So, I recently took all of my titles out of the Kindle Unlimited program. No, this has nothing to do with Amazon’s recent adjustment to how it rewards authors for pages read on copies borrowed through the program. I’m actually alright with that and even curious to see how it works for my books. The last couple of months I was on the program I was starting to get more than a few borrows. So, I’ll eventually come back to Kindle Unlimited, but I wanted to conduct an experiment this summer and fall.
See, I’ve been using free giveaway promotions for the first couple of books in the Grant Scotland series, but I have a feeling that the self-publishing industry is no longer doing itself any favors by engaging in the practice. Conventional wisdom among self-published authors over the past few years has insisted that you give away your first novel or three in order to get your brand established. Indeed, there’s a lot of evidence that this worked well for many people from 2008 or so to 2012 or so. I don’t have stats for you. It’s largely anecdotal. People built a customer base in a market where demand outstripped supply and these days they can rely on those same customers to pay for more product since those authors are trusted and known suppliers.
These days, almost every self-published author uses this tactic. What this has resulted in is a giant glut of product into a marketplace that is still clearly growing, but could be over-saturated at the moment. I don’t know for sure, but I’ve heard speculation about that among authors – I think Bookdaily is where I read a couple of articles about it – who believe we may be shooting ourselves in the feet at this point. Customers have downloaded so many free books, they either can’t get to them all or are so eager to get through their TBR pile that they don’t give a book a chance before setting it aside.
My own experience so far would lend support to this. I’ve given away thousands of copies of Spy for a Dead Empire, but I have 12 reviews and hardly any sales at all outside of promotions. This means people either haven’t read the book or read it and discarded it OR read it and put my other books on their wishlist but will only download them when they’re free. The first two don’t bother me so much (well, ok – the second thing is worrisome) but it’s the third thing that has me the most frightened. In our rush to carve out our own audiences, we self-pubbers may have created our own monsters. After all, we share a great deal of readers, especially among genre authors. What if the e-book audience out there has become so used to getting free content, they just assume they’ll always get it for free? And they’ll wait to get it for free, too. Why? Because at least one of their favorite authors will be running a promotion at any given time. They can always find something free to read.
This is worrisome and makes me even more inclined to rush back into the protective arms of Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. There, people can borrow the book for free, but I’ll still get paid if they read it. Actually, I’d get paid even if they only read some of it. But before I go gently into that good night, my plan is to do a full slate of $0.99 promotions across all the major platforms – Nook, Apple, Kobo and Amazon. (If you sign your book up for Kindle Unlimited, it can’t be listed with any other retailer) Just recently, I completed a week long promotion for Wayward Daughter, the newest Grant Scotland novel. I used two recommended promotion sites: Riffle Select and EBookBooster. EBookBooster is actually a service that submits your deal to a bunch (25, currently) of different promotion sites. Each of those sites have a relatively small following, though. Riffle has a good sized audience, though, and I’ve done well using them both together for my free book promos in the past. I figured I had built up enough of an audience from their collected mailing lists to have a reasonable chance at getting them to buy my latest installment on sale rather than getting it for free.
The ads through EbookBooster (I actually think only about half of the contacted 25 sites actually run the ads, to be honest) ran on July 22nd and Riffle added me to their newsletter on the 24th. The result was… not encouraging. I spent $25 on EbookBooster (still seems like a great deal, even if you don’t wind up on all the sites they submit your book to) and $40 on Riffle. I sold 7 copies of Wayward Daughter at $0.99 and 1 copy of Dead Empire at $3.99.
Now, Wayward Daughter is still very new, so some consideration needs to go to that. I didn’t want to promote Dead Empire, since these were both mailing lists that contained readers who had seen that book appear for free at least twice over the past year. Didn’t seem right to try to get the ones who didn’t bite the first time to pay to bite this time. I could do Troubled King for $0.99 on those mailing lists, since I think they only saw it for free once. And I’ll probably do that, but my next step, I think, is to try new mailing lists with Dead Empire. There’s a couple I’ve never used that have received some good reviews from other authors. Sites like EReaderNews and Fussy Librarian. They require at least 8 reviews, which Dead Empire qualifies for, but my other two don’t yet. I plan on trying to rectify that by signing up for a blog tour, which usually generates some reviews. Although that might just generate more reviews for Book One than the others, but that seems to be unavoidable at this point. I’ll just have to remain patient with Book Two and Three.
So, my plan now is the bargain promo for Book One later in August. Then I’ll get Troubled King on the Riffle/EBookBooster promo in September. After that, maybe I’ll try Wayward Daughter again, but probably not. Maybe the omnibus. We’ll see.
Meantime, the writing continues. Book Four is outlined and a couple of chapters are done. Weekly word counts have decreased as I balance pizza delivery schedule with writing time, but when I sit down to write, I’m still as productive as ever, so that’s good. Thanks for your interest! Please read and review my books!