Posts Tagged kindle

My Month of Amazon KDP Select

It is just over a month since Amazon announced KDP Select, opening their Kindle Owners Lending Library to independent publishers.  After deliberating the pros and cons, I took the plunge, giving the program a try.  It has certainly been interesting!

Today, Amazon announced the results of the program so far.  First, I’ll share my experience with the program during this month.

After I signed up my techno thriller Counting from Zero, reluctantly saying goodbye to Smashwords, I didn’t have long to wait – the borrows started happening immediately.  After Christmas, I saw another wave of borrows, presumably new Kindle owners.  Then, in the first few days of the month, another surge.  (I presume this means that borrows are done on a calendar month rather than 30 day periods.  If this is true, we will often see lots of borrows at the start of the month.)

In the 3 weeks of December KDP Select was active, for my eBook, borrows represented 18% of Amazon activity (sales plus borrows).  For January so far, the percentage is about 16%, but with higher numbers of both sales and borrows.  I’d estimate overall sales seem to be up about 25% since Christmas.  Since my sales have increased but my sales ranking has not, this seems to be a general trend, at least in my category.  So, looking at my numbers, since the non-Amazon eBooks sales I gave up to participate in KDP Select only accounted for 5% of my total sales, I appear to be ahead of the game, at least in terms of numbers.  But the question was what would publishers get paid for borrows?  Amazon did not commit to any royalty rate when the program was launched, instead saying authors would share a $500,000 pot of money based on borrowing numbers.

Amazon answered that question today in announcing that KDP Select authors will receive $1.70 for each borrow in December, based on 295,000 borrows in December.  For my relatively low-priced eBook of $2.99, this isn’t much lower than my normal royalty for a sale, which is about $2.  I have yet to try out a free book giveaway day, so I can’t share my experience with this aspect of KDP Select, but I hope to soon.

So, one month in, I do not regret my decision to give KDP Select a try.  I see no reason why I won’t renew (re-enlist?) in two more months. However, I am still unhappy about the exclusivity requirement, as are many other independent publishers.  Amazon, if you are paying attention, this requirement just stinks and you should drop it.

How was your month with KDP Select?

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How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Amazon

Today I ditched a long time partner, Smashwords.  I feel really, really bad.  I remember clearly the day I found the site and realized I could use this one excellent site for distributing my eBook on multiple platforms: iBooks, Nook, Diesel, Kobo, Sony, etc.  I loved the way I could generate free download coupons for my eBook.  I raved about Smashwords on this blog.  Between Smashwords and Amazon KDP  (Kindle Direct Publishing), I had my eBook publishing bases covered.

As of today, I am using Amazon KDP exclusively to distribute my eBook, Counting from Zero.

Why?  Because of the terms of the new KDP Select program Amazon launched today.  In exchange for forsaking Smashwords (and all others), my eBook will be a part of Amazon’s Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, a brand new part of their Prime service.  Users of this service get to “borrow” one eBook per month for free.  Authors and publishers get no royalty, but instead will split a slush fund from Amazon based on their books share of lending.  How much will this be?  No one knows – it depends on the degree to which users adopt this new model.  There is also the opportunity to offer my eBook for free promotions, as well.

Why did I decide to participate?  Well, the financial calculation was trivial.  As the pie chart shows, 88% of my sales have been eBooks on KDP, with 7% paperbacks (on Amazon and B&N), and just 5% eBooks through Smashwords.  To give up those 5% sales to add a new distribution channel is an easy calculation.  Also, I just love being able to participate in the disruption of the publishing industry, and it will be a very interesting ride the next few months to see if this takes off.

Despite the title of this blog (apologies to Dr. Strangelove), I do still worry about Amazon.  Their power in the publishing industry is growing exponentially.  If the Kindle Fire takes off and lending as well, it will give Amazon even more leverage.  I really, really don’t like the exclusive requirement for Kindle Select.  It feels awful to say goodbye to Smashwords, a site that has been extremely useful to me this year.

So, here it is – it will be interesting to see how it goes!

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The Path to Publication

Counting from Zero Book Cover

Counting from Zero Book by Alan B. Johnston

In my first blog posting, I covered the writing the first draft of Counting from Zero.  I thought that was the hard part, until I realized the path in front of me to get to publication!

First, I needed feedback from readers, so I enlisted various friends and family, some in the publishing industry, some not.  My brother Chris was an early reviewer and gave me good feedback on the part on the water. (I’m being deliberately vague for to-be readers who haven’t yet read the book!)  I made quite a few tweaks and changes, and fixed seemingly a million typos and nits.  I probably went through four major drafts over a period of about eight months.  Fortunately, I had my IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) standards writing experience behind me, which had taught me how many revisions are sometimes needed before something is ready for publication.  I often describe IETF standards work as the ultimate peer reviewed documents.  For example, one of the documents I co-authored underwent 21 revisions over 9 years before it was finalized and published as an RFC document! (Here is only the latter part of the journey!)

Once I felt I had the manuscript ready, I had it copyedited and proofread.  I then wrote a one page ‘query letter’ to literary agents and began sending it all over.  I was shocked at how many agents will not accept a query from email!  They actually require you to kill a tree, pay money to the postal service, and have it delivered as snail mail – just so they can read it on a piece of paper!  I didn’t query any of those agents – if they are so last century in their business methods, would they even appreciate my high tech thriller?  Not likely!  I probably sent out about 120 queries in total.  I ended up getting about a dozen requests for a partial or full manuscript.  Then I waited… and waited… and waited.

Then the whole Wikileaks Internet wars started.  I knew something amazing was happening when I saw a USA Today headline that mentioned botnets!  The timing was right, and I could not wait forever (or more than 8 weeks) for someone to skim a manuscript.  I did eventually talk to one helpful agent that was interested, but she warned me that it would be about 6 months before she could get to work on it, and then it would likely take 12 months to land a publisher, and then it would likely be 12-18 months of publisher rewrites, edits, and process delays before it would be published!  And I thought the 6-8 month times I have had with my technical book publishers, Artech House and Wiley, was a long time!  For technology topics, these timelines are outrageously long!

So, I decided to take the plunge and self-publish.  It was not as difficult as it might seem, although writing the promotional material was really, really hard.  I had some help from friends in the industry, but that was definitely the hardest part.  I used an app from Amazon called ‘kindlegen’ which worked pretty well to product a .mobi file from a .html source file.  I was also pleased to be given the opportunity to sell my work the Amazon Kindle store without any DRM (Digital Rights Management), but that is a topic for another day…

I used the excellent online tools at Smashwords (great name!) to generate the other eBook formats, and I was quite happy with the results there, although there are a few font issues that I wasn’t able to fully resolve in all formats.  The community at Smashwords seems really great as well, and I look forward to getting involved there.

For me, the two best things about self publishing are that I kept creative control of the book (there isn’t anything in there I didn’t want) and that I published on my timeline, not anyone else’s.

So right now I am quite happy with the experience, and getting feedback from friends, family, and people I don’t know about my book is just the best!   Next time I’ll share some thoughts about my experiences using social media to promote self-published eBooks.

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