The Joys of KDP Select: Patrice Fitzgerald's Story

Last week, I had a guest post from Marilyn Peake, who explained how KDP Select is helping her achieve new levels of success after ten years in publishing.

I wanted to have a couple of opposing voices here to balance out my opposition to the program because (a) my antipathy towards KDP Select is based – at least partly – on the exclusivity requirement, which matters less to other writers, and (b) I could be wrong anyway.

Today, I have a guest post from Patrice Fitzgerald who has used KDP Select to hugely increase her sales – at prices far higher than the average self-publisher too.

Here’s Patrice:


Dave asked me to share my wildly successful experience with the KDP Select program and my judicious use of “free” days – five such days being allowed during the 90-day period of exclusivity required when signing up for KDP Select. I have to confess that I have suddenly become very popular amongst fellow writers who are dying to know the secret of my high sales numbers, and the lunch and dinner invitations are pouring in along with requests to pick my brain.

And why are they asking me? I made my political thriller, RUNNING, free on December 23rd, and since then this single title has seen 12,000+ free downloads, 1,600+ sales (many at $7.99), and 750+ borrows.

So what is the secret? Sssshhh… this is just between you and me. You have to promise not to tell, except to very good friends. Here goes!

  1. Write a good book.

Okay… now we can eat that delicious dinner you promised. Oh, wait… you want more? All right. Here’s a more detailed list.

  1. Write a good book.
  2. Have a real editor edit it.
  3. Get a professional cover.
  4. Make sure the formatting is pristine.

Yum. Okay, I’m game for dessert too. No? You say you’ve already heard that dull advice on other writing blogs… you want to know about this free day thing. You want to know how you can get your book noticed, and make the big bucks! Oh, all right.

Herewith the short version of my overnight success. I started writing novels in 1992. My first move, after drafting a mere three chapters of a legal thriller, was to send an overnight letter to John Grisham’s agent. I was a lawyer, after all. I figured I could write one of those books and then just sit back and rake in the money. As luck would have it, there was a brand new editor-turned-agent who had joined the firm (get it? – The Firm!) recently, and she read my letter and called me to talk about possible representation. Being a baby writer, I thought this was normal — an apt testament to my innate brilliance. That same week, a friend-of-a-friend heard about my novel and contacted me about buying it for television. Easy, peasy, right? Literary stardom, effortlessly falling into my lap.

Fast forward twenty years, many drafts of that freshman book later. Whiz through a couple decades of near-agents and close-to-sales, another thriller, a middle grade fantasy, one-and-a-half screenplays, lots of short stories, attendance at critique groups, workshops, writing conferences, freelancing in print magazines and online, and writing assorted op-ed pieces for tiny sums, and… I was not any closer to being a published novelist. I still thought my second book, about a woman running for President of the U.S., had great potential if I could only sell it.

I gave up writing novels for several years after the rejection slips grew into a small mountain that threatened to bury my laptop. This was back in the good old days when you had to query by snail mail, send an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope, remember?) and then wait forever. Friends asked me if I would self-publish, and I gave them the standard line that such things branded you as both desperate and untalented, and would not only keep you out of bookstores but ruin your chances of ever landing an agent and having a “real” career.

And then the summer of 2011 came along, and I read about Amanda “$2 Million Publishing Contract” Hocking, John “First Indie to Sell A Million” Locke, and Joe “Indie Guru & 30 Days of Beer” Konrath. Also, I read a very useful book called Let’s Get Digital, written by an enterprising chap with a scurrilous-looking moustache.

I know what you’re thinking by now… enough with the Patrice “Best-Selling Baby Author” Fitzgerald story. What about those free days?

Okay. Here’s what I did. It worked for me. Try it at your own risk.

I published my political thriller on the 4th of July, 2011. That month I sold 36 copies. August, 2011 – December 23, 2011, I sold a total of 25, and the trend was downward. Then things changed.

The KDP Select program was introduced last December. I knew that Christmas 2010 had seen an enormous surge in sales of ebooks because so many new e-readers had been bought. A similar avalanche of purchases was anticipated for the days after Christmas 2011.

I signed up for KDP Select. I had little to lose; I had sold precisely zero books in the couple of months RUNNING had been for sale on Barnes & Noble. I decided to try one free day, figuring that I would get my sales going before December 25th. I chose December 23rd, and RUNNING became free at about 3:00 a.m. my time (I’m on the East Coast of the U.S.) early that morning. I’m not quite sure what happened then, but by the time I glanced at the numbers, nearly 4,000 copies had been downloaded. Apparently I hit the Amazon Movers & Shakers List, which I never knew existed until a week later.

I was surprised at the sudden downloads, and pretty happy, but I still didn’t recognize what this meant. Soon I would be a bit loony, checking numbers obsessively, thinking about a vacation in Bora Bora, and wondering how I could keep selling this many books forever…

Here are the raw numbers for downloads and sales of RUNNING in the US Kindle store. I have noted the sales for each individual day. Some of this is approximate, since there were a few returns, and I didn’t subtract them until later. I kept pretty good records, something you’ll want to do if (when!) your book goes on a run like this. I also changed the price several times along the way, as you will see:

KDP Select Sales of Patrice Fitzgerald’s RUNNING

12/23 – FREE – approximately 8,500 downloads (at some point that day I got to #18 in the Top 100 Free list on Amazon)

12/24 – $4.99 – 89 sales

12/25 – 221 sales

12/26 – 176 sales by 10:30 a.m.

RAISED price to $7.99

12/26 – $7.99 – 239 sales after price changed

12/27 – 131 sales by 6:10 a.m. (see how crazy and sleep-deprived I’m getting?)

LOWERED price to $2.99 (don’t ask me why – I must have been reading Konrath’s blog and thought I could up my sales)

P.S. At this point RUNNING was #288 in the Paid Top 100 list (best position I achieved on the big Paid list was something like #217… I never quite got higher than #200, but the low 200’s was pretty exciting!)  I was #2 in the Kindle store for political fiction, #3 for all Books in political fiction, and #50 in Thrillers. I took a bunch of fun screen shots where I was neck and neck with Atlas Shrugged, Animal Farm, War and Peace, etc…. mostly while free.

