Tuesday, March 20, 2012


To KDP Select or not to KDP Select

Why would any publisher or author restrict their book sales to one outlet, even if that outlet is Amazon? That’s the option that KDP Select is offering authors, a chance to have their novels available nowhere but at Amazon for three months. In return for this exclusive deal, the author gets their novel placed in the Kindle Lending Library and is offered the chance to have five free promotion days. Is it worth it?

You bet. My young adult sci-fi vampire novel, Apocalypse Revolution, seemed destined for obscurity. It launched on December 23rd, racked up a few sales and a couple of nice reviews and then slumped straight for the bottom of the Amazon sales rank. Blogging, Tweeting and Facebooking didn’t help one bit. My first concern was that the market was just too saturated, but I began tracking similar apocalyptic novels and found them selling briskly. Anything with a zombie is hot stuff today courtesy of the Walking Dead TV series.

I’d been late getting around to putting AR up on Smashwords, so when Amazon announced KDP Select I figured I’d give it a try for three months, but I didn’t get around to booking a free promotional day until February 16th. Up until that point AR had zero sales for February--a big fat zero. The free day starts at midnight in California, so when I fired up my computer the next morning I didn’t expect to see many downloads. Instead, I nearly spit my coffee at the screen. There were already over a hundred downloads, and every time I refreshed the screen there were more. By the end of the day I’d given away 531 copies. But the good news started the next day, when the paid sales began--nothing earth shattering, but two or three a day is great compared to zero. Better yet, the fourth book in the series, Vampire Road, began selling as well.

The second free promotion day (March 02) seemed like a bust until the evening. Suddenly downloads began flying out the electronic door, over 1300 in four hours. The pay off was even better, with my paid sales over the next few days at fifteen to twenty copies a day.

But hang onto your hats mystery writers. Catherine Astolfo’s publisher, Imajin, ventured a free day for The Bridgeman that resulted in nearly 10,000 downloads. The Bridgeman went on to sell at a fantastic pace after the free day, ranking well up in the top thousand sellers on Kindle and flirting with the top 500 even throughout the next couple of weeks though it was priced at $3.99, which for a KDP novel is expensive.

There are downsides to promo days and KDP Select. Some people visit sites that specifically list free Kindle deals just to download pretty much anything--think compulsive collecting. Thus, your novel can end up associated with some unrelated books. Apocalypse Revolution is now auto-suggested to fans of Amazing Cheesecakes, which I’m sure has some wonderful recipes, but do these cooks really want to read about vampires and machine guns?

The other downside of course is that your novel isn’t available anywhere else. Barnes and Noble is a pretty big market to ignore, let alone all the other ebookstores like the iBookstore. Many of my short stories and a few copies of Summer of Bridges--my anthology of all those coming-of-age stories that were published as a series in Storyteller magazine--have sold through Apple. It’s not a market I want to ignore forever.

The other downside is that you’re totally relying on these third party sites to promote you, and sometimes they miss your novel’s free day. My third promo was the first Sunday of March break. Only twenty copies downloaded, and the paid sales for the rest of the week were similarly disappointing. The free sites just didn’t pick up my novel that time. It’s luck of timing.

Now if you’re an established author with a big publisher, you could still use KDP Select for a short story, keeping in mind that good sales there could help push the sales of your novel. Just check your contract first, because some publishers require non-competition for your work and might even consider a short story competition for a novel. An author with Penguin in the US found that out the hard way.

Summary: two thumbs up for KDP Select, but I don’t want to live with it forever.

Michael Andre McPherson has worked in film and television, construction and web production. He's visited pretty much every country with a "stan" in the suffix of its name, including Afghanistan, although long before the Canadian Army's visit, and long before it was a fashionable destination. A dozen of Mike's short stories have been published with several receiving awards. His latest adventure has been e-publishing his previously published short stories into an anthology: Summer of Bridges. He has also published two young adult novels: Apocalypse Revolution and Vampire Road. Mike is the regional vice-president in Toronto for the Crime Writers of Canada. Find out more at http://www.beyondtheslushpile.com or http://www.michaelandremcpherson.com

1 comment:

  1. Excellent post, Mike - you cover my conclusions exactly. I had a similar experience - 6400 free downloads and then great sales immediately after. Whether sales continue next month is something we'll have to see...