Friday, August 31, 2012

My Experience With KDP Select



Collapse was released on July 6th, 2012.  In the month or so leading up to its release I had made the decision to go exclusively with Amazon in the KDP Select program.  I had done my homework, it seemed like the smart thing to do.  Just before the release, I had several people ask me if they would be able to get Collapse on the Nook.  Not wanting to disappoint them, I figured it wouldn't hurt to make Collapse available on other formats until sales dropped low enough to make the switch to Select.

An acquaintance (more like a friend of a friend, I'm not sure I'd recognize the guy if I saw him on the street) had already self-published a few books the previous summer and I always kept a close eye on his rankings.  I also kept a close eye on his reviews, which were far from kind.  Some of the most horrible one star reviews I'd ever read adorned both of his books.  One of his titles had many accusations of being plagiarized pornography stolen from an erotic fan fiction forum (dressed up as science fiction for some reason).  "This man is a blight on the literary world, his grasp of the English language is tenuous at best" was one of the reviews that I remember most clearly.  He has since taken both of the books down and figured the third time's a charm with his recently released title.  His latest entry is also suffering similar reviews blasting his poor grammar skills and confusing plot. 

Okay, what does this have to do with KDP Select you might ask.  Thanks to the handy ebook tracking tool at Kindle Nation Daily I was able to track the progress of his work.  His work would usually hover around the 60K neighborhood on the rankings.  The days following his free promos, he would skyrocket into the 1-2K rank, even going as high as 692.  The next day, he would very quickly spend the next two days plummeting back to the 60K range.  This impressed me a great deal, clearly there was something to this KDP Select thing.  If the free promotion could propel a very poorly written book (based on reviews mind you, I only read the sample, which was awful) into the top 1000 then it was definitely worth giving a try.

Collapse had been available on non-Amazon outlets for almost a month and it was time to evaluate sales.  Here is where I was at when I made the decision to go Select. (Does not reflect paperback sales)

Amazon: 162 sales
B&N: 31
Kobo: 2
SmashWords: 1

The decision wasn't hard to make.  I had pointed the majority of my promotion back to the main sales page for Collapse here on this blog.   It's quite clear from those statistics that Amazon truly does hold the vast majority of the ebook market.  Going Select just made sense to me so on August 2nd I pulledCollapse from the other outlets and went exclusive with Amazon.

On August 4th and 5th I had my first free promo weekend.  On August 3rd I spent a great deal of time getting the word out to potential readers.  I was very fortunate to have a comprehensive list at my fingertips thanks to Rachelle Ayala's blog.  I made as many notifications as I could and programmed TweetAdder to start informing the Twitterverse of my upcoming promotion.  I also used the very efficient Tweet Teams at the World Literary Cafe to help get the word out.  For more information on how to effectively use Twitter for book promotion, please read my blog entry.

The free weekend was a huge success. Collapse made it to #17 on the Top 100 Free list and stayed at #1 on the Free list in both of my categories (War and Political).  On Monday morning, the instant my eyes opened I logged on the check the final stats - 13,957 downloads. 

The terrific promotional tool of staying on the Top 20 Free list right next to the Top 20 Paid list and staying at the top of my categories' Free lists was great exposure, but did it pay off in terms of sales?

Absolutely.

For the month of July, I sold 191 digital copies of Collapse on Amazon.  In the two days following my free promo weekend, I sold 218 copies and 51 borrows.  That's right, in two days, I sold more copies than I did the entire previous month.  I should note a disclaimer, I priced Collapse at 99 cents for the four days following the free promo.  Some might think that was the wrong move since I was missing out on a lot of money.  Maybe that's true, but I'm thinking long term exposure.  I am writing a series of four books and my goal is to get the first one out there to as many readers as possible so the series will be an overall success.  Also, I'm not financially dependent on my writing in any way at all so I'm free to gamble on my promos to find out what works best.  I was originally only going to keep the 99 cent price for the day following the promo, but darn it if the book didn't keep climbing up the ranks all the way to 1,159 and in the Top 10 on both of my categories.  Once it peaked and starting slipping back the other direction, I raised it to the regular price.

