As you’re probably aware, KDP Select is a program run by Amazon which gives its authors certain benefits and promotional tools in exchange for exclusive publishing rights. Currently, authors have to promise to publish their ebook only via Amazon for three months in order to enroll in KDP Select.
This enables them, among other things, to give away their book for free for five days during the three-month period. (How giving away your books for free can actually boost your sales is a topic worthy of its own post, so I won’t discuss it here. Suffice to say that free can be a very effective marketing technique.)
Personally, I think that you should have your ebooks in as many marketplaces as you possibly can, especially if you have your sights set on conquering a global marketplace. You never know where your book might “break out” first. However, a number of authors have had success with KDP Select and don’t see the exclusivity requirement as much of a sacrifice because they don’t sell many books via other online retailers.
If you want to try out KDP Select to see if it can boost your author profile, follow the tips below before you run a single free-day promotion. Note: these suggestions are aimed primarily at indie authors who have just begun their self-publishing journey and haven’t had much success in generating sales.
KDP Select Success Tip #1: Make sure you’ve set up a mailing list
In the long run, a mailing list is critical to your success as a self-published author. When readers provide you with their email address, you’ve gained their permission to contact them in the future about your forthcoming novels. Even better, you’ll be promoting your book to people who want to hear about your latest work.
Unlike, say Twitter, where half of your followers don’t want to know anything about your wonderful novels; they’re just following you to promote their own.
Somehow, you may’ve discovered how to promote your book via social media (without annoying all your social media contacts). However, you never know when social media will fall by the wayside, replaced by some yet-to-be-discovered internet phenomenon. Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest are not invincible; they can just as easily follow the same path as MySpace.
In contrast, your email list will still be around…as long as you take the time to build one. Here’s a link to simple, step-by-step instructions–with screenshots–on how to add a signup form to your website using MailChimp.
It’s never too early to start building your list. When you promote your ebook using KDP Select free days, A LOT of people will download your book. Capitalize on this opportunity by making sure you’ve set up your mailing list before you use a single one of your free days. Then, add a link to your newsletter signup page to your ebook. One great spot is at the end of your novel, immediately after the last word of your story.
Trust me. The more you delay in creating your mailing list, the more you’ll regret it later.
KDP Select Success Tip #2: Garner reviews
When I did my first (and only) KDP Select promotion, my book didn’t have any reviews at all. I figured this wasn’t a big problem. After all, my ebook was free. Readers weren’t risking their hard-earned cash to download my book, so they should be willing to take a gamble on it even if it hadn’t been vetted by other readers.
I was wrong.
What I failed to realize is that readers are risking another valuable asset–their time. Because readers don’t want to waste their time, they’re more inclined to download free ebooks that have favorable reviews over ebooks that have no reviews at all. The good news is that you don’t need several reviews to justify the download. After all, your ebook is still free.
Don’t make the same mistake I did. Make sure you secure legitimate reviews for your ebook before you run a single KDP Select promotion. This can have major impact on your total number of free downloads, as we’ll see in KDP Select Success Tip #3.
KDP Select Success Tip #3: Inform major “free ebook” sites about your promotion
There are a number of blogs dedicated to informing their readers about free Kindle ebooks. In particular, if your book is mentioned by Pixel of Ink or eReader News Today, your number of free downloads will be in the thousands.
However, both of these sites are inundated by authors hoping their free ebooks will be promoted by them. One way Pixel of Ink and eReader News Today select which books to share with their readership is based on the number of positive reviews these ebooks have.
For example, eReader Today even states on their submission guidelines, that your ebook must have at least 10 reviews averaging a 4-star rating in order for them to consider promoting your free ebook.
While Pixel of Ink’s guidelines don’t mention having reviews as a requirement, reviews likely play a major role in their decision-making process. The more positive reviews you have, the higher your odds of being selected, and the more successful your KDP Select promotion will be.
