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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I know that many people have had a lot of success in Select, or attribute part of their success to it. However, if you look at it from a reader's point of view, there's a certain logic to the program that begins to seem alarming.

First of all, free days. One of the "perks" for writers is that each enrolled book can be priced at $0 for five days during the enrollment period. From the writer's point of view, it means a chance to artificially boost the book's rankings, thus putting it in front of more eyeballs and potentially getting more readers.

However, from a reader's point of view, this means that any book labeled "KDP Select" is going to be free at some point in the next month or two. If they're willing to wait, all they have to do is track it--not a difficult task, considering how eager most of us are to get our books listed on the free ebook sites.

If the reader is signed up for Select, they can borrow the book, and the author gets paid. However, if the reader is not signed up for Select, they have little or no incentive to actually buy the book, since they know they can get it for free. Thus, readers come to see KDP Select as a revolving bargain bin for authors who don't value their own work.

Since newer writers who have yet to build a fanbase are the ones who benefit most from the Select program (or in other words, the ones who stand to lose the least), they make up a majority of Select authors. However, they're also the ones who have yet to master their craft. Thus, over time, readers come to associate Select with cheap writing. This only solidifies the bargain bin stigma mentioned above.

If you follow the logic, it's hard not to conclude that authors who sign up for select may actually lose a fair amount of sales that they would've otherwise had. This is because, according to the logic, readers who aren't signed up for Select 1) know they can get it for free if they hold out long enough, and 2) associate Select books with lower quality.

An interesting comment I recently read on a blog post about Amazon's review policy seems to confirm as much:

Ask readers what they think of Select. I did and the response floored me. 'It's the place to get free reads. I never buy a book from authors on Select because I know it will be free or on a deal and I tell all my friends when it goes free too. But all the good authors are not on Select, they're everywhere.'
So...thoughts?
 

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Joe Vasicek said:
I know that many people have had a lot of success in Select, or attribute part of their success to it. However, if you look at it from a reader's point of view, there's a certain logic to the program that begins to seem alarming.

First of all, free days. One of the "perks" for writers is that each enrolled book can be priced at $0 for five days during the enrollment period. From the writer's point of view, it means a chance to artificially boost the book's rankings, thus putting it in front of more eyeballs and potentially getting more readers.

However, from a reader's point of view, this means that any book labeled "KDP Select" is going to be free at some point in the next month or two. If they're willing to wait, all they have to do is track it--not a difficult task, considering how eager most of us are to get our books listed on the free ebook sites.

If the reader is signed up for Select, they can borrow the book, and the author gets paid. However, if the reader is not signed up for Select, they have little or no incentive to actually buy the book, since they know they can get it for free. Thus, readers come to see KDP Select as a revolving bargain bin for authors who don't value their own work.

Since newer writers who have yet to build a fanbase are the ones who benefit most from the Select program (or in other words, the ones who stand to lose the least), they make up a majority of Select authors. However, they're also the ones who have yet to master their craft. Thus, over time, readers come to associate Select with cheap writing. This only solidifies the bargain bin stigma mentioned above.

If you follow the logic, it's hard not to conclude that authors who sign up for select may actually lose a fair amount of sales that they would've otherwise had. This is because, according to the logic, readers who aren't signed up for Select 1) know they can get it for free if they hold out long enough, and 2) associate Select books with lower quality.

An interesting comment I recently read on a blog post about Amazon's review policy seems to confirm as much:

So...thoughts?
Not necessarily. I have had one book in Select for 6 months that I made free once. I have one in Select that will never be made free. Anyone who assumes that they'll be free is making a mistake. Not to mention, I wouldn't assume that most Amazon customers know that there is a link between being in KOLL and being listed for free. No doubt some do, but most don't follow Amazon obsessively the way we do.
 

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Faulty logic. Amazon's KDP newsletter mentioned that Deborah Geary's borrows, led to sales. Many in Select do not use their free days.

