22 August 2014 by Published in: Uncategorized 44 comments

Well, after the July kerfuffle wherein Amazon paid all borrows through the KU program whether opened and read to 10% or not, things have settled down to normal now, and borrows have predictably slowed (they’re paying and listing only those read at least 10% now, as originally intended).

The good news is that, based on all the conversations I’ve had, the percentage of books read to at least 10% appears to be north of 90% of KU borrows. That’s all kinds of awesome, because frankly, curmudgeon that I am, I would have expected more like 25% or so.

So it looks like the economics of KU are positive for those who do short stories, or whose books sell for $2.99 or less.

For those whose books sell for more, a borrow pays less than a sale. Now, it’s quite possible that those who are borrowing would have never shelled out the $3.99 or more for those books, so one could say it’s found money, and that further, by having a KU borrower read one of your books for that “free-to-me” price you’ve gained a reader, but I hesitate to say that.


I’ll give you an example. Between my two bundles this year, I sold over 200K units. That is a shitload of units.

But the strange thing is I haven’t seen a big surge in readership. I’ve seen some, but not nearly what you’d expect from shifting those sorts of numbers.

Now, there are several possible explanations. First is that my writing blows goats, and once exposed to my florid, overwritten dross, readers justifiably throw up their hands in disgust (or throw up on their hands, but why quibble?).

Second is that nobody read any of the books in the bundle.

But the third is the one that makes the most sense to me based on the also-boughts: Bundle readers buy bundles, because they’re a specific type of reader for whom quantity at a nominal price is the most important differentiator. Much like those that hoard free units (where the vast majority confine their reading to other free books, except on very rare occasions). With bundle readers, they buy more bundles – that’s what the also-boughts tell us. They’re bundle buyers, not individual book buyers, at least based on the also-boughts, and input from other authors bears that out. They may well appreciate your fine work, but they aren’t about to shell out $5 for it when there are thousands of books to be had at .99 for a dozen or whatnot.

This is a kind of market segmentation retailers understand. There are coupon buyers, and there are those who could give a crap about coupons. Certain types of coupon buyers will only or mostly buy things that are discounted substantially, usually with a coupon. They’re not the target for brands that boast quality as their differentiator. Coupon buyers care about quality, of course, but what they care about most is that they’re getting the product at a deep discount via the coupon. I don’t have to argue that this is so – it’s well understood in retail.

My suspicion is that KU borrowers might fall into the library model: folks who may well appreciate quality, but who won’t buy books when there are thousands they can read for their $10 a month. If that’s the case, those borrows may well not manifest as a deluge of additional purchases. They’ll manifest as a lot of borrows, and that’s it, because the reader will move on to the next borrowed book, not buy one of yours.

I can’t be sure, but we’ll know soon enough.

If I’m right, that still doesn’t mean KU isn’t a good deal for authors. It just means that as with everything, it’s important to have realistic expectations.

I have friends reporting that they’re seeing borrows accounting for 40% or more of their mix now. But if their mix is normally $4 or $5 books, they’re going to be bummed at the end of the month, when it turns out that 40% unit increase translates into a 20% or so dollar increase, which may be offset by sales cannibalized by the borrows (why anyone believes that borrows have no cannibalizing effect on sales is beyond me – I won’t buy a book for $5 if I can borrow it for free – duh). So the net may not be as big a bump as everyone thinks, when measured in dollars, not in widgets shifted. I tend to measure my earnings in only one way: net at the end of the month. How it comes in isn’t that important to me as the total amount, and whether it’s shrinking or growing.

But why, one might ask, would Amazon set up a program to attract library-model readers, as opposed to making more sales?

Simple. Amazon is an everything store. I buy most everything I can from them. They’re always the cheapest, they’re the most reliable, they have everything, and they have excellent customer service in terms of returns.

When you’re in the everything store business, it’s a numbers game. You need as many customers as possible to come into your funnel so you can entice them to buy other things once they’re there. So you have two challenges – how to get them there in the first place, and how to keep them there, buying crap, once you have them.

