I love KDP’s new Kindle Countdown Deal tool. I did a couple of preliminary tests with it when it first came out in November, 2013. I used it with several e-books on Read Tuesday, December 10. I even ran a couple of free promos on Read Tuesday so I could compare the results to the Countdown Deals. I used the Countdown Deal once again after Christmas, when e-book sales are usually on the rise.
What is it?
Let’s begin with what it isn’t. It’s not a cure-all for any e-book that doesn’t sell. If your e-book isn’t selling, the Countdown Deal probably isn’t the answer. Instead, you need to reassess whether the content, writing, and packaging are marketable. At least one of these areas needs to be improved to get your book selling.
If you have a marketable book, the Countdown Deal can help to stimulate sales. A short-term sale price can help you create added interest in your book, especially if you market the promotional price effectively.
Here are the main details of the new Kindle Countdown Deal:
- If your Kindle e-book is priced from $2.99 to $24.99 in the US or £1.93 to £14.99 in the UK, you can put your e-book on sale for as little as one hour or as many as 7 days consecutively in a 90-day KDP Select enrollment period. (Many e-books with a $2.99 price in the US have a UK price below £1.93. If so, you need to republish and raise the UK price to £1.93 before running a Countdown Deal in the UK.)
- Customers will see both the sale price and the list price during the promotion, so they will know exactly how much they are saving. There will also be a countdown timer, showing customers when your sale ends, which helps to create a sense of urgency.
- The sale price must be at least $1.00 off in the US and £1.00 off in the UK and must end with .99.
- Your e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select, which requires publishing the e-book edition of your book exclusively with Kindle. Your e-book must be enrolled in Select for at least 30 days before you can run a Countdown Deal.
- If you change your list price, you must wait 30 days before running a Countdown Deal. You must also wait 14 days after the promotion to change your list price.
- You must schedule your Countdown Deal at least 24 hours in advance of the day on which your promotion would begin. You need 24 hours notice to cancel a Countdown Deal.
- Note that you can only run a single Countdown Deal in a 90-day enrollment period, even if your first Countdown Deal didn’t use the full 7 days. (This is in contrast to the free promo, where you can run up to five separate one-day promotions or use them all at once.)
- If your book is on the 70% royalty plan, you will still earn 70% after subtracting the delivery fee even if your sale price is $0.99 or $1.99. However, if you have a large file size, which is typical if there are several images, you might actually earn more money during the Countdown Deal on the 35% royalty plan. In fact, your royalty could be zero on the 70% plan. Unfortunately, KDP doesn’t show you in advance what your Countdown Deal royalty will be; you need to figure this out yourself. On the 70% royalty plan, subtract the delivery fee (find this in Step 2 of the publishing page) from the promotional price, then multiply by 0.7. Compare this to 0.35 times the promotional price for the 35% royalty rate. You can switch plans by republishing before (it must go live 24 hours before the day your promotion starts) and again after the promotion (but then you earn 35% for sales for a day before and the period after your promotion while your e-book is being republished).
Comparing the Countdown Deal to the free promo
Kindle’s Countdown Deal solves many problems that the free promo suffers from:
- Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most of your customers will actually read your e-book. A huge problem with the free promo is that many people who take the e-book for free never get around to reading it.
- Since customers are paying money for your e-book, most shoppers will actually read your blurb, check out reviews, and explore the Look Inside prior to making a purchase. Another huge problem with the free promo is that many shoppers don’t bother seeing if the e-book actually appeals to them since it’s free.
- Customers are more likely to be in your e-book’s specific target audience. This means they are more likely to have reasonable expectations for your genre. The free promo attracts customers from outside your genre, who then compare apples to oranges. This sometimes shows up in critical reviews.
- Unfortunately, there are many outspoken individuals who strongly loathe freebies. Some, with mean spirits, actually ‘buy’ freebies with the preconceived idea of slamming them. By running a Countdown Deal, your e-book won’t attract the freebie haters, and if someone does wish to slam the e-book, at least they must make the purchase first if they want it to show as an Amazon Verified Purchase.
- You earn royalties during the Countdown Deal. You don’t earn one penny during a free promo. The hope of the free promotion is that some customers will actually read the e-book, like it, and help spread the word. It’s a big risk. The Countdown Deal has the same benefits, without the risk. Sales during the Countdown Deal affect your paid sales rank, whereas a free promo only affects your free sales rank. Your paid sales rank actually slides during a free promo, but will most likely rise during a Countdown Deal.
- There are fewer freebies saturating the market with the introduction of the Countdown Deal. There are also fewer Kindle e-books priced at 99 cents and $1.99 because those e-books aren’t eligible for a Countdown Deal. More Kindle e-books now have a regular price of $2.99 and higher. This helps everyone create a better perception of value. Those e-books that are on sale during a Countdown Deal can only be on sale for up to one week out of 90 days, so most of the time they are not cheap.
