• Jennifer Richardson
  • [SWP: Behind the Book] KDP Select: What It Is & Why It Matters – Part 1 of 2
[SWP: Behind the Book] KDP Select: What It Is & Why It Matters – Part 1 of 2
Written by
Jennifer Richardson
September 2013
Written by
Jennifer Richardson
September 2013

For the last three days of August, my travel memoir, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, was made available for free as a Kindle download under Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select program. I wanted to take the opportunity to explain more about the program and my personal experience with it to help you decide if it’s worth pursuing for your own book. (Spoiler alert: I think it is!)

What’s KDP Select?

KDP Select is a program that KDP authors and publishers can enroll in for 90 days at a time. You can read all the details on Amazon’s FAQ page here, but, in summary, it has two main benefits:

  • Your book is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, available to Amazon Prime members, and each time your book is borrowed you earn a share of the global fund. One way of looking at this is that you may potentially lose a sale from someone who can now borrow your book for free. However, I tend to think that it raises the possibility of someone reading your book since it is now available for free, AND you still get paid for it.
  • You may offer your books free to readers for up to five days every 90 days.

The main drawback of participating in the program is that you make your book exclusive to Kindle during the 90-day enrollment period. Given that Amazon is responsible for the majority of ebook sales in the US and UK, this is perhaps not so much of an issue, especially for newbie authors.

A Side Note: My participation in KDP Select was managed through my publisher, She Writes Press, which was a KDP publisher up until August 31st of this year. Starting in September, She Writes Press will be distributed through Ingram (more on that here) which means that it no longer has the ability to directly control special pricing for its catalog of books through KDP Select. There are, however, countless other benefits of switching to Ingram for distribution for current and future She Writes Press authors, including the possibility of national bricks and mortar retail distribution.

Why It Matters

As a first-time author who has published non-traditionally, my biggest challenge is getting visibility for my book. Having a free promotion gave me a great reason to talk about Americashire anew on social media, especially four months after my publication date, when I felt like I had already relentlessly jabbered on about it. It also gave a reason for tens of other outlets, from traditional and online media to specialty sites and newsletters focused entirely on free and discounted books, to publicize my book. Of course neither of these happened automatically, and I’ll post part 2 of this blog next week to share tips on getting the word out about your free promo.

And now I’ll cut to the chase. Here’s what my promo results looked like by the numbers:

  • Promo “Sales” – I gave away 38,013 books during my promo, which was enough to get me to #1 in the U.S. Free Kindle bookstore on the second and third days of the promotion. Americashire also reached #1 in its U.S. and U.K. Kindle categories (e.g., .Kindle ebooks > Nonfiction > Travel > Essays & Travelogues) on the last two days of the promo. And yes, I'll admit I took screenshots. I know one was a free list, but it’s still fun to see your book at #1 on anything! 
  • Reviews – One is a great number when it comes to a bestseller list, but not so great when it comes to the number of stars on a review. And, unfortunately, my free promo has so far yielded a couple one-star reviews. This didn’t come as a total surprise—a well-known downside of free giveaways is bad reviews. The theory goes that people already devalue something they are getting for free. (My first one-star reviewer mentioned that I was not a good enough author to “right” a book, an explanation that made me feel a little better.) The better news is that, as of writing this, I’ve acquired over 20 new reviews since the promo. While many of these are positive, it’s admittedly been a nerve-racking experience to read each review as it is posted and I’m still working out how best to assimilate the feedback. Suffice it to say I am trying to accept each one humbly and graciously, and the point here is that a KDP promo is an effective way to generate feedback from readers. The exposure has also had an impact on Goodreads, where I have received eight new reviews since the promo and around 25 new people have added my book, taking my total to 525 people. (My biggest boost in Goodreads “adds” was the 300 that came after the second free giveaway I ran on that site.)
  • Post-Promo Sales – One of the oft-touted benefits of KDP Select free promos is a halo effect on your sales. However, I was skeptical of this, having heard anecdotal feedback from my fellow She Writes Press authors who had done KDP Select promos ahead of me and seen either no or marginal impact. I've been watching my own sales rank on Amazon, and, while it has improved in the post-promo period compared to pre-promo, I've yet to receive my actual sales numbers for the week following the promo. I will provide an update on those figures if I have them next week when I post part 2 of this piece.

On balance, the most important number for me is the 38,013 books I gave away. Having birthed this book, my goal is to get it in the hands of as many readers as possible: to garner reviews, to establish a reader base, and to build my platform and skills for future books. I don’t know of another way to accomplish this at the same scale that's possible via KDP Select.

Next week I’ll be back with the second half of this post on how to make your KDP Select promo work. Until then, have any of you offered your books for free via KDP Select? What was your experience? I'd love to hear about it!


JENNIFER RICHARDSON is the author of Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, the 2013 IndieReader Discovery Award winner for travel writing. The book chronicles her decision to give up city life for the bucolic pleasures of the British countryside while pondering whether or not to pursue parenthood. You can find Jennifer online at:


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  • Jennifer Richardson

    Karen, if you haven't done so already, I would also heartily recommend creating a giveaway for the hard copies of your book on Goodreads. It can be a good way to get people to add your book to their "to read" lists there.

  • Karen A Szklany Writing

    My book may be a terrific candidate for this giveaway option through Amazon. Will try it very soon. Since I am connected with Goodreads already, I will be able to quickly launch my online publicity project. 

    I have also bought 25 of my books at a steep discount from my publisher, both the sell and to trade with friends who have published books of their own, of for CD's or t-shirts they have made. ~:0)

  • Jennifer Richardson

    Thanks for your good wishes, all. Let me know if there are any specific questions I can try to address in next week's post alongside my tips for promoting your free promo.

  • LuAnn Braley

    I've always wondered how KDP worked IRL.  Thanks for sharing your experiences.  Looking forward to next week's installment.  

  • Julie Golden

    Thanks Jennifer, for sharing your experience. This is valuable info. It's great that your work received so much attention. May your success, and collection of impressive screenshots, continue to build.

  • Brit Columbia

    Thank you, Jennifer. This was very informative. it sounds like you are well on your way to establishing a reader base.

  • Eunice Nisbett

    Congratulations Jennifer. That is a large number of downloads! It is exciting to watch your book rise on Amazon.

    As I work with authors, I have found that the key is to maintaining the momentum and continuing your marketing (social media, blog posts etc) beyond the KDP Giveaway so that it translates into sales. This then raises your rankings in the paid categories. 

    Best wishes and keep going.

  • Betsy Graziani Fasbinder

    Congrats on the successful KDP giveaway, Jennifer!  Here's hoping for well-deserved positive reviews and a bump in sales.  Your experience is quite similar to mine.  We'll wait and see what the next wave brings.  

  • Jennifer Richardson

    Thanks, Brooke!

  • Brooke Warner Outlining

    This is really interesting and a helpful breakdown for other new and self-pubbed authors. Thanks, Jennifer, and congrats on the huge number of downloads. It's really impressive!