In my article Maximize Free Days on Kindle Select, I shared the results from my early experience on Kindle Select in January 2012. After such a huge success, I enrolled all of my titles in Kindle Select and experienced varying results. So, here’s the rest of the story on my KDP Select experience and why I’ve decided to pull out of the KDP Select program.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with the KDP Select, here’s the cliff notes:
- You enroll in KDP Select and agree to go exclusive with Amazon (ebooks) for 90 days.
- Your ebooks are made available to Amazon Prime Members for free. These show up as “borrows” on your sales report and a different royalty applies to these books.
- You are allotted up to 5 days in the 90-day period that you can offer your book for free.
- Over 100,000 free downloads
- Almost 1400 borrows
- Over 11,000 books sold
- Over $33,000 in royalties on sales, plus $2,800 in royalties on borrows
Those numbers look pretty good to me and made for a fantastic start to the year. I got a great deal of exposure that I never had before and was positive it would turn into long-term sales.
Did it? No.
The longer I ran free promotions, I noticed they seemed less and less effective. I also started noticing a few disturbing trends that had me strongly evaluating the viability of staying in the program long-term.
- Increase in 1-star and 2-star reviews from readers who never wrote a review on another book. These are what I consider suspect reviews meant to reduce a book’s credibility.
- Increase in unqualified readers. What do I mean by this? Well, in sales marketing, a lead is a potential customer. A qualified lead means that the customer has somehow been vetted and matches a seller’s target market (or audience). In the case of KDP Select, readers were (and still are) downloading freebies in massive quantities without looking at anything more than the cover of the book. I had several readers email me or post negative reviews because they were unhappy that a free book would have a religious message (which is clearly the genre I write for). Thus, many of the 100,000 free downloads were not qualified readers—they don’t match my target audience.
- Expectation that all future titles will be free. This one really sticks in my craw. I mean, I’ve worked really hard and logged thousands of hours writing and marketing these books. Then when I get comments from readers like this, I just about go through the roof: “I can’t wait until your next book is free. I download all of your others for free and am looking forward to reading the next.” While I love writing, I don’t love it enough to do it for free.
- Exclusivity turns away readers who have a Nook or other non-Kindle eReader. In this case, I think it was a mistake for me to pull books that I already had on Nook, etc., in order to go exclusive. I had several Nook readers contact me when they discovered the next book in my series was no longer available on the Nook.
- Borrow royalties were less than my royalties if the readers would have bought the book outright.
All of the cons can be summed up in one word: Credibility. By participating in the KDP Select program and taking advantage of all of the features of the program, I damaged my credibility to readers. I got tons of exposure, but some of it turned out to be very negative. I turned away fans by removing books that they were looking forward to reading.
Can we still be friends?
So, why have I decided to part ways with the KDP Select program? In the end, I felt that the cons outweighed the pros and the program does not help me meet my marketing goals.
Do I think all authors should avoid the program or not re-enroll? No. I still think KDP Select has value – especially for authors who need to build recognition. Just go into it with eyes wide open. Weigh the consequences carefully.
If I had a chance to do it all over again, what would I do differently?
- I would not have enrolled my series in the program at all.
- I would only have enrolled my stand-alone novel. (If I didn’t have a series, I would probably still enroll just one title instead of all my titles).
- I would not have been so eager to make sure I used all of the free days. In fact, on some of the titles towards the end of the 90-day period, I decided not to use the remaining free days because it wasn’t generating sales.
What kind of results have you had with KDP Select? Did you decide to re-enroll? Why or why not? Please leave a comment below to share your KDP Select experience.
UPDATE 01/27/2013: KDP Select is a great tool for new releases, but I strongly encourage authors to expand to other retailers after the first 90 Days. After I left KDP Select, within 6 months, B&N made up 27% of my income. If you want more figures on how the different retailers stack up (based on Bowker Data), check out my article Retailer Market Share. I think you may be surprised to find out that Amazon is not top dog everywhere.
Best-selling self-published author, Karen Baney, enjoys sharing information to help authors learn about the Business of Writing. She holds a Masters of Business Administration from Arizona State University and has worked in various business related career fields for the past 20 years. She writes Christian Historical Fiction and Contemporary Romance novels. To learn more about her novels visit her website: karenbaney.com. Authors can find tips and information on self-publishing and marketing at: www.myauthorservices.com.
Karen and her husband, Jim, also run several online businesses. They make their home in Gilbert, AZ, with their two dogs.