Posted in Amazon Kindle Sales | Posted on 27-10-2014|
Until a week and a half ago, I had never enrolled any of my books in Kindle Select. The program came out after I started self-publishing, and I already had readers on the other platforms. That doesn’t mean I’ve never been tempted! Oh, I’m not in favor of giving exclusivity to Amazon, but from the beginning there have been perks to those who are a part of the program.
As you doubtlessly know, the latest is that the ebooks enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (available only if you’re in Select) can be borrowed in addition to being bought. Since borrows currently pay around $1.50 (this amount fluctuates from month to month, depending on the number of books in the pool and the total money Amazon puts in the pot), this may or may not be a good financial deal for authors. If you have a 99-cent ebook in KU, you’ll get that 1.50 (assuming the reader reaches the 10% mark in the book) instead of the usual 35 cents for a sale. Great deal. If you have a 5.99 ebook in KU, you’ll still get that 1.50, instead of the $4 or so you would get for a sale. A less great deal, assuming borrows cannibalize sales instead of existing in addition to sales (I’ve actually heard from many authors that such an assumption may not be true, that borrows don’t affect their total sales numbers to a large degree).
If you don’t sell enough books to make it into some Top 100 categories and appear in a number of book’s also-boughts around Amazon, you may want to be a part of the program (or not), based purely on whether you’re coming out ahead (or not) with the borrows. But there’s something else to consider here.
How KU borrows affect sales ranking (a lot)
As I’ve mentioned before, I have a pen name side project that I haven’t gone public with yet. I launched the first two books in October, one at the beginning of the month, and one a week and a half ago. Since the first one is up on Wattpad, I couldn’t put it in KDP Select, but with the second one, I decided to finally give the program a try. I didn’t have readers on other platforms waiting for it, so I figured nobody would be irked when it wasn’t available elsewhere.
Around the same time, one of my writing buddies launched a new book of her own, one in a new series in a new genre. She did not put her title in KDP Select.
Neither of us were expecting piles of sales. What was interesting (or depressing, for non-exclusivity supporters) was how different our sales rankings were right out of the gate, even though we were selling nearly the same number of books in those first few days (we compared numbers).
My KU book started its life at around a 10,000 sales ranking, even though it only got six sales that first day (and two were to other countries, so would have no affect on sales ranking in the main store) and no borrows (at least no borrows that showed up on my dashboard — more on that in a minute). My friend’s book had a similar number of sales (if memory serves, she was ahead for the first couple of days) but had a significantly higher sales ranking. At 10,000, my book squeaked into the Top 100 of its little sub-category. My friend’s book didn’t make it onto any category lists.
The next day, I had four sales and two borrows. The day after that, the book had eight sales and two borrows. It crept up to around a 5,000 sales ranking. It’s hung out between 6,000 and 4,000 for the last week now. A week and a half in, it has a grand total of 77 sales and 84 borrows in the U.S. store.
I’ve been kind of floored by the sales ranking. From my other books, I know it takes a lot more sales a day than that right now to maintain a ranking that high. Even if I counted each borrow that shows up in my dashboard as a sale, the ranking still shouldn’t have been that good. My assumption is that I’m getting credit every time the book is borrowed, even if the reader hasn’t started it or if the reader abandoned the book before reaching the 10% mark.
How many sales would it take for a non-KU book to obtain a similar ranking?
It’s hard for me to answer this without guessing, since I don’t have any other non-KU books quite in that sales range, but as an example, Thorn Fall (not in KDP Select) sold an average of 63 copies a day in the same time period that the pen name book has been out, and its sales ranking has been hovering around 3200.
Just as a guess (and if someone knows of a site that actually figures this out, please let me know), I’d say a non-KU title would need to be selling 30-40 copies a day to stay in that 6,000-4,000 range. On Saturday, October 25th, my KU book sold fifteen copies and had eight borrows show up on the dashboard.
I’ve known all along that borrows count for as much as sales over at Amazon (I’ll let you guys debate on whether or not they should), but what I’m assuming is happening here, based on the fact that I don’t have enough sales or borrows to justify the sales ranking, is that you get credit (your sales ranking gets a boost) even if readers never get to the 10% point required for a borrowed book to “count” and show up on your dashboard. So even if someone just tries your book, decides “meh, not for me” and returns it, you get a sales ranking bump.
I will say that because my book is so new, it’s possible the borrows-credited to actual-borrows-made ratio will even out (as a KU customer, you can check out up to ten books at a time, so mine could be in waiting in a lot of to-read piles) and that in another couple of weeks, I’ll have a lot of borrows show up that haven’t yet. But even so, this is a huge advantage to a new release KU title, as opposed to a new release non-KU title, which can only improve its sales ranking through actual sales. (Novel concept, eh?)
So, what’s the bottom line?
It’s not all that surprising, but it appears that ebooks that are in KU have a big advantage over the ones that aren’t, because as we all know, a better sales ranking means more visibility in Amazon (once a book gets to the point where it appears in Top 100 lists). Books that aren’t in KU, that may have previously only needed 5 or 8 sales a day to appear in a category chart might now need 10 or 15 sales, because they’re competing with all of those borrows.
Anyway, I doubt this is news to most of you who have been in the program for a while, but I hadn’t previously realized that books are getting a boost for all borrows, whether a reader gets past the first page or not.
For more on Kindle Unlimited, here are a few other blog posts covering it:
- Explaining Kindle Unlimited Rankings and Sales
- Some Thoughts on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited
- How Kindle Unlimited Impacts Sales and Income
- Good-By Kindle Unlimited, Welcome Back iTunes, Smashwords, et al.