Kindle Countdown Deals not as Good as Free Was

In November, Amazon.com announced a new promotional plan — Kindle Countdown Deals. The idea is, if your book is enrolled in KDP Select, you can put it on sale for as little as 99 cents, keep your 70% royalty, and have it run for up to seven days. Amazon puts a countdown clock on the sale to increase the urgency to buy, and you can even have the sale go in increments — “buy now before the price increases to $1.99”, etc.

I decided to take advantage of this program for the Christmas shopping season. I put a different book on sale for four days, Monday through Thursday, in each of the first three weeks of December. Then I offered a short story free on Fridays.

Unfortunately, I got terribly sick those first two weeks of December, so I was unable to do any of the support marketing I had planned to call attention to my deals. Thus, my numbers were very bad. That needs to be taken into consideration with this analysis.

However, there were some very instructive facts to be gleaned from this particular experiment. I’ll outline my methodology¬† and then look at results.

The Plan

As I mentioned, I put a different book on sale each week. Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale was discounted the first week of December, State of Grace the second week, and Red Dragon Five the third. B&B and SoG retail for $2.99. RD5 goes for $4.99.

I opted not only to experiment by putting a different book on sale each week, I played around with the pricing increments. I set Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale at 99 cents Monday through Wednesday and $1.99 on Thursday. State of Grace ran at 99 cents on Monday and Tuesday, and at $1.99 on Wednesday and Thursday. Red Dragon Five was $1.99 on Monday, $2.99 on Tuesday and Wednesday, and $3.99 on Thursday.

The Results

As I mentioned sales were disappointing overall, and I blame myself for that mostly, since I did very little to bring awareness to the discounts. I’ve heard similar things from other authors, which suggests, unsurprisingly, that you have to advertise if you want to move units. It’s a crowded market.

B&B Cover Lo-ResBut the way the sales I did get came in was the interesting part. In the three days Beauty & the Beast: A Modern Fairy Tale sold for 99 cents, I moved nine copies. As soon as the price went up — even to the still-discounted rate of $1.99 — sales stopped.

State of Grace had similar results. I moved five copies at 99 cents and one at $1.99.

And Red Dragon Five? One copy at $1.99, none at any other price increment.

I think that demonstrates a couple of things. First, the sliding-scale price increment is worthless. Consumers only want the book at the lowest price you are willing to offer. Trying to have a countdown (countup?) to regular price is a failed tactic. As soon as the price goes up, sales stop. So run your event at the lowest price you are willing to sell for the entire time. Don’t waste your effort on increments.

Second, 99 cents is the new free. Free events are pretty well dead, and Amazon has convinced the discount sites to make sure they are pushing cheap books instead of free ones. That’s good in one respect.

However, based on my experience, it seems pretty clear that 99 cents generates sales. $1.50, $1.99, $2.99 do not. When you’re having a sale, consumers expect to pay no more than a buck for your book.

Now, I’ll reiterate that my sales were low, which was due to the fact that I didn’t advertise. Therefore, it’s dangerous to infer too much from such a tiny sample size.

But I have heard similar things from other authors.

Verdict

THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER may have done more for sales.

THE SWORD AND THE SORCERER may have done more for sales.

It’s really too early to render anything absolute yet, but I am at least tentatively concluding that Kindle Countdown Deals are not the boon to sales that free events were last year. I’ve sold a copy of State of Grace and had it borrowed since the sale. I sold another copy of Red Dragon Five. But I haven’t seen much in the way of residual sales since I ran my events. In fact, I attribute late December sales to the other books riding the coattails of The Sword and the Sorcerer, which launched on Christmas Day.

There are things to like about Kindle Countdown Deals. Keeping the 70% royalty instead of having to drop to 35% for pricing under $2.99 and the countdown clock are very nice features. But are they enough to warrant staying enrolled in KDP Select? I’m not sure.

I need to do some more experimentation, and I need to hear more about other authors’ experiences. (Please leave a comment below if you’ve tried running a Kindle Countdown Deal, discussing your results.) I’m releasing a new Wolf Dasher book in a few months. I’ll likely use the countdown sales to promote it. The results will tell me whether I should keep the series enrolled in Select or not.

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