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Thursday, May 10, 2012

One Author's Experiences With KDP Select

Today I'm pleased to bring you another guest post from MWB regular David Robinson.

David has recently been trying out the new KDP Select opportunity for Amazon Kindle authors.

In this post he reveals his experiences with this scheme, which allows authors to make their e-books available for lending to US Amazon Prime members. Authors receive a payment from Amazon every time their book is borrowed under this scheme, and also enjoy certain other benefits, as explained below.

Over to David, then...

* * *

I have a novel, The Handshaker, which I enrolled in KDP Select back in January. I was dipping my toe in the water. Prior to January, The Handshaker had sold exactly three copies worldwide, and only two of those were on Amazon, so it wasn't as if I was taking a great risk.

I've read any number of blog posts on Select, and how great it is. So how did The Handshaker do? Well, it sold, but in the 90-day period, it still amounted to less than 50 copies.

You could say that my marketing was at fault. Fair comment. I'm no expert, merely persistent, and I plugged it for all it was worth through the usual channels: my blog, Facebook and Twitter. Unlike so many of Nick's correspondents, I'm not an internet marketer. I'm a novelist, and although the underlying marketing principles are the same, selling fiction is a slightly different proposition to selling "How to..." guides or extra-income opportunities.

One problem with KDP Select is exclusivity. In order to be accepted into the scheme, your title must be exclusive to Amazon for the 90-day period. It didn't seem to matter with The Handshaker. It wasn't selling anyway. When, however, I looked over my total sales figures for all titles during last year, I noticed I sold as many titles through Smashwords and their distribution catalogue as I did through Amazon. This begs the question: if I had not enrolled the book into KDP Select, and instead hyped it, would I have sold another 50 copies through Smashwords?

Obviously, I don't know the answer to that, but now that the novel is back with Smashwords as well as Amazon, I may be able to "guesstimate" three months from now.

Select has one great advantage. You can make your title free for five days out of the 90 and you choose which days. In the normal course of events, free is something Amazon don't do, and in common with many other authors, I think this is a shame. Putting a single title out free can hype the sales of an entire series.

I made The Handshaker free over two separate weekends and in all, 1600 people took advantage of it. How will that affect sales? It's still too early to say. A good many of them will be "freeloaders" who will probably never read the book - and even for the readers, the plot is complex, the book 103,000 words long, and it takes time to get through it. I don't anticipate much feedback until the summer.

Another aspect of Select is the loan facility. Those members of Amazon Prime (a fee based facility) can have the book for free, but my understanding is that Amazon Prime is available only to US residents, and while American books can do well in Great Britain, the same is not true in reverse. Most British books perform poorly in the United States. My book was borrowed just twice in the 90 days.

Was it worth it?

Where The Handshaker is concerned, no. It was perhaps the wrong title to put into Select. It has a strong British flavour to it, from the Pennine setting to the police ranks and procedures. It garners excellent reviews from British and ex-pat British readers, but none from the USA (yet).

That doesn't mean I've given up completely on KDP Select. As The Handshaker came out, I enrolled another title, A Spookies Compendium - a set of three ghost stories, two full length novels and one short story. Again, they're British, but the underlying tales, ghost hunting, have a more worldwide appeal.

I'll have to wait another three months to see how well Spookies perform.

Byline: David Robinson is a UK-based freelance writer and self-publisher. His books referred to in this article include The Handshaker and A Spookies Compendium. He has an Amazon Author page and also a blog at

* * *

Thanks to David for sharing his experiences of KDP Select. I'm sorry his initial experiences were disappointing, but look forward to hearing how his Spookies Compendium performs. Watch for another guest post from David on this subject in three months' time (I hope!).

Incidentally, if you're interested in KDP Select, a useful, low-cost resource I recommend is KDP Select Report by Rosa Suen, which I reviewed here a few weeks ago. This reveals how Rosa has used KDP Select successfully (for the most part) to promote a range of non-fiction e-books she has published.

If you have any comments or questions for David (or me) about KDP Select and/or writing for Kindle generally, please feel free to post them below.

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Blogger Rick Gualtieri said...

David, sorry to hear your experience with Select wasn't great. My own experiences (in a similar timeframe this year) were a bit different. I launched my book via KDP select and, while not blowing the bank doors off, after my first free run I found myself settling into a fairly comfortable and (so far) relatively stable sales rank.

I'm out of it now. I feel I need to give this book at least a few months on B&N to see how it does there. However, if the results are disappointing, I'll most likely bring it back to Select for another run.

1:37 PM  
Anonymous Renee Pawlish said...

I am sorry as well, KDP Select is tough and changing. Because it's relevant, I'm including my blog link ( You should check out the three posts I did, but even more importantly, follow the links. A couple of other authors have some great insights into what is currently going on with Amazon's algorithms, and what it might mean for the future of KDP.
Best to you.

2:55 PM  
Blogger DW96 said...

Thanks for your comment Rick.

I don't think it was a total write off, but again, I won't know until I've given the book the necessary time in the Smashwords Catalogue, and of course, one of the problems with SW is slow reporting from the likes of B&N, iTunes etc. It could be another six months befroe I know.

My second foray into Select isn't doing well, either, but frankly my marketing could be at fault here. I work with a publisher as well as Self-publishing and I'm currenlty trying to push too many titles at once.

Good luck with your efforts

3:58 PM  
Blogger DW96 said...

Thanks, Renee. I'l take a look.

4:50 PM  
Blogger Cody Young said...

Hi David,
I read your post with interest. I am always fascinated to read posts where authors are honest about their numbers. We need more of that. I have also tried Select with two novels recently and a non-fiction book and given away over four thousand e-copies. I am really missing the sales I used to get through Smashwords - especially Barnes and Noble though. So I am planning to re-release there as soon as the 90 days is up. Your comments about British books in the American market were also very helpful to me. Thanks for posting.

12:18 AM  
Blogger DW96 said...

Thanks for your comment, Cody.

Numbers and methods of increasing them are always problematic. I've worked on any number of ideas, some have been winners, others not so good. Like it or not, Select was something I had to try.

Good luck with your efforts.

9:36 AM  

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