Goodbye For Now, Kindle Select

I have officially taken Joe Café out of the madness that is Kindle Select. I went in with reservations, and I came out with my reservations cancelled…or with legal gambling casinos on them. Or something. A lot of electrons or whatever got moved around. No doubt about that.

The deal with Kindle Select is that you give the digital rights for your book to Amazon and they ‘promote’ your book while it is in the program. You get five free promotion days for every ninety (free for everybody). Prime members can borrow for free at any time. Yadda. Yadda.

I don’t like being told what I can and can’t do. I also don’t like not selling very many books, so I took my laptop to the crossroads and the rest is history.

With the three promotions I did, Joe Café was downloaded for free around 20K times (10K the first time). That’s a LOT. If I had 20K nickels I would be a richer man (yes, sad, I know). I didn’t get paid for those free downloads, but I still think Select is a good gig.

I don’t know if any of those 20K people will read the book. Maybe they are just manic hoarders. Actually, not quite true…I got a few reviews from people who had snatched the book up. It improves your reach. It gets your name and work out there. It proved to me that at least one person in France has a Kindle. More importantly, however, it drives sales.

With every promotion I did, my borrows (which I do get scrilla for) and sales improved. I’m not buying a yacht anytime soon, but I definitely sell more now than I did before Select. Maybe that would have happened anyway. Who knows?

Sales on my other books have been pretty solid, too. I credit Select for that. So, for me, it worked. I think. I still feel a little squirmy about the whole affair, but it worked (I think)….what can I say? So, here are the things I learned.

The key to a successful promotion is to get the sites and blogs that promote free books to feature yours. This means you need lots of reviews…good ones…and you need to have sold some books. Starting with Select on a new work is a bad idea in my opinion. The way I did it, and what I would recommend, is that you let your book do its thing for a while and then throw it to the dogs.

One mistake I made (a few times) was trying to promote my promotion on Twitter and Facebook. It annoyed me. I’m sure it annoyed others. And I don’t think it helped that much. Maybe fifty or so downloads, but the vast majority came from the ‘free e-book hunters’. What do they want? They want a free book that has some quality reviews. They want to risk their pretend hard-earned theoretical electron money on something with a reputation. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. Or let the cake sit on their Kindle until it gets stale.

The folks at Amazon are very smart. Select is a very smart move…for them. It can be a smart move for you if you have some name recognition and your book has already made some kind of dent in the literary world. I have talked to writers who put their virgin book directly into the program and it did not turn out well.

Basically, this is book prostitution…or stripping…or numbers running. Something. You want to get as many Johns as you can to pay for the book before you start giving the milk away for free. (I got no sleep and have no idea if any of this is making sense.)

I am happy with the way Select worked for Joe Café. It is now out of the rat race. It is the old tired Madame that will manage the others…hopefully it will continue to sell well. The Biker will do its time on Select. Since it is going to be a trilogy, it makes even more sense. Less like prostitution and more like dealing crack. Give them the first one free and then start charging.

Select will help you move books. It will also make you sad. I had people get mad that they had paid for the book only to have it go free weeks later. That is $3.99 they will never get back..the indignity. I HATED the pimping on social media, but I don’t think that is necessary, as I said, and I won’t be doing much of it next time. It’s regrettable that this whole thing is even necessary, but I would do it again. I’ve been selling more books lately. I sell books overseas. It’s fun to watch your book rocket in the rankings during the promos (suck it, Jack London). Yesterday was it, though. Over 48 hours, Joe Café was downloaded almost 4500 times in the US. Almost 100 in the UK. A handful of times in Germany. And once in France. I don’t know why Spain and Italy hate me. But from now on, anyone who wants Joe Café will have to take it out to a nice dinner first ($3.99 will almost get something from the value menu).

Author: JD Mader

JD Mader is an award winning short story writer and novelist. 'Joe Café' and 'The Biker' are out now, as well as 'Please, no eyes'. and the collaborative 'Bad Book'. Mader has been writing for half his life and has no plans on stopping any time soon. Learn more about JD Mader at his blog and his Amazon author page.

