Editor’s Note: This information is no longer current. Amazon has heavily reduced the effect freebies have on your sales rank. So this is now a history piece, no longer a ‘how-to’…
There’s been loads of ink about Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select, but I haven’t seen much clear explanation about what it is and, more importantly, what it can do, so I’m going to offer my experience here.
KDP Select asks you, the writer, to agree to publish exclusively with Amazon for 90 days. In exchange, Amazon will let its Amazon Prime members ‘borrow’ your book (one book at a time) for as long as they want – and will let you give your book away, free, five days in that 90-day period.
When I first heard about this, I thought it was a hell of a deal – they get exclusivity and I get to give my books to people without getting paid for it. But there’s more to it, dear reader.
First of all, you do get paid for the loaners–Amazon sets up a fund each month and divides it in a pro-rated fashion based on the number of loaners you’ve had during the period. You don’t know exactly how much you’ll be paid in a given month, but loaner payments have averaged around $2 a book recently, which is very similar to the royalty for a sale of a $2.99 Kindle book.
Here’s the kicker, which Amazon never lays out explicitly anywhere I’ve seen: there are all sorts of websites that highlight free Kindle books. When you give yours away, you will often see a hive-like grabbing of free copies – and all those freebies are counted as though they were sales by Amazon when your book goes back on sale (for real money) the next day. Which makes your book shoot up the list in its category.
So if you give away a thousand copies and those freebies send you from #657 on the Mindless Geek Literature category (Is that a real category? It should be) to #35, you made a very good deal. ‘Mindbenders’ has gone from #300-something to the Top Forty in the US and to #1 in the UK with one day’s free promotion – and that led to weeks sometimes of much better sales than I’d previously seen.
I have never found a way to reliably predict what effect free promotion will have on any given date. I paid a popular website once to promote the book on a weekend freebie day and got very few downloads. I totally ignored the freebie, told nobody the next time (in the middle of a work week) and got thousands. I’ve seen the numbers dip with repeated use and then skyrocket again with no discernable reason.
So I’ve found the program probably the most useful promotional tool for Kindle books that I’ve encountered – but it’s unpredictable. As my old aunts would say, it couldn’t hurt.