WW: KDP Select for Rank Amateurs Like Myself


WW: KDP Select for Rank Amateurs

Just a quick blog here. I’d like to do a not-so-quick one, but that requires time.

I’ve seen a lot of internets either way about KDP Select free giveaways, and their uses for authors. Some people say their sales numbers surge after a giveaway, some people don’t. Some people find the (admittedly) vast number of people who download the book while it’s free, versus the not-at-all-so-vast number who won’t pay the one or two dollars when it isn’t, fascinating.

I’m among the pro-giveaway faction on Amazon. It might have to do with my status in life, or my lack of money sense, but there you are.

I did a giveaway on Superbowl Sunday. While the Patriots were playing the Seahawks, I was watching my numbers climb with unabashed amazement. I ‘sold’ well over a thousand copies. I topped charts, dammit. Didn’t quite break into the Top 100 Free–I think my highest ranking there was #139–but still. Hell.

And, of course, I got money for none of it.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m a young writer, mostly unpublished. Certainly unpublished in the genre I want to work in. I don’t have an agent to ship me about, or a publicity team to paste pictures all over Barnes and Noble.

Nor do I have a ton of money. I am, in fact, close to broke as we speak (payday is Friday. It’s homemade salads and bits of lunch meat for dinner until then). And I’m not a writer/marketing guru. No, no. I got stuck with a surplus of artistic talent, which, sadly, means I got all the business sense of a brain-damaged llama in a snowstorm.

What those free giveaways do for me–what I desperately need them to do–is offer ADVERTISING.

I wrote a good book. I know it, and I know if the right people read it they’ll love it. But in the glut of similar offerings on Amazon, who’s going to find it? You can’t tell from a blurb–at least, not when folks aren’t being supremely lazy–who can write and who can’t. And with the advent of indie publishing, readers no longer have that comforting middle man, the publishing company, to offer the crudest and most basic form of quality control. It’s a free-for-all in the world of cheap ebooks.

And, like in any free-for-all, the people who come out on top aren’t always the cream. Plenty of other things float, aside from cream.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve spent good money, money I possibly shouldn’t have spent, on paid advertising. It’s done nothing. Not a damn bit of difference. Maybe I’m not using the right places–I’m almost certainly not spending enough money–but the fact is, I don’t HAVE enough money to advertise well.

Review swaps and requests on Goodreads have also, by and large, been useless. I’ve given away several copies of my book, in the course of the past month. One person–one exceptionally kind and thoughtful person–was good enough to actually do the review. I know patience is probably key here, but I only have so much money, and no real way of giving the book away without spending some of it.

Long and short of it–the ONLY thing that’s worked, the only thing that’s boosted my sales and gotten my name out there enough to make a difference in the search listings, is free giveaways.

Yes, I’ve defied conventional wisdom and done the giveaways without having a second book out. No, I don’t much care. I’m not after the money–I’ve got a damn job.

I’m after the recognition.

Here are a few other blog posts about the nature of the KDP Select beast, and why you should or should not put your head in the Amazon Lion’s mouth:

Ben Zackheim–I don’t agree with him on a few things here: namely, he subscribes to the traditional ‘more than one book’ idea–but there’s a lot of useful crunchy information here.
M. Louisa Locke–One of the more level-headed explanations of what KDP Select can (and can’t) do for you. Damn, I wish I sold twenty copies a day.
Joanna Penn–Mostly just because Joanna Penn is a lady worth listening to.
Hugh Howey–Because Hugh Howey. Hugh Howey’s first WOOL story is a post-apocalyptic dystopian masterpiece, and don’t let anyone tell you different.


I’d like to see more of these blogs–what works/what doesn’t–from people like me, who’re just starting out at this and have very little money to put behind it. Not everyone’s an expert, and not everyone is ready to turn up their noses at 20 books a day in sales.

I’m certainly not an expert. I’d LOVE to sell twenty copies a day.

And I think more people are in my boat than the ‘successful professional’ boat. And, honestly–that’s marketing from two very different perspectives. I don’t have a name out there, or a ton of established fans–I work for every damn review I get from the ground up, and that’s frankly just how it is. I’m trying to build a base I can count on, and I’m doing it the hard way: the only way of life, unfortunately, for broke people.
I see a lot of writing blogs, by ‘bestselling’ indie authors, telling me what I’m ‘doing wrong’: some of which is done, not from choice, but the necessity of having a full time job and very little cash flow. I get a little angry at this, sometimes. I’m sure these folks have great advice to offer for people with all the time and money in the world, but not all of us have these things.

