Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Coping with the KDP Freebie Juggling Act: a simple 2-step system


Are you giving it away for free?

If your books are exclusive through Amazon’s Kindle Select program through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), they make it oh-so-easy to give away books for free.  They make it sound like a privilege, even.  Like it’s going to do tons for your books’ sales and your author ranking.

Will it really?

One school of thought, let’s call them School A, says – “No, no, no!  Never give it away for free!  Offering freebies trains your “loyal” readers to pay nothing for your books.  That’s terrible.  Don’t do it!”

The other school of thought, School B, says (equally loudly) – “Yes, yes, yes!  Giving books away for free will help new readers find your books.  They will become loyal readers!  Free books ‘hook’ them in, like a sample at the supermarket.  If they like it, they’re sure to come back and buy more (for actual money).”

As a fairly new writer trying to get established, I’m somewhere in between.  I do think freebies help get attention I wouldn’t get otherwise.  So I’m still doing them.

I don’t like keeping secrets.  I’m going to share what I’m doing here, but I’ll be honest:  I don’t really know yet if it’s working.  I hope this will be the start of a conversation, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

If you have more than a couple of books enrolled in KDP select, you need a way to keep track of which ones are free at any given time.  That’s where this simple 2-step system comes in.  Follow these steps, and you’ll never get mixed up again.  You’ll also be able to reward your loyal followers with a chance at getting hold of these.

Here’s how I set up my KDP freebies:

  • I offer freebies on weekends.  For me, this is Sunday and Monday.  Many of my readers are Jewish, and religious Jews don’t use computers from Friday evening to Saturday evening, so both of those days are complicated.
  • KDP gives you 5 days free over your 90-day enrollment period.  I usually divide each books’ 5-day free “entitlement” into 2 freebie periods (one 3-day, one 2-day), but I may start doing 2, 2 and 1 instead, because I don’t see many people picking up a book after its second free day anyway.
  • I try to offer 1-2 books free every weekend.
  • I try to make these 2 books different from each other (ie one picture book, one non-fiction).
  • I spread out a book’s freebie weekends over the 90-day KDP Select enrollment period.
  • I notify my mailing lists about freebies on Thursday for the upcoming weekend.

I wish I could tell you these rules work well.  The truth is, I really have no idea.  It’s very difficult to split test, but I suspect that over time, the effectiveness of different strategies will become clearer.   I’ll let you know if and when they do.

And hey, I’m new at all this and still learning.  If you’ve tried something and it works, pleeeeeeeease share it with us in the comments.  (I know, I said that before, but I’m really looking forward to learning what others are doing.)

So how do you go about getting your freebies underway through KDP?

That part, at least, is simple.

Step 1:  Setting up freebies in KDP

Setting up a freebie in KDP couldn’t be easier.  I wish they provided an overall calendar so you could see all your upcoming freebies at once, but I take care of that on my own in Step 2, using Google calendar.

Here, I’m setting up my freebie.

You just pick your days on their handy calendar…


And there’s your freebie!


Here, I’ve added a second freebie a month later to use up the remaining 2 days for this book.


Setting them up is simple.  But Amazon doesn’t give you an intuitive way to keep track of your freebies once they’re set up.

Once you’ve got all those nice, tasty freebies queued up, it’s up to you to keep track of them.  Luckily, that step is easy, too.

Step 2:  Tracking freebies in Google Calendar

The second part of my system involves entering the free book promo I’ve just created in Google calendar.  You can use any calendar program you want, but this is what works for me.  We have all our family’s stuff in there anyway, and sometimes, I like seeing everything all together.

(If you’re not already using Google Calendar, it may take a minute to sign up, but it’s free.)

Entering your freebie in Google calendar doesn’t have to be complicated.  I usually just include the title “KDP freebie” and a short keyword that tells me which book is on freebie.  And the dates, of course.

This is what a typical calendar entry looks like.


Later, when I want to see what’s going on, I can just search Google calendar.  Because all my KDP promos are marked with the letters “kdp,” this is a pretty obvious way to search for them – and see them all neatly lined up in front of me.


(Feel free to grab any of these freebies, by the way!)

Oh, yeah… and that’s sort of Step 3.

Step 3:  Telling people about your freebies, yes or no?

Should you let people know?

I do.  I think it’s polite to tell your loyal readers if you’re giving something away.  I tell my mailing list every Thursday which freebies I have up for grabs.  I do it mainly because at this point, I’m more desperate for reviews than I am for sales.  Although a bit of both would be lovely.

But all those School A thinkers from up above will tell you that you’re just training your readers to NOT be loyal.  To hold out and NOT buy your book until it becomes free.  “Why should I buy it if I know that sometime in the next 3 months it’ll be free?”

What can I tell you?  If you can, try a split test.  Test out one strategy for some books.  Test out another for others.

That’s what I plan to do. 

For example, my husband’s new book, which we released last week, is never going into the freebie rotation.  I will happily send free copies to legitimate reviewers, but I’m not just standing on a street corner handing them out and hoping for the best.  I feel like I can do that, in part, because it’s his book, not mine.  So I have no right to give it away.

Try different strategies and once you have, come back and share what works for you.  Amazon is such a tough nut to crack that we all have to work together as an indie community and pool our smarts.  Or else we’ll ALL lose out..

Are you giving away your best work?

If you DO decide to give your books away for free, regularly or on a trial basis, one thing goes without saying:  make sure you’re giving away your BEST work.

Imagine working for a company that sells yogurt.  You set up a sample display in the supermarket.  And your boss comes along and says, “Well, these yogurts here have been sitting out, and they’re about to go bad.  Let’s hand them out, since everybody the store’s just full of moochers anyway.  They’re just freebies, who cares?”

What do you think your (potential) customers are going to do? 

Give you a hint:  They’ll taste the yogurt, which will be overly tart, bitter, rancid, maybe a little moldy around the top.  They’ll spit it out, throw it away, and avoid your brand forever.

Ditto with books.  If you hand something out free, it’s your business card.  It represents YOU and everything you do.  Don’t just dish out any old crapola on a flimsy plastic spoon.

Make your freebies good.  If you’re going to try it, go all-in.  Serve up excellent books, your best, on silver spoons.

Send your readers home licking their lips and maybe they will be back for more.  (And if they do come back, tell me how you did it!)

[image credit Markus Lütkemeyer via flickr]


Post a Comment

As always, I love to hear from you.