Much has been made, and discussed, about KDP Select, and much of this discussion has been about the necessity to be exclusive to Amazon for a minimum of 90 days. This, according to the sales copy from Amazon is offset by the chance to be automatically enrolled in Kindle Unlimited where subscribers can borrow books free of charge. Authors are then paid out of a global fund administered by Amazon. Borrows count towards sales and therefore rankings.
I wanted to experiment with KDP Select and to determine if there was any advantage to being enrolled. I couldn’t do it with my existing books as they were already available on other distribution channels and therefore would not meet the criteria for exclusivity. So I decided to launch the first three books in a new series and enrol all three in KDP Select for the full 90 days.
This was a considered strategy. The books were junior fiction and I was working on the assumption that, while children in the target age group would not be allowed to buy books using a credit card, they would be allowed to borrow, with their parents having set up the monthly subscription payment. This was the theory anyway.
I released all three books, Speed, Velocity and Maneuvers over the Easter weekend 2015. The Select period ends on 2 July.
The first thing to report on as the Select period nears its end is that there were zero borrows.
Perhaps I was naïve for thinking that I could just enrol the books in KDP Select and let the Amazon machine do the rest. But that was part of the plan. If KDP Select is the great savior of obscurity in Amazon and, as a writer, I was foregoing the opportunity to distribute through other channels, then surely Amazon would do something in return for me?
Not at all. Like anything else, marketing is required. Even with the allure of Kindle Unlimited, an author must still do their own promotion, or sink into the morass of other titles in the program. I didn’t just stick the book up and hope for the best either. I read a lot about Amazon algorithms and used a number of strategies including keywords in the metadata, careful consideration of the categories, placement of a tagline on the cover, and a book description that, to my mind at least, would excite the reader. In other words, I did everything right, according to the experts, and still the books didn’t rank particularly well or generate lots of sales.
So did anything work?
Giving away the first title for free worked extremely well; while in KDP Select the author has a chance to promote a title for 7 days for free only once during the 90 days exclusive period. I did that early on with the first in the series “Speed”. This strategy placed it at #4 on the bestseller list for that category. Heady stuff indeed. However, once the free period ended, the book plummeted down the rankings.
I thought, at the least, that a good ranking during the free period might bring it to prominence in Kindle Unlimited once the free period ended.
That was not the case. Authors talk about the ‘cliff’ at the end of a free promotion and I certainly experienced that.
I am now coming to the end of the Select period and I have not renewed it for a further 90 days.
Was I disappointed? Not in the least. I wanted to play with this new way of distribution and gauge its effectiveness. I had shunned KDP Select in the past, thinking there was no advantage to the program, and I was proved right. I tried it, it bombed, I move on.
So what next? I am now going to launch across as many distribution channels as I can, including Smashwords (and therefore B&N and Apple) Kobo, Wattpad. The first ebook in the series will be permafree, except on Booktrack where readers can read the complete book with a soundtrack. I will also release the first three books in a box set at a reduced price and promote the release of number 4 in the series wherever I can. Then I will report back on the results of that strategy after another 90 day period.
Then I will be able to say which strategy worked the best.