KU is yet another way of building loyalty and getting them there in the first place.

I get it. I completely understand why it makes sense for Amazon, and I’m delighted that it makes sense for some authors. Truth be told I’m a little jealous. I wish I had some 10-20K word stories lying around that I could put an awesome cover on and get $1.80 per download for. “Mauled by the Mastiff.” “Branded by the Bull.” “Taken by the Tapir.” My shapeshifting erotic career could soar into overdrive.

I’m curious. What are you seeing? I have about a third of my titles in Select. So I win either way. That’s why I diversify. Better some of everything than all or nothing. If I was all out of Select, I’d miss any windfall from KU. If was all in, I’d miss sales from other channels and building my brand on those platforms. I like win-wins. The way I’m using KU appears to be one, to me.

On another note, I was alerted to a troubling trend, namely overt plagiarism by certain authors who seem to believe that changing the names of the characters in an erotic shapeshifter story and then uploading it as their own is a good idea. Beats the crap out of writing it yourself, I suppose. There are even ads on O-Desk seeking people at $10 a pop to change the names and genders of characters in works so the “authors” can then make some quick bucks selling it as their own.

Now, while I’m certainly not one to begrudge other no-talent hacks from making a dime, come on, people. What kind of lowlife BS is this? If you’re too lazy or stupid to write “Boogerized by the Boogieman” yourself, you’re not cut out to be an author. Changing the names and taking other peoples’ prose and representing it as your own for profit is stealing, plain and simple, and should be vilified by authors and readers alike. I’d like to see these shitgrubs driven from the land, because this business is hard enough to make money at without predators stealing your work and selling it as their own. If you know of anyone doing this, complain to Amazon, and let the rightful authors know what’s up. I’d throw some serious cash at bankrolling my attorney to core them a new one if it ever happens to me, and I’d take every penny they made, plus attorneys fees, just on principle.

* UPDATE * One of the worst offenders, Clarissa Black, just had all of her books yanked from Amazon. Apparently they were mostly plagiarized from successful authors’ works, with the names changed and a word here and there altered. I seriously hope that they don’t pay her, and further hope that those who were plagiarized sue her for any profits she earned.

While we’re on the subject of no-talent hacks, R.E. Blake’s YA/NA literary career is getting off to a promising start with an increasing number of delighted reviews from my ARC program to qualified bloggers on Goodreads. I have a good feeling about how Less Than Nothing and its sequel, More Than Anything, will fare. My fingers are crossed. Melissa Foster and Toby Neal have so far piped in with gracious blurbs for LTN, and I’m hoping that more will follow from some respectable names. Guess we’ll see.

Just another day in Funville. Now back to the WIP. Because there’s always a WIP. Always…




  1. Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 2:20 pm

    Gratz on the YA/NA stuff.

    I always love reading your take on the publishing world. I’m not as tapped-in as I’d like to be, so it helps to come here and borrow your brain, so to speak.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 2:26 pm

      Such as it is.

      Thanks for the well wishes on the new venture. I’m excited.

  2. Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 3:23 pm

    I really think what Amazon is trying to do with KU is get the freeloaders and Kindle stuffers. There’s a whole segment of readers out there who ONLY ever pick up free (occasionally the odd $.99) books. They don’t pay for books for the reason you already listed: there’s plenty to read for free. And there’s always more free if you know where to look. Sign up for ENT, BookBub, and POI, and just wait for more stuff to become available.

    And who has all the data on all those users? Who knows exactly how many readers they have that only read free books and never buy? Amazon. They make no money off those readers. I think KU is their effort to snag some of those readers and turn them into paying customers.

    Over at Pauper’s Book Club (no link, not shilling, just commenting), I saw an immediate decrease in free downloads within a few days of KU hitting the streets. My initial guess is because it’s an attractive program to the freeloaders who use the site just to fill up their Kindle’s with books. For most readers who own a Kindle (or tablet or phone), $10 is almost as good as free. And now, instead of waiting for an author they like to make book #2 free (because #1 is always free), they can just read it when they want.