12/27 – $2.99 – 305 sales after price changed

RAISED price back to $7.99 (certifiably nuts by now, trying to maximize profits)

12/28 – $7.99 – 114 sales after price changed

FREE again on 12/29 – I was trying to goose sales again, getting greedy – don’t do this, it gets you way up on the Free List but loses you position on the Paid charts

12/29 – FREE – 3,391 downloaded

BACK to $7.99, vowing not to mess around with price any more (husband now going crazy as well)

12/30 – $7.99 – 63 sold

(Note that I lost chart position, which is critical to sales – more folks see you the higher up you are, and success breeds success – I came back onto the charts after the second Free day at #1353 Paid in the Kindle store, #7 Kindle Political Fiction, #10 Books Political Fiction.)

12/31 – 78 sold

Grand total for the period from 12/23/11 (first free day) through 12/31/11:

11,891 Free Downloads

1,416 Sold (@ various prices ranging from $2.99 – $7.99)

508 Borrowed

These numbers are not precise; the price changes occurred at 3:00 a.m. my time, so I often wasn’t awake to get exact counts when it went on and off sale on the free dates.

At one point I was #1 Free in Political Fiction and then #2 Paid in Political Fiction, and as high as #18 Free in the Top 100 Books overall.

I also took a couple of fun screen shots where I was just behind Atlas Shrugged, just below The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and finally squeezed into the Free List between a Joe Konrath (The List, naturally) and something called Incredible Sex!

Show me the money, you say?  I made $5,166 in the last week of December. I hear that the talented Mr. Konrath made $50,000. I have neither his fame nor do I share his background as a traditionally published author. But I made 10% of his profit in seven days (outside of the two free days) on one novel. At a significantly higher price.

I am calling RUNNING a best seller. That seems like a reasonable claim to me.

Now, you can imagine my state of mind after all this. I’m an overnight success! I’m thrilled! I’m scared! I’m excited!

I’ve waited so long for this. It is very cool to be in this position at last. There is tremendous joy in knowing folks are reading my novel and writing five-star reviews (and the occasional one-star – usually from those who downloaded it for free) along with a powerful desire to keep the sales numbers high. And after the holidays, the sales have naturally slowed down.

At $7.99, RUNNING has sold these numbers since the first of the year:

1/1 – 88

1/2 – 54

1/3 – 22

1/4 – 23

1/5 – 15

1/6 – 5

1/7 – 6

1/8 – 9

1/9 – 9

1/10 – ?

A total of 231 books have been sold @ $7.99 in January, 2012 as of the point I am sending this off, with an additional 243 borrowed. I’ll be interested to see if my 500+ borrows in December will bring in any significant income. There is a pool of $500,000 available, but there are many, many books in the program, and the money will apparently be divided amongst all the sellers of borrowed books, per their percentage of the total number borrowed.

And so, what is my advice to you, dear writer?

  1. Write a good book.
  2. Prepare for luck by looking like a pro. I suggest a high price, so that you don’t telegraph that you are an indie. Position yourself like a traditionally published author in every way you can. Just in case an agent comes knocking, you won’t have to convince publishers that your fans will buy a book that costs ten times more than your $0.99 price.
  3. When luck comes along, jump on and ride that sucker as hard as you can!

It can’t be Christmas every week. If it could, my husband would be making plans to retire ASAP. But what can I do from this position? Keep writing good books. Pay others to help edit, format, and publicize my books. Hire the wonderful artist who created the cover of RUNNING, Christopher Steininger, to do another one for me. Publish books to benefit my community and give all the profits away. Encourage other writers to be brave.

So how does it feel to be a best-selling author?

It feels awesome. AWE. SOME.

May you have that feeling soon.


A huge thanks for Patrice for sharing that story. I should note that since she sent me this guest post, Amazon have announced the figures for KDP Select. For last month at least, they are paying $1.70 per borrow (meaning Patrice has an extra $863 coming her way for December – taking her over $6,000 for the month – and, in addition to that, substantial borrows already this month).

A total of 295,000 KDP Select books were borrowed in December, leading Amazon to increase the pot for January to $700,000 (from $500,000).

Have these numbers (and these authors’ experiences) led me to change my mind on participating? In short, no, but I’ll explain those reasons in more detail later this week.

As for Patrice, KDP Select has shone a huge spotlight on her work. Because of that, she is going to get even more exposure now – a local TV station have been in touch, and she will be on NPR on Wednesday (and you can listen live online, I’m sure Patrice will come along later to post the link).

In addition, Patrice is having a sale this week to celebrate: you can pick up RUNNING for the reduced price of $2.99 instead of the usual $7.99.

If you have any questions for Patrice, I’m sure she will be along later in the comments, so fire away!

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

118 Replies to “The Joys of KDP Select: Patrice Fitzgerald's Story”

  1. Update here. I used up the final free KDP Select day for my full-length political thriller RUNNING last Saturday, and saw just under 5500 downloads. For the next four days I had 50, 25, 37, and 30 sales respectively… I also saw 84 borrows in total for the month. This time I didn’t go with the high price of $7.99 coming off the free day, but followed conventional wisdom and lowered it to $2.99. No doubt I am getting more sales, but the profit is considerably lower. Unfortunately, I don’t have other novels out yet to pull interest to them. Working on that!

    I also did 3 free days for a short story, “Looking for Lance.” This had seen almost no sales. About 4500 downloads later, it now sells about 2 copies a day at 99¢. It’s not romance, and not chick-lit… more like quirky domestic commentary. I have it out there as another way for my name to be seen, but so far it’s not really catching on in a significant way.

