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The Ups and Downs of Book Sales

We’ve gone over a lot in my most recent blog posts. We’ve discussed the many ways that we, as independent authors, have to multitask during the creative process. We also talked about the different tools used for book promotion. Most recently, I went over Expanded Distribution and what goes into making sure that your novel, should you want to, qualifies for that process – as well as how the price of your novel could factor into it.

Now, let’s talk about…sales.

Let’s face it, it’s so difficult to stand to one side and be patient. It’s perfectly natural to want to jump in and check the reports of your sales figures constantly. You are, after all, your own best cheerleader. You want people to love your book as much as you do, if not more. For those of us that are part of KDP Select and your novel is offered free to those using Kindle Unlimited, you will beg them to hurry up and READ to get the page count up.

Wait – don’t know what I mean? Let me backtrack a bit. I got ahead of myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, Amazon is currently my main distributor and I have exercised the option of Expanded Distribution so that both Duality and Vitae can be made available on other platforms and in brick and mortar stores and libraries. For authors that favor only the e-book format, for reasons discussed in another post, there is the option of taking part in KDP Select. What does that mean? You can go back and read the dirty details here, but let me give you the hard line. Directly from their page:

“When you choose to enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re committing to make the digital format of that book available exclusively through KDP. During the period of exclusivity, you cannot distribute your book digitally anywhere else, including on your website, blogs, etc. However, you can continue to distribute your book in physical format, or in any format other than digital.”

What does that mean? The ‘period of exclusivity’ lasts 90 days at a time and will automatically renew unless you go in and manually uncheck the applicable box. While the three-month clause isn’t altogether an issue, the jury is still out regarding whether KDP Select is worth it, mainly because it means that those with a membership to Kindle Unlimited can read your novel for free.

Of course, there is a benefit for them but a catch for you as the author. In the Kindle Unlimited arena, you do not receive your full royalty payment when a KU member snags your book. Sound wild? Well, here’s another little nugget, straight from the horse’s mouth regarding how it works:

“A customer can read your book as many times as they like, but we will only pay you for the number of pages read the first time the customer reads them. It may take months for customers to read pages in your book, but no matter how long it takes, we’ll still pay you once it happens.”

You could have forty people, all with Kindle Unlimited memberships, who grab your book and put it on their respective to-be-read lists, but if none of them actually get to it or circumstances are such that they only read a few pages…you get paid for that few pages and that’s all.

Full disclosure: There were some novels that I acquired via KU as a means to support my fellow independent authors. I finished some of them, but there were some that I read a bit of and then realized, for whatever reasons, that I would not be finishing. But, I still went through them all – manually clicking every page. Why? Because I know how hard it is. I know the dreams we have as authors. While I would never lie in a review and say that something is good when it isn’t, I still feel that author should get something for the work they put in. And, because these were titles that are part of Kindle Unlimited, every page click counts.

However, there aren’t a lot of others who share the same sentiment. There could be an author right now looking at his or her sales report on Amazon, wondering why someone hasn’t moved from page 23 of the novel for the last three or four days. Checking over sales can be maddening, and obsessing over them is too easy to do.

Personally, I have decided to withdraw from KDP Select. I’ve already decided not to renew when my current contracts are up. This isn’t because of any particular issue I have with sales. I have to say that – between both books – there have only been two acquisitions through Kindle Unlimited. All of my other e-book sales have been outright purchases. I have not gleaned any direct benefit from having the books enrolled and, for my own curiosity, want to see if not being enrolled makes any difference at all.

There will be a follow-up to this post at some point, mainly because the bulk of the discussion was about e-book sales. Even in this allegedly-advanced digital age, however, most of my sales have been in paperback so I’ll talk about that another time.

Until then… xxxooo