Taking another Crack at KDP Select

I’ve just concluded my second experiment with KDP Select’s free program. Time to look at the results.

Methodology

At 99 cents, “Sleeping Beauty” is “Unnerving, haunting and well worth the purchase price.” –RunningInHeels, Amazon.com reviewer

Once again, I offered my short story, “Sleeping Beauty,” for free for two days — Tuesday, 2 October, and Wednesday, 3 October. I publicized the event the same way I did last time. (For a complete breakdown of my promotional efforts, read the first blog I wrote on this subject here.) I also bought some advertising from the Kindle Book Review, which resulted in them tweeting the free event several times a day, thereby widening the network I could tap.

Just like with the first free event two weeks ago, I had no idea what to expect. I was hoping for similar results (522 free downloads and nice rises in my Amazon bestseller rank for “Sleeping Beauty” and my novel, State of Grace), but I didn’t know if that would be realistic. The little anecdotal research I’d done suggested a falling off. But if the results were smaller, how much smaller would they be?

Hard Numbers

Midway through the first day, it was apparent this event wasn’t going to result in the same numbers of downloads. I didn’t watch the hour-by-hour numbers the first time (because I hadn’t figured out how yet), but I could tell this time that adding only one or three books per update wasn’t going to result in the kind of participation I saw two weeks ago.

I ended up with a total of 128 people taking advantage of the free offer over the course of the event. That’s about 24.5% of the “sales” I got the first time. Given that I was promoting over a larger network this time, that was pretty disappointing.

But, in the last few hours of the event, I noticed something I hadn’t before. I updated the book’s page to see if there were any new reviews, and there was a whole set of statistics I hadn’t seen. “Sleeping Beauty” was ranked #1842 in the Kindle Free Store. That’s a four-digit number on the bestseller list — easily the smallest I’d ever gotten.

And there was more good news. “Sleeping Beauty” was #38 in the “Mythology” category and #46 in “Contemporary Fantasy.” Hokey smokes! I was in the top 50 on two different lists!

I’m kicking myself for not paying greater attention to this sort of thing. Did “Sleeping Beauty” ever rank higher than #1842? Once I started refreshing regularly, it fell down to #2077. Was it on any of the other Top 100 lists earlier in the day? Did it rise or slip on the two it was on?

There’s a wealth of data that was available at some point during the day I didn’t track, because I didn’t know it was there. And my other question is: do the 522 copies I gave away last month count towards those ranks, or is it just the ones from the current event?

Interpreting Results

As usual, it’s hard to know what it all means. I’ve gotten one sale of “Sleeping Beauty” today, and, unlike last time, I’m following the free event up with advertising events to try to sustain the momentum I built. We’ll see if I do better than the four new sales I made last time.

Here’s what I think. First, I put my brand in front of another 128 people. So in the last two weeks, 650 readers downloaded my book and got a good example of the kinds of stories I write. They also got a free sample of State of Grace and links to my website, Twitter account, and Facebook page. I successfully raised my brand awareness, increasing my readership to a number that dwarfs my previous sales. That’s a good, good thing.

Second, my results appear to be similar to those of some other writers — strong first event, more modest second event. That tells me that KDP Select is indeed a good tool, but that it has it limits and has to be used properly.

My guess is you only get one big response to a free event per book. Subsequent events may be successful, but they won’t even approach the numbers of the first one. This makes sense to me for one very key reason — if people were going to get it free they would do so the first time. The second (and third and fourth) time, you’re asking the same people. In my case, The Kindle Book Review widened the network I was tapping, but otherwise I was trying to draw more water from the same well.

If that’s the case, it seems to me that the right approach to using Select is to enroll for the 90-day minimum, have a two-day free event early in the book’s release, then follow up with another free day every few weeks until both the five free days and the 90 days of exclusivity are used up. At that point, the book should be disenrolled and distributed widely. That would seem to capitalize on the best of both worlds — using Select to build momentum and awareness and then getting the book into as wide a distribution chain as possible.

Next week, I’ll look more closely at what being ranked in the Top 100 of the Kindle Free Bestseller list may mean for my marketing strategy. I believe there is a way to climb those rankings and then stay there, increasing my visibility.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who helped make my latest KDP Select Free event a success. If you missed it, you can get “Sleeping Beauty” here for just 99 cents. As Amazon reviewer, RuningInHeels, put it, the book is “Unnerving, haunting and well worth the purchase price.”

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