    We’ll see how it plays out in the next few months. A lot of people signed up just to kick the tires with the free trial. I predict we’ll start seeing a decrease in free downloads overall as some of the stuffers start reading through KU instead. Which is great, because I didn’t get anything for a free read. I get $1.80 for a KU borrow. 🙂

    • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 1:27 pm

      I only have one problem with your analogy. The problem is and like you said…if one wants nothing but free books, they know where to find them. That said the freebie people are not going to spend $120 to borrow books. I think KU is more in response to Oyster and Scribd. They are too cheap to spend the money on borrows.
      Oh and yes this last month probably did get a bunch of free loaders because there was no money involved.

      I wish you continued success.

      • Damon J Courtney  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 1:45 pm

        There are certainly those who ONLY want things for free. You’ll never get those people to pay. But for some, $10 a month is a cost they don’t think about when all they want to do is read something when they want to read.

        I pay $10 a month for Netflix, and I continually catch myself saying something like, “See if we can watch X on Netflix for free before we pay for it on iTunes (or Hulu, Amazon, wherever).”

        Now, of course, Netflix isn’t free. But I don’t even think about the $10 a month I’m already paying them. Nearly everyone I know has a Netflix account and does the same thing.

        That’s not going to be everyone, but I think that’s part of the audience Amazon is trying to get here. But you’re right, they did need a response to Oyster and Scribd, lest they fall behind. I’m positive Amazon has wanted a subscription service for a long, long time, but the big guys won’t play ball. It wasn’t until they had enough books in Select and smaller publishers that they were able to pull the trigger. And even then, I’ve seen plenty of people saying it will never be a success if all they can get is those “crappy indie books”.

        • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 2:03 pm

          I cannot disagree with anything you just said. Now when KU first came out, all the books I saw in the advertisements were trads. I guess they were saying look Cindy, you can know get the trads cheap too. Amazon knows full good and well I am cheap and buy mostly Indies.
          I can see where it would be a good deal for some people especially if you liked serials that to me personally are way too expensive for my taste in the end. Please give me a full and complete book.

          Now I do think if some of the authors go through with the idea to write an UNFINISHED book, put it in Select then make readers buy the next book to get a conclusion, they will be shooting themselves in the foot and probably piss Amazon off. (You would not want to see my review on that idea.)

          Full Disclosure: I am not a KU subscriber but I have noticed many KU authors are taking advantage of their 5 free days, so why borrow when I can buy for FREE.

  3. Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 5:06 pm

    Thanks for sharing your info. I have 4 books in Select and 10 in expanded, and I’m not sure it’s helping me a whole lot to have books for people to borrow or get in Unlimited. The one full novel is getting more borrows than sales, and it’s priced at 3.99, making it a great deal for readers on the borrow/Unlimited program. My two Christmas novellas (99 cents) that I left in Select have gotten a few borrows, so it helped there, but not a lot.

    I went into expanded just as Amazon rolled Unlimited out, and I felt pretty torn. Your post on KU helped me feel better about the decision to go into other retailers because I like the 3.99 and 4.99 price point on newer, longer works.

    I’m curious how things will play out in the coming months. Will the bargain buyers stick to Select/Unlimited (with mostly Indie books for under 2.99?) while other readers prefer more expensive books, so there’ll be two markets?

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 6:35 pm

      That’s an interesting question, Kristen. My take is that if the big houses don’t put their books in, it will become a kind of yawn fest of “eat all the .99 to $2.99 indie books you want for $10,” which isn’t what Amazon is after, I’m sure. But given the contentious mood with trad pubs and Amazon lately, I can’t see them cooperating in taking not a lot of money for titles that make them bucketloads.

      I’m not sweating it because I’ve got bets placed across the board, so I’m not going to be all in or all out.

