Hugh Howey has produced another insightful AuthorEarning’s report, this time focusing on the impact of Kindle Unlimited (KU), which is Amazon’s ebook service launched this summer. According to Howey, and based on what I’ve read elsewhere, it’s possible that KU might be hurting sales for self-publishers. According to Howey, the reason is that ebooks downloaded from KU earn the same amount as a sale for traditional publishers but for self-publishers payment depends on how much money is in the shared pool of funds.
For the October report, Howey’s team pulled data from 120,000 ebooks off of Amazon’s data product pages, which is his largest snapshot of the industry to date. The first five charts in Howey’s report focus on five different assumptions about the KU borrow rate, and what it could mean to an author’s income. He then goes on to assess daily sales rates and other data. As Howey notes, these snapshots started only nine months ago and might not reflect true and consistent trends in ebook sales. It will be interesting to see if next year’s reports differ significantly from what he found this year.
Howey’s findings show that KU does seem to have an impact on ebook rankings, visibility, and therefore potential income for self-published authors. I know that indie authors have been complaining about it for weeks on various forums, so he could be right, but I’m not sure if the impact affects all genres or all authors.
Howey states there were 2,908,475 ebooks sold on Amazon, and that 25.6% of them are available through the KU program at the time he prepared this latest report. Of those 25.6% available, 20% of them are on KU’s bestseller list and sub-lists. You can read a lot more information and interesting stats by reading the full report.
Author Earnings reports were created to help authors make clearer choices about how to publish and sell their books. I think the intention was good, but after studying all the material and charts, and reading all the explanations and interpretations of Howey’s findings over the past nine months, I still have no idea which publishing option would generate the best income for me. If I was to self-publish, should I go with KDP or not? KU or not? CreateSpace or not? Of course, my royalty rate would be higher than it is with a traditional publisher, but would I sell enough copies to cover the cost of hiring a jacket designer and good editor? Despite the growing number of self-publishers making a living from writing, the overwhelming percentage of authors are not, based on stats from different sources. While I appreciate the time and trouble Howey has taken to compile all that data, the decision about publishing choices is more perplexing than ever.