69 - The KU Effect

I must admit to smiling when hubby pulled together the statistic that 69% of my sales (not income, physical books sold) is from Amazon. But then, I am a child at heart...

Anyway, back to the real world of this post. I've had a couple of really hard weeks thinking on this and have spent a long time discussing with other authors about the effect that Kindle Unlimited is having on sales. I thought I'd get all my thoughts off my chest so I can stop worrying.

First off I would say I am not an expert on this, and I am sure there are people out there much more fluent than I am discussing KU. This is just my thought process and as such it may be quite scary... ROFL

* * * * *

So, the nitty gritty of it is that 69% of my physical book sales are from Amazon.

The full run down looks something like this:

(physical book sales analysis, Jan - April 2015)

Amazon (all territories) - 68.72%
All Romance - 8.89%
Smashwords Direct - 0.18%
Apple - 4.39%
B&N - 6.23%
Kobo - 3.43%
Oyster - 2.52%
Scribd - 5.65%

So. A couple of things from this data.
  1. Amazon is my biggest market, with the split mostly being US/UK then Germany
  2. Amazon US : Amazon UK = the ratio is 4 US Books sold vs 1 UK book sold - so the US market is my biggest Amazon market
  3. Places like KU where you can borrow etc (Oyster and Scribd) already account for just over 8% of my book sales.
  4. None of the Amazon sales include any of the four old books I put out on KU, so there is no KU skewing of the data.
I'm following with interest the storm surrounding KU and would note the following:

  1. At the moment 15 out of the top 20 Gay books at Amazon US are Kindle Unlimited books.
  2. At the moment 8 out of the top 10 Gay on Amazon US are KU books 
** Of course, this changes hourly, but a couple of my author friends have been tracking and this seems to be a pretty sound summing up of the situation over the last couple of months.

How has KU challenged my sales?

  1. I'm not sure it has yet
  2. Max & The Prince went top 5 but the Bodyguard series does well, so I was really happy to see that. It's an established series and people know what to look for when it comes out.
  3. Summer House went top twenty, but not for long. It's book 1 in a series. It didn't go top ten, but then I never expect my books to go top ten, it's just nice when they pop in there for a few days.
  4. Retrograde, which is the first in a series of related books went top 40 for a little while.

Why is it important to go top 100 on Amazon?

  1. Because you get noticed, and you could get sales from people *browsing*. 
  2. Remember, 69% of my sales come from Amazon, ROFL. If I don't get noticed, will the 69% start to fade away?
  3. What about authors who cuurently get to 40 on Amazon, and who will now be 60, or 70. 
  4. What about authors who currently get into the 100, but now won't at all?

What will happen now?
  1. Will the top twenty be totally KU thus meaning anyone who doesn't do KU will never get noticed by readers?
  2. Possibly readers could start to think, I need to check page 2 on Amazon to see where the non KU authors are? Do the readers do this already?
  3. If you don't get top 100 at all, because of KU, will your book ever get seen?
  4. What happens when there are so many authors tied to KU that Amazon can drop their percentage on royalties and we'll all have no comeback? 
  5. Will everyone go to KU first which means ultimately I will have no choice but to do the same?

 What about publishers?
  1. KU must play havoc on publishers income as well. Finding a non KU book in the top 20 is as rare as rocking horse shit. 
  2. Will publishers feel they have to go the KU route?

So why don't I put my new books out with KU at the moment?
  1. You are tied for three months, and in those three months my books wouldn't be available in any other format than Mobi for Kindle.
  2. Yes, anyone can have a kindle reader on their dedicated Kindle, or have a phone app, or a PC app, but not everyone wants to read via Kindle.
  3. Did I mention 69% of my sales are Amazon... what about the other 31% of loyal readers? I'm not a new writer, I've been doing this five years or more now and I have a wonderful, and established, reader base and I feel loyalty to them.
  4. Some of the percentage at ARe etc will be getting Mobi files but refuse to deal with Amazon.
  5. I learnt my lesson with Silver Publishing about putting all my eggs in one basket.  And putting everything onto KU at the moment is certainly all eggs in one basket
  6. KU is a way of a reader *trying* MM, or *trying* an MM author they hadn't before. I get that, still, see the points above...

