KDP free days / Countdown Deals

The Kindle Store is Officially Broken


“Amazon’s continued inaction is increasingly baffling,” wrote best-selling author David Gaughran on his blog. Gaughran reported about many incidents, such as the one that happened recently, when a “click-farmed” title hit #1 in the Kindle Store. And Amazon took no action…

“Over the last six weeks, one particularly brazen author has put four separate titles in the Top 10, and Amazon did nothing whatsoever.  There are many such examples.  I wrote at the start of June about how scammers were taking over Amazon’s free charts. That post led to a phone conversation with KDP’s Executive Customer Relations.  I explained in detail how none of those contentions were true, that readers are leaving angry reviews under these books, which regularly hit the charts, and further that KDP has singularly failed to act on 18 months-worth of complaints.”

The Facts and How Amazon Reacts (or NOT)
Here are the details what’s going on at the Amazon charts: An increase of 38,584,000%! within days…  How does that not set off alarm bells in Seattle?  Amazon is yet to respond or take any action. Sam DeSilva, a lawyer specializing in IT and outsourcing law at Manches LLP in Oxford had mentioned that: “Potentially, a number of laws are being breached – the consumer protection and unfair trading regulations. Effectively it’s misleading the individual consumers.
It seems that Amazon can invent flying delivery robots, but can’t handle a 1990s-level internet marketer scam.

Amazon Has A Fake Book Problem
In this former article author David Gaughran explains in detail 
how the click farm scammers “produce” and distribute their books: “For over fifteen months now, scammers have been raiding the Kindle Unlimited pot using a well-worn trick.  They usually pilfer the content first of all – often by stealing an author’s original work and running it through a “synonymizer” – and then upload it to Amazon, thus avoiding the automatic plagiarism detectors. They make sure the “book” is as long as possible.
These thieves make the book free for a few days, and then use a variety of banned methods to generate a huge and immediate surge in downloads – generally suspected to be bots or click-farms or dummy accounts, or some combination thereof.  These fake books then suddenly jump into the Top 20 of the free charts, displacing authors who have gone to considerable effort to put together an advertising campaign for their work.”

What are Click Farms?
A click farm, according to Wikipedia is a form of click fraud, where a large group of low-paid workers -usually located in developing countries, such as India, the Philippines, and Bangladesh – is hired to click on paid advertising links for the click fraudster.

It is extremely difficult for an automated filter to detect this simulated traffic as fake because the visitor behavior appears exactly the same as that of an actual legitimate visitor.  In an effort to circumvent filtering systems, click fraudsters have begun to use these click farms to mimic actual visitors.

KindleUnlimited – Forget it!
David Gaughran explained in his blog that fake authors are sucking in money from the communal author pot, and stealing visibility from genuine, hardworking authors – despite the irate reviews from readers.
“One of these scammers who has been engaging in various shady tactics for years with impunity – has gate-crashed the Top 10 four times in the last six weeks using click-farms.  His books tend to immediately slink back to around 100,000 in the charts and don’t have “Also Boughts” weeks after publishing (meaning that he didn’t manage to rustle up 50 genuine sales yet – borrows don’t count towards “Also Boughts”).
On the same day that this click-farmed book hit #1 on Amazon, KDP announced yet another drop in rates for Kindle Unlimited authors – and rates have been steadily dropping for some time now.”

See the long list of emails which David Gaughran sent already to Amazon – without any action from them to stop these scammers. It shows clearly that authors are screwed when participating in KU – not only due to the measly payouts. Best step for authors is NOT to enroll their book in KDP Select.
Inclusion in KDP Select (and KU) means that authors are losing out on other revenue streams – and also becoming increasingly more reliant on Amazon.  KU is NOT an author’s friend.  It’s Amazon’s friend to draw customers to their site.



Still Worth to be on Amazon’s KDP Select?


Recently an author wrote in a forum: “I’m seriously debating whether or not I should opt out of the KDP Select program (after my three months are up). I’ve had very few borrows to make it pay, so it’s only really the promotion days that seem to be a plus. My last book did okay on free promo, but not a lot of sales to follow.”  Well, I have read similar posts during the last two or three years on a regular basis.

Many authors doubt, as Amazon Kindle Free Days, CountDown Deals and Borrows are not that lucrative any more. KDP Select can be a viable marketing tool, but the biggest disadvantage is the “exclusivity” an author has to adhere too, which causes a lot of effort and planning on other retailers sites, and lost sales there – as you will have to pull your books from all other vendors, you cannot even leave them for free there.

The KDP Select Program is Optional.
As an indie author, you are not required to agree to the program or use a program tied to KDP Select.  However, if you enrol in KDP Select, you are signing away your right to use your e-book for anything other than reaching the KindleUnlimited crowd, and to get the right to offer free uploads of your e-book (5 days), Countdown Deals, Kindle Giveaways, and to participate at KindleUnlimited.

Kindle Free Days:
When you have that many downloads of your free book, you may climb to the top of your particular Kindle subject category – if scammers haven’t clogged the free book categories.  Just read David Gaughran’s article: KU Scammers Attack Amazon’s Free Ebook Charts.

