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Graeme Hague said:
How do you "know" that KU cannibalizes sales? I'm not being argumentative... I'm genuinely interested in any info along these lines. My albeit very modest sales have declined and I cling to my trickle of page reads. The idea that leaving KU might bring my sales back up at all is intriguing, but at the same time why would anyone subscribed to KU buy any books? Aren't KU readers and non-KU readers two different targets altogether?
I look at it like this:

Sales are from people who like to read the same books over and over.
KU2 reads are from people who read once, and never go back to a read book again.

They are polarized ends of the reader spectrum.

Between them are the people who use KU to vet read something new, who then buy what they like, or buy to support an author they want to keep writing.

I dont see KU2 as cannibalizing sales. Instead, its providing a different way of obtaining books, which gives the reader more choice. If anything, I think it boosts overall reading, by making the cost to the read only once people much more reasonable, allowing them to choose to read what they may not have chosen before. For us authors, the bottom line is as long as a full read pays about the same as a sale, it makes no difference if its bought or KU read.

I use a spreadsheet daily, where I enter in sales and pages read for each book, and it calculates the number of full reads for the day, and the grand total.

Borrows is a completely different thing, internal to the Amazon ranking process. While it would be good to be able to compare actual borrows with full read stats, thus showing us how many true full reads we get, Amazon is not likely to give us this info.

Borrows only mattered with KU1. But they didn't tell you how many full reads you had either.
 

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I actually have a pretty good idea about my full reads. I went back into KU about 10 days before KU2 started with one series (3 books). I saw their number of borrows per day over that period, and then, once KU2 began, I saw the page reads. The page reads divided by the number of KENP/book gave me . . . right about the same numbers as for the previous week. That and reviews (I very rarely get "DNF" reviews) told me that most readers read my books all the way through. They may hate a character, they may write a dissertation about it, but they read the book.

I've also been able to see, because of being out of, then in KU, how much cannibalization KU causes. In my case--a LOT. At least 50% of my sales. On the other hand, I get borrows that would NOT otherwise be sales. Net gain.

I don't track because the numbers of "sales" or "reads" are kind of meaningless due to money. For example, I did track the first 3 months of two releases, one tradpubbed and one indie, last summer, and another set of two releases, also one tradpubbed and one indie, last winter. Each of these was two books published about a month apart. Overall, I found I had 40% more borrows/sales (both counted the same--earning the same) on the tradpubbed books, but made 60% more money on the indie books. That has changed over time, as the tradpubbed books get more push.

What matters most to me? How much I make on a book. Besides, tracking is kind of meaningless. I can tell, broad-brush, everything I need to know. For example: I have one series that is sort of "evergreen" without promotion, and also performs the best in audio. I have one series that does consistently well because it gets pretty consistent promotion. I do very well in German. My audio drops precipitously when I haven't had something out for 3+ months, and I need to fix that. Etc.

I used to do corporate stuff where I looked at figures a LOT. I found that unless I were drilling way down, the macro level tended to give me the most information. Actually, I probably get my best information from reviews--the qualitative--rather than the quantitative, beyond general level of rank/money.

Besides, what I really care about is that I make enough so I don't have to get a real job. My income has actually been surprisingly consistent over the past 3 years, much as I always fear it will fall off a cliff. So I don't track.
 

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Oh, and those Amazon reports are very long and complex, and like I said, they put the number of sales into the SAME column as the number of pages read. I'm sure I could set up pivot tables and pull things out and re-sort it, but I'd have to refresh my memory and work at it, and it would take a bunch of time. I only have 20 books, but there are however-many stores and a bunch of lines for every book in each store and...no, thanks. Pain in the neck.

Do I wish they would provide year-end reports with total sales and pages read for each book, and total dollars earned on that book? Sure. But I don't wish it enough to do the work to get that info myself. :)
 

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I don't see the value of quoting sales figures in promotion unless you're selling Stephen King kinds of numbers, and even then, I don't think readers care. When figures are quoted someplace like kboards, to help other authors, I think it's nice if you're willing to break it out into more detail when possible, just to give a fuller picture. X sales, Y page reads, and then a full-read equivalent by dividing your Y page reads by the KENP number assigned to your book. But no one cares about stuff like that but you and other authors.

As for assumptions about KU readers and cannibalization, there is more than one type of KU subscriber. You can assume that almost all of them are avid readers who enjoy the types of genre fiction most readily available in KU, but it's harder to generalize on buying habits. For some, they spend their 10 bucks a month and that's the sum total of their book budget. For others, they also buy titles outright in addition to their KU reading. Some may limit their extra spending to deep discounts like from BookBub. Others are willing to spend full price for something they really want that is not available in other ways. It really depends on the individual and on the genre. In a popular genre, I think if you become a very well-known author, more people would be willing to pay specifically for your book than if they have no idea who you are, so you have to be more aware of the cannibalization. Or, if you are a lesser known author but in a very niche genre where prices are higher and choices fewer, there may be KU subscribers who would pay full price to read your book simply because they get to the end of the KU choices in a month and are still hungry enough for material that it's worth it to them. So, yeah- the more popular you are or the more limited the offerings in your genre, the more KU cannibalization is a real concern. Otherwise, those KU page reads are probably just gravy as very few of those readers would have given your book a chance otherwise.
 

