Author of 'The Cain File' – a Kindle Scout Selection

Posts tagged “amazon

To KDP or not KDP? That is the question …

kdp Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of no promotion …

When the Amazon KDP Select program first came out towards the end of 2011, people couldn’t say enough good things about it. Some authors were making a killing and getting their books widely read. It seemed that KDP Select was going to be the savior of indie authors everywhere.

Now, just over a year and a half later, things have changed.

For those who want to know the details of Amazon’s KDP Select program, please go here.

Basically, the way KDP Select works is that an author agrees to limit a Kindle ebook (print books do not apply) to Amazon for 90 days at a time.

In exchange for exclusivity, Amazon KDP Select provides the author with a couple of real advantages:

a) Paid borrows. You book becomes available for the Kindle Prime lending program. Kindle Prime members can borrow one title a month. If they borrow one of yours, you get paid, somewhere between 1-2 dollars. With my books priced around three bucks, I consider a borrow a sale. Not bad.

b) Promotions. This is the biggie—or used to be. For up to five days per 90 day period, you can promote by making your Kindle ebook free. The advantages of doing this are that your book is downloaded (hopefully) by thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of new readers and you will rise up the Amazon free lists, to have your book displayed alongside heavy hitters. Your book may also appear in the coveted ‘Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought …’ section at the bottom of Amazon book listings. Although Amazon guards their algorithms closely, you are credited about 1/10 of a sale for each free download (as of this post). So, if you give away 5K books, that’s 500 sales, and you (hopefully) will enjoy a post-promotional sales bounce. This bump can last for several weeks after the promo, increasing visibility. Another benefit is that you are reaching new readers and some will write a (hopefully positive) review and, God willing, buy your other work.

The grim truth though is that, since its inception, the KDP Select program has become less effective as more authors use (abuse?) it and readers troll for free ebooks, leaving the paid ones on the digital shelf.

A little over a year ago, when I ran a two-day freebie for my thriller Sendero, I gave away over 7K copies and enjoyed a post-promo bounce of about 100 extra sales and borrows in the two weeks that followed. I also sold more paperbacks. For me this was a significant bump because my book was pushed well past the 100 sales mark (most indie authors sell less than 100 copies of their book) and these were new readers–not friends and family. Some of them were in the UK, a market I had not broken into. Pretty exciting for a new author.  Total strangers around the globe were reading and buying my book.

Now, just over a year later, a similar freebie for Sendero generated about half those numbers all around. BUT it did sell copies of my new book (Who Sings to the Dead). Having multiple books is considered key to using the KDP Select program effectively and I personally wouldn’t run a KDP promo without it. Running a promo with only one book in your arsenal may not be a smart strategy.

Today, on any given day, it is estimated that there are over 4K free ebooks available. There are websites dedicated to promoting them. If you want to run an effective promotion, you really need to advertise it. That costs money. With my last promo I didn’t break even with my advertising costs.

Also, very few freebie downloads actually get read. Empty Kindles are getting filled. The estimated number of reads is around 1 per cent. There may be a lot of truth that something for free is not highly valued.

And, as readers become accustomed to free ebooks, many simply wait for a promo and don’t buy. Like the Internet in general, we all expect free content.

If you’re a small indie author, it’s a tough call. Your book can languish, unnoticed, amongst the other two million (a number that is rapidly growing) ebooks on Amazon. In the big scheme of things, with all the millions of Kindles out there, a few thousand free books are nothing, especially if you are reaching new readers.

So, if your book isn’t moving, why not give it a push with KDP? If you do, and you’re a small indie author, best to expect modest results.

Things to consider if you are running your first KDP Select promo:

a) A promo that generates less than 5K downloads is believed to be ineffective with very little post-promo bounce. You may have to run yours for several days to achieve this.

b) Avoid running promos on the weekend and don’t have them finish on a Friday or on the weekend. I know, I thought people would be buying books on Saturdays and Sundays too, when they are relaxing and ready to read, but just the opposite appears to be the case. Readers tend to buy ebooks mid-week—when they’re at work! At lunchtime.

c) Run promos towards the end of the month. This will help Kindle Prime borrowers “see” your book at the beginning of the next month.

d) Important! If your ebook is listed for sale elsewhere, it needs to be taken down. This process can take a few weeks so, if you are planning a KDP promo, allow enough time to notify other etailers. I know one indie author whose promo flopped because she didn’t. She had already notified many sites that her book would be free on Amazon and it wasn’t. Ouch.

e) Don’t over-promote. If you run freebies too often, people won’t buy and will simply wait for the next promo.

f) Advertise: sites like KindeNationDaily and Bookbub (and there are many others) have promo ads you can take out. Without them, it can be tough to get the kind of traction you want.

g) Promote only one book (e.g. first in a series). If readers want to read your other work, they have to loosen the purse strings. Personally, I lean towards this.

h) Use a promo book. I have a collection of short stories I have run for free. Although this doesn’t generate a lot of free downloads, readers can sample my work and I do see sales and exposure on my other two books. If I were a supermarket, I would be loss-leading.

