KDP Select free day promo, round 2: Is it worth a second go-around?

This is a post by Novel Publicity President, Melissa Storm

When an author signs up for KDP Select, she is given 5 free day slots to do with what she will. She can ignore them completely, run them all together, or split them up. I ran my first 2 free days for Farsighted in early February and had smashing results. But I still had 3 days left.

I’ve talked to several authors who’ve had good results with their first free day promo and then say, “Yeah, that was it for me. I’m not going to do it again.” I think something about giving away their product for free feels dirty. Maybe they want to end on the high of a successful first promotion and don’t want to sully it with a mediocre follow-up. Maybe too few people are blogging about what happens on subsequent runs.

One of my author friends jumped on me in the early AM of the day after my second free period. “So,” he asked. “How was it? How many downloads? How did it compare to the first time, etc, etc? OMG, you have to tell me everything!” Okay, so he didn’t say “OMG,” but he was excited and wanted to know. Might as well write out my answer in a blog post, I thought. And that’s what this is. So…

The big question is:  Should I use all my free days even if my first run is extremely successful?

The answer is a resounding YES!!!

Let’s say you had upward of 10,000 free downloads the first go-around (like I did). Are you afraid that no one is left who might be interested? Why? Not everyone stalks Amazon every single day and now you have some excellent word-of-mouth buzz from people who snagged a copy during your first promotion.

The Hunger Games has been in the top 100 in the Kindle Store (and really the top 3) for 679 days and counting. Do you know how many daily downloads it takes to be at #1? Um, thousands. Yet, The Hunger Games and its 2 sequels stand strong with no sign of falling anytime soon. True, none of us are Suzanne Collins, but the point is:  there’s an ever-expanding book-buying audience out there. Don’t ever think you’ve reached saturation—especially so early in the game.

The next question you might ask is:  How can I make my second free day(s) a success?

In my first article on the topic, I claimed that “targeted advertising is the key to success” and then gave you a list of resources (that article’s here). Guess what? That’s the honest-to-goodness truth, and now that I’ve gone twice, I know it better than ever. I wanted to test my hypothesis even though I was already quite sure of its accuracy.

The ONLY things I did to promote my free day on March 21 are as follows:  Pixel of Ink (score!), Kindle Nation Daily free book highlighter, 2 Facebook posts, 1 Google+ post. That’s it! One of my friends was shocked to see I didn’t share a single tweet about my freebie. I also didn’t mention it in my blog post despite having an incredibly popular article up that day. I relied entirely on advertising, and it worked.

Now you ask:  What were your results like the second go-around?

Farsighted peaked at #20 in the free Kindle store. Last time it peaked at #18, but, remember, last time the promo ran for 2 days. This time it was only 1 day. My downloads in the US were 65% of what they were last time. Again, remember, this was only 1 day as compared to 2—so I actually did better on a standardized scale. I still had a sales bump. It lasted about a week and is on the downfall now.

The big difference, and I don’t know whether this is common or specific to me, came with the international downloads. Apparently, I did really well in the UK and DE Kindle stores during my first promotion. I didn’t realize how well until I talked to others and saw their jaws drop when I told them the numbers! During my first free promo, I peaked at #35 in the Amazon UK store. This time around I peaked at #202. My sales bump in the UK post-first freebie promo was steady for over a month (way better than the surge in US sales)! This time around, my UK downloads were only 14% of what they were last time. My German sales were 7%. I didn’t have any downloads in IT, ES, or FR the second time, and I did the first time.

Also, last time I got somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 new reviews right after my free promo. They were split between negative and positive. This time I’ve only received a few, but they’ve all been positive. I have released an extended edition, which might have something to do with that. Or, it’s a fluke. Or, I’m homing in on my target audience even with the thousands of downloads. I have no idea but thought I’d share.

Now a question for you:  Have you done more than one free period? How did the subsequent runs compare to the initial promo? Were your experiences like mine?

For the record, I plan to do another free promo in about a month to use up my last 2 days. I haven’t decided whether I’ll re-enroll Farsighted in KDP Select, but I am definitely considering it!


Emlyn Chand, President of Novel PublicityAbout this post's author:

Melissa Storm was born with a fountain pen grasped firmly in her left hand (true story). Novel Publicity’s mascot is a sun conure, thanks to her obsession with birds–and she gets to decide anyway since she is the company’s founder and president. Her first novel, Farsighted, won the prestigious Writer’s Digest Self-Published Novel of the Year award in 2012 for the YA category. She now writes most of her fiction under her real name, Melissa Storm. Learn more or connect with her her author website:  www.melstorm.com or via Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

Doug Fiedor

Thanks for the information. I’ve been reading about that program off and on but don’t yet know how to get started.

In my case, I have a series of novels and was waiting until I get the fourth posted on Kindle. My practice novel, of course, was the first. So I plan to go over that again and clean it up some — as well as probably add a couple more chapters to it. That done, I’ll offer it free a couple times to call attention to the others.

