Today, I did something I’ve been planning to do for a long time. I uploaded Better than Perfect to Smashwords. For the past several months, that novel was my only book (out of 8) to be exclusive on Amazon. In fact, since it’s publication in 2014, it has never been listed in e-book format on any other site. While this might not be groundbreaking news, I wanted to share this here and hopefully open up a discussion about Amazon exclusivity and the various sales channels that are out there.
My decision to remove Better than Perfect from Kindle Unlimited and Amazon exclusivity was based on a number of factors. One reason has to do with lackluster results during special promos such as freebies or Kindle countdowns. I don’t think it’s any secret that freebies no longer have the impact they once had. Back in 2014, I ran a five day freebie on Better than Perfect. I did not invest in any paid advertising, but still managed to give away over 7000 books. When the freebie ended, the momentum didn’t stop. The book ended up in the top 100 paid sales in the Women’s Humor category, which was very exciting. I earned over 30 new Amazon reviews.
Subsequent freebies with Better than Perfect and with other books have not been nearly as successful. I suppose you could say they haven’t been successful at all. Very few downloads. Little to no reviews. Freebies and special promos on Amazon just don’t pack the punch they used to. Many Kindle shoppers have come to expect free books and even if they enjoyed reading book one for free, they refuse to pay full price for other books in the series. For a standalone, like Better than Perfect, freebies almost never lead to additional sales at all.
Another reason I decided to end my exclusive relationship with Amazon is because I’ve become a little nervous about Kindle Unlimited. Revenues from borrows aren’t what they used to be. I’ve definitely seen a drop, and since an author makes significantly less from a borrowed book in comparison to a purchased book, it just doesn’t seem like a great deal to me. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not delusional enough to expect a massive stream of income from the other sales channels, but I do have some loyal readers of my Spellbringers series that rely on iTunes or B&N. Though most readers buy from Amazon, not all do. It’s nice to be able to offer my books to anyone who might want to read them.
Additionally, I’ve also read some alarming articles about KU (like this one). People have scammed the system, and consequently, authors have suffered. I’ve read about indie authors who noticed a huge jump in borrows and were later accused by Amazon of operating a scam. Amazon has threatened to remove their books from the site, and in some cases, they have done so. I’m sure these incidents are not common, but I don’t want to take my chances.
I love Amazon and I appreciate the opportunities they have offered self-published authors. (I also spend way too much money on Amazon on books and other products, but that’s a subject for another post.) Amazon is great!
But I also like Smashwords and some of the innovative things they are doing for indie authors. I like their distribution method and how easy they make it to get my books into B&N, iTunes, and other places without me having to do all that formatting. I like being able to give away free books at my discretion, without having to be exclusive. I can give away one book to a specific reader, or I can issue a coupon code for a whole month and share it with everyone. The choice is mine. They have attractive widgets I can use on my site so readers can be directed to Smashwords with one click. And I also like the fact that I can choose how much of a sample (if any) is offered to potential readers.
So, I wanted to ask all the authors out there: How do you feel about Kindle Unlimited and being exclusive with Amazon? If you haven’t put all your eggs in one basket, how have your sales been on other sites? Freebies – are they a useful marketing tool or a waste of time? I’d love to read your thoughts on this.