Publetariat Dispatch: Is The Free Ride Really Over?

Publetariat: For People Who Publish!
In today’s Publetariat Dispatch, author Andrew E. Kaufman discusses changes to Amazon’s KDP Select program, and the possible impacts on indie authors.

This post, by Andrew E. Kaufman, originally appeared on the Crime Fiction Collective site and is reprinted here in its entirety with that site’s permission.

I’m hearing a lot of talk lately among authors that the Amazon Select program is losing steam and no longer  spurring the kinds of sales it once did. Many are reporting diminished  numbers and poor results after their free giveaways. Rumors are  spreading from blog to blog that on May 1st, Amazon abruptly changed its  algorithms (The “customers also bought” section) so that free books are  now given only ten percent weight in the rankings, in effect making ten  free downloads really only equal to one sale. Also, borrowed books  supposedly no longer count as sales where rankings are concerned.
I don’t know if all this is true, but a lot of people seem  pretty  upset. Authors are complaining that Amazon wants them to give away their  books for free with no benefit to sales. They’re threatening to  withdraw their work from KDP Select and upload them to Smashwords.   Others are trying to decide whether to stick it out with a wait-and-see  attitude.
Many have benefited greatly from the Select program. I am one of them.  My sales are still going strong, and I haven’t seen the diminished  numbers others are reporting. I feel fortunate for that, but my  suspicion is that while the free promos may have given me a good bump at  the outset, what’s happening now is something entirely different. I  never stopped promoting once the giveaways ended, and I’ve never relied  on the Select program to carry me forever. I’m not saying that others  have; I’m simply recounting my own experience.
But in the back of my mind, I’ve always wondered  just how long the  Select Effect would last. When it began, it seemed like a mad  free-for-all, literally, and suddenly the market was flooded with free  books. It only seemed logical that eventually, consumers might feel  overwhelmed by it all, that they would grow tired, and yes, that the  value of e-books might become diluted. After all, there are so many  books and so little time to read them all. There’s no telling how many  free books are sitting on Kindles now—and even worse, how many of them  will ever actually be read.

I’m not a gloom-and-doom person, and I suspect that even if my sales  weren’t doing well, I wouldn’t be one of those complaining right now. I  still choose to see the glass as half full. Many authors are forgetting  that even if they give away a lot of books and don’t see an immediate  boost in sales, those are seeds that have been planted, and they’re  getting the benefit of gaining new readers they never had before. I’ve  learned that in this business, too fast never lasts, and that slow and  steady wins the race. It’s how I’ve built my audience over the years.   Besides that, there’s still the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, and at  least for me, it’s been like having extra books up for sale—money in my  pocket I wouldn’t normally have.


The thing is, I don’t think the Select program was ever intended to  carry authors forever; I think it was intended to give them exposure,  help get their books into new readers’ hands, and ultimately, help them  grow their readerships, and I still think it’s doing that. What happens  after is really up to the authors.  It’s not Amazon’s job to do all the  work so our books can sell—it’s ours—and it’s not much to ask if we meet  them half way.


The truth is, the free ride really isn’t over because in fact, one was never offered.


3 Responses to Publetariat Dispatch: Is The Free Ride Really Over?

  1. Lorijo Metz August 1, 2012 at 3:10 pm #

    I just had a two day freebie promotion and, if anything, it was a blast. My book hung out at Number 1 in Science Fiction and Science Fiction Adventure almost all day on day 2. When I pulled up the list of Amazon’s top 100 in paid and free, my book was right next to George R. R. Martins and Kurt Vonnegut’s – Now that was a thrill. Anyway, what the promotion did for me was motivate me to continue marketing and promoting my books. You’re right KDP Select is only one small part of that.

  2. Emily Hill August 5, 2012 at 5:19 am #

    Oh how I have gnashed my teeth at ‘Free Books!’ Now THIS is a post, Kaufman and Windwalker, that I can get into! No bones about it – I’m a commercial writer (and also, no pun intended, if you follow my genre).

    I’ve written several blogs attempting to sway emerging authors to NOT go the free-Willy-nilly route, whether it was Smashwords, or KDP Select. However, a light bulb went on when I realized that I could EMBED the urls to my OTHER ebooks *into* any book that I threw into the KDP Select stacks. Okay, I reasoned, a grab-reader who doesn’t know me gets a free book – and I get free – expanded – advertising. That is the only way that ‘FREE!’ has ever worked for me.

    I was so swayed by Harlan Elison’s rant on YouTube… He says it all… Why improve on the perspective of The Master! Here’s Harlan:

    You’re absolutely right – a free ride WAS never offered – to writers!

    Emily Hill

  3. Steve Windwalker August 5, 2012 at 7:22 am #

    Thanks, Emily, and we also posted your comment on our Author’s Corner Facebook page at


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