Fast forward to December 2014. One of my novels, TELL A THOUSAND LIES, still hovers in the #1/#2 positions in Asian Fiction. My novella, THE TEMPLE IS NOT MY FATHER, goes up and down in the top 2-5 positions in that same category. And 28 YEARS A BACHELOR was overall #163 in paid sales on Amazon India as of yesterday.
But the income from all three of my books is about what I used to get from TELL A THOUSAND LIES alone six months ago. What happened?
Kindle Unlimited, if you haven’t heard of it, is a program like Oyster and Scribd in that readers can borrow an unlimited number of books a month for a flat fee. Great, if you’re a reader; not so great if you’re the borrowed book’s author. KU requires that your ebook be exclusive to Select. If that isn’t bad enough, Amazon requires that the reader read at least 10% of your book before they will pay you.
If you’re an Indie, and if your book is over 150 pages (and $3.99) you’re actually losing money via lost royalties because your borrows, as of last month, net you $1.54. If you’re traditionally published, you don’t suffer this ignominy – each borrow counts as a sale in terms of royalties, so you’re not on the losing end of anything.
Authors participating in KU are reporting a dramatic drop in royalties. Romance author H. M. Ward estimates that she has lost up to 75% of her royalties – and this is an author who had 12 titles in the bestsellers list in 2014. After she pulled her books from KU, Ward reports that she’s gone back to 51% of her pre-KU sales. Even though I’m not in KU, I’ve seen a dramatic drop in my own royalties. This, I suspect, is because non-KU books lack the visibility that books in KU do.
The warning signs have been there. Up until March 2014, Audible, the Amazon-owned audiobook company, paid 50-90% royalties. Suddenly they decided to yank the rug from under authors. If you’re looking to sell your audiobook now, don’t expect to make more than 40% - and this is if you’re exclusive with Audible for a period of seven years. If you’re non-exclusive, you have to settle for a flat 25%.
The shock of lost sales, post KU, gave me the-kick-in-the-pants (okay, kick-in-the-sari) that I needed to diversify. I’ve uploaded my books to Nook and Kobo and Apple. Google Play is up next. If you’re an American citizen (and, perhaps, British), all these sites are accessible to you directly. Otherwise you may go through ebook aggregators like Smashwords and/or Draft2Digital to get your books on there.
My conclusion from this is that what worked back in 2012, when I first published my ebook, will not necessarily work now. Already the ‘free’ promotion via Amazon Select isn’t garnering authors the same kind of returns as before.
Some Indies are reporting that sales on Kobo, Google Play and Apple are making up for the dip in sales on Amazon. My next strategy is to figure out how to gain visibility on those sites. If you are considering Google Play, here’s a fantastic post from kindle boards you should check this out.
If your books are on KU, here’s something you should be looking at: Penny Sansevieri recommends using themes, which are essentially targeted keywords that Amazon uses to categorize books. Instead of randomly adding keywords to your book in KDP, you can now look up commonly searched terms. For example, if you write romance and want your book to target shoppers who like their heroes rich and wealthy (and therefore show up in the Romance/ Rich & Wealthy category of KU, one of the keywords you would use would be billionaire, rich, millionaire, wealthy).
As an aside, Penny Sansevieri also recommends AuthorRise, a free app that tracks your social media with your book sales (and also enables you to create promotional flyers).
If you want to further diversify, you could try Wattpad and Medium. I found it did nothing for my sales, but other Indies, primarily authors of Young Adult books, have found huge readership via these sites.
So what are the lessons I’ve learned from my three years as an Indie Author? I’ve learned that you cannot pick one marketing trick and hope that it will be the magic bullet propels you to a lifetime of steady income. You have to keep experimenting.
What’s your best marketing advice for writers?
She’s mother to a girl and a boy who were respectively six and eleven-years-old when they wrote and illustrated THE MOSQUITO AND THE TEAPOT. She lives with her husband and children in Hyderabad, India, where a lot of her stories are set.
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THREE YEARS AS AN INDIE AUTHOR: LESSONS LEARNED by @rasana_atreya http://goo.gl/cmkx0C #theartistunleashed #indieauthors #bookmarketing