Thursday, January 12, 2012

For Every Season -- Churn, Churn, Churn

Lots of updates to discuss over the next few days, including lots of talk about money. (Dear readers who are not writers who are visiting here, please understand this blog is about the business side of publishing. Readers are ALWAYS the primary equation in any book's sales, and you are never, EVER lost sight of, despite how impersonal the business side can feel.)

Amazon Announces KDP Select Payout Totals

First up is Amazon's announcement as to what the payout per book borrowed will be for its KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Select program.

You'll recall having a book in this optional program not only allows the author to set when and how long they can promote a book for free (each author is alloted 5 days out of the 90 the book is contracted to sell exclusively through Amazon), it also places the book in the Prime Lending Library from which Prime members may borrow one book per month. One month of Prime membership is included free with the purchase of a Kindle Fire, so December and January totals will likely be a bit skewed as Fire owners discover and act on their trial membership. The book borrow is just a little added perk for members. The real draw is free 2-day shipping on any purchase plus streaming video for the $79 per year membership fee.

Speculation was rampant as to what the payout per book borrowed would be. The payout, we were told up front, would be an equal pro rata share applied against the total number of books borrowed. List price on the book would not factor in.

I enrolled Vet Tech Tales upon its release in mid December. List price: 99 cents. I enrolled for the benefit of making it free so this new release could gain some visibility. I honestly didn't believe anyone would bother to use their free borrow option on a 99c book. If anything, I thought maybe it would get a few impulse buys and readers would opt for another, more expensive title instead.

When I got my first borrow on it, I felt a little heart tug. Someone thought enough of it to borrow it! When I got my second borrow, my imagination fired up, and I pictured a younger reader with a limited amount of money drawn to the cute kitten on the cover, believing the book would be all about animals (which it is and it isn't). Of course I think my book is a worthwhile read, but it's novella length and who would want to borrow it over a full-length bestselling book about, say, Rin Tin Tin? That initial heart tug turned into a heart constriction.

By the end of the month, 88 wonderful readers had borrowed the book. I couldn't be more honored or surprised or conflicted by that gesture. (I have since enrolled SECTOR C and, it being the book it is, I have no such ambiguity about it being in the Lending Library.)

In all, 295,000 books were borrowed during December with each of those borrows receiving an equal share of $500,000. That means the author will be paid $1.70 for each borrow. While that's nearly 5 times the royalty this 99c book would have earned for a sale, it's about 35c less than what a book selling for $2.99 would earn as a royalty. In December, I sold 311 copies of Vet Tech Tales and made $108.85. On 88 borrows, I made $149.60.

Every self-pubbed author has to decide what they want most from a book: readers, ranking, dollars. Even for my $2.99 book, I think the trade-off in perks -- for now -- is worth staying in Select. For another author, it may not be, and that's OK. The last I checked, it's still a free market out there.

Churned Off of the Kindle Store's Front Page

After a lovely 2-day run of hanging out with the likes of The Help, The Hunger Games, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, I now realize what SECTOR C needed to stay featured there: a title that starts with "The."

Indie titles on the front page churn a bit faster than the perennial bestsellers, especially in the genre fiction categories, so it's no surprise really that SECTOR C fell off the page to be replaced with a much better-selling book by Mainak Dhar, an author I'm acquainted with through the Kindleboards forum. In fact, SECTOR C originally replaced his book to begin with, so it was more like I just borrowed the space from him for a couple of days.

It took initial sales to gain that spot, of course, and, once there, being featured kept its sales on an even keel. I'll have more insight by day's end, but it looks like being featured was contributing quite a bit to yesterday's sales as things seem to be tapering off rapidly this morning.

Here's a quick recap of the activity between the beginning of the day last Friday and end of day yesterday.

Friday: First day of a 2-day free promo. By the end of the day, the book had been downloaded 6780 times and reached #47 overall in the free store in the US, including being #1 in Science Fiction.

Saturday: Got as low as #25 overall in the free store and #14 in all free Fiction in the late afternoon. Ended its free run at #36 overall. Total downloads for both free days right about 13,000.

