Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained—Epilogue

It is now October 2012, and my experiment ended months ago. So how did it all work out? Is KDP Select worth it? How about the giveaway, was it worth it? I’d like to be able to give a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but I’m afraid it just isn’t that simple. There are certainly pros and cons that need to be weighed into your decision PRIOR TO a giveaway.

First let me give you a little history of Kindle sales of The Savannah Project and The Toymaker. The Savannah Project first became available on Kindle in May of 2010 and sales did nothing for months and months. 2010 totals were 43. Depressing, right? In May of 2011, one year after its release, I lowered the price to 99¢, as seemed to be the popular thing to do, and sales immediately picked up. In 2011, The Savannah Project sold 3645 and was steadily increasing. Each month I saw a rise in sales.

February 2012 saw the release of The Toymaker. Sales were good from the start at a price of $4.99. So, I started reading about all these independent authors who have made big money with great rankings by doing the KDP Select giveaways. I mulled it over until May of 2012 and decided to give it a try. Little did I know that in March, Amazon had once again changed its algorithms.

The Giveaway: In Mid-May, I did a 3-day offering of The Toymaker and a week after it ended I did the same with The Savannah Project.

The Results: 33,000 copies of The Toymaker and 10,000 copies of The Savannah Project were given away in the month of May.

Sales: While The Toymaker was on giveaway, the first book in the series, The Savannah Project showed an increase in sales at a price of $3.99 but during its giveaway, there was no increase for The Toymaker. I attributed it to the difference in the giveaway numbers. Was there a bump in sales, you ask? Absolutely, although short-lived from what I was led to believe would happen—again, the change in Amazon’s algorithms was likely the culprit.

After The Toymaker came off the giveaway where it held a #4 ranking for 3 days, it fell briefly out of sight then zoomed quickly back into the Top 100 paid list (at $4.99) and ultimately back into the Top 10 where it stayed (in and out) for nearly 3 days. It stayed in the Top 100 paid for another 3 days then made a steep descent down the rankings before leveling off at a place I wasn’t happy with AT ALL! The Savannah Project never did better than #212 on the paid list after its giveaway was over and after a week its ranking fell off the proverbial cliff.

Sales for May and June were very impressive for The Toymaker and somewhat for The Savannah Project. Subsequent giveaways showed very little in the way of a sustainable bump in sales. The first giveaway only sustained a substantial bump in sales for a week and after 2 weeks—watch out! The drop off in sales is dramatic and depressing. Sure I had great sales for May and very good in June but then…OUCH! Even The Savannah Project, which was steadily increasing up until the giveaway, took a horrific drop in ranking and sales.

So looking around at some of the other independent authors who had had such great success with KDP Select and the giveaways, how are they doing in sales and rankings? Well, it seems there sales did the same thing—an initial slow descent followed by a rapid drop off. Hmmm, how can that be and when did that happen for them.

March 19, 2012—the day that Amazon is believed to have changed their algorithms!

So the John Lockes and the Michael Hickses of this independent publishing world took the same powerful blow, as did those of us with less impressive numbers.  Why?

The bigger question I want to ask is this: Why did the traditionally published authors see a substantial increase in their Kindle sales (at a much higher price point I might add) on or about the same date as the independent authors saw the bottom fall out?

Sure there are some independent authors whose sales are still high but they don’t stay there for very long. Could it be that Amazon’s new algorithms favor traditional publishers’ stables of authors over independent authors? Did Amazon cut a behind the scenes deal with the traditional publishers? Certainly gives off that appearance. Amazon doesn’t share this information with anyone so there is no way to prove anything. It wouldn’t be the first time something of this nature has happened. Just take a look at the internal policies of Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million as far as excluding self-published authors books from the shelves. Oh sure, you can get your books in their bookstores but they deliberately made it difficult, anticipating that most of us won’t go to the trouble to jump through all their hoops.

Okay, now I’m done. The cynical, conspiracy theory side of me has spoken.

For the record: I use KDP Select. I made my books available on NOOK and KOBO for a couple of months, hit all the forums and boards, did tons of network marketing, and SOLD NOTHING on either. So back to Amazon and KDP Select where I’ve sold most of my books and know what to expect. Will I do another giveaway? The jury is still out so I can’t give a definitive answer.

Ebooks sell best on Kindle, it’s just that simple. Amazon is still by far the best place for independent authors to sell their ‘e’ and ‘p’ books.

Download The Toymaker

Download The Savannah Project



  1. Mary Ann on October 25, 2012 at 2:59 am

    What an interesting post, Chuck. How very disheartening that would be if Amazon made such a deal with big publishers. But you’re right…it’s hard to argue with the numbers. One would think that Amazon would *encourage* independents, as Amazon makes money if indies make money. But if Amazon somehow makes *more* money by keeping the indies off, well, we know which way they’re gonna go.

    I was a successful independent singer/songwriter for years, until ClearChannel came along and bought up all the mom-and-pop radio stations around the country and made them into K-Rocks. I used to get great play on those stations, which meant that my shows in those areas would do well, as would my CDs, sold in the local chains. But once ClearChannel came into town and bought the station, independents were booted off, the clubs closed, as did the local record stores. A completely different world emerged.

    That’s a slightly different story than the one you’re telling, but similar in the sense that corporations make the rules, period, whether we like it or not. It’s infuriating.

  2. Paul Cain on December 30, 2012 at 10:26 am

    A very interesting article. As a small independent publisher we are playing around with pricing and see similar results to what you see,
    I would be surprised though if Amazon cut any sort of deal with any publisher regardless of size which would disadvantage Independent authors.
    Also we are beginning to see a growth of eBook sales through other retailers such as Kobo and Apple. Our own eBook sales have increased over the last year however the % of Kindle sales has dropped from 90% to below 75% which shows readers are beginning to look at other retailers for eBooks.

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