The “Donut Hole” within Amazon’s KDP Select “Free” Periods

donuts
Mmmm… donuts.

Many authors might not have run into this donut hole while placing their book or books free in this program. I want to explain what it is along with how you can find where it occurs now or in the future, while providing a refresher on how to display the Select information.

First, a little background for those not familiar with Amazon’s KDP Select program. This program allows an author to have one or more of their books in this program provided they give KDP Select an exclusive distribution for 90 days. That means it can’t be available anywhere else in eBook form during that period. The benefit I’m going to be specifically talking about here is the ability to have that book, or books, free for five days within that 90 day window. Free means people can order them on Amazon free without any charge and without any royalty to the author.

I like donuts, probably a little too much. I could tell some stories, but I would only get myself into trouble. I know…I know…stay on track here.

As a relatively new author with six books, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) and the “Select” program has been a true benefit to me. It has allowed my books to be published and discovered within the reader world. There are many debates over this program, but I love it. However, on a recurring basis, I run into the donut hole in the Amazon KDP Select 90-day free period.

It’s always good to know when current KDP enrollment period exxpires. When I only had one book it was easy to make a note of where the 90-day cycle started and ended. However, with six books, most with different enrollment periods, I lose track of the dates.

To determine your current KDP Select enrollment period for one of your books, go to your dashboard (bookshelf) at https://kdp.amazon.com/. Scroll down to the book you want to check. Click on INFO (red arrow) under the KDP Select column. Note: This is a screen shot of my KDP bookshelf.

KDP 1Once clicked, it presents that book’s current enrollment period –

KDP 2If you want to find out how many days you have used and/or have left to offer this book free, on the dashboard screen, there is a “Manage Benefits” right above that INFO you just clicked. When you click on “Manage Benefits,” you’ll see this screen –

KDP 3The above screen shows the previously scheduled promotions during the current 90 day period and allows you to determine how many of the five free days you have left.

Want to create a new freebie? Click the drop-down arrow beside “Kindle Countdown Deal” (which is a different program Select has available. I’m not going to cover that here). When you click that drop-down arrow, it reveals “Free Book Promotion.” Click on that.

KDP 4I wrote this post on April 10th. And when I clicked on the little calendar, I saw the above. You will notice only two days seem available – the 11th and 12th.

It took me a while to get here, but here is the donut hole. It exists near the end of a current 90-day cycle, or a future one.

As I mentioned, the April 11th and 12th dates are more visible. As of the screen shot on April 10, the only days left in the 90 day free period for that book were the 11th and 12th. I still have four free days available for that book, BUT if I wanted to run a four-day freebie, I can’t. I could only run one day – April 12, since it takes 24 hours to schedule a free cycle. The real problem is this. In the current 90 day period, I can run that book free on April 12th. The new 90 day period starts April 13th – but I can’t even reserve that day because of the 24 hour scheduling issue. So, if I wanted to run a freebie, I’d have the 12th on the old period, and the 14th on the new period. I know, you’re asking, what’s the big deal?

It involves the donut hole’s impact on making several of my books free at the same time over a holiday. That worked well for me; I liked the bump in sales following that free period. Back to the donut hole – it wasn’t a problem for the Memorial Day or Independence Day weekends, but Labor Day weekend is going to be an issue.

Once I had the Select period end dates for all of my books I decided to run those dates out in 90 increments in a spreadsheet. The bolded dates below indicate two books ending the free period over that holiday weekend which would directly impact scheduling all of them. Here’s a section of my spreadsheet to show that conflict –

Branded for Murder

Serial Separation

Scent of Gardenia

Fragrance of Revenge

Foreplay for Murder

2013 Flash Fiction Anthology

7/2/2014

6/3/2014

6/1/2014

4/12/2014

4/12/2014

5/6/2014

9/30/2014

9/1/2014

8/30/2014

7/11/2014

7/11/2014

8/4/2014

12/29/2014

11/30/2014

11/28/2014

10/9/2014

10/9/2014

11/2/2014

As you can see in the above, one book expires on Saturday 8/30 and another on Monday 9/1, interrupting my Labor Day promotion. And, Scent of Gardenia expires on 11/28, which is the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend. Now I have some work to do to figure out how to handle those situations.

This may not seem like a huge problem, but if you’re planning on running promotions, it’s something you should keep in mind.

Author: Dick C. Waters

Dick C Waters is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and author of the Scott Tucker mystery novels; Branded for Murder, Serial Separation, Scent of Gardenia and Fragrance of Revenge (soon to be published). For more information please see his Author Central Page

27 thoughts on “The “Donut Hole” within Amazon’s KDP Select “Free” Periods”

  1. Thanks, Dick. I ran into this with one of my books last summer — had to truncate a free run by a day or so because it was falling at the end of my enrollment period. I suspect the same donut hole would affect Countdown promotion scheduling, but I haven’t looked into it.

    1. Lynne, I’m not sure about that. One method of getting around this enrollment period issue is to drop out of the Select program and enter it again at a later date. I’m going to look into this further.

  2. I’ve never run multiple books on a freebie promo, but I’m going to bookmark this in case I ever do. That would be very rude to run a promo and have the price flip in the middle of it! Thanks, Dick.