- Websites that link to Kindle e-books through Amazon Associates are discouraged from promoting freebies, but have an incentive to promote Countdown Deals. It would be smart to search for sites that promote Countdown Deals for your genre. It’s a win-win situation, since they can earn money through Amazon Associates by promoting your e-book.
I ran a Countdown Deal on several e-books during Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of sale just for books on Tuesday, December 10. I actually ran my promotions from December 9 to December 11. I sold more e-books on average on the 9th and 11th, but had the greatest surge in sales on the 10th, the day in which Read Tuesday was being promoted. On December 10, my sales of e-books for the month doubled what they had done all together from the 1st to the 9th. Several other authors also ran Countdown Deals on Read Tuesday. Of those who have shared their results with me, all but one had similar successes, and some had a far better yield than I had.
A Countdown Deal can be highly effective for a marketable e-book that is promoted effectively.
I ran a couple of free promos on December 10, also, so that I could compare the two programs. I did get a few sales of those e-books after the free promos ended, but those sales paled in comparison to the Countdown Deals.
In early November and late December, I also tested the Countdown Deal on a couple of other e-books (you can only run one Countdown Deal on a given e-book in its 90-day enrollment period in KDP Select). On these occasions, I didn’t promote the sale. I did this with one of my better sellers, with the result of increasing the sales frequency by a factor of 3.4. Trying this also with a couple of e-books that ordinarily don’t sell much, I confirmed that a Countdown Deal isn’t the solution to an e-book that lacks marketability.
You still need to promote your sale
You will certainly get the most out of your Countdown Deal if you effectively market your promotion. As already mentioned, you should search online for websites that actively promote Countdown Deals. If they use Amazon Associates, they have an incentive to help you promote your e-book, so don’t be too shy to search and ask.
There are also several websites that specialize in announcing e-book promotions, e.g. by emailing readers who are subscribed to daily newsletters. For example, check out these sites: BookBub, Ereader News Today, Kindle Books & Tips, Book Gorilla, Book Blast, and Pixel of Ink. You want to learn about stats to help you with your decision. For example, the BookBub pricing page provides data for subscribers by genre, average downloads, and average sales.
The exclusivity drawback
You must enroll your Kindle e-book in KDP Select in order to take advantage of the Countdown Deal tool. This requires publishing your e-book exclusively with Kindle during the 90-day enrollment period. You can’t publish your e-book with Smashwords, Nook, Kobo, Apple, or any other e-readers besides Kindle during this period. However, you may publish a paperback edition of your book with CreateSpace, for example; the exclusivity clause only pertains to electronic versions of your book.
It’s also possible to initially enroll in KDP Select, then 90 days later opt out and publish your e-book with every e-reader. This allows you to test the water; the 90-day period also gives you a chance to prepare your e-book for the other e-reader formats.
Some e-books sell very well on Nook, Kobo, Sony, or Apple, while others sell primarily on the Kindle. The only way to know for sure is to try it out. If your e-book sells very well with Nook, for example, you probably don’t want to enroll in KDP Select. However, if your e-book rarely sells anywhere but Kindle, you might as well take advantage of the program. Select also has other benefits, like earning royalties on borrows from Amazon Prime members.
Attention, Amazon: You need a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks, too
It would be very cool to have a Countdown Deal for CreateSpace paperbacks. This would solve a major problem. The Expanded Distribution channel limits how low you can set the list price for a CreateSpace paperback. If you want to run a short-term promotion, you can simply lower your list price temporarily. However, if you have Expanded Distribution, you might need to temporarily disable it in order to make a compelling sale price.
Amazon and CreateSpace could get together, potentially, and create a Countdown Deal that only lowers the Amazon sale price, but not the list price or Expanded Distribution price, during the promotion. If you like this idea, please feel free to contact Amazon and CreateSpace with your suggestion. The more authors who suggest this, the more likely they will consider the idea.
Presently, the Countdown Deal only applies to Kindle in the US and UK. Hopefully, they will add this to Australia, Canada, and other websites for Kindle sales soon.
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Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
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Great analysis. I’ve been looking at this thing for when my next book comes out and possibly doing it for my third book. I’ve heard some horror stories with the timing, but I assume they’re fixing the system.
I didn’t know about the freebie haters. That’s rather disappointing.
One could start the promotion a little early, just to be safe. Hopefully, the end time will be precise (note that it’s in Pacific time), since the counter actively shows how much time remains. I’ve been fortunate with the timing thus far.
I’m wondering if part of it was a rush at the beginning, so the system got swamped.
Hi, just wanted to say thanks for posting this clear and thorough analysis, and especially for the heads’ ups re royalties & waiting periods. Really helpful.
You’re welcome. I’m glad it was helpful. 🙂