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I only joined Select last year so I've always been in the habit of counting sales separately from borrows. Of course borrows count towards income (significantly, for many people), but I'm pretty proud of my unit sales number, and it's just not the same to say "x sales plus maybe y sales equivalents, I'm not quite sure."  :D
 

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Graeme Hague said:
How do you "know" that KU cannibalizes sales? I'm not being argumentative... I'm genuinely interested in any info along these lines. My albeit very modest sales have declined and I cling to my trickle of page reads. The idea that leaving KU might bring my sales back up at all is intriguing, but at the same time why would anyone subscribed to KU buy any books? Aren't KU readers and non-KU readers two different targets altogether?

Cheers!
For some, this may be true. I think a lot of people take it as an article of faith. I was wide until KU2, and sold about 70% on Amazon. After I went all in, my sales stayed about the same, but my revenue jumped considerably. Right now, I sell about 2-3 times what I did when I was wide, but sales make 35% of revenue. The page reads now provide 65% of revenue on top of more sales than I had when I was wide. Would I do better wide now? I don't know. I do know that the visibility of KU has helped both sales and revenue.
 

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Personally, i count a sale as a sale and a free download as just that. I do lump ebook, paperback, and audiobook sales together on my spreadsheet, but those numbers are drawn from their respective totals. I don't keep track of page reads, other than on my monthly report. Way too much math involved in calculating pages read for each book to arrive at the number of borrows.
 

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Redgum said:
A super quick question here. From time to time I see Kindle writers publishing how many copies they have sold - "100,000" etc. My question is to anyone who has done this - are these including Kindle Unlimited borrows?

I ask because a borrow is technically a sale because the reader paid to read your novel, but sometimes I see writers saying instead - "50,000 sold & 25,000 Kindle Unlimited Borrows"

I'm thinking a lot of writers are throwing their KU borrows into the their "sales" figures - am I right or wrong? Is this dishonest or not?

Thanks R
I think its kind of lame when authors list how many sold. That has no bearing on me purchasing as for all i know they could be lying. You rarely see traditional publishers do it, or announce how much they make.

I say keep that information to yourself.
 

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For my personal records when I was in KU, I kept track of how many KENP pages each book was and then counted one whole read as a "sale" in my spreadsheet. But I wrap that into the Amazon column with regular sales. That adds up with other sales (Createspace, audio, in person, etc.) to give me my total number sold for the book, month, and year. (Evidently, I'm a fan of spreadsheets and watching my numbers grow. ;D)

But that's all for me and my records so I can feel a sense of accomplishment when I see that I've sold X number of books this year. It also helps to determine what promos worked best and how one book is doing over another.

I wouldn't use these numbers to market. They're for me, not for the readers.

A lot of times traditional publishers will say, "A million copies in print!" or "#1 Bestseller!" to give it social proof, but I think that's a dated claim (I'm not sure traditional publishers are even using this tactic anymore). Besides, the social proof the reader needs comes from reviews since most people shop online nowadays. If they see it has a lot of reviews, it must be popular, and therefore a good read.
 

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So--are folks saying that it's not helpful for other authors to post how many sales/sale equivalents they've had when they share their strategies and path to success? I've always taken the opposite view. If somebody's sharing marketing advice or whatever, I want to know whether they actually sell books, and to what extent. But no?
 

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Rosalind J said:
So--are folks saying that it's not helpful for other authors to post how many sales/sale equivalents they've had when they share their strategies and path to success? I've always taken the opposite view. If somebody's sharing marketing advice or whatever, I want to know whether they actually sell books, and to what extent. But no?
No! At least I find it helpful in a place like this to hear from others, and like you said, to know what kind of results people are getting when they give advice. I just don't use the numbers for promo, like putting "52 million sold!" on my cover, like McDonald's used to advertise with their burgers. Although, mine wouldn't be like the McDonald's sign. It would be more like those little towns where the sign reads Population: 492, and then the mayor goes out with some paint to update it every time someone is born, dies, or goes on an extended vacation. But yes, I appreciate having the figures available from other authors in this type of setting.
 

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You can track your number of borrows... if you don't get very many. Whenever you get a borrow, your rank jumps. If you don't sell enough that that jump is hidden in with a lot of other jumps, you can tell you've had a borrow.

What I've found is page reads vs borrows is more or less unpredictable. I have a book that was read through fully by a high percentage of people in its first few months. It still gets a handful of borrows, but in Aug/Sept it was far more likely to be passed over after a chapter or two. Same book. Also having later books in the series seemed to increase the number of people finishing book 1... although, again, that might just be random fluctuations.

If I were to quote sales figures, I'd leave borrows right out of it. Depending on context, I might quote pages read. Personally, mine have never been impressive enough to brag about, so I tend to keep quiet.
 
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