How I Run My KDP Select Free Promotions

Now that the whole world knows that the wizard is actually a fifty-seven-year old man with a strobe light, a box of old T-Rex records, and a strong Venezuelan accent, I’ll let you in on a little secret-Free Still Works. Sometimes. And, it’s more of a lottery than it ever was. It can still be lucrative, but now, when it works, instead of paying down the mortgage, you’re financing the next month or three of writing. There are exceptions of course, and we all want to be those exceptions. Joe Konrath claims to have made 100K in six weeks following a very successful recent free promotion. Others talk of varying amounts and the numbers they bandy about all have a “k” after them. I want more “k’s”. I want to have double digit “k’s” each month. I’ve done it. More than once actually, and I’d very much like to do it again. That’s why I keep trying and I run a KDP Select free promotion every few months with one of my books. Oh, and that’s another thing, now it only seems to work if you have multiple books. Bob Mayer is right. “Content is king and promotion is queen”. You have to have more than one book out there to really take a run at this thing.

Are you confused yet? I’ll try and clarify. As most of you know, you can run a free promotion, under the terms of Amazon’s KDP Select program, for five days during every ninety day enrollment period. That means you give away your ebook, and try to push it up Amazon’s popularity rankings chart, so that when it goes back to “paid” you get a sales spike, or bounce. There are other ways to do free giveaways but for this article we’ll deal solely with KDP Select. A little over a year ago, utilizing Select, if you gave away a gazillion thousand books and got into the top twenty of the free rankings you could almost be assured of selling a whole lot of books afterwards. I did it but I’m nothing special, lots of others did too. Timing wasn’t everything, but it was pretty darn important at that time. Now, the free promotions aren’t quite as effective, and there’s a greater element of luck involved, and I’ve found that you need to mix things up a little bit, but as I said, it can still be done. My recent promotions have been most effective when I have one of my books for free and another at a discounted price, and I utilize some paid advertising to promote both books. Sorry, I know I said I’d try and dilute the confusion but it’s hard to do that when the rules of the game change almost weekly, and believe me, they do keep changing. So, for what it’s worth, I’ll tell you what I did during my last couple of free promotions.

I used these guys- Ebookbooster will submit the details of your free promotion to a minimum of forty-five promotional sites. The current price for this service is $40. There are two advantages to this. Firstly, I can be writing and producing more content while they’re getting the information on my promotion out there, and secondly, they have a pretty good fix on which sites are most effective in spreading the word. And, rest assured, they do submit to most of the big players including pixelofink.com and ereadernewstoday.com. They actually list the sites on their website, so if you don’t want to pay the dough you can use their list and submit the info yourself. Authormarketingclub also has a helpful page showing twenty-two of the major free sites. So, I pay ebookbooster and then submit to the sites they don’t send my info to using Authormarketingclub.

Bear in mind that whether you pay to have your information submitted or do it yourself there’s still no guarantee that these sites will feature you. There’s no charge to have your book listed with them but they are looking for books that are professionally presented and have a number of positive reviews. The submission requirements vary from site to site in terms of what they’ll accept and what they won’t, so you may want to check out their guidelines before you book your dates.

In addition to hitting as many of the free sites as possible, I utilize some paid advertising too. Bookbub has become an almost vital ingredient in promoting your freebie. Their reach is phenomenal. They have over one million subscribers and they’ll send your details out to their members who are specifically looking for a book in your genre. So, for $130 I can have the details of My Temporary Life emailed to almost 400,000 kindle users who are looking for a book in the romantic/suspense genre. When the email goes out from them I immediately see a huge spike in the number of freeloads. To be able to target that many qualified readers and get your book in front of them is a very good deal.

I also use Kindle Nation Daily. They’re partnered with bookgorilla.com too. I buy their $29.99 ad to give me some further coverage. And, I always enter my information here at Indies Unlimited too. Yep, Indies Unlimited has a busy little site that promotes free books, and again, theirs is also free.

So, my total investment for running a promotion is around $200 and I’ve been lucky, I always recoup significantly more than that, and I do it without spamming my friends and followers all over Facebook and Twitter.

So, go free, run free, place a horseshoe in the appropriate place, round up your network of acquaintances, crank up T-Rex, dance naked under the stars, or do whatever you need to in order to get that all-important post-free sales spike. As for me, by the time this article appears I’ll have just finished two free promotions on different books within a ten day period. So, hopefully right now I’m enjoying a nice little sales spike and my book titles are all over Amazon’s website, and climbing up those rankings, because I want lots of those “k’s”, lots and lots of them. For your convenience, I have put together a list of book promo sites that Indies Unlimited has made available as a page. Good luck with your promotion.

Author: Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie is the author of five bestselling books whose newest release is a Kindle Scout winner. His self-publishing journey has been mentioned in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online Magazine, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Learn more about Martin at his website or his Amazon author page

29 thoughts on “How I Run My KDP Select Free Promotions”

  1. The KDP free days is a subject I’m quite interested in, because I’m still trying to figure out if they’re (1) an effective method to get your book read and (2) result in increased sales.

