Home » Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon, Apple, Kobo » The 30% Rule of Selling eBooks ~ Go Exclusive? Or Sell Everywhere?

The 30% Rule of Selling eBooks ~ Go Exclusive? Or Sell Everywhere?

9 February 2016

From author Donna Fasano:

Several years ago, an Amazon rep told me that selling my books via Amazon Select—going exclusive to Amazon—would greatly benefit me as an author. When I voiced some reluctance to remove my books from the reach of Nook, Kobo, iBook, and Google Book readers, he went on to explain that, as long as my earnings from other venues was at or below 30% of my total earnings, then the extra sales I would see at Amazon Select would make up for the loss.

The terms and conditions of Select have changed with the invention of Kindle Unlimited, so I don’t even know if the 30% rule still applies. I currently have 4 of my 18 self-published books in the Amazon Select Program for a second 3-month stint which will end in two weeks. The way I figure it, it’s good to try new things. However, the Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENP) Read have shown pretty dismal results/earnings. Before removing the 4 books from Select, I needed more sales information from the various venues where my books are available.

. . . .

The information clearly shows that, during the past 4 months, I’ve only had 1 month where Amazon Kindle sales were greater than 70%.

With the advent of Kobo’s fabulous new Promotions Tab on my Kobo Author Dashboard, I believe my Kobo sales and readership will grow. I’m still learning how the promotional campaigns work and which ones fit best for my books, but it seems that I have gotten it right 2 months out of 4. I imagine I will only become better at choosing and marketing the correct campaigns. I can tell you that during the first week of February, Kobo and Amazon are neck and neck with Kobo at 40.5% and Amazon at 43%. Also, I get a thrill when I see Kobo readers in Nigeria, Qatar, South Africa, Slovakia, Columbia, and dozens of other countries are reading my books.

Link to the rest at Donna Fasano and thanks to Al for the tip.

Here’s a link to Donna Fasano’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Advertising-Promotion-Marketing, Amazon, Apple, Kobo

39 Comments to “The 30% Rule of Selling eBooks ~ Go Exclusive? Or Sell Everywhere?”

  1. It’s nice to see Kobo trying to compete with Amazon with the Promotions tab. The more viable competitors the better. Maybe AU could then take some time to campaign for the Big5 to offer fair contracts.

  2. Thank you for posting my blog. I hope other authors will chime in with their experiences.

  3. Where is the promotions tab on the Kobo dashboard? I’m not seeing it on my dashboard. Is it a new feature available to only a few authors at this time? I’d love to know more about it, as well as how Donna is using it.

    • They started rolling it out last year and I believe it’s now open to everyone. When you log in to your Kobo Writing Life account, you’ll see it right in the navigation bar at the top of the page: Dashboard – Ebooks – Promotions – Author Services – Help

      Click on Promotions and you’ll land on a page that lists a whole buffet of tasty promo opportunities. Some are genre-specific (open only to Thrillers or SF, for example) while others are open to any genre. Choose the promo you want, click the Get Started button, and decide which book you want to submit. They do curate these, so you’ll need a great cover, description, etc. to get chosen. Some promos are free and others have a small charge, like $5 or 10% of your royalties on that book during the promo period. You don’t pay it up front; they just deduct it when they send your regular monthly payment.

      I usually do one promo per month, and my monthly earnings at Kobo have more than doubled since last year.

      Important note: these promos are only open to authors who upload directly to Kobo. You can’t get them if you distribute through Smashwords, D2D, etc.

    • JM, if you upload your books directly to Kobo (as Shelly has described), contact Kobo Writing Life: writinglife@kobo.com. Ask them if you meet the qualifications to have a Promotions Tab on your Author Dashboard.

      • Ah, that’s useful. Do you know what the criteria are? Or does one simply ask and wait for their reply?

        • I’m guessing here, but they probably look at your book covers and your book descriptions to see if they are professionally presented. Oh, and I do know Kobo really prefers that authors end their pricing with 99 ($0.99, $1.99, $2.99, etc).

          I simply asked about the Promotions Tab and I received a reply from Writing Life.

