Is Kindle Countdown the new Free? Keeping books visible in 2014

Rory_sketch_-_confusedFor the past year there has been a good deal of hand-wringing over the question of KDP Select free promotions. Have they de-valued fiction, do they attract negative reviews, do they even work anymore? As anyone who regularly reads my blog posts knows, I have been a strong proponent of offering ebooks free for promotional purposes, and free promotions have been very good to me in terms of increasing my reviews and keeping my books visible and selling.

However, I also believe one of the distinct advantages we have as indie authors is our ability to use our own sales data to respond innovatively to changes in the marketing environment. As a result, in the past year I followed a number of different strategies to keep the books in my Victorian San Francisco Mystery series visible, including beginning to experiment with the new promotional tool, the Kindle Countdown, that has been introduced as part of KDP Select.

In this post I am going to:

A.  Review how successful the strategies I pursued last year were for selling books in 2013.

B.  Address whether or not Free is failing as a strategy.

C.  Compare the Kindle Countdown promotions to Free promotions.

D.  Assess whether or not Kindle Countdown promotions can replace free-book promotions as my primary promotional strategy for 2014.

A. Last March, I became concerned by the growing competitiveness within the eBook market as the number of eBooks published soared and traditional publishers began to adopt some of the strategies of indie authors. I listed six strategies I was going to follow in 2013.

1. Have free promotions less frequently. In 2012, I had noticed that promotions too close together were less effective, so I began to space out my promotions. As a result, whereas In 2012 I ran ten free promotions, resulting in 132,552 free downloads, in 2013 I only did four free promotions, resulting in 145,494 free downloads. This meant that fewer promotions in 2013 resulted in higher numbers of downloads with each promotion—and greater effect on the post-promotion rankings and sales from each promotion.

2. Use longer promotions. I had concluded that breaking up the five free days available under the KDP Select rules into 2-3 promotions was counter-productive (more time-consuming, more expensive, less effective). So, I determined to do fewer but longer promotions. However, I soon discovered if you used a BookBub ad with your promotion—most of the downloads came within the first few days, so I scrapped this approach and kept to one short free promotion per 3 month interval.

3. Schedule promotions near the end of the month. I noticed that most of the borrows of my books as part of the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) were at the beginning of a month. It is as if all Prime Members suddenly say, “Hey, I get another free borrow,” when a new month rolls around. So, I scheduled two of my four promotions for the end of the month so that the resulting post-promotional visibility would be at the beginning of the next month. This strategy worked: In each case, the promoted book was borrowed at least 1000 times during the month following the promotion.

4. Do more 99 cent promotions. By 2013, the evidence was mounting that the one way to ensure a successful promotion was to schedule a BookBub ad. However, it costs almost twice as much to promote a 99 cent book as a free one with BookBub. Therefore, when a 99 cent sale of my second series book, Uneasy Spirits, had disappointing results without a BookBub ad, decided not to pursue this strategy in 2013. I did, however, use a 99 cent promotion of Uneasy Spirits in conjunction with the launch of my third book, and I did begin to schedule 99 cent sales through the KDP Select Kindle Countdown option as soon as it was introduced at the end of 2013.

5. Experiment with promotions that are not tied to free or discounting. My premise here was that, if free promotions were becoming less effective, I would need to find alternative or complementary methods of making my work visible. In 2013, I did a book tour and guest posts on relevant blogs: I participated in book and Kindle Fire giveaways; I paid for banner ads and book sponsorships; and I paid to boost posts on my Facebook page. As far as I can tell, none of these alternative methods of promotion had any appreciable effect compared to the impact of a single free-book promotion on Bookbub.

6. Write more books and short stories. I published the third book in my Victorian San Francisco mystery series, Bloody Lessons, in September of 2013, and I put together the first three books in the series as a boxed set and made it available in November. I am about to publish a third short story. 

Conclusions: Looking at the effects of these six strategies, there is evidence that three of them proved effective. Having fewer free promotions increased the effectiveness of the promotions I did, placing the promotions near the end of the month did stimulate borrows, and publishing additional works did compensate for the lower royalties brought in by the first two books in the series. As a result, I was able to maintain my over all sales for 2013 near the level of the year before.

