Thursday, January 26, 2012

Unintended Consequences

This is just a theory, but I think I might be right. When Amazon offered the KDP Select, they may not have considered that all the free downloads which would suddenly become available to readers would fill up their Kindles to the point where they did not have to pay for a book for a long…long time.

I was one who signed up for KDP Select and gave away copies of all my books as part of the program (by choice, it’s not a requirement at all), a decision I don’t regret. But it’s been awhile now – a couple of weeks – since I ceased giving my books away and sales, which had a brief uptick, have now dropped below the previous levels.

I don’t really think it has anything to do with me in particular, although from some of the other author-participant reports in blogs, I would judge some are having much better results than I have. I do believe it has to do with an over-abundance of high quality free material.

I took advantage of the free books from several authors I’ve been meaning to read. I probably downloaded about 10 books. That will keep me going for about a month. I, therefore, have no need to buy anything for a month, when previously I was purchasing 8 to 10 ebooks every month. That’s somewhere around $20 out of circulation in the book community - definitely, an unintended consequence and when multiplied by the millions of Kindle owners out there this becomes significant.

I would love your feedback on this idea because the drop in sales is a mystery I’d like to understand. Any and all theories are welcome.

24 comments:

  1. You make a valid point. We hadn't considered that people would get so many free books that they would have no need to buy any. We enrolled all but one of our titles in the program and have done a giveaway on each of our enrolled titles, but only one at a time. It seemed to improve sales on the one title we did not enroll. The reason we didn't enroll that one title is because it was selling so well. One other benefit we noticed is an increase in overseas sales. We don't know if this is the correct approach or not, but we still want to keep our best-selling title out of the program.

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  2. How can we sell more books? Give them away? Does that make cents? Network with other authors? Do authors buy more books than they write? Advertise? Who can afford that? Go door-to-door? How would that work if you're published in eBook format only? So many questions. So few answers

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  3. Omigosh, Blogger is letting me comment! This randomness is making me crazy!

    Your blog really made me think. I hadn't considered it before. We have so many more questions than answers, like Jack said. It'll be interesting to see how all this plays out.

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  4. I agree - it's a jungle and I left my machete in the shed. Seriously, trying to figure this out is crazy. One thing I did not include here is the fact that after about 3,000 free downloads, I've only gotten 2 reviews out of it. That's frustrating. Keep the comments coming, folks.

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  5. Very good point! I had one of those wild rides just before Christmas, having made my political thriller free, and then sold a remarkable amount. Sales have slowed down dramatically -- and so I'm putting my book up for free again tomorrow and Saturday (RUNNING, if you feel inclined to check it out). I do agree with your theory that many folks filled up their Kindles. I think the borrows dry up too toward the end of a month (figuring a lot of people started their Kindle "clocks" around Dec. 25). But I'm also thinking that people who downloaded a bunch of freebies may never read them -- not valuing them very much -- and may go looking for more... hope so!

    Patrice Fitzgerald, author of RUNNING

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    1. Just downloaded RUNNING! Thanks for the tip.

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  6. I can't speak to the sales aspect (or lack thereof)
    But as a reader I try to finish what I have before I add any more titles to my 'to be read' list.
    I currently have enough books, both free and purchased, to last me for the next three months.
    I guess this means I wont be getting anything new for a while.

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  7. Free downloads is always a gamble. You have to decide if it works for you.

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  8. Just read Rob Blackwell's blog on the same subject and I'm really torn. Once the KDP 90 days is over does the book revert back to the catalogues it has been in previously?

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    1. No. It automatically renews, unless you stop it.

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  9. I've always suspected that the whole scheme might be a tactic to weaken the "traditional" industry. I do like Jack's point and similarly I do not know what is going on out there. As for reviews I think folks are just reviewed out. Amazon asked me today to review a copy of some Shakespeare I had given as a gift. Of course I am going to consider carefully his characterization and reliance on supernatural plot escapes....or maybe not. I think there is a global perception that everything on the internet is free or cheap. To me it's all a fairground roundabout getting faster and faster and becoming a blur. I'm going free this weekend for 2 days and I'll tell all.

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  10. Kathy,
    I've read your blog and I just read Rob's http://bit.ly/zXFF6q then I checked my results - two days of Fourth and Forever free resulted in 755 downloads and no sales.
    Talk about a mixed bag - folks we have a hodge podge that I'm not sure Jeff Beezos can draw a conclusion from.
    I'm going to take another run at it and this time I'll give it a bit of promo rather than rely on random downloads. I'll keep you posted.
    Thanks for the info,
    Bert

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  11. Interesting point! I didn't think about that possibility. I wonder if the benefits will show up later on though. As readers get through the free read, like it and then become fans of your work. The drop in purchases might only be temporary.

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  12. I hope so Sonia! Have my fingers crossed.

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  13. I've wondered about the free ebooks. I've downloaded several, just need time to read them. The only thing I can think us if I like your freebie, I'm more likely to buy another if your books later.

    Btw, I'm reading Red Mojo Mama now. I will make an effort to review. I am enjoying it so far. ;-)

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    1. Thanks so much, Renee! I would really appreciate that. That was the theory - that readers would buy the sequels. That's a way off, so I'll have to keep that in mind.

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  14. I had the same worry. Mine came about because, even though I like supporting other authors and would rather pay for a book (as long as the price is reasonable), I found myself in a tough month financially and went hunting for the KDP free books.

    And since there's so many authors trying to get an edge by participating, I had a ton of choices.

    It made me realize that if this continues, anyone with a little patience will almost never need to buy a book they want. That simply isn't a sustainable business strategy :(

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  15. See - I had that thought too - the one you expressed in the last paragraph. I even caught myself thinking I'd wait on a friend's book to go on promotion but caught myself. As another author I don't want to do that, but I can understand the average consumer doing that. Why would they?

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  16. Interesting post. It seems like a catch 22. From a marketing perspective, putting a book on Amazon for free can create buzz, but can also decrease sales. I'm actually at the point where I've downloaded so many free titles, I haven't had time to read them. Once I read them, I'll start purchasing again. Hope your sales pick up!

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  17. What it will serve to do in the end is differentiate between authors who do not ever give their novels away for free and still have high quality, and those who do.

    Free giveaways are best for people with (preferably large) backlists. They suck pretty bad if you only have a book or two. After all, they have your book now.

    My personal opinion is that if you are good enough you don't ever want to give away a new title for free. If it's been out a year or two and you have newer things to drive sales towards with a promo, sure. But for a lot of people they don't have that.

    I downloaded a ton of free books last month. I've read very few of them. I am reading the ones I paid for instead. Take that as you will.

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  18. Hi,

    I have three e-book novellas and went the Prime Lender route on one of them. It was purely an experiment. I can't tell if it's paid off or not as two of the books are flying off the virtual books shelves inclusive the PL book on straight sales, the other is ticking along nicely. Sales on the whole are far better than I ever expected! ;)

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  19. After reading the agreement I am opting out of this program for my next release. I don't like how it locks writers down exclusively to Amazon, monopolizing the market of content. I don't like the piece of tbe pie compensation plan either.

    Your observation is insightful. I think I'll steer clear and allow the lending feature after someone purchases the book.

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  20. I have downloaded FIFTY books and not all of them were free. Most were, though. I edit for a living so my personal reading time is limited. I don't expect to have to buy another book for almost a year. That is probably not what you wanted to hear. Wendy Reis

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  21. Actually that's exactly what I expected to hear. Thanks for sharing this.

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