Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors?

Amazon KDP Select

Note from Jane: I am enormously grateful to author CJ Lyons for her valuable guest post today, which offers clarity and insight on the popular strategy of offering free e-books through the KDP Select program to improve sales. If you’re not already familiar with CJ, please read my interview with her from earlier this year.


There’s a lot of turmoil right now in the self-publishing world regarding the Amazon KDP Select program. I’m not sure it’s warranted. The Select Program is just that: a program, a tool, a tactic.

In other words, it’s not a promise, a guarantee, or even a long term strategy—for authors or Amazon.

It’s a program. Subject to change. And it might not fit your needs now—or later—or ever. Or it might be the catalyst you need to engage new readers and propel sales.

For those who don’t know, here’s what Amazon KDP Select is in a nutshell:

In exchange for giving Amazon exclusive use of a piece of digital content for 90 days, you receive five days (any five you choose) to make your digital content available for free, and you also get paid for any of your e-books that are lent through the Amazon Prime library.

Let’s break that down.

Amazon KDP Select: 90 days exclusivity required

Depending on your audience, that could be a deal breaker right there. Or it could be an opportunity.

If your readers buy a significant number of your books from other venues, then you probably don’t want to anger them by providing content only to Amazon. If you have no readers yet, then building an audience on Amazon before branching out to other venues might be an excellent choice.

Established authors with several titles might rotate content through Select if they’re finding that they get a significant number of paid lends and new readers from the program. They could also use Select to launch a new project, receiving feedback and reviews via Amazon before distributing a title elsewhere.

Newer authors with limited readership probably have nothing to lose by granting Amazon exclusivity while they use Select to build their audience. Select becomes a tool to build a presence on the bestseller lists, reviews, and solid sales figures, along with an income before expansion, much in the way that smaller presses can serve as a stepping stone to larger publishers.

What about the income from lending? 

It’s been averaging around $2 a lend, which might be more than you make on a sale if you price your books below $2.99. Above $2.99 and you’re losing money compared to an actual sale.

In my own experience, both times I tried Select, my lends were neglible compared to other authors. But as I polled other authors, I realized that the lending trends fall into two groups: relatively unknown authors were receiving higher numbers of lends while more established authors weren’t.

My guess is that the better-known authors with established series, good reader reviews, and bestseller status were actually being bought rather than borrowed. In my case, I could calculate the higher number of sales I received via Select and compare it to the lends as well as what I would usually sell of those titles via other venues.

For the two 90-day periods I was in Select, it was a virtual wash financially.

(Note: I’d also guess that Prime readers are smart enough to assume that any author in Select might be going free in the near future and many of them are starting to wait before buying or committing to a lend until they see if the book goes free or not. If this is the case, then the financial advantages of Select will be quickly erased, especially for established authors or those selling at a higher price.)

What about those 5 free days?

Don’t they make Amazon KDP Select an even better deal, worth the exclusivity? Or are the rumors true, and free isn’t working any more?

Yes and no. Free definitely worked better when Select first began and your free downloads jumpstarted your paid ranking. Now, after an algorithm shift, those free downloads don’t help your paid ranking as much, so unless you hit the top of the free list with a massive number of downloads (probably at least 20,000), it won’t place your book very high on the paid bestseller lists.

But if your free days land you on the Top 20 (first page) of the free bestseller list, that exposure might be worth it in terms of increased sales for the days following a free promotion, not to mention the number of readers who now have your book. This could lead to more reviews and increased sales of your other books, especially if you created an easy way for them to access the rest of your list via links in the back of the free book.

There are many ways to go free and to benefit from it. The important thing is to decide why you want to go free and what it’s worth to you. If you want reviews, offer free reads to your existing readers. If you want to build a list, offer free reads to those who sign up for your mailing list. If you want to hit an Amazon bestseller list and increase sales there, then Select is your best bet.

Who should be using Amazon KDP Select’s free days?

1. Established authors who want to jumpstart a title whose sales are lagging.

2. Authors with a new release that’s part of a series—and want to bring new readers on board quickly—could use Select’s free days for the first in the series, hoping that it will lead to sales of the following books.