So that’s the plan, anyway. It’s not that I actually know what I’m doing. Rather, I’m sort of feeling my way around as I go. I’ve done zero advertising for my novels so far and it shows in sales. If I’m lucky, that program may get things moving for me.

Dane Zeller

Wait a minute while I put my wet blanket on.

I see nothing wrong in giving away books. I see the point. Some of my best friends have given away books. In fact, I have been swamped by the results:

“Woo hoo, I’m number 21 in free Kindle books, Romantic Mysteries!”
“Not to brag, but I’ve sold (sic) 11,000 books today.”

And, more than once:

“I’m number 1 in all free Kindle books!!!”

I have this urge to clarify what’s going on here. How many books you give away is not of prime importance. Where you rank at Amazon is not important, especially because their ranking algorithm is questionable (I sold three books one day and reached #31 in Romance Anthologies).

The important statistic is sales bump. What were you selling per day/week/month before the give-away and what were you selling after. And I do mean “selling.”

In my experience with my enthusiastic friends,rank and downloads crowd out the sales bump. I have to grill them on that.

I detect you had a sales bump, Ms. Chand. That would be the basis for doing it again. How high and how long would be the subject of discussion.

Thanks for tolerating my blunt style.

    Emlyn Chand

    Technically, Amazon doesn’t want people sharing their sales and download numbers (although many do). I have indeed seen a sales bump–modest, but it exists. I’m happy to have more readers for my work and believe in the results of KDP free days. Of course, it doesn’t work for everyone and there seems to be diminishing returns as the program gains ground and more authors sign up and readers Kindles become over-full. Still, I’m a believer.

Double Gee

How long in advance did you post your link on Pixel of Ink?

Laura Roberts

I have a question about the sales bump. Do you have to obsessively watch your numbers after the free day to see this happen, or is it being charted somewhere else on the author pages that I’m not aware of? I keep forgetting to check my stats when I do my free days, so I was just curious.

    Emlyn Chand

    Sure, watch your KDP sales report dashboard and compare sales before the promo to those after. You can also look at your Amazon product page to see your overall sales rank and compare that to what it was before.

Karen A Einsel

I’ve done it twice and received more response the second time around, which surprised me. Actually still have one day left, but will wait till close to the end of the 90 days.

Marcus DeHart

I did my first promo at the end of February once I realized I only had four days left in my first quarter, so I ran all four days with little to no prep. I managed to get a plug in the FB Book Junkies promo Sunday, but the rest was just bombarding my modest following on Twitter (220) and FB (200) with info about my book (How Deep Lies the Shadow). My first lesson learned was that four days was too long for the scope of my social networking. About 80 percent of my giveaways occurred in the first two days with a significant drop off over the next two days. The first two days I hit #2 in contemporary fantasy and sci-fi. That dropped significantly over the remaining two days. The bump I saw after the promo was about 2 percent of my giveaways. The good news that was more copies sold in two days than I had sold in the past five years, so I was pleased.

I tried a second promo a few weeks later with even less marketing and the results were pitiful in comparison. Since then, my sales and ranking have tanked. But then, I didn’t expect much since I had saturated my social network. I just need to find ways to expand my network, identify better marketing channels for my book, and leverage special events like the release of my second novel (once I finish it).

Another advantage I’ve seen has been in the lending library. My loaners since the promo total more than half of my sales, so there are additional readers and income.

I figure if Amazon is offering this program, it’s because they make money off of it. Statistically, they are going to sell more kindle books after promotions and increase readership and availability of books bringing in new readers.

For someone who is new to publishing, has no budget for marketing, and very little time to promote his novel, the KDP promo was a welcome lift in sales. You get out of it what you put into it. It’s been a great learning experience. Over time, I’ll tweak the promotion, the marketing, and the timing to see what is more effective.

    Emlyn Chand

    Marcus, you should definitely check out the first part of this article that lists ad sources for free day promos; they could make all the difference for you! I agree about the lending library being an added bonus. My lends definitely go up after a free day run as well 😀


Wow. This is absolutely my thing. I really love to read novels. The best for me would probably “Lucas”. I just borrowed it at the library. It was the first novel I’ve read, and because of it I get hooked on reading books. I’ve been looking for some bookstores to see if there’s a copy of Lucas but I haven’t seen one. Hoping someday, I’ll have a copy of it. Now i’m hooked with the Hunger games, about Greek gods, i cant remember the title, but it’s sounds like the movie The sorcerer. oh i can’t recall it. But anyways keep on posting. I really love to read your posts. 🙂

SM Johnson

Sooo interesting, because my blog post today was about the exact same subject! I will not re-enroll my books in the Select program, although I enjoyed the # of downloads during the free days. But my books have a niche audience, so I am excited to get them out to Nook, iTunes, etc to reach the widest audience.

Thomas Settimi

I ran two one-day free promos, both on Saturdays. The first was in mid-February 2012 and the second a month later. I did no advance promotion for either. The book was a novel first published in 2007 at BookSurge (now CreateSpace). A Kindle version has been available since 2010.

