Literally as I refreshed the page, Amazon completely redid their KDP publishing reports. Previously, there was only a table list of all your titles and the amount that had been sold, borrowed or given away free. This list still exists, but now there’s also a “sales dashboard” that shows your free books, sold books and borrowed books over a period of time.
Prior to this, there was really no way of seeing what books you had sold on any given day–or if there was, it was buried pretty deep. The new system makes it pretty clear, which is good… but it also revealed some strange statistics. I immediately noticed a pattern, which was so startlingly apparent that I had to come here and post about it: as the amount of free books increased, the amount of sales decreased.
You might be thinking “well, obviously,” but it actually isn’t obvious. My books aren’t fiction, they’re non-fiction; it’s not like you can replace one by getting the other free. Like you’re going to say “Well, I wanted to learn about content marketing, but this SEO book is free, so I’ll take it instead.”
Or at least, that’s what I thought.
My free promotions are only for books that I’ve just released. Theoretically, they shouldn’t be cutting into sales because they are new to the library; it’s not like I’m putting up an old title for promotion and thus losing out on the sales for that title. Even those who are skeptical about free promotions tend to say that they work out well for writers that have multiple books, but this isn’t what my numbers are showing me.
This is where I began to realize that I’m a bit of a short-sighted idiot.
The pattern is most visible in late March. From March 21st to March 24th I didn’t publish any new books and I didn’t put any new books up for free promotion; during that time I sold 30 copies of my freelancer book a day. From March 25th to March 29th, I gave away 2,000 copies of a new title, Lazy Income, which is about passive income and was not, at the time, related to any of my other titles. My sales plummeted to 10 a day for that five day period.
Directly after the promotion ended, my sales increased again!
That’s not the only area in which this occurs. The stiffest peaks in my sales always occur when I don’t have anything up for free, the exact opposite of what I had anticipated and the opposite of what others had reported.
So what’s going on?
Well, my basic premise was wrong. My premise was that people are purchasing books that they’re interested in, but this might not be true. I suspect if a writer does have a free book out–any free book–that people will pick up that free book even if it has nothing to do with the book they were going to buy. They’ll think to themselves “I’ll read this first, and if I like it, I’ll go back and buy that other book I was interested in.”
Then, of course, they get distracted and they never come back. Or they get bored with the book they downloaded because it had nothing to do with the topic they were actually interested in.
So having free books could in your current library could actually be harmful to you, and not just because it’s robbing you of the sales of your current title. It could actually be preventing people from purchasing completely unrelated books from your library! With that in mind, I’m not even certain that KDP Select is worth it anymore; though, of course, more experimentation will be needed.