Thursday, July 5, 2012

Writers and Book Authors: Value Your Work

When Amazon opened their retail channels to independent authors, a huge door opened.  This meant an opportunity to publish without gatekeepers, digital distribution to potential Amazon customers for all, and new money for some.  Essentially, this gave us the opportunity to start our own publishing businesses overnight.  

Unfortunately, many authors got the opportunity to start their own businesses with nary a clue in basic business principles.  That’s when a stampede of authors raced each other to hell as they stomped, crawled and shoved anything standing in the way to lower the price of their novel to 99 cents hoping to replicate John Locke’s success.  Some achieved a lot of sales, and some saw no change in their results.  

Then Amazon introduced KDP Select which allowed authors to offer their ebooks for free for a limited number of days ONLY if they agreed to unpublish their ebook from other sales channels as part of their 90-day exclusivity agreement.  Many authors signed up –including myself—and saw huge sales increases after their free promotion expired.   This was 6-7 months ago.  Fast forward to today, Amazon has changed their algorithms and we’re no longer seeing the same sales bounce coming off free promos that we saw several months ago.  Many authors are blaming the sales decline on the increase in the sheer number of free books being offered.  People are being trained to pay nothing for books they complain.

So these authors naturally pulled their books out of KDP Select, right?  


Instead, those same authors are saying:

"Why leave select?

When B&N and Apple roll out anything that remotely compares with Select in its leveraging of their own visibility systems. Even with the topsy turvy changes in sales bumps neither of these two other distributors have anything close (Nook First but that seems more geared for new releases) then you'll have something more than just equilibrium across all platforms to compare with.
If you're already gaining sales or able to maintain them on B&N or Apple then that makes sense to get a run on Amazon and then expand out. But the argument that you can't do much worse I'd have to say, yes you could. Slow sales and low visibility spread across all platforms and not much you can do to leverage any visibility system.”
Because Amazon no longer seems to give a shit about authors in Select.  I hope I'm wrong, but if I hope in one hand and shit in the other, I think we all can figure out which will fill up faster.
“I am still getting more borrows on several of my novels than I ever got sales at B&aN and iApple so it makes me stay in, especially since I see no way of promoting on either venue. I'm open to giving them a try, but I have to have some reason to. No, Select isn't working for me as well as it once did, but it still works better than the nothing that they offer.”
I don't like massa mistreating me, but at least he lets my wife come home to me after he has his way with her.

“Now, I'm aware that Amazon has changed their algorithms since December, causing a dropoff in the post-free bounce, but I've had one title go free four times, and even with the dropoff, it's providing me with a lot more visibility and sales post-free than I would've otherwise had.”
Visibility to more hoarders and less to paying readers.

Those are only a handful of the kindleboards posts that have pretty much said “yeah, Select is losing its effectiveness, but why pull out when the other channels haven’t garnered many sales for you.
It is my opinion that KDP Select no longer produces enough sales to justify the opportunity cost of not having your book for sale on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iBookstore, Sony Reader bookstore, and Diesel.  Granted I only had a handful of sales in six months with the other online stores –before pulling out to satisfy Amazon KDP Select’s exclusivity agreement—the opportunity cost was those sales, and the potential for a sales increase.  This is why I enrolled in Select with the intent to re-enroll into those other retailers after the 90-days were up because the opportunity cost was high.
Of course, 90 days came and went and I re-enrolled because I was satisfied with the sales bounce.  Then April arrived and the algorithms changed.  No more sales bounce, yet I’m stuck in this program for 90 days.  I HATE EXCLUSIVITY!  Once July 24, 2012 comes around, I will be publishing my ebooks with the other online retailers.  With that said, I encourage authors to do one thing.
There are too many authors who are unwilling to let go of KDP Select after they’ve decided not to encourage sales for their independent authors as of the date of this blog.  Instead, they continue to give more and more of their work away for free in exchange for minimal sales afterwards.  They won’t opt-out of Select because they’re still believing that they’re getting way more exposure than before.  THIS IS FEAR-BASED THINKING.  You're only getting more exposure from hoarders and freeloaders are downloading your shit without as many paying readers to back up those freeloads with paid downloads.
Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against giving away downloads of my ebooks because freebies are part of the cost of running a business.  However, I am against giving away my shit AND being exclusive to an online retailer who won’t do their part and help me achieve a big sales increase in return for my participation.  That’s flat out fucking wrong on Amazon’s part.
Another thing…
I see too many authors pricing their work in the gutter for no other reason beyond “it worked for such and such and he says that more people buy books when they’re $2.99 or less.  Anything above $2.99 is too expensive.”  That’s fucking nonsense.  I love to write and share my stories with readers.  Nothing for me compares.  However, the royalty rates at all the retailers makes selling short stories and novels at the 99 cent price level downright criminal.  For fuck’s sake, I’d rather do a giveaway than to price my shit at 99 cents permanently.
Short stories and novellas need to be priced between 2.99 - 3.99 and novels should be priced no lower than $4.99.  
Radical?  I’ve already read the arguments on other blogs about how those price points are ripping off the readers.  That’s complete bullshit.  Traditional publishers are charging well over $10.00 for their ebooks and are seeing record profits.  Those same blogger have spelled doomsday for the big, traditional publishers for the past 5 years, yet every year they post profit gains higher than the previous year.  Plus, if a reader thinks that three bucks for a short story is a rip off, then that reader’s problems have nothing to do with my price and have everything to do with their personal circumstances.  Me charging two dollars less isn’t going to help their circumstances one bit.
But Glenn, you’ll get more sales for your short stories at 99 cents.
And more sales at 99 cents is not worth it because the royalty rate is 35% at that price point and 60% for books priced 2.99 and up on most sales channels.  Because of that, it takes 10 sales at .99 cents to equal the royalty amount for one sale at 4.99.  Pricing all my titles at 2.99 and up works for me –99 cents doesn’t.
I urge authors to increase their prices to 2.99 and up.  Selling anything at 99 cents is pointless.  The royalty is so low that you might as well give the book away.

To all my writers and book authors...


Your stories are worth more than a candy bar.

1 comment:

  1. I've been thinking a lot of the same exact thoughts. I had 11,000 downloads of my book, and minimal sales afterward. I don't know what else to try though. Blogs are pointless, they don't get enough hits and they don't sell books. I've also been published with a traditional, albeit small publisher, but they did nearly zero promoting, I had to do all the promoting on my own. I have heard from authors who are published with big publishers that the marketing fell almost completely to them, with publishers like Harper-Collins putting in minimal effort, and then when their book didn't sell they (the authors) were blamed, and blacklisted. So I don't know the answer to promoting successfully.