    I wonder about the first because I’ve gotten download happy when I see free books and then realize I don’t have time to read them. Though, I’m not sure there is any metric to measure what percentage of people actually read your book.

    So, instead, I’ll focus on the second question. I’m still not clear on what kind of increases in sales people get. You chose not to include numbers in your post, but I’ll ask anyway: what kind of numbers do you get after a free promotion? Can you tell us either (1) how many more units you sell at a full-price (or discounted, since you mention you have success with discounting) following the promotion [than you were selling before] OR (2)what percentage increase in full-price sales you get following a free promotion? And how long does such an increase last?

    Lastly, you mentioned getting 5 free day during the 90 day period. Do you use them all at once, or break them up 1 day at a time, or 2 days here, 2 days there? Any thoughts on maximum effectiveness with the day split.

    1. Apologies if my comment doubles up, the system doesn’t seem to want to accept my wordiness.
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts, RJ.
      The short answer to your question is-try running a free promo and you’ll see how it works.
      The longer answers are:
      Yes, I agree, the majority of readers who pick up a free book probably don’t read it, although some of the are. I’ve had reviews from lots of readers who picked up my book for free. The math doesn’t quite make sense though. My book has been downloaded (including paid and free sales) over 150,000 times yet I only have 250 reviews. So, I tend to agree with you.

      1. In terms of what percentage increase you get once you go back to paid, well that would require a very accurate crystal ball. As you may know, the system changed just over a year ago and now freeloads count as one tenth as much as they did previously on the all-important popularity rankings. So, it’s certainly not as effective as it used to be. I’ve been lucky, I’ve always had a sales spike afterwards but it’s varied from being in the tens of thousands of dollars (last February) to being a few hundred dollars. As my book is the first of a series I have no problem giving it away. I want to build my readership and the free promos have allowed me to do that.
        In terms of which days, well, initially I was running on Friday thru Sundays but now I tend to think that Thursday thru Saturday is better. But, don’t blink because I may change my mind on that again.
        Good luck with your book and I hope you experiment and try a free promo yourself.

        1. Thanks for your reply. That’s helpful to know. I certainly think giving away the first in a series is helpful, but I don’t have a series yet.

  2. Martin, I’m confused. I have been on Select for the past six months. When i first ran the free promo for one of my books, with no ads, I got over 1600 free downloads and a nice boost in sales. i just ran it yesterday and only 44 were downloaded. I have used many of the free sites you mentioned, never paid, and ultimately they seem to make no difference anymore. My guess is because there is such an over saturation at this point. Plus, Amazon has recently and obviously changed their algorithms again. I had been selling 8-10 books a day now almost nothing. I have more five star reviews then I had and have almost no sales. I have recently run other books for free and had the same paltry results.I will look at bookbub and ebookbooster. Any further advice is appreciated. Yeah, some k’s would be nice. Thanks, Doug

    1. Thanks Douglas. Unfortunately there are no exact answers. As I mentioned, a paid Bookbub ad seems to be mandatory now, so that might help you. My most recent promotion took place after I’d submitted the above article. I ran it for three days. On the day the Bookbub ad appeared I gave away 20,000 ebooks, then less than 10,000 over the next two days.
      My post-free run has been less than impressive. But, when I ran “My Name Is Hardly” for free a couple of months ago I gave away less free books and sold far more once the promo ended.
      My expectations lower each time but then I see others who are hitting it out of the park, so I re-group, tweak my strategy and try again, hoping that I’ll get back there.
      Good luck to you, sounds like you have a good book.

  3. Do you think these results mainly work if your books are in a series or is it just a matter of raising awareness that your books exist?

    1. My best run, Krista was before I turned my first book into book one of a series. So, I don’t think it matters. I love the peripheral effect that it has on your other books though when you do run one for free, and it gives you way more options too. I have a friend who wrote an extensive series of romance books and she runs one for free at least once a month and her sales are through the roof. Content, that’s what we need, content. Then we have all kinds of options.
      Thanks for your question.

  4. I can attest to BookBub superior “arm reach,” but I used the bargain price option ($0.99). I sold over 600 copies in one day. They are definitely the best e-book advertisers on the block right now. Every author I know that’s used them has recouped their investment.

    1. Those are awesome numbers, James, congratulations and thanks for sharing them. Bookbub are certainly strong and have become one of the main sites along with Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today, but there are others that can be effective too. I ran a discounted promo on one of my books with Kindle Books and Tips a short while back and had similar results. Good luck with your future promotions, James!

  5. Very nice collection of promo sources and ideas, Thanks for the post. Sure confirms everything I hear about BookBub too.

    1. Thank you Thom, and yes, BookBub have become one of the big three along with Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today. Keep your eye on Michael Gallagher’s site Kindle Books and Tips (formerly Free Kindle Books and Tips), also. I’ve been doing very well with ads for discounted (not free) books on there.

      1. Thanks, again. I looked at checked out Michael’s KBT site but could not find a link to advertise on the site. Any clue?

  6. Really helpful & constructive post, thanks. I haven’t come across Bookbub before but will certainly consider using or my next book launch.

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