Tuesday, February 28, 2012

How Amazon's KDP Select Saved My Book, Part II

Click to visit my Amazon page
Today, I send The Jackpot on its second free run on Amazon. As you'll remember, KDP Select participants get five free days to use during their 90-day commitment. I've got three left to use before I have to decide whether to re-enroll in Select or throw my book back out onto the other e-bookstores. I decided to blog about this second run as it happened, because people are super hungry for actual data, and I haven't seen one address a Free run in medias res, as my English teacher used to say.

I've decided to use at least one of those days on Wednesday, February 29. Depending on how Wednesday goes, I may extend it a day. The key to a really successful Free-to-Paid bounce appears to be hitting not just the Top 100 Free, but the Top 10 Free. Top 100 will give you a bounce, but it's a short one, and will get you maybe as high as 1,000 or 1,500. Nothing to sneeze at, of course, but if you want real sales in the thousands, you've got to hit that Top 10 Free List. I could be wrong, but I've been studying a lot of books in the last month and that seems to be the key.


I actually did some this time. I submitted notice of the book's impending free status to seven different Kindle sites that cater to Kindle readers looking for low-cost or free books.

Pixel of Ink
E-Reader News Today
Bargain E-Bookhunter
Frugal E-Reader
Free E-Books Daily Blog
Indie Books List
All Things Kindle

I also hope to get picked up by Kindle Nation Daily's free book sweeper. I can't remember if I did last time. There are other sites that sweep the Internet daily for all manner of free deals, and hopefully, I can pop onto some of those as well.

I plan to notify a couple of book bloggers who gave The Jackpot good reviews. Obviously, whether they choose to share it with their readers is entirely in their discretion.

I also plan to Tweet the news on a semi-regular basis during the day. I'm hoping these tweets won't be viewed as annoying spam since the book is in fact, free. I could be wrong. Of course, whether my followers download the book or choose to re-tweet the news about the freebie is up to them. I won't ask. I've been asked directly to re-tweet something before, once, and I didn't like being asked.


First time out, I had as much success as anyone could ever have dreamed of. I ended up with 25,000 downloads. I reached heights on the big-boy Amazon bestseller list that most traditionally published writers never do. For all I know, that might be the only time any book of mine ever makes it that high. Jesus, I hope not, but it's very possible.

But the stupid naive side of myself is all "puppies and sunshine!", and expects nothing but the best. Stupid naive self.

I am as anxious about this as I've been about anything in my writing career. When I went free the first time, I had no expectations because the book was dead. I would have been happy with any paid sales, let alone the thousands I ended up with.


I plan to update this post during the day when I can. I'm one of these types that can spew a bunch of bloggy words when I'm nervous, and I think that helps settle me down. I'll try to share as much as I can. Feel free to duck in and out during the day and see how things are going.

Incidentally, my January 29 blog post about my KDP Select experience has become the biggest thing to ever come out of The Corner. To give you an idea how big -- prior to January 30, this blog had about 62,000 lifetime hits in 18 months. A respectable number, one I was proud of. On January 30 and January 31, this blog got 35,000 hits, thanks in very large part to a link from a site called Daring Fireball.

I will be as honest as I can. I may equal my first run's success. I probably will not. But I've got these free days to use, and they've proven to be a valuable weapon in my arsenal. I've gotten 25 new reviews, the vast majority of which are from people who loved the book, and who had never heard of the book before a month ago.

I've heard all the arguments about the danger of being so beholden to Amazon through this program. But you know what? No matter what happens, for the rest of my career, I can point to this book and say it was a success. And it was because of Amazon.


UPDATE #1 (about 7:00 a.m.) - The book has been free for a couple hours. About 100 downloads so far. No. 3,973 in the free Kindle Store. No. 6 in Legal Thrillers. Pretty pleased so far. A little behind the first promo's pace, but better than I'd expected.

UPDATE #2 (8:30 a.m.) - I just discovered that the book was picked up by a Facebook page called Kindle on the Cheap sometime in the last two hours. Downloads are steadily increasing. Waiting to see if I get picked up by the big sites, which I believe start posting mid-morning. I pass the time by looking at screenshots of when I hit the Paid Top 100 and then engage in self-loathing for doing so.

UPDATE #3 (10:00 a.m.) - The book was also picked up by the Kindle Author Facebook page. More than 200 downloads in the last hour. Also tweeted by several free e-book Twitter accounts. No. 2,582 overall, No. 7 Legal Thriller. Holding my breath for the biggies. I didn't make the first cut at E-Reader News Today, but they post multiple times during the day. *eyes scotch*.

