Okay, I’ll admit it. This is my second attempt at a post this morning. I had one going about fan fiction and inspiration but trashed it. I just wasn’t feeling it. Which is ironic since I was writing about inspiration. Oh well. . . let’s talk a bit about the business of writing instead because that is where my brain is.
As you know if you’ve been following the blog for long, I went wide with my books this past summer. It wasn’t a decision I made lightly. But after watching the payouts per page reads decline for Kindle Unlimited reads and starting to feel more than a touch uncomfortable having all my eggs in a single basket, I made the leap. It took time and, honestly, it put my publishing schedule behind some. But, I did it and my books were finally available not only at Amazon but also BN, Kobo, Apple, Scribd as well as to libraries, etc.
Better than that, it quickly became clear that by expanding my market, I wasn’t going to miss the KU income. That has held true so far, thankfully. Amazon is still the majority of my income, but that margin is narrowing as the other storefronts gain traction.
Before word came out last week that Draft2Digital was acquiring Smashwords, I made the decision to try Smashwords again. It wasn’t an easy decision. I remembered the issues with the meatgrinder. I remembered slow payouts and a dashboard that sucked–and that’s putting it mildly. But if I’m going to do this wide this properly, then I need to utilize all the tools at my disposal and SW has outlets/partners Draft2Digital doesn’t. New markets means new potential readers.
To date, I’ve put up the Honor & Duty series, Fire Striker and a couple of other books. Over the next few weeks, I’ll add the rest of my catalog.
After a couple of weeks, I can come to a couple of tentative conclusions. The first, based on sales, is I did the right thing by making this decision. Second, using their coupons works. Third, the interface still sucks, just not as much. Fourth, why or why are their cover image requirements different?
Yes, you read that right. You will have to upload a different aspect ratio of your cover than you do to Amazon or D2D. And that can mean so tweaking of your book cover to make sure it doesn’t look wonky on their catalog pages. That’s why it is taking me a bit longer to upload the rest of my catalog.
Fortunately, you are no longer required to rely on the meatgrinder to upload and convert your book. You can upload your own ePub–which is what I do. So at least one headache is gone. Now all I have to remember is not to duplicate markets between D2D and SW. This will be something that goes away as the two sites eventually merge into one.
So let’s talk numbers, at least percentages. We are halfway through this month. To date, Amazon accounts for approximately 55% of my sales. Draft2Digital accounts for 25% and Smashwords the remaining 20%. It is going to be interesting to see how these numbers hold up over the next few months, especially since there are advertising potentials with both D2D and SW that I don’t have with Amazon.
Here’s a hint. Smashwords has a coupon option where you can discount or give a title away for free that you don’t get with Amazon. You can make the coupon available to anyone or you can code it so you can give it away to specific people. So that makes marketing a lot easier. Send out a newsletter, offer a coupon to your subscribers and run with it.
But, as with everything, it will take time to see how it shakes out.
Now, helping me track all this is a site called ScribeCount. ScribeCount is a subscription service, free until you sell a certain amount in a month, that you link your sales outlets to. It pulls the data together and spits it back out at you by storefront, title, country, format, etc. There is no new information there but it saves time by doing all the correlating for you. I highly recommend it for anyone going wide.
Finally, I’m going to repeat some advice you’ll see posted in any of the writers’ groups online: you need to write. Optimally, you should be putting out a new title every two to three months. Now, before you throw your hands up in the air and start cursing me, that doesn’t mean full-length novels. Yes, some folks can do that. I’m trying to.
What it means is put out a short story. Put out a novella. It might mean taking time and writing two or three novels or novellas and then doing quick releases on them to build traction for the series. Once you get that traction, you can slow–some. The question each of us has to answer is how to do this best. You might do it by taking time as I suggested and writing several titles in the same series and then doing quick releases. It might be by releasing a short story or two between novels. Or you might find a co-author to help with the writing, etc. That’s up to you.
And always remember, quantity–or at least consistency in release dates–is good but quality is still what your readers want.
Most of all, don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’ve been in KU for years and you’re seeing your income plateau or even drop on your page reads, take a hard look at how those reads equate into book sales. In other words, how “pages” are they saying have been read? Now, how many “books” does that compute out to? Is it enough to keep you in KU or is this the time to maybe take a series, put some push into it, maybe recover or rebrand it, and release it wide?
I’m not saying take everything wide at once. I’m not even saying you have to take anything wide. I am saying there are alternatives out there and it is easy to get used to doing things one way without actually taking a hard look at the bottom line. Take page reads and money estimated to be earned and then compare that with how much you’d make if an equivalent number of e-books were sold. Are you actually losing money? (And, yes, I know there are a lot of authors making more from KU than actual sales. I was that way before going wide. Now, my sales on Amazon are up and then there are my sales on the other platforms. I have had one month where my sales sucked since going wide. That month, almost every author I know said the same thing thing about their sales. So I’m counting it as an anomaly.)
Do what is best for you. But be honest and take a hard look at what you are doing and ask the hard questions. Don’t be afraid to make changes. After all, nothing is written in stone and you can go back to how you were doing things if it doesn’t work out.