Kindle Countdown Deals. My First Experience.


If you're an author (like I am), and you belong to Amazon's KDP Select program (like I do), it means a couple of things: 1. Your titles are only for sale on Amazon 2. You get some perks from Amazon to keep your titles local to their store.

There are plenty of arguments to be made for being in KDP Select, and for NOT being in KDP Select.

This post isn't about that.

There are places where you can find out how the KDP Select program works. I recommend this one.

This post isn't about that either.

This article is about my experience with the newest perk Amazon just launched, in an effort to keep their current authors in the program, as well as to potentially get new authors to sign up. They call it Kindle Countdown Deals, and it is essentially a time limited sale on a title.

You may be saying, "Wait, you couldn't put your Kindle book on sale before?"

Yes, you could, but you had to go into the admin tool and change the price to whatever you wanted the sale price to be, and then change it back when you were done making it cheaper. There are 2 main drawbacks to this:

1. Anything less than $2.99 gets 35% royalty 2. Nobody knows its on sale. It appears on Amazon as though its the regular price

I've added text the description to help with #2, but there's nothing I could do about #1. Until Kindle Countdown deals.

When a title is part of a KCD, it gets 4 benefits: 1. 70% royalty, even @ 0.99 2. List price is the original price ($4.99 in my case), with a line for sale price 3. A little dialog that says its a deal, and how much time the viewer has to get your title for a song 4. It's place on its own dedicated deals page

1-3 are good, but #4 is the clear boss of the deal. You want visibility? How about being on a list of ONLY books that are on sale and who are ONLY in the Select program? There are a lot of good books out there that nobody is reading (like His Dark Empire, in my unbiased opinion ;) ), and putting your title into a smaller bucket can only help.

Which means nothing, without results.

So, I put His Dark Empire on sale from $4.99 to $0.99, to see how it would perform. I did no other marketing for it, because I wanted to keep the experiment as pure as possible.


The screenshot describes the outcome:

Royalty per hour went up 47% compared to the week prior. Revenue per hour up 55% Sales volume went up over 400%

In short - it was a winner, while it lasted.

Unfortunately, the increased sales over those days didn't lead to any post-sale increase. In fact, sales are back to where they started in the two days since. Still, I got 112 people to pay for the book, and hopefully a good portion of them will read it, and then buy the next (His Cure for Magic, Spring 2014). With any luck, some of these readers might enjoy it enough to move on to The Divine Series too.

If you're in KDP Select, I recommend taking advantage of this new benefit. If you aren't, would this cause you to consider becoming Amazon exclusive?

Balance (The Divine, Book One) - My Bookbub Promo Results

I used my Amazon KDP Select free days for my novel Balance about a week ago. This free promotion was backed by a paid placement with Bookbub, the e-book mailing list that for $90 reached about 180,000 fans of fantasy novels. Bookbub has been getting a lot of attention in the self-pub world, because the fact is that it delivers results that are far and away the absolute best marketing money can buy right now. You can read about Bookbub here. This post is about results.

Here they are: 4 days, 19319 Amazon US downloads.

Yes, nearly 20,000 downloads (just about 20k if you add in a few hundred each from the UK and Germany, etc.). The day the Bookbub promo went out, Balance was downloaded 12,000 times - enough to make it to #7 FREE on the entire Amazon store. That's a pretty awesome place to be. What's more, it managed to stay in the top ten for another entire day. I know Amazon has the freebies behind a tab now, but that's still some pretty nice visibility.

I was originally only going to run the promo for two days, but the positioning led me to decide to extend it. I'm glad I did. I added 4,000 on day two, and nearly 2,000 each on day three and four. Balance spent the entire run as the #1 FREE book in Science Fiction & Fantasy. My previous promotions, which I had advertised through eBookBooster, never rose above 1,000 downloads per day.

You may be thinking, 'Wow, that's great, you GAVE AWAY your hard work to 20,000 people... Shouldn't you be SELLING your book?'

I know my wife was thinking that.

The thing is, Amazon counts each download as 1/10th of a sale in running its popularity algorithms, and to put it simply: more popularity = more visibility = more sales. 19000 / 10 is equivalent to selling nearly 400 books a day to Amazon's software.

What's more, if we assume that Amazon is close on its estimation of how many of those downloaders might actually READ the book, that's another 1900+ potential fans who might go on to buy Book Two (and more).

The proof is in the pudding, right? That's why I waited a week to post this. I wanted to see how sales trended once the promo was done.

The answer is: UP.

Before the promo, I was averaging about 20-30 sales per day. Not bad at all, I'm plenty satisfied with that kind of performance.

