Kindle vs iBooks or making waves in publishing

I’ve never been very good at promoting my books.  Like many authors, it is not something that interests me or excites me.  I like writing, I like making sales and I love receiving reviews but I’m not so keen on that section in between called self-promotion.  I feel much like those famous actors or musicians who perform in public for their art but have no desire to work with the media or live a public life, except of course I don’t have to worry about fame… at least for the moment.

It’s always been hard to discern fact from fiction when it comes to self-published authors.  The world of twitter and other social media is full of authors who do nothing but self-promote their works in a very hard working and dedicated manner I must say but one that instantly drives me off having much to do with them.

Yes we all know that a certain amount of promotion is beneficial but if they spend all their time tweeting and posting on their books then they can’t be writing much and if they are, it could be they are using freelancers to churn out some of their books.  Maybe they really should have got into media work rather than authorship?  I on the other hand probably take it too far the other way by thinking talking about my books is rude!

Recently I came across a rather interesting software tool entitled KDSpy which helps authors to make sense of Amazon sales figures and work out possible niche categories which are ripe for a possible best-seller.  It is very clever but I’m not sure it fits my philosophy as writing for me is not a conveyor belt process.  I’m not inspired to write about a certain subject just because there is a gap in the market, I do though like to write and find that what I have written doesn’t have much competition!   However a quick use of this tool enabled me to quickly find out that not one of the authors who I’ve been so overpowered from their marketing seem to be as successful as I am with my near lack of self-hype.   Some even have more Amazon reviews than confirmed sales, oops how did that happen!

However I’m not alone, it seems many other authors who don’t seem to over-promote seem generally to be doing better than the over-promoters too.  Perhaps a deserved case of all talk and no action for once being found out or should that be all hype and no substance?  Either way I felt surprised and validated all at once.

It’s been a good few months for me with my books.  My sales are rising, year on year and month on month.  Partly this is due to having more books out obviously but also possibly from word of mouth and other vagaries which are hard to put your finger on.

At this point I should state that I don’t read any electronic books.  As old fashioned as it sounds and as wonderful as my iPad is, I wouldn’t even consider it either.  Yes I buy my own books electronically for completeness sake as well as many of my blogging and author friends but to actually read books I always go for the paper copy.  I’m aware though that I am now in the minority for reading their books the old fashioned way and as a writer I have to do what is best for my books rather than what I’m interested in and so like many people I make all my books available on Amazon Kindle.

Amazon make it easy for authors to publish themselves and theoretically giving immense exposure whilst avoiding the traditional publishing industry and all of its constraints.  However Amazon aren’t a charity and they do milk authors of transmission fees and other payments whilst also pressuring authors for exclusive content and giving their work away for free.  Their royalty payments when they come are months after the date a book is purchased and until very recently, it was almost practically impossible for non-American authors to avoid paying the IRS taxes on their royalties which they absolutely had no right to steal.

I never wanted to be limited to Amazon as good as it can be.  It takes a bit more effort but it is a wonderful feeling to see your books for sale in book stores and it is increasingly profitable to ensure your electronic books aren’t tied to Amazon alone.   There are various other electronic formats you can sell on and make your works available directly to people who use iBooks, Nooks and crannys (oh there aren’t crannys apparently).  I’ve long used Smashwords having ditched Lulu as being far too expensive.  Smash words can be trying to say the least to get to work properly but one is rewarded with their books becoming available in all sorts of formats and most importantly on the Apple iBooks store.

There is a general consensus that the Amazon Kindle is an unstoppable and totally dominant force in ebook sales.  While it is true that they make up the majority of sales largely down to the way Amazon has successfully marketed itself and Kindle devices to middle-class, middle-aged and above readers.  However recent research by Publishing Technology indicates that in the key under 25 age group, Kindle sales outnumber iBook sales by just 2%.    Even for the entire market in the UK the gap is closing with Kindle making up 50% and iBooks 31%.

Even though I don’t read books electronically, if I did then it would have to be on an iPad or desktop computer and not a phone or a small Kindle type device. Apple are also increasing the visibility on their iBooks to help build readership.  They pay their authors well and promptly too I might add!

