One of the biggest questions a self-published author faces is whether or not to enroll their books in KDP Select. The commonly voiced downsides include the requirement to have the e-versions of enrolled books exclusively available on Amazon, and various disgruntlements over how Amazon handles (and sometimes changes the rules regarding) their Kindle Unlimited subscription feature.
Commonly voiced upsides include... well, I'll be honest. Most of what I see is people bitching about it.
But upsides there are, I tell you! And today I'd like to tell you about my favorite, the Kindle Countdown, and share a few lessons I've learned through the many, many Countdowns I've run over the years.
This blog post presupposes a few things from those who are most likely to benefit from it (for further clarity, please feel free to follow the links provided):
- You're self-published, or otherwise have the freedom to run such a promotion.
- You and your books suck significantly less than average.
- You've written the best books in your genre.
- You've strategically categorized your books.
- Your books are enrolled in KDP Select.
Before we get started, let me explain what the Countdown is. When you enroll your book in Amazon's KDP Select program, you're agreeing to sell that book exclusively through Amazon for a period of 90 days. During that time, you have two promotional options. You can give your book away for free for up to five days, or you can run a Countdown.
During the Countdown, your book is discounted down to a price of your choosing ending with ".99", and is featured on Amazon's Kindle Countdown website, a place where bargain-hunting readers may be willing to take a chance on a book by an author they've never heard of.
There's also a little ticking clock next to your book's price on its Amazon page to instill a sense of urgency.
Here are some tips, based on my personal experience and observations, on how to get the most out of it:
1. Fire all of your guns at once.
A KDP Select cycle lasts 90 days. A Kindle Countdown lasts up to 7 days. Do a bit of math, and it may occur to you that, if you have at least 13 books out, you could run consecutive Countdowns, one at a time, in perpetuity.
That's an idea I toyed with, but ultimately rejected. Here's why:
- I'd rather make a big noise once every three months than constant static.
- More books in your genre's Countdown list means a higher potential for readers to notice your name.
- If you're selling enough books of the same genre at the same time, it might be enough to get you featured on one of Amazon's Top 100 (genre) Author lists, which is another avenue through which you may be discovered.
2. Make sure your cycles are aligned.
Amazon sets restrictions on when you can run your Countdowns. Here they are straight from the source:
• Your book has been enrolled in KDP Select for at least 30 days
• The digital list price for your book cannot change for 30 days before or 14 days after your Kindle Countdown Deal runs
• The minimum discount for your book is $1.00 USD on Amazon.com (£1.00 on Amazon.co.uk)
• The maximum duration of a Kindle Countdown Deal is 7 days, and the minimum duration is 1 hour
• The duration you choose will run as a single promotion and cannot be split up into multiple durations
• The maximum number of price increments is 5
• The latest end time for your Kindle Countdown Deals promotion is 14 days before your KDP Select period ends. However, if you renew your book in KDP Select for another consecutive 90-day period, the latest end time for your Kindle Countdown Deal can fall on the last day of your current KDP Select period.
If I may direct your attention to that last bullet point, you'll see that if your KDP Select periods are all randomly distributed, you may run into a problem trying to run all of your Countdowns at the same time.
3. Set the price to $0.99.
You're allowed five tiers of discounting during your promotion. So if your book was originally priced at $5.99, you could start your promo at $0.99, then have it go down to $1.99 after a set period of time, then $2.99, $3.99, and finally $4.99... if you want to.
But seriously, fuck that.
The people scrolling through those lists are looking for bargains, and you're looking to scoop up as many new readers as you can get to shoot your books up the charts. Set that shit at $0.99 and let it ride out the seven days.
4. Make sure you get all the time you can.
For some reason, when you're setting up your Countdown promotion, Amazon's default starting time for your first day is 8:00 AM. To make sure you get all 168 hours of promo time, set your start time back to 12:00.
5. Drop some cash, and let the world know.
By all means, post your promo on your Facebook page. Spam that shit out on Twitter. Do whatever it is you do with those other social media sites that I don't understand how to use. But if you really want to get the word out about your promotion, you might have to spend a little coin.
Taking into account what I spend on advertising, promo months are probably my least profitable of the year, but they're my absolute favorites. I pick up new likes on my Facebook page. I get to take screenshots of my books flooding the charts. I snag some new reviews.
But most importantly, these less profitable months make the rest of my months all the more profitable.
My personal goal for a Kindle Countdown is to make a loud enough noise such that the echo will reverberate long enough to keep as many of my books visible on their respective Top 100 Category lists as I can until three months roll by and I can run another Countdown.
The most effective and reliable means of making such a noise has been through paying for Facebook ads. (Bookbub can eat a dick.)
I am by no means an expert on running Facebook ads. I'm in a constant process of trial and error, and I know I've got a long way to go. When I do finally get a working formula figured out, I'll probably blog about it.
Until then, my recommendation is to start small. Play with demographics and targeted behaviors and whatever. Learn what all that technical shit means. Drop five bucks here and there to see what works for you and what doesn't. After you get some feedback, you'll have a better idea of how you'd rather spend larger amounts of money.
6. Don't forget the blokes across the pond.
Every time I run a Countdown, I get a message from a Canadian or Australian fan asking why my books aren't discounted.
Sadly, the Kindle Countdown is currently only available in the US and UK, so there's not much I can do for my readers up north or down under. But far be it from me to deny my fog-breathing brethren across the sea the opportunity to save a few shillings and pennyfarthings.
7. Don't fire all your guns at once.
Some of you may be thinking, "Is this not completely contradictory to the first entry?"
It is and it isn't.
Those of you paying closer attention may be wondering, "Why the hell is he writing a blog post about Kindle Countdowns after he just finished one? Wouldn't it be better to run such a post just before a promotion? Let people check out how it works firsthand, and maybe they'll buy some of your shit and all that?"
Those are very good questions and astute observations. I'm writing this post now for a reason. It's true that I've just concluded a Kindle Countdown, but it's one unlike I've ever run before.
About a week and a half ago, after I'd spent about an hour setting up Countdowns for each of my individual books, it occurred to me that I could also offer the boxed set of my first four novels, as well as my collections of short stories, at a discount as well. That's even more titles with which to flood the front page of Amazon's Top 100 Bestsellers in Comedy list.
But there was a problem with that. If the collections were all priced at a dollar, why the hell would anyone bother buying the individual books? One of the biggest advantages of having a shit-ton of titles would be tossed out the window. Unless...
I could run two Countdowns! The first for the individual books, and the next for the collections. That's like getting the same exposure, but twice as long.
Just to be on the safe side, I ran the idea by my fellow writers at Authors & Dragons. Drew Hayes pointed out that, if one were to buy all of my books for a dollar a piece, and then see that the collections were on sale the next week for a dollar, it might be perceived as a dick move on my part.
The solution was simple enough. Just reverse the order. Run the Countdown for the collections first, then run the individual books the following week. That way, nobody feels dicked over, and anyone who missed the first promo gets another bite at the apple.
Best of all, I get the benefit of two promotions, the second one perhaps even enhanced by some residual buzz from the first one. I guess we'll find out tomorrow.