B. While the data confirmed what others were finding, that I needed more free downloads in 2013 than in 2012 to achieve post promotional visibility and sales, I was curious about what this meant in terms of the continued effectiveness of free promotions. I decided to compare the KDP Select free-book promotions I did in November 2012 to promotions I did in May and August 2013. (In each case I had used BookBub as the primary method of promotion.)

KDP Select Free Promotions Data

Nov 21-23, 2012  Maids of Misfortune Free promotion with BookBub

  Pre Promotion Sales
   
Post Promotional Sales
     
Maids of Misfortune 5 books a day 56 books a day
Uneasy Spirits 6 books a day 10 books a day
Borrows 4 borrows a day 20 borrows a day

Total Downloads: 17,184

May 25, 26 2013Maids of Misfortune Free promotion with Bookbub

   Pre Promotion Sales
   
Post Promotional Sales
    
Maids of Misfortune 12 books a day 63 books a day
Uneasy Spirits 11 books a day 27 books a day
Borrows 3 borrows a day 21 borrows a day

Total Downloads: 30,000

August 6-8 2013 Uneasy Spirits Free Promotion with BookBub

  Pre Promotion Sales
   
Post Promotional Sales
   
Maids of Misfortune 6 books a day 12 books a day
Uneasy Spirits 7 books a day 14 books a day
Borrows 2 borrows a day  9 borrows a day

Total Downloads: 35,000

Conclusions: 1) Free promotions are still very effective under certain circumstances. In fact, the BookBub-backed promotion of Maids of Misfortune in May 2013 was slightly more effective than the November 2012 promotion of this book in terms of total downloads, increased visibility, and long-term increase in sales. 2) This didn’t hold true with all books under all circumstances. For example, my free promotions without a BookBub ad had no significant effects on subsequent sales, and the first book in my series consistently did better in subsequent sales (not in total downloads) than the sequel. 3) Because BookBub is expensive, doesn’t accept every book, and now will only promote a book every six months, authors, myself included, need to continue to look at alternative methods of keeping our books visible. Which is where the Kindle Countdown becomes important. 

C.  October 31, 2013, KDP announced its Kindle Countdown option for books enrolled in KDP Select. This confirmed my feeling that Amazon was systematically nudging indie authors away from depending on free as a promotional tool. I am not going to describe the details of the program, but I am going to report on the four Kindle Countdown promotions I have done so far and draw some conclusions about how they compare to KDP Select free promotions. Since I was experimenting, each Kindle Countdown I did went for a slightly different number of days and used different combinations of promotional ads. However, in all of them I kept the price at 99 cents throughout the promotion. The data also just represents sales in the US store, since my sales in the UK store remained minimal in all the promotions (even the one that was backed by BookBub).

Kindle Countdown Promotional Data

November 23-29, 2013, Kindle Countdown, Maids of Misfortune

  Pre Promotion Sales
   
Post Promotional Sales
    
Maids of Misfortune  4 books a day  6 books a day
Uneasy Spirits  4 books a day  8 books a day
Bloody Lessons 16 books a day 12 books a day
Borrows  7 borrows a day 27 borrows a day

Limited promotion, profit in sales of Maids of Misfortune at 99 cents, $804.18 

December 16-21, 2013, Kindle Countdown, Uneasy Spirits

Pre Promotion Sales
  
Post Promotional Sales
    
Maids of Misfortune  6 books a day  5 books a day
Uneasy Spirits  8 books a day  8 books a day
Bloody Lessons 13 books a day 12 books a day
Borrows 27 borrows a day  7 borrows a day

BookGorilla promotion, profit in sales of Uneasy Spirits at 99 cents, $137.69

January 9-13, 2014, Kindle Countdown, Maids of Misfortune 

Pre Promotion Sales
  
Post Promotional Sales
   
Maids of Misfortune  7 books a day 16 books a day
Uneasy Spirits  6 books a day 11 books a day
Bloody Lessons 10 books a day 14 books a day
Borrows 34 borrows a day 21 borrows a day