    Finally, I used up the last 3 free days for my author Frisky Dimplebuns, whose DREAMBOAT, the first of The Frisky Chronicles, was downloaded almost 7500 times. It’s a 6,000 word book including two chapters in an online dating saga, plus some “Dear Frisky” letters. DREAMBOAT now gets about 15 sales a day, as compared to about the same number per month. We’ll see how long that lasts! The spillover in sales for the next Frisky book has created a small demand — 15 copies of #2, UGLY SEXY, have been sold. (Perhaps an unattractive title, eh?)

  2. UGH! Patrice, what are you doing? Don’t play the game of conserving your days. Use all 5, break into the Top 100 and ride the long tail of sales. Piecemealing your free days ultimately hurts you. You could have easily made several times this amount. I believe you have a blockbuster on your hands. Get the highest visibility you can and write more books!

    I have a children’s book (My Little Pet Dragon) that I ran back in January for 5 days, collecting nearly 60,000 free downloads, seizing the #2 ranking overall (in the Free Kindle Store), and catapulting me into the Top 100 for 3 days. Children’s picture books rarely do this, and don’t have the staying power that novels have. Imagine if you could have cracked the Top 100 and stayed there!

    Currently I have a new children’s book ranked #21 overall (Four Fantastic Bedtime Stories for Children 3-6) in the Free Kindle Store and have 2 more days of promotion remaining. With a little luck, I’ll crack the Top 10. Please…at least try this suggestion once. If you hit #1 in the free store, you can include this in your product description. Besides, you’ll get more promotional days in 90 days anyways.

    You’ve most likely got a blockbuster on your hands, my friend. It’s time to get paid like a bestselling author! ;D

    1. Hi Scott – first of all, congrats on a stellar run.

      However, I must say that I’ve been looking at lots and lots of data on the optimum free run, and all the evidence suggests 2 or 3 days is best. It’s rare for a book’s downloads to remain strong by Day 4 or 5. You managed it, but I think that’s a bit of an anomaly. On my own free run (going the old way, not via Select), Day 1 had the most downloads, Day 2 had the best chart position, Day 3, things started to slip slowly, Day 4 & 5 were relatively dead (and then continued like that for three weeks). I’ve seen lots of patterns like that from people in KDP Select.

      1. Huge congratulations. That’s an amazing chart position for any book, but for a children’s book, it’s a truly stunning achievement.

        I’m all for reevaluating things. But this is still one (or two) data points. The overwhelming amount of data still suggests 2 or 3 days is optimal. Now, that may not be the case with every free run (and indeed, I just heard of someone else peaking on Day 4). And the goalposts may well be moving as Amazon are continually tinkering with things – so what was true last week may not be true this week, and so forth.

        If anyone was going on a Select free run, I’d still give the same advice: schedule 3 days, if it looks like you’re peaking on Day 2, cut it off. If it looks like the momentum is still going on Day 3, extend it and watch it closely on Day 4, then decide whether to extend it for a further day.

        I should point out that almost everybody I’ve heard of gets severely diminishing returns on their second free run (with that title), so the concern here should be to maximize chart position on the first free run, and saving free days for another run should not be of any real importance.

        It does bear watching, though. Things change fast (and congratulations again).

      2. @Phoenix – I love how everyone insists on educating me on the issue, and it so just so happens that none of these people have seen the inside of the Top 100, let alone the Top 10.

        #5 in the Free Kindle Store? Swell. I hit #2 overall (My Little Pet Dragon) with Hamster Habitat firmly entrenched in front of me (i.e., not an e-book). The week following my free promotion, I sold over 2,000 copies with 1,000 borrows. I got catapulted into the Top 100 paid, peaking at #97 overall (#90 in Kindle eBooks), and spending 3 days there.

        All with a simple children’s picture book.

        Although I only made a 70-cent royalty on each copy, I still had a $5,000+ January and have not made anything less than $100/day since (before the promotion of My Little Pet Dragon, I never had a $100 day–the closest I got was $50).

        So am I gloating, bragging, etc.? Heck no! The point I’m trying to get across is TO HELL WITH THE MONEY! Focus on visibility instead. You cannot even fathom how much money you are leaving on the table by cutting your promotion short. You’re happy that you cut off your promotion early with a title at #5? ARE YOU INSANE? What if you snagged #1, and then catapulted into the Top 100 paid and…(gasp)…stayed there? Would you care that you used up all your free days?

        So what is the author’s goal these days? Mediocrity? Or is it to break out?

        Congratulations to Jennifer Blake on her meager returns. She could easily have made several times that.

        And don’t listen to me; I’m just an anomaly. Who’s now done this twice.

        Would any of you listen if I hit the Top 10 a third time? No, you’d probably tell me to conserve my days, to which I’d say, “Knock yourself out!”

      3. Actually, I put had two in the (free) Top 100 – both short stories. But that’s neither here nor there, aside from to mention that both these stories followed the same pattern – download numbers peaked on Day 1, chart position peaked on Day 2, Day 3 saw a slow slip, Day 4 saw a big drop and Day 5 flatlined completely.

        As Phoenix said, we are only working off limited data. It could be that the optimal time for children’s books is five days – we simply can’t say for sure yet. All I can tell you is what I have done already. I’ve examined lots and lots of people’s free runs and 2/3 days seems optimal (but there are exceptions). That figure may change. It may be changing right now. But I haven’t seen enough examples to change my opinion. I only have three: two from you and one from someone else.

        You can’t draw hard-and-fast conclusions solely based on your own experience.

      4. S.E. Gordon, every run will be different. What matters is how the book does once it comes off that free run. One of our imprint’s authors had a new release that reached #5 in the free store after 2 days free, Feb 8 and 9, with 24,000 downloads (The Rent-A-Groom by Jennifer Blake). The novella came back to the paid store at $1.99 in the #300s. It got to #192 on the paid side, then started slipping a bit per trend. As soon as it started the slip, we raised the price to $2.99. Now, two weeks later, the book is at #1467 and is averaging 60 sales a day. It’s sold 2389 copies and has had 197 borrows for right at $3000 in sales over the last 2 weeks. AND it still has 3 more free days to make another splash before its 90 days is up. Given the current trending for books post-free, I don’t think keeping it free for more days initially would have resulted in much better sales. Each book differs, however. Would love to hear how your book fares once it’s back on the paid side!