3. New authors with only two or three titles who are trying to grow their readership. This group will probably find the Select program the least restrictive and most help as they can earn income via both sales and lends while rotating their books through free days.

Note: I would NOT use Select if I only had one book. You might see increased sales but once readers read that title where are they going to go next?

Income versus exposure

Select is a tool, a tactic to help you achieve your goal. But first you need to decide on the goal. Are you aiming for income or exposure?

If your book attracts a lot of lends and/or sales, then Select may help grow your income. You want to also compare the income potential of other venues for your genre before committing, or cycle in and out of Select with different titles so that you don’t totally lose readers from other venues.

If you’re looking for new readers and exposure for your other books, then Select’s free days might make the exclusivity worthwhile, especially if you use it as part of an overall promotional strategy. There are other ways to use free besides Select (such as via Kobo, Smashwords, Apple price-matching or your own site in the form of giveaways), so weigh your options carefully.

The future: Do readers EVER have to buy another book?

The bottom line with any discussion of free books isn’t so much the venue supporting free as much as the readers embracing it. Some readers feel that Amazon is the equivalent of their public library, providing a never-ending stream of free titles.

I’ve noticed a few things about these readers who are constantly grazing for free:

  • They tend to fill their e-readers but often don’t actually read the books, instead using free as a way to create a large sampling library.
  • Since they have no investment in the books, they often leave one-star reviews for anything they read that isn’t to their taste. (Why did they grab it in the first place? Not because the title/cover/subject/genre appealed to them, but simply because the price was right: free.)
  • They often don’t buy future books. I’ve received e-mails from readers hooked by a free book asking when the next in the series will be free. When I let them know that it won’t be available for free, some go ahead and buy the next books, thanking me for keeping my prices reasonable, but many don’t.

I’m not alone in noticing these trends. I asked the hosts of the Self-Publishing Podcast, Johnny Truant, Sean Platt, and David Wright (if you’re not listening to these guys, you should!) about their experiences with Select and this is what Sean told me:

“David and I owe a lot of our early success to KDP Select and are appreciative for all it’s done for us. It was a terrific program, and still is if used well. When we first published Yesterday’s Gone, no one besides Amazon had the reach. Coupled with the ability to flip a switch and make our titles free, it was an easy decision. Originally, we were on Nook and iBooks as well as Amazon, but they accounted for almost none of our sales.

The program now puts most authors at a disadvantage. The exclusivity was once offset by the chance to gain mass exposure and a healthy aftermath of sales, but changes in Amazon’s algorithms (which now lend negligible weight to free titles) have dimmed the results of free promotions. This, along with a throttling of free sites and their ratio of free-to-paid promotions, have drastically reduced the effects of KDP Select.

The market is saturated. There are too many authors screaming for the same six seconds of spotlight. Free isn’t converting to paid like it once was, and worse, authors are creating a culture of readers who are being nurtured away from paying. Those authors who can still be served best by KDP Select are the ones with smart funnels and using free promotion to direct readers toward other paid titles.”

Johnny had a similar experience with his latest release:

“My last launch that happened inside of Select, for Fat Vampire 4, was a total flop. I’d been getting e-mails and tweets from fans who were ravenous for the book, and when I launched it free, it felt like all I did was to give it away to people who were dying to pay for it. In the past, putting a book later in a series as free would drive sales of the prior volumes, but that didn’t happen AT ALL this time. I sold almost no previous volumes, which led me to believe that everyone who saw Fat Vampire 4 and might have been interested in Fat Vampires 1-3 already had those volumes. Which meant I wasn’t reaching anyone new; I was simply proving a fixed pool of people with free content. I can attribute maybe $50 total (across all Fat Vampire books) to that promotion, and I netted only 6 reviews. That simply isn’t equitable or reasonable. “

Bottom line: 3 questions to ask before any free campaign

  1. Can I obtain the level of engagement I’m looking for via Select? For a standalone book with lagging sales or to bring new readers to an established series by giving away the first book, the answer might be yes.
  2. Will enrolling in Select anger my readers? Know your audience and have a plan in place to gift them a version if they shop at a different venue.
  3. Will this help me increase sales/make a bestseller list/grow my audience? Don’t try to do all three at once, but instead choose one goal for this particular title at this particular time.

