Free Book giveaways and KDP Select – a follow-up

Since my last post Can You Give away too many books? I’ve had another go, so here’s the result (so far) of my latest experiment in the Free Books world. I had a 5 day giveaway for Bold Counsel, the third book in the ‘Trials of Sarah Newby’ series. I haven’t had many giveaways for this book before, if any. Before the giveaway I also paid for an expensive banner headline ad for the first 2 weeks of June on Kindle Book Review – you can see it here. This cost almost £100 or $150 – a big expense – and since currently Bold Counsel costs £3.99 or $3.99 I figured I would have to sell between 35 and 50 extra copies just to break even (depending on whether they sold in the UK or the US) I also posted the book on lots of the usual sites for free books.

So – what happened? Well, the giveaway worked. If the purpose is to give away lots of books, that is. But there was a clear transatlantic difference. On I gave away 15738 copies, but on only 2644. Well, the USA is a big place, and they also seem to be much more addicted to free books than British readers.

But what about the ‘bounce’ that is supposed to come afterwards and make all this worth while? Well, yes, to my moderate delight I am currently experiencing a small but significant rise in sales. The giveaway ended 5 days ago and sales of Bold Counsel have risen from their previous 2-4 a day to between 17 and 20 a day – a clear rise. I’ve sold 68 copies in the last 5 days, so at least I’ve covered the cost of that expensive advert, I told myself smugly.

Ah, but wait! On examining the figures more closely, it seems there’s something weird going on. I gave away 5 times as many books in the US as in the UK, but it’s readers in the UK, not the US who are boosting my (modest) sales bounce. And it’s not certain that the advert has anything to do with this either, because I think the Kindle Book Review is viewed much more in the US than the UK. So what is going on?

I think I have the answer – and it’s a (slightly) encouraging one for British authors. I have recently bought and read David Gaughran’s excellent book Let’s Get Visible – full of useful information and advice for independent authors – and one of the little nuggets in there is that although KDP Select has changed its algorithms so that a giveaway only counts for a tenth of a sale, that’s only true for For other amazon outlets, including, a giveaway still counts equal to a sale!

If that’s true, then all is explained. The 2644 books I gave away in the UK counted as 2644 sales, whereas the 15738 copies I gave away int the US only counted for 1573 sales. So the giveaway actually worked better in the UK than in the US!! And for a few days, at least, Bold Counsel has been up there at the top of the legal thriller list, surrounded by titles by a guy called John Grisham. (who’s he?)

It won’t last though. It’s probably ended by the time you read this post. And I still have the huge puzzle of how to attract any readers at all to my historical novels, which are just as good – honestly! But that’s another post.

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About Tim Vicary

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6 Responses to Free Book giveaways and KDP Select – a follow-up

  1. sshalsnoy says:

    Thanks for the info. The crazy workings of the ebook bussiness are pretty hard to decifer especially when they mess with numbers in different platforms!

  2. Looks like you’re still having success with KDP Select. I’ve read about authors who use BookBub and have given away 20K+ e-books. I’ve decided KDP Select is no longer for me anymore, though. Good luck to you.

  3. Tim Vicary says:

    Thanks James. You may be right. BookBub but is expensive though

  4. Patty wright says:

    You should give books away on There are lots of readers who enter drawings there.

  5. Terry Tyler says:

    Yes, I’ve read that book by D Gaughran too – like many of the ‘how to make your books visible on Amazon’, I thought it tells you more about how great it will be when your books actually ARE visible on Amazon, rather than how to do it – and the overall message seemed to be that to be visible you have to get visible in the first place…… It’s a bit like these ‘how to sell a hundred books a day’ posts that you see – when you actually read them, all they tell you is to use social media more, chat to people instead of just robotically posting, get featured on people’s blogs, do a free promotion, etc etc etc!!!! However, it did give good advice about getting the categories right – which is something I must do before I do any more special offers – when my latest book came out it got as high as 1890 in the ratings but wasn’t in any genre charts because I got them all wrong – thus, immediate plummet! Also, I’ve been at number one in the movers and shakers, and it still doesn’t guarantee that you will remain visible – but I daresay he’s made a lot of money out of his book, anyway, ha ha!!!

  6. Tim Vicary says:

    I’m sure he has. What he has done is crack the mystery of how to get a huge number of followers for his blog, which others have done but is still a puzzle to me. But the little nugget above about Amazon UK still counting giveaways as sales IS significant – it’s just done me some favours this week. (‘favors’ for US readers) The categories thing is tricky – I really wish amazon would create a few more options for historical novelists.

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