Two Sundays ago I enrolled Making a Killing (The Second Romney and Marsh File) in the Amazon KDP Select scheme. The weekend just gone I took advantage of two of the allotted five promotional days where Amazon allows one to list one’s book for free within the 90 day period of said scheme. It was an interesting and thought provoking experience.
I am happy to provide some figures and observations here for those who are looking for information and numbers to crunch regarding the whole KDP Select initiative. Regardless of some dubious aspects of validity and reliability involved in this little sales episode I still think that some patterns are suggested.
I have three ebooks available with Amazon. They are all in a series of British police procedurals. Not exactly mainstream fiction. Making a Killing is the second book in the series.
My Reasons for trying KDP Select
I was interested to discover four things.
1) How many consumers would a free download promotion attract for the book in question?
2) Whether I might experience a knock-on effect with sales of the other two books in the series (these are priced a £0.77 (the 1st) and £2.05 (the 3rd).
3) How the numbers would compare to my download history through the Smashwords outlet and their partner sites where the three books have all been free to download for a few months.
4) Will there be any discernable long-term effects on sales from this free promotion.
Coming into the promotional forty-eight hours my download figures for this sales period stood like this for the three ebooks:
Rope Enough (1st in series) – 11 (1 copy sold in the week leading up to the promotion)
Making a Killing (2nd in series) – 5 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)
Joint Enterprise (3rd in series) – 4 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)
Rope Enough – 3 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)
Making a Killing – 3 (1 copy sold in the week leading up to the promotion)
Joint Enterprise – 2 (0 copies sold in the week leading up to the promotion)
After the promotion had ended the figures looked like this:
Rope Enough – 36
Making a Killing – 351 free downloads
Joint Enterprise – 7
Rope Enough – 8
Making a Killing – 219 free downloads
Joint Enterprise – 5
An unexpected result of the promotion was that I also got downloads from other Amazon sites, but only for the free book.
Amazon.de – 12
Amazon.fr – 5
Amazon.es – 2
Amazon.ca – 4
Total downloads across all Amazon sites for Making A Killing – 593
I did no self-promotion prior to this give-away period. I understand that people do and I wonder if creating some awareness through the limited outlets available might have increased downloads. Perhaps next time I do this I will experiment with that option and opportunity.
Amazon V Smashwords
Making A Killing was available for free through Smashwords and its partner sites between 23.12.2012 – 12.03.2013 (thirteen weeks). It achieved a total of 367 downloads. One weekend on Amazon and it had a total of 593.
If my experience is typical, the figures show that, despite Smashwords valiant efforts (and I do admire Mr Coker and what he is doing), Amazon is still far and away the leading outlet for authors looking for downloads and exposure.
This was something that I hadn’t thought about prior to the weekend but when things were active it became something to take some amusement from. Before I went to bed, Making A Killing reached the dizzy heights of:
The knock-on that Rope Enough sales got saw this title break into the top 100 paid for Police Procedurals… for about one hour. It got to number 97 when an Ian Rankin title was at 99. I thought that I was about to hit the big time. Next hour, Rankin was at number 14 and I had disappeared without a trace. Pfffttt. (I bet DI Romney could have Rebus in a fist fight.)
When I was keeping my eye on how the books were doing in the charts (see above) I noticed that the other titles around mine predominantly had dozens of reviews. This made me think that perhaps these books had been trotted out before on promotional days, had hundreds of downloads from readers who took advantage of a freebie, a number of whom then went on to feedback on the reading experience. I could be wrong about this, of course. But if I am right then it suggests that when one enrols in the 90 day KDP select programme it is wise to space one’s promotions well apart – probably at the beginning, like I have, to give people a chance to actually read the books and then leave a review – and then towards the end of the promotional period for a final push when there are a good number of reviews in place to attract the confidence of the bargain ebook hunter.
I could be alone in this but I think that even when books are free people are more attracted to books with a good number of reviews already in the bank (providing they aren’t all one and two star of course) rather than taking a chance on a book with a handful of reviews obviously written by friends and family. I have seen many reviews from people who have taken a chance on a free book and wished that they hadn’t wasted their time on it. Free books of self-publishers seem to have something of a tainted reputation – certainly the work has got to be top drawer in all respects to avoid the tar-brush. If readers can see that many others have gone before them to try out a new and unknown author and not hated the experience, even rated the offering favourably, then to my mind it is more likely that the casual and increasingly discerning downloader will stand a better chance of being tempted. Let’s face it there are hundreds of books being offered for free at any one time and that number is only likely to increase.
I will be very interested to see whether Amazon readers are more inclined to leave a review than downloaders of Smashwords and their partners. I will obviously have to leave that a while before I can pass judgement.
The big and pleasant surprise here is the number of Rope Enough downloads. Perhaps that will, in good time, lead to some more Joint Enterprise downloads and/or some reviews and attention.
Like I said, all in all it’s all been an interesting and thought provoking experience. I hope that you might get something out of this.