Friday, May 11, 2012

Let's Experiment With KDP Select Together

Here's your chance to play armchair self-publisher!

Yesterday, we set 10 Steel Magnolia Press titles free. I'll update their progress here over the next week or so. Together we'll try to determine what types of promotion work best in the current Select environment and how we can turn the new, less indie-friendly algorithms to our advantage.

First, the results so far. Then I'll detail out how we got here.

7 out of 10 of our books made it into the Top 100 Free
Top 150 = 9 out of 10
Top 300 = 10 out of 10
Nearly 50,000 books given away

Needless to say, I'm delighted with the results, although we did leave ourselves room for improvement too.

How We Got Here

Having a group of books to promote seems to be cost-efficient in terms of both dollars and time spent. Size of the group matters and having a professionalism surrounding the campaign seems to help. Our books are all offerings under the Steel Magnolia Press imprint, and we have a nice website that we used to promote with.

We also have a monthly newsletter that we send out to a mailing list of about 700 readers. So, first orders of business were to build out the website's homepage and to add a tease to our May newsletter. After that, we notified the larger freebook sites. Because we were thrown a big change in the algorithms early in the month, I held off running the promo while we did some analysis. Because of this I missed the deadlines for asking a couple of sites to mention our promo. It obviously didn't hurt us too much, but it's something to improve on next time.

In all, I notified 6 of the sites that offer free mentions. Of those 6, 2 declined to mention any of our books. Relationships are important in this business. I have a good relationship with the owners of 2 of the sites that mentioned us, no relationship with 2 sites that gave us a mention and a third one that didn't, and am obviously blacklisted by the good folk at Kindle on the Cheap, though I have no clue why.

Those who graciously mentioned either the overall promo or books from it were:
Free Kindle Books and Tips
Ereader News Today
Pixel of Ink
eReader IQ

Myself and all the authors at Steel Magnolia Press wish to thank Michael, Greg, Sharon, Christian and their staffs for supporting our campaign, their readers, and ours, making this a win-win event for us all.

In his Free Kindle Books and Tips post, Michael linked directly to the SMP website. This proved to be a terrific option for us as it drove about 6000 readers to our site where they busily read the books' descriptions and clicked over to Amazon to claim the ones they wanted. Quite a few folk also signed up for our newsletter while there and entered our May contest for 2 $10 Amazon Gift Cards.

We also reached out to the Kindle Fire Department and purchased our first-ever ad for free books. The KFD blog ran into some technical difficulties, but Gadget gave us space on the FaceBook page with individual links to each of the 10 free books and offered to run a second reminder post today for us. Because I knew we'd be pulling the books down throughout the day, I declined the offer but was impressed that Gadget was willing to work with us to make right a technical issue beyond KFD's control.

Tying our books together the way we did certainly helped with visibility and discoverability. Being innovative helped too. I don't believe we wore out our welcome with the freebooking sites with this promo, and as Jennifer Blake begins releasing her backlist of 36 titles through Steel Magnolia Press we'll have other titles to promote out to freebook site readers as well -- though likely every backlist book won't be immediately offered for free!

The question now, of course, based on the newest algorithms Amazon appears to be applying to its popularity lists, is whether these Steel Magnolia Press books will be able to overcome the biases now being incorporated into those algorithms. Early results from others who have run free promos since May 1 seem to point to severely diminished returns compared especially to earlier this year.

I suspect much depends on the historical sales data of each individual book as well as on current variables associated with the titles. I'm guessing it's not a one-size-fits-all-and-screws-indies-exclusively algorithm that's been introduced. That means I'm also guessing each of our 10 books will see wildly different post-free sales results, based possibly on variables such as what rank a book was at before it went free, the book's price, the book's average sales rate over a 30-day period, velocity of sales in the past week vs the past month, whether it's part of a series and/or something else entirely.

As sales results come in I'll post them out over the next few days along with what data I have for each book. Then you guys can help us all figure out if Select is completely dead, mostly dead or still alive and working but only if you happen to be in a certain too-cool-for-school group.

Plus we'll have a query crit on Sunday to break things up a bit!


Scott Marlowe said...

Sounds like you had an awesome run. Thanks for posting up the info and I'm looking forward to the follow-ups!

Consuelo Saah Baehr said...

How many days were the books free?

Phoenix Sullivan said...

@Consuelo: The first 4 books in the chart were free for 40 hours.

The other 6 books were free for 34 hours.

I set them up to go free for 2 days (May 10 and 11), asked for freebook site notifications only on May 10, then canceled the 2nd-day runs early as that day's hot new freebies started to overtake our books. That's why the 6 books that didn't climb as high on the charts came off free first. The other 4 books with better rankings had longer staying power.

I would have canceled the second day completely, but KFD ran their promo ad late in the evening and sales were still accelerating into the wee hours of the morning on the second day. I felt it was fair to trade those additional downloads for burning an extra "free" day.