It’s been a week since my free promotion. And what a week it’s been! It’s time for the first summary of my life after KDP Select.
- Thousands of free units downloaded over two days
- #1 on UK Historical Fantasy Free Best Seller list
- #1 on US Historical Fantasy Free Best Seller list
- #2 on US Young Adult Free Best Seller list (only kept off the first place by Artemis Fowl)
- #5 on US Fantasy Free Best Seller list
- #112 on US Free Best Seller list overall
- Sold more books in two days than in an entire month previous
- #47 on US Historical Fantasy Paid Best Seller list
- #17 on UK Historical Fantasy Paid Best Seller list
- A full week on paid Best Seller lists
More detailed summary (with charts!) :
I’ve launched the book in the beginning of July. The book was selling, but very slowly. The sales refused to pick up no matter what I did in terms of marketing. Blogging, tweeting, interviews, buying ads, getting reviews – none of this worked to even budge the book up the sales ranking.
I’m not that great at networking and self-marketing. I’m not good at making friends. I like to write books, not talk about them. Word of mouth was never going to take off properly for me. KDP Select was the one last promotional tool left in my arsenal.
There seems to be a general consensus that KDP Select is not as effective as it once was. I can easily imagine that being the case: nothing is as effective as it once was, due to sheer number of books published while the number of readers remains more or less steady. So it was with heavy heart and some trepidation that I put the book out for free. Just two days out of five available, in case it turned out to be a complete failure.
Last month I ran a poll on this blog, trying to figure out what improvements I can make to increase the sales (or, in this case, giveaways). Cover design and product description were the most complained about, so I introduced some changes to those. Nothing too drastic – I still think my cover art is pretty awesome for the target audience – but I like to think it mattered a little.
I ran a Goodreads giveaway of the paperback, to pull in some more interest before the main thing.
I submitted the info about the promotion out to three websites: eReader News Today, Pixel of Ink and Kindle Nation Daily. That last one was paid, the other two were free – but they had to choose my book out of many others submitted for that day.
There are many more sites that do this kind of thing, but not all of them seem worthwhile. I’ve since picked up two or three other places I am likely to submit the next time, but overall the three above are the big guns in the free promo business. Of course, like with everything else, the forums and blogs claim that they are “not effective as they used to be”. God forbid anything was actually easier than it used to be in 2011…
The promo ran through September 3rd and 4th. Bit of a miscalculation on my part, and lack of research – the first day was Labor Day in the US, which probably is not a good day to do any sort of launch. The numbers for the first day were not terribly impressive, although still more than what I expected.
It was on the second day that everything took off. Not only did the Americans go back to their schools and workplaces, two of the three sites above picked up my book and posted about it. The downloads quickly climbed into thousands. It was then that I have reached the tops of free best seller lists in my respective categories. I also learned the importance of Pixel of Ink, which didn’t go with my promo: all the books that overtook me on the way to the gold were the ones featured on PoI. I definitely need to get there next time.
The week after
What happened next was a week of euphoria. The sales picked up like crazy. In two days I sold more than in all of August. By yesterday the number trebled. On my best day I climbed to Top 50 in Historical Fantasy charts, and breached 9,000 in ASR. I started getting unsolicited reviews.
Even more importantly, the second volume, “The Warrior’s Soul”, until then pretty much neglected, started selling as well, and by Tuesday got into some of the best seller lists on its own. I now had two books on the Alternate History list. The KDP bump was definitely working.
It’s still too early to say how long this will last. The sales are still at a decent level – hard to tell if they’re rising or falling or staying mostly the same. My ASR has been fluctuating a bit more than my sales numbers do, although that may have to do with an experiment in changing one of the categories (what’s that old saying? If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!). I’m still easily discoverable through Popularity rankings though (#6 on Alternate History, #33 on Historical Fantasy – Kindle Edition – at the time of writing) which, according to some, matters more than ASR.
More importantly, even if all of this giddiness ends soon, I would never have dreamed of achieving these kinds of results in such a short time. In a matter of two days my book has gone from being virtually unknown, except to a few of my friends, to a best seller, overtaking on the way some famous names and titles in the genre. All this at a cost of a few thousand giveaways and 90 days of exclusivity.
So, is KDP Select worth it? That depends. If you have an already built-up network of friends and acquaintances who can bump you up to the top on the launch day, you may not need it. The increase I observed may be, possibly, replicated using other means. But if all you’ve got going for is a well-written book and nothing else – then it’s a damn effective tool.
The question now is, how to maintain the momentum. Do I even need to do anything – except writing and releasing more books – considering nothing I did before mattered? Will the books just keep on selling at the current level, or will it all suddenly die and I will have to think of something else? Only time will tell…
The following are ASR and sales charts for my two books, showing the before and after of KDP promotion:
A note on the reporting problem: My launch happened to come on the day when KDP reporting infamously broke. For almost a week we had no knowledge of the real numbers sold, mostly in Europe. Some download numbers continued to trickle into the report even yesterday. It does seem to be fixed now, but it had been a few nervous days for everyone using the system.