So I’m going to try and post a little more on my experiences with self publishing. And I’m going to be honest. Because, if nothing else, I’m usually that.

Thank you, and good whatever-it-is-where-you-are.


16 thoughts on “WW: KDP Select for Rank Amateurs Like Myself

  1. Kudos to you for getting your name out there and knowing that your writing is being appreciated. I completely agree – I write for my stuff to get read, not to become rich. Though if I became rich I would not complain.

    1. Heh. Thanks. Though I have to agree with you, making money is most definitely cool, and I wouldn’t mind doing more of it in a way that doesn’t involve nine to five jobdom.

  2. I wish I was as far as this to really comment, except to say that I’m dreading this part of the writing process. With luck, next year I’ll be in the same boat, and I’ll be blogging the $h1t out of it. That said, I decided to wait until it wasn’t free, I considered downloading while it was, but concluded it wasn’t reasonable. The e-book is about the same price as a really big cup of coffee, and I have a few bucks to spend. Why shouldn’t I drop those measly dollars on something that’s worth it? Now, if only everyone else could share the same opinion.

    1. It’s not too bad! I think the key is to not go into it expecting instant overnight success–though, of course, it’s easier to say that than to do it. Fact is, unless you blog like the wind and spend like ten hours a day promoting yourself, as an indie writer you’ll probably never have the sort of ‘media’ coverage to be a bestseller.

      But that’s okay. I mean, I don’t think that’s necessarily what it’s about.

      Thanks for buying my book πŸ™‚ I really appreciate it, and hope you enjoy. When yours is out I’ll of course pick up a copy too–I try to do it for everyone I can (when my sad tiny budget allows :P). Because, you’re right, it’s like a cup of coffee. And I can go without my third cup of coffee, possibly even my second, for good writing.

  3. I just comfort myself by thinking about the authors of classic novels who didn’t gain any recognition when they were still alive…and oh, their classic novels are for already for free… Thanks for the honest post. I am considering enrolling my novel “To Be Continued” in KDP Select this week.

    1. I wish you luck with Select! My conclusion about it’s always been, it’s a good place to start out, because you do get some free advertising doing the giveaways. You won’t get a high read and review rate, for sure, but it’s higher than you’d get NOT doing it, you know? And Kindle Unlimited, their library program, is actually pretty awesome (though they’ve changed how you get paid for borrows here lately–previously you got a full share of the KDP Select fund if the reader read more than 10% of your book, now they’re doing it per page. Scary that they can tell these things, no?)

      At any rate, glad I could help you out, and hope your luck’s good!

      1. “You won’t get a high read and review rate, for sure, but it’s higher than you’d get NOT doing it, you know?”
        -> This is exactly my point. My work spent more than 90 days in Wattpad garnering only 1.7 reads without a dollar in my pocket so I don’t think I have anything to lose in KDP Select yet.

        BTW, this is way out of the topic but you responded quite quickly…faster than I expected so thanks.

      2. Oh, Wattpad. I was never a big Wattpad fan–too much going on, too hard to get views. And, honestly, if I’m going to slave for views and comments, I’m with you-I’d like to make a little money doing it. πŸ˜›

        No problem, always happy to help when I can. πŸ™‚

  4. I wrote one book (romance) and did not put it on KDP Select. I expected only family and friends to by it but to my surprise it began to sell very well (50 – 100 per day). I’ve also published on KOBO and Nook, but sales at those sites are negligible. I’m now entering my fourth month that it’s been on the market and sales have slowed considerably (averaging 10 per day). I’m wondering if it would be wise to give KDP Select a try at this point or is it too late? Your thoughts?

    PS – Although reviews on both Amazon and goodreads are mostly good, there are not many of them (33 on amazon and 28 on good reads).

    1. Sounds like you haven’t been doing too bad! πŸ™‚ But to go from 100 to 10 a day…yup, that’s a slump.

      It’s normal for sales to trail off once the book has been out for a few months–I actually started Select about three months after I first published myself, for about the same reason. It sounds like, if you’re not getting much in the way of sales from KOBO and Nook, you might as well at least try. As someone on here noted, you might not get much in the way of reviews from it (folks don’t always read the free books on their Kindles) but you’ll get a lot of downloads, and a small sales spike afterwards.

      That’s the thing about Select, really–it works over a period of 90 days, and then you’re out of it scot-free. So, what I usually tell people is–even if it doesn’t work spectacularly, you haven’t lost anything much by trying, and now you know.

      A quick note about Select–definitely do the free giveaways, and not the Countdown Deals! I don’t know if this is true cross-genre, but I’ve had much better luck with the giveaways.

