KDP Select Results After 3 Months

KDP SelectPerformace

See large chart below

Amazon’s KDP Select program has now been running for more than three months so I thought it would be good to take a quick look back over what has happened with this program so far.

At the beginning of  November 2011 Amazon first announced their Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for Amazon Prime members. Then in December they invited independent authors to enroll their Kindle books in KDP Select so that they would be included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library.

The Catch: KDP Select requires exclusivity for a period of at least 90 days. In other words you agree NOT to sell the title elsewhere including other ebook stores and even from your own web site during that exclusivity period.

The Carrot: there are two main attractions.  First, a fund to compensate for every time an author’s ebook is borrowed. At an average of $1.75 per borrow over the past three months that is actually more than authors would earn for a sale of a Kindle book priced under $2.99. Second, you are given the opportunity to schedule 5 promotional days during which you can make your ebook free in the Kindle store. Evidence indicates that the number of paid sales is usually higher following a period of free promotional days.

From the time KDP Select was first introduced authors’ opinions were divided. Some joined quickly. Others complained that writers should never give their work away for free. Many authors found themselves somewhere in between and not quite sure what they should do. I posted here about the Pros and Cons of KDP Select.

The good news is that three months on there are plenty of anecdotal stories being posted online so you can find out exactly what KDP Select has or hasn’t been doing for authors’ sales and platform building. I’ll include a few links to these stories below but first let’s look at the overall KDP Select Performance from December 2011 to February 2012.

A couple of weeks ago Amazon issued a press release announcing that there are now more than 100,000 ebooks in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library and there have been over one million “borrows” of KDP Select books over the three months from December to February.

The KDP Select Fund was $500,000 in December (authors earned $1.70 per borrow), $700,000 in January (authors earned $1.60 per borrow), and 600,000 in February (authors earned $2.01 per borrow).

Let’s take a look at this performance in a chart.

KDP SelectPerformace

The February results are interesting. The results I obtained from Amazon (halfway down this page on 13 March) only reveal the amount earned per borrow so I had to work backwards to calculate the number of borrows. Perhaps they didn’t mention it because the number of borrows fell from January. The good news for authors is that the earnings per borrow rose to $2.01, and Amazon are leaving the fund at $600,000 for March.

Was the drop in borrows simply due to an earlier surge in January due to all of the new Kindle Fires readers unwrapped at Christmas? Will Amazon lower the fund if the number of borrows continues to fall? We will have to wait and see.

Apart from the trends in borrows and earnings I suspect that many indie authors are more interested in finding out whether KDP Select has helped authors to sell more books. Many authors are now posting their experiences online as you can discover with a quick Google search.

Following are some examples.

David Gaughran has explained on his blog why KDP Select helps with rankings and why Amazon’s Bestseller Lists may have less influence on sales than they did before, writing,

“…when a book is borrowed through the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library … that counts as a sale for ranking purposes (this has been confirmed by Amazon). … Those that aren’t in KDP Select, obviously, won’t have any borrows to help boost their ranking, and are now competing against books that do. On top of that, many self-publishers are taking great advantage of the promotional tools in KDP Select to put their book free for a few days, which often results in a huge post-free sales bounce, pushing all other books down in the rankings.”

Over at TheCreativePenn blog Jeff Bennington has written a post “Why Amazon’s KDP Select Is God’s Gift to Authors” in which he writes

“Some of you may not agree with Amazon’s monopolistic tactics, and that’s okay. Some of you, however, have jumped in with both feet. As an independent author, I’m in favor of KDP Select. My first promotion brought me into Amazon’s Top 100 (#55 Paid) and completely transformed the sales of all my books.”

In “How Amazon’s KDP Select Saved My Book” David Kazzle explains how he took his book that was “dead in the water” to No. 34 on Amazon’s Paid Bestseller list and it stayed in the Top 100 for 9 days.
How about non-fiction? Laura Pepper writes at BookBuzzr how sales of her non-fiction wedding guide tripled following 3 days free on KDP Select, adding,

“A great bonus is that there were plenty more ‘Customers who bought this also bought this’ results (16 pages worth!) which is FANTASTIC visibility and one of Amazon’s best internal marketing features.”

Lexi Revellian shares on his blog,

“Tentatively, at the end of January I tried a two day giveaway of Replica, at the same time raising the price to £1.99/$2.99, thus moving up to the 70% royalty from 35%. It did pretty well…So mid-February, I made Remix free for two days and increased the price. Remix sold 4,343 copies that month, plus 325 loans at $2.01. I have sold more books in other months, but I have never made so much money.”

Lexi Revellian then quotes Robert Bidinotto who posted this message on the Kindle Boards forum,

Gosh, what a devious plot Amazon has going: They keep throwing MONEY at us authors, and keep offering us NEW OPPORTUNITIES, always trying to make us HAPPY, so that we continue to deal with THEM rather than their competitors! How can we POSSIBLY allow this ruthlessly manipulative scheme to continue? Shouldn’t we be giving Amazon’s inferiors a fighting chance?

