How are your ebook sales? Over the past couple of months, reports from some indie authors indicate slashed earnings at Amazon. Their Kindle Unlimited (KU) “pages read” counts are down, and ebook sales seem to be affected too.
What’s happening? The problem could be as simple as a software glitch in sales reporting. For more on this, there’s a very long thread on KBoards.
Amazon is also going after scammers, so a tightening algorithm could be having unintended consequences too. This article, Revealed: How one Amazon Kindle scam made millions of dollars, makes fascinating reading.
Affected authors face a dilemma. Some are pulling their ebooks from KDP Select, so that they’re no longer available to KU subscribers.
Which highlights the BIG KU question…
Does Kindle Unlimited (KU) help ebook sales?
That depends. 🙂
“To KU or not to KU: That is the Question — Comparing KU vs non-KU performance
“If you are an indie author, the question of whether or not to put (or keep) titles in Amazon Select, and thus qualify for KU inclusion, is a tough one. Many authors are grappling with it now. And there will be no easy “right answer” that applies equally for everyone. It may depend on whether you are just starting out and want the extra visibility, or perhaps you are now being sought out by readers on other platforms and need to diversify.”
If you’re a new author, choosing KDP Select (and thereby adding your ebook to KU) won’t harm you. KU gives your ebook visibility, and any income from Pages Read is welcome.
Long story short, no one knows why ebook sales seem to be down for some authors. What seems clear is that easy ebook sales aren’t as easy as they once were, so let’s look at some tips which will help if your numbers are down.
1. Promote to get ebook sales — promotion isn’t optional, any longer
Authors have pretty much had a free ride at Amazon. The free ride may be over. It’s worth reading, October 2016 Author Earnings Report: A Turning of the Tide…?:
“In May 2016, verified self-published indie authors were taking home nearly 50% of all US Kindle author earnings. Now, as of early October 2016, the indie share has fallen below 40%. What happened?”
While there’s a lot of intriguing info in the report, there aren’t any clear conclusions. What stuck me from the article was this:
“We have seen definite anecdotal signs that the savvier and more agile smaller traditional publishers (such as Bookouture, Open Road Media, Sourcebooks, and the like) are increasingly adopting bookselling strategies and tactics that were first pioneered by indie authors. We’ve seen them adopt retailer-specific Amazon ebook metadata, hold more frequent $0.99 and $1.99 sales advertised through BookBub and similar discount newsletters, run Facebook ad campaigns for their books, and the like. Perhaps the largest publishers are also beginning to do the same, too, albeit more slowly.”
If you’ve been relying on “free” ebooks as a promotional strategy, that strategy may not only be dead, but it may also be actively harming your sales.
2. Avoid offering freebies on Amazon: you may trigger a “scam” algorithm
Be aware that your free titles may be affecting your rankings, as Amazon strives to eliminate fraud. If you read the KBoards thread linked above, you’ll see anecdotes of free ebooks harming an author’s sales.
In September, Amazon started to clean house to eliminate scammers, unfortunately this algorithm change seems to have impacted innocent authors too.
Free ebooks on the ebook retailers are much less useful than they were even a year ago. Until the dust settles, you may want to avoid offering permanently free ebooks.
3. Aim to diversify: avoid putting all your ebook eggs in a single basket
If you’re an ebook author who’s seen his sales decimated, or even halved over the past couple of months, you need to develop new strategies. Primarily, look at diversification. One poster on KBoards suggested that when Amazon “cleans house” what you see is the “new normal”. Things won’t go back to the way they were. So you need to diversify.
Your blog needs to be at the heart of your diversification. I know I beat the blogging drum endlessly. That said, I strongly suggest that you focus on your blog as your sales hub. Once your blog gets readers, you can monetize your blog in many different ways.
The ebook retailers, wonderful as they are, are NOT the sole venue on which you can sell your ebooks. If you’ve been thinking about diversifying, start doing it today.
Keep writing, and please take a long view on ebook sales
When I first heard about a hit on ebook sales, I wasn’t much interested, figuring that it was just the effect of the normal business cycle, which goes up and down in every industry. However, it’s clear that the way the current slowdown in ebook sales impacts some authors goes well beyond any normal cyclical behavior.
So, what do you do if you’re affected? Firstly, keep writing, for one thing. Track your sales. Do more of what’s working. Don’t panic. Promote. Watch how you’re handling the freebies you’re offering. And most importantly of all, look at ways in which you can diversify — in 2017, I’ve no doubt that diversification will be vital.
It’s essential that you take the long view. If you’re in self-publishing for the long haul, take heart, and take a look at your business. Decide how many ebooks you need to sell to make the income you want, then go for it. The ebook market is maturing. Major and medium-sized publishers are jumping into the market, but they’re not as agile as self-publishers, so you have a real advantage here.
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