Indies- be independent

The self-publishing world is a fast moving one. I have been “in this business” for a little under 6 months, and can already see the tide is turning. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, authors should be finding ways to reduce their reliance on Amazon for their titles.

On March 1st, a new set of terms and conditions for Amazon’s Affiliate Programme come into force. This programme, for those who don’t know, allows website owners to earn a commission from Amazon each time a visitor to their website results in a purchase (or several) on Amazon. OK, I hear you say, what has that to do with me? I don’t have an Affiliate account.

Are you planning a free promo for your book? Are you hoping to get 10,000 maybe even 30,000 downloads during that promotion? Are you praying to any deity who might listen that sites like Ereader News Today or Pixel of Ink will mention your book? Well, it looks like we have reached the end of the road…

Here’s one of the new stipulations on Amazon…

“In addition, notwithstanding the advertising fee rates described on this page or anything to the contrary contained in this Operating Agreement, if we determine you are primarily promoting free Kindle eBooks (i.e., eBooks for which the customer purchase price is $0.00), YOU WILL NOT BE ELIGIBLE TO EARN ANY ADVERTISING FEES DURING ANY MONTH IN WHICH YOU MEET THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:
(a) 20,000 or more free Kindle eBooks are ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links; and
(b) At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during Sessions attributed to your Special Links are free Kindle eBooks.”

Amazon are choking off, in one stroke, the big free book promo sites from promoting free ebooks. 20,000 a month works out at approximately 660 free downloads a day, attributed to their sites. Any more than that and they won’t get paid for any sales they generate on paid books, Kindles or anything else their visitors decide to buy.

Paragraph (b) may allow a little wiggle room if the affiliates can boost their sales of paid books to more than 20%, but whatever way you look at it, the amount of free titles these sites are going to promote is going to be brought down even further than we have seen in recent months.

Amazon, whilst still happy to allow free ebooks on their site, are trying to reduce the volume that get downloaded. They aren’t making as much money as they want to, so they are encouraging (or at least trying to) more paid sales than free downloads.

So what does that mean for us Indie authors? It means there’s another reason not to rely on Amazon for your sales. Many are in the cycle of “poor sales, run a promo, get a few thousand downloads, have a few weeks of modestly boosted sales, back to selling nothing again, wait for 3 month cycle to start again”. Facebook is out (unless you want to pay to promote your posts), Twitter, is for most people, useless. Readers don’t buy books from adverts or promo threads on forums, and now KDP Select is not as effective either.

So what’s the point in remaining in KDP Select? In my opinion, there isn’t one. I would imagine in a couple of months, Amazon will change the incentives for Select. Already, having not enrolled Uprising in it, I’m tied into the 35% royalty for sales in Indie, Brazil and Japan. I can’t earn 70% unless the book is in Select. Do not be surprised if later in the year the only way you can get 70% in all countries is to be part of Select. Hopefully, they’ll raise the 35% bottom line up for those not signed up. I will still take 50% and be non-exclusive to Amazon than get 70% to be tied into just their site.

2013 is going to be an interesting year for Amazon and ebooks. Authors are going to have to come up with new ways of driving sales to their own titles. Whatever ideas people come up with, they should remember that they are Indie authors not Amazon authors. Independence. Focus on that word. Build your own reader base, however you do it, make readers aware of who you are and where they can find you, not your Amazon page. Have a website and use it to your advantage. Drive traffic to your website, not Amazon’s (directly). Let them find your books on your site. On your site there are only your books, no-one else’s to distract them. Yes, most of your sales (assuming you are not exclusive) will still be to Amazon customers, but they will have come to Amazon from your site, not because they found you on Amazon.

It’s an uphill battle, one that will take years, not weeks or months. We all like the rush of excitement as our free download numbers go up every second, but weeks, even days later it’s all over again. No sales today, sorry.

You are an Indie author, be proud of that. Now go, find your independence.

Oh, what am I doing? is what I’m doing. All will be revealed later in the year (not too much later, though.)


3 comments on “Indies- be independent

  1. Very interesting post Damien. I think you have hit the nail on the head when you say “build up your reader base”–this is, in my opinion, absolutely key. I have resisted putting OGJ in Select (although my shorter piece is enrolled) for precisely the reasons you mention. I simply don’t believe that the constant cycle of declining sales -> free promo -> boost -> declining sales is a healthy way to build a platform.

    What modest success I have thus far achieved has been based on connecting with readers in my target market. This is another reason why I’m reluctant to promote within the ‘indie bubble’ (although that’s a topic for another blog post!) I have found most success from Twitter, which has a healthy following of outdoorsy types, and relevant forums–forums which have nothing to do with indie publishing or books. Media slots in outdoor radio shows and relevant publications have also helped.

    Independence really is the key and we all have to find our own strategy. I would urge indies to think carefully about their business plans and don’t just do what everyone else is doing. Every book is different and will require a unique approach.

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