The KDP Select program can help a book reach readers, but there are some things you can do to have a more successful period in the program. First, let's go over the basics.
What is KDP Select?
KDP Select is a program that Amazon offers to those ebooks uploaded through Kindle Direct Publishing. If you have a publisher, you may or may not have the option to join Select. You will have to talk to your publisher. If you uploaded your own book to Amazon, you can enroll in KDP Select through your dashboard.
In order to enroll in KDP Select, you will have to agree to sell your book exclusively through Amazon for 90 days. If you have nice sales on B&N or Smashwords, you probably won't want to try KDP Select. (I'd say if 20% or more of your sales come from outside of Amazon, don't do it.) If most of your sales come through Amazon, or if you've got a new book, I think KDP Select can be beneficial.
What benefits do I get?
The best reason to join KDP Select would be to take advantage of the option to put your book free for a short time period. You will get five free days - and they can be used together or split up. Putting your book free on Amazon can get a lot of eyes on the book, and can increase your sales after the book goes back to it's regular price. The second benefit is that your book will be enrolled in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library, in which you will get paid for each time your book is borrowed. The payment fluctuates, but usually ends up being between $1.70 and $2.40 per borrow.
How do I have a successful free promotion?
Just scheduling your book to go free without doing anything else will not give you good results. You might get lucky and get some downloads, but for the most part you'll need to work at it. Here are a few important steps to take in order to have a successful promotion.
1. Look at your genre. Genre does matter. I wish all books were created equal, but unfortunately they're not. If your book is written for a niche market, it's possible that going free won't help you. The most successful books are the ones that have 'bestseller' potential. Romance, thrillers and mysteries work really well. I've seen a lot of cookbooks and some inspirational books do well also. However, there are always those quirky books that break the rules and break out dispite the genre. My basic rule is this: If your book is selling okay - 1 to 4 books a day - I would not try going free with a niche genre. If your book is selling poorly or not at all, it wouldn't hurt to try a free promotion.
2. Get professional. Professional presentation is highly important, and if you can't do it alone, hire it done. Your cover, description, and writing all need to be professional and all work together to sell the book. The cover needs to tell the genre at a glance, and needs to make people want to click on the book. Get outside opinions on this, from people who won't just say, "I like it," just because they like you. If the cover screams "homemade," you won't be able to give it away. Definitely hire a cover designer if you're not a graphic artist, or can't fake it good enough to make people think you're a graphic designer. The description needs to be brief, and yet give the reader enough information to want to read more. It needs a hook. Get outside help with this as well. (Have I told you lately to join a critique group? This would be a great time to have one!) And while we're on the subject, have your critique group make sure your book starts in the right place, and has a hook. And don't go free unless you've hired an editor, or you'll get bad reviews. You can always edit the book later, but the bad reviews that talk about errors in the book stay forever.
3. Make sure you have reviews. Going free with a book that has no reviews will not give you good results. (I'll talk about what "good results" are later.) See, there are a few blogs and websites that announce free books. Not all free books, but some of the free books. They will not usually announce a book if it has no reviews. Thus, you will not get any coverage. Without coverage, your free book will not get many downloads. And without many downloads, you will not see any sales when you're done. I suggest waiting until you have three good reviews before putting your book free. (Don't just wait for them, you can actively seek reviews from book bloggers and fans of your work. Do not trade reviews with other authors, though. That's never a good idea.)
4. Schedule your free days at least four days in advance. You'll need to tell all the websites who announce free books. Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today are the two biggest ones, so make sure you don't forget them. Here's a great list of who to notify when you have a free promotion. (Some of these will want to know the day you're free, like the Facebook pages. Some will want advance notice. Pay attention to which ones want advance notice.)
5. Schedule several days together. I suggest scheduling at least two free days together, and sometimes three or more works best. If your first day doesn't get coverage, you might only give out a few hundred copies of your book. It's best to have a second or third day as well to help with your momentum. And, if you see a dramatic increase in books being given away on day three, you might want to extend your free promotion to take advantage of the bump. (See below for actual numbers.)
6. On the fist day of your free promotion, shout about it! Tell everyone you can. Post about your book on Facebook, encouraging others to share it. Tweet about it. Blog about it. Make sure you go down that list I linked to in #4 and get all the places that want you to post the day it's free. The more people who know about it, the better off you'll be.
7. Price smart after your book goes back to paid. This is a difficult one, because it changes over time as well as over genres and even book to book. The only advice that I have is to do a bit of research. Look at the free books, and pay attention to what prices they go back to after they are no longer free. Pay close attention to the books in your genre. Look at the ranks of the books after they go back to paid. Do the higher priced novels do better than the lower priced novels? Is there a price that seems to do the best? The rest is experimentation on your part. Maybe you'll try one price this time, and next time try a higher/lower price. It also helps to keep up with what other authors are saying on the subject. There's almost always a thread or two over on the Kindleboards in the Writer's Cafe about price. Read through and see what prices are working for authors right now.
8. Don't put your free promotions too close together. The blogs and websites that announce free books won't announce the same book twice in a short time period. I would wait at least 60 days before doing another free promotion to make sure you will get the coverage needed for a successful run.
What can I expect from a free promotion? What are good results?
It can be hard to gauge if you're having a good free promotion if you've never done it before. How many downloads is considered successful? Here's my own personal measuring stick. If you are done with day one and you've given away a few hundred books, you are not doing very good. You will probably not see any post-free sales. If you've taken all the steps I mentioned, stick with it for another day. You might get mentioned on a popular blog and see a huge increase on day two. If you've skipped a few steps, you might as well cancel your free run and try again another time, after you've prepared a bit more.
If you're done with your first day and you've given away between 1,000 and 5,000 books, you're doing fairly well, but it could get better. Keep doing what you're doing and wait to see what day two brings.
If at the end of day one you're sitting at 5,000 to 10,000 downloads, you're doing really well! You can expect to have a fantastic sales bump after you're done with your free run. Keep the free run going for at least one more day.
If you get done with day two of your free promotion and you're sitting at less than 1,000 downloads, something isn't right. Either your book genre is too niche, or you've picked a very busy day, or it's possible your book doesn't look professional enough or doesn't have reviews. Cancel your other free days and try to diagnose the issue. Try again later after you've fixed the problem.
If you're done with day two and you're in the 1,000 to 5,000 range, you're doing fairly well. I think you'll see a sales bump, but don't expect to get to the top of the charts or anything. If downloads are slowing, quit your promo. If downloads are increasing, especially by a large jump, let it run another day.
If you're done with day two and you're in the 10,000 to 30,000 range you are really going to have nice results. You can quit your promotion without fear. If you want to let it go one more day, it won't hurt anything either.
What should I expect after I go back to paid?
If you've had a lot of downloads, you should expect to see sales after your go back to paid. It will start out slow. Don't panic if you wake up and you've not sold any and your rank is horrible. It can take a little while to see results. Most of the time I have 50 to 100 sales on the day after a nice successful promotion. I have seen more. My best promotion saw over 9,000 sales over the three weeks after my free days. I've also been contacted about movie rights, and agents have emailed to see if I had representation, all from seeing the book at a nice rank after a free promotion.
However, don't set your expectations too high. Your book could see a small bump in sales, but then stick there and see steady income. And don't forget you do get paid for Lending Library borrows too. Those will add up if you've had a nice free promo.
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