Sunday: 103 Sales / 18 Borrows; ended the day at #2049 overall and #66 in Science Fiction

Monday: 308 Sales / 67 Borrows; ended the day at #277 overall and #5 SF in the Kindle store / #8 SF in the overall Books store, and was the #2 Medical Thriller in Books

Tuesday: 295 Sales / 51 Borrows; book appeared on the front page of the Kindle store; ended the day at #258 overall and broke into the Top 100 of Thrillers at #55

Wednesday: 322 Sales / 30 Borrows; had a best rank of #224 and ended #230 overall

Best ranks attained in the various categories:

#1 High Tech SF in Kindle and Books stores
#2 Medical Thriller in Books
#3 Medical Fiction in Books
#5 SF Kindle
#8 SF Books
#20 SF/F Books
#34 Genre Fiction
#43 Thiller in Books
#77 Mystery/Suspense/Thriller in Books

It's at #255 late morning today, but if sales continue as is, it'll probably be around #1100 or so by day's end. I'll do a follow-up in a day or two, but it's been a fun 15 minutes! I think breaking into the Top 100 in the uber-competitive Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category was the most amazing bit about all of this.

And as savvy as I felt I was about properly tagging a book, I still made a mistake that likely cost me some sales. I'll have more about that -- and help with how you won't make the same mistake -- in a later post.

Oh, and a side note. The above is for US sales only. Total paid sales over the same 4 days in the UK: 7.

Through Jan 11, then, the totals for SECTOR C are:

13,000 - free downloads
50 - sold before going free at 99c
1028 - sold after the free promo at $2.99
166 - borrows

The royalty side is a little complicated. Math-a-phobes may want to just skip to where it says "total" below. At $2.99, Amazon pays a 70% royalty on books sold through certain countries, such as the US, the UK and Canada. For other countries that buy through the US store, such as Australia, the royalty drops to 35%. Amazon breaks down the royalties in a weekly report that comes out every Sunday. So until then I won't know how many of those 1028 books earned a 35% rate or a 70% rate. On top of that, Amazon charges a delivery fee of about 15c per megabyte (the file size of the book) at the 70% rate (there is no additional charge at the 35% rate). SECTOR C is about a half a megabyte, so it earns about $2.03 per copy at the 70% rate and about $1.04 at the 35% rate.

For guestimate purposes, I'll use a 9:1 ratio of books selling at the 70% rate vs the 35% rate to come up with an estimated total for the first 11 days of January.

17.50 - 50 copies at 35-40% royalty rate (BN has a 40% rate and I sold 10 before removing the book from sale there)
107.12 - 103 copies (10% of 1038) at 35% rate
1877.75 - 925 copies (1038-103) at 70% rate
282.20 - 166 borrows (this is figured at December's payment of $1.70 per copy; January payment may vary)

$2284.57 (1483.58 GBP) - Total

iTunes Sales

Apple sales have been a bit of a mystery until the report finally came in yesterday for December sales. I'll save those totals for you for our next discussion ;o).


Craftycmc said...

Hi doll, this is Carolyn McCray. If you read the press release from Amazon you should recognize my name. I saw your book while Pups in Tea Cups and Pet was doing a trial run in free earlier this month.

I am the founder of the Indie Book Collective and we are having a "Free Par-Tay" where a bunch of us are going free at the same time. If you have any days left on Vet Tech, let me know. It would be a nice pairing with Pups and Pet :)-)

Let me know. You can email me at my handle at a o l

Hope to hear from you :-)

lexcade said...

Have I told you lately that I love you? No? Well, I do.

I also love that you're willing to post sales #s and provide insight into how indie publishing works. This is one of the most informative blogs I've seen concerning indie pubbing.

Also, I love you ;)

Landra said...

This is absolutely awesome! I'm always say that I'm excited for you, but really I am. Even if numbers change, what I love is your product is selling! :)

I also agree with Lexcade. You are amazing for posting those numbers and stepping outside of the box. You're being open, honest, and teaching the rest of us suckers a little bit more about a side of the business we need more info on. Thank you!

Phoenix Sullivan said...

Cate and Landra: You guys are the best! I'm soooo looking forward to seeing your stuff pubbed -- one way or the other :o)

@Carolyn: I emailed you. Thanks for reaching out!