UPDATE #4 (11:00 a.m.) - A mention by All Things Kindle. Downloads have stabilized at about 200 per hour. Missed the first cut on the biggie sites. Now resorting to cannibalism. Sorry. Interestingly, while my downloads are comparable to my first run at this point (before I hit Pixel of Ink a little before noon on 1/25), my rank is quite a bit worse. I'm still at No. 2,582, but I've jumped to No. 4 in Free Legal Thrillers.

UPDATE #5 (12:00 p.m.) - Hit Bargain e-BookHunter and the Indiebookslist.com. Also on the Kindle Nation Daily free book sweep. Downloads remain stable. Decided cannibalism was bad. I am up to No. 468 in the Free Store. I've hit every list I've wanted to except for the two big boys. Missed the second cut on Pixel of Ink.

UPDATE #6 (1:30 p.m.) - Caught some big game! Got a mention on E-Reader News Today! First book listed! Puppies and rainbows! Also mentioned near the top of The Frugal E-Reader! *Flailing my arms about like a Muppet!*

UPDATE #7 (2:45 p.m.) - Interesting discovery. E-Reader News Today put me and several other books today on their site a while ago, but I didn't see much download traffic until they posted it to their Facebook fan page. Since then, it's been a firehose of downloads. ENT is a free book MONSTER. For those curious, I submitted my book to them eight days ago.

UPDATE #8 (4:35 p.m.) - Looks like I made all the sites except for Pixel of Ink. My book is now No. 122 in the Free Store, and the No. 2 legal thriller. The combination of the various sites mentioning the book have really combined to push the book today. I'm going to need another push or two to get as high as I need to. Remains to be seen if it will happen. Cue sad, "future is cloudy" music from your favorite TLC reality show.

UPDATE #9 (8:25 p.m.) - No new site mentions this evening, although many people have been kind enough to Tweet and post the link on Facebook. After getting stuck in the 120s nearly all afternoon, the book finally bumped up to No. 73 overall. It's now the No. 1 Legal Thriller in the Free Store. It's been a tougher row to hoe this time around. I think that not getting the Pixel of Ink mention definitely made things a little harder. Now I will need to think about whether to add a second day.

UPDATE #10 (10:45 p.m. Wednesday) - The book has climbed to No. 37 overall in the Free store, and the downloads continue to be brisk. I am leaning heavily toward a second Free day. It's possible there's some more room to climb, especially if some of the books ahead of me switch back to Paid overnight. Plus, there aren't that many suspense/thrillers ahead of me. Could be a good chance to get back to the top 10. Last time out, I made it to No. 5 in the Free store, and I think that had a HUGE impact when I went back to Paid.

UPDATE #11 (7:00 a.m. Thursday) - Strategy time. I've extended the Free promo and am now using my fourth of five Free days. Here's the data. I'm No. 29 in the store. Eleven books ahead of me have switched back to Paid and presumably will be dropping off the Free Top 100 in the next hour or two. The big sites haven't posted yet, and it takes a few hours for those books to reap the benefit. I am HOPING that once those 11 no-longer-free books drop off, I will bounce up to the Top 20 where I can just ride the wave of having such great exposure. Stay tuned.

UPDATE #12 (11:20 a.m. Thursday) - Those 11 books ahead of me did drop off, and I've jumped to No. 18 overall. Ya-hoo! Most interesting discovery -- It seems to have taken fewer downloads to get inside the Top 20 than it did during my first free run in January. Not sure what that means (or if I'm even totally correct). You'd have thought the opposite would be true as more people enrolled their books in Select. Glad I stuck with another day. Already thinking about tomorrow, when I switch back to Paid status.

UPDATE #13 (5:30 p.m. Thursday) - Looks like I will peak at #18. Did not quite make my goal, but came damn close. Really happy with the results, but it kind of stings a little to get that close and come up just short. Ideally, I will hang in the 20s for the rest of the evening and then switch back to Paid overnight. I could cut it short and switch back to Paid almost immediately, but that makes me nervous. More sad TLC reality show music.

UPDATE #14 (10:41 p.m. Thursday) -- Big decision to make. The book has dropped quickly to #45. I'm at about 11,000 downloads overall. I do not want to come off the Free list outside the top 100. As I said in my January 29 post, I think a big factor in the bump was showing up in the Free bestseller list once the book was back in Paid. Do I cut the promo short now while I'm still in the top 50, but risk losing East Coast buyers who are going to bed and would miss the book being on the Free bestseller list? Or do I hang tight and hope I finish the run in the top 100? Gamesmanship.