I have no regrets when it comes to Select, best decision I've made in terms of marketing.  As of the date of this post, my rankings have stayed in the 2K range whereas it was in the 15K to 20K range prior to the free promo.


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Thank you so much, Richard for being here today and letting me post your honest and open blog about KDP Select. There is nothing better for Indie authors to be able to see numbers from another Indie author. 


Be sure to pick up Richard's award winning novel, Collapse
Check him out at his social networking sites!
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36 comments:

  1. Hi Tonya

    Thank you for this very informative article about KDP Select. You make some very good points about it.

    I was very interested in your point about how beneficial it is to people writing a book series and how the increased exposure from KDP Select can be of assistance to them.

    Once again many thanks.

    Kind Regards

    PF Duggan
    London, England.

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    1. Hi, PF! I'm so glad that to bring Richard's guest blog to my blog! He had great success with the KDP select program. He didn't just put it up willy-nilly, he put a lot of thought into the promo.

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  2. Horray! Congratulations! That's fantastic!

    I had similar results with the promo I ran, but not through KDP Select. Long story, Amazon priced the first book in my medieval story free via pricematching. So I'm still not ready to jump on the KDP Select bandwagon yet since I did so well in the other forums too.

    I'll be really interested to see how your sales progress after the promo. Maybe we can compare notes. It's an interesting journey!

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    1. That is what is so great about the Indie community, we get to share what is and isn't working for us. This give everyone the options to try everything.

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  3. Thanks Richard and for Tonya sharing this. I might just do what he suggested. I also didn't put my book in KDP until three months later and plan to do a free run Sept 7-9. I did put my book on sale thru Labor Day and my sales doing good so far considering I had been at a complete stop for one week. We do best when we help others is something Tonya says and it's true.

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    1. Good luck, Madison! Be sure to report back how it goes.

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    2. Best of luck to you, Madison. Don't forget to get the word out there on the promo. Use that link to Rachelle Ayala's blog. She has it all there wrapped up a nice little bow.

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  4. Great Post Richard!!! Good to see how you figured it all out - thanks for sharing with us!!

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  5. Great post! I've read Richard's book Collapse and am looking forward to seeing what happens next. So glad to see the amount of success he had with KDP.

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  6. Excellent and informative post. Thanks, Richard

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    1. Glad you could stop by, Marian!

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    2. You are very welcome!

      Glad you enjoyed it. ;)

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  7. Thanks for the info! Great post. Always good to see peoples experiences and thoughts on this topic. Best of luck!
    Paul R. Hewlett

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    1. Hi, Paul. Yes, I love all the info which gives us the power to do what we want to do.

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  8. Hi Tonya,
    Another great and timely post for me. Thanks to Richard for such useful information. I'm learning so much every day about the writing business.

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    1. Glad to help, Gerri.

      I just can't acquire knowledge and keep it to myself, not in my nature! ;)

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  9. Hi Tonya,

    I've made more marketing mistakes than I care to remember since launching my first novel on amazon. It's only now, some 9 months later, that I'm starting to learn understand what's required and this post is another lesson learned.

    Thanks

    Richard

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    1. Haven't we all made those mistakes, Richie? That's why I love hosting guest who have conquered things and tips on how to do it.

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    2. Hey Richie! We share that in common. I went by "Richie" until after college. I've been going by "Richard" or "Rich" for twenty years. My sisters and cousins refuse to let go of the "Richie" nickname. LOL

      I made plenty of mistakes along the way myself. I did a lot of advertising pre-launch. A lot of it was hit and miss. Dumped some advertising dollars into a lot of avenues that weren't worth the cash. In my humble opinion, Kindle Nation Daily is the best thing out there for paid advertising.

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  10. I've been struggling with the question of going exclusive as well. This is great information.

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    1. The best thing is that you get to decide what is best for your novels. Hope to see you come back, Christina.

