The Surreal Killer

The Surreal Killer
Machu Picchu. Peru

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Magic of KDP

It's completely counter-intuitive that Amazon's KDP model of giving away free books will stimulate sales of the same book. Why would anybody want to buy a book that they could have downloaded free the day before? If it's in the KDP program, won't it be available free some time in the future if the would-be buyer is just patient enough to wait?

My son Michael suggested that I try two consecutive book giveaways starting on Christmas Day and ending on January 3, 2013, ten days later. All of those brand new Kindle readers who got them for Christmas presents needed downloaded books to read, so this made sense, at least to me. I had previously had free book giveaways for two of my novels in KDP, "The Surreal Killer", a full-length novel, which was very successful, and a novelette, "The Body in the Parking Structure", which was not very successful in stimulating new sales. But I learned a few lessons along the way. They were lessons everybody was already saying on Facebook, Goodreads, and Kindle Forums. Short forms of books---novellas, novelettes, and short stories---aren't as popular as full-length novels even if they are free.   People seem to want more pages for their money, even if the total cost is $0.00.  And nobody wants to download any book, free or at full price, unless it has a lot of positive reviews.  And maybe a catchy cover too, but this isn't quite as clear to me yet.

"The Surreal Killer" giveaway lasted five days, from 12/25-12/29/12.  In the USA more than 1,150 free copies were downloaded during this period.  Interestingly, Amazon UK readers almost matched this performance by downloading 995 copies of the book.

The performance of the novelette, "The Body in the Parking Structure" was different.  In the USA there were more than 825 downloads of the freebie between 12/30-12/31/12, with a little over 700 more taken in the first three days of January.  There was much less interest in this free novelette on Amazon UK, where only 29 free copies were downloaded between 12/30-12/31/12 and 39 more for the 3 days in January.

But then came the magic:  More than a 1.5 books a day (thus far) were either sold or were borrowed via Prime, mainly "The Surreal Killer" despite the more than 2,000 free downloads the preceding month.  Total sales/borrows were almost exactly equally distributed between in the USA and Amazon UK.  The January sales included all six of my book titles for sale on Amazon, but "The Surreal Killer" led the pack, with "The Body in the Parking Structure" comfortably in second place in the USA, but not in the the UK where "The Ambivalent Corpse" followed "The Surreal Killer" in sales.

What lessons are to be learned from this simple, but uncontrolled, experiment?  What do you think, readers?

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