Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Benefits of Amazon's Select Program

I opted into Amazon Select with a couple of titles on the first day it was available, despite being somewhat skeptical of a program that locked me into selling only on the Kindle for 90 days.

I was lucky--I had a couple books on writing that were already exclusive to the Kindle, so I didn't have to do any fast take-downs of my books on other venues.

While those titles did marginally well in the program, mainly through the offering of free promotional days, I never removed my main books (Baby Dust and Jinnie Wishmaker) from Barnes and Noble or iTunes. Why? My sales are perhaps a bit unusual in being 50% Kindle, 25% BN, and 25% iTunes. I was not interested in losing half my sales on a gamble.

But for a new, unpublished indie title, Amazon Select is actually an excellent way to start promotions. You can make the book exclusive to the Kindle for 90 days (the minimum Select period) and then take it out of the program and upload to the other sites.

The benefit is two-fold:

One: the Kindle Owners Lending Library. While your rate of getting "borrowed" by Prime members tends to mirror what sales you might have gotten, the new popularity rankings tend to benefit books that are in Select. And that means higher visibility for sales as well.

Two: free promotional days. The five free promotional days get your book OUT onto Kindles. When someone downloads your book for free, it is registered as a "sale" in Amazon's algorithms even though it was free. So when the person buys or downloads any other book, your cover appears on the page of the other book as something this person "also bought." The more free downloads you have, the more visible your book gets on other book's pages.

Also, the more free downloads your book gets, the more "popular" it becomes in the Amazon system. These popularity lists are very prominent in the store. It most often shows up under your ranking. For example, right now this is the Hunger Games' popularity ranking:

Doing pretty well, eh?

It seems that a lot of Amazon readers click on these links to find other books like the one they are looking at, and so if you are on these popularity lists, you get buys.

Going free tends to get you on the popularity list not only while you are free, but you STAY on it when you go back to paid (after a 24-hour "transitional" period between free and paid that I call the "dark ages" where you have a horrid ranking and no popularity.)

Between this and the also-bought covers on other book pages, many authors find that 5000 free downloads tends to translate into about 300 paid sales in the week after being free.

After that, your popularity ranking goes down, other free books knock you out of the also boughts, and you lose your sales "bump." But you never get as low as you had been before you went free. And typically you've made back any investment you put in your book. Most books are $3-$5, so it translates into $600-$1000 earnings for going free. If you have more than one book, you can increase that by 30% if the books are similar, as people sometimes buy your paid book while your other one is free.

The key to the whole thing is getting more than 4000 free downloads, which should get you into the top 100 free books on Kindle. If your free days only get you 1500 downloads or less, you may not see any increase in sales after you go back to paid.

So the key is to get those free downloads rolling. And the key to THAT is to get listed on the main sites with large subscriber bases who download free books.

Before you do a free promotional day with Select, let these web sites know. If you get picked up by Pixel of Ink or Ereader News Today as a featured free ebook--sit back and watch the downloads roll.

The big sites: Add your book to the tracker and KND will know when your book is free. They also offer $29 promos on your free day.

Smaller sites:

You'll find a number of sites will pull you automatically when you go free, such as and You can help your book be found by adding KindleFreebie and Free tags to your book on Amazon, as well as tweeting with hashtags #kindlefreebie #freebook #free with links. You can shorten your links at and get access to real-time stats of how often it is clicked.

There is no magic way to get POI or ENT to list you. Tell them early, tell them late--it doesn't seem to matter. They seem to look at your overall ranking and the number of reviews you have and choose a variety of books across genres. But don't skip them. Their backing of your free day is what turns the freeloads into payloads.

Good luck with your promotion!


Deanna Roy is the author of Baby Dust, Jinnie Wishmaker, and Single Edged Blades.