Tag Archives: free run

Starting out as an indie author: To KDP Select or to not KDP Select

Starting out as an indie author

Recently, a friend of mine expressed surprise that when you publish through Amazon (KDP or Kindle Direct Publishing), it is also possible to generate income when someone borrows your book. I’ve been aware of this for so long, it never even occurred to me to point it out in this series. The possibility of making money from borrows is just one of the ways Amazon tries to entice authors to make a book exclusive with their platform.

And since they introduced Kindle Unlimited, borrows have gone way up. Maybe too much for comfort, but it’s just something we authors have to take into consideration when deciding where and how to sell (or loan) our books.

Why there is money in borrows

The thing about the borrows is, if you commit a book to KDP Select, they have to give you something more for that than promotional opportunities, since you are theoretically giving up potential income through other sales channels. So every month they announce a big pot of money, which at the end of the month gets divvied up among all the borrows. In December 2014, for example, I was paid $1.43 for every borrow I had. And it ended up being a significant percentage of my income for that month, since I had over 50% more borrows than sales. And while the income per borrow might be less than it would be for a sale at $2.99, it is significantly more than for a book selling below that.

Naturally, it makes no sense to go for the borrows when you are selling books priced at 4.99 hand over fist. A borrow would make you less than half what a sale would at that price. Or if you are selling like gangbusters on Barnes & Noble or Kobo, going exclusive with Amazon makes little sense either. But for someone like me, still struggling to get this indie career thing seriously profitable, a borrow (which the customer doesn’t have to pay for after all) might be the reason a reader takes a chance on a writer (me) she doesn’t know yet.

If you do sign up for KDP Select for a book you publish, it is only for a period of 3 months. You are not signing away your rights to Amazon in perpetuity. Personally, I consider it a very good way to go for a new book, in order to get some eyeballs on it. Because not only might you be able to generate income from borrows, you also have a couple of additional promo opportunities at your fingertips.

Promotional opportunities: Free runs and Countdown Deals

If you’ve enrolled your book in KDP Select, you have two options for promoting your book per enrollment period: Kindle Countdown Deals or Free Book Promotions. You may only choose one promotion per book per 3 months, but you can use them in many different ways.

Free Book Promotions:

Any book enrolled in KDP Select can be offered free for up to five days, consecutive or non-consecutive, during each 90-day enrollment period. That means you can choose one day at a time, or offer your book free for multiple days in a row. You can also stop a free promotion in progress, but it may take several hours for your book to go off free.

So why would anyone want to give their books away for free? We want to make money on this business, right?

As I’ve mentioned before in this series, one of the biggest challenges facing a new indie author is visibility. Done right, a free promotion can help create visibility for a book. But the free run itself needs to be promoted or it will have little effect. I maintain a regularly updated list of places where a free run can be announced here.

Countdown Deals:

In 2013, Amazon introduced “Countdown Deals” to make Select more attractive to writers again. This is how it works:

– Your book can be discounted for up to seven days. The duration of the sale is visible on the book’s page on Amazon, as well as the regular price, so that readers can see that they really are getting a “deal.”

– Your royalty rate remains the same even while the book is on sale. So instead of getting only 35% on a book marked down to 99c, you get 70%. The income is still naturally quite a bit less, but if it results in increased exposure, it might well be worth it.

Amazon has set up a dedicated “Kindle Countdown Deals” page at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals – but of course there is no guarantee your Countdown Deal will get listed.

In my experience, while you still make money when doing a Countdown Deal, the promotion doesn’t generate as much interest as a free run, and once your promotion is over, the effect vanishes again pretty quickly. I’ve talked more about some of my results here. Of course, if you shell out the big bucks for a Bookbub ad during your sale, your results could be very different. OTOH, given the high cost of a Bookbub ad, it might be more likely to be worth it if your book *isn’t* in Select and is available through multiple channels.


