My Thoughts on KDP Select

I've been posting my advice on self-publishing over on Facebook the last few days and I made this post yesterday:

Last month was my highest earning month ever and it was due to the expansion I've had with iBooks. Unless you only have one book, I see NO reason to do KDP select if you are considering self-publishing. Their free day options are nice, but that is not the only way to get a book free, and you should only be doing a free book if you have other books for people then to go on and buy (never underestimate having the first book in a series free, having Branded hit the number one free book in iTunes UK brought me thousands extra last month). Spread to all available channels (Kindle, Nook, iBooks, etc).

I want to elaborate on this further.

For those of you who don't know, KDP Select is an option you can choose when publishing to Kindle.  It means you grant Amazon exclusive rights to distribute/sell your book.  Meaning you can not have it available at Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Smashwords, etc.  In exchange for that, you get 5 days in your 90 day contract that you can have your book for free.  Amazon Prime members can also "borrow" your book for free and when they do, you get a nice little share of their monthly pot (on average it is about $1-2 per borrow, though I'm generalizing here).  They are some nice little perks.

I debated on the value of this program for a long time.  I knew how greatly having a book for free could help an author.  I've had BRANDED, book one in the Fall of Angels trilogy free now for almost 2 years straight.  I got Amazon to price match iBooks, which does allow you to set your book for free for however long you want, whenever you want.

When I re-published Eden as THE BANE, I also released THE RAID, a short story that tied in with book one, and THE ASHES, which was a short prequel.  I wanted to be able to set them for free because of their length and the said value in free books.  But because of the pain-in-the-a$$-ness that is uploading to iBooks, I thought I'd give KDP Select a try.  I am an indie author who likes to try everything that is available to me, so I figured "why not?"  It was after all only a 90 day contract.

My experience with it was disappointing.  I got hardly any downloads on those free days.  I did expect less than the downloads I got for an entire novel, but still, it wasn't hardly anything.  And my readers complained that they couldn't get it anywhere else.  I do have quite a lot of readers who use Nooks and iPad's and they couldn't get these tie in stories.

So for me, it was a failed experiment.

It is always interesting to me to see what outlets sell the best.  For the majority of the time I've been a self-published author Kindle copies have made up about 75% of my sales.  Except for a brief time last summer where Barnes & Noble had a big surge for about 8 weeks and outstretched Kindle.

I never even paid that much attention to iBooks.  Like I said, they're a pain to upload to if you don't have a Mac so I only had the Fall of Angels trilogy uploaded directly through them.  All of my other books were uploaded to there through Smashwords (use extreme caution when using this company, more on this to come in another post).

But things started to pick up with iBooks in the last few months.  BRANDED was still free there, and then about two weeks ago, they featured it as their book of the week in the UK (I had no idea they were going to do this, I was lucky I happened to find out).  Things skyrocketed.  In all, I made an extra $4,000 dollars from iBooks in June.  That was just extra.  And the up rise in sales there has steadied.  Of course it isn't near what it was that week it was being featured, but iBooks is selling more copies of the Fall of Angels trilogy than Amazon, and has been for about 10 weeks now.

My point in all this is, the majority of times I would say do not use KDP Select.  You never know when one outlet is going to take off.  And you are limiting your readership.

However, I do think there are times when it can be beneficial.  Here is when:

  • If you are a brand new author, and you have a series (at least two books out, three is better), and have yet to really take off, the free days can help.  I do believe Amazon places priority in promoting the Select titles (that are full novels) and it can be fantastic exposure.  Plus, the contract is only 90 days.
  • If you only have one title, and do not have plans to publish any more any time soon, the short amount of free days can help get you quick exposure and then revert back to being able to charge once again.

But in other instances, I do not think it is worth it.

Keep in mind, this is all my own opinion, based off of my own experiences.  I do know there are plenty of other authors out there who have had great success with Select.  It can be a great program.  Everyone has their own experiences and expectations.

My last bit of advice: do your research on others experiences with it, and consider all your options.


Tim Moon said...

This is really interesting. From what other authors have said it sounds like B&N and iBooks are hardly worth the effort. But I guess it's the type of reader that your series attracts that has helped so much.

Congratulations of course!

Nikki Jefford said...

Thanks for taking the time to share this experience/advice, Keary.

I've had a similar experience (minus the earning money part. LOL) But when I had my first book out as a new indie I tried KDP and had awesome results (26,000 free downloads in two days).

I tried to do the same thing with the first book in a new series and didn't even reach 2,000 downloads - & this was accompanied with paid advertising.

It's been nice to see B&N finally pick up.

I'll be interested to hear what you say about Smashwords. That's how I've been getting my books onto iTunes.


S. M. Boyce said...

Great article, Keary. Can you post another on how to actually upload to iBooks? The whole reason I've been using Smashwords is because I don't really have another option, but I don't like what they do to my formatting. At all.

I also was incredibly disappointed with KDP Select. I just didn't see a benefit, and I also had readers who wanted the book in other distribution channels. I always thought one of the big bonuses of Select was supposed to be the rise in your ranking on the free genre lists, which then translated to similar high rankings on the paid lists for a short while after you came off your free days. That never once happened to me, even when I hit #1 on my genre lists. My book always just disappeared from all lists completely when I switched back to paid. Maybe I misunderstood how that was supposed to work, but it sure frustrated me.

Thanks again. Looking forward to that post on Smashwords.

James W. Lewis said...

I did KDP Select before the algorithm changes last year and had great success (with over 6,000 downloads in my first two-day promotion). However, KDP Select doesn’t have the “bumpability” as it did in the past. I do agree it may be good for new authors with only one book–mainly to help with reviews and exposure–but like you, I believe having multiple books with wide distribution is best.

Suzannah Daniels said...

Great post, Keary! My books are distributed through Amazon, B&N, and several outlets through Smashwords, but I've been contemplating using the KDP Select program. Like most authors, the majority of my sales come from Amazon.

I, too, am interested in your thoughts on Smashwords. Currently, I upload to iBooks through them.

Thanks and congratulations on your success!

Jodi Woody said...

Thanks for the info. I did the select for the first 90 days on all three of my selfpublished books. I gave away over 1700 copies of the first one thinking that it would prompt sales of the second. I have yet to see that take place. So when the 90 days were up I didn't renew. Now I have all three available on Barnes and Noble online. I have never heard of ibooks and will be checking it out. Oh, by the way, I read Bane while it was Eden and loved it. I am halfway through Human right now, and also loved Ashes.

Diana Horner said...

Hi Keary and all,

One of our clients is considering KDP Select, and I was looking for some posts to share with him to help make up his mind. I will pass this onto him, thank you :)

Just a note re Smashwords also. Many of our clients use our service to reach Apple, Kobo, Overdrive, Ingram, Sony and Google etc. Please see our website and also a post from one of our clients India Drummond who came from Smashwords to us.

M. Eigh said...


KDP Select free promo is only effective if you can drive traffic to your other non-freebie titles. The simplest way to achieve that to put an in-your-face Amazon Affiliate Widget right there in your book description. The thing scrolls and grabs their attention. If they abandon your freebie and go check out another title of yours, its not exactly a loss.

Can you put a Flash widget in description? You may ask. Yes, pretty much everything, including social networking widgets like a tweet box or Facebook box in there. After many month of investigative work, I’ve discovered KDP’s dirty secret. It’s all recorded in my book “KDP’s Best-Kept Secret Revealed: How to Embed Videos and Widgets in Your Book Description.” Take a look when you get a chance and see if you like the way I do it:

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