This morning I did a very informal search and was surprised at how many self-published authors don’t seem to have a presence on iBooks or iTunes and it seems to me they are missing out, perhaps trapped in the exclusivity clauses of the Kindle KDP Select. I’d really like to encourage my fellow author bloggers to try out other formats too.

Not including Lest We Forget on Kindle which is published by a publishing house and sells  much better than my other books, though I only find out the figures every 6 months, in the last month I have sold:

20 Kindle books, 11 Paperbacks, 8 iBooks with a handful in other formats.

Not a JK Rowling amount of books but about 40 more a month than the over-hyping mass published pulp I see being shoved down my throat on Twitter.   Over the course of a year 550 books or so isn’t the worst thing in the world especially without really promoting anything and hopefully that figure will only grow.

So what’s the point of all this, well I’m not sure I have one!  Except of course we should never put all our eggs in one Kindle basket.  Perhaps not everyone is in a position to write non-fiction but if you can then it’s well worth trying instead of just writing a novel as it helps you stand out from the crowd and unless you are convinced you’re going to have a best-seller on your hands you can probably sell more copies and make more royalties per day of writing such a book than a novel.

If there really is a point then it backs up what I have always thought about people who always talk about themselves (their jobs, money, books or whatever), that if something seems too good or successful to be true then it probably is.  For all those authors who hate self-publicity as much as I do, don’t worry from what I can tell you’re probably selling more than the others are without all hype.  Instead continue to read and write thoughtfully and produce work that is worth reading and the sales will come and increase, if slowly.

I have the flu and a rabid chest infection this week so if my ramblings above were more rambling than usual then that is why.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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6 Responses to Kindle vs iBooks or making waves in publishing

  1. Malla Duncan says:

    Agree with you, Stephen. Twitter has become a list of authors repetitively advertising. I used to love Twitter – now I hate it – the content has deteriorated to just a list of pictures of authors’ book covers. Every now and then I do it so that people don’t forget that I write, but mostly I look for interesting art pics and topics on history, etc. And as for those authors locked into KDP Select – ah, well, they will learn. More sales to be had on Apple and B&N than on Amazon – at least that’s my experience. Hope the rabid chest infection improves soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Malla, I’m glad you feel the same way as me about Twitter. Such a shame as for authors I initially follow (or more likely followed me in the hope of me following them) … I already know they have books but I want to hear about them aside from photoshopped book covers! Seeing several posts a day or even an hour is only going to drive people away or at the very least as I do, categorise them in a listing that I rarely look at. Sometimes less is more 🙂 I entirely agree with your about Apple and B&N, greatly underused by some authors and they are missing out. I’d recommend spending less time tweeting and more on getting their books out there and doing real “author” activities such as maybe err writing. I’ve had this infection now for a week and it is getting on my nerves which maybe means I am getting slightly better as before I was so ill I felt I had no nerves at all.

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  2. Rosemarie says:

    I love paper books because I can mark pages and flip back to refer to other chapters; however, as my eyesight worsens, I love the ability to enlarge the font on my ipad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the ability to enlarge the font would be what might get be to read on an iPad in the future. For the moment though, I like the touch, feel and smell of paperbacks. They are still more versatile to hold and my house would be empty if all my books were suddenly held on a cloud somewhere!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. EBotziou says:

    You are so right Stephen – ‘Theseus’ is in the KDP select program and it is such a bind as I can never schedule book promos until a few days before! Not sure how to get out of that now. I don’t mind self-promoting via facebook but twitter is a bit of a nightmare – I don’t even read people’ tweets myself! Need some advice about ibooks btw – i.e. HOW DO I EVEN PUT MY BOOKS ON THERE?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, KDP sounds so enticing and in many ways is the best start for new authors but all that sweet-talking is for a reason, to limit our sales from other websites and platforms such as iBooks. I feel the same about Twitter too! After my flu has gone I will have to drop you an email or three about iBooks as I think it will be worth it for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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