Before I begin, I have no agenda here but the pursuit of truth. There's an author on another forum that I frequent who brought it to my attention that, for all the respectable news outlets reporting on this "indie falling out" with Kindle Unlimited, there hasn't been a whole of fact checking going on. In fact, during a search, I haven't found a single news organization that has critically looked at Ms Ward's often-repeated "75% loss". From Ms Ward's own posts (and please excuse me for cherry picking):
Ok, some of you already know, but I had my serials in it for 60 days and lost approx 75% of my income. Thats counting borrows and bonuses.
both months I was an 'All Star'
It effected the entire list including books not enrolled bc buyers changed into borrowers, who in turn did not spend money on my other titles.
That was my thinking, but nope. The only titles I enrolled were priced at $2.99 or lower and shorter works.
There was a decline in sales when KU launched, but not 75% worth.
I had non exclusive terms, so this doesn't account for other platforms, only amazon while in KU for 60 days.
Yes, it was only Amazon and it occurred AFTER enrolling the books in KU. So I lost 75% of my income from kdp in 60 days. As soon as the books were withdrawn, sales began to perk back up.
So, to sum up: Ms. Ward's series "The Arrangement", all volumes of which are priced at $2.99, were enrolled in Kindle Unlimited on or around September 5. No works higher priced than $2.99 were ever enrolled.
The following graph shows the sales rank of several of The Arrangement's volumes over the course of 2014. This information was obtained from Novelrank and can be verified independently.
Note the time period between September 5 and November 1, in which the sales rank went from around 4000 to around 500. A low sales rank indicates more sales and borrows. No other author has come up with credible evidence that borrows are weighted higher than sales, so we're left with the conclusion that her sales plus borrows increased to about 800% of their previous level. Of course, as people will be quick to point out, a reader doesn't have to actually read the book for the borrow to affect sales rank, thus creating the "phantom borrows" effect. And I could believe that it could be a pronounced effect for the first book, maybe even the second book. But not the seventh book, and certainly not the thirteenth book. This graph was also taken from Novelrank and can be verified independently.
With an increase to 800% of sales and borrows, if we assume that every one of those was a borrow and an average loss of revenue of 33% per borrow versus a sale, it would take a ratio of twenty unread borrows for every copy read to at least 10% to account for a 75% loss in revenue. This is simply unrealistic.
But, as noted above, Ms. Ward also takes into account the fact that, now that her shorts were in Kindle Unlimited, nobody bought her novels anymore. However, the data that I was able to find showed a natural decay in sales, no different than anyone else experiences with their books. For every novel that we were able to get data on, we got similar results. This graph was also taken from Novelrank and can be verified independently.
She specifically points out that this was Amazon only. With the data that I have (which can not be verified independently, I apologize), I have speculated that she easily made the Top 10 KDP All Star list in September, and probably landed between 9 and 12 on the list in October, with several of her books receiving individual All Star bonuses. If we add that into her sales figures, it adds something like 75 cents per borrow for that time period, bringing her average rate per borrow to parity with the royalty received from a $2.99 sale during the months of September and October.
There are other factors, of course. The Arrangement 16 was released in late August and remained in the top 100 for the first part of her Kindle Unlimited stint, but fell out quicker than usual. This may be due to a myriad of factors (including other authors taking advantage of Kindle Unlimited) but, with no release in October, her sales began to flag, though not even close to the level we saw in early September (the time before she entered Kindle Unlimited).
I've never seen when this 75% drop is supposed to cover, exactly. If she's talking about a 75% drop from October 2013 to October 2014, that's a pretty disingenuous statement. If she's talking about a drop from March 2014 to October 2014 (the earliest time period that I can see this possibly being true), that's still disingenuous. The only honest time frame is comparing sales of August 2014 with sales of September 2014 or October 2014, the time immediately preceding her time in Kindle Unlimited compared with the time that she was in it. And I'm not seeing it.
I don't know what Ms. Ward's motives are in misrepresenting this data and I don't care to speculate, but I think that it would behoove the multiple establishment newspaper and other reporting agencies to do the minimum required fact checking before running articles such as this. I don't expect Ms. Ward to respond to this but I would be curious to see what kind of explanation she has for this huge disconnect in numbers.