Results from both free days were very positive for me: on Sunday–the day after the first free promo day–there were more purchases than the total for the previous four years that the book has been available. The second free promo day yielded results that were about two-thirds as strong. The “bump” in both cases fell off to single digits after two weeks, but sales are still far greater than pre-KDP Select days.

Additional benefits: (1) increase in sales of the paperback version and (2) ten new reviews–mostly positive but I did acquire a couple of 2-stars as well!

As a summary of my experience, I would offer my version of what has been expressed by others before me, but that bears repeating: First Law of Indie Book Sales on Amazon – “In order to sell books, you must have exposure.” Corollary to the First Law – “In order to have exposure, you must sell books.”

    Emlyn Chand

    Great sum up and very true rules. Oh the conundrum! I’m glad to hear Select is working well for you and helping you find an audience.

R.B.W. Culpepper

Thanks for the post Emlyn. I am just about to release my next children fantasy book book on Kindle instead of paperback. I was told by an Amazon topseller (Whose webinar I attended} to only run the KDP Select promotion for 1 or 2 days no more. He also told me to keep track of all the people that download it. Wait about a week and contact them for a review, whether it’s good, bad, or otherwise. The reviews he said will help your rankings rise on Amazon and sell more books. This sounded good to me. What do you think?

P.S. Thanks for the resources.

    Emlyn Chand

    Hi RBW. Enrolling and only running free for a day or two at a time is a great idea. Trying to capture info about the people who download your book for free and then contacting them afterward is a really REALLY bad idea. Amazon can actually remove your book if they catch you doing that. Don’t violate their policies and don’t spam their customers!

      R.B.W. Culpepper

      Thanks for the heads up. I definitely won’t do that.

Carole Lanham

Hi Emlyn!

Very glad to find this information about Select. Thanks so much for your efforts to devote time to this very curious and exciting subject. Morrigan Books (my publisher) just did a three day giveaway of my book THE WHISPER JAR and it was a huge success. Gave away a lot of books! The sales bump has been awesome too but it makes me wonder: When a book in this program finishes with a giveaway, does Amazon list it any place special in the following days to help keep the momentum going? What is it exactly that creates the continued and instantaneous interest? Everyone says it’s a mystery but it seems to me, there must be something specifically driving sales. I’m getting more readers reviewing the book at Goodreads and the hope is that word of mouth will help to keep the ball rolling. But it’s only been five days since we did the giveaway and word of mouth can’t be the only thing at the bottom of this (not so quickly), I shouldn’t think. It sounds like most everyone does relatively well with sales in the days following free giveaways. It’s the added exposure surely, but I really want to understand the scope of that exposure.

Putting the book exclusively in the hands of Amazon was an experiment that the publisher and I decided to embark on and, while it’s definitely yielded wonderful results and proven a big success for The Whisper Jar, I’m still fuzzy about why it works so well. I’m okay with taking the money and running but I really want to learn as much as I can from the experience. Do you know if Amazon lists the free giveaway books someplace special after it’s all said and done?

Thanks again for sharing what you’ve learned. It’s very helpful!

    Emlyn Chand

    Hi Carole,

    Congrats on a successful promotion! To answer your question, yes, Amazon does do something special. There are two top 100 lists, one for sales and one for popularity. Lots of free downloads will drive you up the popularity list and thus… make you more popular. You will also appear in the “customers who bought X, also bought” queues for several other popular books from your free day, which adds a nice pop of exposure.


Rachel Deagan

My question is how to judge when to use your free days. For example, I have a companion novella coming out june 17th. Would it be wise to use the free promo day the day this book launches considering it would make more sense for readers to read that one first? Or would I be giving away a good literal ‘sale’ day of my original novel considering there may be a higher interest due to the new novel’s release.

Either way, I do want to do at one more day of the freebie. I just can’t figure out when would be more profitable.

    Emlyn Chand

    Ah, that is the magic question, Rachel! I suppose the answer depends on how many people you have ready and waiting to pounce on purchase day. Personally, I wouldn’t do a free day promo straight out of the gate.

Susan Parry

A view from the UK: first free 3 days saw thousands of downloads (#8 in crime, thriller & mystery I think)and sales really good for a week afterwards,then a 2 day which resulted in less than a thousand downloads and less increase in sales for shorter time. However, in the new period I had another 3 day freebie last weekend which has resulted in reaching #5 in crime et. – I am now still in top 20 paid thrillers and have been in top 100 in paid kindle store all week (#115 at present but goung up again). There is little rhyme or reason but the free time provides so much publicity – my dily download figures are currently 10 times their usual figures. All this relates to the UK of course – downloads in US remain a few per week because the charts are national.My books are in a series so the freebie is the first one ‘Corpse Way’ Amazon has put it under ‘thriller’ but it should be a ‘mystery’ rather like Amazon sales!


My second KDP run (3-day) was much less successful than my first (1-day). I’m not really sure why. I didn’t try all those things you suggested (although I did list the second with Pixel of Ink – not the first), and I tweeted like crazy. I’ve got one day left, so it’ll be interesting to see if third time’s the charm.

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