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Income Report: Why Exclusivity is Bad (Unless You’re Amazon)

 

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by Nick Stephenson in Books and Writing

Don’t get me wrong – exclusivity can be a wonderful thing. If you’re getting something in return. Consider this situation:

You sell breakfast cereal. Some of your products are at the budget end of the scale, others more premium. Your net wholesale profit per unit is around $2 – $4, depending on the product range in question. You sell to Walmart, who represent about 85% of your sales, and a bunch of other supermarkets who make up the other 15%. Things are looking pretty good.

One day, Walmart calls you up and says: “Hey, we love your breakfast cereal. We’d like to offer you a special deal. In return for exclusivity, we’ll keep paying you $2 – $4 per unit, but we’ll feature you more prominently in the store and let you run in-store promotions throughout the year, which we’ll push hard for you. Both parties can opt out after a certain number of months.”

Sounds pretty good, right? In return for exclusivity, you’re getting a fair wholesale price and some tangible benefits. For some, this might be enough to sign on the dotted line.

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But consider an alternative offer…

Walmart: “Hey, it’s Walmart here! We love your breakfast cereal. We’d like to offer you a special deal. In return for exclusivity, we’ll let you run in-store promotions throughout the year and we’ll feature your product as part of our special monthly membership program for breakfast cereal.”

You: “Sounds good! And we keep the same deal on the prices, right?”

Walmart: “Well, we’re keeping the same retail price, so the customer pays the same – unless we’re giving your stuff away as part of our membership scheme. This means we might end up paying you $1.39 or less per unit, instead of the $2 – $4 we currently pay.”

You: “Oh, okay. Well, I guess you’ll shift a ton more in volume to make up for it, right?”

Walmart: “Umm… well a few of our retail partners earn more. But it’s not guaranteed.”

You: “Wait a minute. How many other people are getting this special exclusivity offer?”

Walmart: “Everyone.”

You: “Okay, so in return for taking a lower price on wholesale, you’re offering… what, exactly?”

Walmart: “You’ll be able to run in-store promotions. Like discounts and special deals.”

You: “That sounds cool. So, you’ll push those promotions hard in return for me taking a lower price?”

Walmart: “Umm… no. You’ll have to buy some advertising otherwise people won’t know your deals are running.”

You: “I don’t really want to switch to advertising a lower-profit product. Is there anything else you can offer in return for me dropping my wholesale prices by 30% – 65% or more?”

Walmart: “Of course! If you’re in the top 100 selling exclusive products, we’ll offer you a financial bonus.”

You: “Cool! How much is the bonus?”

Walmart: “Umm… we don’t know.”

You: “Ballpark.”

Walmart: “Sorry, we only announce the bonuses during the month they’re paid.”

You: “Okay, okay. Let me get this straight… You want to pay me 30% – 65% less, AND you want me to go exclusive. And in return, you’re offering me the chance to promote special deals in your store… but you won’t tell anyone about them? Oh, and you might pay me a bonus if I shift a ton of units, but you won’t tell me what that is?”

Walmart: “You got it! Ready to sign up?”

You: “Uhhhh…”

moonspinnerseliwallach

Okay, you probably get the picture – the top example is any sane person’s idea of a potentially lucrative deal for both parties. The second offer is an example of what you’ll most likely get with KDP Select.

The bottom line: exclusivity is a terrible idea if you’re not getting anything in return for it – even if you’re only locked in for a few months. Which brings us around to KDP Select and the much-maligned Kindle Unlimited program.

Signing up exclusively with KDP is working for some people. Well, maybe 100 people. But realistically, anyone not in the top 100 KDP-exclusive authors is probably better served moving on. In fact, those not in the top 50 would probably earn more on other channels than they make in bonuses and borrows.

So, why bother with KDP Select at all?

One author I spoke to is 90% exclusive with Amazon. And that’s a smart move for him, because they just picked up his backlist for publication with Thomas & Mercer. They’re also offering him kick-ass audiobook terms. And possibly translations. And advances. And features in the Kindle Daily Deal. And they buy him lunch.