This may sound like I’m a huge proponent of KDP Select. That is not the case. At the moment, 9 of my 22 ebooks are enrolled in the program, mostly short story collections that don’t sell all that well anyway, but that I can use to promote my novellas and novels. The thing is, I take a very pragmatic approach to where and how I sell my books. When sales on B&N, Kobo and other channels dwindle to nothing, then I’m quite willing to pull them there and put them back into KDP Select for a while to see if I can get more traction that way.

But I do think that going exclusive with Amazon can be a very effective tool for a new ebook without reviews that readers might be skeptical of taking a chance on. Free runs can generate reviews as well as visibility. And reviews are not only necessary for readers to have something besides “look inside the book” to decide if they want to spend MONEY on your brilliant work of staggering genius, they are also necessary for promoting your book on other sites. In addition, for readers enrolled in Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, the possibility of being able to borrow your book for free rather than plopping down 99c for it just might make a couple more readers take a chance on it. Might sound harsh, but it’s true — even 99c is too high a price to pay for some readers if they don’t already know the author. Which is why a 90 day enrollment in KDP Select is worth at least considering if you are just starting out as an indie author.

Promoting Ebooks with a Free Run through KDP Select

Note, Nov. 2014: Now that I have returned to using free as a strategy for promoting my books, I am updating the list here again. If you notice any links that don’t work or have any suggestions for links to add, please let me know in the comments!

If you’re promoting a 99c sale rather than a free run, you can find my list of sites for that here.

During the month of February 2012, I did four free promotions with KDP Select, and I’ve started to get the hang of it. After the freebies, my ebooks have bounced into the top 100 Paid in their categories. As I write this, Yseult (which was free for 24 hours on Feb. 29) has the following rankings:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,468 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#48 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Fantasy > Historical
#59 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Historical

If you check the popularity ranking for Historical Fantasy in ebooks, it’s even #3. 🙂 (And Dragon Time is #8!)

I promised a bunch of people I would write a blog post about what I do leading up to and during a free promotion, so here goes.

There are several folks you might want to contact about your free promotion once you’ve scheduled it. These sites will announce your book either 1) if they think it’s worthy, or 2) if you’ve paid them enough. The sites that don’t charge for announcements usually don’t guarantee being listed. With the paid sites of course you do (but note that not all of them will promote everything).


Indie Book of the Day (No erotica.)

FreeBookSy (Free and paid.)

eBookLister (Note: If you’ve submitted a freebie for the same book before, you get an error message stating that your listing will be corrected.)

Book Angel – Book must be PG-13!

Ask David

Read Free.ly

The eReader Cafe (Free and paid. Book should have at least 3 reviews and a rating of 4 or higher.)

Choosy Bookworm (Free and paid. Book must be at least 70 pages long & have at least 8 reviews with a 4+ average.)

Free Books (Hands down the easiest place to submit the info for your free promo — only ASIN and dates!)

BookScream (While they’re in beta, all ads on BookScream are free.)

eBooks Habit (Free and paid; for a listing, books must have at least 3 reviews. No erotica.)

Reading Deals (Requires a minimum of 5 reviews & a 4.0 average rating. No graphic sexual content.)

SF Signal Free Fiction Tip Line (For science fiction and fantasy)

Frugal Freebies

Awesomegang (Free and paid.)


New Free Kindle Books


Armadillo EBooks

Bookpraiser (Free and paid. Requires you to like, tweet, subscribe, etc.) Note: The last time I tried to enter a book here, it kept insisting that my book description could be no longer than 500 characters, even though my text editor said it was under the limit. The count it finally accepted was less than 250 characters. Go figure …



(BTW, before booking any paid ads, you might want to check out my post about Alexa rankings for advertising sites.)

Bknights on Fiverr (As the location indicates, promotions here cost $5, plus 50c fee)

Ereader News Today (Prices starting at $30)

EBookDaily – Still in beta, and the price is donate whatever you think is appropriate.

Book Basset ($7.99 per day. Requires at least 10 reviews with a rating of 3.5 or higher.)

