For most self-published writers, Amazon is the first port of call when it comes to selling their books. There's a good reason for this: Amazon is where the readers are.
Another reason is Amazon's KDP Select program, which gives self-published writers an opportunity to punch above their weight when it comes to marketing their books.
In this tutorial, I'll give you the lowdown on how KDP Select works, and tips and tricks on how to use it to give your book the best chance possible of finding readers and sales.
To complete this tutorial, you will need:
- an eBook, self-published using Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP)
- social media accounts
- an email list
1. Understand How KDP Select Works
KDP Select is Amazon's promotional tool for indie-publishers. It includes four key components:
- Exclusivity: While ebooks are enrolled in KDP Select, Amazon demands exclusive publishing rights. Ebooks enrolled in KDP Select must not be for sale or given away anywhere else online or offline. Amazon is really strict on this - you can't even give away review copies.
- A ninety-day cycle: Ebooks are enrolled to KDP Select for 90 days. After 90 days, you choose whether or not to re-enroll for another 90 days.
- A lending library: Amazon Prime customers can borrow one ebook a month for free. If you enroll in KDP Select, your eBook is one of the titles Prime customers can borrow. You get paid when someone borrows your book. The amount varies, but it's typically around one or two dollars.
- Free promotions: For each 90 day cycle, you have up to five days where you can give away your eBook for free. You control which five days these are.
2. Know the Marketing Benefits (and drawbacks) of KDP Select
The option to give away books for free is what makes KDP Select so attractive to writers.
When giving away books using KDP Select, you can typically expect 100-200 downloads a day.
Many authors who've made a name for themselves self-publishing credit their success to KDP Select's promotional tool. Hugh Howey, writer of the bestselling Wool series, believes giving away free books to Kindle readers is one of the reasons he developed such a wide following. Sean Platt and David Wright, co-writers of Yesterday's Gone, used free ebooks to create a new business model. They wrote Yesterday's Gone in episodes, each episode published as a single ebook, and ending in a cliffhanger. The first episode is free, pulling readers into the story so they want to buy the full season.
When giving away books using KDP Select, you can typically expect 100-200 downloads a day. If your giveaway is widely promoted, or if your book ends up in the bestseller list for free books, then you can hit the thousands of downloads a day.
Perhaps you're wondering what's so great about giving away books. Don't people write books to make money?
The main reason for giving away books is to help you sell more copies. This is because:
- If your book is inspiring, entertaining, informative or provocative, people who download your book will tell their friends about it. Some of their friends will check out your book and make a purchase.
- Savvy authors use their free eBooks as a lead magnet, by encouraging readers to sign up to their email list. That way, they can promote their other eBooks to readers who picked up a copy of their free book.
- Reviews are hard won, especially when you're struggling to sell your first few copies (because you don't have any reviews!). Giving away your book gives you a better chance of picking up much needed reviews.
- The more people who download your book for free, the more "weighting" Amazon's algorithms gives your eBook when deciding whether to recommend it. Recommendations come up in the "People who bought this also bought…" section. Recommendations can give you a big boost to sales.
- People who download your free eBook are more likely to check out your other books.
- Amazon has a bestsellers list for free books. As I mentioned earlier, getting on this list will boost your downloads and help with all of the above.
When Amazon first launched KDP Select, these benefits were gigantic. Authors who jumped onto the bandwagon early saw their sales skyrocket. Giving away a book for free was an easy way to turn on the tap to new readers and get flooded with sales.
More recently, things have changed. With more and more authors signing up to KDP Select, competition is hot. Free books are so abundant that readers just download them to read later, and most eBooks end up gathering virtual dust on the shelves of their Kindle, never getting read or reviewed.
What's more, Amazon has started hiding away the list of free bestsellers to encourage paid sales. Amazon has also reduced the weighting it gives to free downloads. Whereas previously, a free download was the equivalent of a full price sale to Amazon's recommendations engine, now a free download counts for very little.
Is KDP Select still worth it, given that Amazon demands exclusivity to be part of the program? For new authors making a name for themselves, very much so. On its own, KDP Select is no longer enough. But combined with other marketing strategies, it will give you the edge over other self-published writers.
3. Enroll Your Book In KDP Select
Step 1: Prepare Your Book For Kindle Publication
Step 2: Create Your Book
In the KDP dashboard, click Add new title. You'll be taken to a page called Your book, and asked to enter the details of your book, including title, author, and book description.
Step 3: Enroll in KDP Select
At the top of the Your book page, you'll be given the option to enroll your book in KDP Select. It looks like this:
Check the box "Enroll this book in KDP Select". Fill out the rest of your book details, and add a cover. Hit "Save and continue."
On the next page, you'll be asked to price your book. Depending on the price you choose, Amazon will pay you a 35% or a 70% royalty.
Go ahead and choose your pricing options, then publish your book. Your book will go live in around 12 hours.
Step 4: Choose Your Giveaway Days
When your book is published, you're ready to choose the days when your book will be free. You can choose for your book to be free on up to five days in the next 90 days.
To do this, go to the Bookshelf on the KDP Dashboard. Then click the title you want to make free.
Again, you'll be taken to the Your book Page. However, this time you'll be told "This book is enrolled in KDP Select", as here:
Click Promotions Manager. It looks like this:
Click New. You'll be asked to enter a Name, Start Date and End Date for your promotion, as here:
When you've entered the dates you want to make your book free, click Save.
You can organize your free days however you want. You can have five separate single day promotions, or a single promotion of five consecutive days, or any combination you like, as long as the total number of days is five or fewer.
4. Tips for Making the Most of Your Free Days
Because your free days are a limited resource, you should do everything you can to maximize the number of people who download your book while it's free.
Step 1: Get Onto Social Media
Don't be shy! Shout about your free promotion on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. In general, it's a good idea to avoid shouting about your books on social media. However, your book being free is a great excuse to bring it up.
Step 2: Send Out an Email
Let your email list know about your promotion, even if that's only your friends and family. If you've built up a list through a sign-up form on your website, even better.
Remember, the more people who already know you that download your book, the more people who don't yet know you will discover your book is free, because downloads push you up the bestsellers list.
Step 3: Ask for Reviews
While telling your followers and your friends about your book being free, let them know you'd be grateful for an honest review if they download your book.
Step 4: Monitor Your Progress
Keep track of how your free book is "selling" on Amazon.
Consider extending your promotion if your book hits the bestseller list. If your book makes it into the top 100 for its category, you'll see downloads skyrocket. Make the most of this by extending your promotion for an extra day or two.
5. Rinse and Repeat
The most effective way to make the most of KDP Select is to write more than one book. This is a long-term strategy. However, long-term can mean weeks rather than months or years. Ebooks don't need to be 200 pages. The general trend in self-published non-fiction is towards shorter books. They're quicker to write, and readers appreciate the writer getting to the point.
Good luck in finding readers and developing your career as a writer and indie publisher!
Points for discussion: What do you think about giving away books for free? Would you feel comfortable asking for reviews? If you already use KDP Select, what strategies have you found the most effective for promoting your ebooks?