All in all, a pretty compelling offer.

Has Amazon offered you anything like that recently? If not, I’d suggest potentially re-thinking your position on KDP Select if you’re currently all in. Take a long, hard, think about what Amazon are offering you in return for slashed profits and lack of control. Is is really worth it? Because the more people joining Kindle Unlimited, the fewer will want to drop $3.99 (or whatever) on your book if they can get their mitts on it as part of their subscription.

I get it. You might have a good thing going. You might think that dropping out of KDP Select will spell DOOM for you. Well, I have no way of predicting the future – but I can show you my results.

Over the last 5 months, all but 2 of my titles have dropped out of KDP Select. To make up for anticipated lower volume, I worked on building up an audience at the other retailers, as well as building up my mailing list and social media accounts to sell more direct. Here’s the results:

July

This graph shows 4 titles in KDP Select

July14

 

August

3 Titles in KDP Select

Aug14

September

3 Titles in KDP Select

Sept14

October

3 Titles in KDP Select

Oct14

November

2 titles in KDP Select

Nov14

 

The figures down the left axis are total USD royalties. You can probably see that overall income has stayed pretty steady in the last quarter, overall up roughly 10% – 15% since July (September was a little higher due to a new fiction release) while Amazon has fallen from around 85% of my income in July to around 55% of my income in November.

Sales on other platforms (iTunes, Nook, and especially Kobo) have grown from around 5% – 10% of total income up to nearly 30% of total income. It took a few months to get going, but the move was definitely worth it. My direct sales have gone up and down, between 18% and 30% (again, September was a good month due to a non-fiction launch outside of the ebook retailers).

Which brings me on to my other point – 2014 has been a great year, and a big chunk of that awesomeness has come from growing my email list. As well as keeping my Amazon, Nook, iTunes, and Kobo sales healthy, this has also allowed me to branch off into other areas. Those other areas (labeled “Direct” on the graphs) are now responsible for a decent chunk of income each month. And that will grow considerably as my email reach increases.

None of this diminishes my gratitude to Amazon for making self-publishing a viable career alternative for many, including me. But the rose-tinted glasses can’t stay on forever, right? There are opportunities to be had outside of KDP, and you don’t need to be a slave to the Hot New Releases window to make great things happen.

To put it in perspective – I’ve only released two new novels this year, compared to 4 last year. But my income has gone up. I’ve never believed that “just write more books” is a strategy – and I’m not really comfortable with committing myself to a three-month publication schedule for the rest of eternity just to keep things going. Take a look at this post to see what I mean.

Don’t get me wrong – dropping my titles out of KDP Select was scary. But, at the end of the day, entrusting almost 100% of my income to one retailer (who can – and have – slashed royalty rates on a whim) was even scarier. I still keep 2 titles in KDP Select, one fiction and one non-fiction, which means I can run free promotions from time to time. This may or may not change in 2015.

The end result? I’m now in a position where monthly fluctuations from any one particular source of revenue are less likely to spell trouble. My overall income has also increased since the beginning of the year, when all my titles were exclusive.

I’m telling you all this because I believe it’s important that authors understand what’s possible – and I’m no special snowflake. I’m not doing anything that you can’t learn to do yourselves with a little hard work.

To get you started, take a look at “Reader Magnets”. It’s free here:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00PCKIJ4C/ 
PDF: http://noorosha.com/rm-download/

Now, if you enjoyed this free article (and the free book), please take a moment to share this page with 3 of your author friends. Or post a link on a forum, or on social media. And if you’ve got any questions, leave a comment – I’ll be dropping in for the next 24 hours or thereabouts to answer any burning queries.

In fact, let’s get a conversation going: If you’re all-in with Amazon right now, is it working for you? If you’re not all-in, or you mix and match, do you have any plans for growth in 2015? What’s your number one stumbling block with getting sales where they need to be?

Leave your answer in the comments! 