Another strategy, and one I’m going to use in future, is to feature a book at rare intervals for a promotional price of 99 cents. Although this will not generate the number of downloads a free promo will, each sale will be an actual sale and the book will go to a genuine reader.

Who knows what the next phase of indie book promotion will be? We are writing in a time of such rapid technological change that what was a hit a year ago is now collecting dust. But it’s not getting any easier getting your book noticed.

I forgot to mention the best sales strategy of all: write a great book that people want to read.

Good luck!



¡viven los escritores!


Big Oil, Little Amazon

Sunset in the Amazon

Sunset in the Amazon – Yasuni National Park, Ecuador

Oil companies have recently discovered more than 900 million barrels of crude oil under this pristine rainforest.

If this post makes me sound like a San Francisco tree hugger, I can live with it. It’s not just that my tourist sensibilities were disturbed by reminders that we live in a world dependent on oil on a recent trip to Ecuador where I wanted to observe exotic animals and lush tropical rainforest and not the encroachment of big oil. It’s that, with a little more care, things don’t have to be the way they are.

Because, if big oil isn’t checked, another kind of sunset is coming for the Amazon.

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I was more than dismayed to witness the ongoing devastation caused by oil exploration in one of the last primeval areas of rainforest that once covered much of a continent.

Not even capped, natural gas from oil drilling is simply left to burn off. This flare, along the Napo River, has been burning for eight YEARS. Millions of insects perish every night, drawn to flames like these, of which there are many, impacting the delicate balance of the rainforest.

Where to start? Open natural gas flares? The illegal hunting of monkeys and other endangered animals to feed the tastes of imported oil workers flush with cash? Illegal logging? Or the legal oil road cutting a swath through once-unspoiled jungle and spreading erosion and internal combustion where they have no business being?

I know I’m not the first to point out environmental threats to the Amazon. And others have said it much better. But if you’ve been to the Amazon then you know how beautiful and stunning the jungle is—what’s left of it.


The view as you head upriver – oil trucks on their way deep into the Amazon. Jobs for the boys—and gas at a buck and a half a gallon in Ecuador. Diesel around a dollar.

Bus rides are dirt cheap in Ecuador – in Quito about one US quarter, a couple of dollars from Quito to the mountain town of Otavalo. So everyone benefits from big oil — in the short term.


Just one example of the devastation in Ecuador’s rainforest. Chevron alone has dumped 50 times more oil in the Amazon than the entire BP spillage in the Gulf of Mexico. Fifty times. Damage from 1993 still hasn’t been cleaned up, despite court orders.

One solution prompted by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is that the developed world contribute 3.6 billion dollars to invest in clean energy for Ecuador and “keep the Yasuni’s oil in the soil.”

Unfortunately, that amount is only up to a few hundred million dollars at this time.

So it’s really up to us.

Right, I hear you say – what exactly are you doing about this — besides blogging?

Good question. I patronized one of the jungle lodges in Yasuni National Park, where local tribes are employed and supported by eco-tourism. At Napo, where I stayed, the Kichwa observe strict rules: no hunting, no motor-powered boats, use of green detergents etc. Everything is paddled in and out by canoe. You’re not going to find anything resembling that kind of restraint a few miles downriver in the oil boom town of Coca. Quite the opposite. This was my second trip to the Amazon, another trip of a lifetime, but this time an eye-opener as to how fast these precious lands are disappearing. If you can afford to go, it’s still the most enjoyable way to support preservation of the Amazon rainforest. You won’t regret it.

Back home: use less energy. We all know what we need to do. Our household just bought a hybrid. If you watch South Park, you know San Franciscans live in a cloud of Smug anyway.

I signed a petition to let Ecuador’s President Correa know that I, along with many others, want to ‘keep the Yasuni’s oil in the soil’. Correa is not a bad guy, considering what it means to take on Big Oil in a country dependent on its production—politicians who try are frequently ousted. But oil revenues are a quarter of Ecuador’s GNP so he’s under serious pressure to let Big Oil have their way. The more of us he hears from, the more he knows what the Amazon means to us. You can sign the petition too. Some of it’s in Spanish but trust me, it gets the message across: Email President Correa

I decided to support the who will humbly accept your tax deductible donations to preserve the Yasuni National Park and other endangered places around the globe. A few bucks goes a long, long way.

Maybe we can all live in a cloud of Smug.

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