Three months ago, with a slightly immoderate amount of handwringing, I pulled The Unbound Man from Kobo, iBooks, and other ebook retailers and enrolled in KDP Select. I did this with some fairly hefty reservations about Amazon’s exclusivity requirements, but I felt that a three month experiment was worth running. And I promised that when the three months were up, I’d assess the results and decide whether to continue the experiment or wrap it up and republish the ebook outside Amazon.
So here we are, three months on. What’s happened?
The first two months of KDP Select were disappointing to say the least. Regular sales continued to bump along, but Kindle Unlimited barely registered. Some writers have reported KU taking over half or more of their sales, but in the case of The Unbound Man, KU accounted for little more than 10% of total units sold. At Christmas the result looked pretty clear. KDP Select was doing nothing for me. When the ninety days expired, I’d end the trial and move on.
Then, in the week between Christmas and the new year, I ran a moderately-successful promotion (100+ sales in a couple of days). The residual post-promotion sales tailed off after a week or so… but in their wake, starting early January, an interesting thing happened. Kindle Unlimited sales started to pick up.
In the last few weeks, regular sales have more or less returned to where they were prior to the promotion, but KU sales have increased dramatically to roughly double the number of regular sales. And that’s not just people who grabbed the book during the promo and took a few weeks to hit the 10% mark — the sales rank has had repeated boosts from new KU readers downloading the book. In raw numerical terms, it’s still not huge, but it’s a definite shift from the pre-promotion pattern.
Maybe it’s just a blip in Amazon’s imponderable algorithms. Maybe the book is actually starting to get a bit of traction in the KU market. Maybe it’s a mixture of both, or the result of some other factor I’m not aware of, or mere chance. Who knows?
Whatever the case, I’ve decided to extend this experiment by another three months. If these results are an indication that The Unbound Man is starting to get some traction, it would be silly to throw that away. And if they’re just a blip, well, that’s fine too. Three months from now I’ll have another chance to pull the pin and turn my focus to other distributors.
Medium to long term, my outlook remains the same. Wide, non-exclusive distribution is still where I want my books to be. Perhaps, when I sit down to write another of these updates in late April, that’s where we’ll be headed.
Let’s see what the next three months bring.
UPDATE (Apr 2015): The experiment is now over. Here’s why.