UPDATE #15 (11:26 p.m.) - Still hanging at #45. 3.5 hours to go before I automatically switch back to Paid. I've got to think I've got enough juice to hang in the Top 100 Free until the switch and then have enough slack to stay in until I get cycled out onto the Paid side. You drop fast on the Free list once you're not Free anymore. Makes sense. One thing I need to remember. No matter what happens -- these two Free promos have pushed out 36,000 copies of the book. If even just 1 percent read it, that's a lot of new readers I didn't have before.

UPDATE #16 (1:35 a.m. Friday) -- Stayed up way too late wrestling with this. Dropped to #58 briefly, but then rebounded to #57. The book should come off Free status in about 90 minutes. Have decided to stick it out through the end of the promo. Will be curious to see how the day goes. Very unlikely I will repeat my experience from January 27, but some bounce would be nice to see.

UPDATE #18 (3:30 p.m. Saturday) -- After a slow start, sales got rolling again. The first thing I noted was that when I came off Free, I appeared back on the Paid bestseller list at around No. 15,000 overall, and the No. 77 Legal Thriller. So what I take this to mean is that Amazon simply views my two free days as two days that book is registering zero Paid sales, and adjusted my rank accordingly. Compare this to my previous free run -- my sales had been so bad, that when I came off the Free list early on January 27, I simply had no ranking in the Paid store.

So, since yesterday morning, my rank has climbed steadily (nothing like the rocket-ship rise from January 27, but still a very, very good result). The book is now ranked No. 941 overall and is the No. 10 Legal Thriller. I also am holding onto my No. 3 Top Rated status, which gives me "stickiness" on the Legal Thriller bestseller list -- they have a little sidebar on that page showing the 3 Top-Rated books, where my book has been on display for a good long while.

UPDATE #19 (4:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 7) - A good, solid result overall. I've sold more than 500 books since Friday (a far cry from my January explosion, but I'm still really pleased). The book climbed as high as No. 535 in the Kindle Store on Saturday evening. (Last update).


  1. Thanks a lot for doing this. Your first free promotion was pretty inspiring to me, though my free promos didn't turn out anywhere as well as yours did. I'm really glad someone is doing something like what you're doing with this second promo, sharing results as they happen, which should give some of us a better sense of how this all works.

  2. Thanks for the updates, David - and your book which I picked up today;)
    How early did you hit up those dot coms? I submitted to most for my first freebie last week and I think only one picked it up. Still moved 8,000 copies in two days, which was sweet. Any secrets on tipping that free press your way???
    Good luck tomorrow and congratulations on the great success!
    Looking forward to The Jackpot

  3. good job and thanks for the details, Dave!

    Just like Sean, I'm curious on how early you do your prep work.

    did you contact the freebie sites a week early? same day the book went free?

    again, thanks for the experiment....I don't think I've seen anybody else detail it like you're doing.

  4. Sean, Rob- I contacted the sites on February 21. I know people are contacting the big sites with even more lead time, as much as 30 days. Probably a good idea to maximize your chances as much as you can.

    Jdm - thanks for the good thoughts!

  5. thanks for your answers, David.

    I see you're moving on up, friend.

    last night before I went to bed, you were at in the mid 15,000's.

    This morning you're at #10,814...

  6. David, thanks.

    Your Jan. 29 post gave me the boost of spirit to try KDP promo. I did my first one in early Feb. and it was a very, very slight success. (A couple thousand free downloads with dozens of sales following. But, because my sales had been so low, selling anything would have been a "success.")

    So I tried it again, on March 11, and WOW, what a different experience. Same book.(4 Gigs of Trouble). Same reviews. Same cover. But...this time...over 22,000 free downloads. It got as high as #2 in Top 100 free and made it to #1 in Mystery/Thriller free. Best of all, I actually made decent sales between March 12 and now...over 1300 as of now. I know that's not stratospheric but compared to my former abode in the basement, it feels pretty high-rise to me!

    Seriously, man, THANKS for your posts, both the earlier one and this one. The March sales have already begun the slow down and I'm going to plan the next KDP promo using some of the info in your current blog post.

    All I can say is, this March round I got really, seriously, lucky and I am grateful beyond words.

    Oh, I can say one more thing too: after your first KDP post, I bought The Jackpot and am halfway through; read enough of it to know it is WORTHY of a robust readership. So you can count me as a fan, as well as an appreciative "indie" colleague.

    1. Hi Stella,

      Congrats on your success! I had seen your book on some Most Popular pages recently, and I recognized your name from either a comment you'd left (or maybe you'd linked to my last post), so I was really pleased to see you making some hay with the Select program. That's awesome.

    2. Oh -- and thanks for the good word about my book - my favorite thing to hear!

  7. Followed a link from Arstechnica here, found out about the book, got interested, and then found out that I cant buy it because I live in the wrong geographic area....