Apologies in advance, but today I’m going to do something a tiny bit cruel. I’m going to tell you the first half of a very long story, and then make you wait a couple of weeks for the second part. Okay? Okay. Let’s go.
You may recall that the day after Amazon announced KDP Select and the “indie” blogosphere proceeded to lose their tiny minds about, I blogged about why I wasn’t going to blog about KDP Select, which of course was blogging about KDP Select. I also said that I’d enrolled one title, Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too, which was a special combination of both Mousetrapped and Backpacked (you’d never have guessed, eh?) that had never been available anywhere but in the Kindle store.
What I didn’t tell you at the time is that I also availed of KDP Select “promotions” which allows you to offer your enrolled title for free for up to 5 days out of each 90 enrollment period. And let me tell you today what happened with that.
(Or the first part of what happened with that, anyway.)
What KDP Select enrollment does to your Kindle listing
Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too was priced $3.99 and essentially, a dud. I’d sold 7 copies of it in September, 13 copies of it in October and 6 copies of it in November. But of course this was just a combination of two books I already had for sale—two books that were doing really well, my top 2 sellers—so it was no big deal. It was just another Amazon search result, just another chance for a reader to discover me, and save a dollar by buying two books at the same time instead of each one separately.
Which was why when the KDP Select train rolled into town, I was happy to enroll it, to use it to find out what all the fuss was about.
Oooh, free stuff!
It became free on Saturday 10 December across all Kindle stores. At the time its sales rank was in the 300,000-350,000 region on Amazon.com, I’m not even sure it had a sales rank on Amazon.co.uk and it wasn’t ranking in any bestseller lists on either site. (I don’t really sell much of anything in the other international Kindle stores, so I’ll be leaving them out here.) And remember: I’d sold just 26 copies of it in the three months or so prior to this.
After three days (Saturday-Monday) of it being available for free:
- 193 copies of it had been downloaded from Amazon.com where
- it was #2 in Kindle Books –>Non-fiction -> Travel -> Essays and Travelogues
- and #1,856 overall in free Kindle books.
Over on Amazon.co.uk (a smaller Kindle store):
- 209 copies of it had been downloaded
- it was a#1 in Kindle Books –>Non-fiction -> Travel -> Essays and Travelogues
- and hovering around #300 overall in free Kindle books.
Impressive, considering I didn’t even tell anyone about it until the evening of the third and last day, when I tweeted about it, so it’s clear that the sudden increase in sales was solely down to its price suddenly being free.
Now if I’ve sold those books, I would’ve made over $1,000. But I wouldn’t have sold those books. Going by the previous months’ sales, I would’ve sold more like 8 copies, making $22. And am I happy to pay $22 to inform 400 or so new people about my existence, improve my visibility on Amazon and potentially secure some paid sales in the future?
In a word, yes.
A big benefit of being free: a few hundred transactions worth of “Customers Also Bought” data. Great for transforming your Amazon listing from Johnny No Mates into Johnny “People Are Actually Buying This” Mates.
But that was just the first 3 days of a 90-day enrollment in KDP Select. What happened next? And what about borrows? Well, when it comes to being borrowed under the KDP Select scheme, I think the self-publishers pushing each other out of the way to spit bullets about Amazon missed two crucial points:
- You, the cheap self-published book, are not first in the list to be borrowed
- If you earn 70% on your e-book through KDP, you’ve already enabled lending for Kindle owners who’ve bought your book anyway.
I’m joined Audible where for a small monthly subscription fee, I get to download one audio book free per month. (Free really meaning heavily discounted because of course I’m paying a subscription, although that’s always much less than the cost of the book to buy outright). I never buy any additional books but since the books I buy are usually a day long and I only listen to them on the treadmill, a book a month does the job. Now do you think I’m going to use my one audiobook credit to download anything other than the most expensive audiobook I want? Do you think if you, the self-published author, created an audio version of your book, I’d even consider making it my one free download? There is more chance of me willingly getting on the treadmill than there is of that happening, which is to say it will never occur.
Back to Amazon KDP Select. You’re a Prime customer and a Kindle owner, and you have one free book a month. (Let’s dispatch with the lending terminology; they’re basically getting the book. It doesn’t matter.) Do you think you’re going to use that one credit to get your hands on a book priced 99c, $1.99, $2.99 or even $4.99, when in all likelihood there’s ebooks on your wishlist priced $9.99 or more? I never would. So I was kind of surprised I got borrowed at all—shocked, more like; I was fully prepared to never be borrowed—but 9 people used their one credit to borrow Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too in December. Now I know I wrote the book and I should happy about this, but a part of me wants to grab these people by the shoulders and shout, “You should borrow something that’s expensive!”
I don’t know yet how much I was compensated for these borrows out of the much fabled KDP Select fund of $500,000 for the month of December, but I’ll let you know when I find out.
The 3-day offering had gone so well I decided to use up my other two days over December 23rd-24th. In this period, a further 217 copies were downloaded for free from Amazon.com, and 117 copies from Amazon.co.uk.
Here’s what’s really interesting though, and what should be especially interesting to those who believe that enrollment in KDP leads to losses.
This is what I’d sold of Mousetrapped and Backpacked Too before I went anywhere near KDP Select:
- September 2011: 7 copies
- October 2011: 13 copies
- November 2011: 6 copies.
But up to December 23rd 2011 (and so, before the Christmas rush became responsible for an increase in sales), I’d sold 26 copies of it that month, at $3.99 a go. In the first five days of January, I’ve sold 6 copies of it, and its been borrowed another 6 times. After KDP enrollment and a 3-day free offering, my sales of the enrolled book jumped up to the point that they equalled the total sales of each of the three months prior combined.
What is us being able to enroll in KDP Select is really about? After my limited test run with the service, I had improved sales ranks, more readers and even a bump in my paid for sales. I’d found a booster rocket for my e-book sales. But we’re talking tiny numbers here, and not a book really but a combination of books that were already doing well.
What would happen if I took a book that wasn’t doing at all, and applied the enrollment/free offering to that? Would it help kick start that book’s sales? Would it be a booster rocket?
And as luck would have it, I had a book that needed a booster rocket—Results Not Typical. And when I offered it for free from December 24th until December 28th, it was downloaded over 3,000 times and, from what I can see so far in January, is now selling significantly better than it was before. KDP Select might—might— be just what the doctored ordered for an e-book with sluggish sales.
But you’re going to have to wait a few weeks to hear more about that.