On Publishing: Amazon Kindle Unlimited Borrows vs Selling on Other Platforms

Is it worth it from a monetary standpoint to forgo the Kindle Select program in order to be able to sell eBooks on other platforms like Barnes and Noble (Nook), Apple, Sony and KOBO? Does an indie author make more money selling exclusively at Amazon for a 35% or 70% share of sales and a cut of a few million dollars of a pie each month for all borrows through the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) and through Kindle Unlimited (KU) than if that author takes only a 35% royalty from Amazon for sales, gets no borrows and revenue from them but is able to list on all other venues? These are the questions I’ve been asking myself for the past few weeks since my second book was published.

Currently, both of my books are exclusive at Amazon. Right now, I’m benefiting from the exposure that KOLL and KU give me as a new author with less than 5 months in the market and only two titles. With my first book, ‘Relic‘, I’m seeing two paid borrows for every paid sale. For my second book, ‘Busy Bees‘ released in late February, I’m seeing 1.6 borrows for every sale. Would those borrows have been sales at Amazon if the book were not in the KDP Select program? It’s very unlikely that most of them would have been since I’m a virtually unknown author. At an approximate payout of $1.35-1.40 for each borrow, I’m also making more on my $2.99 new author priced books for borrows over the $1.05 I’d make selling a few books on Amazon at the 35% royalty paid for ebooks not in the Select program.

Obviously, given the above information, I wouldn’t make as much at Amazon itself if my books were not enrolled in KDP Select and getting borrows. Would the lost income from borrows be made up by being able to sell on other venues? I believe, for me personally, at this early point in my writing career that it would not. Here’s why:

*eBooks now make up 33% of the overall market for books.

*Amazon commands 67% of the eBook market according to widely accepted publishing industry data available in May of 2014.

*By it’s own admission, Barnes & Noble, the #2 eBook retailer commands only 16% of the market.

*The Barnes and Noble search engine has well known problems returning relevant results for book buyers. B&N has teamed with Google in an attempt to develop more accurate search tools for site users.

*All other eBook retailers and subscription sites including Canadian retailing powerhouse KOBO share only 17% of the U.S. market. KOBO competes strongly against Amazon in Canada. Amazon dominates in all other English speaking markets.

Anecdotal evidence from a wide variety of user forums at Amazon, on Goodreads (Disclaimer: It is now Amazon owned but opinions are those of the members writing) and on independent sites suggests that downloads through KOLL and borrows through KU have been a boon to debut authors and less established indie authors. More established indie and traditionally published authors selling eBooks at price points above $2.99 have seen an overall decrease in Amazon based income for books in the KDP Select program. Conversely, authors with books not in the program are reporting a decrease in sales across the spectrum of other retail and subscription sites since the advent of Kindle Unlimited. Indie eBook buyers seem to be migrating to Amazon and becoming borrowers. They’re spending less and reading lots more for their money.

We always hear we shouldn’t put all of our eggs in one basket. Smashwords and BookBaby, two of the largest sellers of publishing services to indie authors in the eBook realm, are loud opponents of not diversifying. Of course, their bias is obvious; they get a percentage of sales from each publisher they load your books to or, especially in the case of BookBaby, a large up front fee to do all of the work for you and let you have all of your royalties. I ask does it make sense to diversify as a debut or not well known author to become better known or does it make sense to make as much income as you can as you get established? The answer to that question will be different for everyone. For me personally, with only two books out, I’ll stick with KDP Select right now and get revenue from borrows. Why? Because that’s where most of the buyers/borrowers that will give me a chance are. I’ll supplement with strong marketing campaigns and I’ll maintain a visible presence on social media.

I’m working on my third book in the series now, ‘Dana’s Dilemma‘. It too will be a Kindle Select title when it’s released in April. So too will be a planned fourth book which will represent a major turning point in the series. My thoughts are to also release books 1-4 then as a collection to ALL venues and see how it does. By then, I should have a little name recognition from social media and maybe, just maybe I can attract some buyers out of the 33% (or less) of the market not held by Amazon. We’ll see what happens.

What do you say? Do you have numbers you’d be willing to share about your sales inside or outside of Amazon?

About Anne Hagan

I'm an East Central Ohio based government employee by day and a fiction author by night. I specialize in mystery fiction featuring lesbian sleuths and cozy fiction featuring women sleuths. I also dabble in romance especially romantic lesfic. I live with my wife and our dogs in a tiny town that’s even smaller than the Morelville of my first fiction series and we wouldn't have it any other way. My wife grew up here and she has always called this little village home. Though it’s an ultra-conservative rural community, we're surrounded here by family, longtime friends and many other wonderful people with open hearts and minds. My wife and I are the co-owners of a commercial haunted house: Hagan's House of Horrors. Much as my dream has always been to write fiction, hers has been to create it through the medium of horror. We went full commercial in 2015. Watch us as we grow!
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