 
If you want a step-by-step guide to getting started on your email list, go download “Reader Magnets”. This free ebook will show you how to put this process in place and start building your email list – click below to grab your copy:

reader-magnets-3d

 
 

 

72 Comments
  1. Derek Murphy says:

    This is a great post – is “direct” also book sales, or just other income? The problem I see is that you earned more for September and October, but were almost back to your pre-switch earnings for November (a slow month). I agree it might be safer to be spread out, and that you may not lose money by opting out of KDP… but you are also coming from a position of having a strong list and online platform. If you have a platform, sure it’s a smart move. For authors with zero platform and zero visibility, I still think KDP + promotions (yes, you have to notify/pay other sites to make it worthwhile) is more beneficial than being on all platforms and getting a handful of sales on each. It doesn’t make it easier to get discovered, it makes it harder, because they’ll never climb the ranks up enough to get seen by anyone they aren’t able to directly reach themselves (and most authors have very little reach). KDP is the best way if you’re starting with nothing, have no platform and a limited budget – but increasingly authors are pulling away from it. It’s not perfect, but without it, gaining an audience is pretty challenging.
    Just now · Like

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Thanks Derek! November was a little slow on Amazon, but strong on the other areas – and that’s why I’m always keen to diversify… because you will inevitably have “bad” months on some channels, but not others. Eg, “Direct” sales is non-fiction books and affiliate products.

      As for platforms – I’ll always remind authors to make list-building a no.1 priority (for exactly the reasons you said). Then you don’t need to rely on KDP so much – having exclusivity as “the only option” is a weak position to be in.

      Relating it to other businesses, it’s like having one client who’s responsible for 100% of your income – that puts them in a very strong position and puts you at a lot of risk. Things might look good today, but what about next year? Borrow rates have already dropped 40% since Kindle Unlimited came along a few months ago. Not a good trend! We’ve already had some big-name indies reporting 75% losses.

      That being said… if you’re selling 99c books, KDP Select is still a pretty good deal. As long as you’re getting something in return for going exclusive, it’s all gravy!

      1. Derek Murphy says:

        Totally agree – and after list building you don’t need KDP as much and it’s best to look elsewhere, as you’ve done. But starting from nothing with no list and no traffic, you’ve got to get some sales/free downloads. There’s too much competition to just publish books and hope people find them, that will never happen. Putting all your eggs in one basket will totally beat out every other beginning author who chooses to publish on all platforms. I only keep mine on KDP for the first three months and then diversify. I get what you’re saying, but I don’t think it’s good advice for beginning authors who start with nothing.

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          If I was starting from scratch with a couple of titles, I would probably use permafree + multiple platforms and then focus on using the permafree to build my email list, get reviews, and submit to Bookbub and the other advertisers – assuming I’m selling at $2.99 +.

          I still keep a couple of titles in KDP Select (for free promos – they still work well) but that’s because I have several books to play with. But I doubt I’ll ever have *everything* in KDP Select again, unless they up the value offering 🙂

          1. I’m leaning a bit more toward what Derek said. I think in your response, Nick, you’re assuming publication of a fiction series where you can make the first one permafree, and charge for the others.

            I’m getting ready to publish my very first book in January 2015, but it’s non-fiction, so it’s a standalone–no series. I have two people on my mailing list, and about five site visits per day. Needless to say, I have my work cut out for me there!

            I think I’m going to start with Select, and use those three months to build readership, build my mailing list, and prepare my book for other platforms. I totally get what you’re saying, and I agree–it’s *never* a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. But for my first book, for just three months, I think it could give me a boost.