      5. We’re speaking about different paradigms and that’s fine. To each his own…

        I’ll revisit your blog when I crack the Top 10 for a third time, which should be mid-March.

        Best of luck!

      6. Scott: I truly and sincerely hope you can repeat the performance with the book that’s free now. Please do return here and provide your post-free results. And understand, not every book can sustain a Top 10 rank in the free store. The book we had at #5 had already started slipping by the time the second day was up. It left the free store at #13. Could it have recovered? Probably not. And I’ll guarantee you it matters what the book’s current rank is when it leaves the free store. You bet we yanked it when we did. Just as I yanked mine when it slipped from #25 to #31 late in the evening of the second day. I’ve run 5 books up into the Top 100 free (one of them twice) and they’ve all trended the same. As David says, perhaps children’s picture books react differently.

      7. Hey David. It took a month longer than expected, but I’m back in the Top 10 again. My children’s book My Crazy Pet Frog is currently #7 overall in the Free Kindle Store and #1 in Children’s Fiction. This promotion is far different than the previous, which I’m sure you’ll find interesting.

        Last February I ran My Crazy Pet Frog on free promotion. It was held from Wednesday – Sunday at the beginning of February and wound up generating around 2,500 free giveaways. This hit me as odd since a similar title, My Little Pet Dragon, did almost 60,000. Flash forward to the present. Yesterday (my first day of promotion), I did over 7,000 free giveaways. “WTH?” I said to myself. “It’s the same damn title. Why wasn’t it successful back then?” Honestly, I have no idea. The title quickly jumped into the Top 100 and peaked at #41 before I went to bed–my fastest moving e-book yet.

        Today (the second day of the promotion) has improved significantly on the first. By 8:00 PM EST, I’ve given away another 8,000 (15,000 total) and am currently #7 overall. This title doesn’t appear to be slowing down, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it in the Top 5 tomorrow. I suspect I will do between 10,000-12,000 by the end of the day, and then begin averaging this number for the rest of the weekend.

        Now obviously not all of my titles do this. Back in March I had a title reach #35 using this method before it sputtered the rest of the way. Many of the others do less than 1,000, but I go for the home run every time. As a children’s book author I can get away with this, but it might not be so wise to use the same methodology with novels. You’ll have to try it and see.

        One more note: When you stick it out for the full five days, you do tend to have a larger spike than you would otherwise, followed by higher average sales/day. I’ve found that the tail is usually in proportion to the number you give away due to the number of new patterns Amazon has in its recommendation system.

        It took over a month before My Little Pet Dragon fell out of the Top 1,000 and returned to normal sales (I also made a mistake in raising the price which made it fall even quicker). While this method involves far more misses than hits, when you do have a hit, you tend to knock it out of the park (which still depends on a number of factors when it converts over to the paid side). Sure, the safe bet would be to play the weekends with a 2 or 3-day giveaway, but that doesn’t seem to be where the big money is unless you have a big name (Blake Crouch had a giveaway for Run a little while ago that ended on a Friday, and later catapulted him into the Top 20 paid).

        Anyways, this has been my experience thus far.

      8. That’s another stunning result, congratulations. It certainly appears that it’s best to keep a promotion going while the downloads are happening in huge numbers. Great to hear about a longer sales plateau afterward too. When I eventually experiment with Select, I will keep all this in mind.

      9. Hey David,

        I just wanted to let you know that I’ve gotten back to the top of the charts (#4 overall in the Free Kindle Store) and have had time to reflect. These days, it’s really tough to hit the top of the charts all on your own unless you use a service like BookBub (which I did in this case). Although KDP has been marginalized, it’s still the best game in town for reaching new readers. And I still stand by my comment for using all five days on one promotion (Joe Konrath has also mentioned this on his blog).

        In terms of numbers, Day 1 of the free promotion resulted in 19,828 downloads, shooting me all the way to #4 in one day (My Little Pet Dragon is the title). I’ve noticed the downloads cooling off, so I suspect it will begin falling today. How much will it fall? Will I be able to hang around the Top 10? I’ve no idea. It’s still exciting nonetheless!

        Thanks again for your taking the time to read this. As always, I’m always publishing and learning as I go. This is an exciting time to be an author. The opportunities are limitless.

    2. Scott: What a fabulous result you had from spending all 5 days in a row! Congratulations. As Dave indicated, it varies — and I think a lot of it has to do with the type of book, the time of month or year (I think I got in early, when a lot of folks didn’t know what KDP Select was about, and I think in general the weekends are better for free download results), plus, of course — luck. I’m nearly done with my 90 KDP Select days, and I’m spending my very last free day tomorrow, Feb. 25, to give RUNNING another push. I did, in fact, get to the #1 spot in Political Fiction when it was free, and I got to #18 on the overall free list. #2 was my best position in Poli. Fic. paid. It’s tough to make one’s way up through the ranks of books like The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is a multi-year international best-seller.

      Another factor is that going free for too long or too visibly annoys the folks who paid — particularly when they’re paying $7.99 per book, as they are for RUNNING.

      It’s a grand new adventure for all of us, and I appreciate your sharing your experience, so that the community can learn about what works. Good luck on your continued success!

      Now I’m going to go buy “My Little Pet Dragon.”

      1. @Patrice – Type of book? Time of year? No. It comes from having a completely different philosophy. You’re chasing after $, I’m chasing after visibility.

        Do a little bit of promotion, get a little bit of sales. Aim higher, put everything you have into it, and you’ll go further than you ever imagined.

        My 2 cents.

    3. @David: Diminishing returns on a second free run, perhaps, but only if the first run got all the mentions from the big freebook sites. My first run with my book, SECTOR C, hit #25 in the free store after 2 days. I had 14,000 downloads, followed by 1925 sales + 274 borrows for royalties totaling about $4600. It’s best rank was #224 on the paid side.

