The Kindle Unlimited Experiment Results
For those of you who haven’t noticed, Super Powereds: Year 1 is back on the site. Yes, after 3 long months in Kindle Unlimited, it’s finally back in its serial home. I’ve gotten a lot of questions from folks who wanted to know how the time away went, and if it will be happening again, so I thought for ease it made the most sense to just turn the experience into a blog for everyone curious on considering taking a similar tactic with their own work.
Just a real quick recap here, for those who don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. If you’re already aware of what went down, skip to the next section. Basically, with all of the Super Powereds audio books (of what is out in ebook form) released, I needed to do some promo work for the books themselves. And Amazon only lets you do that through Kindle Unlimited, which requires the book not be available anywhere else, and yes, free versions of serials count. So I took Year 1 down from the site for the minimum time to do a KU run, 3 months, back in September. Okay, now you’re all caught up!
I’m not going into hard numbers here, but I don’t think it’s a secret to anyone that managing income streams is a big part of being a self-employed writer. We have to pay some attention to what’s coming in each month, otherwise we’re likely to end up back in a cube, secretly writing between visits from our boss. And, in terms of overall gain, this was kind of a blowout for KU. There are two ways to look at revenue from having Year 1 on the site: ad-money and attracting new readers who go on to purchase other books from me that aren’t free. It’s quasi-impossible to measure the second part with any real metrics, so I have to stick with ad-revenue for the fiscal measuring stick. On the same end, with KU the main fiscal sources are the payments per page read and the new readers brought in by the promos or free KU reading options who go on to try other books. Again, pretty hard to quantify the second part so we’ll stick to the first.
Now as I said, we’re avoiding real numbers here, but I don’t mind talking about ratios. In the race between ad-revenue vs. KU page-read payments, the only easily measureable fiscal metrics we have between the two, KU is the winner by nearly 4 times as much. Trust me, it’s less impressive when you see how small both sets of numbers are, but the point remains that KU does still earn a shitload better. Fiscally, this experiment was a rousing success. So I’m sure some of you are wondering why I let it come to an end. Why not just keep Year 1 on KU for good if it earns better there? Well, the simplest answer is that while I do have to be aware of money to keep doing this job, it’s not the most important decision making factor when it comes to my books. That comes down to the next part in the evaluation:
As those of you who were around for the blog announcing this know, I don’t move anything out of the serial community lightly. I love that SP started and continues here, and I’ve never wanted to tear it away from its original home. But I have to say, I was really amazed by all the support you folks showed at me having to try this out. I was braced for a lot of backlash, instead you all understood that it was something done out of need, not a desire to drop the story’s origins, and I was genuinely touched by all the great comments and e-mails I got from people assuring me that it was okay, and you understood. In the whole three months, I only got one or two negative e-mails, and they were clearly from people mad at not getting to read a book for free rather than someone in the community feeling betrayed. I just wanted to say thanks for that, it meant a lot to know you all were with me on this trial.
In terms of more objective measurements, growth for the site did slow down during the time when Year 1 was on KU, which was to be expected. It’s the first step into the series, and with it gone the task of getting invested had a much higher hurdle. That said, the slowing wasn’t as bad as I expected, and I think that’s because a lot of people found the site from the book on KU. I’ve gotten quite a few messages from people who found me through Year 1 on KU, then kept reading on the site. I know that’s anecdotal, but without any tangible way to track reader migration from one medium to another, it’s the best I’ve got to work with data-wise. Essentially, if you’re considering doing this with a project of your own, yes you’ll see some growth slow down, however you’ll also be reaching out to a big new audience on KU as well.
Will it Happen Again?
Almost certainly yes. I don’t say that with a great amount of joy in my heart, but the fact remains that promoting books on Amazon is a necessity to stay afloat, and sooner or later I’ll probably have to move another piece of the series back into Kindle Unlimited to make sure it stays relevant in people’s minds. However, I’m going to try and pull something that doesn’t act as the front door for most new readers next time. Corpies is clearly the best candidate to fill that role, although I don’t know when I’ll put it in there yet. Hopefully it won’t be needed soon, as I’m enjoying having my whole series under one roof again.
As for the main series books, I doubt I’ll ever put more than Year 1 up on KU. Yanking something out of the middle just feels… weird, and like a real dick move to new readers. Hitting a “Sorry, this is e-book only right now” hurdle on the first book is inconvenient, sure, but no one is invested yet. Getting that on book 2 or 3 seems like a bait-and-switch at the very least. That said, I do know the next time Year 1 will be going on KU already, and it’s during the lead-up for when Year 4 gets released (no, there’s no date for that yet, we’re still way too far out). Once the last of the series is on pre-order, it just makes sense to have the first one free again. But I don’t think that will happen for a good bit, so rest easy. Year 1 is home, and is here to stay for quite a while.
Thanks again for bearing with me through this test everyone, and hopefully this offers a little insight into why I had to give this a whirl, as well as whether or not it was a worthwhile endeavor for your own projects.