45 thoughts on “Goodbye For Now, Kindle Select”

  1. yes agreed I find select works exactly as you have predicted. It is a useful too and sadly promo work is a fact of life for an author. I did not expect to make a single buck in sales when I first launched Nightingale Vale but despite mixed reviews it continues to pip in and out of the rating on frees and paids. Latest free pipped No2 psycho thrillers Amazon De and 93 Thrillers Amazon UK. One before that I was downloaded nearly 4000 times on a free. I do not think any author should be ashamed of selling it is what advertisers do all the time and if you believe in the product then why not back it. Yep I am loving the experience of being a published author. Met new peeps, learned new skills like creating a blog. No real money but that is not what I am in it for. I love the fact that I can be a contender. as they say in the song. “I could have been someone, well so could anyone.” So go for it.

  2. Don’t take Italy personally. They hate us all (: The thing is I love Italy, so it hurts to be the subject of unrequited love. I think you have a point about running a free promotion for a new book. I did it and it certainly didn’t work for me. I said bye bye to Kindle Select at the end of July after a 90-day run that amounted to little more than great rankings during two fee promotions. Didn’t have the guts to do a third – far too harrowing. But I’ve heeded your tips for next time – whenever that may be. Thanks for this great post!

    1. Thank you! I really do think that Select promotions for new books are a dangerous proposition. People have book radar, and you need to be on it. And getting promoted by others is paramount, and that means you need visibility.

      I would boycott pizza and pasta, but I like them both. 🙂

  3. Once I have about 20 short stories published, I’ll give KDP Select a try with one of them. Frankly, however, Amazon sells far fewer books for me than my other distributors, so I don’t have much confidence in them. They also have sales record update issues and are a horrendous bureaucracy where not only every region’s member and product page, but every region’s author page, must be updated by the author separately–and also Author Select in every region and the KDP Publishing page. Try creating about 10 different profiles on the websites of what is basically one company. It’s like trying to win a lawsuit against Putin through the Russian court system. Those who give a darn about Amazon are free to do so, but for now, I’m just throwing my books on there as an afterthought and concentrating my efforts on other distribution sites that work much better for me.

    1. Fair enough. 😉 What is working for you? I agree with much of what you said, but it has worked so far. Maybe something else would work better?

  4. Freaking Italy hates me too, and I’m Italian. Glad you had success with it…I did early on, but found the welcome wore out. Hated the promotion too. I’ve said a million times I always felt like I needed a shower after a freebie. Since I don’t have a series I don’t imagine I’ll be hopping back in too soon. Reading the comments left on POI and ENT (just once could someone thank the author besides ENT & POI?!) I do think there are book hoarders and if I get even 10% of the over 15,000 downloaded copies read, I’d be thrilled. Of course, with my luck, those 10% would be the ones who hate profanity and my genre 😉

  5. I’m right there with you JD, the sites are key for a free promo. With my book Armed and Outrageous, I held off until recently and only did so because sales went down. I can’t say my Nook and Smashword sales amounted to a whole lot, but I now have a few real diehard fans who for some reason keep sending me money in the mail to send signed copies to everyone they know. I wish it was more than a few.

    I joined KDP the beginning of the month and I’m holding off the free sales until I’m positioned properly or until I have sent in enough of those website forms for the free promo. Some of which like to have some notice.

    I’m excited but apprehensive. I mean this is like sending my baby to a babysitter I don’t know. I’m afraid my sales will drop off the edge of the planet never to be seen again.

    I did download you book during one of your promos. Good luck with your book and hope to hear you turning out more in the future.

  6. JD –
    I put my books up there for three months and then take them off. Then I put the new next one on for three months, and so forth. I have given away quite a few during promotion days.

    I haven’t gotten the sales yet, but they are picking up gradually. Eventually… But, I don’t keep a book on KDP for reasons of–1) there should be several money streams and 2) I do like Smashwords even though so far, I have doubled my last years earnings to hehe I’ll give you a hint… ten dollars last year.

    So I don’t understand those free bargain hunters. Let them eat cake. The serious readers will pay the 3.99.

    Yours,

    Cyn

      1. 🙂 Thanks Cyn. One of the weirdest things about this revolution is the cost vs. reward. I remember being STOKED to find a used book for 3.99.

