Scott Marlowe, fantasy author

Scott Marlowe

Author of the Alchemancer and Assassin Without a Name fantasy series

Kindle Unlimited and Why I’m In

Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited is a new program just introduced by Amazon that allows readers to read an unlimited number of Kindle books each month. Think of it as Netflix for books. The cost is $9.99 per month, though if you sign-up now Amazon starts you off with a free 30 day trial.

The ‘all you can read’ subscription based idea isn’t new. Others, like Scribd and Oyster, have been in the game for a short while now. But it says something about the viability and potential of the model given that Amazon has decided to also offer their own version of it. I think if I were Scribd or Oyster, I might be worried. Those services currently contain a wider selection of titles given their license agreements with some of the big publishers, but this is Amazon we’re talking about. With 60% of the eBook market and an army of independent and hybrid authors marching to their beat, Amazon once again has the potential to be a huge industry disruptor.

From an author’s perspective, I’m embracing this new program. Not with all of my titles, but at least with my Assassin Without a Name shorts. That series is not performing well under the usual pay for each title model. Fine Wine and Killing the Dead have been free for a long time; they each rack up the free downloads on an almost daily basis. But I haven’t seen those downloads translate into a measurable amount of paid sales. So, as I write this, those titles, along with Night of Zealotry and The Goddard Affair, have been pulled from all other online retailers and enrolled into KDP Select, which is a requirement of the Kindle Unlimited program. I don’t particularly like the exclusivity requirement, but Amazon remains my number one source of sales by far, so it would be foolish for me to not at least give this new program of theirs a try.

When you get down to it, that’s what enrolling some of my titles—specifically my short ones—into this program amounts to: it’s something I need to explore. If it works out, great. If not, I learn what I can from the experience and move on to the next, big thing. Who knows? The subscription model may become the way the majority people of people consume books. In that case, I’m already at the forefront.

My Titles Now Available Everywhere Fine eBooks Are Sold

My second commitment with KDP Select, where Amazon Prime members can borrow books for free (Amazon pays the author a nice royalty and gives the author the opportunity to make his or her novel free for up to 5 days during the 3 month commitment period), ended a month ago. I chose not to renew this time for a few reasons: (1) The initial "free effect" (as my fellow indie authors were calling it) where an eBook coming off a free run got a nice boost in the sales rankings was wearing off due to some supposed Amazon algorithm changes, (2) the number of borrows per month was steadily declining for me, and (3) I really don't like the exclusivity part of the Select agreement.

The last point basically means that when a novel is enrolled in KDP Select the author cannot sell that novel through any other retailer. No Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo or even selling or serializing the content on one's own web site or blog. This wasn't as much of an issue early on when the money was rolling in, but as the Select effect fizzled, so too did my desire to remain with it. Once my enrollment period expired, I got out.

Which is to say that my eBooks, The Five Elements and The Hall of the Wood, are now available for purchase outside Amazon. You can still buy my books on Amazon, but you can now also buy them here:

Buy at BN.com Buy at kobo.com Buy at Smashwords.com

If you do decide to buy one of my novels, please take the time to go back to that retailer and leave a review or rating. Reviews help your fellow readers discover great new reads.

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 Five Elements is FREE 3/21-3/22

Starting tomorrow (or today depending on when you're reading this), The Five Elements, my fantasy/pseudoscience novel that has been described by one reader as "an enveloping story that drags you in and doesn't let go" will be free on Amazon in Kindle format.

The promotion runs for two days—from 3/21 to 3/22. I would greatly appreciate it if everyone and anyone would download the eBook on one of those dates. I'm really curious to see how the novel does in the rankings this time around. This will be the second free promotion I've run. The first went great. But I'd really like to do better. That's why I'm bought some ad space here and there. That's why I've given advanced notice to my Twitter followers. This post will hit Goodreads—where almost 1,000 people entered to win a print copy of The Five Elements—and Amazon either tonight or tomorrow; plenty of time for everyone to find out about this promotion and take advantage of it.