    1. I just ran a multiple book free promotion over the Memorial Day weekend. I had only a third of the downloads compared to the New Year’s holiday weekend. Makes sense – many people frozen in place versus opening up the windows etc.

  3. Yeah, once you have a lot of books and are using this stuff a lot, you really need to chart it closely. I have a Word file with a table that lists the in/out enrollment dates and the freebie/countdown days that I have left. Since I’ve got a dozen or so books and am bringing out more all the time, it requires a lot of charting.
    It kind of sucks that the number of days on these benefits are prime numbers. If they were 6 and 8 instead of 5 and 7, we could divide them into 2 or 3 promos. But that’s the way it be, so we deal with it.
    I just did a promo, ended yesterday, in which I had a freebie for 4 days and at the same time ran 4 books at 99 cents. one of them only had 2 days left so it was 99 cents on Thur and Sun, but free on Fri and Sat. So I had to change the info on the landing page for the promo. Not a big deal. Just one more little thing we have to figure out how to arrange.
    I was running them to automatically re-up. But this time around I’ve unchecked the box so I’ll have to renew them consciously and make decisions at that time whether to do so for each title.
    You hit a point when freebies aren’t helping you that much any more. And at some point might want to think about whether the 35 cents more you make on Countdown instead of just reducing price to 99 cents for as long as you feel like is better for you than having the book on other platforms.
    It’s like having a big family of children all at different ages with different needs. Or some equally strained analogy.

  4. That’s a really interesting article. I have one comment that is sort of unrelated. In all my research and personal experience, holidays greatly underperform the rest the days of the year.

    Have you found out differently?

    1. Brian, I do my promos more as run-ups to holidays rather than on the actual holidays. Seems like people are too busy on holiday weekends to do much browsing/buying, but planting the seed early, when they’re thinking about buying, seems to work better. I don’t have any numbers at my fingertips, but that’s my impression.

      1. I agree with you Melissa. With the exception of Christmas (when those new e-readers are unwrapped and the recipients are downloading books), holidays seem to be quiet.
        I’ve found that running my promo at the end of the month and having the price hit back to retail at the beginning of next month has increased the amount of borrows I get too. I may just have hit it lucky but I’m reluctant to not run it at that time just in case it really is working.

    2. Great question Brian. I’m still trying to learn some of these aspects. This response might make another interesting post. Here is a quick response. I’ve done four free promotion periods since Jan 1. Three were on holiday, or a holiday weekends. New Year’s day period gave me over 7,300 downloads with January my best month ever for actual sales. My Memorial Day weekend gave me over 2,500, but I have not seen an actual bump in sales yet.
      One of the big benefits is once a book reaches the Top 15 on Amazon’s Best Sellers in the Free category – many readers see that book, or books, and take advantage of the free download. As a relatively new author, I am focused on readers seeing my name and titles. The more downloads the better chance for word of mouth promotion. Three of my five books hit the top 15 over the Memorial Day weekend.
      As a comparison – my making a single book free, and then another in the series free on non-holidays have not given me these kinds of numbers.
      Sorry for the longer than planned response.

      1. Brian you made me curious – I went back to look at the single Washington Birthday free DAY. I had five books free that one day and had 1,273 downloads and a higher than normal sales month.
        Multiple free books on a holiday are working for me, and judging from other comments, it might be that other authors are staying away from that same period.

        1. I’ve been one of the bigger supporters of free promotions but I’ve kept away from them for the past year. During my last run I gave away twenty thousand books and saw almost no sales spike afterward.
          Dick, I wonder if you could clarify what you mean when you say the free promotions are working for you. Are you referring to freeloads or paid sales when your book goes back to retail?
          Or, are you looking at it as strictly a branding exercise?
          I have no problem giving books away, that part is easy but the sales spike isn’t happening for me.
          Having said that, I know that it is for some others especially if you have books in a series. If there is indeed a decent sales spike after the free run has ended it would definitely be worthwhile revisiting.
          Thanks Dick.

          1. Martin, I am referring to actual sales following the free promotion periods. I actually sell very few books each month (<5). However, after one of these free promotions I do see a positive tick in actual sales:
            January following New Year's 4-day promotion – 44 sales.
            February following the Washington's Birthday free single day – 26 sales.
            These were five free book promotions.
            I'm sharing these normally guarded numbers to add some credibility to certain holiday free promotions.

            Now, I just ran a similar promotion for 4 days over the Memorial Day holiday, and have not seen any June sales. However, I raised four of these books from $2.99 to $6.99.

  5. Dick, I had pulled all my books from KDP because I wanted to allow distribution to other platforms. I sell decently on Barnes and Noble. Go figure. I need to reconsider what I am doing.
    Thanks for the info and for pointing out the use of holidays.

    1. Lois, thank you for sharing. If you are having decent sales on B&N, please don’t let me take you away from it.
      My objective at this time is name recognition, not necessarily sales, but I will take actual sales if they come. LOL

  6. Good information. I’ll pass it on and share this article. I love the kdp program and with publishing more books, it’s good to get all the tips I can.

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