When Amazon KDP Select first began, the choice was easy. But now it may not provide the one-stop marketing solution it used to.

One thing about this business, it’s always changing. Keep your options open and don’t be afraid to experiment. Find what works best for you and your readers. Treat your readers right, but make sure they are the right readers for you!


Note from Jane: If you found this post helpful, I encourage you to check out CJ’s website for writers, which offers more information, workshops, and resources for all types of authors.

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CJ Lyons
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of eighteen novels, former pediatric ER doctor CJ Lyons (@cjlyonswriter) has lived the life she writes about in her cutting edge Thrillers with Heart. CJ has been called a “master within the genre” (Pittsburgh Magazine) and her work has been praised as “breathtakingly fast-paced” and “riveting” (Publishers Weekly) with “characters with beating hearts and three dimensions” (Newsday). Learn more about CJ’s Thrillers with Heart at her website and everything she knows about being a bestseller and selling a million books at www.NoRulesJustWRITE.com.
Posted in E-Books, Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

123 Comments

  1. Pingback: Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors? by CJ Lyons | book publishing | Scoop.it

    • Good for you for doing the research and deciding on strategies, Esther! It’s so important that authors (traditional published or self-published) understand the business and have a good grasp on where they want to go in the publishing world. There are many paths to success, you need to choose which one works best for you.

  2. Fantastic post. It seemed like the early adopters of Select benefited the most from it. I enrolled a few titles in it because my sales in other channels were negligible compared to the number of borrows I get through Prime users. However, I didn’t find it to be as useful as some authors had claimed. Thanks for spelling out the changes and especially for giving us some specific applications to try out. I suppose you can’t just enroll a book in a program and make tons of money… you still need to think and develop a strategy. Who knew? ;)

    I’ll be sharing this post widely today.

    • Thanks, Ed! I’m glad you found it useful–like any tactic, things change and every writer should have an overall business strategy that doesn’t rely on one tactic that is in the control of someone else.

      By far, the best tactic I know is the one that IS in your control: sitting down and writing the next book!

    • Michelle, unless you’re using it as a launch tool (although 90 days exclusivity is a long launch period) the Select program probably wouldn’t be helpful for a third book…with three books out there, you should be building an audience that will help spread the word for you, especially if it’s a series. I find the tipping point is around 4-6 books out for at least 4-6 months.

  3. Pingback: How do you use KDP Select?

  4. Pingback: Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors? by CJ Lyons | Self-Publisher | Scoop.it

  5. If you’re self-publishing (and I am in romance fiction, but not with my literary short stories), then you’re running a business and, as a business, you have to take a long-term view of these things. I view KDP Select as advertising — advertising on the largest bookstore in the world. Advertising is a long-term effort. You can’t expect to do just one thing and have it work magic. There’s really no other way for me to get my books into the hands of 10,000+ readers in a matter of 5 days besides KDP Select. I look at KDP Select as a way to build a base of readers for my books, get some reviews on Amazon (which are important), and get visibility on Amazon. I don’t expect a lot of sales this soon (though I’ve been pleased with what I’ve gotten).

    I will offer this advice if you’re thinking of doing KDP Select. Using 4 or 5 days in a row gives you greater visibility, in my experience. Using just one or two days at a time isn’t enough to get your book up to the top of the Kindle free lists. Once your book makes it to the top 10 or 20 of your category, it gets many more downloads.

    Even the traditionally published writers I know say that their sales didn’t really pick up until they had 4 or 5 books out. Building an audience is a multi-year endeavor for most authors, self- or traditionally-published.

    • Exactly, Julia! Know why you’re using a tactic, what your goals are, measure them, and in the meanwhile, keep writing the next book…this is a career we’re building, not just a single book we’re publishing.

      • Well said, Jane, Julia and CJ. This is a marathon, not a sprint and KDP appears to offer an effective platform from which to launch a career. Like a good set of training wheels; they are not something you would need or want for the long term, but it certainly gets you up and running while you develop your own riding (or writing) skills.