Last but not least, I'm giving YOU, dear blog reader, advanced notice, too. You see, free rankings translate over into paid rankings; last time I achieved some very good free rankings that wound up giving me a real good paid run thereafter. My goal is to at least do that again.

We'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, get ready to download!

KDP Select Promotion 1 Wrap-up

I just ran both of my books as freebies via the KDP Select program. The results? Outstanding.

My original plan was to have The Five Elements go free for 1 day, then do the same with The Hall of the Wood on Day 2. I changed my mind when I saw how well TFE was doing on that first day, extending TFE's free promotion into Day 2 so that both eBooks were free on that second day.

Here are the results:

The Five Elements, Day 1: 754 downloads
The Five Elements, Day 2: 1703 downloads

The Hall of the Wood, Day 2: 278 downloads

During the two day run, TFE rose as high as #2 in the Free "Best Sellers in Epic Fantasy" category:sshot-1

It also climbed as high as #136 in the overall Top 1000 Free category! A 3rd day free and maybe it would have broken the Top 100.

Something interesting happened to TFE on Day 2 around noon which I believe contributed to the increased download number: First, it made its way onto the Top 100 in Free Epic Fantasy (eventually climbing as high as #2 as shown). Second, it made its way onto the Top 100 Free Fantasy (overall) list, climbing as high as #36. From around noon on until I stopped checking later that night, it was getting about 100 downloads/hour.

HOTW didn't do as well. I do have a theory on that, though. HOTW was previously free for almost the entire month of December (I had it listed at $0.00 on Smashwords and Amazon noticed). During that time, it was getting 200 downloads/day until it finally went back to non-free. There's no way of telling if this was the reason I only saw 300 downloads for it. Maybe it takes a day to get things primed and another to really hit it big. Results for TFE would seem to support this.

It's great to see this kind of "interest" (yeah, I know, a lot of people probably just downloaded because it was free; who knows if they'll ever read it). But let's face facts: free doesn't pay the bills, and so no one was more interested than I to see how or if this would turn into any real sales. Turns out, it did.

Before I jump into those numbers, though, let's take a look at the ancillary effects of listing a Kindle eBook for free.

1.) Free makes your eBook show up on more "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought" lists.

Before going free, TFE had about 20 or so titles in its own list. Once it came off free, it had 100. While there isn't a direct, one-to-one link between all books, having more items in your list would seem to mean your eBook will get listed on the other side more often.

HOTW already had a lot of links because it was free for most of December.

2.) Free makes your eBook show up on more Top 100 listings.

Before going free, TFE was anywhere from #100,000 to #200,000 in the "Paid in Kindle Store" category. After free? Take a look:

sshot-30

TFE is now appearing on 3 different Top 100 lists. Showing up on these lists makes it easier for readers to find your book. If you're not on a list, you're relying on Amazon's search, or customers to just blindly stumble upon your eBook.

HOTW didn't do too bad, either:

sshot-25

3.) Free (might) get you more reviews.

I don't know if this is true or not. I haven't see any one who said, "I got your book for free and now I'm writing a review." But it stands to reason that the more people who have your book, the more likely you are to get a review out of some of those readers.

Now, on to some sales numbers!

The free promotion ended on 1/25, so 1/26 was the first day both eBooks were priced at $0.99.image

There seems to be a notion that "Day 3" is the highest volume day when an eBook comes off a KDP promotion. My data supports this, though with the 27-29 being Friday – Sunday, I think that also had something to do with it.

The bottom line here is that with these numbers I'm not going to be able to quit my day job anytime soon. But considering neither book was getting much in sales or getting noticed prior to the KDP promotion, I consider this a big step forward. As I write this, sales volume has dropped off a lot, but I'm also not seeing any huge drops in the Top 100 listings (for TFE, in particular). This makes me think the middle of the week is just a slow period for sales. Either that, or the "KDP effect" lasts only for a few days. I'll know more as I continue to track sales and, eventually, offer both eBooks for free again.