Price and Profit

So I learned something rather embarrassing a week ago.

Since the release of Colony, one of the more common questions I’ve received from fans about it has been “How should I purchase your book in order to make sure you get the largest cut of money?” Which is actually a pretty valid—and thoughtfully appreciated—question. This question comes from a reader who isn’t just concerned that they read a book, but that the author of said book is able to support themselves to the next one. Some of you may be scratching your heads even so, though, thinking to yourselves “Wait, I thought it was just an ebook?” Well it is, but there are two ways you can acquire it.

The first is to simply impart money to ($7.99 in this case, unless there’s a sale going) for a digital, DRM-Free copy of Colony. And for many readers, that’s what they do. However, I’m also a fan of putting my books up on Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited Program, which is kind of like a Netflix for books, and that means that it’s also available to those paying for the KU program to read whenever they want. Now, KU pays authors, but the question from these readers is “Which way pays you more?”

And it turns out, in giving my answer, I screwed up.

See, I’d been rolling off of some basic assumptions, which it turns out now I should not have. One of these was, foolishly, never bothering to get a specific page count for Colony. I reached a point in the book’s work where I simple said “Yeah, it’s somewhere above this page count,” but going off of estimation, never actually bothered to work out anything more specific. This page count was 1,100 pages. I knew it was over that, but I didn’t know by how much. Still, when asked about Kindle Unlimited, I simply used that number (I’ll bet you see where this is going, right?) as my estimation number.

Now, using that as my estimated page number, these were the results I got. KU earns an author, at the moment, roughly around half a cent per page read. So, 1,100 pages read at half a penny a page? That’s a payout of $5.50. Not bad! Compared to the 70% royalty for a book like Colony, which is $5.59, that’s only a difference of nine cents. Give or take a few cents depending on how KU fluctuates that month. So I kept telling readers “Pick what you will, they’re both pretty equal.”

Except … I was very wrong. Recently I was looking over my KU payouts, and I noticed that Amazon had added a nice little status line I hadn’t encountered before. Which gave, to my surprise, an official page count, all formatting said and done. So, in curiosity, I took a look at it. And … well … yeah. It turns out my estimate was way off.

Colony wasn’t around 1,100 pages. It actually clocks in at 1,764 pages. Which means a complete KU read-through nets me … $8.82. More than the book itself even costs.

Obviously, I’ve learned a few things here. First, that I was wrong when I told readers that “buying or KU, either one is the same.” It isn’t. You’re actually making me $2.30 more if you read the book on KU. So to those of you who purchased a copy of Colony when you already had KU … I apologize. I’m sorry. I mean, it’s yours now, but I mistakenly mislead you. I also mislead myself by not thoroughly checking the size of my book. Which is something I will do more thoroughly in the future, in order to put forth a more accurate page count.

However, there’s one other thing that I’ve learned about this, and that’s how differently I approach writing and selling people books.

See, I’ve heard from a lot of authors that they shy away from the KU program because they “make less money off of it,” and they don’t like that. Because they’re writing shorter books, which seems to be the trend a lot of authors are going for. Crud, in writing this post I can practically guarantee, until now that I’ve called it out prior to, that someone would come along and politely “tell” me that I needed to split the $8 Colony into four or five “cheaper” $3-4 dollar books. Because that’s the authorial trend right now. Write short books (175-250 pages), split larger ones, sell at a slightly lower cost that makes more money in the end. Avoid KU, because KU would make even less money (some authors have even talked about doing “period runs” on KU to encourage early reviews, and accepting the lost profit as marketing before removing their title from KU).

And then there’s what I do. I have an $8 book (a crime among many indies and self-pubs) that makes less money if sold than if read through KU, the complete opposite of regular indie authors. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Don’t think I’ll be taking it off of KU anytime soon. In fact, the book will eventually get cheaper, like all of my veterans, as new works come out.

And no, I won’t be splitting the book into four or five “bite-sized” sections selling at $3-4 apiece, either. It stays one solid volume. I’m not a fan of the “piecemeal, it’s cheaper for the reader and makes you more money” approach because in the long run it really isn’t cheaper for the reader. Plus, it segments a congruous whole, breaking it apart needlessly. Sort of like turning The Hobbit into three films (boy was that padding). Breaking Colony into even four pieces (each of which would be a 300+ page book on its own) would still end up costing a reader $12 to $15.

Personally, some authors are quite literally banking on readers not figuring this trick out. Though from the declining reviews I’ve seen on some author’s pages, they eventually do.

There’s no big change announcement to this post. Nothing’s going to be switched around in the coming months, at least as far as Colony is concerned (though Dead Silver has nearly reached the age where it will see it’s final, heroic-level price drop). I just found one area where my works differ even more than I thought from the “standard” indie writers I’m sharing the storefront page with. The common rule of thumb is “You’ll make less off your KU book than you will off of a sale, because KU doesn’t pay much.” In my perspective, this isn’t always true. In fact, I’m pushing the opposite with Colony and making more from the KU reads than from the actual sale … which does put that price in perspective a little.

If I were someone else, perhaps, I’d immediately flip around and raise the price on Colony. Or cut it into several books that could be sold for $4 each, making me even more money (and costing my readers more) so that the whole “KU cost versus cover cost” equilibrium was restored.

But … I’m not going to do that. Colony is $7.99, and it stays there, until it reaches “veteran” status and the price starts to drop. Whether or not readers read it through KU, or simply purchase a copy up front, they’re still going to get a good deal all around, and I like it that way. And, so do the readers, judging from Colony‘s 4.8 star rating on both Amazon and Goodreads, as well as its glowing reviews.

From the look of it, however, I can be one of the few that sells an eight-dollar book on Kindle that actually pays out more for each KU read. While still bringing home five-star review after five-star review.

Yeah, I can live with that.

In the future, however, I will be working to deliver more accurate page counts. It would appear my page counts for a few of my other books lean too far on the conservative side as well. Live and learn, I suppose.

And now, back to work. Jungle isn’t going to write itself. Oh, and it will totally be one another one of these “the KU makes more” books. As will Shadow of an Empire.

What can I say? I like Epics.

3 thoughts on “Price and Profit

  1. If you get around half a cent per page, does this mean you would actually earn more money fron re-reads? I know I often re-read my favorite books and I would consider Colony among those. Or do you just get the money for the first time it’s read?


    • Just checked, and no, a reread does not earn me any additional funds, which is one downside to the program. Each book only pays out per reader one time. Which is a shame, though I see why they did it (to avoid scammers from simply buying multiple Kindles and endlessly rereading books).

      Go ahead and reread it anyway. That’s the point of reading a book! 🙂


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