The 30% Rule of Selling eBooks ~ Go Exclusive? Or Sell Everywhere?

Several years ago, an Amazon rep told me that selling my books via Amazon Select—going exclusive to Amazon—would greatly benefit me as an author. When I voiced some reluctance to remove my books from the reach of Nook, Kobo, iBook, and Google Book readers, he went on to explain that, as long as my earnings from other venues was at or below 30% of my total earnings, then the extra sales I would see at Amazon Select would make up for the loss.

The terms and conditions of Select have changed with the invention of Kindle Unlimited, so I don't even know if the 30% rule still applies. I currently have 4 of my 18 self-published books in the Amazon Select Program for a second 3-month stint which will end in two weeks. The way I figure it, it’s good to try new things. However, the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read have shown pretty dismal results/earnings. Before removing the 4 books from Select, I needed more sales information from the various venues where my books are available. The charts below are the result of my info-gathering.

Note: The charts below show percentages of my Amazon, Nook, Kobo, and iBook sales. I also sell books on Google Play and Smashwords. Google Play constitutes about 1-2% of sales in any given month and Smashwords comes in consistently at under 1%, so I didn’t bother to include these venues or sales on the charts.










The information clearly shows that, during the past 4 months, I’ve only had 1 month where Amazon Kindle sales were greater than 70%.

With the advent of Kobo’s fabulous new Promotions Tab on my Kobo Author Dashboard, I believe my Kobo sales and readership will grow. I’m still learning how the promotional campaigns work and which ones fit best for my books, but it seems that I have gotten it right 2 months out of 4. I imagine I will only become better at choosing and marketing the correct campaigns. I can tell you that during the first week of February, Kobo and Amazon are neck and neck with Kobo at 40.5% and Amazon at 43%. Also, I get a thrill when I see Kobo readers in Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa, Slovakia, Columbia, and dozens of other countries are reading my books.

I know that going exclusive works well for some authors. I have colleagues who are doing very well selling their books exclusively at Amazon, and I am truly happy for them. However, I think authors need to take many things into consideration as we decide to either go exclusive or go everywhere. It’s a personal preference. For me, building my readership across all sales venues is what is most important. I mean, I do call myself an independent author; it just doesn’t seem right to be dependent on any one sales venue for my income.

What do you think? Let’s talk. How do you feel about going exclusive? Has going exclusive worked for you? Or do you utilize all the available venues to sell your books? Please offer the whys of your chosen plan. Maybe we’ll all learn something new.

20 comments:

BooksAndPals said...

Very interesting. I recently stopped posting links with the reviews on my blog for B&N and Smashwords (several reasons for this, which I talked about in a post at Indies Unlimited). I know my logic would be different than an author's and a lot of it depends on who your audience is and where you're trying to build one which is much different.

When the Amazon rep mentioned that 30% figure, did he or she provide any logic behind it?

BooksAndPals said...

I realized you kind of did give a bit of the logic, saying that the "extra sales" would make up for it. I'm guessing this is based on improved visibility although as often as Amazon changes their algorithms, that might no longer work out the same. Then you've got the whole KU thing which could mean more people reading, but making less for each read.

Donna Fasano said...

Yes, the rep sited the extra sales and increased visibility. However, he did admit that the 30% was an educated guess.

RJ Crayton said...

I'd be curious to know, do you think Kobo provides more reach for authors that upload directly with them, than it does to authors who use a distributor, like Smashwords or Draft2Digital. Sounds like, they definitely offer some ad tools if you go direct to Kobo to distribute.

Donna Fasano said...

RJ, I have always uploaded directly to Kobo. As far as I know, you have to have an Author Dashboard in order access the Promotions Tab, and you can only have an Author Dashboard if you upload directly. I repeat: as far as I know.

Carmen DeSousa said...

Great information, Donna! I love how you didn't just throw that information our there, but instead, showed us a graph. Coming from a sales and marketing background in a Fortune 500 company, I only look at the numbers.

I chose to enroll my books into Kindle Select -- again...I've been in and out a few times -- right after Christmas, simply because of all the new Kindle owners.

My thoughts of why my books sell well with Kindle Unlimited subscribers, but not Kobo and the like, and why your books sell better than mine do on Kobo ...

Even though several of my books are stand-alone novels, I write series. Your books are all stand-alone novels. I -- in my opinion, as I know some authors still do it -- refuse to discount anything but the "firsts" in my series, because I don't want readers to get upset if they get the third book and not the first.

