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Does KDP Select Affect Self-Published Book Sales?

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.

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What Is KDP Select?

KDP Select is a promotional program offered to self-published authors who use KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing from Amazon). Most importantly, it requires that the enrolled book title be exclusive to Amazon and KDP. Each enrollment period is 90 days, and authors can choose to have enrollment automatically renewed.

It affords authors the opportunity to promote their books using Free Kindle Book Promotions and Kindle Countdown Deals. With Free Kindle Book Promotions, authors may offer their Kindle eBooks for free on Amazon for up to 5 days per enrollment period. Or authors could choose to run a Kindle Countdown Deal for up to 5 days per enrollment period. With Countdown Deals, the price of the Kindle eBook could start at a very low price at the beginning of the promotion period, with price going up in a selected increment until, at the end of the promotion, the price returns to full retail price.

Though these can be valuable eBook marketing tools, authors are often more interested in the KDP Select benefit of having their Kindle eBooks offered in the Kindle Unlimited library. Kindle Unlimited is a subscription reading program where readers pay a monthly fee to access up to 10 Kindle eBooks per month.

As an incentive to participate, Amazon offers authors a share of royalties from a Global Fund that Amazon has designated for these payouts. Royalties are based on the number of pages read by a Kindle Unlimited member reader on the first opening of the eBook. No royalties are paid for pages read after the reader closes the book, even if they return to read more pages later.

All three of the promotional benefits sound beneficial in theory. However, in practice, I have found that they can affect book sales of both print books and eBooks.

Free Kindle Book Promotions

The biggest problem with Free Kindle Book Promotions is that they are usually used by freebie readers. When I’ve done these promotions, I gave away many copies during the promotion period, only to see sales return to usual pace immediately afterward. I’ve also noticed that no additional reviews were received during or after the promotion period either.

Remember that people who get your eBook for free will not buy your eBook. Why should they? They already got it. So using this KDP Select promotional program can affect your actual eBook sales, though you have to wonder whether freebie seekers would have purchased your book if it wasn’t free. I would also question whether these free-ride readers would be inclined to share your book with their friends on social media or elsewhere. My guess is that they wouldn’t do either.

Kindle Countdown Deals

I have tried Kindle Countdown Deals on a few occasions. I’ve never found them to increase sales. Under KDP Select, your title is already available to readers who are Kindle Unlimited members. So a Countdown Deal doesn’t offer those Kindle Unlimited members any major cost savings.

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Your book is also not an item where readers are anxious to get a good deal if they are actually purchasing the title. I’ve offered Countdown Deals on peak sales days such as Black Friday which resulted in no additional sales. There are additional reasons why peak sales days are not ideal for self-published book promotions. But I think the overall lesson is that most self-published books are not high-demand products on sites like Amazon. So time-bound sale periods aren’t drivers of sales.

How Does Kindle Unlimited Impact Book Sales?

I have done a deep dive analysis of how Kindle Unlimited reads have impacted my book sales. I did the analysis based on the number of KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) pages read, divided it by the number of KENP pages in my eBook to determine how many full books would have been sold.

In 2020, I lost 26 book sales to Kindle Unlimited. In 2021, I lost 21.

(If you want to learn how to do this analysis for your books, I share it in my Udemy course, How to Sell Your Self Published Book on Amazon.)

This is not a perfect analysis since when you make a regular sale of a book, the reader pays for the whole book, even if they read just a few pages. Because it is impossible to tell whether the reported KENP page count in KDP reports is from one or many readers, I figured this calculation would provide a more conservative estimate.

Compounding the issue is that your KU royalties are a share of a global royalty pool. So the price of your book does not impact your KU royalties. You get the same royalty per page that more and less expensive books receive. You also receive the exact same royalty per KENP page that every other author does, which often amounts to fractions of pennies.

The Amazon Global Fund, from which KU royalties are paid, changes every month, too. So there is no set per-page royalty, making it difficult to forecast, on top of the fact that page reads can swing wildly from month to month.

So Why Do I Keep My Titles in KDP Select?

You would think that if I haven’t received much positive, profitable benefit from being in KDP Select, I would pull my books out of it. But I keep most of my titles enrolled primarily for the inclusion in Kindle Unlimited.

I realize that evolving reading and content consumption trends favor subscription programs over sales. So while I don’t make as much in royalties and profits, I want to be where people are consuming content in a way they want to consume it.

As authors, we need to get out of the book unit sales mentality and adjust our offerings to meet the demands of changing content consumption habits.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2022 Heidi Thorne

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