Is it worthwhile for Amazon to give away free copies?
I've seen a few people try and argue that getting too many nominations can hurt your campaign in Kindle Scout, and I would like to delve into a little analysis of why that is completely inaccurate. Here goes:
Based on how book sales work, the idea that getting too many nominations is bad is not at all how things work for Kindle Scout. There are multiple reasons why giving away a lot of books here is in yours (and Amazon's) best interest.
Virtually any category in the world for your book has a readership of at least a few million, and upwards of tens of millions, possible purchasers/readers.
When a new book is released by a major publisher, they give out ARC copies (sometimes 5-15 thousand) to generate early readership and interest. This is a way to get your book noticed and get it into the hands of the market for reviews, publicity, etc.
Amazon is asking readers to nominate your book and in return they are giving away free copies. Then, they ask for reviews.
Let's say you get 5,000 page views (which is way higher than most campaigns will ever get, and almost double the average and median).
We could generously say 50% of those will result in nominations, so let's call it 2,500 nominations. Of those nominations, about half will actually ever bother to claim their book from Amazon, so 1,250 people claim your book.
That is quite a few less than a traditional publisher, BUT (and this is a big one) there are some MAJOR benefits Amazon works in compared to a traditional publisher.
- Copies show up as purchased copies, which trigger Also-Boughts
- Reviews can be posted before launch, which means your launch has an advantage. Also, these reviews are 'verified' which is a MUCH more important distinction than it was two weeks ago.
- Amazon is soliciting reviews, not you
Honestly, the biggest advantage is the also-bought list, because Amazon is effectively tying together Kindle Scout books to drive sales to highly engaged readers. For example, right now there is a Kindle Scout book Amazon promoted that is number 120 in the store (and has sold probably around 15,000 copies just this month). With the also-bought list, if people who nominated your book also nominated that, you can get pulled up to their list as 'books people also bought' which can drive huge sales to your book. Because these nominations result in 'purchases' it is a self-feeding thing where you can create a strong positive correlation.
The more nominations you got, the stronger your correlation, and the more likely amazon is to recommend your book to a LOT of readers without even counting the actual kindle scout promotions.
Conversely, if you don't get a lot of nominations, sure you aren't giving away some free copies (I would bet the normal KS giveaway count is more like 250-300 at most) but you also aren't building these correlations and triggering a sales rank. The trick to make your book sell long term is driving sales and building strong correlations with popular books. Amazon is doing that for you, and getting as MANY people to accept free copies through Kindle Scout as possible will seriously help your book long-term.
Going back to the verified purchase...Amazon has always considered verified reviews to be superior to non-verified, but now they are taking it a step further and actively suppressing non-verified reviews, which means having more verified will help in your book's visibility. Moreover, Amazon is working around the new ToS changes for free copies because these are technically purchased copies, despite being free.
So, reasonably unless you get something like 100,000 page views and 50,000 nominations, you can't possibly get too many to actually harm your chances of getting picked. Even then, it probably wouldn't hurt your book because your resulting rank would be so high. Amazon WANTS to give away these copies, because unless you are looking at a very very small picture, they benefit your book in every way.