Bookbub promotion, profit in sales of Maids of Misfortune at 99 cents, $1495.54

February 7-13, 2014, Kindle Countdown, Bloody Lessons

  Pre Promotion Sales
   (6 day average)
Post Promotional Sales
    (18 day average)
Maids of Misfortune  6 books a day  5 books a day
Uneasy Spirits  7 books a day  7 books a day
Bloody Lessons  9 books a day 19 books a day
Borrows 31 borrows a day  7 borrows a day

Limited promotion, profit in sales of Bloody Lessons at 99 cents, $1142.04

D. Comparisons of the KDP Select Kindle Countdown and Free promotions:

1. Based on post-promotional sales, free-book promotions are definitely superior to a Kindle Countdown 99 cent sale (at least at this point in time). Not only did the KDP Select free promotions increase the sales of the promoted book, but they also increased the sales of the other books in the series. In comparison, Kindle Countdown promotions had weaker and less consistent effects on post promotional sales of all books.

For example, the BookBub-backed free promotion of Maids of Misfortune in May, 2013 increased the average sales per day of Maids fivefold from 12 books a day to 63 books a day. In contrast, the BookBub-backed Kindle Countdown promotion of Maids in January, 2014 only increased the rate of sales per day from 7 books a day to 16 books a day.

This differential was probably because the consistently large number of downloads in the BookBub free-book promotions translated into higher post-promotional rankings in the popularity lists than occurred with the more limited sales under the Kindle Countdown promotions.

In addition, the Kindle Countdown 99 cent promotions did not have any consistently positive effects on the sales of the other books. With free promotions, I always saw some increase in sales of the other books in the series. With the Kindle Countdown promotions sometimes there was an increase in sales (sales of Uneasy Spirits doubled after the November, 2014 promotion of Maids of Misfortune) but more often the sales of other books in the series remained stagnant or even dropped afterwards.

I suspect the difference here might simply be the result of the difference in the volume of books downloaded or purchased. If 1 percent of the 30,000 people who downloaded a free copy of Maids of Misfortune went on to buy another book, that would be 300 sales.  If 1 percent of the 3000 people who bought Maids of Misfortune at 99 cents went on to buy another book, that would be only 30 sales.

2. Kindle Countdown promotions—like free promotions––do have a positive effect on increasing the number of reviews. But again, as one would expect, the difference in volume between the two kinds of promotions will have an impact. Nevertheless, I must note that my Kindle Countdown promotions produced a greater number of reviews than I anticipated.

For example, in the month after the May 2013 free promotion of Maids of Misfortune I had 60 new reviews (which was less than .2% of the 30,000 who downloaded a copy of the book). The January 2014 Kindle Countdown promotion of Maids of Misfortune garnered 44 reviews in the first month (slightly more than 1% of the 3000 who bought the book for 99 cents). So, the Kindle Countdowns seem to be producing proportionately more reviews. I know that, for some of you, the low percentage of reviews in either case is frustrating; but if you do frequent promotions of any kind, as I do, the numbers do add up nicely and have a demonstrable effect on sales in the long run.

3. While Kindle Countdowns are not as effective at this point in producing sales after the promotion, at least you make some sales (and money) during the promotion. For people who have used free-book promotions and then had negligible post-promotional sales, this can make a Kindle Countdown a less risky proposition.

For example, let’s take my least successful Kindle Countdown promotion so far, where I had Uneasy Spirits on sale at 99 cents for 6 days. Because under the terms of the Kindle Countdown I get 70% of the royalties of those sales, I made slightly over $300 with this promotion. Deducting for the cost of ads, I made nearly $140 in profit.

However, if this had been a free promotion (with a similar low post-promotional sales  and the same cost for ads), instead of making money, I would have lost the $127 in sales that I would have made during the promotion if the book had remained on sale at the regular price. When you include the cost of advertising, this means I might have actually lost money with that free promotion.

In contrast, even with the higher cost of a BookBub ad for a 99 cent promotion for the January 2014 Kindle Countdown promotion, the risks were minimized by the money I made during that sale. The BookBub ad resulted in Maids of Misfortune showing up on the top 100 paid Kindle Book list for two days, which resulted in enough sales to pay for the ad five times over.

4. There is also the psychological benefit of selling and not giving away a book, even if the discounted book is only 99 cents.