If you’re just starting your self-publishing journey, you may be hoping that your KDP Select free promotion will lead to several downloads, which will then produce those ever-elusive reviews. (I know I was.) So it may seem like I’m presenting you with a catch-22. You need reviews to be featured on sites like Pixel of Ink…but you were hoping that getting onto Pixel of Ink would get you more reviews.
Take heart. If you don’t have a lot of reviews of the ebook you’re planning to promote via KDP Select (maybe you don’t have any at all), go ahead and submit your book to Pixel of Ink. Their submission form takes about a minute to fill out. It’s definitely worth a shot. Who knows? Maybe your ebook is in a genre they’re looking for.
While they have the most impact, eReader News Today and Pixel of Ink aren’t the only gameplayers in town. Here are some others to check out (all are free for you to submit):
I can’t say enough nice things about Anne Chaconas at Indie Author Book Reviews. When I submitted my ebook to her, she responded super-quickly, letting me know she had received my inquiry. On the first day my ebook was available for free, as promised, she made an announcement on her blog and also tweeted the offer. I’m really thankful that she was willing to promote my ebook even though it didn’t have a single review at the time.
There are also sites which automatically post listings of ebooks as they become free on Amazon. You don’t have to do any submitting beforehand. Daily Free Books is one. There are several others!
KDP Success Select Tip #4: Stagger your free promotion days
When I did my KDP Select promotion, I debated about whether or not to use all of my free days in one go. In the end, I did use my five days up at once because I thought if I got featured on Pixel of Ink, I’d want their readership to have time to tell their friends and family about the deal. I’d lose the effect of word of mouth if my book was only free for a day.
But here’s the thing: there are no guarantees that you’ll be featured on Pixel of Ink’s website. If your book doesn’t have any reviews, your odds of being selected are pretty low. In that case, it makes better sense to stagger your free promotion days, spreading them out over the course of the three-month exclusivity period.
For example, you could give away your ebook one day in February and then one day in March. Hopefully, people who’ve downloaded your ebook on those two dates will love it and then write a glowing review of it.
Afterwards, you can submit your book to eReader News Today and Pixel of Ink with the knowledge that you’ve increased the odds of being selected by these sites, which will really maximize the marketing potential of the three KDP Select free days you have left.
KDP Select Success Tip #5: Increase your ebook’s price before your promotion
It typically takes between 24-48 hours for changes in book price to appear on Amazon’s site. So at least two days before your first KDP Select free day, increase the price of your ebook by at least a dollar or two.
To create more perceived value.
When potential readers look at your book’s Amazon page, they’ll see that by downloading your ebook for free they’re saving $5.99 (as opposed to $3.99). This feeling of scoring a deal might overcome any lingering resistance they have to adding your ebook to their download queue. It also may increase the odds of your book actually getting read from the hundreds of other free books they’ve downloaded.
I’d caution you not to increase your price by too much. If you do, you’ll inflate your readers’ expectations. The last thing you want is for someone to write in their review, “I got this book for free, but I can’t believe anyone would pay $7.99 for it.”
KDP Select Success Tip #6: Write another book
The whole point of making your novel free via KDP Select is to expose your work to readers who might not have discovered it all. You’re hoping they’ll take a gamble on your novel since it only involves their time, not their money, and fall in love with your writing, paving the way for future sales.
But what happens when your wish actually comes true? Several readers downloaded your book, were completely engaged by your story, and can’t wait to read your next book. If you had another novel available for them to purchase, you’re likely to make a sale right then and there.
Let’s say you don’t have another novel available, although one is currently in the works. Okay, by the time you’ve finished it and uploaded it to Amazon, how are the fans you gathered through your KDP Select promotion going to know about it?
Even if you follow KDP Select Success Tip #1 and include a link to your newsletter form at the end of your book, there’s no guarantee your readers will sign up. If there’s a really long delay between the release of your second novel and your KDP promotion, there’s a good chance that your KDP-free fans have forgotten how awesome they thought your first book was, (assuming they stumble upon your second book in the first place).
