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KDP Select: Is it worth it? (6 Takeaways From My Experience)

As if it wasn’t difficult enough for us to keep up with our social media accounts, emails and writing — the authors’ life also calls for us to stay on top of ever-changing technology.

photo by appsmanillaWe were just getting the hang of Smashwords when Amazon rolled out their new pride and joy (and their charming mea culpa for withholding a huge chunk of author’s eBook profits for so long), Kindle Direct Publishing.

KDP and its more devout sibling, KDP Select, offer a bevy of new options and promises for the modern day author — higher royalties, exclusive promotional opportunities and access to the Kindle Lending Library, among them.

But these bonuses come with one pretty heavy stipulation. Authors participating in the KDP Select program cannot sell their eBooks through any other website (Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, etc.) during their 90 day sign-up with Amazon.

So the question becomes: Is it worth it?

I decided to take the plunge and submit my debut novel to KDP Select during the holiday season.

After removing my title from Smashwords (and waiting a full month for B&N and Apple to catch up and remove it from their catalogs — make a note if you plan to do the same, it takes a while) I upgraded my book from Amazon’s regular KDP program to the shiny, new KDP Select.

Aside from the 70% royalties (which are contingent upon the length and price of your book) the biggest benefit of KDP Select is the option to offer promotional days (5 per 90 day period).

Promotional days allow authors to give their book away for free on Amazon, which not only puts the book into a different promotional list on Amazon itself, but gives you a chance to promote the book on a plethora of available websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts that all exist exclusively to alert readers of free Kindle books.

So I dove in, November 9th – 11th, with my first promotional KDP Select experience.

I learned a lot in a short time, and thought it would be valuable to my Duolit author friends to know more of what the experience is about so you can decide for yourselves if it’s worth it.

6 Things I Learned from KDP Select Promotional Days.

1. Planning is EVERYTHING.

Full disclosure: I screwed up.

I did the one thing we tell you guys never to do — I jumped in headfirst, with no planning or prep-work for my promotion prior to the first of my three promotional days.

In my defense…nope, there’s not really a valid excuse here, I just let a killer combination of procrastination and laziness get to me.

I didn’t realize I was in trouble until I started going through a lot of the available websites for free and paid promotions of Kindle books. Most of them required a minimum of 48 hours’ notice to add your book to their promotional lists/blogs for a specific date.


If I’d planned ahead, I could have gotten my book onto a lot more websites during the start of my promotion, plus I could have built up the free days as more of an event for my fans.

I should have had events on Facebook and GoodReads and built anticipation the week before. I should have given my mailing list a heads up and shared the details on Twitter as well.

The only thing that saved me from suffering complete embarassment was having my promotion for three days instead of one or two. If it had been any shorter, I would have had no time at all to get the word out.

So lesson learned: Plan ahead!

2. Choose your days wisely.

photo by mufan96

I picked the weekend of November 9th – 11th for two reasons:

  • My book is Christmas-themed so it’s a good time of year to get people in the holiday spirit.
  • My birthday is 11/11 and I wanted to center my marketing campaign around the idea of giving presents rather than receiving them for my special day.

These were not flawed ideas in and of themselves, but when I actually did *research* about using KDP (afterwards, of course) nearly everything I read advised against using your promotional days on the weekend (especially Saturday) because people are typically away from their computers and spending time with their families on the weekend.

Valid point.

Worse yet, I chose a *holiday* weekend in the U.S. when a lot of folks take short vacations or just generally veg out watching football and relaxing.

So for future reference, weekdays are generally better and if you can have at least two days back-to-back you’ll have more time to build momentum for your promotion.

3. Push for more reviews before your promotion.

I discovered that a lot of the popular free eBook promotions blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter(ers?) require a certain number of reviews for your book to be included in their promotions.

If I’d known that beforehand, I would have done a push with my mailing list to try and beef up my Amazon reviews before the promotion days (which I really should have done anyway, but you know how that goes).

4. Add action steps to your eBook.

This is the one thing I actually DID do right for my promotion (Yay!). 