          • That sounds promising! My sales are modest, so I wouldn’t be able to meet a high sales threshold. But I can do professional presentation and prices ending in 99. 😀 Thanks!

      • I wrote to them this morning and had an answer within hours. The Promotion tab is still in beta, but they added me to the test group. Woohoo!

        I love Kobo. They are far and away the most responsive and doing price promotions is easy breezy. Here’s hoping we can all grow together! They’re the ideal alternative for folks who want EPUB.

        Thanks for the tip!!

      • Thanks for sharing your experiences with KU and giving a heads up on the new Kobo feature. I’ve emailed them as well. They’re probably getting deluged with requests today. 🙂

    • From the “HELP: FAQS” document… (as an alternative to waiting for the overall Promotions tab).

      How do I set up a temporary promo price for my book?

      Once your book is published, to set up a temporary price for your book, select the book in your Kobo Writing Life account, and go to the “Set the price” step. Select the “Set promo price” button below the price table. This will allow you to set start and end dates for your promotion, as well as the price by currency.

      • Thanks, Karen. I’ve used the price promo tool. Very handy! I really like that one need not manually change all the prices back to normal when the promo is done. But I’d like to have access to the advertising opportunities that the promotions tab possesses.

  4. Yes indeed. I did about 5x more on Kobo in 2015 over 2014 because of the new Promotions feature.

  5. Ditto everything Donna said. I continue to experiment with KU, but so far I’ve been underwhelmed. Especially with the recent KENPC cut — which was 20% for me, not 5% — the measly earnings just don’t justify going exclusive.

    OTOH, iBooks and Kobo have really stepped up their game over the past year, reaching out to indie authors and offering generous merchandising support. The Kobo Promotions tab is genius. It works a lot like a Kindle Countdown Deal or free promo, except that it’s available to everyone. They don’t require exclusivity in exchange for promoting your books, and you can do a promo every month, not just once every 90 days. A lot of Kobo promos are done via coupons, so you also don’t have to worry about other retailers price-matching.

    In terms of my author earnings, iBooks is now consistently #1 for me, followed by Amazon, with Kobo at #3 and rising fast. Google Play is also generating a nice monthly income. B&N, sadly, now ranks at the bottom. I barely earn pocket change there anymore.

  6. I just made the switch from all vendors to KU, and I have seen an increase in pages read but a decrease in sales. I didn’t do much on B & N, and I did terribly on Apple, but Kobo was building. I might go back and try again with a few of the books to try the promo tab.

  7. The ebook market continues to evolve. One nice thing about being indie is that we can adapt and take advantage of new opportunities immediately. Plus with networking, we find out about them quickly.

    Thanks for an informative post, Donna.

  8. Thanks for sharing! I need to try this for my series that isn’t in Select and hasn’t sold at all.

    I still think that Select is helpful if you don’t have any following. I had a bare dribble of sales for my post-apocalyptic series, then nothing. I put it into Select and at least I’m getting KENPS every day. And my free promotion that just ended did well – downloads all over the world.

  9. Love Donna’s report. I too tried KU with 3 books and it was a failure IMHO…the week I was able to put all 3 books back everywhere..wow…they were bought up, especiall on iTunes.

    I think it’s nice to experiment…and might try KU again if terms change…but for only one book.

  10. I make between 40% and 55% of my total revenue from KU pagereads. Sales alone are great, but the pagereads effectively double my income. The only way Kobo could pry me away from that kind of awesomeness is by offering some very heavy-duty promotional tools. Or if Amazon were to decrease their royalty split or promotional benefits.

    I used to have a few books distributed wide via Smashwords, and got a decent amount of free downloads and reviews, but very very few actual sales. That convinced me that 99% of the serious purchasers are at Amazon.

  11. I have my second book in KDP. I am going another 90 days so that I can evaluate properly.

  12. The game has changed and Amazon’s KENP has sapped more than one author’s income. Another one of Amazon’s promotions is the Countdown Deal (low price for book gradually increases over a few days until it’s back at full price). I used to see a great rise in sale from it, but recently ran two books with dismal results. Even free book ‘sales’ are dropping. Amazon, you need to change up your plan (again). I have not heard one author say a positive word about KENP and now it’s sapping their other promotions.