However, getting to the top of the “free” category doesn’t affect your paid ranking – after the free days end and your book starts costing money again.

If you pay a large sum to certain promotion websites and newsletters, you are promised that hundred thousands of readers receive notification about your free book.  But this only working out for authors who

  • already have a significant following, or
  • are selling a series and offer the first book as a free download

Theoretically, if readers get hooked, they might eventually purchase the rest of the author’s works.  But for authors with little to no name recognition and just one or two books published, it’s more difficult to see how using free days can significantly increase their sales.

Kindle Countdown Deals:
Kindle allows you to cut the price of your book down to 99 cents.  However, this feature is largely useless in isolation if you’re an unknown author. There’s no point in slicing the price of your work to just under one dollar if only a few (if any) readers will ever note it.  Quite a few online promoters offer to boost your countdown deal—often for a hefty fee.  But it is important that you have enough reviews, and an online presence, perhaps also some blogger interviews.

Kindle Giveaways:
Amazon’s latest feature allows Kindle authors to offer a number of their books as a giveaway prize, similar to those at Goodreads. If an author has a significant Twitter, Google+ or Amazon following, Giveaways can prove a useful feature.  You can even earn royalties from the books your participants “win” – since you pay for them.
Giveaways do not only improve the numbers of followers, it could potentially increase the number of reviews within the following months.  Giveaways do not necessarily translate into high rank-jumping at Amazon in the long run.

Kindle Unlimited:
Rather than to pay for individual copies of books, those who’ve signed up for the program can read all they want.  Authors receive a certain amount of royalties per page read, which amounts to less than half a cent per page. The question is, if people who download them, like they download a Netflix video, will they become your dedicated future readers and book buyers.
KDP offers a lot of promotional tools, to let readers download or borrow your books, which results usually in higher visibility for a short time.  Since last year, participating authors are only paid by pages read, instead of by the number of books downloaded.  However, none of these measures will build you a huge audience right away.  It can perhaps improve sales for a short time, but none will make your book a bestseller.

Exclusivity with KDP has its Downsides Too.
While you are exclusive with Amazon, you can’t receive e-book income from any other online stores, but you can still have audio-books in iTunes and your paperbacks at Kobo, Barnes & Noble and other retailers, or sell them from your website.  Being exclusive with Amazon means relying wholly on one vendor for the income as a writer.  Many authors aren’t so sure of its benefit, due to the restrictions Amazon imposes, only 23 percent of all e-books are in KDP Select.
Unfair for Self-Publishers:
There is also some unfairness towards self-publishing authors: Amazon’s traditionally published books of legacy publishing houses have no exclusivity requirements – and can be sold wherever the publisher wishes.

Read more about this topic:



Less Revenue for Authors from Amazon?

Amazon Revenue

Did you read Amazon’s Newsletter last week?  One of the sentences in the text was: “Starting with the November fund, we will work to take these marketplace differences into account and payouts per country will differ based on local country factors.”
Sounds rather unassuming, doesn’t it? However it might mean LESS MONEY FOR AUTHORS…who are signed up with KDP Select.  In India for example Kindle Unlimited subscription service is much lower priced: $3 only per month.  So a revenue pay-out per book on KU will also be much lower than for those in the USA, where customers pay more than three times for monthly subscriptions.
But Amazon might also reduce the subscription prices for other countries in order to eliminate competition… Or am I too suspicious?
Making KindleUnlimited available in India also taps into a market with a lot of growth potential.  According to Digital Book World, e-books currently account for just two percent of the country’s $2- billion-market, but that amount is expected to grow as more people get their hands on inexpensive smartphones and tablets, and the biggest competitor Flipkart is outnumbered by Amazon (maybe).

What Bloggers Say:
Mark Cocker wrote: “None of this should come as a surprise, yet thousands of authors will be surprised once they realize the slippery slope that is KDP Select.  It’s an inevitable outcome when authors surrender full pricing and compensation control via their KDP Select enrolment to a company whose entire business model is predicated upon commoditizing and devaluing products by stripping suppliers (authors) of pricing control.  Amazon does this in the name of offering customers the lowest possible prices.”

And Nate Hoffelder blogged a while ago:
Following the launch of KindleUnlimited, the payout from KDP Select declined by 25%, and it continued to decline ever since.  The payment hit a new low in October, dipping to $1.33, and according to the latest KDP newsletter it increased slightly in November, 2014 to $1.39.  Authors are wondering whether KDP Select in particular, and Amazon’s subscription e-book service in general, are such a great idea.”

What are the Pro’s and Con’s of KDP Select?
In exchange for giving Amazon exclusivity for your e-book for 90 days, you receive five days to make your digital content available for free or in a Kindle Countdown Deal, and you also get paid during these 90 KDP Select days for any of your e-books that are lent through the Amazon Prime library or through KindleUnlimited. Since June 2015 only the pages that were read will be paid by Amazon.  Also, you will earn 70% revenue for sales to customers in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico.


