Countdown Deals and KDP Select Free Promos: What’s the Current Status?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.



The effectiveness of Kindle Countdown Deals and free promos for e-books enrolled in KDP Select has changed over time.

In the beginning, when KDP Select free promos were first introduced, they were highly effective, often being grabbed by the thousands without any effort on the part of the author. But the success of unadvertised free promos dwindled quickly, as more and more authors began giving away their e-books away for free and as the perceived value diminished from the customer’s perspective. For a couple of years, free promos seemed to have a bad rap.

When the Kindle Countdown Deal came along, many authors who had previously used the KDP Select free promos switched to Countdown Deals. This actually helped in a couple of ways:

  • There were fewer free e-books on the market, since you can’t run a free promo during the same 90-day enrollment period in which you run a Countdown Deal.
  • Many authors raised their prices, so there were also fewer e-books priced at 99 cents and $1.99. You need a higher price point in order to take advantage of a Countdown Deal.

One consequence is that the KDP Select free promo became somewhat more effective. Fewer authors were complaining about free e-books, with fewer freebies on the market, and fewer customers were stockpiling more freebies than they could possibly read.

The free promo has never returned to its original effectiveness. In most cases, it’s not even close. But it has rebounded somewhat, and can be used effectively.

Neither the KDP Select free promo nor the Kindle Countdown Deal are likely to provide desirable results if unadvertised:

  • It can help greatly to get external promotion from BookBub, E-reader News Today, or one of the top e-book promotion sites. (BookBub is the one site where paying a hefty fee has reasonable potential. For other sites, I recommend free or very low cost, and doing research off-site before any investing.)
  • It can also help to gain free exposure from bloggers, fellow authors, or websites that share an audience similar to yours. (Here, I recommend free and organic.)

But you can find more value than just immediate sales.

For example, here are a couple of things that you can learn from running a Countdown Deal:

  • Are you considering a lower price point? Run an unadvertised Countdown Deal to test the waters. If you don’t earn more royalties during the period of the promotional price than you normally would, then you know that lowering the price isn’t the solution to your sales woes.
  • Does an Amazon Giveaway (now available to e-books from US product pages) or does AMS advertising help with short-term sales during a Countdown Deal? If you have data for a Countdown Deal where you didn’t run a giveaway or advertisement, this gives you the basis for comparison.

Sometimes, a KDP Select free promo or Countdown Deal might be geared toward branding your image as author or helping to build an initial fan base to the extent that you may be okay with a short-term loss, with your sights set toward long-term gains. (But you want to minimize any short-term losses, and you want to have effective long-term marketing in place, such a content-rich website that can generate hundreds of visitors per day after about 12 months. Otherwise, you may never recover your loss.)

Chris McMullen

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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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17 comments on “Countdown Deals and KDP Select Free Promos: What’s the Current Status?

  1. I’m about to run what will probably be an unadvertised KCD – ENT turned me down (I only have 14 reviews, so I’m assuming that has something to do with it – because I reduced the price to 0.99 from 8.99, which should be enough discount for anyone).

    It is hard to promote a mainstream novel (a contemporary literary love story) when most books I’m competing against in a genre fit that genre much better, so I’m not going to do that for a while.

    I’ll see how the KCD goes, and compare it later to an ad run in an alumni magazine where genre is not specified.

    Meanwhile, writing Book 2 in the trilogy seems the best use of my time – and it’s going very well.

    I haven’t heard much about your fiction – are you still writing?

    • You might try a test price, i.e. reduce toward a price that will help you gauge if there may be elasticity of price for your novel. Good luck with your Countdown Deal.

      I’ve been caught up in a few large projects. I feel like they are almost finished, and hopefully an avalanche of other smaller projects will follow. I haven’t done much for my story, except the plot and characters are becoming clearer to me.

      • I may still split the 167K words into two 80K+ parts, and sell each at 4.99-5.99 – I would probably sell more.

        Umberto Ecco didn’t have to split his books; it is a lot of work for no real point.

  2. Pingback: Why I Want an iPhone-Sized E-Reader (But Not an iPhone) | Digital Book World

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