KDP Select as a Profitable Self-Publishing Tool: 4 Authors Tell their Stories

I’ve always known that the KDP Select program on Amazon existed, but I didn’t give it much thought until Erin Whalen, my web designer, suggested I publish a digital version of my first novel, Day of Revenge, via this program. She told me that her friend, who had published her novel through Amazon’s KDP Select program, was making a good income off the sales of her novel. Good enough where she’s not forced to work full time to make ends meet. Whalen then went on to tell me more about the benefits of the KDP Select program: the free download days and the potential for greater exposure.

Until that moment, I had been thinking about publishing a digital version of my novel, but wasn’t willing to put the work into it. But after that, I decided it was time I open the door to greater opportunities books sales wise.

I published Day of Revenge via KDP Select in early March and have scheduled my 5-day giveaway for the end of this week (March 23-27th). This is all so new to me and I’m starting to wonder how every single author can become rich off this program. Is it possible that any self-published author can? These very questions have compelled me to seek out other authors who have published via this program and learn more about their experiences.

Their stories are as follows.

Daniel Haight

I’m an author who published via Amazon KDP Select. I think it’s a great kickstart for new authors who would otherwise have a hard time getting their names out there. At the same time, giving away free copies of your book via Kindle only takes you so far. Let me tell you my story.

As I’m sure you know – all KDP really does is give you the ability to give away copies of your book on Kindle or allow it to be ‘lent’ from one Kindle reader to another. Not a bad idea … the point is that giving away free anything rarely has a direct effect on sales. I’ve given away hundreds of copies of my novel Flotilla but I couldn’t tell you how many of those people read it, recommended it to others and had them buy it as a result. As nice as it is, as generous as Amazon is being, it’s a total shot in the dark as far as actual units sold.

Yet, for all of its potential flaws, KDP Select is really one of the most powerful, well-though-out tools out there. Being a self-published author in 2013 is a challenge in itself and nobody really knows the landscape. KDP Select should be a tool in your book marketing and promotion toolbox but it should not be the only one.

Cameron McVey

I published my first book, Nova Sol, on KDP in December of 2011. Since then I have published two more books (all books belong to a sci-fi trilogy) and a handful of short stories. Sales are slowly building and right now my wife likes to say “they cover the cell phone bill.” I have only published through KDP so far but may put my books up on other services in the next few months. The KDP system is very simple and easy to use. I am even helping my father put his book in the system. He had no idea how to do it.

I would tell authors new to self-publishing and KDP to keep writing and keep putting up their work. There is no one way that authors are discovered. You can read a great deal about SEO, keywords, social media and having a platform. You do need to stay abreast of the industry changes (which are happening very fast) so you can take advantage of new opportunities. The most successful technique I have used is to notify the websites that specialize in e-books about my KDP Select free giveaways (if you sign up for that program) and/or new works. The more works/books you have up, generally speaking the more likely you are to get discovered. Also, when someone does like your work, there is more for them to buy. But do not sacrifice quality for quantity. Think long-term. One day you will have a large catalog of works on KDP just waiting for new readers. A story you write in the next six months could sell thousands of copies five years down the line.

In addition to the website notification, play around with your price points (not just free giveaways). Look at your competition – self-published authors in the same genre – to see what they are charging. Offer various price points and formats (short stories vs. full-length novels) to get readers to try your stuff.

Rhonda Price on Behalf of Author Alessandra Torre

New best-selling author Alessandra Torre self-published her first novel, Blindfolded Innocence, through Amazon KDP Select and has mixed feelings about her experience. Even though her book was an unexpected breakout success and sold thousands of copies, she was unable to have it included on the New York Times best-seller list due to Amazon’s 90-day exclusivity contract. This occurred because in order to qualify for the New York Times list, sales data must come from multiple vendors, and KDP requires exclusivity to Amazon for 90 days.

“In a perfect world, if your book explodes, you’d like to be able to get on the NYT best-seller list,” Torre said. “In reality, when Blindfolded Innocence debuted about a year ago, it was selling more than several of the books on the NYT list, but I was prevented from getting this recognition by publishing with KDP Select.”

Torre added that it also was not clear how much KDP Select positively affected her overall sales. However, she feels the platform could be beneficial to new authors as long as they are aware of the requirements and limitations. “It’s a strong program that gives a lot of exposure to independent authors who might not be visible otherwise,” she said. “I think it would also be good for books that have been released for months

but have not received any attention. I realize that my case was unique because of the success of my book, so the 90-day waiting period seemed incredibly long to me.”

Torre added that she also did not utilize some promotional aspects of KDP Select, such as the ability to make her e-book free.

Laura Cowan

I spent a good part of the four years, polishing up my supernatural debut novel, The Little Seer – a story about a young girl with prophetic nightmares – while querying agents and publishers, and felt encouraged that a few almost pulled the trigger to bring me into the traditional publishing fold. But after a few publishers shied away from the controversial content of my book, and a few agents told me “almost but not quite” or “I’d love to see your next project,” I decided my story meant enough to me that I would publish it on my own.

It didn’t go quite as planned. I entered a publishing date of April 10th on Amazon, but when I submitted my files for upload, the publishing date mysteriously disappeared! Suffice it to say, I scrambled to put together a blog tour and get some reviews and buzz built up around the book, when it was published just 2 days later on February 12th! Most blogs wouldn’t review self-published books, many influencers were too busy or overwhelmed with requests to blurb my book, so I focused on getting the word out via my blog and social media, and put together a small blog tour with bloggers I found online and on Goodreads. I published to the sound of crickets, but then things got interesting.

I published The Little Seer as a full Kindle e-book and as a three-part Kindle novella series, and made the first part free for 5 days via Amazon’s Kindle Select program. I hoped this would give my work some exposure and people would give an unknown author a chance. Little did I know the power of Amazon’s bestseller lists, and of word of mouth.

At first it was just 100 copies, 160… but within the first 24 hours, my little book had found its way onto the Amazon Kindle Bestsellers list for free titles, and it was hovering in the top 5 on Christian Suspense and top 10 in Occult Supernatural! Over the next 5 days, nearly 3,500 people downloaded my book, pushing it as high as #2 in Christian Suspense and #5 in Occult/Supernatural, and the reviews from readers and the bloggers on my tour were absolute raves. “Riveting.” “Life-changing.” “If you don’t think you are loved, read this book.”

I was stunned and thrilled, when 2 weeks later, I received my first piece of fan mail from Nigeria! I will continue to query agents and publishers as I prepare to put out my second novel, Music of Sacred Lakes, later this year, but the equation has changed for me. I’m no longer thinking of publishers and agents as my salvation. At best, they will be partners in expanding my platform, if they can do any better than Amazon and I already can on our own.

These stories show that not every author’s experience in publishing with Amazon’s KDP Select program is the same. In the world of publishing, success hinges on two things: platform and marketability. Haight made a valuable point when he said KDP Select should not be your only marketing tool kit. To experience any significant amount of success, authors need to build up a strong online and offline presence, and they must use more than one tool to build it. McVey also pointed out that authors should write more than one book. That is so true. No author should rely on one book, or even two, to sell well because chances are, one may not sell well at all.

Amazon’s KDP Select program is no different in that regard. It’s a great platform and it doesn’t cost you a dime to publish your book. But then again, it all depends on what you as an author want to get out of it.