          2. Nick_Stephenson says:

            If you’re getting something out of it (like free promotions) it might be worth a go – just be mindful you’ll only be building an audience for Amazon! I still have this issue with my mailing list… it’s still 80% Amazon. But that figure is dropping

          3. Excellent point. I think the key is to be aware of this, and to work toward being more diversified. It could be that earlier on, when indie publishing first became a possibility and Amazon was the go-to, a lot of people did see it as the best and only option, and perhaps got themselves into an exclusive situation without realizing what that would mean later on. As with many things, awareness if half the battle. 🙂

          4. Antara Man says:

            I feel like you are speaking about me. Except, my email list has already 18 subscribers (not everybody opens my emails, 42% plus I have around 20 visits per day on my blog) but note that the only benefit in KDP Select (I published at 31st my very first fiction book) is the free promo and sales afterwards will drop put if youd on’t use smart techniques. I suggest you read Nick Looper’s post in Steve Scott’s site. You can joint this FB page:Pat’s First Kindle Book (From Start to Finish)

        2. Jennifer FitzGerald says:

          That is exactly what I was thinking Derek. Even with experience in the industry it is difficult to diversify without The List. I suggest to my clients who write more than one book a reverse to get a name built first. Publishing 2 or 3 to KDP, probably 6 months, then diversify once the name has been built. It’s such a difficult balance to juggle time for writing and learn/execute marketing. Most of my clients are not writing as their full-time occupation so there is even less time.

      2. True–one client that equates to 100% of your income is a bad idea. But you have to start somewhere. You can’t always start a business with three clients right out of the gate. You start with one, and then keep working on getting more. But you’re making something in the meantime, and building a reputation.

        I can put my one non-fiction book in Select now, and work on other things (list-building, marketing, writing my next book) for the next three months. I’ll say it again–you have to start somewhere. 🙂

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          There is a good parallel to be drawn here…. if you’re starting a new business and you can land 1 “super client” it gives you the opportunity to use that client’s experience to attract other “super clients”. In this case, if you can rock it out of the park on Amazon, you can approach the other retailers with a strong sales records and see if they can hook you up with some merchandising. Again, that’s requiring you to have a strategy in place -where exclusivity is serving a purpose early on 🙂

          1. Exactly. If you can make exclusivity part of your strategy, I think it can serve a purpose and work for you. Not in all situations or for everyone at all times–every situation is unique. But I wouldn’t discount it completely. Just don’t let it become a crutch.

            Thanks for this post, Nick. I appreciate the info and am glad I was led to your site via KBoards! Happy holidays! 🙂

          2. Nick_Stephenson says:

            My pleasure! Happy Holidays 🙂

    2. Jane Holmes says:

      I have always had a problem with KDP and Amazon’s vendors who undersell me. I have recently started putting my books with Draft2Digital. It’s early to see results from them but I am hopeful. I’m also planning or thinking about Smashwords. I need todo more research on that one.

  2. Michelle Muckley says:

    Interesting, Nick. When I started out I was all about Select. I trusted it, and thought it got me ahead of the game, rather than staying on my own in lots of places. I am a bit behind you, but I am coming around to your way of thinking, too. The reason? Not because I am such an earner that I feel like the $1.39 is doing me out of a couple of bucks, but simply because my borrows keep heading south. Along with the return offered from Amazon. My plan is to get all the books from my series, and perhaps a couple of others all stacked up onto D2D and see where it takes me in the first quarter of the new year. Top notch info as always.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Thanks Michelle – I was the same. KDP Select was doing good things for me, but the effectiveness of it has tailed off considerably in the last few months.

  3. I’ve never been in Select with any of my titles. It’s taken me a *long* time, but I’m getting traction on other sites now. At least I know what Kobo and Apple will pay me per sale, rather than the unknown pot of money for borrows or subscription reading.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      It can take quite a while, but it’s definitely worth it!

  4. Douglas Dorow says:

    I came out of exclusive with kindle a year ago with my one title and found that with a Bookbub ad and a discount to 99 cents, I picked up a lot of new readers on Nook. I did a 99 cent discount twice in 2014 and both times the response on Nook was as good or better than on Kindle. Kobo has been less responsive.

    Now, I need to get more books out there in 2015. Thanks for sharing the info. Happy Holidays!