  • If you are a new author with only one book, then building an audience on Amazon before branching out to other venues might be an good choice.  Often new authors are receiving higher numbers of lends while more established authors are getting less.
  • If you sell exclusively through Amazon, you only have to manage one site and one set of changes.
  • Multiple-book authors might rotate content through KDP Select if they are getting a significant number of paid lends and new readers from the program. Or use KDP Select to launch a new project, getting reviews and feedback on Amazon before distributing the title elsewhere. If your free days land you on the Top 10 or 20 (first page) of the free bestseller list, that exposure might! Increase sales for the days following a free promotion due to the exposure and higher ranking.

But consider this: you don’t need to be on KDP Select to offer your book for free.  A great option are “Pay-with-a-Tweet” or to have one of your books permanently free on Amazon!



  • As an indie author, you should not be dependent on any single income stream. In business it is never good to work only with one customer or one supplier – nor is it smart to have only one product / one book to sell. Consider only during the initial period exclusivity, in order to earn your tiny share of the KDP Select Global Fund amount when your book purchasers read more than 10% of your book from KindleUnlimited, or to borrow your e-book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL).  Enrolling in KDP Select means your books are automatically included in both programs.
  • As writers have to remove their books on all other platforms to be exclusive for KDP Select campaigns, the timing of price changes for sales is a real hassle.  You never know if scheduling a price change on Kobo, Barnes & Noble and iBooks works smooth and timely – nor will it always work perfect on Amazon.  After the campaign you have to change back everything on all platform, which can really be a pain.  And even if you use any aggregator services, errors can and will happen.
  • Global growth of digital markets: Apple iBook and Kobo sell in 58 countries.  Amazon may be the biggest player in the USA, but there are more online retail stores and devices that are dominating in other countries.  Sales in Canada for example are coming primarily from Kobo.  And don’t under-estimate the future massive Asian markets…
  • Selling on more platforms – on- and off-line – allows readers all over the world to buy your work in any way they want. Don’t limit the amount of money you might make.

Bestselling author Dean Wesley Smith mentioned in one of his blogs: “In regular publishing, if your book is all over the world in every store and not limited, your sales potential has no ceiling. Think J.K Rowling book sales numbers.”
“In KindleUnlimited, you only have the amount in the prize pool that Amazon sort of sets after the fact and decides to give you – considering pages read… Being exclusive to one bookstore is for sure a mistake.”


Difference Between Marketing and Advertising

Advertising / free day campaigns are just a very small part of marketingAs very well described here, it is only a tiny slice of the “marketing pie”.  A humerus approach to illustrate the difference between Marketing, PR, Advertising, and Personal Branding can be found in these examples. The huge variety of Online Marketing approaches are shown in this wheel-shaped graphic below. 

Continue reading after the graphic

The Noob Guide to Online Marketing - Infographic
Unbounce – The DIY Landing Page Platform

Book Marketing Strategies
Selling your book for a very low price or for free is not really a marketing strategy, unless … And it should only be done and only works well in these circumstances:

  • when you have already a name,
  • when you have several books or
  • when you are a well established as a writer.

It costs money to advertise and then you loose sales, the sale of a couple of books short after the free days will soon be over and the book will turn back into it’s old Amazon rankings. See also a former blog post blog post “Free Days on KDP Select - is it for you?

Consider this too:  You must commit exclusivity with Amazon for 90 days, which means that you must remove your e-book (NOT the print version!) from all other retailers and give up your e-book royalties from Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple iBook store and Sony’s Nook eBook store or wherever else you sell it.
Giving away a short story (1000 to 1,500 words) or writing guest  blogs is a much better approach – and publishing stories on a high-frequented magazine or newspaper websites helps to find new readers (and you might get even paid for it). You can split your book into many short stories (re-write or spin it a bit to make it “new-looking”).  Tweeting or posting about these free short stories will bring you even more additional promotion for you book – and links to your sales page and your own website, where you hopefully have an opt-in form for your email newsletter to invite readers to your next book.

Most Successful KDP Free Day Campaigns
Authors with multiple books or a series of books use promo days to give away the first book in a series (or the third or fifths, hoping that customers will come back and buy the other books from that series. Which they often do. You can use each of your books to advertise everything else you have written.
Don’t forget:  If you have only one book there is nothing that readers can actually buy from you, after they received your book for free! The only benefit is the lending program for Prime Members that bring you some revenue – but only if you have priced it higher than $2.99, as readers usually prefer to borrow higher-priced books.




If you would like to get more support in all things publishing, have your book intensively promoted and learn how to navigate social media sites – or to learn how you can make yourself a name as an author through content writing: We offer all this and more for only $159 for three months! Learn more about this individual book marketing help: http://www.111Publishing.com/Seminars
Or visit http://www.e-book-pr.com/book-promo/  to advertise your new book, specials, your KDP Select Free Days or the new Kindle Countdown Deals.

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Tagged: clever marketing, content marketing, Difference between Marketing and Advertising, Huffington Post, Marketing mix, nouns in books, short stories, teasers, write for blogs and newspapers

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