As I wrote in the beginning of this post, I am not opposed to using free-book promotions to gain visibility for my books. I firmly believe that one of the reasons my books have sold so successfully is because I did free-book promotions. And, I would still advocate using KDP Select free promotions over Kindle Countdown promotions under certain circumstances. For example, I think KDP Select free-book promotions can help unknown genre fiction authors quickly gain readers, increase the visibility of their books, and garner a significant number of reviews.

But…I am no longer an unknown author and I was able to keep Bloody Lessons, which was published in September, continuously in several bestselling mystery, romance, and historical fiction categories without doing a single free promotion of the book. So, personally, I am happy that there is now an alternative method of promoting my books. I suspect for those who never liked the idea of free promotions, the Kindle Countdown may be a welcome alternative.

5. Finally, I believe that a good deal of the advantages that KDP Select free-book promotions have over Kindle Countdown promotions are the result of fewer readers having discovered the Kindle Countdown page. This should change over time.

In a recent post, Kristine Kathryn Rusch delineated different kinds of readers, one category being, Always Buys Discounted Books. This group has had two years to be trained by Amazon to look for free books when they go into the Kindle store to browse for their next purchase. However, Amazon has recently done a number of things to make it more difficult to find free books in the Kindle Store while at the same time they have worked to make the Kindle Countdown page a friendly place to look for discounts.

It used to be that when readers browsed best-sellers by category they saw the free books listed alongside the paid books. Now, they have to click on a tab to see the list of free books, and every time they start a new search they get sent back to the paid list.

At the same time, if a reader knows to look at the Kindle Countdown page in the Kindle Store (on the left under Daily and Monthly Deals), there are a number of factors that make these 99 cent books more enticing than if they simply discovered the books listed with the regular paid books.

The list of books is smaller, so it easier for readers to find a discounted book of interest to them. Today there are fewer than 2000 books on the entire Kindle Countdown list, and only 72 books in the entire Mystery sub-category. Conversely, if a reader went to look for a book in the Mystery popularity list, they would find there were over 60,000 books listed, and they would have to scroll down several pages to find the first book listed at 99 cents (ranked at #71). If your discounted book isn’t in the top 100 books in a regular category, it probably remains invisible—not so if your book is on the Kindle Countdown page within any category.

In addition, when a reader looks at discounted books on the Kindle Countdown page, they see the regular price of the book and how long the book is going to remain at that the discounted price (the maximum time the book is discounted is 7 days). This encourages the buyer to go ahead and buy a book that seems interesting (there is a countdown clock to add to that sense of urgency.) On the other hand, if they are looking for discounted books in the regular lists, not only does it take a lot of scrolling down pages to find them, but when they find a discounted book they don’t know if this book is a recent discount or if it is always at that price (and they can put off buying it) or if the book is at that price because it doesn’t sell well at a higher price. All of this might deter a reader from buying the discounted book.

The books on the Kindle Countdown lists are constantly changing since an author can only do a Kindle Countdown for books in KDP Select and can only do one Kindle Countdown promotion per-title in a 3 month period. In contrast, most of the books at the top of the popularity lists or bestseller lists, including those at 99 cents, stay there month after month, with only an occasional new book or newly promoted book rising to the top. This means that someone who is searching the regular lists for a discounted book is less likely to discover a new book to buy than if they searched the Kindle Countdown list.

Summary:

1. KDP Select Free promotions, particularly backed by a BookBub ad, can still be a very effective way to get post promotional sales, higher visibility in category lists, and a higher number of reviews.

2. However, the difficulties in achieving a successful free promotion have increased because of increased competition with traditionally published books, changes in how free books are found in the Kindle Store, the limitation of BookBub ads to every six months, and the increased competition and cost of getting a BookBub ad.

3.  On the other hand, while KDP Select Kindle Countdown promotions are not yet as effective as KDP Select Free promotions, they do offer an alternative for those authors who have their books in KDP Select––an alternative that has certain benefits for authors (like less risk of losing money and greater visibility for their discounted books).

4. I also believe that as more readers who always look for discounted books discover the Kindle Countdown page that the Kindle Countdown will become more and more effective.

5. For my own part, since I have found that even BookBub-supported free-book promotions were less effective for the later books in my series (and the first book in my series won’t be eligible again for a BookBub ad until July), I have decided that doing a Kindle Countdown promotion for each of my three books in the Victorian San Francisco Mystery series in turn is the best way to keep my books visible throughout the rest of 2014.