After the promo, I'm consistently hitting 50-70 sales per day, and they've been increasing. That's a nice bump.

There have been side benefits too.. My mailing list has been growing daily, I'm getting more Facebook likes, and my cat is friendlier (no, really).

I've seen some people question the value of free. If your book is sci-Fi/fantasy, and you can get it listed on Bookbub, ESPECIALLY if it's part of a series - do it. No, stop reading, and go do it. If your book isn't sci-fi/fantasy - I would still do it if I were you, but I can't make any promises on the overall ROI; after all thrillers can cost over $1000 to list for free (but of course they get a much wider audience).

To Bookbub... you should raise your prices. I hope you don't, because us authors are taking awesome advantage right now... but I think you should.

Recent Free Days

I just completed my second (and most likely last) round of free promotion on Amazon this Saturday. The promo ran from 4/25 - 4/27. Some thoughts: 1. eBookBooster

I paid $35 to eBookBooster to help me list my free days on all of the relevant sites. I paid for this promotion on April 3rd, giving about 3 weeks for the service to get my book submitted. I was a little disappointed when I started getting confirmations from the free book sites on 4/24 that my book had been submitted, since most of the sites also require X amount of lead time in order to fit the books into their schedules. It did run in a few places, and I did see a huge jump in downloads from my first unannounced free promo days, but in retrospect I think I should have picked out the most popular sites and submitted to them myself to make sure I got space. Still, its a great time saver for not that much money.

2. Results

I saw about 1200 downloads on day 1, moving me up to #152 overall on free, and to #1 in urban fantasy and #5 in contemporary fantasy, plus #9 on science fiction & fantasy overall.. pretty nice.

I averaged around 400 downloads the next two days, for a total of 2062. It's this outcome that has led me to think that once a book has traction, a one day freebie is probably the most effective.

3. The aftermath

In the hours after the freebie, my overall sales have... stayed right where they were before the freebie. Which is fine, I've already sold more copies than I had imagined I would when I published, so I'm pretty happy anyway. Being a nerd who likes numbers though, I find the outcome interesting.

4. Final thoughts

My goal for listing free was to:

1. gain the exposure of having my title listed on the free book sites and tweeted out 2. gain exposure on amazon, listed in the top 20 free on 3 lists 3. get moved around on Amazon's recommendation que 4. get some numbers to share (like i said, i like numbers)

It's said that people tend to need to see something 3-4 times before they actually buy it, so the exposure portion may lead to greater mindshare that can't be quantified in immediate numbers. At the same time, I don't know that there is a strong value in listing free once you've gained a certain level of penetration - at least not until you can back it up with a second title in the series. I'm thinking that $.99 may be a better approach, and it's one I'll try in the future.


'Can A One Star Review Really Do That?' - The Morning After

Yesterday, I published this post about a one-star review I received due to what at the time I thought was user error with the Kindle. It turns out, I was wrong (and am feeling rather sheepish as a result). Thanks to a commenter to the review on Amazon who goes by the screen name of Fate, I learned that it actually WAS the formatting that caused the reviewer's ire. Apparently, when you output for Kindle in MS Word, it also adds html color tags to the elements, most often black.  Night mode makes the background black, and text a light grey in order to keep the screen darker for bedtime reading. It is also useful if the white is just too bright and hurts your eyes, as in the case of the reviewer.

While I still would have preferred the user had contacted me directly (either through Amazon or by finding my contact info at the back of the book), the review did work to alert me to the problem, and allow me to fix it. Now you know too.

So many people jumped in with help and support in light of the review. To everyone on Amazon, Goodreads, and here on my blog who pitched in, you have my sincere thanks and appreciation.

When I was ready to publish, I used the 'Building Your Book For Kindle' document that Amazon provides to format my book. This morning I searched through it for night mode, or anything that may have warned me of this issue ahead of time.  I may have missed it, but I didn't see anything.

I also used the online Kindle Previewer to check my book before I published it. This previewer doesn't offer mode switching.

Yesterday, when I corrected the book, I downloaded the actual Kindle app for Mac, and used the downloadable Kindle previewer to output the html to .mobi format. At that point I was able to review the content in night mode, although the Kindle app crashed three times in the process.

In any case, let this be a lesson:

Check your book in the different modes before you publish.

As for sales... we'll have to wait another day or two to determine how much of an effect the poor review may have had (and now I wonder how many returns were due to the night mode issue). What I can say right now is that I sold 26 books yesterday (up from 15 after the review), with 14 of those sales coming between 9:00 pm PST and 7 am PST, after a couple of positive reviews gave me back my half star.

Coincidence? Possible, but I'm not convinced.