  4. Richard Fox
    Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 5:40 pm

    I have all my titles (all two of them) in KU and am seeing a lot of borrows, very few sales. I’m going to break myself out of Prime jail for future full length novels and leave the short stuff in there.

    The $64,000 (or $0.75) question is how much will KU pay out per borrow? Once we know that, then the number of works in KU will change as authors decide if thtprice is worth it. Then there will be a shift of KU subscribers as the number and quality of KU titles shifts.

    So, we don’t know what we don’t know and we just have to sit around and wait for KBoards to freak out when the rate (high or low) comes to the fore. Because indy authors are like gazelles at a savannah watering hole.

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 6:37 pm

      One of the things I dislike about the whole borrow thing is the “guess how much you’re making” thing. I don’t do that with any other business I’ve ever been involved in. I’m not a fan of that. How many jobs say, “Come to work for us exclusively, and hope we’ll pay you reasonably?” That would be none.

    • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 5:09 pm

      I don’t mind paying for more books from an author. What I meant was do not lead me down a garden path only to arrive at the outhouse.
      Make me interested in your world and I will be your loyal and devoted reader.
      Write serials, write novels, write whatever you want but do it in a way that engages readers. Make me want to throw money at you.

      Here is my thinking on KU. I could be totally off-base but we will have to wait till the end of September to see. Most of the free trials are ending this week. So September will be the first month to check borrows against sales for the paid subscribers.

      I think it will be a different type of reader. I think most will want to get their money’s worth. Actually make that four types of readers. The one that looks at the dollar value of a book.
      (I have to read X number of books at Y price to make it worth my while). The ones that will only read higher priced books and do not take many chances with authors. The oh cool, I can read all of this serial for one low price. I think the serial readers will love KU.
      And finally the shorter story lovers who will get their money’s worth reading a ton of 99 cent shorts.

      But like I said September will be the first month that will have true figures. I would bet my bottom dollar that many people that love free books signed up for the free trial but will cancel when they have to pay for it.

      I love books of all kinds myself. But I did not see where KU would be worth it to me. I also do not always read a book the second I get it. Some books I have had for over a year. And some longer than that.

      • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 6:12 pm

        I just looked and I have one book that come next Thursday will have been on my kindle 2 years. Note I have read many other things by this particular author just not that one yet. It keeps getting lost.

  5. Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 8:53 pm

    You had me at Taken by the Tapir… OMG I didn’t even know that dreck existed! I gotta go run out and write me some to sell at 1.99… in the meantime I’m hoping you’ll ARC me the next one in your NA series. I loved it that much. 🙂

    • Russell Blake  –  Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 10:45 pm

      Be careful what you wish for…

  6. Fri 22nd Aug 2014 at 9:58 pm

    I love reading your books, Russell, and your blog. You have such a great way of seeing through things and being able to put it all in perspective.

  7. Sat 23rd Aug 2014 at 1:17 pm

    Blake, I have to ask, what’s stopping anyone from taking their 60k word novel, breaking it into three parts, and enrolling each in KU as “The Weresheep’s Lover, Part 1” Part 2, Part 3?

    If I’m selling the whole book at $4.99, price each part at $2.99, and only enroll the three parts in KU, seems like I could even come out ahead with borrows vs sales.

    The only drawbacks I can think of: no/less ranking bump on your paid title from borrows, confused customers who accidentally pay $2.99 for just six chapters of your book and get pissed off that it’s so short and has no ending.

    • Russell Blake  –  Sat 23rd Aug 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Nothing is. In fact, I know quite a few authors who are contemplating doing exactly that to take advantage of the KU payment scheme. If I had the time I would probably do the same. WTF not?

      • Kristen James  –  Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 4:25 pm

        I did that once and regretted it. I split a novel into two at what seemed a natural splitting point — I wanted to get the first half in time for the Christmas rush. My readers did not like it! There might be a way to split books if you rewrite them enough to make a series, but I probably won’t risk it again.