  6. Thank you for this post. I’ve been wobbling on the fence with respect to a book I’m planning to launch in just a few days. This updated info is nudging me onto the Don’t Do It side. Phew!

    • Remember, Sharon, to re-evaluate frequently…it might not be the right tool to help with this book, but who knows about the next.

  7. Great post, @cjlyons:disqus. I’ve been in agreement with Mark Coker on the use of Select, but I like
    how you’ve broken down all the different choices here so writers can
    see the advantages and disadvantages in many different situations and
    make an informed choice. It definitely is a tool, and it will work for
    some and not for others. You have helped authors know when it will work
    and when it won’t. Thank you for that.

    • Yes, Nina! “Informed choice” is the key here! There are no rules, only what works best for you and your audience with this book…it’s a constant evolution. Thanks for sharing.

      • This article was extremely useful for me since i am near to completion of my first eBook that i also want to put through the kindle select programme. However i notice you say that if you have a ‘print version’ you can sell in other places even when its on kindle select (that includes selling on your own website right?).

        The main thing i wanted to ask though is whether you can sell an ‘audio book’ version on your website while the kindle version is going through the select programme? Is this allowed or against their amazons regulations? I cant quite understand if an audio book bypasses the whole ‘you cant sell anywhere else virtual rule’ thing. Thanks

        • You can sell the print edition anywhere. You can only sell the ebook edition on Amazon. Again, exclusivity applies to the ebook edition, not other editions (other editions includes audio, print, Braille, paperback, hardcover, etc).

  8. CJ, excellent post! I’ve 30 years in sales & marketing and have tried for a long time to explain to indies that any success from free books is incidental. I’ve long predicted results like Johnny’s above. And you’ve nailed the Select program as good for new authors or series. I’m about to launch a serialized novel and am contemplating putting the first one in Select with subsequent volumes staying out.

    Peace, Seeley

    • Thanks, Seeley! I think free works but only if you have a specific goal and audience in mind. For instance, I use free as special reader appreciation gifts to my newsletter readers or as part of a larger overall strategy via Select or other avenues…again, I know why I’m using it and what my goal is and can measure my results accordingly

  9. CJ, Thanks for this article. You answered the KDP Select question for me. Currently I only have one novel, so I’ll wait until the next book to use this service.

  10. FANTASTIC post – thank you, Jane and CJ! I’ve been going back and forth over this for weeks, but this really cleared things up for me. Very appreciative!

  11. Pingback: This Amazon KDP Select breakdown by CJ Lyons is interesting | Tobias Buckell Online

  12. For the most part I use KDP Select to promote my next Derek Stillwater book. So, with 6 or 7 now in the series, I will let the first one, The Devil’s Pitchfork, go out for free, typically for 5 days in a row. The first time I did it I brought in 8000 downloads in a single day. Now I get a couple thousand in 5 days straight if I’m lucky. Does that generate similar number of sales of the other books? No. But there’s a noticeable jump and overall sales have increased since I started using KDP Select as a tool – which is the key thing here. I don’t like the exclusivity part of it, so I try to make sure that after 3 months of exclusivity I return Pitchfork to other formats (such as they are). I would also argue that it’s not always a great deal. I seem to get a large number of downloads for the Derek Stillwater books, but not necessarily for other books. Whether it’s because Pitchfork has so many high online reviews on Amazon, or the appeal of a series, or the title or the book or the cover versus some of my other books, I don’t know. The Derek Stillwater novels are also, to-date, really my only series, although my son just wrote a sequel to my kids’ book, Monster Seeker (Monster Seeker 2: Rise of the Phoenix King), and I used KDP Select to give his book a boost. So if I write follow-up books to some of my standalones (that’s the plan, so many books, so little time…), then I’ll have a better grasp on its overall usefulness.

    • I wonder what the impact would be of putting book 2 or 3 in your series into the KDP program. Put one of them in for free days and see what the sales impact would be on others?

