The Experiment – Continued

by Janis Patterson

If sales of my books go any lower, it looks like I’m going to have to start paying people not to read my books. Yes, that’s an exaggeration (I hope!) but it’s also in danger of becoming quite true. And I will admit it hurts to see my books languish at the bottom of the charts, especially since some of them have been on bestseller lists (international, not US – go figure that!) and some have won prizes while others, both appalling rubbish as well as tomes much more literary than mine, sell like the proverbial hotcakes.

Late last year I bewailed my position and decided to start an experiment. I was going KU. Now as a fiscal conservative, I abominate the idea of anything that reeks of potential monopoly, but I also dislike the idea of not making any money for all the work I have done on my books. I have always had all my books – those which I control – wide, meaning they were available just about everywhere ebooks books can be bought. Sales have been so bad they would have to work a week to inch their way up to pathetic.

So, since most of what sales I did have were coming from Amazon and none from two of the other major outlets, I decided to start an experiment. I pulled three test books from wide distribution and put them into KU, which means exclusive with Amazon.

The results were good – for my wallet – but disheartening from a free market point of view. Sales inched up a tiny bit, but what astounded me was the page reads. No, I’m not going to give exact numbers, mainly because they are no one’s business but mine and would be considered embarrassingly low for most other writers, but they were a very large jump for me, and have increased almost daily from the beginning of the experiment. Yes, the money for KU page reads is distressingly low, but even a low return is better than no return.

However, only part of me believes that. By being in KU am I contributing to the stifling (and perhaps eventual extinction) of the free market by encouraging a possible monopoly? Part of me thinks so but part of me wants to be compensated for the time and money I spend to make my books available to the public.

By being in KU am I keeping my books away from those who shop on platforms other than Amazon? Yes, but they weren’t buying from me anyway, so what difference does it make, except that with KU at least I have the potential of earning due recompense for my labors.

I know I’m talking a lot about money – I’m not really greedy, but workmen are worthy of their hire; my books have made international best seller lists and won prizes. They – and I – deserve better treatment and recognition, and if being in KU does that I will respond.

It has taken a long time and a lot of thought to come to this point, but with my usual decisiveness I have chosen to keep feet in both camps. Those books which have performed well wide – for example, CURSE OF THE EXILE and A KILLING AT EL KAB – will stay wide. New books – released this year, such as A WELL-MANNERED MURDER and ROMANCE AT SPANISH ROCK – have been put directly into KU.  The other five books I have ready for release, plus any others I will finish in the foreseeable future, will be decided on a case-by-case basis… that, or the phase of the moon and my mood at the moment.—continued/(opens in a new tab)

It is true that the customer drives the market, and the vendor/writer has to follow the trends. Right now the trend is to KU, and if this trend continues, I will eventually move everything to KU. If the ebook industry does become a monopoly, all will change – and probably not for the better – but the reader has no one but himself to blame.

7 thoughts on “The Experiment – Continued

  1. I’m thinking of transitioning over to Smashwords after the 3 months are up on KDP: Select for FOUND AT THE POUND. Kindle Unlimited used to be a good deal when readers clicked for a book, but then the semantics changed and it was according to pages read and all sorts of other things regarding how much to pay an author. For now, though, the book is getting more exposure on KDP and hopefully more reviews, although one person wrote a review and it didn’t show up until 4 days later.


  2. From day one I refused to have my books only at one place. I no choice when I did a group project and that book was put in KU but otherwise I’ve stayed away. I believe everyone has the right to purchase my books. In KU I can’t get into libraries. I know libraries are purchasing them because of the number of print books I’m selling and I had a Google Alert the other day that said a library had added 2 of my books to their shelves. Being wide has been a slow climb but I am finally showing gains is my sales and enjoying the benefits.

    I give away two of my first in series books. I don’t mind doing that, but I refuse to let one place sell my books. I want them to be available to everyone.

    Good post, Janis and I have heard the same thing from many of my romance author friends. They are now KU.


  3. I’ve decided to stay wide and get a better grip on my ads–more Bookbub ads and less of the Amazon ads for now. I think you have to have a lot of books in KU to be successful there, but good luck and keep us posted!


  4. Janis, I feel your pain. I have been in and out of KU and discovered my books do much better in KU so there they are. 1/3 of my monthly income comes from page reads. I don’t worry about people who don’t have a Kindle anymore. Most can download an app on their computer or phone and seem willing to do so. For the one or two a year that can’t/don’t, I just send them a converted book, gratis. I also have a publicist, have had for about a year, and the resulting surge in sales has been gratifying. I don’t worry about Amazon as an earth eater, either. I see lots of organizations who try to keep them in check (and often do). At least, they keep them from taking over the world. And even though there are some things I don’t like about Amazon, they have been pretty fair to me overall, and helpful when I needed it. Enough said about all of that. I am going over to Amazon to get A Well Mannered Murder. Seems right up my alley! Congratulations on being such a fine writer.


  5. I understand your decision and came to the same decision with the book I just released. I hate seeing Amazon monopolize the market, but if that’s where I can make money (dollars instead of pennies), I don’t feel I have a choice. Here’s hoping your numbers skyrocket.


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