Is Free Dead? (My love/hate relationship with KDP Select)

1377932_antique_typewriter_keysIt’s no secret that Amazon is trying to limit the number of free books flowing from their site. Since introducing KDP Select, they’ve made numerous changes to the program in search of that goal, changes that have had a detrimental effect on authors’ sales:

  • constant algorithm tweaks that keep authors’ rankings from inflating after a giveaway
  • limiting the number of free books affiliate websites can advertise
  • changing the “also boughts” so they don’t reflect free
  • re-categorizing the store to shuffle “free” best sellers to the side, moving them more clicks from the customer

These are the biggies that I’m aware of. I’m sure there are some tweaks that my readers know about that I don’t (feel free to post them in the comments) and some that Amazon has implemented that no one has caught on to. Now before you start with the “don’t be hatin’ on the ‘zon” rhetoric, I understand why Amazon has implemented some of these changes (though not all). Just like me, they’re in the business to make money. But if they’re not careful, they’re going to shoot themselves in the foot.

My first giveaway gave me a bounce. I was in love with Mr. KDP Select! My second giveaway (on a different book) gave me no bounce and my numbers were less than half of the first giveaway. I was beginning to see flaws in Mr. KDPS–he’d changed since we began our relationship–but I hung in there, thinking my book was getting “hooked” into the store. My last giveaway (on a third book) was dismal. I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that, as charming as he is, Mr. KDPS isn’t worth the exclusivity and the hassle. And all of this in eight months. Will I be tempted back into his arms? Maybe. But I’m going to resist for now. (Seinfeld fans: Remember the episode where Elaine takes Puddy back a dozen times–for a roll in the hay–only to break up with him the next morning over some small slight? Yeah, this is kind of like that. No, this is exactly like that.)

By changing the parameters of KDP Select, Amazon is not only shaping sales and customer behavior, they’re also shaping author behavior. If KDPS becomes wholly unattractive as a marketing tool, many authors will leave the program (some already have). Amazon will not only lose exclusivity on a number of books, indie and trad published, it will lose content for Amazon Prime members. To me, this is the biggest “uh oh.” They’ve pumped a lot of money into Prime and need books for their members to borrow. Yes, they have their own books. But we’ve seen this collapse on the other side of the fence: people crave authors, not publishers. Can the ‘zon really fill all Prime content needs in house? Maybe, but it will take years (not to mention a hefty chunk of cash since they pay advances).

I’ve said it myself: the game changes daily. So who knows? Maybe Amazon is hard at work on a new marketing program that will blow our socks off. If they develop one, I’ll be the first to join before they bend the rules and dry up the gravy. For now, though, I’m going to try .99 cent sales and rely on competitive pricing if I want to offer something free (though I’ve heard this is a crap shoot as well). Oh, and sky writing, lots of sky writing — the next big thing, haven’t you heard? 😉

I have one last giveaway scheduled for Doom & Gloom before my Select enrollment ends. Will Mr. KDPS break my heart again? Or renew my interest? Only time…and downloads…will tell.

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How about you? Have you had great success (recently!) with a free promotion? Have you moved on to another, more successful marketing ploy? Disagree with me? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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5 thoughts on “Is Free Dead? (My love/hate relationship with KDP Select)

  1. Pingback: The world of books could be your oyster. | We indie publish, and skip all the jack.

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