      On a second run of 1 day (24 days after the first run), the book peaked somewhere a little higher than #108 on Jan 31 (the day of the reporting meltdown). It’s best rank was #742 on the paid side at $3.99. It sold about 500 copies + had 76 borrows for about $1400 before it went on a third free run for 1 day only this past Wed. Would the book have stuck if I’d left it free longer? Current trending says no. I believed I maximized sales by pulsing rather than giving it all up at once.

      We have two more successful freebook titles that we’ll watch subsequent free days with as well.

      Of course, only much data over an extended period will help us validate what the optimal course actually is. Thank you for sharing your data and adding to the pool!

      1. And yes, I know it’s “its” and not “it’s” in those instances. Thinking faster than my typing.

    4. Hey guys, I just wanted to give you some final numbers as the promotion draws to a close. My children’s book compilation peaked at #3 before dropping to #4 and then #5 later in the day. Not quite as high as I had hoped, but nothing to be ashamed of. In all, I will wind up giving away between 32,000 – 33,000 copies (2,000, 6,500, 6,500, 8,500 and 9,000).

      What does this mean for paid sales? Good question. If my previous numbers are any indication, I should expect somewhere around 1,000 sales and 500 borrows (yeah right, like anyone has any borrows left!) in the following week. But who knows? Different product, different price tag. I should do all right, though.

      1. That’s another astonishing performance. I’m trying to figure out what’s different about your free runs, and the many others I’ve examined, and the raw download numbers is giving me some clue (thanks for those). I’m guessing you didn’t get mentioned on any of the big sites on the first day, but do you remember when any of those sites did mention you over the other days? Was it an even spread? Or all on that second day? I think that might be the key here.

        And good luck with the bounce up the charts!

  3. An update from Patrice: Sales had slowed to anywhere between 2 and 10 a day by the end of January (with one day of no sales… might have been a ‘Zon glitch). I decided to go free again for two days, January 27 and 28. So far today, at midnight on the first free day, I have given away nearly 5,000 books. I’m now #8 on the contemporary fiction bestsellers (Free) chart, and #61 in all free books.

    We’ll see if the downloads will continue to mount up tomorrow, and more importantly, if sales will follow on Monday because of improved chart position…

  4. Hi all –
    We are seeing similar results when we post free books to our site Freebooksy. Our authors are not playing with their price points as much but they are seeing huge leaps in Amazon rankings with free downloads followed by increases in sales post-promotion. We are always looking to feature new authors so if you are considering offering your book for free please let us know so we can give you some love – our submission form is here
    Sarah at Freebooksy

  5. Newbie here. I am part way done with my first book. It will probably be a kindle single. I have a question for self publishers – Do you think the self publishing craze has hit a plateau? Is there room for beginner writers or is the market already saturated? I think I am well on my way to following step 1, but I guess I just want to be sure I’m not too late to self publishing.

    1. There is no way in hell this market is saturated. Ownership if e-readers and tablets DOUBLED over the last month (in the US). And that’s just the most advanced market. It hasn’t even started slowing down yet, and countries like Canada, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and the UK, still have lots of catching up to do. And of course there are lots and lots of countries who are a good bit behind those guys.

      This thing is only getting started…

    2. Hi,
      I think you are a long way from being too late. Take the blogosphere as an analogy. 90% of the millions of blogs out there are inactive. The remaining 10% have a useful tool at their disposal.
      I think most self-pubs will fall away for any number of reasons. A few of us have said to make sure your product is right before launch. While you are doing that, you can extract invaluable marketing info from people, such as David, who are willing to share.

  6. Great post Patrice. I am also sold on the KDP program. I am encouraging all new authors in our Facebook Group “Amazon Kindle Publishers’ Group” to sign up to it.

    It has really boosted sales of all 7 of my books, especially my Amazon #1 Bestseller “Creating the Perfect Lifestyle”.

    Oli Hille

  7. “FREE again on 12/29 – I was trying to goose sales again, getting greedy – don’t do this, it gets you way up on the Free List but loses you position on the Paid charts”

    Congratulations on your success Patrice, you deserve it! I could not help wondering what your strategy is now regarding the use of those 5 free days per 90 day period. You say “don’t do this, it gets you….”. I agree, you lose your position on the paid charts for a while, in fact it gets much worse than it was for a while. But just a few sales and borrows just bring you back to where you were or at an even higher ranking (than before going free), and you should see this happening a few days after going free… Did you check that?

    So how often do you plan to go free with kdp select? Do you think the benefits of going free are only for those books that are buried down in the rankings (like yours was the first time round) or that going free can be used for ebooks that are already doing well in the charts?

    1. Yes. You can list your book on KDP, Smashwords, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Sony, Kobo etc. all at the same time.

      Unless you have enrolled in KDP Select – in which case Amazon demand exclusivity for as long as you are enrolled (which is a 90 day period, and you must opt out or you will be automatically re-enrolled after 90 days).

  8. I was inspired to go buy this at Kindle – but they are not listing price information…. are you tinkering with the price again?!!

    1. It’s still at $2.99 (for this week only, I think). Not sure why they wouldn’t have the price! Are you in the U.S.? They do confuse matters by saying it can be bought for $0.00 if you’re a Prime member (meaning, you can borrow it for a month).

      Now I’ll have to go look myself…

      But I love that you’re thinking of investing in RUNNING! Do check out the sample first… though I trust that you’ll enjoy it!

  9. This might be an appropriate time to share something: the sales of my new release are a little under what I had hoped for. Now, it’s still very early days, and there were things I didn’t do (because of time restrictions etc.) with the launch of this book, that I did do (and worked) with the launch of other books. But the launch wasn’t the big issue. Sales were good in December, but they have slowed to a crawl this month (and in the US one of my shorts has outsold the new novel, even though it was free everywhere except for Amazon). A writer in my position might panic and stick the book in KDP Select. But I really don’t think that’s the right option *for me*.