Giving your book away free does not help it in the paid ranks. It did for the first three months of Select, but those days are gone.

What it does is help build a fan base. I recently set my angel book semi-permanently free, because of what I saw during my Select free runs. Every ten I give away free, I sell one. It's great advertising for me. Shoot, I'd give a way a million free if I could for the 100k book sales. My books aren't cheap either.
 

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LisaGraceBooks said:
Faulty logic. Amazon's KDP newsletter mentioned that Deborah Geary's borrows, led to sales. Many in Select do not use their free days.

Giving your book away free does not help it in the paid ranks. It did for the first three months of Select, but those days are gone.

What it does is help build a fan base. I recently set my angel book semi-permanently free, because of what I saw during my Select free runs. Every ten I give away free, I sell one. It's great advertising for me. Shoot, I'd give a way a million free if I could for the 100k book sales. My books aren't cheap either.
What Lisa says.
 

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I'm sure a lot of writers who have series in Select are not putting the books that come after Book #1 up for free.
I have both books in my sig in Select at the moment, but book #2 (and #3 when I write it) will never go free.

The only way readers know if your book is in Select is if they can borrow it, and some trade-published books can also be borrowed, such as the Harry Potter books.
All said, I agree with you though on the fact that some readers will wait to see if a book in Select is going up for free - I've seen this said in reader forums quite a few times.
 

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"However, if the reader is not signed up for Select, they have little or no incentive to actually buy the book, since they know they can get it for free. Thus, readers come to see KDP Select as a revolving bargain bin for authors who don't value their own work."
There is a significant transaction cost to monitoring those books. The consumer has to evaluate that against the convenience of clicking the BUY button. Transaction costs are an incentive to buy.

I agree tracking a book is not difficult, but it is time consuming on a daily basis. So the cumulative cost of repetitive easy tasks can easily be unacceptable to a consumer.

The logical case would have to consider the probability of the behavior you describe, and map a distribution of the transaction costs consumers are willing to pay.

Thus, readers come to see KDP Select as a revolving bargain bin for authors who don't value their own work.
Perhaps the authors simply disagree with you and your analysis of the situation?

"Since newer writers who have yet to build a fanbase are the ones who benefit most from the Select program (or in other words, the ones who stand to lose the least), they make up a majority of Select authors. "
The greatest benefit is not logically equal to the least loss.

"However, they're also the ones who have yet to master their craft. Thus, over time, readers come to associate Select with cheap writing."
For the cheap Select writers here, can you tell us where we can find the breakdown of Select authors by experience and mastery of the craft? Where do we get the figures? Who compiled them? What standard did they use? What kind of sample?

"I recently read on a blog post about Amazon's review policy seems to confirm as much:"
A comment on a blog post tells us about the commenter's attitudes. It confirms nothing else.
 

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I think the demographic that compulsively and continually checks the free lists and tracks KDP Select books and waits until they are free exists, but I also think that it's a (small) subset of the general Kindle owner pool. I don't believe that going free (or enrolling in Select) cannibalizes paid sales in any meaningful way.

The superior placement that can be achieved on Pop Lists via successful free runs increases your visibility with a different demographic: those who troll the paid lists and Pop Lists for paid reads. In many respects, they are very different audiences and marketing to one audience via a free run won't damage your ability to market to the other with a price tag attached. In fact, with that extra visibility, your job becomes a little easier.
 