        • Jim Self  –  Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 11:14 pm

          Well, here’s what I’m thinking. People are going to be pretty pissed off if you sell them half of a book. I would be, too. But what if they’re getting the parts for free via KU? You’re adding the annoyance that they need to go download the additional parts. That’s about it.

          But like I said above, those parts would be aimed at KU readers. Breaking a book into 20k word parts and making readers buy each one would just be stupid unless you’re treating it as a serial.

          • Russell Blake  –  Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 11:56 pm

            I actually have two trilogies I made into 140K word omnibus versions. I’ve now re-uploaded the individual books and taken down the omnibus versions. We’ll see what happens.

          • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 1:32 pm

            Here is the thing though. Even though your book is in KU, that does not mean that only KU subscribers see it. Everyone that buys books at Amazon can see it. Do you really want to piss off those people that actually buy instead of borrow books at Amazon? Now if you want to split it, go for it. But please for the buyers, label it properly.

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 2:02 pm

            Cini: For a year and a half, those omnibuses were only available as individual volumes of the trilogy. Think of it as Wool. Yes, there’s the omnibus, but also individual episodes. I bundled them because I got tired of tracking six volumes when I could track only two. But KU makes it worth doing – it’s simple economics. So back to the old way, at least for now.

          • Damon J Courtney  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 1:50 pm


            I agree. Splitting a book into parts just to try and make some cash while pissing readers off is crappy. But not bundling three books together into an omnibus is not necessarily going to piss readers off.

            The word I’m getting from a lot of indies is that buys are still much higher than borrows. I’m curious to see where this goes in the coming months, especially with Christmas. But if the borrows tip the scales, I think it will change the behavior of a lot of authors.

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 2:05 pm

            Well, I can tell you that compensation alters vendor behavior. Vendors have to adjust to the most lucrative product mix, or they’re doing themselves a disservice. This might well be the law of unintended consequences for Amazon. Dunno. What I do know is that if I can get paid $2 for a 20K short story that took me three days to write, I’d be an idiot to be working on a 100K novel that will compensate me the same.

          • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 2:11 pm

            There is a big difference between trilogies and just chopping a book up. You know that as well as I do.
            Your omnibus is fine.
            Wait you have trilogies. How did I miss this?

            I was talking about those authors that OMG I wrote 100K word book should I chop it up to make more money.
            I saw that one at least 3 times last week.

            Rather like if you tried to split “Black into Reality” into 3 books. That would not work.

            Sorry if I did not make that clear.

          • Damon J Courtney  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 2:12 pm


            You’re absolutely right, and it HAS and WILL alter the way people write and release. I’ve wanted to write shorter works for a while now, mostly because that’s what I’m interested in reading. But only in a series. Think episodes of a television show. I want something I can finish in an evening, maybe two, and then decide later when I’m ready to pick up the next one.

            My problem is that I read and write Fantasy, which is known for its doorstopper tomes released years apart. But now, thanks to indies, that’s slowly changing. And I’m going to be one of the ones helping to change it.

            Even before KU hit, I had started work with a friend on a novella series. Again, think TV episodes, but where each novella is a complete story. They are satisfying on their own but part of a larger story. KU didn’t factor into my decision to write that series, but we certainly stepped up our timetable when it dropped.

            If Amazon continues to pay out the same for borrows regardless of length, I think books in enrolled in KU are going to start shifting down in word count pretty fast. Which, if you ask me, is not a bad thing. Even some of the big Fantasy imprints have been telling authors for years to write shorter books. There’s still the bulk of the Fantasy audience that wants 250k word tomes, but a lot of us don’t have that kind of time anymore.

          • Jim Self  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 3:48 pm

            I’m not suggesting you do anything to piss off lots of readers. That’s stupid, like I said.

            I think with good sales copy on the product page, a good title, and a note at the beginning of the book, you can avoid most of that. The point is that you can triple your pay from borrows if you break your books into three parts aimed at KU readers (and you don’t lose any readers in the transitions, another problem). If borrows are cannibalizing sales on a 1:1 ratio like Blake is seeing, and borrows become a higher portion of your income, you might need to do this out of necessity.

