Free Books = High Paid Sales – A Case Study

Some of us are looking very closely at the use of Kindle and self publishing – Here is a must read case study of how a book that had stopped selling became a best seller in a week.  100% not the old text book but maybe the new?

How Amazon’s KDP Select Saved My Book

Gather round, my fellow writers.

I have a tale to tell.As I write this blog post, The Jackpot is No. 68 on Amazon’s Paid Bestseller list.


One week ago, my book was dead in the water. And I mean dead. After a promising start last summer, sales crashed, completely, totally and spectacularly, despite wonderful reviews (from people who didn’t even know me!). From December 1 through January 24, I sold 21 copies on Amazon. One on And that was it. Barely enough to fund a lunch date for me and my wife. The previous couple months hadn’t been much better. To be honest, I was trying to forget the book even existed as I worked on my new manuscript, my internal doomsayer wondering how badly I’d effed my career with a self-publishing disaster.

Now, I’d first heard about Amazon’s KDP Select Program during the holidays. Here was the deal: In exchange for providing Amazon a 90-day exclusive, authors get their book(s) listed with the Lending Library, which allows Prime members to borrow books electronically. Second, authors would be able to run free promos — for each 90-day period I enroll in Select, I could make the book available for free for up to five days, divided however I liked.

At first, I wasn’t sure what to think about it, especially given the exclusivity requirement. Part of me was aghast — how dare they ask me to pull my book from the other retailers! And then something occurred to me. Between October 1 and December 31, I had sold a grand total of …. ONE book on all the non-Amazon platforms — that one sale on Barnes & Noble.
Now I had heard anecdotal evidence that running a free promo later translated into real sales. There seemed to be no real explanation for this, other than the fact that a ton of free downloads gave a book good exposure on Amazon. So with nothing left to lose, I decided to give it a shot.
I pulled the book down from all the other e-retailers (Number of People Who’ve Since Asked Me Why My Book Isn’t Available on the Other Retailers = 0), and in the wee hours of January 25, The Jackpot went free for a two-day run. At that moment, the book had logged nine sales in January. I woke up at 6 a.m. and was surprised to see that the book had already been downloaded nearly 100 times. I knew these were downloads and not sales, but still, it was exciting to see a number other than 1 or 2 under the monthly sales tab on my Amazon report.
The download rate increased steadily during the course of the morning, and by lunchtime, it was being downloaded more than 1,000 times per hour, occasionally pushing 2,000 per hour. And it was rapidly climbing the Free bestseller list. It got featured on a number of the big Kindle reader blogs that showcase free books each day (this was easily my luckiest break, especially since I didn’t know that people often submit their books to these sites in advance of their scheduled free dates). By Wednesday night, the book had hit the top 10, with about 14,000 downloads. Thursday proved to be nearly as successful, with another 11,000 downloads, and the book spent much of the day ranked No. 5.

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