Making Money Mondays – Self-Publishing – KDP Select Report


Hello to the future! Thanks to the scheduling feature on WordPress I’m able to write this post on Wednesday and have it post on Monday, because I’ll be at Dragon Con Monday rushing from panel to panel and will not be able to make a blog post. So hello, future friends!

This week we’re going to talk about something very specific to self-published or very small press authors – KDP Select (or Kindle Unlimited). For the purposes of this program, many small presses are treated just like self-published authors, so we’ll refer to them all the same way. Larger presses have different levels of access and different ways of dealing with Amazon, but that’s a little more about how the sausage gets made than anyone actually wants to know. Also understand that nothing I’m going to talk about includes my Black Knight Chronicles series, we’re only talking about my self-published/Falstaff Books stuff.

For those that don’t know, KDP Select is a “service” that Amazon offers to self-published authors that allows them to enroll their books in the Kindle Unlimited program. Kindle Unlimited (KU) is kinda like Netflix for books. You pat $10/month, and you can read as much of anything that’s in the program as you like. There are not a ton of traditional published big-press books out there, but some excellent small press and self-pub books out there. For example. all my Bubba the Monster Hunter Books and Quincy Harker, Demon Hunter books are in KDP Select, which most people shortcut into saying they are “in KU.”

The catch to this? Because there’s always a catch, right? The catch is that you have to make your books exclusive to Amazon for an enrollment period of 90 days. After that, you can put your book(s) back into distribution with all other channels (known as “going wide”).

Enrollment in KDP Select also gives you access to certain features that Amazon doesn’t make available to other writers or publishers. For example, you can run one seven-day Countdown Deal each enrollment period, where you drop the price of your book as low as you like (bottom is $.99) and then scale it back up to regular price over seven days. You can actually run more than one Countdown Deal each period, but you get a total of seven days. So if you have a book at $2.99 and want to discount it for a couple days, then do it again, you can. But if you have a book at $9.99 (like Bubba Year One, Bubba Year Two, or Harker Year One) and you want to drop it to $.99, then you use the seven days to slowly increase it back to full price. You also get five days each enrollment period that you can make your book free, which is a way to get more eyeballs on your book, and a decent way to get people to take a chance on a new series.

Starting today, September 5, I will have several books free through Friday.

Queen of Kats – Book I – Betrayal – Free until Friday, September 9

Raising Hell – Quincy Harker Book 1 – Free until Friday, September 9

Knight UnLife – Black Knight Short Stories – Free until Friday, September 9

If you don’t understand the purpose of making the first taste free, then you haven’t been around nearly as many drug dealers as I have. I applaud your virtuous life choices, and will not bother to ask if you’re holding if we’re ever at a party together. Just sayin’.

I was in KU for a while when they first rolled out the program, and I was making around $1,000 per month of book borrows, mostly off my Bubba the Monster Hunter short stories, because that’s what I had available. At that time, you got paid based on how many of your books were borrowed by KU readers, regardless of how much of your book was read. This system was open to manipulation, and people manipulated it, chopping their novels up into story-sized chunks to get more borrows, and Amazon changed the system.

Today, you get paid based on how many pages someone reads of your work. This obviously benefits longer works, and now that I have longer work (novellas versus short stories) and more large collections available, I decided to give it a shot. Let’s be honest, I also talked to friends and listed to some podcasts and looked at the bestseller lists, and saw that almost all of the self-published or small press books in the Top 100 of any category were all in KU. So obviously there was some money to be made there.

I also gathered some of my own data. I looked at the total amount of money I made across all non-Amazon sales channels. These figures are for ebook only, because print sales are still a minuscule amount of my revenue. I make far more selling books at conventions than I do selling print books in bookstores and online, and I barely break even doing that. Seriously, my print sales are less than $500 per year. In the 13 months from July 2015 to July 2016, I made $993 across all non-Amazon channels. That’s Kobo, Nook, Smashwords, Scribd, iTunes, all of it.

From August 1 to August 31, 2016 I made an estimated $1,379 in KU.

I made 28% more money in one month of having my books in KU than I did in 13 months of wide distribution. And I didn’t cannibalize my sales for the page reads. What I mean by that is that I do not think very many people used KU to read my book instead of buying it. Why would I think that.

Because my sales increased this month, too. In fact, August was my best sales month for all of 2016. Now, there are several factors affecting this – I had a bunch of new releases in the last month. Since July 29th, I’ve released Heaven Sent (Quincy Harker #5), Man in Black (Black Knight #6), and Queen of Kats Part 2 – Betrayal. But my sales in August were about double my July sales, and that doesn’t count any Man in Black sales, because I won’t get those numbers until the end of reporting (next year).

One way to measure overall sales is by Amazon’s Author Rank. All authors with something for sale on Amazon are ranked by sales in their genre. For example, the #1 selling fantasy author is J.K. Rowling – big surprise there. MW’s own Faith Hunter is #51, which puts her in some very good company in the Top 100. The higher your author rank, the more visible you are in searches, etc. You can look at someone’s Author Page to see their Author Rank. If they’re in the Top 100 for any genre. For example, you look at my Author Page, and you won’t see a listing for my rank in Fantasy, because I’m floating around the #150 mark. Before I enrolled in KU, I was living around the #600 ranking. So my enrollment in KU increased my overall visibility, which resulted in more sales.

The reason for this is simple – KU borrows and page reads count toward your sales and author rank. I currently have eight books in the Top 100 in the Horror Comedy bestseller list in Amazon, including Man in Black at #5, a position it’s held for a couple weeks. So my KU books are increasing the visibility of my non-KU books as well, without cannibalizing my sales.

So why shouldn’t everybody do it?

Well, for one thing, not every solution works for every writer. And not ever genre is as good for KU as fantasy and horror. Also, if you see significant income from other markets, you’d better be sure that you’re going to cover that income from KU if you yank your books from Kobo, for example. So if you have a big presence overseas, it might not be a good move for you. If you only have short stories to flog, it might not be good for you. A ton of my page reads come from Bubba Seasons 1 & 2, and Harker Year One. Those are big books, and they sell for $9.99 each. That makes them very appealing to KU readers. It’s the same reason Harker Year One outsells all the novellas combined on audio – when you’re “buying” something with credits, you want to get the most value possible. So longer works tend to do better.

And you have to write fast, and release fast, to stay relevant and visible. But that’s one of the keys to self-publishing today, anyway.

Okay, I’ve run long, as usual. If there are questions, leave them in the comments and I’ll answer them, probably tomorrow (Tuesday). Now go write something.

I’m giving away 10 FREE audiobooks in the month of September. Go to my website and find out how you can enter! As always, if you love what I’m doing, buy my stuff, or you can also pledge to my Patreon

12-book box set


Also, don’t forget the Modern Magic boxed set is only available until October 1! Get books from amazing writers like Christopher Golden & Thomas Sniegoski, Julie Kenner, Rick Gualtieri, Karen Taylor, Stuart Jaffe, Gail Martin, Nicole Givens Kurtz, and more! 




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