My Experience with KDP Select Free Promo Days

This past weekend, we set Nimbus to be a free download using KDP Select. We did a Friday/Saturday promotion, and over the course of those two days, we gave away 879 copies of our book.

In doing so, we hit #1 in the free Steampunk store, and we topped out at #4 in Sci-Fi Adventure. We even made it to #524 in the overall free ebook rankings of all Amazon.

Nimbus - Number 1 in Steampunk

Which is freaking awesome. Fan-freaking-tastic, in fact.

So how did such stellar ranking affect our book? How do we feel about the KDP Select program so far?

Long story, short: it didn’t, and it sucks.

At least so far–in the immediate afterglow of the promotion.

The algorithms on Amazon’s side of things have obviously changed in the past year or two, and I understand that. Free sales no longer directly translate 1:1 into paid ranking once the promotion ends. I didn’t expect to maintain #1 and #4. I did, however, expect some ranking. Some positive effect for giving away almost a thousand free books across two days.

Instead, I wake up the following morning to find Nimbus at #341,119 in the Paid Kindle store, and not even listed in any of the genre lists it had topped just a few hours before.


And that sucks.

Not Unexpected

Now, I can’t say this isn’t entirely unexpected. I had read for a while that the KDP Select free promos have lost some of their luster over the past few internal Amazon updates. I just didn’t expect the transition back into paid to be quite so ridiculously jarring, given how well we ranked while free.

I never expected to be #1 and #4 in the categories forever, but I did expect to still be visible. Which is something we are not right now.

And–again–that sucks.

I mean, Nimbus is a steampunk novel, and there are only ~800 steampunk novels on Amazon. By any amount of pseudologic, one would think that having nearly 1,000 copies downloaded would be worth something. I mean, within a week of Birthright‘s launch, it was ranked in the Top 10 steampunk novels–and it wasn’t even steampunk. It was miscategorized and ranked, so I couldn’t imagine how well an actual steampunk book would do with this kind of exposure.

Well, now I can. And it ain’t pretty.

What Next, Then?

Well, next…we wait and see. We wait on reviews to trickle in from free buyers. We wait to see if paid readers see those reviews, and in turn, see our book. We promote ourselves the same way we had been, and we just wait and see what happens.

That’s the hard part. There’s very little we can actually do to affect what happens next. We either did okay with the promotion, or it was a mistake. We just can’t know that this early.

What we do know is that we got out book into the hands of 879 potential readers, which is a good thing. Especially for our other books. I haven’t noticed a marked improvement in sales for Birthright since the Nimbus weekend, but that’s not to say it isn’t coming. It just wasn’t immediate.

I do know that I’m rethinking my whole KDP strategy, which most directly means that I don’t think Austin and I are going to be doing more free days for Nimbus in the near future. We are going to talk it over, and it’s likely that we are going to look at getting our books on iBooks, Google Play, and Nook soon–if results from being Amazon-exclusive remain this lackluster.

Sure the exposure is great, and we had an absolutely brilliant time tracking the numbers and seeing our book skyrocket through the charts. But if that was empty success that doesn’t translate to sales or even real exposure, being locked into Amazon isn’t worth it if all we get for it are a handful of lends to Prime members and free promo days we don’t use.

Update: A Few Days Later

Now that a few days have passed, the rankings are changing. And I still don’t think that it had anything to do with the KDP Select promotion. I paid for a few gift copies for review–4 to be exact–and now, Nimbus is ranking as a Top 100 bestseller. In fact, both rank and sales have steadily increased since I sent those to reviewers, and today Nimbus was ranked at #20 in the Steampunk category.

So just for those number people out there: 879 free downloads doesn’t count as much as 4 paid downloads.

Is this hard, empirical data? Hardly. But I think certainly says something about the usefulness of the KDP Select free promos.