by Robert Gray
A few months ago, Amazon started a program called KDP Select, which allows self-published authors and authors who own the rights to their ebooks to include their titles into the Kindle Lending Library, where you can earn roughly $1.40 each time someone borrows one of your ebooks. To sweeten the deal, Amazon lets you promote your ebook for free for up to five days every three months. There is, however, one major caveat: if you decide to include a title into the program, you cannot distribute the ebook version through any other channel, which includes Barnes & Noble’s nook, Apple’s iPad/Pod/Phone, Sony, etc. Somewhat reluctantly, I decided to give the program a try with one of my titles, and I wanted to share my experience with you. Of course, your mileage may vary, but here’s my story:
I self-published a middle-grade horror novel back in November 2011. During that first month, sales were modest (which is the ego-massaging way of saying “crap”). Most sales came from friends and relatives and a few people that either felt sorry for me or were sick of hearing me mention my new book on Twitter and Facebook. By early December, sales flatlined. And let me tell you, there are few things more depressing than seeing that brown bar on Amazon’s KDP site, but that’s a topic for another day.
Around mid-December, I decided to enter into the KDP Select program. At the time, my ebook was available on all the usual suspects, but since it wasn’t selling anywhere, I figured what the hell. Now, I still wasn’t getting any sales, and on top of that, I committed one of the greatest sins: I shrank my distribution. Oh, yeah, I felt like a marketing genius.
Right after Christmas, I ran my free promotion for five days. On Day 1, I went from 0 to 200 downloads. Day 2, I had about a thousand. By Day 4, my ebook hit number one in free children’s horror, and it stayed there until the promotion ended. In total, my ebook was downloaded over three thousand times. Not too shabby for a book that had no marketing push behind it and not a single review. When the ebook went back on sale on December 31, all of a sudden I was getting twenty to thirty sales a day. Nothing earth shattering, but considering where the book came from, I was pleasantly surprised.
But this is no rags to riches story. My ebook is still selling well; however, the momentum has ebbed considerably. Perhaps this is due to so many other authors attempting the same thing, and the market is flooded with free books (I hear there are over 100,000 authors in the program and that number’s increasing every day). Also, as the ebook dropped in ranking, it lost key placement on Amazon’s website, which makes it harder for would-be readers to stumble on to it.
Overall, though, I’d say the program is worth taking a look at. In a world where you have to shout to be heard, Amazon’s letting you borrow a megaphone for a few days. And it’s not an all-or-nothing type of program, either. You can test it with one poor-selling title. If it works out for you, then try it with your other titles. If it doesn’t work out, you only have to stay with the program for three months.