Up for discussion: How I choose a free KDP book…or not.

imagesAs a reader I love Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing program. Almost everyday I scour the free book list (which in my case is eReaderIQ, but there are plenty of other aggregate sites out there). I’m  looking for new and interesting reads. I’m what you might call a power downloader…actually, I have been called a power downloader. (Yea, that was you Harv*.) As such, I’ve learned a few things about my own behaviour. I’m not claiming universality here. There isn’t any thing to say everyone does the same as me, but I thought it might be helpful to those authors who are putting their work up for free to know what a reader, if not all readers, is doing when looking at it.  I thought you might also like to know what is helpful or not. Honestly, I’ll admit to secretly hoping the everyone takes my advice as law and the whole system becomes my perfect whole. OK, I’m not holding my breath on that or anything.

Here are the things I deem worth mentioning, in no particular order:


Not cool.

A good cover is key, but it has to be a real cover. A cool picture doesn’t cut it. Here is an example of what I mean: Last Hope. Nice picture, but not a cover (sorry Ms. Gardner). Everyday I look through hundreds of books, but I don’t have hours and hours to do this. So I scroll through the list looking for interesting covers. If one catches my attention I’ll read the description. Actually that’s not quite right. First I’ll glance at the listed genre to see if it’s one I’m interested in and then I’ll read the description. So it helps if all of the relevant genre/sub-genre etc are listed.

The book description makes or breaks my ‘sale’ but I’ve come across a few annoyances that effect my choice to grab a book or not. First off, this section is for a synopsis of the story, not for praise of the book. I read reviews for that. It really really isn’t a place for so much praise the reader can’t find a description of the book. This has actually become a pet peeve of mine. I’ll pass a book up on principle if I have to work too hard to find out what it’s about. Here is an example: HeartsBlood (sorry Ms. McCray). Someone tell me what that book is about. I actually suspect that certain publishers are more guilty of this than authors, but there it is all the same.

Second, I never have figured out why people think that just because it’s an ebook, and there isn’t a physical back-of-the-book to fit their synopsis on that they can write an essay here. Take a look at any one of my reviews and you’ll see that I often include the synopsis for readers. It annoys me to no end if that synopsis is more than a paragraph or two long. If it’s longer than my review is I’m likely to trim it, but then I feel guilty for altering the author’s work. I don’t need or want a breakdown of the plot. It ruins the story. Just a basic blurb and teaser is enough. KISS after all.

I read reviews, good bad and otherwise. If a book is a maybe, having a few reviews makes all the difference to me. I’ll take more of a chance on something that has obviously been read by others, even if they left bad reviews. Bad reviews don’t always put me off. Well, they will if the main gripe of the reviewer is poor grammar and editing, but if someone just didn’t like the story my interest is piqued. It’s almost a challenge to see if I agree or not. The point here is two-fold, don’t mourn over poor reviews, but it behooves you not to put the book up for KDP until you have a few stars under the title. 

goodreadsIt helps me if your book is on Goodreads. I get that this one is almost certainly not a universal. I have roughly 2000 books on my ereader. There isn’t any easy way to keep track of them, but I’ve found the GR shelves very helpful. When I go through eReaderIQ I keep a GR tab open at the same time and do this: click ‘buy now with 1-click’, copy the title, go to the GR tab, paste it in and mark it as to-read/lendable or not. If the book isn’t there I sometimes will add it, but that’s a lot of trouble and I have passed up books just because I can’t be bothered. (If you haven’t discovered GR as an author yet, shame on you. It is one of your best online resources for reviews.)

Familiarity increases the likelihood that I’ll download a book. This is one of those vague tricks of the mind that I don’t really understand, but I know that if I’ve seen a book ‘around’ I’m more likely to grab it. So, I guess all of those blog tours, giveaways, cover reveals, etc do make a difference somewhere. 

If a book is part of a series it is helpful to know this. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s in the title, description or just prominent on the cover. But if I download a book only to then discover it is book four in a series and I don’t have book 1-3 I’m unlikely to ever actually read it. I especially like it when all the books go free at the same time but that’s asking a lot, I know. I’ll often try to piece series together, but that requires I remember that I have part of it already and can identify the books as part of the same series. It’s not always easy.

