Using my first KDP Select Free Promo day today. Amazing!

by AA on 28 January 2012

2:25 PM: I’m currently live-tweeting and live-redditing as I watch the effects of my first free promo day on the Kindle version of Realms Unreel. In the roughly fourteen hours since the promo started, my book has shot up to #8 in free Sci Fi, #10 in free Fantasy, and #341 overall. kindlelover says:

I’ve been told when a free book breaks the top 500 in free downloads, that it will actually sell 1,000 books almost immediately after the free promotion ends.

Now, wouldn’t that be nice? We’ll see.

Q&A: Someone on reddit just sent me a message asking if you can only do a free promo if you’re enrolled in KDP Select. I’m assuming a bunch of you readers are indie authors, so in case you’re interested, here’s my answer:

(Background: As you may know, you can’t just post an ebook on the Kindle store at $0.00. Amazon sets a minimum prize at $0.99. As you may also know, free books sell like hotcakes, so most indie authors will at some point consider going free to get their stuff in front of readers. As another commenter here has noted, a lot of indie authors have offered anecdotes of a major paid sales bump after a free promo — sometimes a permanent bump in baseline sales. So there’s a monetary incentive to going free, especially on a limited-time basis.)

Right now, the easiest way to run a free promotion for your book is to enroll the title in KDP Select. Amazon lets the publishers of KDP Select-enrolled titles to pick up to 5 days per 90-day enrollment period to make the title free. Today is the first of the 5 days I’ve used, and I’ve been in a state of shock as I watch the download numbers tick up.

The other way to get your price set to free, or so I’ve read on the Kindle Boards, is to change your ebook price to free on iBookstore or Barnes & Noble. Then you need to have a bunch of people report to Amazon that your book is free on one of those other sites. There’s a thread on the Kindle Boards where indie authors provide this service for each other, sort of round-robin style. Amazon aggressively price-matches, so in some period of time (it can be days, weeks, or even months) the Amazon system realizes your book is free somewhere else, and they’ll then set your book price to free unilaterally — I guess somewhere in the fine print on the KDP publishing platform, Amazon says they can price your stuff however they want.

Going free using the latter method is a pretty blunt instrument. You have no control over when your book becomes free, and I don’t know how you can get your book back to paid status. If you have to contact KDP support to get your book back to paid, you could end up with your book free for far longer than you’d intended that way. A lot of authors in the past were content to do this for a possibility of a long-term sales bump, and there was no other way to do it. But since the KDP Select announcement, you do have the option to hone your promo efforts to a specific dates.

It’s been worth it to me. B&N Nook platform has some major shortcomings, and I’ve had some notably bad customer service experiences with them. Also, again anecdotally, indie authors’ book sales for all other platforms, including nook, tend to be much lower than for Kindle, so it hardly seems worth it to stick with B&N and give up the KDP Select promo tools.

Q&A: Another redditor asks what I expect to get out of a free promo day. I replied:

In the long run, a free promo day is an investment in building readership. It looks like I may move 1000 copies or more today. That’s fantastic for me! Even if a small percentage of those downloaders actually read the book, every new reader has the potential to like the book, and/or comment, and/or recommend it to a friend, and/or blog about it. When you don’t have a traditional publisher, that word-of-mouth buzz is critical to getting your title in front of readers.

ebooks are (usually) cheap entertainment, but even though $0.99 to $2.99 is a pretty low barrier to entry for a prospective reader — a few bucks for potentially 12+ hours of entertainment — a lot of readers won’t even consider paying a dime for work by an unknown author. But the more people are talking, the more people are hearing, and the more people may be willing to leap the $0.99 – $2.99 price threshold for an indie author.

Anecdotally, we indie authors hear that titles that break the top #500 in Kindle on a free promo day often get a sales boost of 1000 units or more. I’m at #341 as of right now, so I’ll get a chance to see whether that’s true when my promo runs out. I was originally just planning to run the promo for a day, but some friends are telling me I might want to extend it to 2 if it looks like I have a shot at making the #1 slot in any of my genre categories. Even if you only hit #1 for ten minutes, once you screenshot it, it’s immortalized :)

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