This post, by Libby Fischer Hellman, originally appeared on her Say The Word blog on 1/25/12. In it, she shares her experiences as an author in the KDP Select program, and the possibility that the program is training readers to wait until a book is free, rather than buy it at regular prices.
It’s been over a month since the Amazon KDP Select started, and we’re beginning to see the ramifications of the program. And although I’m making good money, I’m scared.
For those of you who don’t know, Amazon created the KDP Select program to increase their base of Prime Customers (those who pay no shipping costs in return for an $80 annual fee — kind of an online Costco). The program allows customers to “borrow” one e-book per month free. Authors whose books are borrowed get a pretty nice royalty ($1.70 per borrow) if they enroll their books and give Amazon exclusive access to those books for 90 days.
But the real hook for authors is the ability make their books free for 5 of those 90 days. Free, you might ask? I thought you were supposed to pay for a book. True, but it’s widely believed that giving away a book for a limited time results in instant exposure. Theoretically, hundreds, if not thousands of people, will download your book, read it, fall in love with your writing, then buy all your other books. Presto – you’re a best-seller (whatever that means in today’s environment).
It sounded intriguing, so I decided to test the waters and enrolled a novella that wasn’t selling well at all. It went free on Christmas day, perhaps the biggest day for Amazon downloads in the company’s history, and there were 8,000 downloads. Two days later, when it back to paid status, the sales and “borrows” rolled in, and this lovely little novella ended up making me a small fortune.
A week later I entered my best-selling book and made it free for two days. There were over 16,000 downloads on the first day alone. I panicked and pulled it off free the next day (which I now understand was a taboo and for which I apologize.). Again, sales and borrows after it went back to paid were fantastic.
I was hooked. And continue to be. The program has treated me well and has boosted sales of all my books, even those that aren’t enrolled. December was terrific, and it looks like January will be stellar.
So, of course, I drank more Kool-Aid, entered 3 additional books, and made them free. The novel did well, with over 13,000 downloads, but my short story collection didn’t. For the first time, downloads were just okay, and I did not see any kind of bounce afterwards. I figured it was because short stories aren’t as popular and dismissed it.
But then something happened.