BUT...I have a new book coming out that's a stand-alone book, and I assure you, I WILL be publishing it with Kobo, B&N, and iTunes.

And then I'll be knocking on your door for suggestions how to promote it to Kobo readers.

:)

Traci said...

Thanks for sharing this information, Donna! I pulled my books from all other venues because I wasn't selling very well--I did this right before Christmas. I'm willing to try whatever it takes. I like Kobo, though--they are easy to use.

Rosemary Rey said...

Thanks for this post. My concern with select for my genre, which is Contemporary Romance or Erotica, is that I cannot advertise (paid) within Amazon because of the adult content. So not only am I eliminating readers of other ebook types, but I have to advertise twice as much in social media to get the very few readers KU and Select provide. It worked a smidge before KU came on the scene. I think making a book free or 99 cents as the first book in a series is better advertising than excluding a whole segment of the reading world.

Donna Fasano said...

You make some excellent points and I agree with you, Rosemary.

Anne R. Tan said...

The Promotions tab on Kobo is only available to those who upload direct. This was what prompted me to leave D2D for Kobo. Since getting access to the Promotions tab, I've been involved in a couple of promos, which made me what I would have made with KU (granted, this is still grocery money level here).

So far my sales at the other vendors are approximately 36% of my sales. I am happy with my decision to go wide with a permafree for my cozy mystery series. And I'm also hopeful and excited about my earnings for 2016 for the first time since I started publishing in 2014. This might be the first year I would end the year in the black, unlike my other two years.

Sarah Wynde said...

I've uploaded direct to Kobo, but I don't seem to have a promotions tab. Do you need to sell a certain number of books to get it? That would be a sad catch-22, if so! But I suppose I should be asking Kobo, not you. Still, thanks for the heads-up!

Julia Barrett said...

I've gone back and forth, but I just removed another book from KU. I have a lot of books - 28 both novels and novellas, even comic books - and I may keep some of the shorter work on KU. Maybe. Still haven't decided.
Last summer I removed my books from wide distribution and enrolled everything in KU. I had built a wide readership, but I'd heard such great things about KU money I succumbed to temptation.
Yes, it was good for a couple months, but then sales and page reads tanked. There is just too much on Amazon. Just. Too. Much. So as each book came up for renewal, I removed it. Now I'm building a wider readership all over again. Slow but steady.
I'm sorry I enrolled in KU. It cost me many readers. At this point my sales via other channels are surpassing my sales on Amazon. The only exception was a recent Bookbub promo. I sold more books at Amazon-- but only, and this is important, only $200 more.

Donna Fasano said...

Sarah, contact Kobo Writing Life at: writinglife@kobo.com and ask about the Promotions Tab for your dashboard.

Annette Drake said...

I chose to remove my cozy mystery from Kindle Select and post it to Smashwords so I could reach Kobo, Apple and Google customers. KENP wasn't making a lot of money for me, and like you, I don't want to be dependent on one vendor. I may look at loading to Kobo directly for the promotion opportunities. Thanks for a great post.

Melinda said...

Donna, since reading your post I've been exploring Kobo, and I notice they strongly advise having an ISBN for ebooks. Have you seen this to be the case, as well?

MP McDonald said...

I tried going wide a year ago and even had a Bookbub ad for a perma-free in my series. Things went well at first, but then a month after the Bookbub ad, all momentum came to a screeching halt. I had heard about Kobo's 'first in series free' or whatever it was called, but my book was never picked up or listed. (despite posting in a kboard thread which was started by the Kobo rep and he said to post our first free books and he'd check periodically.) So, all but one of my books went back into Select at the end of April. Long story short, my sales/income has tripled since then. Actually, probably more than that. I can't really afford to keep pulling them and hoping things pick up on other retailer sites.

Marian Lanouette said...

I just checked and don't see the promotion tab on Kobo. Is that because I haven't uploaded a new book since last May (I've been using D2D--got lazy). I'm going to pull a book from D2D today to test the waters.

Donna, do I have to contact Kobo to get the promotion button on my dashboard? Thank you for sharing everything, it was very educational. Marian

Donna Fasano said...

Marian, contact Writing Life... writing life@kobo.com and ask them about the Promotions Tab. The folks at Kobo are very responsive.

Marian Lanouette said...

Thanks, Donna, I will. They're closed today. Holiday, but first thing tomorrow.

Bob Howard said...

Donna, I just want to say that I have learned more about ebook publishing from your blogs than any other source. Thank you very much. Bob