Opting (Back) In

KDP Select was introduced with a lot of hubbub surrounding it. Most folks who were against it seemed to dislike the exclusivity clause. That’s totally understandable if you’re selling in the other markets like B&N, Apple, Kobo, Smashwords and Sony. It would be foolish to give up all those sales for a few more borrows from Amazon.

Myself, I had absolutely no luck in those markets. My book was out there for months and sold virtually nothing outside Amazon. Exclusivity wasn’t a big jump for me, so I opted in. I made my book free for a day and moved over 1,300 units. Aside from a small bump in UK sales that had no effect on my paid sales.

I have, however, had some success with borrows. Last month I had 43 borrows at around $2.26 per borrow. Since opting in in mid-February I’ve had 133 borrows, earning me around $300 while providing readers free exposure to my work.

I’ve read that some authors are now opting out of Select. My first 90-day stint rolled around in May. I still only have one book for sale, but I decided to opt back in. Why?

Firstly, the borrows are the big deal here. I have another novel due out in August and I think the borrows could help sales. I’ll likely opt the new book into KDP Select as well, allowing readers to borrow either book and, if they enjoy it, purchase the other. Time will tell if this strategy works, but getting paid by Amazon to allow users to try my books for free is a perk I’m not quite ready to give up.

Free days? Not so much anymore. They don’t provide the jump in paid sales that they used to and honestly I don’t like the idea of giving away a novel for free. I’m not judging others who do it; if it works then by all means continue. For me I think giving away novellas and short stories as loss leaders (with samples of my full-length work in the back) makes more sense. I do plan on writing a novella soon and opting it in to Select so that I can run free promos on it. Since it’ll be priced low I won’t be losing much by giving it away. I’ll consider it an advertising cost. I doubt I’ll be giving away any more novels for free though.

In the more than four months my book has been exclusive to Amazon I’ve only had one reader contact me for a copy for another device. Could there be more out there vying for my work, but giving up after they see it’s not available for their device? Possibly, but it would be out of character with my past experiences. Besides, my Kindle books are all DRM-free, so they can be easily converted to epub (via Calibre) and read on any other device on the market. In other words, I don’t think I’m losing more than I’m gaining from the borrows and cross-exposure.

My next 90 days in Select are up in August. That’s also when my new book will be released. I will opt back in again this time around and measure the success. If it performs then I’ll know I made the right decision. If suddenly dozens of people start clamoring for my book on the Nook, iBooks, Kobo or Sony, then I’ll reconsider.

So for now I think Select is working well for both me and my readers. As long as that continues, then I’m all in.


3 thoughts on “Opting (Back) In

  1. fivereflections June 29, 2012 / 5:41 pm

    for some reason, i was assuming, free ebooks were to actually promote your book, as well as measure the reader activity. not sure when the switch from free to real sales kicked in, but i do know amazon switches books at any time and only moves switched books into the correct categories on the hour.

    free ebooks have introduced me to writers i may otherwise passed by. we sometimes forget creativity is not just in the top ten New York Times Best Sellers.. they just have a big name people are comfortable with or don’t have a clue what else to read.

    i read both kindle ebooks and apple ebooks.

    have you looked at Scrivener writing software? i use the mac version, but a windows version has been introduced. i’m excited about their new app for iPad hopefully out by the end of the year. Siri Dictation has some great possibilities for a writing.

    what do you used for a writing software?

    i still have an extremely busy day job, but the day i retire in the very near future, i’ll be working 24 hours a day publishing my dusty manuscripts

    David in Maine USA

    • Brian June 29, 2012 / 7:23 pm

      Hi David,

      When you have only one title for sale, giving it away for free seems counter-productive. In the past (before Amazon changed their algorithms) if you put your book on a free promotion it tended to sell well after it went back to paid. Apparently Amazon would feature your book in one or more “popular” lists for a few days, driving a spike in sales. Now it seems they don’t do this and the free promotions don’t necessarily equate to a spike in paid sales.

      That said, I think that giving away books can promote interest in a writer as a brand. Giving away shorter works like novellas or short stories and including samples of longer works in the back is a great way to promote. It’s like a loss leader, allowing readers an extended sample of your work so they can see if they like it. Hopefully they do and they go buy your novels. It’s also why I like the KDP Select program; it allows readers to try me for free and I still make a little money on it. It’s a win-win.

      I use Libre Office for writing, then save the file as html and use eCub to build my eBooks. I’ve never tried Scrivener; I’ll have to look into that.

      Depending on how my writing “side job” pans out I might consider retiring early from IT and writing full-time. It’s still 10-15 years off, but there’s no harm in considering my options now. For the time being I try to write around my day-to-day responsibilities. They all require a lot of attention from me. Of course nothing worth it is easy, so I don’t use it as crutch to not write. I still write every day, even if only a little. Eventually the books get finished.

      Good luck on your manuscripts. Brushing the dust of old work and getting it spruced up and out there for others to read is incredibly rewarding.

      Take care,

    • Brian J. Jarrett July 7, 2012 / 11:10 am

      Thanks for the heads up on Scrivener, David. I just purchased a license for the Mac version today. Now I can do everything in one application, faster and easier than before!

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