A while back I mentioned that I’d opted both of my books into KDP Select. In short, KDP Select offers two obvious benefits in exchange for exclusivity with Amazon; 5 free promotional days per 90 day contract and the ability for Kindle owners to borrow my books for free (and for me to be paid by Amazon for each borrow).
I ran my first promo on February 29th for my short story collection, Walking At Night. I didn’t advertise it other than a mention on Facebook (where my following isn’t exactly huge). Between the US and UK stores I ended up unloading 398 copies. I felt those numbers were pretty good. At the time I was charging $1.99 ($.70 profit), so I figured I wasn’t giving up much revenue.
I also placed the first three chapters of my novel, Into the Badlands, as a sample in the back of Walking At Night. I figured that was a good way to capitalize on the free giveaway and get exposure for my other work.
So, why do this at all? I’m glad you asked. These were my goals:
- Get my work out to more readers
- Increase exposure/sales of Walking at Night
- Increase sales of Into the Badlands
Was the promotion successful? Sort of.
As for goal #1, success. I reached 388 readers.
As for goal #2, that seems to have been successful too. Sales increased from 28 copies in February to 44 copies in March (thus far).
As for goal #3, Well, that’s a tough one to quantify. Into the Badlands didn’t see a rise in March; in fact, sales were down from February. But the benefits of adding the sample chapters at the end of Walking At Night might take some time to play out. As people eventually get around to reading Walking at Night they’ll eventually discover those samples. Right now I’d call these results inconclusive.
Since my free day for Walking At Night went well, I thought I’d do the same for Into the Badlands. On March 15th I made the book free for the day.
I see these free days being useful to sell an author’s backlist; give one away and they’ll buy the rest. Problem is, I really don’t have a backlist. I do, however, have a new horror novel called The Desolate that’s due out in June, so I thought giving away Into the Badlands a couple months before The Desolate‘s release might be a good idea.
Of course I had goals:
- Get my work to readers who’d never read me before, allowing enough time for readers to actually read Into the Badlands before The Desolate‘s release in June
- Spur declining sales of Into the Badlands
Was the promo successful? Well, I’m glad you asked again.
Goal #1 was successful. I gave away 1,355 copies of Into the Badlands. It even rose to #9 in the free Kindle store’s Horror list.
Goal #2 was unsuccessful. The free day caused my ranking to drop for a day or two (which I expected). After that, sales remained flat, selling at the same rate as before the promotion.
I’m mixed about the results. I did get my book on a lot of Kindles. But I didn’t get any additional paid sales after the book went back to paid. I was glad sales didn’t fall off completely, so I figured it was a wash, at least in respect to sales.
Here’s the unexpected benefit though; the thing I didn’t plan on. After the promotion the “Customers who bought this also bought…” list on Into the Badlands‘ product page now contains lots and lots of horror books, not just zombie books. This, combined with the knowledge that the book hit #9 on the horror list, means that my book finally reached an entirely new audience.
Honestly, this might be the best reason for doing the free day. My next book isn’t post-apocalyptic or zombie; it’s a straight up horror novel. By giving away Into the Badlands to a bunch of horror fans, I now have the opportunity to sell them The Desolate, a straight up horror novel. It’s a perfect fit.
Unfortunately it’s hard to determine if giving away Into the Badlands will help sell The Desolate. I’ll probably never know for sure. What I do know is that I’ve reached a new audience, and that alone is an accomlishment.
Will I do another free day? Well, that depends. Ideally I’d like to have a couple novellas or another small collection to give away instead of a full-length novel. Royalties are low on those sorts of works and they’re perfect introductory pieces. A reader can sample my work risk-free and I don’t really lose a lot of money. Based on that statement, I’ll probably not do any more novel giveaways, at least not anytime soon. Maybe once I’ve built up a huge backlist I’ll change my mind.
As far as borrows go, Into the Badlands was borrowed 31 times in March. Even Walking At Night had a couple borrows; definitely more than I expected. Borrows haven’t really eaten into my actual sales, but I also don’t really care so much. Borrows count toward sales rank and I’m getting paid for them. Borrow counts are much higher than any Barnes and Noble sales I ever had, combined.
Ultimately I’d call KDP Select a good idea for me. I got my work out to a bunch of new readers and I’ve primed the well for the release of my next book. Sales haven’t dropped off due to the free days, so I’m still earning income. I’m also gaining exposure through borrows. For the time being I plan to keep all my books enrolled in KDP Select, if for no other reason than the borrows. I still think I made the right decision by opting in.