I have had a little over 10K free downloads on LAST ONE CHOSEN between early March and the end of April. Sales were good by my reckoning and are still coming in. I have now put four books on KDP and am sprinkling the free days around to see what works. Like you, I have seen some sales on books other than the free day books. I attribute this to people looking around when they are shopping for freebies. I followed the same pattern as you with KND and used Digital Book Today and Kindle Book Review for other promos. I can’t say enough good things about the people at each of those sites. I believe they really want their efforts to pay off for authors. Although I can’t attribute many specific sales to those promos, I think appearing on those sites is a valuable way of building a brand and keeping your name in front of people. Thanks for the info.

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, I appreciate it. And yes, I would agree that those sites are great to work with. I wish you continued success.

  8. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned! It is helpful to those of us starting out. I’ve only just enrolled in the KDP Select program. I’m not even sure HOW you use the free days! Still need to look that up…

    • Renée Pawlish says:

      It’s easy, look in promotion details (or whatever it says) and you can select your days. Good luck and thanks for your comment.

  9. Really helpful and informative Renee – thank you. Looking forward to your second post.

  10. heidi_g says:

    preparing to enter indie publishing; thank you for this generous blog post!! keep writing, selling, & inspiring!

  11. Thanks for sharing this information. I am also in KDP Select and trying to figure out what works with marketing. Sometimes I wish I could just write books!
    Best wishes,

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