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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I don't think that most Amazon customers think that deeply about the whole thing. My mom has had her Kindle for a year now and she doesn't even know what Select is. A huge swath of Amazon's customer base still shops for books the same way they always did and buys the type of books they always bought. There is a bargain shopper demographic, and yes, these folks will take extreme measures to get a "deal." (Terrence has never watched Extreme Couponing or some of those shows lol)

I think the issue with Select is that it actually gets credit for the author's own work. Authors spend enormous amounts of time (and money) promoting their free days. My opinion is that any subsequent boost in sales is NOT the result of Select, but the result of the author's promotional blitz. Free downloads don't translate into sales because the people who downloaded the book already have it. They don't turn around and buy it again. And the boost in sales is too immediate to be the result of word-of-mouth from the people who downloaded for free. Word-of-mouth is generally not an instantaneous thing, but something that grows over time. Remember, it is not normal human nature to praise. (This is the same reason it is so hard to get reviews). Only a small portion of the audience that downloads a free book will ever mention it to another person. And a smaller percentage of those people will actively go look for the book to buy it. And little of this is going to happen within 72 hours of the free download.

People are going to recommend books in two ways: face to face and social networking. The face to face recommendations are going to happen during book club meetings, over lunch with friends, when you are visiting a relative, etc. Show of hands, how many people have ever downloaded a free book, and upon finishing it IMMEDIATELY started to call people and tell them to go buy it? Chances are, if you did mention it, it was at your next "normal" interaction with that person (at work, school, friendly gathering). It was not immediate.

If people were making these recommendations immediately by social networking, you would be able to track it. #nameofyourbook on Twitter would find recommendations. Your Google alert would be working overtime as it found blog references to your book. You would see the activity of Goodreads or Shelfari. Even Facebook's so-called "privacy" settings wouldn't really be able to stop you from finding references to your book. If you are NOT seeing a digital trail on your book during a free run, then word-of-mouth from the free run cannot be an explanation for the sales boost.

So in order for someone to see an immediate boost in sales after a free run, there has to be some other process in play. That would be the actual promotional activity of the author. Authors concentrate their marketing efforts during free runs. This concentration of effort causes a repetition of message to a targeted demographic that, over the course of the run, raises consumer awareness. THIS would be what leads to a subsequent boost in paid sales.
 

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Well, only speaking for myself, I am a Prime member ... I borrowed a book, once, last year.  It's still on my Kindle.  I've never returned it because I've never borrowed another book.  Mostly that's because I, even as attuned as I am to borrows and lendable books, forget sometimes and just buy the book I'm interested in rather then consciously acknowledge I could borrow it.  I suppose I'm either old fashioned or forgetful or both.

And, to my knowledge, I've never taken advantage of a free book either.  Maybe, if someone on the board posted a free book and needed downloads I did ... but it's been a long while since that happened, if it happened.  I guess I just either don't think about it or wait to buy the book. 

So, just throwing this out there ... but if I shop like this, I'd bet the farm that others do as well. 
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
So in order for someone to see an immediate boost in sales after a free run, there has to be some other process in play. That would be the actual promotional activity of the author. Authors concentrate their marketing efforts during free runs. This concentration of effort causes a repetition of message to a targeted demographic that, over the course of the run, raises consumer awareness. THIS would be what leads to a subsequent boost in paid sales.
Not for every Select author. I've run 11 free promos in the last year, all of them followed by boosts in sales. Since I don't do any marketing (no FB, no blog, no emailing list, no Twitter, no advertising), something else is responsible for those spikes.
 
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Mike McIntyre said:
Since I don't do any marketing (no FB, no blog, no emailing list, no Twitter, no advertising), something else is responsible for those spikes.
Really? You do NO marketing?

You don't send out your books for review? You don't do book giveaways on blogs? You've never announced a freebie on a book promo site? Be very careful how you answer. I know how to use Google just as well as anyone. I've often found the people who claim to do the least marketing have lengthy promotional digital footprints.
 

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However, from a reader's point of view, this means that any book labeled "KDP Select" is going to be free at some point in the next month or two. If they're willing to wait, all they have to do is track it--not a difficult task, considering how eager most of us are to get our books listed on the free ebook sites.
It's not a given that every book in Select will be made free at some point. I have a series and I'll say right now that I'll never make March Into Hell or Deeds of Mercy, both later books in the series, free. I tried doing March Into Hell back in Feb, but I wasn't getting a lot of downloads and it wasn't influencing sales of my other book. (just had two at the time, but was getting ready to publish third). I canceled the free run a day short and learned my lesson. I have the other books in Select because it's pointless to have them out since I can't really sell them anywhere else without the first two books, plus I get borrows on them and just having them in the library aids in discovery of the whole series.
 

