Latest free run for Yseult and some thoughts on KDP Select

My sales this month have been pretty pathetic, and that after awesome months in August, September and October. Partly it might be due to the fact that I was gone for over two weeks, plus frazzled before and jetlagged after. My online presence diminished to near-invisibility, and I can’t help but think that played a role in my diminishing sales.

Another thing that’s hurting me (and others) is that free runs are becoming increasingly ineffective for boosting sales. There have been a number of discussion threads about this on the Kindle Boards, but what it comes down to is that with the glut of free ebooks from all the authors in KDP Select, readers aren’t grabbing everything that looks remotely interesting anymore. Add to that a change in algorithms on the part of Amazon, in which books given away free count a lot less towards popularity and bestseller status than they had previously.

Fewer books given away + unfavorable algorithms = limited sales after free run

Take my most recent freebie, for example, my fantasy collection Dragon Time. Short story collections are notoriously hard to sell, but when it was free in February for two days, I gave away over 3,000 books. In the weeks following, I then sold over 100 copies. The last free run it had in October, I only managed to give away about 350 copies. Since then, it’s sold one copy and been borrowed once. With results like that, KDP Select is useless as a marketing tool. As a result, I have decided (once again) to slowly start pulling my books from KDP Select and try getting them up in other stores. The last time I did that, with Yseult in May, it was a disaster. Smashwords took forever to publish it, and when it did, it wasn’t approved for extended distribution. After six weeks and seven whole sales, I took it back down again and returned to KDP Select.

The plan this time is to go directly to B&N and Kobo, the stores that account for most sales outside of Amazon. Those stores also allow the author to upload epub files, which I can generate with Scrivener, rather than the elaborately formatted doc files Smashwords requires.

That said, I’m having a surprisingly good free run with Yseult this time. As I write this, it is at #106 in the free Kindle store, and doing very well in it’s categories:

#1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Arthurian
#2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#5 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy

And that all without getting picked up by the “biggies” Ereader News Today and Pixel of Ink. But I’ve been featured on a lot of smaller blogs, one of which, XTME, has led me to mark my best showing on Amazon.de to date.

#22 on Amazon.de

I also want to thank all these other wonderful folks for helping me get the word about about Yseult. Perhaps some of it will help sales pick up in the last part of the month:

Kindle Books and Tips
The KindleBoards Blog
Free Ebooks Daily
Kindle Buffet
eReaderiQ
FreebooksHub.com
Daily Free Ebooks
e-Literati (another German site)

The need to do a bit of promotion has sidetracked my Nanowrimo project a bit, my Pendragon prequel. Ygerna is presently at 12,092 words. I know that for a “novel in a month” that’s a pretty poor showing, but I’m not too worried about it. It’s coming along well, and I’m having fun with it — that’s the main thing.

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About Ruth Nestvold

Ruth Nestvold's short fiction has appeared in numerous markets, including Asimov's, F&SF, Baen's Universe, Strange Horizons, Scifiction, and Gardner Dozois's Year's Best Science Fiction. Her fiction has been nominated for the Nebula, Tiptree, and Sturgeon Awards. In 2007, the Italian translation of her novella "Looking Through Lace" won the "Premio Italia" award for best international work. Her novel Flamme und Harfe appeared in translation with the German imprint of Random House, Penhaligon, in 2009 and has since been translated into Dutch and Italian. She maintains a web site at www.ruthnestvold.com.
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10 Responses to Latest free run for Yseult and some thoughts on KDP Select

  1. Living vicariously through your self-publishing adventures in preparation to do it myself is both terrifying and exhilarating. I do admire your courage.

  2. So I have all of my stories on SW and they are “premium” status, is that the same thing as extended distribution? I got a notice from SW that they are hiring extra people to get all the books published on there in time for xmas distribution if you wanted to try again.

    • Yes, premium status is what I meant, but I decided to refer to it as extended distribution, because I doubt if anyone who isn’t already on Smashwords would know what premium means. :) That’s good news about them wanting to speed up the process! And I will be giving them another try here soon.

  3. RDoug says:

    I tried the giveaway thing twice with The Globe, the second time hitting a slew of Top 10 lists for most of the 78 hours it went free. Sales following that were pathetic. As such, I will not be repeating that experiment with any future product, and The Globe is no longer enrolled in KDP Select.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that KDP Select is great of selling Kindles, lousy for authors, and ultimately floods the book market with too many freebies, thus directly and adversely impacting the paid market.

    • When I first published in January, a free run was brilliant for getting attention for my books, and sales afterwards had me rubbing my hands in glee. Now, I don’t see much use for it anymore.

  4. Shah Wharton says:

    This is interesting about KDP Select. I’m publishing my first book December (please Lord) and dread the whole ‘should I shouldn’t I’ thing with it – I’m thinking why should I bother after reading this. I think in it’s beginnings, it was a profitable idea, but now, like many Amazon initiatives, it’s failing to be profitable for the author enough to keep doing.

    Best of luck, Ruth. X

    • KDP Select might still be a good idea for first novels, or maybe even to give novels some attention and a little boost when they’re first published, but it’s not going to be anywhere near as helpful as it was when it first started, unfortunately.

  5. It’s funny how I only used to hear the word “algorithms” from my nerdy math and science friends, but now I hear it all the time from writers! There was even an article in a recent RWA monthly about Amazon’s KDP Select algorithms.

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