I keep seeing blogs on how great it is to give away your books on KDP Select and the fantastic returns some people have had. Joe Konrath handed his blog over to his friend, Melinda DuChamp, who posted about the success she had had with KDP Select. You should definitely read her post, which will give you the upside of book giveaways.
I’ve had failures and successes with the KDP Select free promos, nothing like Melinda describes on the success side however, but enough to make me happy for a couple of months.
I’m not knocking anyone for working this angle. As I said, I have too. I’ve had family members ask me how it could possibly work? My answer has been “I don’t know, but it does.” Done correctly, you can see a really big bump in your sales after a free promo. But it’s been bugging me lately and here’s why: There is just something fundamentally wrong with a business plan that requires you to giveaway thousands of your books to gain sales in the range from say 5-20% of the giveaways.
Is this just the point of view of someone who spent too many years in Corporate America? Possibly. But there’s another rub. The longer this trend stays in place the longer it’s going to take for a market for actual ebook SALES to return.
Here are my calculations (feel free to adjust or pull them apart to your heart’s content): It’s been said that there are 700,000 Indie authors out there. I’d argue that there are more, but I don’t have any evidence to prove that, so let’s go with that number. If the average ebook price is $2.99 then in order for those 700,000 authors to average $200 a month in profits there would have to be 209,300,000 ebooks sold.
That’s 700,000 times approximately $2 per book times 100 books sold per month = 209,300,000. This translates into about $625,000,000 at our average $2.99 per book. According to David Derrico's website, in February of this year (before KDP Select even kicked in), ebook sales in dollars was $114,900,000 – way, way less than it would take to have an ebook market that would affect authors in a significant way. In fact, with that kind of money, only about 128,000 authors would take home $200 a month (on average).
Yes, this spread of the cash across all 700,000 authors is utopian and very unreasonable. There are those that will make little or nothing each month (as was always the case) and those that will make bucket loads of money. I understand this. However, it’s also important to understand that some percentage of the freebies are cutting into real sales and we, as a group, can hardly afford that. Remember that $114 million was BEFORE we started giving away our books.
I think it’s going to take a very long time to get ourselves back to the point where ebooks are a paying proposition for even a small percentage of authors, and the longer we partake of the fountain of freebies, the further away that day gets.
This is just my considered opinion. Please – anyone – blow away my numbers. Tell me that I’m wrong. I’d love that.