Obviously, your milage may vary. Books are not widgets––every book is unique. My experiences may be unique to my books. But I do hope that, by sharing my data and my analysis of that data, I have helped those of you who are struggling with questions like whether or not to sign your books up for KDP Select, whether to continue to use free promotions, and whether the KDP Kindle Countdown is a viable way to keep your books visible in the Kindle Store.

I would appreciate hearing from those of you who, as readers, have started to use the Kindle Countdown page and whether you have found it a good way to discover discounts.

For those of you who are authors and have done a Kindle Countdown promotion, I am interested in whether you found it effective and under what circumstances you found it effective (what ads you used, how long you had the book discounted, and if you used the incremental increase in price during the sales).

With knowledge comes power and with shared knowledge can come shared success!

M. Louisa Locke, February 25, 2014

33 thoughts on “Is Kindle Countdown the new Free? Keeping books visible in 2014

  1. Thanks for the information! I have 11 romance books currently available on Amazon and everywhere else. I briefly did KDP Select for several books in 2013. January, February, March, with April being more successful. I used ebook booster’s inexpensive service with varying degrees of success. In 2012 I had used other promo services that were hundreds of dollars and saw hardly any results at all. I’ve tried a wide gamut of promo services and I’m no longer willing to pay those $ hundreds for little results. I also did several Facebook ads ranging from $5 to $50 per promo, hitting 6000 and up to 20k people respectively, but saw little results from promo runs either.

    In January, February, March and April 2013 ebook booster paid off pretty well in sales for the OTHER books in my two series. My April KDP Select free promo saw about 18k downloads and about 6 reviews. I used books in the promo I had never entered into KDP before. My best promo was April 2013 where I earned $800 for the month. I also included a print giveaway on Goodreads which I believe helped boost the April giveaway. I posted on my blog, website, facebook, etc. about the giveaways. Early in 2012 I did two weeks of romance blog hops with little to no noticeable results in sales.

    After April 2013 I saw drastically diminished returns, not only on downloads but also on number of reviews left. I stopped paying for any promotions at this point due to the results. When the KDP select time period ran out I withdrew everything from the program and once more put all my books available everywhere again via Smashwords. I’ve started selling a lot more on Apple and Barnes and Noble via this route. At this point there is no incentive to rejoin the KDP Select program but I am experimenting now with the first book in each of my 3 series at $.99 to see if the other books in the series get some of the spillover.

    • Grace,

      Thanks for the detailed response. I have consistently heard that romance authors do well on the non-Amazon sites. Each time I have tried going off of KDP Select I have ended up frustrated because neither Kobo or Nook would put my mysteries in the smaller categories where they would achieve visibility (categories that held books by traditional authors) and the iBookstore remains so far behind the others in category discoverability. But for books that don’t sell well on Amazon–or don’t do well with promotions–I think that selling in as many stores as possible is definitely the way to go–particularly if you have series where you can either promote or do perms-discounts with the first book in your series.

  2. I have found the Countdowns to be highly effective for books that typically sell frequently on their own. That is, the Countdown yields a big boost in sales during the promotion, and similar titles often rise in sales frequency around this time. The Countdown doesn’t seem to have much impact on books with low sales frequency.

    This is such a detailed article with much valuable information.🙂 Would you mind a reblog?

  3. Reblogged this on chrismcmullen and commented:
    This post is phenomenal! Incredibly detailed analysis and statistics for both freebies and Countdown Deals from an author with a hot-selling series (Maids of Misfortune). Information you would surely pay good money for, only it’s free.🙂

  4. Pingback: Is Kindle Countdown the new Free? Keeping books visible in 2014 | chrismcmullen

  5. Thanks for this amazingly comprehensive analysis, haven’t seen anything this in-depth anywhere else. As a brand-new mystery author, it looks like my best bet would be the KDP Select free promotion. A Bookbub promo is definitely out of my price range at this time. And, of course, I need to keep on writing and publishing books.

  6. Thanks for sharing this information. I’ve spent several hours today reading about various price points and promotions. This helps. I also wanted to say kudos for your hard work and success.