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    2. Christina, like I mentioned in the post, don't go exclusive at first. If you are selling books on B&N, Kobo, SmashWords, or anyplace else, don't let go of that. Numbers don't lie, I was selling books on Amazon vs Everything Else by almost 10 to 1.

      I think the method I use will be like I did at the beginning. Once the 90 period is up, I will put Collapse up on all of the outlets. If they perform well away from KDP Select, I'll stay there until the numbers tell me otherwise.

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  11. Richard: Thank you. I regularly seek out trustworthy information along these lines, and it's rarely this good. In a post I wrote recently (link at bottom) I noted and theorized on Amazon's changes in algorithms as they pertain to the famous 'bounce' coming off the 'free' list and into 'paid'.

    According to my theory, your bounce should NOT have happened AT THE PRICE YOU WERE CHARGING (99 cents - or even at $2.99 for that matter). Authors doing what you did are seeing a dead-cat bounce these days, so what happened in your case?

    Well, I believe that you are the happy exception to the rule, and Amazon has accounted for a standout anomaly such as yourself. In my post, I noted my sense that, while Amazon was ending the 'bounce' for low-priced books, they had to build-in an exception for books that performed, well, exceptionally, in the 'free' period. Such books would NOT be punished (i.e., via lack of Amazon muscle behind it), but would instead get the same Amazon 'bounce' that's gotten a world of indie authors giddy these past few years.

    So of course the question is: Why you? What makes you the exception? Thankfully, you have carefully laid out your moves for us (thanks again for that) and the answer is plain: You focused on promoting the free period, with (I must say) gratifying results. You achieved a trigger (I wish I could tell you what the threshold is, but alas I do not know) where Amazon assigned you 'exceptional incoming product' status and assigned you some of their marketing magic.

    That's what you did very RIGHT. What you did wrong, unfortunately, was to price your book far too LOW. My theory holds that you would have placed HIGHER in Amazon's rankings with a higher price. That is to say, a price significantly above $2.99. No one knows exactly what that 'ideal' price is, and indeed that price is most likely based on an extrapolation of prices of books similar to yours currently on Amazon. (Therefore there is no fixed price, but something of a moving target. My sense is that this price is currently $4.99 or possibly $5.99 for most books - but it could be more, and I suspect that the target is in fact going up.)

    In any event, please allow me to congratulate you on your successful launch and to thank you for making public this very useful information, which I will turn into a follow-up post (linking here, of course).

    http://patriotsofmars.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-e-book-bubble-pops.html

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    1. yes! Figuring out your price sweet spot is the key to success. I truly believe that.

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    2. Hey Jeff!

      I just realized that I already replied on your blog.

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  12. We had author Maria Savva on one of our podcast episodes and she told of her experiences with KDP Select. Her results were similar.

    It is my opinion that Select is a good way for Indie Authors to get exposure to new readers, especially during free promotions.

    Thanks so much for posting this informative view for other authors.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by. I need to check out that podcast!

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    2. I'd be curious to see her results as well.

      Another aspect of Select is not to just focus on the number of free downloads. Think about your book sitting in the Top 10 Free lists of your book's categories. I loved sharing the top spot with Brad Thor. That's some good advertising. Breaking into the Top 20 of the overall list was great promotion as well.

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  13. I too have to say I like KDP select and I just love reading about other authors and their success with it...thanks Tonya!

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  14. Big thanks to Tonya for hosting me here! :) I appreciate all the comments. Later today I'm gonna take a break and read everything you guys have written. Thanks so much!

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  15. Tonya, THANK YOU!(Richard too!) New to this and trying to figure it all out is not easy but i can see you are the one to learn from! Can I "join" your blog, so I don't miss any?

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  16. Excellent post Tonya and Richard! This kind of information sharing really helps those of us gearing for new releases and learning more about promos. I've long been a supporter of Amazon and got my Kindle for Christmas last year - best gift my hubby ever gave me. A big thank you to you both. I'll definitely be following more of Richard in the future. :)

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