Kindle Unlimited, Market Scrying, and Sales Cycles
Over the past couple months many authors have pointed to Kindle Unlimited and complained that Amazon’s 5 month old ebook subscription service is harming their sales, but there is growing evidence that this is not the case.
Russ Grandinetti revealed at the DBW conference last week that author revenues for titles in Kindle Unlimited were up, with the combined earnings of titles in KU in the last 5 months of 2014 were "double, more than double" what they were in the same period in 2013.
And now there’s growing evidence that the decline in revenue some authors experienced in fall 2014 might be the third appearance of a market cycle which also occurred in 2013 and 2012 (and possibly even 2011).
Earlier today john Chapman tweeted a link to an author ranting about his sales declining in 2012. Blaming recent changes to Amazon’s ranking algorithms, Derek Hainesthat:
Judging by my own ebook sales, it has worked spectacularly well, as my unit sales have dropped off a cliff from October to November.
That sounds an awful lot like the complaints made this past fall, and the complaints made in fall 2013.
What’s more, there was also at least one comment from an author who reported that she saw a similar decline in 2011. Debra Holland went on:
Last year, my great books sales started a downward slide from after Labor Day until Christmas. Many people would still envy me my (pre Christmas) December sales figures, but for me, they were way down. With rare exceptions, almost everyone in the self-publishing community said the same thing was happening for their sales. AND people who’d self-published the year before (2010) were quick to reassure us that it had happened to them in that season previously and to wait for the Christmas wave. They were right. Christmas Day my sales popped up and were great through May and ok over the summer.
Therefore, I expected to have my sales slide during this season, and that’s what has happened. Again, in comparison to many, my sales are still good, just steadily declining. However, I’m shrugging my shoulders and focusing on getting the next book out. I know the Christmas sales will pop things up again. Having a new novella will pop sales up again.
And just to remind you, some authors saw a similar decline in 2013.
In short, folks, what we have here is strong evidence of a market cycle and not, as many assumed, the impact of Kindle Unlimited, Bob Mayer’s content glut, or whatever happens to be the cause du jour.
Do we know for sure that this is the only cause of the declines in revenue? No, but I believe that it is the most likely cause. At the very least, an annual market cycle better explains why authors who weren’t in KU saw a decline this past fall along with other authors who were in KU.
It would also explain Juli Monroe’s report that she saw a decline across all markets, and not just the markets impacted by KU:
Although I was blaming KU for my sales decline last year, when I stepped back and thought about it logically, I realized there had to be another reason. My sales dropped in all countries, including the UK and DE before KU had debuted in those countries. Obviously KU hadn’t been a factor in those drops.
She is one of the authors who isn’t in KU, and yet still experienced a decline.
Do you know of a better explanation? The comments are open.
images by karen horton, Kdt.