When I first began publishing as an indie author, I pretty much just kept my nose to the grindstone, writing my little heart out, because I had this mantra: “If you write it, they will find it (eventually) and read it.” Man, was I right. As most of you know by now, Bullet was the book that broke me big. I’d been gaining momentum before that, but something about Bullet inspired the imagination of thousands of readers.
After that book’s success, I was sure I had it made. To a degree, I did. I’m a lot more well-known than I was before that, and I have some amazing hardcore readers, many of whom I’m proud to call friends. I know there are dozens (perhaps hundreds) of authors who feel/felt the same way I did–that they’d finally “made it.” I’ve always been the type who’s had to work two (sometimes three) jobs at once to make ends meet (and it’s not for lack of education…it’s just a long story, one I don’t feel like writing), and–for the first time in a long time–I knew I could get rid of one job, and I envisioned a time in the future when I could get rid of the day job as well.
My, how times have changed. I pointed a finger at a lot of things but, finally, I, a lot of my indie author friends, and even experts who analyze the industry have come to the same conclusion. Yep, that’s right–the company that was responsible for the indie publishing boom is also the one now lowering the boom.
Amazon, when it began offering Kindle Unlimited (KU), offered many customers an irresistible temptation–borrow as many books as you want for as long as you want for the low price of $10 per month. In a way, it reminded me of the way Netflix operated before their streaming video business surpassed their through-the-mail DVD service, except for one thing–you had to pay for however many DVDs you had out at once (a higher price meant more movies out at once). I suppose the Netflix of today is a lot more similar, in that you can watch any movie in their library whenever you feel like it. However, if that movie is no longer on Netflix, you no longer have access to it.
I think it’s great for customers, especially voracious readers who don’t ever reread books. I think it’s great for authors who are just starting out and are desperate to be read. It’s not so good for authors like myself and it’s also not good for the indie market in general. Let me explain.
Authors like yours truly…we’d built up a following, but let’s be honest–unless you’re a hardcore reader of mine, well, if you have KU, you just might not buy my book because you literally have millions of books you can read for free. My book can and probably will sit on your TBR list forever. It will be forgotten after you’ve consumed another five or six KU books. I and other authors like me can’t compete unless we choose to go with KU–and I’ll tell you in a minute why we and others won’t (but I’ll also follow up with a disclaimer at the end, so bear with me).
The second group KU isn’t good for, as I said, is the indie market in general. Why, you ask? You might think it is good, because now there are literally thousands upon thousands of new writers pumping out books for all to read. Buuuuuut…how many of these books are publication worthy? How many of them have been well written? And, setting that aside, how many have been edited well? Formatted properly? How many of them deserve to be read? How many of them–had the competition been more fierce–would have been tended to better prior to release?
As I said earlier, if I were a newbie indie author, I would most certainly consider KU, because it’s becoming, more and more, the only way to be seen on Amazon. Let me tell you why I’m anti-KU. First of all, this woman here hates a monopoly (or anything close to it). Now, don’t get me wrong. I love Amazon, and I feel like I owe much credit for my success to the company…but I hate bullies, and Amazon is beginning to feel that way. I first got an Amazon rep about a year ago, and she and I talked numbers–how many books did I sell on Amazon compared to other sites, for example–and she wanted me to reconsider exclusivity. I did it for one book (Be Careful What You Wish For) and regretted it. I had immediately alienated my readers who don’t buy from Amazon, for starters. Maybe I didn’t (and don’t) sell as many books at other sites, but that wasn’t the point. I was almost, in effect, telling my B&N customers that they weren’t as important to me as my Amazon ones. Amazon will continue to have a monopoly if we let it. I tend to be a nonconformist anyway, and that alone is reason enough for me to decide against it…mostly.
Because of my declining sales, I’ve tried to take back my power. I’ve done a lot of things recently–one is remembering that Facebook and Twitter, while they seem to be okay marketing tools, are out of my control. Even if I were to pay to advertise on their sites, I don’t control how their sites work, nor do I trust them to effectively reach my readers. What do I have control of? This right here–my website, and many of you find me this way (some of you have signed up for the RSS feed and get every single post in your inbox!). Also, my newsletter. I’m the one writing and publishing that puppy. No one else is. So, I’m shifting my marketing more to those avenues and not spending as much time on other sites. Yep, new ones come and go (I’m on tsu, Pinterest, Instagram, for instance), but I only control those that are mine. I’m taking those back and investing more time in them.
Oh…and the books. Yeah, the writing. I’m redoubling my efforts there.
But what else? Well, last month I had the lowest sales on Amazon that I’ve had since before Bullet. They’ve been decreasing every month, but even the last two months–with two new releases–I saw no big boosts in income, and that’s beyond unusual. My, how times have changed. Two years ago, I was ready to quit both of my jobs and just write, and now I’m back to two jobs. I have over thirty published books, though, and I know they’re good, so I’m not throwing in the towel. Instead, I’ve done something I had never wanted to do, and I’m getting ready to do another something I said I wouldn’t do, but that’s because I have to treat this like a business. I need to keep it profitable. So, last month, I first of all went through all my books on all sites where I’ve listed them, and I tweaked keywords and descriptions and cleaned up their categories, even adding additional ones where I could. Sales at Amazon this month are, thus far, even worse than ever since having done that, but sales at Barnes & Noble are better, and I credit “cleaning up my act” for that. I sold fewer books on B&N in December than I did in November, but because I’d adjusted prices, I made about the same amount of money. Amazon? Let’s not even go there. Out of seven days in January, I have sold more books daily on B&N than on Amazon more days than not, and the only time I ever sold lots of books on B&N was when Bullet was a new release.
I never wanted to raise my prices. My thought was that I know what it’s like to be broke, and I wanted to continue to entertain the masses for pennies. Had my sales remained consistently high, I wouldn’t have had to raise prices, but I’ve had to adjust to a changing market.
I said I’d have a disclaimer momentarily: So what else am I doing? I’m experimenting with lots of changes, many of which you’ll never see, even if you look for them, but one thing I’m pretty sure I’m going to try is to pull just one book (not one of my bestsellers) from all sites except Amazon. I’m going to try KU, although I think it’s a bad idea–but I have to try something to stop from drowning, for just this one particular book. I have hardly sold any copies of this particular book elsewhere. It’s also one of my lower-priced ones, but it’s indicative of the rest of my work (quality writing, steamy sex, etc.). I want to try offering it as a KU book so folks can borrow it and also so I can offer it for free. I’m going to try it for the 90-day exclusivity phase. I’m afraid what will happen is that my book will get buried in piles of TBRs in folks’ KU libraries, but that won’t matter, because I’ll be no worse off than I am now. I’m instead hoping it will expose me to a new audience who’s never read me before.
Once more, I’ve learned that I should never say never, because as soon as I do, I wind up having to take it back. But I’m here to stay, folks. I’d just like for my writing business to buy me a cup of coffee and tank of gas once in a while, and that’s what I’m doing. I made my first goal a long time ago; now I’m trying, once more, to make this a viable business.
One last thing…I also used to be anti-sale (for the most part) because I felt like offering my books on sale punished my faithful readers who bought my books when they first published. Again, though, I will continue offering “first day of publication” sales to reward those readers for buying them on day one. That said, I will begin doing more sales overall, because I’m trying new things. Wish me luck, but know this: I’m not going anywhere, so you might as well read one of my books and get it over with. 🙂