What To Do About That Thing You’re “Supposed” To Be Doing.

Or is it all a guessing game?

Mark Coker at Smashwords just put out a mid-year set of predictions for the “post-pandemic” publishing world.  I feel he’s maybe a little premature, as I suspect the pandemic will be around for most of this year—we’re still to be hit with the second wave (which is just starting up in China).

But the post is a great breakdown of what might happen once we’re all moving around “normally” once more.  (That’s if we ever do get to move around in public quite as freely as we once did…)

Because of the recession, which might now become a depression greater than the Great Depression of the 1930’s, and the pandemic, the indie publishing world is in chaos.  No one really knows the best strategies to deal with what’s happening.  Most of us don’t really know what is happening for sure.  Are sales up?  Or just page reads?  Are discount prices better?  Are people going back to print?  Are people reading at all?

The news is conflicting and contrary.  Coker suggests that readers will all flock to cheap subscription services like Kindle Unlimited (and plugs Scribd heavily, while dissing Kobo-Unlimited).

On the other hand, James Daunt of Waterstones is doubling down on ebooks and plans to rescue Barnes & Noble, too.

So who knows how things will shape up over the next year?  No one, really.

The one thing I have learned about this business is that no matter what results everyone else is getting out of a strategy, your mileage will vary.

And just in the last couple of weeks, I’ve been forcefully reminded of that.

Almost a year ago, I wrote about the experimental mindset as a way of dealing with the tsunami of advice, exhortations, courses, blog posts and earnest author group posts, all telling you what you should be doing to enhance your indie career.  Often, you can find two exactly opposing opinions, both of them insisting they’re right.

And for those authors, they probably are.

That’s why experimenting, trialing and keeping an eye on your data is crucial.  You don’t know what is going to work for you until you try it.

In late 2019, my sales plummeted.  Sales plummeted for a lot of authors and it was suggested to me that I need to be in Kindle Unlimited, for the genre I was writing in was dominated by KU authors.   And it still is.

I ran a trial – the first half of one of my longer series in KU for three months.  The results were spectacular, so I switched everything for that pen name over to Kindle Unlimited, taking two months to phase the 100+ titles out of publication on the wide retail sites and putting them into Kindle Unlimited.

I’m not a fan of KU either as an author or a reader, but I needed to see if, in fact, KU suited my books.

After six months’ trial I can safely say that my initial experiment gave a false positive (it was a very small data set).  In the last six months my sales have plummeted into the single figures per day, while the page reads have not increased nearly enough to pay for the difference.

I was going to wait until the end of the year to announce the experiment a failure, but I can’t afford to.

Therefore, in the last week, I have set up the enormous project of taking everything back to wide.  It’ll take another two months of phased transitioning, announcements and discounts to encourage sales.  Plus, I will have lost ground at all the wide retailers and will have to spend the next year building those markets and readerships back up again.

But that’s the price I have to pay for this trial.  Now I know that Kindle Unlimited does not suit my business, and I can stop gouging my psyche with “what if…?” thoughts whenever someone suggests I should use KU.

Experimenting, using the scientific method to test yours or anyone’s theory about what works, is the only way to stay sane in this business.  It provides absolute conclusions that let you sleep as night, even if those conclusions are not what you wanted or wished for.

What FOMO idea is gnawing at you, these days, making you wonder if you should just try xxx, like that expert over there is saying you should?

Run a test, and find out for yourself if it will work for you.  Because I guarantee, your results will be different from anyone else’s.


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  1. Pingback: Helping You Decide - Go Wide or Go KU? - Hidden Gems Book Blog

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