Recent chatroom wisdom tends to dismiss the Amazon KDP marketing tools Countdown and Free Books as less than effective for eBook marketing. The reasoning is all about numbers – there are simply too many free books at any one time, too many books offering countdown prices, too many authors altogether.
For those who do not provide their books exclusively to Amazon’s KDP program, an explanation is necessary. When you subscribe to KDP, you give up your right to market your eBook with anyone other than Amazon. The tradeoff is: 1. Special designation on Amazon shelves as KDP Select 2. Opportunity to join the lending library system (royalty payment for pages read) 3. Opportunity to initiate the Countdown, your book offered at various low prices on multiple progressive days, increasing until the original price is resumed 4. Opportunity to offer your book for free for a limited period of time. It should be noted both Countdown and Free Books receive promotion by Amazon, and are increasingly popular programs for readers.
So what’s the hitch? As previously stated, some chatroom frequenters feel the power of these special marketing tools is fading with the increasing number of participants. Indeed, if I google “free book” I can find endless offers not just at Amazon, but at Kobo, Apple, Project Gutenberg, Nook – the list goes on. Indie authors lower their prices all the time. So are the chat-buddies right?
That depends. From my experience, an eBook author has two options: to market strictly with Amazon, or market with everyone else (including Amazon non KDP). This decision requires some thought. Theoretically, you can try the wider market, change your mind, withdraw your title from all retailers, and enter in the Amazon KDP program. From my experience, however, it is nearly impossible to withdraw all your books from all online shelves once you’ve distributed them widely. You can go the other way and begin with KDP. Once you decide to test other waters, do not expect to come back, for the above mentioned reason. In any case, it is likely once you have sampled KDP, you won’t want to leave.
But do Countdown and Free Books tools work? Again, I turn to my own experience. I write fiction. I recently published a fifth book in my series. I followed the advice of gurus and hyped the book on pre-sale, sold enough to propel it near the top of my category when it was released. It hung in for a month or so, then began to fade as expected. I used Countdown over three days to try to save it. The results were immediate, the book shot even higher than its release rank. Weeks later, it is still in the top 25 of that category (a category dominated by such massive platforms as both Hillermans and Craig Johnson).
The key for selling any book is visibility. Amazon Free books and Countdown offer this. But remember the three basics for selling eBooks: 1. Write a great book. 2. Create a great cover. 3. Write a series. When those are in place, the countdown works best. Author name recognition is helpful for the Countdown to succeed, and such recognition will come gradually from several good books in a series. Free books are the best tool for the beginning author, when getting volumes into many reader’s hands as soon as possible is the motive.
Finally, the Prime lending library system option in KDP should not be overlooked. If your writing is strong enough to keep readers reading, you will amass many pages of royalties. The increment is small, especially at first, but as you and your series develop fans and followers, it will increase and truly make a difference.