ManyBooks.net (Prices starting at $25. Requires at least 10 reviews and a rating of 4 or higher. Slots fill up early, so you should probably apply at least 2 weeks in advance, if not more.)

Ignite Your Book (99c for a listing on their page, and another $10 for the complete promo, including tweets and newsletter, which you need to order separately.)

Bookgorilla (Prices starting at $40.)

EBookStage (Must have at least 5 reviews and a rating of 4 or higher. Promotion packages starting at $12, but can be free with enough “promotion points.”)

Books Butterfly (A number of various pricing options depending on how many readers your ad will reach.)

Sweet Free Books ($5. At least 5 reviews and a 3.5 rating.)

Digital Book Today (Free and paid; books must be at least 100 pages long and have at least 18 reviews with a rating of 4 or higher. No erotica.)

BookRaid – Pricing per click, starting at 5c, with a minimum threshold of $2 — so at less than 40 clicks, the listing is free. Maximum charge $10. For fiction, the book must be at least 120 pages long. It cannot have been promoted in the last 8 weeks.

Good Kindles

Freebookshub.com ($8 donation for a listing)

Kindle Nation Daily (costs lots)

BookBub (Various pricing schemes according to genre and whether the book is free or not. VERY expensive, but most who have used it think it’s worth it.)

Robin Reads (Listings start at $40.)

One Hundred Free Books (Listings start at $75)


Booklover’s Heaven (Requires at least 10 reviews and a rating of 4 or higher.)

Kindle Spotlight Book Promo

Snickslist (Listings start at $1. Note: this can only be done while the book is free!)

xtme:englishbooks (A German site for English ebooks)

During your promo

There are also a number of things you can do during or shortly before your free days to help potential readers find your book:

1. Post it to Addicted to Ebooks (You need to register to be able to post here, and you have to post on a day your book is free.)

2. For erotica, announce it on The Naughty List

3. Announce your freebie on LibraryThing and Goodreads.

4. Blog it, natch.

5. Post about your free book on your other social networking sites (Linked In, Google+, etc.) I try to pace this, since I have the sites that allow it set to automatically post to Twitter.

6. Announce it on the Kindle Boards (Links To Free Books) while it’s free.

7. Post on Facebook pages on your free day(s):

Your Facebook Wall

Free Kindle Books
eReader1 US (Guidelines for posting are here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ereader1-us/book-promotions-including-self-promo-by-authors-and-publishers-and-their-friends/448662358501661)
Amazon Kindle
EBook Korner Kafe (You have to like and share a Focus Post in order to be able to post here.)
Indie Kindle (You have to be a member to post to their promotion page.)

8. Tweet (use hashtags #FreeKindleBook #freekindle #freebook #free #kindlepromo). Don’t forget to thank those who retweet!

9. Send a message to @kindlenews on twitter (over 20,000 followers). If you write in the genre of fantasy and science fiction, send a message to @kindlefantasies (600 followers). Here are few more potential accounts to notify, but be judicious. No one wants to be spamming twitterverse with ads for your book: @DigitalBkToday @Bookyrnextread @kindleebooks @Kindlestuff @KindleEbooksUK @KindleBookKing @KindleFreeBook @free_kindle @FreeReadFeed @4FreeKindleBook @FreeKindleStuff @KindleUpdates @Booksontheknob @Kindle_promo @IndAuthorSucess @CheapKindleDly @KindleDaily (Note: in order for them to retweet, many of these require that you follow them first.)

All the promotion is a lot of work, but it can pay off. Even for someone who is writing in the unsalable genre of Arthurian fiction. 🙂 BTW, I update this list fairly regularly, so if you have a suggestion for a site to add or remove, please let me know in the comments below!

Related posts:

E-book promotions: Countdown – meh. Permafree – yay! (kinda)

Amazon trying to re-Kindle interest in KDP Select: The new “Countdown Deals”

If you found this blog post helpful, perhaps you would be interested in the book, Starting Out as an Indie Author! You can learn more here.