For those who aren't familiar with KDP Select, it is a program on Amazon that trades exclusive distribution of an eBook for three months for 1) 5 days worth of free promotion (e.g., your book goes free for 5 days), 2) enrollment in the KDP borrowing program which rewards each borrow with a percentage of the 500k-700k pot of money for all enrolled in the KDP Select program, and 3) possibility of better exposure with the Amazon algorithms (unverified).
I removed my novel from distribution sites like Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, and all other vendors earlier in January and patiently waited to be eligible to enroll my book and try out the service. We're two days out of my free promotion. Let's find out what we learned.
The Free Promotion
The Free Promotion got off the a bad start. The KDP console wouldn't let me edit or delete the first promotion I did, and I wanted to reduce it from 5 days to 3 days, so I could have 2 days of free promotion before the release of Goblin Rebellion in late February/early March. The promotion was scheduled to go from January 26th to January 30th, and I contacted KDP 3-5 times asking them to please help me remove it before it started so I could get it going correctly.
When January 26th came around, the promotion failed. It registered as in progress, but it never went free. At about 3-4 p.m. the system finally allowed me to cancel the promotion. Even though it never went free, I was charged for a full day of promotion. I'm down to 4 days. I decide to use 3 of them (27th through the 29th) and leave the 4th for the release of the Goblin Rebellion. You know what they say about a plan, right?
I contact Kindle Nation Daily and Ereader News Today and inform them that Lucifer's Odyssey has 13 reviews and is going free the 27th until the 30th. KND runs with it, but ENT is busy and says they can't post it until the 30th. "Great, thanks!" and then it hits me. If they post the ad on the 30th, the free promotion will be over. So, I bite the bullet and schedule another promotion on the 30th, my final day. It's all or nothing.
From January 27th to the 29th, Lucifer's Odyssey was within the top 700 on the free list and top 10 in Epic Fantasy. I was hanging out with Derek Prior's "The Nameless Dwarf" and David Dalglish's "Night of Wolves". On the night of the 29th, it started falling, and I went to bed going, "OK, I guess that's it."
The ENT ad went up sometime on the 30th and when I checked it, I was in the top 200 free list and had almost doubled my downloads for the promotion.
Total downloads: 2820
After the Storm
Lucifer's Odyssey went from a 140k-300k average rank to hovering within the 9k to 30k ranking. In the first two days since the promotion, I've had 5 sales and 3 borrows. That's very good news for my book launch. Even if 60% of the people that downloaded Lucifer's Odyssey do not read it, that means that I now have well over 1,000 potential readers for the 2nd book in the series, and I'm very happy about that.
Even more interesting is what the promotion did for my "Customers Also Bought" list. This list is available on all books and serves as a recommendation engine for other books to purchase in the genre or that your book-buying habits mirror. All those downloads gave the Amazon engine more information on how to categorize and target the book to other readers, and it's working. That's why more people are purchasing and borrowing the book. After four months of luke warm sales, the book feels like it's actually gaining traction, much more so than the KND ad I took out in December which came nowhere near making the money back. I had ~30 sales of 0.99, because they recommend it, and it didn't pick up. Nothing happened during the Christmas rush.
Overall KDP Select Experience: Very positive (A-)
Room for Improvement: They really need to fix their console to allow removing the promotion before it goes live. I could have used that extra day that got lost in the system to do more experiments.