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  9. ML, thank you for your thoughtful analysis and breakdown. Comes just as I am in the process of making a decision about whether or not to use CountDown and, if so, how best to use it. Many thanks!
    Ruth

  10. I’ve been traditionally published for years, digitally published recently by Momentum Books (my backlist) and only just begun self-publishing titles on my own, so despite my dubious “track record” I’m just as much a newcomer as anyone publishing their first novel. I enrolled in KDP Select and chose free promotions — and wish I hadn’t. I get depressed at the enormous amount of free downloads (for some, not me) in comparison to the small amount of reviews and even sales these generate. It seems like poor value — and yes, it feels like it devalues your writing. Countdown looks to place at least some value on your work, if that makes sense. But I’ve a lot to learn, so I’ve probably not got a good handle on the whole thing.

  11. Great post! Thank you for sharing your experiences. I have to admit that I only discovered Kindle Deals when Amazon sent me an email about it in 2013 as a published author. I will be trying Kindle Deals in the next month or so for the first book in my series and will be analyzing the pre and post promotion data. As for KDP Select Free promotions, I saw good download numbers with the first book in the series last August which resulted in reasonable sales and about 5-6 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. My impression from reading various author blogs (like KKR and JA Konrath among others) is that free is generally not as powerful as it used to be in increasing visibility and sales and that 99c/p is the new free. But limited free promotions that have a specific aim, like prior to the release of a new book in a series, are still worth doing.

  12. This is great information, as I have just been experimenting with promotions myself and I intend to use some of your strategies. I can also offer a tip of my own. I noticed you mentioned you don’t have many UK sales. I didn’t either until I targeted that country with a Facebook post boost. I have found Facebook advertizing works very well to boost my free sales. You can also target it by country, by similar authors, and by other things. They give you a number of statistics as well like age range, link clicks, and shares. I have a page for my book only because it gives me the ability to boost my posts to that page. Right now, how many ‘likes’ to my book page are irrelevant because it is just a backdrop to my posts marketing my book.

    • Dear Karen,

      Thanks so much for the tip. I never thought about targeting with the Facebook boosts-I was always concentrating on just making sure everyone who had signed up actually saw the posts–but I will definitely try this with the next Kindle Count down I do and see if it makes a difference!

      Mary Louisa

    • Louise,
      What a great article – exactly what I was looking for, and Karen, thank you for the Facebook idea. I have been repeatedly frustrated by Facebook (due to my ignorance of how to use the medium) and the non-USA markets.

      MY COUNTDOWN EXPERIENCE
      January 16-20, 2014 The Dog Did It (mystery)
      $.99 Jan 16-18 – The Dog Did It – 970; Blame It On The Dog ($2.99) – 91
      $1.99 Jan 19-20 – The Dog Did It – 404; Blame It On The Dog ($2.99) – 155
      Royalties: The Dog Did It – $1067.16; Blame It On The Dog – $505.31
      The sales bump was strong through February for both titles, more so for Blame It On The Dog, the new title, which had been trailing prior the the promo. March was still strong, but not so much. After that the post-Christmas blues set in.

      Thanks to your great info, I plan to run pre-Thanksgiving Countdown promos for Blame It On The Dog and a new Kindle title, Confessions of a Struggling Christian (out of print until now). Then in early January I’ll run another Countdown on The Dog Did It .

      My Kindle Countdown sale in May – Blame It On The Dog (UK) – was abysmal. I’ll see if I can implement what Karen shared during December for the UK. And I’ll role the dice Bookbub – though the $960 makes me want to hurl – with the hope that the bump might last several months.

      I wonder if “Free” would be a more effective price for cracking the British market?

      Jim Toombs – Jim * JimToombs.com

  13. Dear Louisa,
    Thanks for a terrifically detailed and helpful post. I haven’t parsed the numbers quite as thoroughly as you have, but my own experience with Kindle Count Down Deals and BookBub mirror your own. Specifically:

    After steadfastly resisting Select, I enrolled my two thrillers in November, mainly lured in by the availability of the Kindle Count Down Deals. The deciding factor for me was retention of the 70% royalty during a Count Down Deal.