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      You too! Bookbub is great for getting things kickstarted on the other channels

  5. Jay says:

    Nick, I think you need to take the direct sales numbers out of this discussion and rerun the numbers. The direct sales are skewing the results and shouldn’t be used here to complete the analysis since most (fiction) authors wont have the direct sales channels that you employ (e.g. the how-to non-fiction books that you sell and the sending of all of your authors on this email list to buy other products and get kick-back affiliate commission on it.) If you remove the direct sales, how does it all look then? If the increase in non-AMZ revenue doesn’t come close to making up for the lost sales in AMZ, then it’s not really a valid argument, other than lessening your reliance on AMZ (which I agree is a sound long term goal) and also being able to get into Bookbub (since they wont feature a book in Kindle Select.)

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      By that logic, I should leave out all my fiction income, because some authors don’t sell fiction…

      Bookbub take books in KDP Select – not sure where you heard that one: https://www.bookbub.com/partners/requirements

      1. Sara Alexi says:

        Sorry Nick, you stick me as a good guy but I feel your response to Jay is just a sort of ‘get out’ comment. If the comparison is between being in Select or not being in Select than the graphs should show exactly that, two bars side by side. If it is between letting other sell and selling yourself then again just the two bars. But what you are saying here is Select versus other platform plus ‘Direct selling” (Which might as well be called Strategy X as other author have not a clue what you are doing to make these sales) then it is very misleading. Or is that what you are selling – how to do Strategy X ?

  6. Great article Nick! I have 4 titles in KDP Select now, but I’m thinking of moving one or more of them to other platforms to see whether that’s a better deal. There’s a couple things that are holding me back though. I’m concerned that I may lose my position on Amazon if I move a book and it doesn’t work out (so if I return to KDP Select I perhaps won’t have the same visibility I had before). Also, I feel that it may take a very long time to build momentum on multiple platforms. I guess it would mean you would have to get reviews for several platforms and I already have a hard time getting reviews on Amazon (I don’t have an e-mail list). Having to get reviews for like 4 or 5 platforms definitely won’t make things easier and I’m concerned whether all that extra time and effort will actually yield results.

    You say that “It took a few months to get going”: what did you do exactly, did it take you some time to get reviews or were you running promotions specifically for those other platforms? It would be great if you could elaborate a bit more on how you managed to make your books successful on other platforms. Also, I’m curious to find out whether you use a third party like D2D or Smashwords or whether you uploaded your books directly?

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      In most cases, I went direct – except for permafree, which I used Draft2Digital for (I like their interface better than Smashwords).

      As for building momentum… permafree + advertising is responsible for a good chunk of volume, and, more recently, working on getting merchandising features.

      It’s definitely scary moving books off Amazon – I dropped mine one at a time, saw good results, and then moved the others. But by all accounts, it can take several months to start getting respectable numbers – but it’s worth it in the long run!

  7. A brilliant article. Really love the back-and-forth pseudo Walmart conversation because that brought it home. I tried one title in Select for the 90 day window and it comes out soon. I won’t be doing it again but I’m glad I got to see the results for myself.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Thanks! Maybe Walmart will call me up one day and offer me something good…

      1. I’m sure you can come up with some widget they would be happy to pimp 😉 Lol.

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          After writing this, I’m determined to break into the breakfast cereal market

  8. Great article Nick. As a fairly newish indie author myself (started self publishing in September this year) I have noticed this same trend too, which is why all my new books are NEVER going into KDP Select. In fact, I ran a test to see if not putting a book in KDP Select would hurt sales – so far, it hasn’t. In fact, these two books are doing much better than the 4 books in KDP Select! It could be niche related… I’ll know more once I have another 3 non-fiction books published!

    Thanks again for sharing!

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      My pleasure! I’m hearing from a lot of authors that borrows are flat-lining (too much competition, maybe?) and with trad-pubs dropping prices, it’s more important than ever to work on establishing a strong brand with a decent price point. Here’s hoping your sales carry on strong!

      1. I do believe it depends on the niche you’re in – I publish non-fiction and feel there isn’t as much competition as there is for fiction but the fact remains, Amazon are not offering me any real incentive to stay in KDP Select, unless, as you say, I’m in the Top 100 Best Sellers.

