KDP Select Gone Wild!!

It’s been over 2 years since Amazon unleashed KDP Select, an exclusivity program for authors that allowed their books to be offered “free” for a limited time during a 90 day period.  It also allowed an author’s books to be borrowed by members of Amazon Prime (which the author was cleverly paid for through a sort of slush fund dedicated to books in the program).

The economics of Amazon’s ability to offer books for free has been interesting to watch since its inception.  When “free” first rolled out, you didn’t have to do any marketing.  You could have hundreds or thousands of free downloads within days, and once the free run ended, you’d see an immediate jump in sales in the days that followed from this “bump” in exposure.  It appeared as though a magic bullet was given to authors, giving them the ability to expose their books to the world and garner unseen-before sales.

Fast forward to today.  Free is really no longer “free”.  You don’t need to be an economics major to understand this inevitable result.  In order to get any tangible benefit from offering your book for free, you’ll need to pay (or be approved) by a small number of gatekeepers who hold the key to reaching a massive audience to download your book for free.  Why?  Because having 500 copies of your book downloaded will usually gain little to no sales these days.  In order to reap the benefits once seen back in 2011, you need 30k free downloads.  I call it “Free Inflation”, and its gotten out of hand.  In fact, the benefit of being exclusive to Amazon (getting exposure via free) isn’t worth it to more and more authors and they’re dropping out of KDPS.

Not that KDPS isn’t still effective, particularly to new authors who are fine giving away free copies just for exposure.

Yesterday, Amazon revealed “Kindle Countdown Deals” to those in Select, and for someone who saw little interest in KDPS moving forward, I’m pretty excited about this addition.  KCD is a simple new promotional tool.  If you have a book priced at $4.99, you can set up a “sale” that runs for 3 days.  The first day it starts at $1.99, 2nd $2.99 and 3rd day at $3.99.  It’ll show the original price and the sale price along with a “Countdown Timer” next to it to show that the sale is short-lived SO BUY NOW!!  Your book is also listed in a separate category that includes ONLY those books currently running KCD, providing further separation from the thousands of books available online.

By adding a second promotional tool, Amazon is also helping to address the ineffectiveness of their “free” promotion because you can only run one or the other during your 90 day exclusivity agreement.  In theory, this could cut down the amount of “free” books being promoted by 50%, a much needed correction in the “free” bubble that has been inflated.  I imagine during the first few months of KDC running, the majority of authors will run away from “free” to try the new promotion since they’ll want to be using the most effective tool in garnering sales.

What are your thoughts on Select?  If you left, is this enough to warrant a return to the program?


    • Tim Scott

      There are two arguments for going “free”. Getting a post-free “bump” in sales, and exposure. The sales aren’t really there anymore and exposure is hard to quantify. How many people actually read their “free” books? And of those, how many recommend to others to buy?

      “Free” can be useful for authors with multiple books, or books in a series. Why not give out the first book for free? If people enjoy it, they’ll have to buy the rest in the series.

      The new KCD program allows even new authors with a single book to generate exposure and sales, without cutting into their profits. Maybe at the same time, “free” will become an effective tool like it once was.

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