Scott Marlowe
Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Thoughts on Kindle Unlimited and Why I’m Out

Kindle Unlimited

On July 20 of this year, I wrote a post about why I was going all-in with Kindle Unlimited (KU). KU is one of those things where you don’t know if it’s something that will prove beneficial unless you actually try it. I can now report that I did try it, I did have some success with it, but, ultimately, I personally have not seen a great enough benefit to remain with the program moving forward. Today is therefore the last day the books in my Alchemancer series will remain in the KU program. The remainder of my books will fall out next month.

As a reader, I like the idea of KU and the idea of having an unlimited selection of books to read (yes, I know, some refer to KU as “Kindle Limited,” because the selection is not as good as Amazon will have you believe). However, my schedule does not allow me to read enough to justify the $9.99/month cost. I enrolled in the 2014 Goodreads Reading Challenge, where I committed to reading 50 books in 2014 (I’m currently at 49, so almost there). That’s about 2/month, meaning I’d pay $5/read if I was enrolled in KU. Not bad, actually, but then what if I don’t read 2 books? What if I only read one? I don’t know if I could handle the pressure! Of course, there are a number of short stories and novellas enrolled in the program, so it’d be nice to read those without having to “pay” for them.

As an author, the program started out fair. I was “selling” multiple copies of my Assassin Without a Name shorts and novellas each day, which was kind of nice because I can see some light at the end of the tunnel in terms of recouping some of the costs associated with producing those little gems. Also, I started moving a good number of my novels. In terms of units moved, KU worked out well. But only in the beginning. More on that in a sec.

Then there’s the payment thing. KU works like this: someone downloads a title, but the author isn’t paid until said reader gets past 10% of the eBook. Amazon pays for each read out of a monthly pot. So, each author receives a share, which is basically the total pot divided by the number of reads in the entire program to determine a ‘per read’ dollar figure. The dollar figure for the months I’ve been enrolled has been somewhere in the range of $1.33 – $1.50 (I can’t remember the exact numbers, but it really isn’t important). For a 99 cent short story, this works out great because, before KU, I would get $0.35 per book sold. However, for a $4.99 novel, where I get $3.50 for an actual sale, KU isn’t such a good deal.

NOTE: There’s a bit of back and forth amongst my peers about if a ‘read’ really replaces a ‘buy.’ In other words, just because someone ‘read’ your book via KU doesn’t mean you lost a sale (i.e., that they would have bought it). It’s impossible to know this, so difficult (and pointless) to debate.

The greatest benefit, and the reason I initially was happy with KU regardless of the payout, was that I was moving units. Not thousands or even hundreds, but some, every day and consistently. This was enough to keep me in the program. But then something happened. Right after Thanksgiving, reads dropped off a cliff. Literally. To the point where, this month, I think I’ve had 2 KU reads credited to my account. Fortunately, sales are going pretty well, so this has been offset. But, with no rhyme or reason to the drop-off, and no way to stimulate things back to where they were before, I don’t have any choice but to ‘go wide’ once more and release all of my titles to BN.com, Google Bookstore, iBookstore, Kobo, and others.

So, the first books to drop out of KU are The Five Elements and The Nullification Engine. The rest will fall out of the program around January 15 of next year.

This is actually good news, though, because I have been invited by various parties to participate in some fantastic opportunities in the near future. Since Kindle Select requires exclusivity, I need to get out of the program anyway. You know that saying, when one door closes, another opens? That’s pretty much the situation I’m happily in. I’ll have more on these opportunities as soon as things solidify enough for me to talk about them.

In the meanwhile, I’m in the process of restoring the first of my books back to wide distribution whilst saying a fond farewell to Kindle Unlimited. See ya!

My Free eBooks This Week

I'm rounding out the remainder of my KDP Select free promotion days for both The Five Elements and The Hall of the Wood this week. If you're one of my two blog readers, then get your trigger finger ready, cause it's almost time to download.

Unlike some other promotional runs, I'm not going to go crazy promoting this one. This post will go up, then get syndicated over to Amazon and Goodreads and that's it. Alright, so I'll put it up on Twitter, too, but that's really it. This promotional stuff wears you out after a while. I'm also trying to keep my focus on the next book in The Alchemancer series which follows The Five Elements. It's going to be good, and that's all I'll say.

As for the free promotions, here's how it's going to go down:

4/10 – 4/11 (Tue-Wed): The Hall of the Wood goes free.

4/12 (Thur): For 1 day only, The Five Elements goes free.

The Five Elements for whatever reason always does well with these things. Thousands of downloads which then translate into hundreds of sales for so many days afterwards. The Hall of the Wood gets a fair amount of downloads—in the hundreds—but then never really does much after that. I guess it's the content. The Hall of the Wood is Tolkien-like, traditional fantasy, which just ain't in style anymore. The Five Elements is most definitely not traditional fantasy. Come Thursday, download it, read it, review it. That's all I ask.

The Great Free Experiment

The Hall of the Wood

The Five Elements

Right now, you can download both of my eBooks on Amazon for free.

This is an experiment to see if "free" works. I won't know the results (results being measured in real $$$ sales) until after the free period ends (tonight at midnight), so I'll have another post to discuss that.

What I do know at this point is that The Five Elements, which was not selling well even at $0.99, has gotten nearly 1,000 downloads in just 1 1/2 days of being free. The Hall of the Wood, which is free only for today, has racked up a couple of hundred downloads.

I don't know yet if free will actually translate into sales, but it sure seems to be working for getting readers, or at least downloaders. The key metric I'm really looking to get out of this is reviews. In theory, the more people who download the eBook, the more people who read it. I don't expect everyone who downloads either eBook will actually read it (people like to hoard, and sometimes the sheer volume of 'free' can be overwhelming once you fire up the Kindle), but even if 10% of the downloaders actually read the book, that's 100 new readers. Maybe even some reviews, too.

The Hall of the Wood: Free Today

The Hall of the WoodThe Hall of the Wood is free on Kindle today. This is a 1 day deal, so get it while you can.

My other novel, The Five Elements, is also free just for today. I decided to extend the 1 day freebie on that one into a second day because it was gaining so much momentum I didn't want to stop it. Right now, The Five Elements is sitting at #5 Epic Fantasy and has gotten over 500 downloads.

But this post is supposed to be about The Hall of the Wood.

The Hall of the Wood went free for most of the month of December and it "sold" (downloads, really) like crazy. Around 200 downloads/day, and never really showed signs of slowing. I'm hoping some small fraction of those thousands of potential readers will like it and leave a review. The jury is still out on that.

In the meanwhile, go download The Hall of the Wood.

The Five Elements: Now Free Tomorrow, too

TFE KindleI'm getting such awesome results out of my 1 day KDP Select free promotion that I've decided to extend the promotion one more day. That's right: Get the The Five Elements, now ranked Top 10 in the Epic Fantasy (free) category, for $0.99 free!

How good is the promotion going so far?

How about:

  • over 400 downloads and counting as I type this
  • ranked Top 10 in the Epic Fantasy (free) category
  • ranked #693 in the "Free in Kindle Store" category

Free doesn't put any money in my pocket, but it gets my eBook onto people's Kindles. My hope is that some of those downloads will turn into reviews. Reviews are invaluable; they're our validation as indie writers, IMO.

I'll post up again about final results of this (now) 2 day experiment.

Oh, and watch for The Hall of the Wood. It goes free tonight just after midnight. That price is good all day tomorrow.