            Blake, good idea with your omnibuses. Anyone writing serials right now is probably salivating over the possibilities, too.

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 4:21 pm

            Yes, Jim, they should be. But the real question is whether the usual objections (ew, I can’t believe this is a serial, I hate serials – even though it’s clearly marked throughout as a serial) arise if there’s no additional cost to the reader. From my perspective, if I still get to read the whole slew for free, more power to me. I don’t care if it’s a single volume or five. The price is right.

            Only people that usually get pissed off are those who read the first story for free, and then want the rest free as well. That used to happen all the time. “I read the first part for free, but now the author expects to be paid for the next part! Blech. This is bogus. Everything should be free for me, all the time!”

            We’ll see what happens. Either way, this isn’t my retirement fund, so it’s more of an experiment than anything…

          • Jim Self  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 5:04 pm

            If it was never worth their money to begin with, I’m not too worried about pissing them off. Just writing the book will make someone mad. Pricing it in a certain range will make someone else mad. Breaking it into parts will make some people mad.

            There’s never going to be a clear line here, and we’re never going to know how gray it is until we try it. If it makes readers mad, we can fix it in 5 minutes.

    • Damon J Courtney  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 12:51 pm

      KU does change the game a bit for some authors with regards to bundling works. I’m working on a new series right now, and I plan to put it into Select/KU. My normal operation would be to bundle it all together when it’s done and release an omnibus, but now I may hold off. We’ll see what the ratio of buys to borrows is.

      As others have noted, I wouldn’t recommend splitting up an existing novel into chunks just for money. Readers can smell a stink like that, and they hate it. It’s a bad reader experience, and shouldn’t that be enough of a reason not to chase the money? Not to mention Amazon will kick warn you and then kick you out of Select if you try to release the same work twice. When they say you’re exclusive, they mean that work is available exclusively in Select.

      But if you’re talking about a complete story in each book that you just decide not to bundle together, that’s another question. If I had a trilogy in three books that was getting a bunch of borrows, I don’t think I’d do a bundle. Russell just unbundled some books and tried it, so let’s see what his results are. 🙂

  8. Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 5:56 pm

    My wife & I discovered you recently and enjoy your writings very much. We are very glad to see you fill in for the deceased VINCE FLYNN and TOM CLANCEY, both leaving us way to early. Their bold styles were very thought provoking and made us wish the stories were true. Oh well ranting away we are. KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK!!!!

    • Russell Blake  –  Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 7:58 pm

      I’m so glad to hear it, Joe. I’ll keep writing em as long as readers keep reading em!

  9. Richard Fox
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 12:46 pm

    I wonder if the plagiarists got the “swap the names/genders” idea from an episode of “Dream On,” where that exatct thing happened.

    Because a TV show that’s been off the air for 20 years is where pirate ideas come from.

  10. cinisajoy
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 1:41 pm

    Hi. I appreciate you calling me the rare exception. Russell is so right on the free people and the bundle people. Now I get a ton of free books. Oh and not interesting in an ARC of your NA book but if you need a reviewer for your next “Black” book I am there for you.
    I also tend to buy the multi-author bundles and yes I own Russell’s bundle. It is somewhere in the TBR preferably this year pile.

    I do buy some authors books but the catch is because there are so many freebies and so little time, the author has to be EXCEPTIONAL.
    Now thing is there, I do not pay full price or anywhere close for the trad authors. I only pay full price for a select set of Indies.

  11. cinisajoy
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Now I have some ideas for plagarists but none of them are printable.

    Love you and your blogs.

  12. Richard Fox
    Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Here is how I look at serializing a novel: Joe Scalzi broke up a novel into 15 parts. I like what he writes and was interested, until I realized that I’m paying almost 15 bucks for a single book. Pass from me. If it was a great idea, then more authors would be doing it.