      1. Wow, I can’t thank you enough for answering my post. I don’t have a soul to talk to about this – I’ve been flying blind the whole way through this! I agree that since i’m not getting much from kobo or nook it makes sense to try select, but what i don’t get is what the benefit is of the free giveaway. Everyone seems to rave about it, but it’s seems crazy that you’d give your book away for nothing.If most people don’t read the free books they download and you don’t garnish any additional reviews please try to explain to a novice like myself what the benefit is. Also, one more question – aside from the free giveaways and countdowns, is there some other benefit to going with Select? advertising perhaps? I realize my questions may sound redundant, but any other insight you could give me would be so very, very helpful. Thank you again for your help!

      2. All right, this is gonna be a long one, just to warn you. πŸ˜›

        Giving your book away for free isn’t a benefit, in and of itself–it’s the stuff that comes along with the free giveaway. Even if you don’t advertise much (I usually throw up a few things on FB and Twitter, just to be sure, but I imagine you don’t even have to do that), ebook sites will list your book as free for you. Nobody major–not, like, BookBub or anything–but it’s free advertising, and a few more Google listings.

        Perhaps because of the extended listings, more people will buy your book after the sale, providing a small but significant sales spike for a day or two after your Free Select promotion. While it’s nice to get the book out there, and hopefully the folks who pick it up for free read it (and some of ’em do) that sales spike afterward is what you’re really after. I’m not sure precisely why it happens–either people see it listed, realize it isn’t free anymore, and go ‘aw, hell, it’s only $X anyway, why not?’, or Select books aren’t free in all countries at the same times, probably–but it does, and it’s saved my literary butt a time or two.

        The other benefit you get from Select is your inclusion in Kindle Unlimited–a program that allows those who’ve paid for it to read books in the program for free in a libraryesque fashion (the books disappear from your Kindle after a month or so, I think). Writers enrolled in Select get paid by share from the Kindle Select Global Fund, which changes month to month, but usually equals out at about $2 a sale for me–it used to be you got paid a full share if someone read at least 10% of your book, but they’ve changed it to per page sharing (so you get less money if someone reads less of your book, more if someone reads more). I’ll tell you straight up, I’ve gotten some ‘sales’ from the lending library (I don’t have your numbers, but I’m going to guess the amount would probably make up for what you’d lose in KOBO and Nook, if it works for you like it did for me) but not such a large amount, and I suspect with the pay-per-page thing that’s going to decrease.

        A note about the way I do Select giveaways–I do them a day at a time, not en bloc. Since I don’t sell too well normally, this allows me to spike my sales over a longer period of time. Mind, though, there are a lot of ways to do Select, and people have had different results doing different things–I suspect some of it might be genre specific. So I’m happy to help where I can, but I might not have all the answers for you! Good news is, there are plenty of folks who do Select who would be willing to help. I don’t know how you found my blog, but you might want to do a WordPress search for KDP Select or Kindle Select–get a few different viewpoints and see how you want to go.

        A lot of folks say Select is only good to do if you have more than one book out, for instance–because then, when you put your book out for free giveaways, the reader has something to buy afterwards. I just plain don’t know if this is true–I did it with just one book for a long time, and the sales spike was enough to convince me it worked just fine with one.

        Hope this helped! I’m not a professional, but I’m always happy to do what I do best–give opinions on things I kind of know about. πŸ˜›

  5. First off….I found the link to your blog at the bottom of “The Creative Pen” which I guess is another blog. Just want to thank you AGAIN for the wealth of info you’ve provided. I will definitely check out the link you provided. One last question and then I’ll leave you alone…so, it sounds like to do the free giveaway on KDP I have to advertise it somewhere myself, correct? For some reason I thought Amazon did that for you on the Amazon site.

    1. I’ll put it this way…you don’t *have* to advertise, but it helps. I think it’s because whatever bots those free ebook sites send out to discover free books will find you faster if you do, and of course you’ll reach a wider number of people. At least, that’s how it seems to’ve happened for me in the past. So, while you don’t strictly speaking HAVE to, it helps. πŸ™‚ Amazon itself doesn’t promote your book, pretty much ever–you can pay to advertise it through Amazon, but frankly it isn’t cheap and I haven’t been able to try it on a limited budget.

      And I just saw that pingback myself–huh. I was wondering why I was getting a bunch of visitors from her domain…she’s worth reading if you want to know more about self-publishing, she’s done pretty well in both fiction and non-fiction and she tells it like it is.

      Always happy to answer any questions I can! This stuff is tough, and no one should have to go it alone.

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