Shawn Inmon has had some very successful free book runs on Amazon and I asked him for his thoughts on the new Bargain Countdown Options. Here’s what he has to say:
Amazon announced a change to its KDP Select program today that I think is significant. Before we look into the pros and cons of the new Kindle Countdown Deals, a quick look back at some Select history is in order.
KDP Select launched early in 2012 and gave authors a new promotional tool: the chance to give their books away for free. If you agreed to list your ebook exclusively with Amazon for 90 days, they let you give your book away for 5 of those days. That may not sound like a great deal, but authors soon found the hidden benefit. If you managed to give away a lot of copies of your book, that translated to the most important thing an indie author needs: visibility. The first few months of the Select program was like Nirvana for writers. Amazon’s algorithms gave credit for a full sale every time you gave away a copy. That meant that if you gave away ten thousand copies of your book, Amazon gave you tremendous visibility on their Popularity Lists, which inevitably led to big sales – big enough that previously anonymous authors were slugging it out with publishing giants like Grisham, Steele and King at the top of the charts.
That was a little sweeter than Amazon intended it to be, so they tinkered with the algorithms so that instead of each free download being equal to one full sale, it instead equaled one-tenth of a sale. That slowed down the gravy train, but it didn’t derail it. As an example, in February of 2013, I did a free run for my book Feels Like the First Time and gave away 37,000 copies over five days. That meant that Amazon’s algorithms gave me visibility for the next 30 days equivalent to 3,700 books. That visibility changed my sales from a few hundred in January to almost three thousand books sold at full price in February.
In March of 2013, Amazon changed their algorithms again and a lot of the joy of Select went away. You could still give a lot of books away, but you didn’t get the visibility or the sales after the promo like you did before. In the months since then, a number of writers have taken their books out of Select, preferring to test the waters with other distribution channels like Kobo, Barnes and Noble, Apple, etc. I was beginning to think that if Amazon didn’t sweeten the Select pot, eventually it would be filled almost exclusively with beginning writers looking for exposure.
And that brings us to today, when Amazon made some effort to improve the Select program in exchange for your commitment of exclusivity. Here’s what they added: Now, instead of just having the option to make your book free for five days, you can instead schedule a Kindle Countdown Promotion. With this promotion, you can reduce your price and receive several benefits: placement on the Amazon Countdown Promotion page (which has the potential to be valuable real estate) plus the placement of a clock on your page that counts down the time until the sale price increases. Potentially the most valuable aspect of all, though, is that if your “regular” price is $2.99 or over, you can keep your 70% commission on your lower price of .99 or 1.99 or whatever you choose. That’s potentially huge.
Let’s say you schedule a Countdown Promotion in conjunction with a major promotional push with the big advertising website like Bookbub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books and Tips or Bookblast. Those sites can lead to a huge influx of sales in a short period of time, but they can also be expensive. Under the old rules, if you sold 1,000 copies of your book at .99 in a 24 hour period, you would have cleared $330. Since many of the ads cost more than that, it was challenging to find places to put your promotional budget to work. Now, retaining your 70% commission, those same 1,000 copies would net you $700, making the process much more profitable.
There are some additional caveats to consider. There’s still the whole exclusivity angle, but now you also have to give up some of your pricing flexibility. You’re not allowed to change your price for 30 days previous to running a Countdown Promotion. Also, your book has to have been in Select for 30 days and it cannot run within 14 days of the end of your Select enrollment period. You also have to choose between doing a Countdown Promotion or a free run. You can’t do both in the same 90 day enrollment period.
This is all new and there will almost certainly be additional details and pros and cons that crop up over the coming weeks and months. For now, though, is this something you want to participate in? From talking with a number of my fellow writers, that question seems to be split along the lines of how people feel about the exclusivity of enrolling in Select. Authors who were anti-select mostly don’t seem to be interested in enrolling now. However, authors who were previously in Select but had drifted away seem more interested in coming back.
For me, I have been a big believer in Select all along. It has been the best promotional tool I’ve had as an unknown writer. It’s helped me build my platform, it’s given me more sales than I ever dreamed of in my first twelve months and now it’s giving me an advantage in exposure and in money earned. That’s enough for me, but you’ll have to examine the facts and decide for yourself. The good news is, if you give it a try and don’t like the results, it’s only for 90 days. Just don’t forget to uncheck the automatic re-enroll box for Select, or you might find yourself committed for three more months. Whichever direction you choose, I wish you luck with your writing and happy selling!
What are your thoughts on this?