    • @Mark, re your statement >>Whether it’s because Pitchfork has so many high online reviews on
      Amazon, or the appeal of a series, or the title or the book or the cover versus some of my other books, I don’t know<<

      Why not just text each of these variables so you'll know for a fact and not have to guess?

  13. Thanks. As usual, you do a great job of explain’ things. I had my novel in Select for two rounds. First one, I used all 5 days, but spread out. I never had over 2000 downloads. The second time, I did just once, but did get borrows, which was nice. I took it out of Select to try KOBO. I keep an essay there just so there is something. My new novel which is a prequel could go in at the beginning, but I’ve been reading articles about the new algorithm and how things have change, so will mull it over.

      • Hi CJ. My second novel TARNISHED HERO has just been released by Abbott Press. I’m in the process of getting it reviewed so I’m sending SC copies out to reviewers. Mostly those folks who reviewed my first title. How do I make my second title available to reviewers using a coupon on Amazon? Do I contact and purchase a finite number of books and have a coupon number assigned? Some of my reviewers prefer the electronic route.
        Thanks. Speaking of which I have the eBook of your latest title. Can’t wait to get into it. I’m super busy these days. Check out my profile on LinkedIn to see my current projects.
        Jim Gilliam

        • Jim, there are no coupon options at Amazon but you can always gift copies–all you need is the recipient’s email address

          • Doesn’t the exclusivity clause prohibit distribution of digital copies by ANY other means?

        • Jim, if you do have a book you want to give, make sure it’s $0.99… less out of your pocket before gifting.
          Another option is to use a 1 day KDP and send that out to select people via email. They ‘buy’ it that day and it’s free.

  14. I’m in complete agreement with Johnny. My time with Select has come to an end. In the beginning it helped, now it feels like a noose around my neck with only one book left in Select. I want to expand my market to other readers on other devices.

    “all I did was to give it away to people who were dying to pay for it” and “I was simply providing a fixed pool of people with free content”

    The cards are stacked against indies as if we’re putting out inferior
    products. The last few books I’ve read by some of the big legacy
    publishers…let’s just say they need to hire better editors. I’ve read some fantastic books by indies. Read the sample before you buy! Yes, there are inferior products so choose carefully.

    • There are definitely readers who will “only” read free books–they’re voracious and don’t really care about quality as much as quantity…those may not be *your* readers (probably not if you want to be a career novelist!) so it’s important to weigh and experiment as Johnny did, see if you’re reaching your reader (if so, sales of your other books will increase) If not, try something new. And, yes, you’re absolutely right–quality is always job #1!

    • EH, so much depends on your audience and your goals. Is this the only book you’ll ever write? Is it being used as a “freemium” piece to lead customers to other products (courses, videos, etc)? Are you using Select and free only as a way to gain reviews? Know what you wrote, what your goal is, and think of how best to serve your customer and you’ll be able to make these decisions much more easily. Brendon Burchard has some great info on nonfiction product releases.

  15. Thank you for this post, CJ and Jane. It’s a really useful summary of the current state of play with KDP Select.

    At the time we enrolled our first book, the algorithm had just been changed and no-one seemed to understand the implications of that. As you say, Select is a tactic, a tool, just one piece of the (often shifting) jigsaw. Next month, the picture on the box may have changed again. ;-)

  16. Pingback: Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors? by CJ Lyons | Writing and reading fiction | Scoop.it

  17. Pingback: Amazon KDP Select: Is It Worthwhile for Authors? by CJ Lyons | C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

  18. I have self-published 7 ebooks (1 fantasy novella and six science fiction novels), and I agree that the best days of KDP Select are in the past. For unknown authors, I do think it’s still worth committing to for at least one 90-day cycle because it gives you a chance to get your work out there, but that’s the same as saying buying a lottery ticket gives you a chance. Tiny is better than nil.

    My experience with giving away books is that you have to give away a LOT of books to get any benefit. My first book is free on Kindle because of price-matching, and I am happy to leave it that way because the sequel to it is now my best seller. However, I think it is true that a significant percentage of people who get free books don’t read them. I find that for every 100 books I give away, I sell between 5 and 10 copies of the sequel. It’s difficult to estimate, though, because I can’t tell WHEN people who bought the sequel got the first book free.

