I’ve written several times about my experiments with self-publishing on the Kindle, mostly concerning my short story The Variant, which briefly hit #18 on the overall bestsellers list.

Overall, I found Amazon’s ebook tools satisfactory, but the price structure was frustrating:

Amazon doesn’t distinguish between free and paid content on their Kindle bestseller list. In fact, 19 out of the top 50 books are free. There’s nothing wrong with free, but it’s a semantic and tactical mistake to include them on a “bestseller” list.

They’ve fixed that.

Free books are now listed separately, and with the introduction of the KDP Select program, self-publishers can finally price a title as free for up to five days. (Before this, only major publishers could set the price at zero.)

snake people coverAfter reading David Kazzie’s post about his experience with KDP Select, I decided to try it out on another one of my short stories, Snake People, which had gotten nice reviews but never achieved the traction of The Variant.

To enter KDP Select, you have to promise that the title isn’t available for sale anywhere other than Amazon. Unlike The Variant, I wasn’t selling Snake People as a PDF, so there was nothing to take down.

Dropping the price is handled through a pop-up box called the Promotions Manager. The only option listed for me was “free book,” but the system seems to be designed for more-extensive campaigns. You’re allowed to be free for up to five days total, divided however you want.

Snake People went free yesterday (February 1st), and as of this writing sits at #20 on Kindle’s free short stories list, with 75 copies “sold” in the last 24 hours.

The list is everything

From our experience with Bronson Watermarker, we’ve learned that where you fall on the lists has a huge impact on sales. The higher you’re ranked, the more people see you. The more you’re seen, the more you’re purchased. Winners keep winning.

The pure ranking matters, but even more important is where the page breaks.

For Bronson, we made the front page of the Mac App Store in the “New and Notable” section. For the two weeks we were there, our sales were ten times normal. Once we fell to the second page of “New and Notable,” we quickly regressed to the mean.

I realize that writing about Snake People while the experiment is still running will inevitably corrupt the data. Some readers will click and buy it because hey, it’s free.

And that’s okay. I mostly want more data to answer correlation questions: If 75 copies lands a title at #20, how many copies is the #1 short story “selling?”

In my initial experiments with The Variant, I was able to estimate how much Stephanie Meyer was bringing in off of her Twilight books. (A lot.) I’m curious what the numbers mean in Kindle’s new free ecosystem.

So if you haven’t checked out Snake People, go get it before the promotion ends on Friday. I’ll publish a follow-up on Monday with numbers.