Earlier this month, the exclusive 90-day period with KDP Select for my debut novel concluded. While I chose not to renew it for another period, I did feel it was worthwhile for achieving my goals as a debut author.
I’d read recent blog posts where among those that were still enthusiastic about their KDP Select experience, many were talking about hundreds of downloads a day instead of thousands such as were described back in January. So, I went in thinking that over five free days, 1000 free downloads total was a decent goal. While the final two free days on the 25th & 26th of July mimicked those numbers even while ranking decently in the suspense category, my overall experience was better than anticipated.
Tangled Ties to a Manatee spent much of July 26th ranked in the 20’s for free downloads in the suspense category for Amazon kindle. But, just like any retail store’s department can have slow or busy days, that rank translated to an average of 200 downloads per day in the final third round of free day promotions. Ranking in the 20’s in suspense yielded many more downloads per hour during the second round of promotion for the novel.
I’m grateful for each of the free downloads because it means my novel reached more readers. Amazon’s kindle store being a little slower overall on the 25th & 26th (at least in the suspense category) likely has something to do with the Olympics coverage starting the next day. Folks may have had other entertainment plans for upcoming weeks than reading.
The first round was just one free day promotion coinciding with Summer Solstice. Given my lack of experience with KDP Select, I started with a one day promotion so I could learn the lay of the land. I primarily relied on social networks that day without many listings, though there were a few, for the event. I believe using the hashtag #solstice on twitter helped me reach readers that may not otherwise have seen my listing for that day. So, I was lucky in that not many others emphasized that and the message was retweeted, reaching many streams. On that one day, the novel had about 450 free downloads, better than I anticipated given recent postings about KDP Select outcomes.
The second round, on June 15th & 16th was when Tangled Ties to a Manatee did surprisingly well. Several things led to that. First, there were more listings prescheduled to promote the novel’s free days. Second, a virtual blog tour had started after the first promotion day the month before. Third, there were more reviews by readers posted, both on Amazon and elsewhere. While there was a slow build in the ranks on Sunday, the 15th, the rankings placed well thereafter, particularly in the PM of the 16th. Tangled Ties to a Manatee reached #7 in suspense among free Amazon kindle titles and broke into the top 100 in the overall kindle titles list. Over half of all the downloads during the KDP select program happened during that 12 hour period – Monday PM, July 16th.
One thing to realize about Amazon rankings, the top 10 is where most of the downloads are happening each hour. The difference between being #7 and #27 was hundreds during the evening of July 16th, whereas the difference between #27 and #47 rankings might have been ten downloads for a given hour. So, I was fortunate to ride out a wave that evening and I’m certain my connections on the social networks tired of reading about my novel’s promotion that day.
I was fortunate to have a total of just over 4700 free downloads during the five free days allotted during the 90 days exclusive on KDP Select. Among promotional opportunities that are part of an overall ebook sales emphasis, I believe there is not a better program out there for getting a debut author’s novel to readers choosing the book from a major retailer. I found the experience validating for the work I put into storytelling for the novel.
In hindsight, I would schedule just two rounds of free days, a first round of two days and a second round of three days. It takes time to move up the rank, and that is if one is fortunate since having a free day alone is no guarantee the book will move in and of itself. Listings and promotion during free days are critical. So, it is much easier to ride out a wave for a second day when already placed well in the rankings, than to build each free promotion day individually.
A second thing I would do differently in hindsight is I’d quickly adjust the schedule if ranked in the top 10 in my category and move one of the days remaining from later to the 17th. I had to work my hourly job that Tuesday and had already posted about the remaining two free days in a few venues, so I decided not to do that. But, even at the time, I knew I was unlikely to get that opportunity back for reaching the same number of readers on an hourly basis with the final promotion as scheduled. I just chalk that up to the realities of being a self-published author with a full time job, otherwise. But, if authors have that opportunity, I suggest rescheduling the next day’s promotion when doing well to better optimize free days.
A bit on how this translated to paid sales. I’ve read other authors’ posts, some stating it helped them well with paid sales, others saying it did nothing or even slowed down paid sales while free days were available. My experience is somewhere in between. After those free days where downloads numbered in the 100’s, I did not see a bump up (or down for that matter). After the round where free downloads numbered in the 1000’s, I saw a bump up and had the best week to date in paid sales for Tangled Ties to a Manatee. Part of that may be due to a few paid promotions I had later that same week as a way of layering promotions within a limited budget. But, the bump did occur.
Overall, I would suggest the KDP Select program for introducing a novel for debut authors based on the five free days promotion available during a 90 day ebook exclusive commitment. While results are not guaranteed, there are opportunities to successfully distribute the novel via a major retailer to more readers as authors also maintain that professional sales responsibility while doing so. To reach this author’s goals, the KDP Select program was worthwhile.