        Just as with not having all your income coming from one source, why would you put all your eggs in one basket in relation to publishing your books? You wouldn’t!

        Merry Christmas

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          It would have to be one frickin’ awesome basket :p

          1. Yes it would, lined with golden straw… 😉

  9. Randall Wood says:

    Nicely done, Nick.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Thanks, Randall 🙂

  10. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know what you’re talking about, brah. I’m launching a new pen name next week and I’ll be cranking out 5K word/20-page books (hee hee I almost typed “books” with a straight face) about alpha billionaire vampire shifters who will only sleep with big women cause they’re like super sexy and such. I may or may not throw in a werewolf threesome in there too I haven’t decided yet. Every book will be .99-cents and there will be a barechested dude on the cover and a slightly plump chick getting ready to be ravaged. I’m gonna enroll everything into KU and make a mint!

    Oh, I’m going to call the pen name Something Wilde.

    Wish me luck!

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. You should split those 20-page books in half, then you’ll get a borrow credit on the first page turn. You should also spell your name Somethyng Wylde and make it a Dystopian setting. Chuh-chinnnnnng!!!

  11. I took my books out of Select at the end of September. It’d been part of my long term plan because I’d written a series and decided that when book 3 had finished it’s first 3 months in Select, I’d go to other vendors. Then KU happened and I made some decent money in that the first month or so, enough to make me think twice. I stuck to my original plan though.

    What happened was my Amazon sales have gone down maybe by about 10-20% but the series took off on Apple. So my overall earnings have more than doubled. I don’t like giving out numbers but just for reference, I am talking going from lower four figures on Amazon alone to mid four figures.

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      Congrats, Kathryn! That’s a great result!

      1. Thanks. I definitely think writers shouldn’t be afraid to try things. A lot of people worry that if they leave Amazon, it will be too hard to sell elsewhere but I’ve found Apple do a lot of promotion for you – not just for writers that are already selling bucketloads.

  12. Matt Ballard says:

    Hey Nick, Just wanted to leave a quick note to say thank you. As an author, I really enjoy your blog, and as a reader, I really enjoy the Leopold Blake series. Thanks so much for sharing all your experience and great advice, and thanks for the great reads! Happy Holidays to you and yours!!! Matt

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      My pleasure! Happy Holidays 🙂

  13. Timo Kiander says:

    Good stuff as always.

    Just wondering, what are your thoughts on publishing e-books on your own blog (with the help of say, Gumroad)? At least Nathan Barry is doing good with this strategy: http://www.smartpassiveincome.com/ebooks-pricing-structure-nathan-barry/

    Cheers,
    Timo

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      I personally wouldn’t bother – because I’m in the EU I’d have to mess around with VAT. Not really worth it for me!

      1. Timo Kiander says:

        Ok, thanks!

        Cheers,
        Timo

      2. Jason Cooke says:

        So you’re doing 6 figures and you’re not VAT registered? “TAX MAN!”

        1. Nick_Stephenson says:

          LOL USA ebook sales aren’t VAT-able 😀

  14. Pete Bauer says:

    This year I will be introducing a novel series. My thought was to use KDP for 3 months for the first release months to build up reviews and social cred, but after that, I was going to get into all of the other venues. I’m in this for the long haul and don’t have any intention of relying on a single distribution stream. I think KDP exclusivity could be used strategically as a tool, but for specific purposes to benefit long term goals.

  15. C.B. Stone says:

    Thanks Nick. I’m learning a lot from everything you share, so I appreciate your willingness to do so. I’m wondering if KU is sort of stalling out because honestly… from a reader’s standpoint too much of a good thing isn’t good for anyone. When so many books are easily available for free on borrows, etc… it makes free a whole lot less attractive. People stockpile oodles of books they will never find the time to read through, and where does that leave anyone? Not in the best place I’d imagine.

