Sunday, August 30, 2015

My Kindle Unlimted 2.0 Results

I haven't been shy about voicing the fact that - when it comes to self-publishing - I'm not a fan of exclusivity.  I think that, in order to reach the largest audience possible, authors generally need to publish on as many platforms as they can.  Thus, I detest the fact that Amazon requires authors to unpublish their work from all other venues (at least the ebook versions) in order to participate in certain programs, like Kindle Unlimited (KU).  I think it's a completely unnecessary requirement.

For the uninitiated, KU is Amazon's subscription service for books.  For $9.99 per month, readers can enjoy access to millions of titles. For authors, having your books in KU means they can't be available for sale, in ebook form, anywhere else.  (At least this is the case for most authors; apparently, a select few - top sellers, to be precise - are exempt from this exclusivity mandate.)  

During the first iteration of KU, authors were paid whenever their books were borrowed and at least 10% of the book was read.  I believe the monthly payout generally fluctuated between about $1.30 - $1.50 per book.  Moreover, you got the same amount per borrow, regardless of whether your title was a 10-page erotic romance or a 600-page fantasy epic. Finally, titles in KU are given credit (in terms of ranking) for borrows.  As a result, titles outside of KU have greater difficulty achieving rank in the Kindle store.

The latest version of KU (affectionately referred to here as KU 2.0) went into effect in July 2015 and is a bit fairer in my opinion, as authors are now paid by pages read. By way of example, if a KU subscriber reads the aforementioned 600-page fantasy title in its entirety, that author will make a lot more than the writer whose 10-page erotic romance was also read. That to me is a more equitable system.

Against my better judgment, I went ahead and went all in with Kindle Unlimited around the end of July, putting my scifi and fantasy novels into the program.  I had various reasons for doing so (despite my dislike of exclusivity), but one of them was the simple fact that it's become incredibly difficult - at least for me - to maintain the level of visibility that I'd like for my work outside KU. Amazon's algorithms just aren't having it.  (And, frankly speaking, I'm sure that surprises no one.)  However, what I did find surprising were the results.

I spent about 5 days in KU 2.0 at the end of July.  During that time, I amassed almost 138,000 page reads.  It certainly sounds like a lot, but what does that amount to in cold, hard cash?  According to Amazon, July page reads are worth $.005779 per page.  So, for those 5 days in July, I earned about $797.00.  Not bad - especially when you consider that was just from KU; it doesn't take any sales into account.  

Over my first 10 days in the program, page reads totaled approximately 292,000.  At the July payout rate, this would amount to earnings of roughly $1,687.00.  Again, this is pretty decent scratch.

All things considered, KU 2.0 definitely shows promise - although the exclusivity requirement is still galling.  However, if you can swallow that without choking, there is some definite upside to being in the program. Personally, I can't say that I'm in it for the long haul at this point, but I can certainly stick it out for a trial run.

Monday, August 10, 2015

He Who Hesitates...

If you visit any number of writing forums, you'll eventually come across several posts - usually from new authors - asking about when they should publish. Typically, these authors have at least one novel finished and are contemplating holding back on publication until they have the sequel (or first three books) finished.  To me, the answer is basically a no-brainer: you publish asap.

In my mind, a finished book is like an ambassador that you send out into the world to entice people to your cause (that is, you're trying to find readers).  An unpublished manuscript isn't going to do that for you.  It's not bringing any readers into the fold, accumulating any sales, building your brand, etc.  All it does is gather dust, when it could be working for you.

I know that there are those who advocate a strategy of holding back until perhaps you finish two or three books and then publishing them - maybe all at once, maybe several weeks apart.  I certainly understand the logic there, especially if the algorithms on platforms like Amazon end up giving you a boost because of the shortened length of time between publication dates.  (Or if you're writing serials, where each episode ends in a cliffhanger.  That may be an occasion when you wait to publish, so that you'll be able to satisfy the reader's curiosity as to what happens next.)

However, most of us are going to require time to become successful.  Time to find a niche, time to build a fan base, time to become established in our genres.  Every second your book isn't out there is lost time - and possibly lost opportunity.  I think you need to give readers as much time as possible to find you.  Sure, you books can sit out there forever waiting to be discovered, but - all other things being equal - forever and a day just gives you that much more of an edge.

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