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I wouldn't assume that most Amazon customers know that there is a link between being in KOLL and being listed for free. No doubt some do, but most don't follow Amazon obsessively the way we do.
This. When I'm shopping for books, I don't think about it this much. I agree that there are a few who might, but I believe they are in the minority. By a long shot.
 

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I see a lot of us writers here claiming the logic is faulty, but a part of me believes this counterargument stems a lot from wishful thinking. It's not hard to track the price. There are services that will do it for you and send you an email when the book you've identified goes on sale. There's little to no transaction cost or effort. Ten minutes a day to input the ASINs is enough to provide free reading material for a lifetime over several months. And we tend to think of our books as non-interchangeable when in truth they are completely dispensable in a lot of reader's minds. Why? Because they value the reading experience and the cost above all else. True, not all are so cheap, but a good many readers are, and those are the ones who follow the Select offerings more religiously and contribute to the majority of the Select free downloads. Select has, indeed, trained a considerable swath of the reading community into freeloaders. Smaller and shorter post-free promo bumps are symptomatic of this change in mindset.
 

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Saul Tanpepper said:
I see a lot of us writers here claiming the logic is faulty, but a part of me believes this counterargument stems a lot from wishful thinking. It's not hard to track the price. There are services that will do it for you and send you an email when the book you've identified goes on sale. There's little to no transaction cost or effort. Ten minutes a day to input the ASINs is enough to provide free reading material for a lifetime over several months. And we tend to think of our books as non-interchangeable when in truth they are completely dispensable in a lot of reader's minds. Why? Because they value the reading experience and the cost above all else. True, not all are so cheap, but a good many readers are, and those are the ones who follow the Select offerings more religiously and contribute to the majority of the Select free downloads. Select has, indeed, trained a considerable swath of the reading community into freeloaders. Smaller and shorter post-free promo bumps are symptomatic of this change in mindset.
Sure there are cheap readers who only download free books or buy 99 Cent ones, just like there are grocery shoppers who only buy oh sale or price-reduced produce. That is a segment of the market. They used to only buy used paperbacks.

There is another segment of the market that looks at free low cost books with considerable suspicion and won't touch them, assuming they are inferior. There are those who will take a bargain if they come across it and it's what they want but otherwise pay what it costs to get what they want.

That's all pretty typical of any product, including books. The smaller post-free bumps have a heck of a lot more to do with changes within Amazon than our pricing.
 

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"Terrence has never watched Extreme Couponing or some of those shows lol"
True. But it sounds like my kind of show. Does Honey BooBoo coupon?

"There's little to no transaction cost or effort. Ten minutes a day to input the ASINs is enough to provide free reading material for a lifetime over several months. "
There are some people who will do that. But observation shows many more don't. The fact that Amazon keeps giving away all those books indicates that few people really do this. Otherwise Amazon sales would have tanked as masses of consumers adopted the ten minute program. Many things can be done. That doesn't mean they will be done.

"And we tend to think of our books as non-interchangeable when in truth they are completely dispensable in a lot of reader's minds. "
When a student needs Catcher In The Rye for a class, there are no substitutes. When he needs something to read on vacation, there are thousands of substitutes, and each one of them is unique.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
Really? You do NO marketing?

You don't send out your books for review? You don't do book giveaways on blogs? You've never announced a freebie on a book promo site? Be very careful how you answer. I know how to use Google just as well as anyone. I've often found the people who claim to do the least marketing have lengthy promotional digital footprints.
Julie, Great comment (though a bit harsh)! I don't know enough about the self publishing world yet, but in Hollywood this is absolutely true.