  16. M T McGuire says:

    Hello there,

    I have never been in select. I believe in keeping all my channels open. I have a series and the first book is free, It’s been really hard to get any traction through other retailers so I was thinking of putting an edition of short stories or something in Unlimited, just for the exposure. Haven’t yet though because while traction with the others is terrible,there have actually been some sales over the course of ’14 and there weren’t before.

    I’ve had a few downloads of the free book on Kobo and even sold the princely total of 9 books. Absolutely nothing is happening on Apple as far as I know – I’m supplying them through smashwords, though and Kobo I submit books direct. There have been a few downloads of the free book on Google Play, too but nobody has ever bought any of the paid for books from there. I assume they all read the first one and buy the others from Amazon.

    So yes, in ones and twos I’m probably noticing the same trend. 😉

    Cheers

    MTM

  17. I was in Select for most of 2012, then pulled out when sales dropped like a stone in the fourth quarter. Going through Smashwords to distribute everything to all of the other retailers and my sales in 2013 from iTunes and B&N were very decent. But early in 2014, they started to decline and by mid-year, were less than 20% of what they’d been in 2013. Since the vast majority of my earnings were from Amazon, I unpublished everything in July and put them in Select the next month – with the exception of my perma-free’s and new releases.

    And it worked. For a couple of months. Now my earnings seem to be half of what they were for most of the year. It may be that I’m not seeing real time KU totals, but even if that is the case, sales have still dropped by about thirty percent.

    So that’s how being exclusive with Amazon is working for me. Not terrible, but not great either. But the KU payments dropping every month is a pretty big loss and I’m pulling several books out this month. Depending on what happens, I’ll pull most of the rest out when the ninety days is up in April.

    Now before I ask my questions, I just want to thank you for sharing this information. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. 🙂

    1. Do you recommend uploading to each site, or going through
    something like Smashwords?

    2. How do you market to the other sites? Amazon allows a
    link to your website/blog, but I’ve found nothing elsewhere.

    3. Did you have everything in place with the magnet book
    before you pulled most of your books out of Select?

  18. Honor Dawson says:

    Hi Nick, I exited KDP select at the first opportunity as it was logical that by limiting yourself as an independent writer to one outlet, would eventually bring future problems, especially if everything you try does not improve visibility. This is the major issue for as I write mystery suspense thrillers for the contemporary womens fiction category. Amazon is morphing into that hidden dragon that may well belch fire and devastate many writers work . I am investigating other means, I am now convinced the Indie writers in such numbers are a support Amazon’s structure, an open conspiracy! I have long term plans but the web is faddy and fickle, so if you rely on digital publishing just feel the despair, now they have screwed us for another 20%, in VAT which we can not CLAIM BACK as far as I am aware. Need confirmation and feedback on that, if I get successful it may be easier, I feel it’s unjustified and unfair !

  19. Phil says:

    Hi Nick, how’s the sales trend of your Leopold Blake mystery series been over the past six months since you left KDP Select? Are they doing better now than before as far as sales go? Is itunes, Kobe, etc. making a significant contribution to your sales?
    Thanks,
    Phil

  20. Alan Spade says:

    I must admit I was pissed off when learning that Amazon has changed its algorithms to favor the people in Kindle Unlimited: now each book lended in KU, even if it has not been read, counts as a sale! WTF? I think that this is more than disingenuous: it’s dishonest for the people buying on Amazon.

    Ok, it’s Amazon’s playground. It’s their problem if they want to muddy the playground. Still, I think it’s sad.