    But for books with no direct sequel, I leave the book in KDP Select for only one cycle. It’s a good place to start, but not a great place to finish.

  19. Some good information there. A no-holds barred and intelligent approach to KDP Select. For me, as a Canadian, where Kobo is the main ereader, I will not put that block in place.

  20. Thanks for this analysis! I didn’t put in my first book in KDP select because I didn’t like the exclusivity, but I’ve had a plan for a while to put the second book in the series in for the first three months of it’s release. Everything I’d heard lately was making me question that, but your analysis shows that Select may still work like the tool I was thinking it might be – reaching the first initial readers.

  21. Hi CJ! Thanks for such a great post. With Tin God being my second book, I am planning on putting it into Select for the 90 days to see what happens. I’ll be honest – I really dislike the idea of free and its impact, but I will likely use a couple of my days as a way to reach new readers. I will just have to manage expectations about the quality of those readers.

    Do you think I am taking the right approach?

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  23. Pingback: Ebook Marketing Via the Kindle Select Program: Pros and Cons | Book Marketing Bestsellers

  24. Pingback: Top Picks Thursday 04-04-2013 | The Author Chronicles

  25. A good concise explanation of KDP Select. You are correct, this is just a tool. And for the right author, it can be very beneficial. I have several clients who helped their sales and notoriety by choosing to do Select. I will keep a link to this post to outline the pros and cons of Select for those clients who need to consider going this route. Thanks for the post.

  26. My suspense novel ran for 5 free days in mid- March and I think it was hugely successful. Total downloads was 8,440. The book reached #27 overall in Free for Kindle and was ranked #1 in the Suspense category, until Dan Brown came along with “The Da Vinci Code” for free. Since then I’ve had sales, I won’t say that they are a lot, but it’s much more than I was selling before hand. And I’ve doubled the number of reviews I have on Amazon. Was it worth it? I’m not in this entirely for the money. To think that over 8,000 people all around the world have my novel on their Kindle = it’s mind-boggling!

  27. Hi CJ, Thanks for writing a good, balanced post on KDP Select – not least because now I have something to point people to!

    I’ve gone back-and-forth on the merits of KDP Select over the last year, but I recently decided to un-enroll everything. Here’s why:

    Last month I had a very successful free run – giving away 20,000 copies, and hitting #1 in both my categories and #6 in the overall free chart. That’s pretty much the best result I could have wished for with a historical novel and it *should* have led to a significant post-free bump – but that never materialized.

    So even when everything goes right… it can still go wrong. It felt like I was holding four aces and a drunk guy stumbled and knocked over the table!

    There was always an element of luck in KDP Select, but it seems like it’s gone from spinning the roulette wheel to buying a lottery ticket. And that’s probably enough gambling metaphors…

  28. Pingback: Friday Features #51 - YESENIA VARGAS

  29. Very thorough and enlightening. I am about to self-publish my first novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, with Create Space. I am going to pass on Select for a reason you didn’t mention, which admittedly has little to do with most authors’ bottom lines. Kindle is the most inaccessible e-reader for people who need assistive technology like blind readers. Amazon has been dragging their feet about this, with every new version having only the most modest improvements. The Blio reader and Apple’s books are the best, giving advanced navigation and independent downloading capability. Since my novel features a blind 14-year-old girl and kids with other differences who seldom see themselves in literature, I don’t want to exclude readers who access books through text-to-speech software. I’m glad there are some other reasons to pass on Kindle Select as well. Thanks for the great post.

  30. Pingback: Writing Resources 6 April 2013 | Gene Lempp ~ Writer

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  32. Great article and yes – we’ve done studies and see it too – readers ten not to read what’s free as quick as what they buy – or if ever.