    I have another guest post on Friday from a writer who weighed up the pros and cons, and decided to stay out of KDP Select. And instead, she went hard on the other channels, with great results – so keep an eye out for that.

    Tomorrow though, I’ll have a post about what to do when your book is not selling as much as you think it should, and I will use my own latest release as a case study.

    But as I said, I’m not particularly worried, because I had several things in the pipeline which are only coming onstream now. Here’s a sneak preview:

    1. I have an ad spot running on EReaderIQ tomorrow.

    2. I’m dropping the price of “A Storm Hits Valparaiso” to $2.99 (from $4.99), for a 2 day sale to get the most out of the ad. Not sure if I will return to $4.99, or try $3.99 after that. But either way, the price will be going up at the end of the sale. So, if you were planning to pick it up, or were held back by the higher price, this will be a good time to buy. The new price should go live here – – in an hour or two. EDIT: the new price is live – $2.99

    3. The back-matter of all other titles is now geared towards selling the new book – with a sample in the back of everything. To get increased eyeballs on that sample (which I believe will sell the book) I’m making my two shorts free for a brief period – the old way: by dropping the price on Smashwords, waiting for it to be accepted into Premium, waiting for the new price to filter out to the partner sites, then getting people to report it to Amazon. This was a slooooooooooow process – especially over Christmas. For some reason, my new “price” took forever to get to B&N (which is usually quick). This process took about three weeks (and I think the key is to only get a few people to report the free price to Amazon rather than 50 people).

    The shorts went free at midnight PST and have been downloaded around 250 times since (with zero push from me), which is great. That bit looks like it is working at least. I’m trying to get them to go free in the UK too (but if you are in the UK, or elsewhere, you can pick up a free copy at Smashwords).

    If you want to pick up either short (or spread the word), they are here:

    *If You Go Into The Woods (creepy, weird, twilight zone-esque stories):

    *Transfection (old school science fiction short about genetic modification, if you like idea driven SF, you will dig this):

    Both stories are great, and you will read them in about 20 mins. Read them on your lunch break! Read them on the way home from work!

    Guaranteed satisfaction or your money back!

  10. Lovely job, Rachel. It worked for you and that is that. I rather side with David on this one, though, but only just.

    My own debut novel will be out in February so it’s decision time. I wonder how much is lost by using KDPS? Perhaps, we are mistaking the exclusivity of a new issue in the traditional world – where new novels are pulped within six months, after poor sales – with the NWO in e-publishing, where a novel is forever.

    If so, that might mean that the model you used is the right one for others to use, since time is not a factor.

    The most important point of your post is: write a good novel. Yours is just that.


  11. Thanks Patrice—and Dave! This transparency re: freebies, price variance and sales is very helpful.

    My novel (The Last Great Day) has been on Amazon KDP for a few months but sales only recently took off as soon as I got the first reviews. So far there are only 3 reviews—but they are all 5 stars and extremely positive. I am very thankful for that!

    I’m wondering if either of you noticed whether positive (or negative!) reviews impacted on your sales? Guess it might be a silly question but hey, in the great scheme of Amazon eThings I’m still an eBook novice.

    Ta again for such an informative post. 🙂

    1. HI B.G. – Unquestionably the number of stars seems to make a difference. That is a shorthand way for readers, who are scrolling down the list of books in bestselling, or in a particular genre, to separate the good from the bad (or that’s the theory). A reader is unlikely to click on the link to read the description of a book or even the reader reviews unless the “star” ranking is high and the book looks popular. So many books — it’s one of the quicker ways to sort them out.

  12. Patrice: I worked for the State Dept for 23 years as a Foreign Service officer. If you need some detailed insights for your work-in-progress, feel free to ask me — angkor456000 (at) yahoo (dot) com.

    1. Thanks for the offer, James! I worked in State’s Security Office in D.C. for a while during college, in the New York Field Office afterward, and briefly in Geneva for the Multi-Lateral Trade Negotiations Delegation. At that point I had a Top Secret security clearance… and worked with agents up close, which was part of the inspiration for RUNNING. I took the Foreign Service exam and did well, but then went on to law school. I’ll be in touch when I have questions!

  13. Okay David. This is the post that shoved me over the edge. I’m no longer grinding my teeth. We’ll see how it goes for The Book of Lost Souls and what that translates to for Don’t Fear the Reaper. I’m nervous, but we’ll just have to see what happens.

  14. A very informative blog Patrice. I’m not quite at your level yet! I don’t know if you are aware of how your pricing looks when you are outside the States. I’m in Thailand and listed my first non-fiction work My Thai Eye this month in the travel section at $2.99. But here it’s $4,99. Amazon say it’s because of costs and taxes – I’m still waiting for the math on that – but 66% seems a lot of costs & taxes that might dissuade foreign buyers. Were all your sales USA/Canada? I know this is nothing to do with the Select programme but it’s something to remember if you want sales outside KDP’s store countries. Smashwords on the other hand list it at $2.99.
    Good look with Decoy.

      1. Thanks David. I read that blog a long time back and it had slipped my mind. I have asked for more clarification from Amazon, but expect to hear nothing. We’ll see.

  15. Hi all! Thanks for reading, and thanks, Dave, for letting me share. It’s been a wild ride!

    There are a couple of additional points I want to make. Someone mentioned that I hired someone to promote my book — but I didn’t. I simply think that’s one of the things I can do now that I have some profits to invest in my writing career. I did hire an excellent cover artist, who creates covers for the Big Six publishers, and I will use him again. I had a professional edit the book (though it had been through so many revisions it didn’t need much), and I have since nevertheless found a few tiny errors that I will correct in the next edition. My husband is an IT professional, so he helped with the formatting and uploading. We are still married, I am happy to say, despite the fireworks of the Independence Day weekend when we first attempted to format RUNNING. I paid him in kisses.