  7. Thanks for your evaluation. I’ve got my short stories and flash fiction compilations on Select, using it to hopefully build an initial following. My first novel will go on as well, just hope I can get a couple more books done in the next year. Thanks, JD.

  8. My experience is much like yours, Dan. Though I got no where near your numbers – possibly because I did not have the base you stared with, or did the other networking you suggested because I didn’t know about them. Both my books are now off Select and on Smash as well as Kindle. I would do it again, but only for the 90 days.

  9. Brother, this is very useful info, thanks for sharing. You’ve made me happy because now I can buy your books and not have the regret of seeing them available for free two days later. Someone sometime soon is gonna have to say something about market saturation, my friend. If being an artist means giving away hundreds of hours of hard work for free, then we really need to smash the machine.

    1. Thanks amigo. We do need to smash the machine. I have an idea percolating right now in fact. If I can pull it off, we’ll be drinking ice cold drinks on tropical beaches.

  10. I also did not get near your numbers with my promotions, but I did get some nice reviews. I have found the most benefit to a promotion is from giving away a book with a sequel. The lift in sales on a book that had been free was not as good as the lift in sales for the sequel.

    1. Thanks for the comment. I hope it didn’t seem I was bragging about the numbers. I am working on the second in the Matt Stark series right now. So, I am back to square one in a lot of ways.

      Enjoy the reviews. They are such a treat. 😉

  11. Thanks for sharing this JD. I think your analysis is spot on – not a strategy for virgin books but a good form of marketing for books that have siblings. I’m bookmarking this page and passing it on to a friend who could use this kind of promotion.

  12. Great post! I definitely agree with all your points about the program. I was pretty happy with my experience with it. Mine’s off of Select for now, but when I release the sequel, I’ll probably put the first back up there for free the first days of the sequel’s release.

  13. just wondering – do you have a feel for how many people downloaded Joe Cafe when it was free versus how many “borrowed” it via Amazon Prime?

  14. I’m on my way out of kindle select too – I wonder what Amazon made of the scheme, given the numbers that seem to be leaving. And what they’ll come up with next!

  15. Good to hear it worked for you. As for me, I’m done with the program. I just don’t see the benefit of cancelling other distribution channels for 90 days anymore, especially since Smashwords added a few more.

  16. Entertaining the thought of putting my first novel up on Select when I get it all edited and fixed up. It has reviews, nearly all 4 or 5 star, so maybe it will help generate sales for my other 6 novels. It is book 1 of a massive military thriller series, so maybe I can draw more readers in. The book hasn’t sold well on the other sites (SW and BN) so taking it off there for 90 days won’t hurt.

    Thanks for the info and insight. Maybe I can make this work for me.

  17. I must have gotten lucky, because I put my virgin book, Michal’s Window, up for free a week after publishing it. I got over 15K free downloads and stayed in the top 10,000 rank for a month before declining. My highest rank post-Select giveaway was 724. But if I were to do it again, I’d do what you say. Have the book out there for a while, do some regular promos to gain visibility and reviews first before going free. The downside with Select freebies is you might pick up one-star reviews. That’s something to be aware of.

    1. Glad it worked out for you. I’ve only gotten one one star review, but they are always out there lurking. People with their damn opinions. 😉

  18. Dan,
    I ran a little experiment on Select. I wrote a short story, and attached a recipe that many friends have asked for. I left it there and ignored it. I received a nice little check for the story. I have put the story up here on IU for free, it sells for .99 on Amazon, and that is where it will stay. Since it was so well received, I am writing the second story.
    I am always interested to hear about other author’s experiences with the freebies. I have not offered my novel for free yet, and don’t know that I ever will. The second will be, hopefully, published this month.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  19. I tried with two because the first one was already out there and it’s a series, so #2 went a few weeks later. They’re both expiring soon and I cannot wait to get them out on B&N, Sony, iTunes, SMASHWORDS! OMG…I’ve given them both away by the hundreds with a total of 3…yes, T-H-R-E-E borrows, That won’t pay for my Extra Strength Tylenol for the headache I’ve had for 3 months. My only hope is that some of them like it (when and if they read it) and decide the try the rest of the series. I should have a GREAT fall with #9, #10 and the new #11 all coming out on the SW retailers just in time for the holidays!!!

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