Kindle Countdown takes off

The details for the Kindle Countdown deal on Amazon.co.uk for Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five.
The details for the Kindle Countdown deal on Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five.

The early signs look encouraging for Amazon’s new Countdown deal which allows authors to get 70% royalties on discount book promotions even though the promo price would normally only be eligible for 35%.

Under Countdown, customers see the regular price and the promotional price on the book’s detail page together with what Amazon refers to as a clock telling them how much time is left at the lower price.

The promotional royalty rate is based on the regular royalty rate for the book, so if the book is on 70%, it will continue to earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99.

First promotions include modern classics and indies

The Countdown programme was revealed last week and the first books using the promotion are now available. They include modern classics such as Kurt Vonnegut’s  Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions and books from the indie publishing sector such as Mel Sharratt’s Somewhere To Hide and A Serpentine Affair by Tina Seksis.

Interestingly, the Vonnegut books would seem to be ineligible for the Countdown deal as they are on other ebook sites, including Apple, B&N’s Nook and Kobo, but there are some confusing factors here which I’ll explain at the end of this article.*

The average discount appears to be somewhere in the 40%-50% range and most of the books I’ve checked have seen a boost in sales rank but it’s far too early to make any accurate assessments.

The Countdown "clock" isn't particularly prominent on the book page.
The Countdown “clock” isn’t particularly prominent on the book page.

The actual Countdown “clock” is rather discreet and easily overlooked, so is probably not the sort of “real estate” that many authors might have wanted.

Amazon is setting up sections for Countdown deals at www.amazon.com and www.amazon.co.uk which should help authors with another route to discovery.

Sales reports will compare discount performance

Sales performance will be measured in real time, with a KDP report displaying sales and royalties at each price discount alongside pre-promotion performance.

Amazon gives the example of book with a list price of $4.99, starting a promotion with a starting price of $1.99 and three price increments set to run 24 hours each, so the price would go up to $2.99 after the first day and then $3.99 for the third day.

During each promotional day, the book’s detail page will display a counter announcing the promotion, the current price, the time remaining until the price changes and the next price.

Amazon urges discounts of at least half

If you’re thinking of using the Countdown deal, Amazon recommends you should consider a substantial discount of 50% or more.

  • Minimum discount is $1 or £1 and the lowest promotional price is $0.99 or £0.99.
  • Books enrolled in KDP Select are eligible for Countdown if their list prices fall the range of $2.99-$24.99 on Amazon.com or £1.93-£14.99 on Amazon.co.uk.
  • The book must have been in KDP Select for 30 days or more and the digital list price must have been the same for 30 days or more. The book must also return to its regular list price for at least 14 days when the promo period ends.
  • Maximum duration of a Countdown promotion is seven days while the minimum time increment is one hour and the maximum number of price increments is five.
  • A Countdown promotion has to end at least 14 days before the book’s KDP Select period ends but if you renew your book in KDP Select for another consecutive 90-day period, the latest end time can be the last day of your current KDP Select period.

Countdown covers only US and UK

  • Countdown is available at present only on Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk but there are plans to expand over time.
  • If a book meets all the eligibility requirements, you can schedule your book for a Kindle Countdown Deal to start 24 hours from now, rounded to the next full day.
  • You can’t run a free book promotion and a Countdown deal in the same enrolment period.
  • Amazon says books need to be exclusive and enrolled in KDP Select because this type of pricing promotion is difficult to execute if a book is available on multiple retailers.
  • You can schedule one deal in each marketplace (amazon.com and amazon.co.uk) for every 90-day KDP Select enrolment period.
  • Countdown promotions cannot be stopped by the author or publisher once they start but can be edited or cancel the promotion up to 24 hours before the start.

The prospects for Countdown

KDP Select was set up at the start of last year featuring free book promotions for up to five days in a three-month period. This proved to be a great boon for many authors who saw paid sales rise after the impetus of a successful free promotion.

But Amazon have since downgraded the sales status of free downloads and penalised the free ebook sites that helped to make the promotions popular. The effectiveness of free promotions has fallen dramatically and many authors and publishers have quit Select in favour of wider distribution to Barne’s & Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks and Kobo.

It seems to me that Amazon is trying to compete with major book advertising websites such as Bookbub which sends out promotional offers to hundreds of thousands of subscribers.

I doubt that Bookbub will be overconcerned by Countdown as they have built an enormous following using paid and free offers even in the heyday of KDP Select free promos. Although Bookbub advertising fees are substantial, they do bring in results.

There could be an opportunity to use Countdown together with a site like Bookbub to get a double whammy on sales but this would have to be a careful strategy to ensure the Bookbub listing goes out on the right day of the Countdown promotion at the right price. There are also further conditions to meet as Bookbub insists that books must not have been offered at a better price in the last 90 days and it will not consider a book if it will be offered for less in the near future.

Bookbub is picky about the books it promotes and it likes a book to be widely available (“the more the merrier), although it does take books exclusive to Amazon as it stipulates only at least one major retailer.

Here’s how to set up a Countdown deal

1. Go to the KDP Dashboard.
2. Click the Manage Benefits link next to any KDP Select enrolled book.
3. In the Create a new promotions dropdown, select Kindle Countdown Deal.
4. Click Create a new Kindle Countdown Deal for this book.
5. Enter your selections for marketplace, date and time, number of price increments, and starting price.
6. A table appears, listing the price increments and start times. Check the table to make sure it’s how you want the promotion to run. You can make edits in the table.
7. When you’re satisfied with the deal, click Add Promotion.
Once you add your promotion, it appears on your book details page on the KDP Select Benefits tab.

To change or cancel a promotion

From the KDP Select Benefits tab, you can edit or cancel a promotion up to 24 hours before the promotion starts. You will not be able to change the list price for your book within 30 days before the promotion, nor within 14 days after the promotion.

When the promotion starts, you can track performance on a new type of report within KDP which will update while the promotion is running. The existing reports will also separate out Countdown.

To view a Kindle Countdown report

1. Go to the Reports section
2. Click the new report type, Promotions, at the bottom of the list.
3. Select the book, marketplace, and date range you want to learn more about.
4. You’ll see a report with detailed information about each individual price increment, as well as totals, for your promotion.

The rights issue

*The situation regarding Kurt Vonnegut ebook rights is a cat’s cradle of legalese. The Vonnegut ebooks on Amazon are published by Rosetta Books while the print versions and the ebooks elsewhere are from Random House and its imprints.

Rosetta was one of the ebook publishing trailblazers when it set up in 2001 and it swooped to sign up ebook rights for the backlist of Random House best-selling authors including Vonnegut, William Styron and Robert B Parker.

The position was confused at the time regarding ebook rights as it was a new format which hadn’t been considered in contracts. A court case ensued in which Rosetta prevailed. The two firms came to a settlement and Random House ended its objections to the books that had been published and actually licensed dozens more books to Rosetta, although the latter licences have since expired. Rosetta now claims to sell over a million ebooks a year and offers over 500 titles.