    After a couple of very good years, sales had been flagging badly since July/August 2013, and I wanted to revive them if possible. I had run BookBub promos in the past with very good results, and I was excited by the prospect of combining the BB promos with the Count Down Deals.

    I ran my first combined BB/KCD in December, and my second a few weeks ago. Neither disappointed me, and both returned over 4 times the cost of the BB promo, and generally boosted sales of all titles in their wake.

    I intend to continue this strategy into the future. With the release of my third thriller last week, I should now be able to implement it every other month.

    I like the fact that I’m now able to price the promo book at $.99 to take advantage of the lowest tier or BookBub ad pricing, and simultaneously retain the 70% royalty. That assures a good return on the promo. I also like the fact that the KCD allows you to change prices with much more precision. My experience is that ALL of the boost in sale rank occurs on the day of the BB promo, and the promos consistently land the promoted book in the Amazon Top 100 for a day or two. My newest strategy is to limit the promo to the day of the BB listing, and change back to the full $4.95 price when the book is the most visible. I’ve found that the book drops out of the Top 100 at just about the same rate whether I leave it at $.99 for several days or immediately revert to full price, so by changing more quickly (and while the title is at it’s greatest visibility), I effectively ‘scalp’ some revenue that would otherwise be lost if I delayed the price increase.

    Different strokes for different folks, but BookBub and KCD been ‘bery, bery, good to me.’

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  15. This is fascinating. Thank you for all the detail. I did two KDP free promos for the first book in my detective series, one in July 2012 and one in December 2012. I hit #2 and #1 in the Free store respectively and then sold in the thousands for the next two months. in August 2013, I did a KDP free promo for the second book. While I did move more than 100 copies of book one *during* the promo, the post-promo sales for the promo’d book were hugely disappointing. I had a BookBub ad and I hit #1 in the Free store. But instead of the 1600 downloads I was expecting in the following month, I had about 20. Amazon changed their algorithms somewhere in there, because #1 in the Free store didn’t get me very high in the Paid store, and I was nowhere on the lists. The book disappeared immediately.

    I decided after that that I was done with KDP Select. And while the Countdown has some promising elements, I don’t think it’s worth exclusivity. But I might change my mind.

    Anyway, thanks for this.

    • Hi Joanne, Thanks for posting this. It at least makes me see that i am not doing something poorly or wrong. I have 3 books published on kindle. I worked SO hard on my first book (Espresso For Your Goals) and built a huge promotion leading up to and including the book’s 5 free days. It ranked #2 in the Motivational category and in the top 100 overall and after the promo it sold, um, 3 copies and disappeared despite my continual promotion of it all over the place. The book is well-liked and high quality. My second book, in the same genre of self-help / motivational (Apply The Law of Attraction) has sold 11 copies at 99cents and I am working on more books and promoting my first two still but it has been SO MUCH work.

      I am not the type to quit so I will keep working until i figure it out and i believe that a large part of being successful on kindle is building a selection of several high-quality books in the same genre. I have to remember that I only have 2 self help books and one fiction title so far. I have a plan to do a KDP countdown for the first book at the same time the second book is free, then after the free promo price that book at 99cents for a while.

      My thought is that each new book i run a free promo on, i will coincide it with a countdown deal for another book, and 99cents for a third book. Anyway, that’s my plan for now.

      Les

      • I know that kindle countdown has not been working for everyone–and it may not work well every time for my own books–I have one coming up in a few days and since my sales always slide in summer (may thru august) I won’t be surprised if this one doesn’t do as well as my promotions in the past (despite the fact that I was lucky enough to get a bookbub ad behind it. Experimenting is the only way we can find out what works for us and when it works. For the first 4 years when I only had 2 books, I often combined a free promotion of one and a 99 cent of the other–which was particularly effective because it encourage people to buy these first 2 books in the series. I also know that my post promotions bumps (which are much smaller now than they were–say year before last) are better than average because my books crosses so many genres (mystery–historical, cozy and women sleuth, historical fiction, romance) which means that a few sales in each of these markets adds up. You self-help books may not have that advantage. When I look at my numbers this year (without the added sales from a Kindle Countdown) the only reason I am hitting my targets at all is having 3 books, 3 short stories (which sell well), plus the boxed set, plus print and audiobook sales. In other words, content. For those who find the Kindle Countdown doesn’t work–I would really advise not only working on increasing your content, but also selling your books in every venue you can. Exclusivity only works if the promotions plus the borrows are much greater than what you can get elsewhere. Good luck to you and thanks for commenting. Mary Louisa

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  17. Louisa, I posted most of this in response to another author’s comments. Here it is again with some additional stuff.

