Kindle Countdown Catastrophe

exploding alarm clockKindle Countdown promotions are not only confusing, but now it turns out you might not receive the 70% royalty promised by Amazon. No, I’m not kidding.

Recently I wrote about the hoops you have to jump through to lower your book’s sale price in international Amazon marketplaces while you run your Kindle Countdown. So, two days before the Kindle Countdown promo, I went and lowered the price on all the marketplaces as explained by KDP customer service in Martin Crosbie’s excellent post. Everything should have been good to go, right?

Wrong.

Oh, sure, I met the deadline and on every Amazon channel, Triple Dog Dare was listed at 99 cents – so at least anyone from outside the USA would get the price advertised on PeopleReads and ENT. But when I checked the special promotion report on my KDP report list – it became clear quite quickly that I was receiving royalties at 35% – NOT the 70% Amazon promises as part of the program. Not sure where to find this information? Go to your KDP reports page…

KDP reports

If you’ve just logged in, click Reports at the top of the page. Then click Promotions, and then the promotion you want to check (#3). That will open the screen below:

CD royalty

By doing some simple division, you can tell whether Amazon is honoring their commitment and paying you the 70%. Clearly, $.70 divided by 2 is 35 cents – so there you have it – 35% royalty – NOT 70%.

I’ve been in contact back and forth with Amazon for a number of days now and I’ve yet to get any sort of acknowledgement that this is an error on their part despite the fact that I followed instructions provided by them. And I know for a fact that I am not the only author this has happened to.

If you are considering a Kindle Countdown promotion before they announce a fix for this, here is my advice: don’t advertise it. If you do advertise, make sure your ad states that the deal is ONLY available in the US or UK (wherever you run your CD). DO NOT mark the book down in other countries. Otherwise, Amazon will accuse you of lowering your royalty rate and will try to use that to justify paying you half the amount. Hopefully they’ll work this out soon.

Fun stuff, right? We’d like to hear about your Kindle Countdown experience(s) – so please take a moment and hop on over to this opinion poll and let us know how it did or didn’t go for you.

Author: K.S. Brooks

K.S. Brooks is an award-winning novelist, photographer, and photo-journalist, author of over 30 titles, and executive director (AKA Fearless Leader) of Indies Unlimited. Brooks is a staff photo-journalist and chief copy editor for two eastern Washington newspapers. She currently teaches writing and self-publishing for the Community Colleges of Spokane, and has served on the Indie Author Day advisory board. For more about K.S. Brooks, visit her website and her Amazon author page

42 thoughts on “Kindle Countdown Catastrophe”

      1. I’ve pulled most of my books out of it too, Massimo. I will probably continue to enroll new books for the first 90 days so I can thank ARC and Beta readers with a free copy on the first day of release, but otherwise, I won’t make use of it.

          1. The issue with that, Massimo, is that the reviews then placed on Amazon by the ARCs and betas do not show as “Verified Purchases” which many advertising venues require. Now it seems that Amazon has removed “verified purchase” labels from the reviews, so this may be a moot point.

          2. Yes, I’ve seen the “verified purchase” disappear from some of my reviews. Is it because they (Ammy) feel it is used to shed a negative light to all those reviews that do not sport the “Verified Purchase” label? Maybe.

          3. More like, I think it’s because publishers send books out pre-release to a slew of reviewers who then post reviews when the books go live. None of those reviews are verified purchases – and if “Ammy” is looking the other way on Big Six sock puppetry, the only “valid” way to do that is to remove the verified purchase label. This especially irks me because I sent out a bunch of print review copies of Mr. Pish Goes to the Farm and Ammy had no problem yanking SEVEN reviews from the book without notice or explanation. Don’t get me started LOL. Now, without the VP label, I’m not certain how advertising houses that require a certain percentage of reviews to be VP will be able to determine which reviews are “legit.”

    1. I personally haven’t seen any real benefit from it, Yvonne. The Countdown portion of it without advertising is pointless, and being locked into a program with bugs is a huge detriment.

      1. I did my first Countdown this weekend and it’s gone well. I have ONLY offered it to the US and UK because I never thought of doing it anywhere else because Amazon only offers those when you sign up. I like the Select Program even though I was nervous about it at first. It has helped increase my sales, when Smashwords seemed to be a dead end for sales. Just my humble opinion.

    1. True that. I received one snotty email from Amazon telling me it wasn’t a bug, and since then I’ve received two apologies, that they are working on resolving the issue. I’d really like to get that extra money, especially since the royalties on that book are split two ways.

  1. Excellent research, Kat; thanks much for blazing the trail. I had very little result from my own Kindle Countdown and have pretty much Counted it Out. There are better ways to promote.

    1. I think they definitely should have beta tested this a lot more thoroughly. I’m not sure they can (or will) go backwards now, but I do agree with you. And honestly, what is the point of the program if you have to advertise it to make it a success? It seemed to me that the Countdown itself was supposed to get a book added exposure by being listed somewhere special?

