The Amazon Decision

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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.

11 thoughts on “The Amazon Decision

  1. I haven’t put my books anywhere but Amazon through sheer inertia, and because they don’t sell on Amazon I don’t reckon there’s much chance they’ll sell on other sites. It’s a defeatist attitude I know but I begrudge the time and the heartache doing anything else with them.

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    • I don’t think you’re the only one who has taken that approach. The idea of all that formatting and uploading is overwhelming. Most of my books have been exclusive on Amazon for the 3 month period just because I thought I’d take it easy on myself and see how they did on KDP select. I think every book and author are different. You have to weigh the pros and cons for each new release and see what makes the most sense to you.

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  2. As soon as I put mall my books on Smashwords I noticed a lot more pirate sites selling them. As detailed in other blogs that might just be a way of scamming people out of their bank details. And it might be nothing to do with Smashwords at all. Now I’m sticking with Amazon because I simply can’t discover the truth. The other thing is that although I had hundred of downloads of the first free part of my novels, I sold very few with them. That might be just because people don’t like my work, but with Amazon my sales are steady if unspectacular.

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    • I’ve had more problems with Better than Perfect, the only book that has never been on another site. It seems two new pirate sites pop up every week for that one. I figured it had to do with the free promotions I’d run in the past. Now I’m not so sure. I guess we can’t blame Amazon or Smashwords for the problem.

      I continued to enroll my book in KDP because, for a while, the borrows were very steady. It wasn’t anything great, but enough to boost my royalties when it seemed that nothing else was really selling. Over the past two months, borrows have really dropped off. Maybe everyone who has KU has already read it or rejected it. Like I said, I don’t think Smashwords will make a huge difference in sales. I can’t promise I won’t try KDP select with a new book sometime in the future. I’ve tried to take a different approach with each book. Still waiting for fame and fortune. Well, the fortune, at the very least would be nice!

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  3. For my personal experience, having my books listed elsewhere didn’t increase my sales or exposure. Also, making changes, if needed, was always such as hassle. I have my issues with the Zon, but for now, they are the best option for me.

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  4. Pingback: Friday Roundup – 17th February | Stevie Turner, Indie Author.

  5. I use Kindle Unlimited with a few of my books and all of my bundled series. I actually make more with the pages read system than with just sales. This is probably because my books are on the cheap end of the spectrum. If you’re interested, I wrote a blog post about the royalties I earn with Kindle Unlimited. https://dehaggerty.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/making-more-money-with-kindleunlimited/

    That said, I am unwilling to give exclusivity to Amazon for ALL of my books, even though I do sell more books through Amazon than any other retailer. It’s just the idea of it that gets to me.

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