For this reason, you should consider only enrolling in KDP Select and utilizing your free promotion days when you have another work available for purchase. This advice is not fun to follow. It’s exciting to see people downloading your book because of your free days, especially if your novel has been lingering in obscurity. But, I’d argue that it’s even more exciting to take your royalty check to the bank!
KDP Select Success Tip #7: Make friends on Twitter
Hopefully, you’ve been using Twitter to cultivate relationships with readers and with other authors–not to spam them to death with promotional tweets. That being said, it’s unlikely that you’ll annoy your followers by tweeting to let them know when your KDP promotion is going to take place.
If you can get other people to retweet your “get me while I’m free” tweet, you’ll increase your marketing reach. Ideally, your retweeters are either book bloggers who write reviews for books in your genre or are fellow authors who write books in your genre. Either way, their followers are likely to be interested your free ebook.
So how do you get these influential book bloggers and authors to retweet your tweet? By cultivating relationships with them BEFOREHAND.
If you form a genuine bond with someone via Twitter, they are much more likely to retweet your tweet when they see it in their stream. How do you form a genuine bond? You tamp down every impulse to talk about your book (unless specifically asked). You engage with your fellow Tweeps the way you would interact with people in real life–listening to what they say and responding with intelligence, wit, or emotional support.
Unless you are 100% sure your request will be viewed favorably, do NOT direct message, tweet, or email your Twitter friends and ask them to inform their audience about your free ebook. Let it happen organically. If it doesn’t, keep on building those friendships.
Finally, here’s a list of helpful hastags to use for your free ebook promotional tweets:
- #romance (or whatever genre your ebook is in)
Here’s a list of essential Twitter hashtags for writers and authors courtesy of Laura Pepper Wu. You might also find this list of 31 Twitter hashtags by WiseInk useful.
KDP Select Success Tip #8: Gird your loins
I’m specifically thinking of that scene at the beginning of The Devil Wears Prada where Stanley Tucci issues a warning that Meryl Streep, playing the formidable Miranda Priestly, is about to make her entrance. Why am I recommending his advice?
When you make your ebook free, lots of readers–who might not necessarily like revisionist tales of the French Revolution or zany secondary characters who bear more than a passing resemblance to Zoey Deschanel–will be downloading your book.
Because they can’t return your ebook and get a refund (since it was free), they take out their irritation that you wasted their time via an unpleasant review. Lindsay Buroker does a great job of explaining why free ebooks can counter-intuitively lead to negative reviews.
KDP Select Success Tip #9: Assess the value of going free
After you use up the five free days of your first KDP Select promotion, take the time to determine whether it makes sense for you to do it again.
If giving away your book for free secured you a lot of positive reviews, you may want to re-enroll in KDP Select in order to get more of them. Once you complete a second novel (in a series or otherwise), you might want to use KDP Select to repeatedly give away your first book, which hopefully racks up sales of the second.
On the other hand, you may be wary of giving Amazon the exclusive right to sell your ebook. If you publish your novel via Smashwords, you have the ability to make your ebook free at ALL the major ebook retailers, excluding Amazon. Plus, there’s always the chance that Amazon will price-match your free ebook once it’s free at retailers like Barnes and Noble, Apple, and Kobo.
Because I strongly feel that you should sell your ebooks through as many retailers as possible, this is the route I recommend if you want to use free as the cornerstone of your marketing campaign.
At the end of the day the choice is yours. Good luck!
KDP Select has been a successful marketing tool for several authors. If you don’t mind the exclusivity requirement, take the plunge and try out KDP Select. To make the most of your promotional free days:
- Set up a mailing list
- Garner reviews
- Submit your ebook to eReader New Today, Pixel of Ink, plus other “free ebook” sites
- Stagger your free promotion days
- Increase the price of your ebook
- Write another book
- Make friends on Twitter
- Gird your loins
- Assess if free via KDP Select is a sound selling strategy for you
YOUR TURN: Do you think the exclusivity requirement of KDP Select is worth the benefits? What are the upsides and downsides to giving away your work for free?
Twitter bird by eldh
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