        1. I’m not sure an “end of countdown surge” actually happens. It’s a shame. I think the program could have a lot of potential if Amazon would do as you suggested and crank up the visibility of the participating books.

  2. Yeah, I’ve run two of them so far. Just looking at the numbers for one day:

    0 sales
    50,000+ in ranking lost.

    According to the Kindle Countdown page, there are only 2,926 Countdown deals going on right now. Can’t see how that wouldn’t be a useful promotion, can you? No way for a book to get lost in that mess, huh?

    What a bloody waste of time. As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve finally decided to say goodbye to KDP. It no longer has any viable advantage to an author. Good going, Amazon! You finally convinced one of the last holdouts that you’re an evil asshat.

    1. I was initially against this program as I didn’t care for the restrictions on price pulsing. The only thing that convinced me to participate was the thought of getting 70% royalty – therefore doubling my income on a sale I’d advertise anyway. That worked out, eh? 😉

  3. Thanks for the heads up. Besides being able to keep the 70% royalty rate, I “assumed” that there would be a huge marketing effort on Amazon’s part for those books enrolled in their countdown scheme, I mean promotion, but from what I’ve read that is not the case. Lately I can’t even give away my freebie on Amazon so have no intention of enrolling anything with them where I would have to be exclusive with them. I’ve seen more action through Smashwords’ channels…just wish they reported quicker.

    1. It seemed early on that Amazon would be promoting books during a Countdown. I’m not sure what happened to that – but obviously that’s not happening. Glad Smashwords is doing something for you, Elena.

  4. Kat, if you and Martin both had difficulties ( and I consider the pair of you to be marketing wizards) then I feel that there is no hope for me to make it through this latest marketing Quagmire. Thanks for all of the explanation and advice. I am presently stuck in a burn out stage and knowing that the Countdown thingy isn’t useful makes me feel at least a bit better that I haven’t done any marketing for awhile. Seems that I haven’t even missed the boat on this one!

  5. My statements show a 70% royalty for the .99 sales. Another thing I’ve been showing… since selling so well for the first couple of days of the Countdown, my sales on that title have stayed elevated over the rate they showed before the promotion, roughly doubled.
    I don’t know if there are some glitches going on, or what. It will be interesting to see over the long haul.

    And I gotta say… the number of these countdown things going on is absolutely in no way a factor over how well it could work for any give book or author. There are millions of books on amazon: that doesn’t mean you should quit. You bring your own eyeballs to these things. If anything you do moves your book into greater visibility, what happens to other people’s books is beside the point.

    1. My point is, Lin, I sold just as many books by advertising a 99 cent sale than I did jumping through the hoops orchestrated by the Kindle Countdown and with far less hassle. The only thing that convinced me to take advantage of the Countdown promotion was getting double the royalty, which it now seems may not happen. That leaves no incentive for me to try it again unless they work out the bugs. I saw no “last minute rush” and without the advertising, I sold just as many books as I would have at the normal price. Again…hardly incentive for me to stay with the program. I’m glad you had success with it.

      1. I guess it remains to be seen if it’s a glitch that gets ironed out or not. My guess, it will be. Be kind of stupid not to.
        I ran into no hassles or hoops… found it an easier way to bring the price down. But I wasn’t concerned about all the worldwide markets. They don’t add up to much for me and aren’t served by the systemic promotional services I use. Without which, I would predict that nobody will increase sales because that’s the whole thing–people know it’s cheaper.
        Definitely true that without the higher royalty it’s not worth staying on Select for it. But like I say, I would expect that to get solved.

    2. I think I know what’s going on here. KDP doesn’t promise to pay at the rate of 70%. They promise to keep the same percentage the book normally pays at it’s regular price.
      In foreign distributions, that might be 35% to start with. That’s what I make on sales in Mexico, as opposed to the 70% I make in the US.
      I didn’t bother going through the whole bit to get the promo in all those non-exceptional countries. So I’m not really seeing any 35% payouts. I think if you wait until your sales for this period come out on the “Last 6 weeks royalties” detailed daily listings you might see that that is what happened.
      Or not. But that’s my best guess at this point.

      1. No, that’s not what happened. I’ve been emailing daily with Amazon KDP as have a number of other authors. The program has bugs, and hopefully they will work them out so folks can run global promotions in synch with their Countdowns. 🙂

  6. Very interesting post. I finished a Countdown Deal in December. It went very well and the reports do show that I received the 70% royalty for the .99 book. Sales were excellent and also pushed sales of my two books not in the Select program.

    My main concern was pulling the book from B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords to enroll in teh KDP Select Countdown Deal but I wanted to see how many Kindle Owner’s Lending Library borrows I’d get and if that would help justify pulling the book from those sites for 90 days. The book loans through KOLL substantially outpaced previous sales through the other sites and the payout per “loan” was more than the 70% royalty I would have received if the book was sold.

    However, given the substantial information in this thread, it is apparent that we authors must keep vigilante on all the business aspects of our sales so that we can spot errors.

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