Monday 6 May 2013

A different kind of Kindle promotion: the well-timed price drop

It's no secret that I am not a great believer in the KDP Select programme. To the non-authors amongst my readership, I shall define the term: it is a tool historically used by indie authors to propel a book into fame and riches, or (more realistically) to give a boost to a flagging book. The idea is that, for a few days, a book is offered as a free download. Theoretically, the people who download your book for free will be converted into fans, and as a result they will write reviews and the book's position in the paid charts will be boosted.

The current state of the KDP promo

Two years ago, when there were fewer Kindle books and fewer indie authors, KDP Select was a brilliant way of gaining large numbers of fans. A year ago its effectiveness was beginning to wane, thanks to a glut of authors with the same great idea. In the present day all the evidence suggests that KDP promos no longer work anywhere near as well as they once did, because the market is saturated with free books. Readers download them by the score and don't value them as much as books they have paid for, so a lot of the time they never even get read. After the promo has ended, the boost in the paid chart is not as prominent as it used to be. In short, running a successful free promo is more difficult now than it used to be and requires a lot of planning and preparation beforehand.

I have occasionally put Crowley's Rival up on free promo (as it's enrolled in KDP Select) but have seen, at best, middling results, with a couple of hundred downloads each time and no evidence of either a boost in paid rank or extra reviews afterwards. As far as I can tell, the reviews I have received have all been from paying customers.

I have certainly not heard from a single reader who has come across the story when it's been free and been converted into a fan. For me that is evidence enough that free promos don't work (for me, anyway) and has strengthened my resolve not to enroll The Only Genuine Jones in the scheme--which, crucially, demands exclusivity of the ebook to Amazon.

An alternative: the price drop promotion

This weekend I ran a Bank Holiday Kindle sale. I reduced the price of The Only Genuine Jones to 79p, essentially the cheapest I can sell it for, and announced the promotion far and wide. It was picked up by a number of people on Twitter, shared back and forth dozens of times, and generated a fair bit of excitement.

I'm still counting the exact number of sales I've made, but I'm looking at 40+. This may not sound much compared to the hundreds people expect from a free promo, but these people are paying readers who have spent money on this purchase--not a lot of money, I'll admit, but enough for them to attach some value to the book. My theory is that they will be far more likely to actually read it!

In terms of royalties, I made 27p from each sale, which again is peanuts in the grand scheme of things (I usually make five times that amount from each book sale), but it's more than I would have made from a thousand free downloads.

Another benefit is the instant, stratospheric rise through the paid ranks, topping at around #2000 (a very healthy position to be in!) It also rose to #1 bestseller in the mountaineering chart, a coveted position it has occupied only twice before, beating Mark Horrell's wildly popular Chomolungma Diaries and even Andy Kirkpatrick's new book.

The outcome

The result of this little experiment is entirely positive. I've sold several times as many copies as I usually would have sold over a long weekend, the book is still very well ranked in the paid charts (#4,340 as of writing this), and there's a good chance the promotion will result in new fans and reviews.

Is a 'price drop promotion' as effective as a free promotion? Possibly, possibly not. My gut feeling is that, as free promos continue to lose their edge over the coming months, an occasional and well-implemented price drop might be of greater benefit in future.

Authors, what do you think? Have you had more success with a price drop than with a free promo recently?

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