    Consider this, most series/serials lose readers after the first part. Sales dimisish after the first book, becuase readers don’t like what they read and think the rest of the series will be more of the same. You could get a reader for the price of a book (say 5 bucks), or get a reader for a buck on a serial then lose them.

    I like to think my tastes are similar to most readers. A writer who makes me pay three seperate times for one complete story will earn my ire.

    • Jim Self  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 6:18 pm

      Well, it would have been dumb to tell the Wright brothers that if flying was a good idea, more people would already be doing it. The economics of selling a serial has been completely unworkable until the rise of e-reading. It’s new ground, or at least fallow.

      There’s no clear line with this kind of thing. If you’re selling a serial at $2.99, and each “episode” is 30k words, are people going to feel screwed? Some will. Others will think it’s worth it to be a part of the ongoing story as it develops. Just by structuring a story as a serial, you’re going to be rejected by certain people. That doesn’t matter as long as you have enough people left to make it work.

      To be clear, my point up above is that you’d have a full volume up for sale and NOT available to KU readers, and then break the book into parts that WOULD be available to KU readers, thus multiplying your KU income. You’d obviously want to steer people to buy your full volume to keep them feeling happy and not screwed.

    • Jim Self  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Oh, I wanted to comment on the series/serial readership diminishing down the line. You can say the same thing about readers buying across your catalog. Trying to “get” them for a full-length book is a bad way of looking at it. If their first exposure to you doesn’t make them want to go on and buy more of your catalog, you’ve already done something wrong. Snaring more of their money with a bigger first purchase isn’t an answer.

    • Russell Blake  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 6:34 pm

      Didn’t seem to hurt Hugh Howie or Holly Ward, the two largest selling indies of all time, that much. Both of them had serials that were the bulk of their sales. So I suppose it depends on the reader, or more importantly, on how good your first installment is.

      Some readers are sure the author is trying to “get them” and thus extremely sensitive to the issue and view a few hours of entertainment for a couple of bucks fair value. Most apparently don’t care either way. Way I look at it is that with 30 books out and counting, if someone wants to read my serialized novels (about 40-50K words per installment) via borrows on KU, it’s available to them. If they don’t, they have 30 other choices and counting.

      • cinisajoy  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 6:55 pm

        How would you go about marketing to just KU? Just because a book is in KU does not mean other readers don’t see it. I can now tell which books are and aren’t in KU by the buy box at Amazon. None KU books just have the buy button. KU has a read for free button below or above the buy depending on if you are on a computer or mobile device.

        Just a little food for thought.
        Oh and there are some authors that could just write the alphabet over and over and probably get buyers.

        • Russell Blake  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 7:31 pm

          Not sure I’d bother marketing to only KU. Most of my buyers wouldn’t buy something described as a serial episode for $2.99, so I’m not worried about it. I view it as found money if anyone borrows it. So far, three borrows today on those newly serialized installments, so not exactly lighting the world on fire.

        • Jim Self  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 8:23 pm

          Well, I’d wager that shorter stories will not only get you paid better, but will satisfy a lot of KU readers more. Give them a short story with a lot of punch, and they get to enjoy it quickly and move on to the next one. It’s not like they’re paying per title.

          If I wanted to tailor something towards KU, I’d make sure it all had a very consistent branding on the cover, maybe invent some kind of “imprint” with its own symbol to bind them all together (think “The Twilight Zone”) and then crank them out like mad.

          • Russell Blake  –  Mon 25th Aug 2014 at 8:48 pm

            Not a bad way to go. Problem is there’s no way of knowing how long Amazon keeps spiking that punch bowl, and if they decide to do a reduced fee for shorter works, you’re hosed.

  13. Wed 17th Sep 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Great blog post – I’ve just spent ages going over all the comments when I should have been writing more!
    Anyhoo…maybe It’s just me, but since KU was unleashed amongst us I’ve seen sales of my paperback versions increase by at least a third.
    I can only assume that after the reader has read the ‘free’ digital version, some of them go on to purchase the paperback…Happy days for me!


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