While not all authors’ experiences have been positive, most authors who have been very proactive and publicized their free days seem to have found some level of success with KDP Select. I encourage you to read the entire posts linked above because these authors reveal more about what they did surrounding their free days with KDP Select.

Have you enrolled any of your books in KDP Select? How was your experience? Please leave a comment below.

About the Author: Gary McLaren

Gary McLaren is the author of 'The Indie Author's Guide to Publishing Ebooks'. He also manages several web sites for professional writers including Publish Your Own Ebooks and Worldwide Freelance.


  1. My experience has been overwhelmingly positive. The free promotion days certainly helped, and seemingly launched me into the top-100 of science fiction, where I’ve basically stayed since Christmas. It did save my book as well, which had been stuck at just a sale or two per day.

    The borrows have been nice, but I’ve averaged only 15 a month. That extra money has been great, but I believe there are 15 Nook readers a month who would be interested in the book and so I’ve let my KDP enrollment expire for that book in favor of testing the other markets (B&N, Smashwords).

    For my upcoming release, I’m going to enroll it in KDP Select straightaway and use the free promotion days, hopefully to more successful results.

  2. Thank you for the links to the people quoted, eager to read the additional info they supply surrounding what they did around the free days. Thanks so much.

  3. While I have mixed feelings – because I am not fond of monopolies or the looming threat of a monopoly – I still wanted to experiment. Joining KDP Select boosted the sales of all my books, provided far more visibility… I sold more books in an hour after my free promotion than I sold on all other (former) sites combined over six months.
    I believe I will enroll for another 90 day period. While I’m not one of those making thousands of dollars, I’m making enough to feel encouraged.

  4. I had heard recently that as from March freebie days would no longer impact rankings for the books when they come off of the freebie period. From my own experience this seems to be true – last week I had ten of my non-fiction books on different free days and although the downloads for free ran between 300 – 800 books the sales following the free days were no different than when I put the books up for free. It could be that your next three month report might look a lot different than it does for the christmas period.
    best wishes

  5. A monopoly can be a wonderful thing if you’re part of it, which it looks like Amazon is trying to arrange with some authors. Having said that, I must add that giving anything away for nothing for any reason helps to reinforce the notion that things that are available digitally are worth less, or maybe even worthless. You have to love a language that allows the meaning of nine characters to change with a single space, which is one of the reasons I’ve enjoyed being a professional writer for 35 years. As the old saying goes, the key to happiness is finding something you love to do and get someone to pay you to do it.

    • Thanks for your comment, Alexander, and I love that saying: “The key to happiness is finding something you love to do and get someone to pay you to do it.”

  6. I’ve had decent success with KDP, and was in it from the beginning with 1 book. As of April it will be 8 of my 42 titles. The program has increased sales of all my books across the board, especially my zombie books that tie in together… every time I give a free day to one the others pick up sales, and I’ve tripled my sales in March from February. My loans are very low, but so are sales on non-Amazon sites.

    Armand Rosamilia

  7. Gary – I’m still out on KDP Select and free book promotions. Yes, it has added more income – so that’s a no-brainer. However, my question is about making books free. I wanted to do a trial with a $0.99 lengthy article (not book-length), so set it up for a 24-hour trial. More than 900 people grabbed it (which is good for promoting my other stuff), but the trial went far past the 24 hours – it actually didn’t stop offering it until noon the following day (36 hours). I contacted Amazon who said that the 24 hours is approximate. I’d like them to actually cap it with 24 when that’s the setting I used. In any case – I’m not convinced (looking at my stats) that free promotions are helping me. But – someone – please talk me down on this one 🙂

  8. I’ve had extremely positive results, so far, from kdp Select. Initial free offerings didn’t result in much, but the book was new, had no reviews and as a result only about 1000 downloads combined for the first three free days. Sales of other books didn’t seem to change.

    I held out for a month for the next free promotion, when the book had a few reviews (positive ones) and as a result I had 10 times the free downloads (= 10 times the exposure). Sales were noticeably higher after that, both for the book enrolled and other titles.

    I’m in the process of withdrawing two of my other books from other markets (Diesel and Sony are ridiculously slow to do this) and will enroll those books also. It’s been nothing but a positive for me.

  9. Kindle Select has helped me quite a bit although I only have one book out yet (http://thewakeupcallbook.com) but I think my sales on other sites were simply not good enough NOT to try it out. I’ve had thousands of downloads on the free days and sales have jumped up quite a bit after those days. What I wonder though is whether all those free downloaders really read the books they download or if they just stock up books because they’re free. Is the difference between FREE and $2.99 really that big? It’s obvious that FREE gets a click so much easier than three bucks, but maybe the click comes to easy and from someone who is not really interested in the book?

    To summarize my ramblings, Kindle Select is a must-try program, because the free days give you more exposure, but how effective it is in the long run remains to be seen. If you have really great sales through Smashwords, Kobo or Nook, it might not make much sense.

    My $2.99 worth of advice.


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