    JIM’S COUNTDOWN EXPERIENCE
    My Kindle Countdown experiences follow but I have some thoughts about seasonality, first. Books, like all retail, are highly seasonal. I don’t know if everybody’s books do best around the holidays, but mine do. Also, any other time that folks are relaxed without a lot of work-day pressures bearing on them. That means Christmas, Thanksgiving, New Year’s, Spring Break, the beginning and end of summer vacation, etc. And just like when you’re fishing, the best time to drop a hook is when the fish are biting, the best time, it seems to me, to run a promo is when the books are selling. BUT, I’m reluctant to run my promos at the highest of high times, so, on my second, third, and fourth Countdown promos I plan to run ahead of them with the intention of getting the biggest dollar return during the post-promotional full price sales period. I welcome anyone’s experience – or thoughts — with this strategy.

    Now my limited, 3 Countdown Promo results:

    January 16-20, 2014 The Dog Did It (mystery)
    Jan 16-18 – The Dog Did It – $.99 – 970 units; Not on sale: Blame It On The Dog ($2.99) – 91
    Jan 19-20 – The Dog Did It – $1.99 – 404 units; Blame It On The Dog ($2.99) – 155
    Royalties: The Dog Did It – $1067.16; Blame It On The Dog – $505.31
    The sales bump was strong through February for both titles, more so for Blame It On The Dog, the new title, which had been trailing prior the the promo. March was still strong, but not so much. After that the post-Christmas blues set in.

    Thanks to your great info, I plan to run pre-Thanksgiving Countdown promos for Blame It On The Dog and a new Kindle title, Confessions of a Struggling Christian (out of print until now). Then in early January I’ll run another Countdown on The Dog Did It .

    My Kindle Countdown sale in May – Blame It On The Dog (UK) – was abysmal.
    At the same time a sale in the USA was pretty pathetic, but not as bad as the UK. I believe much of the May USA results were the result of seasonality.

    I have a new title coming out in November and plan three new Countdown promos over the holidays. I’ll role the dice on one with Bookbub – though the $960 makes me want to hurl – with the hope that the bump might last several months. Can’t make myself dig deeper for the other two books. I will probably Bookbub The Dog Did It since it did so well on the first promo.

    The new book is an out of print, nonfiction title, Confessions of a Struggling Christian. I’m not sure what to expect from crossover sales since A). it isn’t fiction and B.) nobody dies. If I’m not terribly embarassed, I’ll post again after the sales.

    I wonder if “Free” would be a more effective price for cracking the British market?

    Jim Toombs – Jim * JimToombs.com

    • Dear Jim,

      Thanks for the detailed response. My sales on UK have been awful, even when I had a Bookbub. I still run them, because I do get a little bump in visibility, but not much else. I did better when I paid ebooksoda to promote (which seems to target UK). I do think that for some markets and some books free still is a better strategy. I have recently put my second book in the series out as free rather than KC, because it just doesn’t seem to do as well at 99 cents.

      Seasonality definitely does have an impact. My sales are always best in the January through March months. However I did sell over 4000 books at 99 cents with a Bookbub KC promotion of my fist book, Maids of Misfortune, in July and 3100 at 99 cents for a BookBub promotion of my third book, Bloody Lessons, in August. So with BB, backing the off season can work. Tomorrow I am doing another KC of Maids, without the BookBub promotion, so I don’t expect to do nearly as well (on the other hand my promotional costs are much less–so making a profit won’t be that difficult–and since it has been 3 months since Maids was promoted–it is the book that is least visible right now–and the promotion should help that. As of right now this also means I will be eligible for my next bookbub promotions for Jan, Feb, March, and hope that these will start me out well for next year (and I also hope to have my fourth book out sometime in those months–which will mean these BB’s should also help sell the new book.

      Good luck on your strategy and do report back on how everything went.

      Mary Louisa

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