Before your promotional days, make sure your eBook file is updated to include a page asking readers to leave a review for you on Amazon (you can include a link as well).

You should also have a page in your eBook with a link to your website and advertising any other books you have as well.

This is especially critical for your KDP promotion days. One of the biggest complaints I’ve heard from people who’ve used KDP Select is that the high numbers of downloads on promotion days don’t often lead to long-term growth.

While you can’t expect every person who downloads a free copy to become a fan or leave a review, if you can get even a third to make the effort, you’ll come out way of the game. So use opportunity you have to encourage readers to take action after they read the book.

5. Be prepared to spend a lot of time on social media.

The best, most effective way to get the word out during your free promotion days is to advertise via social media.

photo by robstephaustraliaYou have to toe a very dangerous line here by not spamming your friends (especially on Twitter) while still making sure your free book is shared with as many people as possible.

Try to notify all the free eBook promoters at once with your mentions on Twitter so you can get that big blast out of the way. From there, plan to tweet a link or announcement every couple of hours.

Don’t use the same tweet every time — mix it up offering different quotes, loglines and other reasons why people would love to read your book for free. Also be sure to hashtag like a Boss on Twitter.

On Facebook, share a link on your fan page first, and then you can also promote your link on several other Facebook pages (just make sure they allow that kind of self-promotion, some don’t and they get very ornery about that, which is fair).

Scheduling these posts can put you at a disadvantage because services like HootSuite sometimes don’t get shared as much through Facebook’s algorithm and on Twitter you’ll probably find (as I did) that you get a lot of interactions from others that you should really respond to right away.

So be prepared to really spend your promotion days glued to your computer or smartphone milking your social media accounts.

6. Manage your expectations.

I came away from my KDP experience feeling really good.

In three days, my book was downloaded almost 400 times. My Facebook and Twitter following grew by several likes/followers, I got five new sign-ups for my newsletter and I reached as high as #991 on Kindle’s overall list of free eBooks (not bad given my lack of planning).

Whatever your opinion of KDP Select might be, there is absolutely NO other medium that would allow you to get your book into the hands of almost 400 people in three days without costing you one red cent.

Is it a great tool for making money? In the short term, no of course not. You’re giving your book away for free and other than maybe a few peripheral sales right after your promotion ends, you’re probably not going to make any dough.

But in terms of fan building, I think KDP Select delivers in spades.

Even with my egregious lack of planning, I felt like I took a giant step forward with my promotions, so I can’t imagine how someone who actually planned and executed their free days like a major events could benefit from KDP Select.

And it’s especially fantastic for us indies, because it’s so cost effective as well.

What lessons did you learn from your KDP Promo Day experience?

If you’ve participated in KDP Select, do you have any additional takeaways for other authors from your experience? Do you think it’s worthwhile?

For the folks who haven’t worked with KDP Select yet, if you have more questions, let us know in the comments and we’ll get you some answers!

  • So, if you’re a debut author, in your opinion, this is a good program? And the biggest downside is that your book will only be sold on Amazon Kindle for three months? But after three months, you can launch it everywhere else?
    This has given me lots to think about. Thanks.

    • Hey Heather — Yes, I definitely think new authors can gain a lot from KDP Select. And after your 90 days is up, you can use a site like Smashwords to get onto Barnes & Noble, Apple, etc.

      One other thing to note though — the Kindle store goes beyond just Kindle devices. You can download a free Kindle App for your PC, iPhone, iPad or Droid device. So other than the Nook, most tablets and other mobile devices can still access and download books through Kindle, so it’s not as limiting as it might seem, you know?

  • Sandra

    I also did this in Nov. to celebrate the 1 year anniversary of my book’s release. In 3 days it was downloaded 2,300 times, and since the promo, it has sold more copies than in the previous 4 months combined. The only other way I was selling the book was as a PDF, so it wasn’t much of a sacrifice for me. I love the tips you give here and will be sure to do even more before the next time I offer it for free.