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  34. “One thing about this business, it’s always changing. Keep your options open and don’t be afraid to experiment.” So true! Although I tried KDP Select for my short stories, I’m not a big proponent of it for my novels. I believe I have a strong platform, considering I have several published works (many of them used as “breadcrumbs” for my novels). I still have several free short stories on other sites, but I just can’t get past the exclusivity deal that KDP Select requires anymore. I also believe how we sell ebooks is changing so much it’s best to be as widely distributed as possible; hence, the reason I won’t be using KDP Select anytime soon (and especially since Amazon recently cut affiliate ties with sites that primarily promote free books). I definitely believe offering free works is a powerful marketing tool to build an author platform–and KDP Select is great for a new author–but I also believe if you have multiple works in “rotation” on a variety of channels that are doing well, you can skip KDP Select. Sites like BookBub and Ereaders News Today sell tons of books, which I prefer to use.

  35. Really interesting post…thank you, CJ. I’ve definitely noticed, and been frustrated by, the decreasing effectiveness of my KDP promotions. I’ve known for awhile that I can’t keep all my eggs in the same basket, and this definitely highlights that point yet again.

  36. My wife and I found Smashwords first and did not know about uploading to Amazon. Now we have her book on Amazon. This puts us in a difficult situation. Do we unpublish from Smashwords and go exclusively with Amazon? I went free on Smashwords and we are receiving a good number of downloads but no new sales although we would not make any money if we did get sales because its free. With KDP Select we can make it free and still make money. Our book goes free in four days. I have six ebook websites promoting in that day so I ca not back out. Well we will see what happens.

  37. Pingback: My Experience with KDP Select Free Promo Days | Professor Beej

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  41. Right on target and excellent review of the current KDP ‘free’ program…too many free books and too many free book hoarders for the system to work the same as before

  42. Thanks for writing this. It was really informative and useful. I’m about to publish my first book and am still trying to figure out what to do re: KDP Select. It’s interesting (and a shame) that the algorithm has changed; that is important to know.

    My book is a memoir (a collection of travel tales). I have a loyal blog readership (have had the blog for almost 3 years) and a solid following on Twitter–and I’ve done a good amount of networking in the travel community. I even have a incoming link from the Oprah.com blog. I plan to do a lot of guest posting (hopefully on some big-name blogs) and other things to get the book going.

    I may wait on KDP Select and only use it if I really need it. I could also wait until the CreateSpace version of my book is available and then use it.

    What do you think?

  43. Also…I have another book coming in the future and possibly something for Kindle Singles. Perhaps I could put the ‘single’ in KDP Select and use that as a way to get exposure?

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  45. If you think about books as what they really are, information products, then you know that you don’t make money on the first product (in this case an ebook). You give away as many as possible as a means to build up that readership and get people excited about what you write. Kindle Select is perfect model for that.

    As stated by a number of people, you really start making money after 4-6 books because it takes time to build an audience of followers. There are ways to speed that process up but typically the slow and steady buildup of QUALITY followers is the way to go.

    I would make the argument that even if you only have 1 book you can still use Kindle Select. Bottom line, you have to start building the following at some point. If they like your first book then they will come back for the second book.

  46. I couldn’t agree more with your post. I did an entire ebook about this, called “I’m just saying, think it through” warning authors of the potential short comings of the KDP program. I received very thankful feedback from potential authors who almost wasted their time, and very angry feedback from people who continually mooch off the freebies and proved my point of what a bizarre sense of entitlement it’s generated among the amazon freebie ereader community. Here’s the link if anyone’s curious http://www.amazon.com/Saying-Think-Entrepreneur-Business-Empowerment-ebook/dp/B00AVS60EQ

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  48. Pingback: Is Amazon’s KDP Select Program For You? Maybe Not | Promote

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  50. When I tried KDP Select and did a promotion to make my ebook available for free, I was shocked there was over 500 downloads and thought it was a good thing. I wasn’t able to find out how those readers found out about it, like if KDP has a page that lists all ebooks that are free under new promotions. Downloads began within a few minutes of it becoming free after midnight Pacific Time. How did those readers find out about it so quickly? I ruled out my own efforts back then at Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress, because the downloads began before I posted at those places about the promotion about 6 hours after it began. I tried asking in the support forums and didn’t get a straight answer from any other authors or readers. However, I did find something in a support form that really angered me. People there bragging about how stupid authors are to use the free 5 days. They reported how hundreds of readers are having a contest to see who can get the most free ebooks, with no intention of ever reading any of them! They just want to brag about how many ebooks they have on their reader that they got for free. If that’s true, then the value of the 500+ downloads is zero. Further, no actual sales since then. No reviews by anyone who read it. Nothing.

