Self-published e-books can get boost from Amazon’s KDP Select

Joe Konrath did it but he wasn’t the first one. Seth Godin did it back in 2000 and he probably wasn’t the first either. Godin gave away a PDF copy of his book, Unleashing the Ideavirus, for free, and tens of thousands of copies were downloaded. Today, it’s hailed as the most downloaded e-book in history.

Joe Konrath was a mid-list author of thrillers who left traditional publishing and began self-publishing his own backlist a few years ago. Konrath has done very well for himself. He’s been giving away his e-books for limited periods of time for the last couple of years. The idea is that you give away one book in a series and readers pay for the other books. It worked out very well for him. Today he’s one of Amazon’s top performers, selling thousands of e-books each month, and it all started when he gave it away for free.

Kindle Direct Publishing Select is a division of Amazon that’s open to traditionally published or independent (indie) authors. In order to qualify for KDP you need to commit your e-book to a 90-day enrollment period during which Amazon allows you to run a free promotion for up to five days. During those five days you can Facebook and tweet your heart out spreading the word. There are thousands of free e-books available every day on Amazon’s website. The authors running the promotions want you to take their book, read it, and look at their other works. Additionally, once it leaves the free cycle and goes back to being a paid book it enters into Amazon’s popularity lists. These lists are golden. This is where readers search for their next e-book. The higher you’ve gained in the free rankings during your promotion, the higher you’ll rank on the paid popularity lists. Plus, Amazon will promote you in other ways for the few days after your promotion ends, and again, the more books you give away, the more push they’ll give you.

Self-published authors who’ve been rejected by traditional publishers and feel there are readers who’ll read their e-books are jumping at the opportunity KDP is offering. There are a multitude of websites that advertise free e-books, but the two big players are Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today. If you’re a self-published author running a free promo, it’s imperative that you’re featured on these sites. They’ll showcase you and notify their thousands of subscribers, and they’ll do it for free. Unfortunately they can’t feature everybody. So, you need to have a fairly high ranking in terms of customer reviews. Their specific requirements are slightly different, but 4.2 out of five stars is the average criteria. So, on any given day, there are thousands of indie authors clamouring to be showcased on POI or ENT while begging their Facebook friends to share the link to their free book, plus tweeting on Twitter to their followers.

Does it work for every book that’s given away? No, it doesn’t, but it did work for me. After receiving 130 rejection letters from traditional publishers, I self-published my novel, My Temporary Life, and enrolled it in KDP Select. In February, I ran a three-day free promotion and the book I wrote in the spare bedroom of my house was downloaded over 50,000 times. It hit number one on Amazon’s free bestseller list, and was the most downloaded book in North America for one day. In the days after my free promotion, My Temporary Life was downloaded 15,000 times, and it continues to sell well today, months later, and it all started by giving it away for free.

Martin Crosbie is the self-published author of the novel My Temporary Life.

Comments (20) Add New Comment
Rebecca Harris
I love KDP Select! It's really helped with sales, and getting people to give my work a try when they might not otherwise. I am just a little no-name, after all! I might not try me either, without incentive! ;)
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PT
I think this is a fabulous way to discover new writers! It's the way to truly find some very good books - not just what the traditional publishers think you should be reading.
This article is so informing and shows you what is really happening out there.
I love it! Thanks MartIn Crosbie!
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Alexis Renaerts
I love the success story after 130 rejections! It just goes to show that the traditional publishing "experts" were wrong. This is a fantastic tale of perseverance and believing in your work.
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Annette Bower
Congratulations on your success with your KDP. I didn't understand how the free books worked. So it is all in the Kindle calculations.
I wish you continued success.
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Van Heerling
Hi Martin, I too have had some success with KDP. Not nearly as successful as you though. Thank you for the guidance in this article. I always look forward to what you have to say.
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Natalie Star
I am going to put my next book on KDP! Can't wait! I look forward to it.
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Martin Crosbie
Thanks for your comment Rebecca. I agree, it certainly helped me get my book out there, I'm sure without the exposure I'd still be flailing away.
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Stephen Hise
I think KDP select worked well when it was first introduced, but my spidey-senses tell me it is on the wane as an effective sales tool.
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Beverly Preston
Great article, Martin and congratulations on your success! I'm a fan of KDP. In June I gave away 23,000 downloads in three days of my debut romance novel. I've been on the Amazon best-sellers list Travel to Greece for four straight months since then. I will gladly give my book away to gain exposure! Thanks for paving for the way for indie authors who choose KDP!
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Kymber Lee
My second Regency Romance novel is coming out in a few weeks and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens with the KDP Select aspect. I appreciate the advice and help. Great article Martin.
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Austin Briggs
Congrats on your success with this model - I'm thinking to plunk my book into the KDP for a while, too.

One point, though: not all self-published authors have been rejected by the publishers. Some of us are doing this as a strategic choice and haven't contacted any publishers in the first place.

As authors, let's please not spread the stereotype of the "indies" being "rejects" :)
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Martin Crosbie
Excellent point, Austin. I self-published because I couldn't find a traditional publisher willing to take a chance on my novel, but that's not always the case. Some writers choose to self-publish instead of going the traditional route, and it's not only indies doing this, there are some writers who have previously traditionally published who are now choosing to self-publish.
Thanks for clarifying.
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Gary Wilson
A good book is good book regardless of format. It is difficult to comprehend that of 130 conventional publishers, not one saw fit put your book into print. Truly makes me question how and why some books make it onto store shelves while others do not. In your case, obviously, readers decided My Temporary Life was worth the read. Probably best that things went the way they did because I'm sure traditional publishing would have deprived a lot of people from envoying it.
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Angela
I don't understand what the "90-day enrollment period" period is all about. Can you explain?
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Martin Crosbie
Angela, you need to be exclusive to KDP Select (Amazon) for 90 days and not sell your ebook anywhere else during that time. When you do that they will allow you five free promotional days where you can give your book away for free. I know it sounds counter-productive but as I said in the article it can work in terms of building momentum and then selling your book once it goes back to being a paid product.
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Ed Griffin
Martin's book is quality. It's a sad commentary on the state of publishing today that a commercial publisher didn't pick it up. Martin was right to go the self-publish route and use KDP Select. He's proven that once again it's a great age to be a writer. Now it's just writer and reader -- no more middle men
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Misty Harvey
I will putting my book back into the KDP program once I'm finished with its makeover. I had some great success with it, and will do it again in the future.
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Paul Rega
Well done Martin! Congrats on all your success my friend, it's well deserved.
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Yo
Sounds good... but, the numbers...

Your book was given away to 50,000 people. If you make $4 per book, you just lost $200,000 and made, off of your 15,000, $60,000. Better than nothing but the high number of people getting it for free is questionable at the least.

This isn't good economics. People are too self-entitled online. This isn't good for publishing.
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Martin Crosbie
My apologies, Yo, I didn't see your comment until recently. The royalty structure that KDP pay is fairly easy to find so I'll spell it out for you. The author makes 70% of the retail price on a book that is priced between 2.99 and 3.99. "My Temporary Life" is currently priced at 3.99. I've since ran other free promotions and although none have been as successful as the initial one I've now given away over 100,000 ebooks. And, "My Temporary Life" continues to sell well, every single day.
The alternative was to leave it un-published and un-read. Currently I sell copies of it and the follow-up novel, "My Name Is Hardly", every single day.
Thanks for your comments.
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