    Here are some of the things that I believe contributed to my success with using the KDP Select free days:
    1. Timing. Lots of folks must have decided to open their presents early, or were downloading books for Kindles they planned to give as gifts.
    2. RUNNING has a kick-*ss cover with bright colors that look both festive and patriotic, and which stand out particularly from the other covers in political fiction, that are mostly dark and foreboding. My competition on that list is primarily two traditional authors with names that sound made-up (but apparently aren’t!) — Brad Thor and Vince Flynn. Obviously, I’m a female author. Well, it’s obvious to me, but in France the name Patrice is usually a man’s name.
    3. Having a woman on the cover makes it clear that this book has a woman as a main character. Women buy 80% of traditional books, though I don’t know what the percentage is for ebooks. To the extent that a potential buyer enlarges the thumbnail version of the cover, she/he will see red shoes, black fishnet stockings, a woman walking on clouds… to me that suggests Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, a little bit of Sarah Palin, and dreams coming true. I can’t say whether it would suggest that to men!
    4. I got a fabulous “5-1/2 Starts out of 5, Top Pick” review from Underground Book Reviews, and I put it right at the beginning of my description, so it is the first thing anyone sees when they click on the book.
    5. The first chapter hooks the reader right in, if he/she downloads the sample. There is a huge triumph for the main character, who has just been chosen as the Democratic candidate for U.S. president. There is a mysterious and beautiful young woman from Brazil. And there is an important staff member who is surprised by a suavely coiffed thug in the backseat of his Porsche holding a gun.
    6. The sentences are clean, the verbs are active (unlike those in this sentence!) and it reads like a “real” book from one of those big publishers.

    I am more and more convinced that a higher price works not only to make the author more money, but to legitimize the value of the ebook. Why advertise that your ebook is one of those “home-made” books that some perceive as part of a “tsunami of crap”? Value your writing and it will look valuable to buyers. Why do people go to Starbucks for coffee? They think it’s worth more than what they can brew at home.

    I spoke to someone today who is new to ebooks, and thought that $15 was a great deal for a good book… and certainly anything under $10 was an unbelievable bargain. RUNNING is 95,000 words, and I’d put it up against any traditional book out there.

    Okay, I’m off now to continue writing DECOY, about a Secretary of State who is snatched when doing shuttle diplomacy in one of those countries that has been split into factions by a crazy dictator. In order to hide the fact that she’s being held by nefarious forces, another woman who looks like her is shipped in to play the part… I’m shooting for action, politics, romance, suspense, some comedy, a little death, and just enough sex. Wish me luck!

  16. Enjoying these posts, and (as always) David’s objective weighing of the options.

    After holding out for several weeks, I gave Select a shot. My first trial was with a non-fiction book (not written by me, but I’m managing it) that was ranked in the 100,000s. After entering it Select and giving it away for a day, it has been ranked 9,000 or higher for 3 weeks. Sales went from 1 per day to 20 a day. (Select has not been as big a help for my novel, “The Dirty Parts of the Bible,” which was already selling well, but I have no regrets yet.)

    I think the Lending Library helps increase visibility, provided you can get in the 150 or so. And it’s only 75,000 books to compete with versus 750,000. Of course, I realize that by recommending Select to others I’m increasing the competition 🙂

    David, I wish you would give “Valparaiso” a trial in Select just for the experiment (once you initially sign up, you actually have 5 days to cancel before it locks in for 3 months). But I understand you might not be able to because of serializing it on Wattpad. If you could– sign up… give it away free a day… see what happens… then cancel if results aren’t great.

    1. Sam – I believe that once you use a free day, you waive the waiver – i.e. you can’t cancel. You can opt out, but you are still bound by the terms (exclusivity for 90 days etc.).

      Rather than putting “Valparaiso” in, I might write something new (I have something in mind). However, if sales on Valparaiso remain at this level in a few weeks time, I would go back to the drawing board. But I think they won’t – I have a few different promo tricks lined up over the next three weeks. Now, if THAT doesn’t increase sales, anything is possible, up to, and including, running off to Mexico to become a simple fisherman.

  17. I’ve been knocking around the Indie world for a couple years now, uploading my stories, modest sales, enjoying participating in the digital revolution. Earlier this year I published the “book of my heart,” a non-fiction titled “Ever-Flowing Streams of Healing Energy” that is a complete genre buster. Memoir/Christian/New Age/Alternative Medicine. I couldn’t get a foothold in marketing it. The KDP Select program gave it a chance to find an audience. It went free for three days Jan 7,8,9 and moved about 2,400 copies. I’m getting personal emails. It’s bouncing around the New Age bestseller lists. Without the KDP select program it would probably have a sales ranking of about 400,000. The program isn’t for every book, but it does give obscure books an opportunity to create some word-of-mouth…or sink back into oblivion. Readers will be the judges. I’m grateful “Ever-Flowing Streams” is at least getting the chance to reach the people who might benefit from the information in the book.

  18. Congratulations to Patrice. Nice going.

    David, I’m sure you’ve got it lined up, but could we please have a guest post from somebody for whom KDP Select hasn’t meant mega sales/downloads/borrows and dollar signs. Is everyone, truly, a winner ?
    Does genre matter? What about children’s writers, non- fiction writer’s and so on?

    Sorry – had an attack of questionitis there.

    Thanks again to Patrice and to you for an excellent, must read blog.

    1. I think we can safely assume the following:

      1. Most people haven’t seen anything like this level of success from KDP Select – there are 70k titles in there, and only a limited amount of spots at the top of the paid listings.

      2. Genre always matters. There are simply more readers of things like thrillers AND those guys switched to digital first.

      3. Non-fiction and children’s readers (or purchasers in the case of the later) have been slower to go digital for all sorts of reasons. As such, I think it would be much harder to gain the same kind of exposure from KDP Select.

      I could have a post from someone who didn’t do so well from KDP Select, but I’m not sure how interesting that would be to read. What might be better is one from someone who hasn’t enrolled, who went all out on the other channels, and is seeing great results. I might have someone in mind for that one.

