Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kindle Unlimited Thoughts

Like everyone else in KDP Select, I've been paying attention to my Kindle Unlimited page reads.

When the new accounting began at the beginning of this month, I had 33,000 daily page reads. I had no idea if this was good, or bad. It was what it was.

But I was intrigued to see my Amazon Author Rank go up. My best rank was #1, but for the past two years I've been hovering around #1000. On June 30 I was #854.

Now I hover around #400. I got to #267 last week, and now I'm at #441.

Since I haven't released any new solo novels in two years (I have three coming out by fall, two Jack Daniels thrillers and a Jack Kilborn horror), the only explanation I have for this jump up was the new KU rules.

By the end of the first week, my daily reads were up to 60,000. By the end of this month, they're at 85,000.

Now, this all could mean absolutely nothing. Maybe my page reads have remained static, and Amazon's new accounting system is simply finding its groove.

Maybe people are finishing my books, and the more they read the more they want to read. Or maybe a lot of people are starting them and not finishing them. The likeliest answer is some readers finish, some don't. Page reads, by themselves, don't give us enough information.

Amazon has the tech to pinpoint how much a reader has read of your work, and where they stopped reading. I've pleaded with Amazon to allow authors access to this information. It would be invaluable. As writers, we've never been privy to how quickly readers read our work, if they finish it, or when they choose to put the book down. I'd love to look at trends. Do I have any books where readers tend to quit before finishing? Where do they quit? I know I could use this information to fix books, make them more reader-friendly, and get a higher page read.

Our books are on the verge of being crowdsourced. To wit:

Crowdsourcing, a modern business term coined in 2005, is defined by Merriam-Webster as the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

Now, I became a writer via the legacy publishing industry. I collected 500 rejections before I sold a word. For roughly a decade I worked and worked and worked to improve my craft, and when I finally got a pub deal I worked even harder. My publishers gave me feedback. I got better. I attended conferences, and made friends with peers, and we traded WIPs. I got better. By the time this Kindle thing happened, I had a pretty good idea of how to tell an engaging story.

But I never had the opportunity crowdsourcing presents.

While I've worked with professional editors and writers, the only true reader feedback I got was from friends and family, and they're biased. Reviews are feedback after publication, but rarely are they specific enough to help authors (unless the author has really screwed up.)

But if I knew 1000 readers stopped on page 156 of one of my books, and never returned to it, that information would be worth a lot to me.

One of the big advantages to ebooks, which doesn't get mentioned often, is their fluidity. A paper book pubbed by the Big 5 is static. Once it's released, that is pretty much the version that exists forever. But ebooks have the ability to update. Change. Improve. Evolve.

We're on the cusp of an unprecedented level of feedback. These are exciting times. What other medium can tailor its IP to its audience to this degree? Readers don't like it? Fix it!

Since 2009, I've been open about sharing data. I think it's good for the writing community.

Now, I invite you to share your KU data. Post anonymously if you feel uncomfortable going public with your numbers. But I'd like to know what your daily page read count was on July 1, and on July 28, and if you notice any upward/downward movement. Also, share your author ranks from those dates, and mention if you've released anything new this month.

Though its still too soon to know if our books are being read to completion, I think getting an idea of how other writers are doing will be beneficial. At the very least, we won't feel isolated with out own subjective data points.

Spread the word.