Saturday, March 17, 2012

Misled and disappointed

I'm talking about the KDP select program and my February report - after looking it over and seeing my royalties (not mind blowing and not enough to even buy a meal anywhere).

The KDP select program allows authors/publishers to reach the prime members (only in the US, those folks who pay the $79/year to get free shipping on all their amazon orders, free streaming videos and one free "borrow" a month (you guessed it - out of hundreds of thousands of ebooks available, they only can borrow one book a month).

This is the first paragraph of the terms and conditions for the KDP select program: KDP Select is an option for KDP publishers. Through KDP Select, for an initial period of 90 days your Digital Book is exclusive to Kindle and is included in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library Program where it will earn a share of a monthly cash fund when readers borrow it. Also, you can promote your Digital Book as free for up to 5 days during these 90 days. Before including your book in KDP Select, please read these terms and conditions carefully.

Now, let's look at it sentence by sentence:

KDP Select is an option for KDP publishers. - yes it is an option and no one says we have to participate in the program.

Through KDP Select, for an initial period of 90 days your Digital Book is exclusive to Kindle and is included in the Kindle Owners' Lending Library Program where it will earn a share of a monthly cash fund when readers borrow it. The lending library is for those folks who pay their $79/year to get a few benefits from Amazon. So I ask you this, why would someone want to only borrow one book a month? Especially when there are hundreds of thousands of ebooks available. What is going to make all those prime members want to borrow a ghostly romance story over say a thriller or a different type of ghost story? After they borrow their one book (and just to let you know when they borrow a book it is for an indefinite amount of time - they don't have to return it like in a regular library where you borrow a book for 2 weeks or 3 weeks (depending on the library's lending time) and can either renew your borrow time or you have to return the book or if you return it late, you are charged a fee on a daily basis), then if they want ebooks do they have to pay for them just like everyone else does? And why is the prime membership only opened to the United States since Amazon has kindle and ebooks available in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK? Basically if readers don't borrow your book you make no money other than your regular sales royalties.

Also, you can promote your Digital Book as free for up to 5 days during these 90 days. So if we can promote our book as free for these 5 days and the book is available in the lending library, what happens if a prime member downloads the book during that free ptomotion? We have downloads but we are no longer earning money on those downloads, even if a prime member is the one downloading the book, because when it is offered for free, everyone who has a kindle or a free app that Amazon offers can now download the book. It is not considered a borrow even though those prime members are probably downloading the book. It becomes a sale now.

This to me is the misleading statement. If you are allowed to promote your book as free during this 90-day exclusivity term with Amazon in this particular program, why not pay out on those downloads too? Your book is still in the lending library; you are giving everyone a chance to get your book for free and allowing prime members to be able to download more than one book in a month.

The other part of the disappointment for me is that I've seen many authors who blog about their actual "sales" after their free promotion days and the numbers are running in the hundreds to thousands afterwards. Grant it I have only short stories to offer but even after reaching #7 on the Amazon best selling free list during my free promotion time, I saw maybe 2 or 3 sales. How does an author garner those hundreds of sales after running a story for free?

My stories aren't written poorly and aren't bad stories by any means. And I'm not just bragging on my stories but the merits of winning first, second, third place or runner up and being selected in a very exclusive anthology. If the stories weren't written well or up to the judging persons' or contest persons' standards and/or requirements, they wouldn't have placed anywhere. "The Tulip Kiss" is my first place story. "The Proposal" is a second place winning story. "Bride-and-Seek" was selected (this is a blind selection as the judges only get the stories; they don't know who writes the stories as the editor of the anthology has the cover sheets so it makes the playing field even. There is no chance a judge would select their friends' stories or only the people with whom they are familiar with their writing or their style of writing) and published in the SCWW anthology. By being selected for that anthology, we are paid a small amount for the story, plus 2 copies of the anthology.

So by other people's decisions, I've been told my stories are good and written well. So why are my sales not reflecting the word of mouth advertisement or the places they have taken in various contests? Why did I not really see a difference in pre-free day offerings' sales and post-free day offerings' sales? Did I gain about 350 readers who are anxiously awaiting my next free promotion? Maybe, but if I truly gained those readers, they would have bought my other stories in addition to downloading the free offering at the time, or, on the other hand, they would have told their friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers that I had a short story being offered for free. They would have been my promotion, because we all know that word of mouth is what sells anything - books, movies, restaurants, and the list goes on and on. Person A likes such and such movie and tells Person B and Person C who then tell two people, et cetera. (That reminds me of the old Farrah Fawcett commercial for Breck Shampoo - I told two friends and they told two friends and the image keeps multiplying for the two friends each two friends tells. That is how word of mouth advertising works.)

So how am I to compete with all these people who are bragging about their actual sales after their free offerings? What do I have to do? I've added several titles and more are coming. I know I don't offer novels other than my YA paranormal mystery because I only write short stories. I do well writing short stories. Finally Home was a challenge because at that time I hadn't written anything over 10,000 words and probably nothing over about 8,000 words. I'd only known contests and most contests are looking for under 5,000 word stories, and many are a lot less than that.

I know reviews aren't super reliable but they are a way of expressing your thoughts and feelings about a book or story and they do help garner sales in the long run. The buying public looks to see how many reviews you have and then how the reviewers are ranking the stories. They tend to look at stories that have received 4 and 5 star reviews. My take on the rating system is this - no one in my opinion deserves a 5 star review because no one is perfect. Yes there are some excellent stories out there and yes I do think there are stories that are deserving of 5 star reviews; as a matter of fact, I know one I would definitely rate as a 5 star because it was THAT good. I would love if it the reviews reflected more options - because I've felt that many stories are 4-1/2 star worthy because they aren't quite at the 5 star place; but then again, this is my opinion. I would love to see some of those 350 people who downloaded my two stories ("Bride-and-Seek" and "The Tulip Kiss") post reviews. It may boost my sales or it may not but it's worth a try.

What does all this mean for my stories? Basically in a nutshell - I tried the select program; was disappointed and will move on. Come May when all my stories come out of the select program, they will once again go up all the other avenues available for ebook downloads. Does this mean I may never go back to the select program? Not really, but I'll consider it very carefully before doing it again.

There will be more stories coming out but they will not be exclusive to kindle from here on out. I also have removed the remaining free promotion days for "The Tulip Kiss" and "Bride-and-Seek" but am leaving the free promotion days for "The Proposal", although I'm only going to offer it for free for 2 days instead of the original 3 days mentioned in an earlier post. March 31 and April 1 is when I'll offer "The Proposal" for free. There won't be any more free offerings of the other stories. Until next time, see ya'll in the postings

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