  13. This is good information. I did look for the Kobo promotions tab when it first came out but couldn’t find it, going back to check again!

  14. Donna – you sell well with all the venders, but for me, I was going down the tube fast. I stuck it out for nearly a year, and then had to pull all my books. I would love to have my books everywhere and hope in the future that I will be able to once again. Interesting post!

    • Patrice, building a readership takes time and effort. I know you know that. Gone are the days when authors can get away with “just writing the book.” We must cultivate our mailing lists, start street teams, market ourselves, advertise our books. It’s a crazy and exciting world. 🙂

  15. It’s good to hear that AZ competitors are offering author services; definitely something to consider moving forward. My own experiences with KU 2.0. have been overwhelmingly positively (over 60% of my income over the last four months has come from pages read, and my overall income has grown in leaps and bounds over the same period). I realize that may be due to the genres I’ve chosen, plain dumb luck, or any number of other factors, so I can’t fault anybody for going wide.

    I am moving the first book of my least successful series out of KU (horror and my favorite book so far, but it is selling less copies in a year than most of my other books sell in a month) and trying other venues to see how it does. If it works, great; if it doesn’t, a couple of mouse clicks and I’ll be back on Select.

  16. I put most of my books in one series into Select/KU for 90 days. Most of them haven’t been selling at other vendors (other than Scribd, but all but 1 title was scrubbed during Scribd’s romance cull and sales for the remaining title dropped drastically there).

    January page reads were better than last year’s Select/KU experiment with 2 unrelated shorts and a standalone novel (that experiment was such a dud, I didn’t renew for those 3 titles), even though the series titles were put in on Jan. 21st.

    February page reads are currently almost double January’s. Being in Select isn’t affecting this series’ sales (only one title really sees any sales every month, except during new release period for my other series).

    So far, I’m happy with the results. Even less than half a cent per page read is better than nothing for most of this series’ titles.

    I go through D2D, so don’t have the promotions tab available for Kobo. However, my sales at Kobo, Apple, and B&N have grown quite a bit since I switched from Smashwords to D2D for distribution in mid-2014, and they continue to grow.

    Even so, as of the end of January, Amazon’s still over 97% of my sales, while those 3 retailers are each less than 1%.

    Now I’m trying to decide whether or not to go direct with Kobo based on this post, and knowing my sales are growing there already. 🙂

  17. I haven’t had great results (yet) with KENP but it’s likely due to that pen name being unknown. With a popular series, I put a new release into KU last year and on release day got an email from a reader wanting to know when it would be available on Nook. I’ll keep putting those books everywhere, but will continue to experiment with KENP under the pen name.

  18. I’m in a very different position, as I’m not really established yet.

    I have all my books in KU, and my author rank average has risen recently. I believe it’s the fact that readers subscribing to KU won’t risk a thing trying out my books. In fact, I’m promoting my books now as “FREE on KU”, and can see the difference.

    I had one book wide for a year, through D2D. Barely made the payout threshold after one year, then I pulled it and put it back into KU.

    So I suppose it depends on where an author is in their career whether KU is useful or not. If you’re a lowly noob like me, it could really help.

    • Being a “noob,” as you put it *grin*, might have a little something to do with your experience, Hannah. However, I know well-established authors who are doing extremely well in the Amazon Select Program. These authors are happy with their KENP Read numbers/earnings. The program just hasn’t worked out that way for me.

  19. Donna – I actually had all my books up everywhere until a few months ago. I slowly started taking a few and adding them to Select and I noticed that I was getting followers reading one book in a series and then the other books were being selected also. I had done a fair amount of promos and I think it’s how the readers found me. So… I moved a few more over and noticed that they too were being chosen. Now I have everything except the one series and a book from another series on Select and this last month seems to have paid off. But…having said that, Kobo is still the one place that has been good to me and I still sell the books available there fairly well – and yes – it’s because of their promos.

    • Mimi, I have heard this from many authors, and it brings a smile to my face to hear that anyone is finding success with a plan of action. I really am happy that Select is working for you. I didn’t see the same results for my own books. I wish you continued success!

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