I buy sequels. If I like a series I am more than happy to buy the next one in the series. I have limits though. It’s always hard to rationalise buying more books when I have so many already available to me, so the more expensive a sequel the less likely I am to buy it and I just find it rude when they get progressively more expensive at the series goes on.

Annnnnd lastly, if you’re story is a short story please make it readily apparent. I have more than once downloaded what I thought was a novel and discovered it to be a short story. Just about the only time I read short stories is on car trips, so while it is nice to have a few available to myself, I like to choose them instead of having them surprise me.

Now, I’ve spent a lot of text-time on my own complaints, and lets face it, even if couched as information or advice every item above could be seen as a complaint in some way or another. I’m not so self-absorbed as to not see a few places where my own behaviour might be annoying to authors and I’d be interested in hearing from them. The first is that, though I have every intention of reading all of the books I download (and reviewing them), I download more than I can read in any reasonable amount of time.

I’ve heard authors grumbling that KDP isn’t worth it because lots of people download the book, but no one posts reviews. It might be true. I’m not looking at your download numbers, but I know that I have picked up, read, and reviewed a lot of authors I wouldn’t have come across or taken a chance on if the book wasn’t free. Not just because I’m cheap (which I am BTW), but because I wouldn’t have a reason to look at lists and lists of books I have to pay for. I have plenty of books on my wish list to choose from already. So, KDP gives me a reason to be exploring new authors that I might not have otherwise. 

Another bone of contention might be how eager I am to get a free book. The assumption is that I would pay for it otherwise and am therefore cheating the author out of their income. Fair enough. I do download books I wouldn’t pay for. It’s true. I admit it. I bet I’m not the only one who does this. I’m especially prone to download erotica in this manner.  My only excuse is that I do it with the eventual intent of reading and reviewing it and probably wouldn’t even know about the book without KDP. But is that enough? I’ve also always been a little curious to know if my download contributes to advancing a book to the too 100 list, and if so is that enough of a bonus to an author to forgive my tardy reviews or cheapskate ways.

So there is the basic breakdown of my own download behaviour. Is it familiar to anyone else or just seem a little too OCD and cranky? Are you a KDP author? I’d love to have your take on the whole affair. What do you do when exploring your fellow KDP publishers? What are your criteria? Anyone just want to bitch me out yet?

*By the way and completely unrelated, if anyone is a hard Sci-fi fan, Harv’s book Daughter Moon is a great one. I don’t know if it’s on KDP. I paid for my copy, but it’s worth picking up. 

6 thoughts on “Up for discussion: How I choose a free KDP book…or not.

  1. L K Jay

    Really enjoyed reading this post – and I’ll definitely bear it in mind when I do my next giveaway. 2000 books, that’s a book a day for, err, ages!

    1. Sadie Post author

      Thanks – Well, admittedly some of them are reference, children’s books, or already read, but a lot either way. Glad it was helpful.

  2. Sadie Post author

    I came up with one more thing to suggest. I didn’t include it earlier ’cause it seemed too obvious to point out. Then I came across this book title: Sacreligous: a fanatsy noir novel. Anyone see a problem? The description is even worse. It has so many errors in it that I almost wonder if there isn’t a joke there that I’m missing and it’s done on purpose. Apologies in advance to Mr. Krijgsman if that’s the case.

  3. Giacomo Giammatteo

    Great post, Sadie, and some good advice for authors. I agree with you on a lot of those points, especially the one about errors. If I find too many errors in a book, I put it down. I go through the same kind of process you do for selection: book cover, description, reviews, then a sample of the book. If that all works, I buy it. Thanks for the interesting post.

  4. Sadie Post author

    Arghhh, what timing, Amazon has apparently changed their affiliate rules to penalise sites that primarily advertise free books. (Here’s a nice little synopsis of the problem by The Digital Reader.) That means sites like EreaderIQ are no longer able to display a complete listing of free KDP books, but only the best sellers. What a shame. I can just go to Amazon’s own site for that, which I guess is probably the point. But I want to help set that trend, not follow it. My whole morning routine has to change. I usually browse books over my coffee. Thanks Amazon! I definitely haven’t had enough caffeine to deal with this yet.


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