The future

  1. Should I create a new series and put it on KU? Explain to all my readers why I am doing it? Maybe the Billionaires Club?
  2. My worry is KU will become THE place to sell which leaves Amazon with a stranglehold on the market.
What do you think? 

  • Would you feel really let down if an author you follow puts a book out on KU? 
  • Do you refuse to go to Amazon? Or do you prefer Amazon?
  • Are you an author? What are you looking to do with this KU issue?

Good article here - http://selenakitt.com/blog/the-new-kindle-unlimited-what-it-means-for-authors-readers/


  1. Thanks for the interesting post, RJ. I use Amazon a lot for purchases because I live far from shops (and the nearest ones to me stink), so Amazon Prime is a boon to me because I get stuff quickly, without driving an hour each way to stores and Amazon has almost everything. I also like using the reviews of products (although have learned to be careful there because some are not real reviews).

    Having said that, I don't buy most of my eBooks from Amazon. (And I don't buy paper books - though my husband does.) I buy most of my books directly from the publisher. I also buy from ARe and also sometimes from Amazon or Smashwords. It depends on who is doing promotions/sales or where I have credit. Amazon also charges sales tax which most others do not (for USA).

    I don't have Kindle Unlimited. I tried it free for a month and did not find the selection worth paying for a subscription. That was early on, so maybe has changed. I do get one free borrow through my Prime subscription. And I do use it. But I read around 4 books a week - so that is a drop in the bucket.

    I don't think I would be disappointed if an author released a book via KU as long as it was also for borrow via Prime or for sale at a reasonable price. But, if all an author's books were that way, I would probably read them less.

    Hope that is helpful in some way.

  2. Hi RJ, In response to your interesting post and questions: I am a reader not an author. I am a reader who owns a kindle and joined the KU program. I am a huge shopper on Amazon however I also purchase my books from ARe as well as directly from an author's publisher. I am an 'equal opportunity' shopper you could say. I think that KU does offer an opportunity for readers to be introduced to new authors or genres and for those readers on a tight budget KU could be worthwhile.

  3. I'm new enough at the game that this is a big change for me. As in, a way to earn a living. It just gave me a boost. But, it's constantly changing. Maybe you got the email that they're tweaking it yet again, and in future the payout will be based on pages read?

    I think for established reader base, it would be hard to go all in anywhere. For me, new to the game, and still finding my readership, most of which was already at amazon...seeing the difference it made to my earnings, well, it was a no-brainer.

    But I read more on Scribd than Amazon these days.

    I really do think the subscription model is here to stay, because it encourages people to stay subscribed. It probably won't replace sales, but it will be a space in the marketplace from now on. Whatever happens, I love getting to read more (as a reader) and getting to find new readers (as an author). I honestly don't know what will happen even into the next month as things change yet again.

    If you can earn your living without relying on KU or annoying your non-Amazon readers, then good for you!! I don't think I can right now.

  4. While I do shop on Amazon, as I live in an area with a poor selection of stores (mostly Walmart), I don't subscribe to either Prime or KU. I'm not willing to pay a fee just to receive a selection of services I don't want (I've gotten burned that way once already with my internet provider). I use Amazon to find authors I'm interested in, but I often buy from the author's or publisher's website.

  5. I'm an android & epub user, and while I do have access to the kindle app, I don't use it very often. I have one author that I follow who publishes her books solely through Amazon and she is the only one I buy for. I just download and convert the file to epub. I prefer to buy directly from the publisher, but if I can't do that then ARe.

    I think that if I ever own a kindle I would never go the KU route where you have to subscribe and not get to keep the book. I like to read my favourite authors books over & over again, so borrowing them doesn't work for me, I'd rather buy my books outright.

  6. What Paula said...

    I read ePub and either purchase from a publisher or ARe. I don't buy any books from Amazon and I don't (and won't unless someone gives me one or I win one somewhere) own a Kindle.

    I tend to reread my favorite books (some more often than others). I can understand the lure of trying out new authors or series to see if I like them\it, I would rather buy the majority of books.

    Hope this helps.