    I’ve written a blog post on the matter (sorry, in French) : http://alanspade.blogspot.fr/2015/02/un-article-lire-absolument-pour-les.html

  21. Lynette Ferreira says:

    Interesting article. I am not entirely sure what the problem is with people reading a book for free on KU, when authors give books away all the time for 100% free without ever receiving the courtesy of a thank you, a mention or even a review (the main reasons for giving away thousands of books). At least at KU you get paid for each book read past 30%, it might be small amounts, but small amounts add up and it is at least something in return for ‘giving a book away for free’.
    This year, I am gradually going to move all my books to Amazon exclusively. I did my sales figures for the last two years (I am very slack when it comes to calculating my sales figures) and I have sold the most e-book copies at Amazon. When I post links, I get a better response from Amazon shared links. At the other channels, I have hardly sold any ebooks for the last two years (unless they are downloaded for free). Most of my paperback books are sold through Barnes & Noble, but these are sold through extended distribution and will still be available on different book sites. It would also make my life easier, when I do not have to amalgamate different sales worksheets. Each person has to evaluate their own situation and goals, and do what’s best for their own books. Personally, I love Amazon KDP.
    On a different note: It seems (to me) as if all this fear mongering (not this specific article, which was very informative) is a way to get people to withdraw their books from KU, and thus increase visibility of the books who remain. Not a bad idea, if I had to be totally honest.

  22. Rachel Amphlett says:

    Great article Nick – I tried KDP Select for one three-month window and saw no benefit at all – especially as I lost sales I’d have otherwise made on iTunes and Barnes & Noble! I’ve been trying to tell my author friends ever since that diversity is key to visibility.

  23. Sarah K says:

    Thank you for sharing this info!

  24. mikecrowl says:

    Whoops. Magnet book is no longer free. Now 89c – it was free the other day when looked. Should have got it then (yes, I know, 89c isn’t much!)

  25. Smithg768 says:

    You are my inhalation, I have few web logs and rarely run out from post gcabadeeeeddedka

  26. Sofia says:

    Hi Nick, would you recommend a new author avoiding Amazon in the first place? Why does it matter where you send your readers to download a book — brand bias or exposure or something else?

  27. I tried Amazon when I first started publishing ebooks, but found it really cumbersome to work with. Then I discovered Smashwords and never looked back. When a book meets their standards it goes to Apple, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Sribd, Library Direct, etc. Sales are down a bit because there are so many free books out there, but publishing through Smashwords makes keeping track of everything really simple – one quarterly report for all sales. I have 29 publications now, but I intensely dislike self-promotion, so this is just a fun thing to do in retirement, and a way to make a few bucks. Love reading these posts!

  28. Hey Nick,

    How long did it take you to get from 0 to say $1000/ month? And you were still trying to hold down a full time job while that was going on, right? Am kind of in that postion plus 1ary carer for 2 kids under 10, one with special needs, so making this into a career from home is way more than a pipe dream. Thanks, love reader magnets b.t.w 🙂 Paul

    1. Sorry also, exclusive on Amazon until 12 Dec this year, by which time hopefully I’ll be on top of reader magnets! P.

  29. Karen Harvey says:

    Thank you for the information you share on your blog. I find it very helpful.

    I am about ready to publish a small collection of poetry which has already been published quite widely in anthologies, print journals and online Ezines etc. along with a handful of new poems. Poetry collections do not generally sell in huge numbers but I am friends with/have participated in workshops run by, and attended workshops/retreats alongside many well known contemporary poets who are encouraging me to publish so I might be able to get some worthwhile reviews. I have also been placed, including a first in several international competitions and am very involved with several large peer groups on Facebook.

    Is it worth publishing this kind of book with Amazon or would it be better to stick to the likes of LuLu (I don’t think there is much leeway for profit there) or totally self publish? I definitely want a print version but am very happy to epublish as well. I sometimes but an ebooklet of poetry and if it’s a ‘keeper’ I order a print copy too. I woud never give anyone exclusive rights because I am quite willing and able to self promote, do readings etc.
    I am building a website with blog to share some of my previously published work with credits and my achievements to build an audience. I will also use Twitter because many of my poems are short form, haiku/senru.

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  35. Monroe Todd says:

    Because I’m new at this and coming in with almost nothing, I plan to be on KDP Select for a while until I build up a larger mailing list and a few thousands more people know me before I go wide. I plan to have book one in a trilogy Permafree, and the other two at $2.99. Then I’ll go from there.

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