Monday, January 2, 2017

A Broke-Ass Writer's Thoughts on Amazon's KDP Select Program, Pt. 1

I thought it might be useful for other authors to write a little bit about what I'm learning while I use Amazon's KDP Select program.  I know that there are a ton of other writers out there that have spoken on it, but I also have the feeling, having read many of them, that they are much more successful monetarily than someone like me, and that there are, frankly, many more authors that make the kind of money I do than the money they do (that's why their experiences are so easy to find).  So, without further ado, I present: A Broke-Ass Writer's Thoughts on Amazon's KDP Select Program, Pt. 1.

I used the KDP Select Program previously, in the very, very old days (not 2009, but 2011, during 'the gold rush' phase.  I did not get a lot of gold).  Basic features: 3 months exclusivity on Amazon, which allows you to use free give-aways, Kindle Count-down deals with discounts, and now includes a pre-order feature and inclusion in the KOLL library, which features KENP pages.  We'll come back to all of that.

In the beginning, the give away feature was the big trial for indie writers.  I loved giving my books away for free.  Loved it.  Loved watching the numbers climb, climb, climb, so I did it with several of my books and all my short stories.  This feature allows you to give your book away for free for up to five days, with the idea that this promotion will lead to higher rankings for the book, free exposure and carry-over sales.

Pros of using Free KDP give-away days:

  • In my case, it was primarily psychological. This helped solidify the belief that there were people out there that wanted to read my books, and so I wrote more of them.
  • For others, I believe the intended benefits worked: higher rankings, free exposure and carry-over sales.  I had a little of all three, with the most cross-over happening between Hardest and Harder (a free promo for the former lead to sales of the latter).  The most glorious outcome was getting noticed by one of my favorite writers, Theodora Taylor,* who noted the promotion of one story (Louder) as a reason to check out my anthology.
Cons of using Free KDP give-away days:
  • What I learned over time is that the majority of down-loads are not from fans of your particular niche, or you.  They are fans of free books.**  Almost every one star review I have gotten happened after a KDP free give-away.***
  • People are going to pirate your shit.  They are.  It's a thing.  But, again, every book I have put on KDP free give-away was immediately available for free on a pirating site.  Kinda undermines the promo.****
As an indie writer now, I wouldn't use the free promo days, for the reasons listed above.  There are so many free books available, yours will be lost in the swamp unless you already have a fan base baited and waiting (and kudos to you if you do!).  On the other hand, having a book (or two, or eight, whatever) that is permafree is currently thought to be a usable strategy by many authors.  Google 'permafree' to find out what they have to say, and hopefully this coming autumn I will be able to report my own findings once I kick off my fantasy series.  Note: there are a lot more non-fiction authors experimenting with this, but apparently the people with real success are building a fictional series (and making the first book permafree).  I mean, from what I gather.  Lord help you if you think I know what the hell I'm doing... But a good example would be Bianca Sommerland's series, The Dartmouth Cobras (BDSM+hockey+pretty great writing!), which has become very successful, and she is one of the first romance writers I can remember trying out the permafree model (let's never trust my memory, though).

Now, for some of my own numbers:

In 2012, I had the following return on Harder and Louder during a give-away promo:

Harder: Louder: Harder: Louder:
890(us) 1601(us) 152(uk) 265(uk)

Now, these are numbers of downloads, not sales.  And after these downloads, (I did a 3 day promo, and I can't remember if this is one day or three, but anyway) I got: 5 total reviews for both books (I can't guess how many are a direct result of the promo) and sold roughly 30 copies each in February after the promo, presumably riding the ratings bump, for a total of around $60 per book take-home profit ($120) total.  Not amazing results, I don't think.

I am not going to use the free days option again.  I re-did this experiment in later years, although I was more cautious (due to pirating) and only uploaded my short stories.  Of those, one was immediately bombed with one stars and the other two were basically ignored.  For me, a person who needed the reassurance of positive feedback and was becoming thin-skinned about critiques, it was devastating.  I slowed down my publishing and started to withdraw, not really returning to publishing again until this year.*****

Results may vary, I think.  But my experience taught me many things, primary among them that the KDP free promotion days didn't benefit me enough to balance the equation, let alone topple it in my favor.  I didn't get a substantial sales boost until I was mentioned by another (very talented and successful) author in my niche, and who's to say she wouldn't have found my book on her own?  She reads a ton of books in this genre.  A ton.

So that's my take on this feature.  I will talk about the pre-order features and others in another post.  Side-note: if you are here because you are one of my mysterious Ukranian readers, hi!  You probably don't care about any of this.  If, on the other hand, you are here because you're a big fan of multicultural romance, (MC/IR romance), googled BWAM or BWWM or some variant of those, you might like my latest series.  It's available on amazon here (and check out the cover below--do you love it?  Do you?  I do).  

Happy new year, imaginary friends!

*FANGIRL FA DAYZ.  I just re-read all her Russian books, and I tend to love her books no matter what weird ass hero she picks, and she writes beautiful, fun, fast-paced stories with heroines I universally adore.  She's just awesome.  Never a let-down.  Check her out, seriously!  And if you're into BDSM, give Game Misconduct a try, the sex scenes are crazy well-done (and it is permafree!).

**And who's not?  Really.  I am all about them freebies, so no hate from over here.

***Some of them I totally earned because people just strait hated my book.  But the timing (and sometimes the actual wording of the review will mention getting the book for free) indicates the origin of the purchase.

****There is something really disheartening about being an indie writer and having people gank your shit.  Bonus points if they have the balls to then review it, badly.  Life is strange, my friends.  Life is strange.

*****I am pretty open about the fact that I don't read reviews any more, good or bad, to prevent this spiral from happening again.  I have someone else go through all of this stuff and tell me what I need to know.  That said, if you are thicker skinned, more marketing minded, and/or a true masochist you can do whatever you want with them free days, sugar, and I will look forward to reading your blog post about it.