I didn't understand that when I started out, but then, as I became more ingrained in the business, I found that those said they didn't market themselves were actually doing the most. And just to clarify, this is separate from being talented! Whether you market your work or not has nothing to do with the quality of your work.
 

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Bards and Sages (Julie) said:
I think the issue with Select is that it actually gets credit for the author's own work. Authors spend enormous amounts of time (and money) promoting their free days. My opinion is that any subsequent boost in sales is NOT the result of Select, but the result of the author's promotional blitz. Free downloads don't translate into sales because the people who downloaded the book already have it. They don't turn around and buy it again. And the boost in sales is too immediate to be the result of word-of-mouth from the people who downloaded for free. Word-of-mouth is generally not an instantaneous thing, but something that grows over time. Remember, it is not normal human nature to praise. (This is the same reason it is so hard to get reviews). Only a small portion of the audience that downloads a free book will ever mention it to another person. And a smaller percentage of those people will actively go look for the book to buy it. And little of this is going to happen within 72 hours of the free download.

People are going to recommend books in two ways: face to face and social networking. The face to face recommendations are going to happen during book club meetings, over lunch with friends, when you are visiting a relative, etc. Show of hands, how many people have ever downloaded a free book, and upon finishing it IMMEDIATELY started to call people and tell them to go buy it? Chances are, if you did mention it, it was at your next "normal" interaction with that person (at work, school, friendly gathering). It was not immediate.

If people were making these recommendations immediately by social networking, you would be able to track it. #nameofyourbook on Twitter would find recommendations. Your Google alert would be working overtime as it found blog references to your book. You would see the activity of Goodreads or Shelfari. Even Facebook's so-called "privacy" settings wouldn't really be able to stop you from finding references to your book. If you are NOT seeing a digital trail on your book during a free run, then word-of-mouth from the free run cannot be an explanation for the sales boost.

So in order for someone to see an immediate boost in sales after a free run, there has to be some other process in play. That would be the actual promotional activity of the author. Authors concentrate their marketing efforts during free runs. This concentration of effort causes a repetition of message to a targeted demographic that, over the course of the run, raises consumer awareness. THIS would be what leads to a subsequent boost in paid sales.
Julie, I believe you've been ignoring the threads and the evidence that point to Amazon's internal marketing machine, algorithms and recommendation engines as being the primary drivers of post-free sales. The majority of post-free sales are NOT a product of author marketing, no matter what your opinion might be. PEOPLE may only recommend books two ways, but that observation totally discounts the behind-the-scenes push Amazon gives books. The evidence is pretty clear, and the results it points to are trackable, predictable and - most importantly from an empirical standpoint - repeatable. I urge you to read Ed Robertson's blog posts and KB threads - or mine - for a better understanding of Amazon's internal marketing tools, especially around the use of Select free as a marketing strategy.
 

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Phoenix Sullivan said:
Julie, I believe you've been ignoring the threads and the evidence that point to Amazon's internal marketing machine, algorithms and recommendation engines as being the primary drivers of post-free sales. The majority of post-free sales are NOT a product of author marketing, no matter what your opinion might be. PEOPLE may only recommend books two ways, but that observation totally discounts the behind-the-scenes push Amazon gives books. The evidence is pretty clear, and the results it points to are trackable, predictable and - most importantly from an empirical standpoint - repeatable. I urge you to read Ed Robertson's blog posts and KB threads - or mine - for a better understanding of Amazon's internal marketing tools, especially around the use of Select free as a marketing strategy.
Phoenix, I also have to agree with you. A good freebie run results in sales. I don't have the experience that others do, but I saw/see that Amazon is helping market H2O (after it climbed to #1 in the Science Fiction.) On the other hand, I did have to get the word out about the free run, so that counts as marketing. Anyway, can you link to the threads? I'm curious as to when Amazon will stop promoting H2O!
 
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