    • Wow Sandra, that’s awesome! It sounds like it was a huge success for you, hopefully with these tips the sky will be the limit for your next free promo.

  • Thanks for the comprehensive report. I’m considering doing KDP in the coming year and you have given me a great heads up.

    • No problem, Janice! Definitely check out Ryan’s site too (www.ryancaseybooks.com), he has some great advice for getting the most out of KDP as well.

    • Thanks, Shannon. And best of luck, Janice!

  • B

    Shannon, you mention the “available websites for free and paid promotions of Kindle books.” Would you please supply us with your list and save us from re-inventing the wheel?
    Thanks so much.

    • I can help you with that :)

      Pixel of Ink


      Digital Book Today

      The Kindle Book Review


      HOWEVER If you sign up to Author Marketing Club (for free) they provide a full list on their site, as well as links to each of the contact forms. Well worth checking out!


    • Thanks Ryan! I totally used your list and recommendations, they were great sites, especially the Author Marketing Club. :-)

    • B

      Thanks very much, Ryan!

  • Ryan you have some excellent advice for KDP Select users, thank you so much for sharing that with our readers! You’re absolutely right that the post-promo follow-up is the most important part. I think that’s the part of KDP Select that authors are going to have to figure out by trial and error — the best way to keep the momentum going after the promo days. Doing some paid ads immediately after would definitely help keep things moving along. Good notes on short stories, too, good to know those don’t benefit as much from KDP Select.

  • B

    Ryan, thanks for this post as well. Extremely informative.


  • Linda K

    Thanks for the excellent post! I’ve been debating this question lately and I finally came to the conclusion that as a debut novelist, the best choice would be to go with KDP Select. Distributing to other channels is something to consider for the future. In the meantime, focusing on KDP Select will be enough of a challenge for a newbie.

    • That’s a great conclusion Linda. It’s sort of like training wheels or bowling with bumpers in the gutters. There’s a little less margin for error and you can’t go wrong just getting yourself out there.

  • Bette A. Stevens

    This is great! Thanks, thanks and ever thanks, as The Bard would say. I’ve just submitted by first KDP book and it should be online in four weeks (complicated formatting): AMAZING MATILDA, my children’s picture book. I’m so glad you’re here to keep a newbie like me up on things… Bette A. Stevens

    • Glad to help Bette! Good luck with everything and let us know how it goes!

  • Bookmarked. I like the tip about avoiding using your days on weekends.

    Quick question: Is it possible in the KDP Select program to only use three days and retain benefits? Three is a nice number, and a decreased amount of days might create a sort of pressure to get buyers to grab the book before a price tag gets slapped on.

    If not, is it possible to spread out the days, possibly putting two of them closer to the end of the ninety-day exclusivity period?

    • Yes! You can divide your 5 days up any way you like. I’m doing 3 and 2, but you could do 2, 2 and 1. I think 3 days is ideal — it gives you a decent amount of time to build momentum but like you said, it adds more urgency than you would have if you were giving readers all 5 days at once.

  • Catherine DeVrye

    Thanks for that as about to dip my dinosaur toes in digital publishing waters today with KDP select with Fifty Shades of Great Customer Service….and email does out to my clients at 1PM Austraila time…

    • Good luck Catherine! I hope it all goes well (and I *love* your title!). Glad we could help you with some timely pointers. :-)

  • Ryan, I’m so glad you made the comment about short stories
    not doing well with KDP Select promotions. At present, I have only published
    short stories and have not really seen the kinds of numbers others talk about.
    Granted, it could be the work but I am now more inclined to believe that it may
    be the format.

