Wednesday, February 1, 2012

To Select or To Not Select, That's the Question - Revisited...Again

BEWARE! LARGE AMOUNTS OF STATS AHEAD! Ok, so you might have perused my previous post on the subject of Amazon's new KDP Select program. Well, I folded and joined the club. Here's my experience...

I decided to use a single day to test the waters. You might remember that being part of Select gives you 5 every 90 days of exclusivity. My intention was to pad my readership with a freebie day prior to releasing the sequel. Then, once the sequel is ready, I would have free days with the first book 4 more times to help move the second book. After reviewing many results on one of my favorite online haunts (kindleboards.com), I was a little wary about going free for only one day. The results seemed to be a bit of a mixed bag. But, I figured, if things weren't going as planned, I could always jump in and add an extra day.

So, let's lay some pre-free groundwork. On the evening of January the 27th, my book was approaching a ranking of #300,000 in the Amazon store and had sold a whopping 5 copies for the entire month of January. What's worse is that those 5 copies were sold in the first week. Oh, and no Select members had borrowed my book. Yeah, not so hot.

The book went free at ~3 AM EST on the 28th.

I woke up late and checked my numbers:

10 AM EST
Amazon US
Best Sellers Rank: #1,861 Free in Kindle Store
#57 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
274 "sales"

Amazon UK
Best Sellers Rank: #351 Free in Kindle Store
#25 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers > Suspense
75 "sales"

Amazon DE (Germany)
Bestseller-Rang: #395 Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 - Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop)
Nr. 5 in Kindle-Shop > eBooks > Fremdsprachige eBooks > Englisch > Krimis & Thriller > Thriller > Spannung
14 "sales"

I was pretty geeked to see that some German customers had picked up the book. Though I've had a couple sales in the UK in the past, I'd never touched the German market. I was also kinda surprised to see that almost 300 people had picked up the book. Not that I was being a pessimist, but I had tried desperately to keep my expectations in check. There were stories about people giving away +10k in a day, that were only slightly tempered by the stories of folks who'd only managed to give away 500. I think that was the goal in my head. 500 additional readers is nothing to sneeze at. It was hard to not check throughout the day, but I won't bore you with too much minutiae (postscript edit: I lie...minutiae to follow). My numbers climbed steadily throughout the day at about 100 copies per hour. By 5 PM, this is what it looked like:

Amazon US
Best Sellers Rank: #298 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#18 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense
918 "sales"

Amazon UK
Bestsellers Rank: #182 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#13 in Kindle Store > Books > Fiction > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers > Suspense
188 "sales"

Amazon DE
Bestseller-Rang: #384 Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 - Kostenfrei in Kindle-Shop)
Nr. 3 in Kindle-Shop > eBooks > Fremdsprachige eBooks > Englisch > Krimis & Thriller > Thriller > Spannung
23 "sales"

Not too shabby. As you can tell, it doesn't take as much to climb the UK and DE ranks, as there aren't as many transactions happening in those stores. So, at this point, I was pretty darned happy. I'd given away almost one thousand copies of my book. I hadn't seen nothing...anything...erm...you know what I mean. Lightning struck. One of the more popular websites that lists free books sent out a Facebook post with my book as their "cover" image. They have over 170,000 followers on Facebook just waiting for freebies. I suddenly went from 100 copies an hour to ~26/minute.

  • 6:00     2498 copies
  • 7:00     3186
  • 8:00     3919
  • 9:00     4466
  • 11:30   5788
This was the last time point for which I recorded the ranking:
Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46 Free in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Free in Kindle Store)
#6 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

It might have gone higher, but I wasn't that desperate to stay up to record the data. Which is why, at this point, the data gets a bit fuzzy. According to Amazon, the final number for the 28th was 6681 freebies given away. However, the free promotion doesn't necessarily turn off at 12 AM on the dot. So, the numbers to start on Sunday are a bit fuzzy.

When I first woke up (time unknown), I picked up my phone and checked my ranking (not my sales). Just as I had expected; I had returned to my previous ranking before going free...plus some. Yep, I was at 340,000. YIKES! Quite a let down from the excitement of the day before. I rolled over and went back to bed. By the time I motivated myself to check my numbers, I was pleasantly surprised. The total number for the month of January at 9:30 AM on Sunday morning was 6733, which meant there were some phantom numbers in there that may or may not have been sales. At least a couple were paid sales because my ranking climbed to #40,000 overall in the hour or so since I'd checked. I'd also received my first returns! I assume that these were people who had clicked a link to my book, figured it to still be free and only found out afterward that it wasn't. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I then waited for the slow dropoff. The agonizing slide back to where my book "belonged"; wallowing in obscurity in the 100,000 to 200,000 ranking range. It was not to be. Sales came in steadily throughout the day on Sunday; 33 to be precise. It pushed me up to a rank of #2,948 Sunday night.

Ok, then perhaps Monday would prove to be the day of fade. No such "luck"; between Sunday night and Tuesday morning, I sold another 51 copies and got my first Select borrows! The most I had ever sold in one month was ~50. I'd now managed that in one day.

As I post this, early on Wednesday February 1st, a full 72+ hours after going free, I have sold 180+ copies and 15 Select members have borrowed the book (which I'll be compensated for). The book's current rank is:

Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #967 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
#82 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Genre Fiction > Mystery & Thrillers > Thrillers > Suspense

I'm there, hanging with the likes of Dean Koontz, Lee Child, and John Locke, even if only for a moment. If there was ever a time for the book to really take off, it's got the best chance it's ever had.

Obviously, in the short term, the results look good. I'm now eclipsing the number of books I sold all of last year (5-1/2 months on sale), in a matter of days. Did I give away a lot? Yep. But, I look at the freebies as going to people who never pay for books. If my gift to them helps me get the book into the hands of folks who are willing to pay the $3, I have no problem with that. And, if perhaps I can get a percentage of those 6700+ freebie folk to actually purchase (God forbid!) the sequel, well...I can dream, can't I?

I'm sure I'll revisit this topic. For someone who has seen just brief glimpses of sales success in the past, it's a potentially strange new world to venture into. I already consider it a large success. I've got pretty lofty goals to be able to call it an overwhelming success, but stranger things have happened. ;)