    The market is flooded because anyone can get published. It’s a reader’s market instead of a writer’s market. My ebooks are just grains of sand on a beach being hit by a tsunami. Using a marketing agency does not help, only getting enough sales at most to pay for the marketing service. Knowing my ebooks have no chance in that perfect storm, I’m trying a different approach now. I’m publicly pledging to donate all of my royalties to charity, specifically to the American Lung Association, and am making arrangements for that to be done automatically. Readers might be more likely to buy an ebook knowing the money will go to a good cause instead of to me. Otherwise my ebooks are dead. If the charity deal gets sales, then the money goes to a good cause, and I might get people to actually read my ebooks.

    I’ve been writing science fiction. So far, I can’t even get anyone to read the short stories posted at WordPress, which are different than the novels. Stats show zero readers. Compared to that, I do get hundreds of readers of my editorial articles on political issues. The connection is that there are political ideas in science fiction (good article about that at Wikipedia), but I’ve not been able to get my political readers to read the ideas in the science fiction setting. So my next step is to write a nonfiction ebook about political issues from the perspective of an Independent voter. Perhaps that genre will do better in sales.

  51. This is hugely helpful. I’ve had over 44,000 downloads of my free e-book, but most were not on Amazon. At the same time, my current ebook “Marketing In Less Than 1000 Words” seems to hover quite well in the top 10 of its respective categories.

    I want to try Amazon KDP for the experience more than anything else, but I expect we’re probably going to get more downloads by avoiding it at this stage.

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  61. Thanks for the informative article. It certainly clears up the mystery for me. I’ve published on Smashwords because of the multiple formats, including mobi, but was unclear about the difference between KDP and KDP Select. Would definitely be interested in KDP but not the Select option as I believe it takes time to build an audience, Rome wasn’t built in a day so let’s stay away from mass free downloads unless you’ve got a substantial following, even then it’s got to be limited. We don’t work for nothing. I think I’ll keep it with Smashwords and experiment with the standard KDP. Thanks again for clearing up the mystery.

  62. Thank you for this post. I’ve published 3 titles, two of them a part of a series. I’ve been on the fence as far as KDP Select is concerned. Your article has given me much more to consider; however, what I’m doing now isn’t working, so why not give it a try? I’m looking to build an audience more so than revenue at this time (revenue is nice too) so KDP Select may prove to be a useful tool.

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  67. I placed five books on Kindle in February and offered all five on the Free book promotion for five consecutive days. I recieved about 650 hits. I am now considering placing only one book for 2 or 3 day and see what happens. What has be the experience of others?

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  71. Enjoyed the article very much. I’ve written 10 books over a number of years and I thought I had a traditional publisher break through in 2007. Sadly the publisher was going through a hard time and to cut a long story short, with the crash that year nothing happened.
    I held out and 2009 offered a book package deal which I refused. I’ve held out because I believe in what I’m doing. This last two years approached several agents but I now finally realise I have more chance of winning the lottery.
    This info is great thanks. I think I will give this a go because I have just about had it with agents.
    In my heart it feels as if I’m selling out but I guess its this way or no way.

  72. Hi CJ,
    As a relatively new self-pub I found select of minimal value; the ongoing value of a permanently free book (through price matching) that people like enough to buy the sequels has worked for me. Select didn’t. A perma-free put my Quinn series into multiple bestseller lists, particularly in the UK, while Select rarely got any of my books above the 30,000 threshold for the lower-level bestseller lists.

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  75. As a writer of poetry I have struggled for years to find publishers so self publishing was a great benefit to me I have run free promotions on both of my poetry books and the second free promo has outstripped the first. At this point in time I do not care about the money side of things it is the exposure that counts kdp select has certainly given me that.

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