  19. I had a similar experience with my three political thrillers. Two occupied the #1 spots on both the paid and free Political Fiction lists; the third reached #2 on Pol. Fiction. All three also were high on other genre lists. All three reached into the 200’s-300’s range on the paid All Books list. My previous big surge in sales on the two books I had out last spring coincided with media exposure on me on NBC’s Today Show, Washington Post, CSM and other media.
    I haven’t experimented with prices as much as Patrice has — I raised prices by a buck ($4.99, $4.99, $3.99) just before the Dec. freebie promotion ended (I had over 12,000 free downloads).
    January, however, has been the pits — low sales daily. So, I’m contemplating when to go free again. The money from all this is great, but it messes with your mind. I fully echo Patrice’s points on the need for good writing, good cover, etc.

    1. Go to your KDP Bookshelf. Select the checkbox next to your ebook and click Actions – Manage promotions. Click New and add your promotion.

    1. Yes it is good to see the higher prices. Logic suggests if the Big 6 can sell eBooks for $16, indies should be able to sell theirs for $8. As much as we love JK (Konrath not Rowling) his should not be seen as the only template for success. My book is for sale at $8 ( not plugging it here) and if ut only sells a handful of copies, so be it. Thanks for the post Patrive and David.

  20. Great post!

    My numbers are very similar to yours. My book, Devil’s Lair, was free for two days, 12/21 and 12/22. I gave away over 9.800 free downloads, then for the rest of the month sold 746 copies @ $7.99, with 769 borrows, for a total earnings of about $5300.


  21. I plan on trying it out with one of my releases coming Fall of 2012. Since we offer print books we figured we could offer KDP for the first few months just after the release of the print book. Then offer it open to all ebook platforms 2 months after print release. We’ll see how that goes.

  22. I’m slow on the uptake. Can someone tell me how to track KDPSelect numbers? ALICE DAVENPORT was my bestseller in the bookshops when it was published in 1998. I put ‘her’ into the free library in mid December but have no idea of the download figures.

    1. There are two places in KDP: There is a new “Units Borrowed” column in the Month-to-Date Unit Sales report and you’ll also see the numbers including the royalties in the KDP Transaction Report for December (Transaction Type = KOLL).

      1. THank you for explaining it. My free book has made no impression at all. Not a single borrowing. I wonder if KDPSelect will start a fund for ‘least borrowed’ to encourage us?

  23. Well, I must say that Patrice’s experience with Kindle Select and the free promotion by far outshines my own. As far as boosting sales, so far I remain unimpressed.

  24. I’m sort of weary of the exclusivity as well, but arguments like Patrice’s make it very hard to not go with it. Great write-up and another much-needed motivational success story!

  25. I’ve just had a similar run with my book: similar number of downloads, similar sales pattern in the paid store, similar ranks, similar drop off. Though it seems price may play a smaller part in the natural progression than I first thought :o). I plan to wait a bit to goose again with a free promo and would love to ask Patrice what rank she was at when she went free for the second time.

    1. Phoenix (great name, by the way! Is it a nom de plume?) – the records I have show that on 12/27/11 RUNNING was at #288 on the overall Paid list, #2 in Kindle Store political fiction, #3 in Books political fiction, and #50 in Books thrillers. I had been selling the book at $7.99 for a day (12/26/11, which may well turn out to be the day with the highest number of eBooks sold in the history of Amazon), then slashed it to $2.99 after I noted those rankings. I went back to $7.99 for 12/28, then made it free on 12/29. On 12/30, back to $7.99, and when I looked again — and there is a delay in the rankings, so this reflected, I would imagine, the day before — the book came back on the overall Paid chart at #1353, #7 in Kindle political fiction, #10 in Books political fiction. If I were a statistician I could have probably followed the trail more effectively and would be able to draw more conclusions… but that’s what I know.

  26. Very interesting to hear how this has panned out for Patrice. David, could you track down someone who has done only minimally so as to find out what they did, or didn’t do with a well written book? Just a thought.

    Patrice: hope January goes well for you, too.

    1. Hi Linda – I answered this in a little more detail further down in the comments, but, in short, I’m not sure how interesting that would be to read. I think we can safely assume that most authors are not experiencing this level of success with KDP Select.

  27. If her books are written with even half the energy and sparkling attitude she used to write this post, then I’m not at all surprised her book is finding an audience. Congrats, Patrice. Well done.

    I’m more on your side of the fence regarding exclusivity, David. However, but (insert weasel words of choice) I can certainly see that in some cases it’s proving to be a valid strategy. Thanks so much for blogging about all sides of this issue.

  28. I’ve always wondered, when people post “(at some point that day I got to #18 in the Top 100 Free list on Amazon)” — do you have a way of tracking this sort of thing automatically, or are you just sitting there and hitting refresh on your page every hour? I’ve seen various “track your sales” websites mentioned here and there but never tried one. 🙂

    1. I’m guessing that refresh button is getting worn out 🙂 The only other way you would know (that I’m aware of), is when you see a sudden deluge on your sales reports – only to realize they are free downloads when you look at your listing.

      I’ve no idea how NovelRank etc. handle books in the free charts as I haven’t gone free on Amazon yet – perhaps someone else can chime in.

      1. I’m betting NovelRank doesn’t take free books into account. As far as I know, NovelRank is polling Amazon’s official API for their data. Results for free books in the API do not return a sales rank.

        Amazon has some internal ranking for free books, obviously, but once your book goes free, the API no longer reports a rank. Believe me, I had a bugger of a time figuring THAT ONE out while writing Pauper’s. 0-]

      2. That’s weird that they make the book inactive. Well, not weird that it’s inactive since they can’t track the rank anymore, but it’s weird they don’t automatically turn it back on. I guess they’re trying to conserve bandwidth or usage with Amazon, but it seems like they could just turn the book back on when it goes paid again.

        Either way, they’re just like the rest of us. They have no way of tracking a free book’s ranking.

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