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?
Deb Salonen says
Cautionary tale here! I had my Kindle Countdown set up to start Dec 1 after my book was approved on Nov 4, but when I checked that morning it hadn’t started. I researched why and was told my book was supposedly on sale at other locations. Not that I can find. When I asked for links from Amazon, I got nothing. So…authors, check and double-check every day leading up to your scheduled start.
(Additionally, Amazon said this blew my chance to do a Countdown Deal for the entire run of my KDP commitment.) Will I renew KDP to try again? I don’t think it’s worth the risk.
Brian Barber says
KDP Select was a great tool for me early on but began to diminish as Amazon changed the algorithms. I agree with the post above in that this is clearly an attempt on Amazon’s part to remain competitive against a growing threat: Smashwords. I have seen excellent results over on Smashwords and want my books in front of as many eyes as possible.
My next big release will likely be published on Amazon first and I may give the new promotional option a whirl but after 90 days, it is going on Smashwords (who in turn will publish it on virtually every eReader market in the world).
Independent publishing is an ever-changing business and the best thing we can do is keep up with the latest trends but use only the tools that prove effective in reaching the largest number of readers.
A.J. Aaron says
I doubt I would do select again. I did it for three rounds after the time it was so beneficial to everyone when it was new and gave away 3000 books on the last round (with much promotion) but gave up my sales from the other avenues by becoming select. After I no longer wanted to be on select, and didn’t renew, my book mysteriously disappeared from searches for a full week. Inquiring why, they told me they’d check into it and they did. However, I am still going through hoops trying to get it listed properly in the proper categories which cannot be selected on the dashboard. They have actually put it into a non fiction category (it’s fiction) and are asking me to change the category to one of the huge ones which are selectable on the dashboard page and would put me in with 50,000 other books.
I have finally gotten the books back to most of the other distribution sites and have hopes for the other channels to pick back up, though I will still stay with Amazon, since today, they’re still the big dog. With Nook being #2 and iBooks #3( and very aggressively pushing when they see a series with the first book free) I can’t help but keep the options open and do permafree on the first in the series. Now if I can just get the first book to show in the specific browsing categories I might have a chance to be seen. If not on KDP maybe it will have a better chance on the others. KDP is doing what any business would – trying to keep the suppliers all to themselves. Does that help us as indies or not? We’ll see.
Larry Aiello says
I agree, I think Amazon realized that they may have been losing some ground to Kobo and B&N. Kobo I heard has some really cool features with their pricing and bundling, but haven’t tried them yet. But just like everything else, you need to test it to see what works best. I like the countdown and I am still a fan of KDP select because I get a good number of borrows in the program. And I can’t wait to test the countdown feature.
Michelle Hughes says
I used Select for a few books and I don’t have anything negative to say about the program. It did what I hoped for and helped get my name out there. I think the program is no longer useful for me now that I’ve got a small but steady reader base and losing the Nook Sales when I go select isn’t feasible.
Mike Clarke says
Overall, although it won’t work for everyone, I think this a good plan. It will also be important to read the fine print on the program because there’s always a catch or clause that could trip someone up.
J.L. Myers says
This is exciting and and great tool to implement for all ePub writers out there. Following my upcoming free days this month on the 13-14th I’ll be taking advantage and trying out the discount promotion.
RP Dahlke says
The following review was sent to me by a writer: “I really love this author, and I will buy her next book–as soon as it’s free!”
There are many sites devoted to FREE e-books—get free books all day, every day! You don’t ever have to buy another book again!
Amazon tried arm twisting, taking away affiliate pay-outs if a site’s freebies were a major part of their promos, but was a hollow threat since companies charge the author anyway!
“Nothing Stays the Same” (I have that tattooed on my chest) and sales for me, and many of my author friends, faltered and then just died this year.
Yes, the new Count Down Deal is great—schedule a deal AND get paid on my 70%? Yeah! Now what to do about getting back into the business of selling books? Tell Amazon to get rid of the FREE days Why not- they’re always asking us what they can do to make it better, right? How? Go to your KDP page. Up on the top far right is “Help”, open this and scroll down the left column to “contact us.”
Tell ’em. I do. They listened when I told them to give authors a way to schedule discounted books as an option, didn’t they? (Hey, it coulda happened that way).
Deborah Carney says
I think that if most Select authors take the discount route instead of the free books route Amazon will take notice. They will take *more* notice if readers *buy* the books during the discount days. Let’s hope that is how it works out!
marquita herald says
Yep I’m pretty excited about the new opportunity and I also plan to do some testing. In fact I’ve been working on selling my books from my blog – learning a lot and doing pretty well with it so far. Currently 2 of my 7 books are enrolled in KDP Select so I will be experimenting like crazy this month.
James W. Lewis says
No thanks. Exclusitiivty will always be a problem for me. I am curious to see how it turns out, though.
Lee Werrell says
This is a very important development and I would assume is designed to rival Smashwords where you can issue vouchers for discounts, and these vouchers are the same as I use on my indie website. I have set two of my books for discounted times, “Global Crossing” (B00E3BVUKQ) from 15th Nov (UK) to 21st and 22nd (.co.uk) to 28th, and “5 Reasons to use Social Media in Your Business” (B00E80EZW2) from 22nd to 28th in both simultaneously using two different campaigns and markets (.com and .co.uk) to see if there is any difference in the responses.
Cory Richardson says
Great article on KDP Select. Thanks. The new Bargain Countdown Options program is something to consider. It’s a gamble, though. If you have thousands of downloads of your free or reduced price book, it could be worth the exclusive listing. Shawn has done impressively well with that. On the other hand, if you only get a few hundred sales, then what have you given up by tying your hands for 90 days?
Taylor Stonely says
This is huge! I am about to start 2 of my 5 free days tomorrow, so I am excited to see what it does for my sales. I like the added exposure that the countdown offers, but the good news is that I will be able to watch for the next 3 months to see if it works better or not.