    • Steven,
      No problem whatsoever, happy to help!
      Short stories are generally a harder sell than novels. I published mine with the aim of catching a few readers in the build up to my novel length works, and they have served that purpose. However I’m uncertain how often I’ll publish short stories from now on. I’ll have to assess how they perform elsewhere. I kind of feel like I could be putting all my effort into my longer works and doing better with those.
      That said, I’m happy with my short stories and I feel short fiction is perfect to digest on the Kindle and other eFormats.
      Best of luck,

  • Very helpful post! I plan on independently publishing for the first time on KDP Select this weekend. It’s a small collection of short short stories called IF IT DOESN’T GO AWAY, COME BACK and it will be interesting to see how it goes and I think a good way to learn the ropes…

    • Good luck Neva! Sometimes just jumping in and testing things out is the best way to learn. :-) Keep detailed notes on the experience so you can review after it’s over (those couple of days will pass in a crazy blur) and see where you can improve for next time. Let us know how it goes!

    • Will do! Thanks, Shannon!

    • Update: Three free promo days last week on Amazon equaled 608 downloads for me. Not. Too. Shabby! Now I just need some reviews!

  • Lauren Michelle

    Great post, Shannon. I just have to mention, I’ve tried KDP Select,

    I had a similar result – a spike in reviews + twitter followers. However, I
    must mention… If you use the smashwords platform to promote free ebooks, you are
    able to give away free books for an extended period of time, and the promo will
    not be exclusive to Amazon Kindle (the more platforms + distributors the better). If you give your book away free on smashwords, it will be free on Kindle. I realize that this skews categorization + Kindle sales, but if you’re able to extend the promotion + do the amount of marketing required, there will likely be more benefits as you will be able to
    offer sales + books to multiple distributors…

    I’d love to hear more thoughts on this!

  • Kelly Ilebode

    Loved this post and you are spot on! My first book was published Aug 31 and I decided to try KDP Select – For those of us non-marketing people I believe it is key to set aside the “free” fear. As you stated you are slowly building your fan base. I did panic when my two days of “free” garnered over 4000+ downloads (romance genre) and my ignorance caused me to become depressed thinking there was no one else left to buy it. I hit #4 on Kindle free downloads. Now I have regular sales, people are starting to go to my website and the “success” of my first novel is helping the second. For me, definitely worth it!! and it is only 90 days after all.

  • K8

    Love this post too. As I mentioned to you on twitter we’ll be talking about the pros and cons of KDP Select on Tuesday at Indiechat (9pm EST) I’m really looking forward to hearing about peoples experiences and tips!

  • Hello Ryan, great post! May I ask which facebook pages and websites you use and how many days ahead you notify them?

  • I think there is a benefit to being with Select but I also think that everyone should try it, at least on one book for the 90 day period. if after that, it’s not working and better distribution is more worth while then jump ship and upload to Nook and Kobo etc.

    I agree that planning it is everything, sometimes you can get lucky by not doing any promotion…but not often!


  • Hey Shannon,

    Thanks for the detailed post. Much like you I’ve tried KDP select a few times without any real planning, I managed 250 downloads on one promotion and sales boomed afterwards. On my next promo I’ll definitely be putting the word out and get in contact with a few free sites too. Thanks for the tips!

  • Jo Carroll

    Such a useful post – and confirms why I won’t be joining KDP Select – I can see that it’s wonderful go get all those people reading your work (or downloading it – we never know if it’s really read unless there’s a review) and it does wonders for your rankings etc. But all that work – when what I really want to be doing is reading, or writing another book. I know marketing is essential, and freely admit to being rubbish at it, so I know I’d go bonkers if I were to make the most of the KDP Select opportunity.

  • gracieintouch

    Thanks for your honesty, I’m currently on my second day, similar story as yours…jumped in head first and i have 420 downloads so far https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00F0FE14G?tag=, next time i will not choose the weekend.

  • M. Eigh

    I am doing a new experiment with pronounced social share buttons embedded in my free book download page, hoping that people will spread the word right there after they download their copies. I will report back after my two-day free giveaway. See it in action here(The free book itself is an Indie author’s tool, so most downloaders are Indie authors like us here:) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00FH02MXQ/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00FH02MXQ&linkCode=as2&tag=

  • JanetHudgins

    This is very helpful. I have the impression that most authors are writing fiction. What about non-fiction, a well researched history without the propaganda?

    • chad9903

      if you cannot earn $ , take it from those who can. Tyee cult manifesto.