Alien Blue/Kindle Direct Select Experiment Results

This past weekend, I ran three of my five Kindle Direct Publishing Select program days.  I have to leave the book exclusively with Amazon until May 20 (90 days); in exchange, they will allow the book to be checked out for free by Amazon Prime members and let me have five free promotion days.  I will follow up later with any sales impact on the book…

Before Thursday

Contacted ~20 Twitter places that advertise free Kindle books and asked them to contact me.  A few of them said it might automatically show up on their lists, blah blah blah.

FreeBooksHub contacted me back and listed me.

I also contacted EreaderNewsToday, and more below on that.  Here’s their submission link.

I sold three copies of the book at $7.99; I had one borrow from a gent who said that the book looked good but cost too much.  Looking at the Kindle lists, he may be right…for now; I see a lot of books that are big-publisher books that cost a lot more, a good number that cost about the same, and a plethora of books that cost $2.99/$3.99.  Stephanie Meyer’s The Host costs $8.99.  Orson Scott Card’s Xenocide costs $7.99.  The Door into Summer costs $6.39.  Forever War costs $4.95.  A Dance with Dragons costs $14.99.


Flipped free approximately midnight Pacific, as far as I can tell.  Had ~100 US downloads when I got up.  I announced it on Facebook, Twitter, G+, Kindle Boards, Goodreads, couldn’t figure out how to announce on Library Thing (if you know how, let me know!).  Had ~225 US downloads by uh, noonish.  Some time after that, the post on EreaderNewsToday went live, and everything went nuts.  I had ~1000 US downloads by 5 p.m.

Alien Blue was #28 on the SF free list, #10 on the SF Adventure free list, and #775 on the overall list when I went to bed.

I felt like I was donating blood: both positive (perhaps irrationally, in this case) and slightly afraid that it was never going to stop.


Had ~2200 US downloads when I got up.  #1 on SF Adventure free list, #2 on SF free list, #93 on the overall free list.  I suspect that the boost from EreaderNewsToday will drop but the boost from getting on the front page of the first two lists will be a lift.  If your intention is to give away a lot of books, getting ENT to list your book is probably a priority.

It hit me that with the book only on Amazon, it’ll be easier to play with the price.  I hope.  I mean, there aren’t any other sites to match with their price engines.  So I will probably take the opportunity to mess with the price after the promotion is over.

The top spot that it hit was #1 in SF Adventure, #2 in SF, and #91 overall. About ninish, about 3300 US people had downloaded it, and it was at #2 SF adventure, #3 in SF, and #116 overall.  It really felt like things had slowed down, but it didn’t, really.  If Day 1 is about 1800 downloads and Day 2, 1500, that’s fairly close.

I suddenly realized that there were other countries’ stores right before I went to bed.  About 40 total UK, 7 German.


Had 3400  US downloads when I got up.  #3 in SF Adventure, #5 SF, #117 overall. UK 48, Ger 8.

Before going to bed, I had 3618 US downloads.  #5 SF Adventure, #9 SF, #220 total. UK 55, Ger 8, 1 France.  I lowered the price to $5.99 to see what would happen after it flipped back to a pay book.


Had 3678 downloads total US, 56 UK, 10 Ger, 1 Fr when I got up; the book appeared to be still free at 6:30 a.m.  #4 SF Adventure, #8 SF, #269 overall on the free lists.

Checked at noon and it hadn’t flipped back to pay yet.  Took a nap, checked at five and it was back to pay.

Totals on free: 3781 US, 59 UK, 10 Ger, 1 Fr. #3 SF Adventure, #10 SF, #301 overall.

The book was still listed on the free lists at that point, with an explanation that the free lists were updated hourly rather than instantly, and so a book might remain on a free list for a short period of time after it was no longer free, so I think it hadn’t been pay for very long.  Scanning through the free lists reveals about 5-10% of the books were in the same situation, so my guess is that they do the flips in a group somehow.  Manually?  At a certain hour of the day?  I don’t know.  Unless I look at the lists more often, there’s no way for me to tell how many of those on the list are there long-term and how many are in KDP Select, with a max 3-day window at any given time.


While I’ve had stories that went free before (due to a laborious price-matching process), the only real comparable giveaway is for The Exotics: Tigerlilly, which I also announced over ENT.  Over three days it had 2200 downloads, which are down to about 5-10 per day now.  I wasn’t as good about tracking numbers on other free books, but 300-400 free copies over the first few days seems about right.  If you want to give away a lot of books, ENT seems to be a good method.

Twitter: it didn’t seem that Alien Blue was retweeted much:  some of my tweet followers retweeted it (thank you!), but I think only one person I didn’t already follow tweeted it on (@beerwencha2, their beers are drool-worthy and she writes romances, including a brewery-related romance with choose your own endings, which just goes to show that sometimes interesting things come to the people who want to find them out of sheer serendipity).

Facebook: A few people shared links, but not many (thank you!).  I had one person follow me that I didn’t know.  Maybe I should set up an author fan page, but ungh, I have enough pages as it is.  I wish I knew how to find out if other people are talking about the book on FB, among people I don’t know.  But that’s the way it is, you know?

G+: I had two people share the link (thank you!).

I wish I had some ideas of what kind of goals I could set for an experiment like this.  I should probably do more research in how people assess the results of a marketing campaign.  Was this a positive or a negative?  Did all the giveaways reduce my possible number of sales?  I know some professionally published books that don’t sell 5000 copies.  But overall I feel positive about the giveaway.  I have tried lowering the price on an initial novel in a series to $.99 and giving out a free introductory short story with a hook to draw to the $.99 novel, and it didn’t seem to be a big boost.

If I priced Alien Blue at $.99, to make back my lowball estimated time investment, I’d have to sell about 24,000 books.  At $5.99, I have to sell about 2100, or about 5900 copies moved total over the life of the book (free + sold), or about a quarter of the sales at $.99.  I think it’ll be tough, but if I continue to write and put up books (especially the sequel, Alien Spirits), I think I can make it.



Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-03-04


On Smashwords and Censorship


  1. Liz

    I’ve yet to put a full length novel on the KDP Select free program, but I think your numbers are wonderful! My short story gave away about 200 copies during the five days it was free on KDP Select, which sounded good to me at the time. Heh. I do sort of wish, looking back, that I’d had other shorts to measure mine against.

    Where do you find out where you stand on the lists? Were they Amazon lists or ENT?

    Fingers crossed that it sells well! Are you still swapping copies if someone who doesn’t have a Kindle buys it? I’m working on a book for review right now, but I still want to contribute to the numbers and get Alien Blue on fire!

  2. Eric Weigner

    I hope you meet your goals. Awesome experiment. Keep at it.

  3. Interesting! I appreciate you being so open about your numbers.

    Don’t feel bad about people not re-tweeting your free book Most people’s tweetstreams are wall-to-wall announcements of free ebooks. It’s hard to get traction there.

  4. De

    Margaret – I don’t feel bad at all; it takes something out of the ordinary for *me* to retweet other people’s books at this point. It was just an observation.

  5. De

    Liz – the easiest way to find out where you are on the list by looking at your Amazon page for the book. Scroll down to “Product Details.” If your book is on a list, it will show up at the bottom of “Product Details.”

  6. De

    And I’ll send desired versions to people who purchased the book (or did the free download) until May 20, when the exclusive deal ends and I put up copies with other major sellers.

  7. Jonah Knight

    This is a great post. I love numbers like these. Good work and good luck.

  8. Liz

    Thanks De!

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