My Dec 2014 – Feb 2015 Book Royalties

PiggyBank_OpI’m talkin’ dough. Not a lot.

I know this post will make a few fellow authors shriek and moan and rend their clothes, so I want to say upfront that I am not urging or advising others to put their books in KDP Select. I never thought I would ever be exclusive to one sale platform – I’m not the type, lol – but after trying for a month last summer to get Zon to pricematch a book to free, I threw in the towel and went all in with Select.

I assume for a limited time.

My marketing model for 2015 – as I’ve mentioned before – is to cycle all my titles through free promos in an attempt to get noticed by readers, AND to accrue those all-important reviews. And for some reason, free book promos just accumulate more reviews.

Why is that?

In my humble opinion, the review issue is the single biggest drawback of the “first in a series” perma-free model: the free book can collect hundreds of reviews, then subsequent books in a series have way fewer. So to counteract that, I plan to offer one book free every month – with six books in the lineup by April, that means each book will be free twice, six months apart, in 2015. And folks, it’s just easier to do that through KDP Select. Price matching a different book every month would take more effort, and I only have so much patience.

SO, I am now entering Month #4 of my 2015 Marketing Plan, and I thought I’d share some interesting stats about books sales and, more importantly, borrows via Kindle Unlimited (KU). And please don’t diss me about my math skills. My goal here is to share my experience with the Zon’s Select program, and dish about borrows and dollars. Facts to keep in mind: I am not a well-known author with an established following of readers, so my pre-Select sales were very low; therefore I cannot speak to whether or not KU borrows might have affected my total sales, as some authors have reported. Anyway, here goes.

I’ll start with my November 2014 book sales figures. I’ve gotten much higher royalties from Amazon in previous months, but this figure is probably a good average for typical royalties earned Jan – Nov 2014.

November 2014 total: $143.99

$88.26   Book Sales
$55.73   KU/KOLL Units
No promos this month.

As I wrote in this post, I scored my first spot with BookBub Dec 20 for the first book in my Gen Delacourt series, Mark of the Loon. At the end of February, Zon paid royalties for those December 2014 sales. I’ll just share my U.S. sales, the others were negligible:

December 2014 total:  $1,700.58

$1,170.12          Book Sales
$530.46             KU Units ($1.43 per borrow)
Trio of promos Dec 20 -24: ENT, BookBub, and BMT’s “free” ebook submission tool. BBub category: Women’s Fiction. Total downloads over the five days, 30,000+. LOON had 35 reviews when it was accepted for the BB run, and (to date) has 118. Mission accomplished!

Considering how long it took me to break into BBub, I was shocked when I scored a second promo Jan 25 for Book 2 in the series, The Last Fairytale.

January 2015 total: $3014.35 [projected]

$1,958.65          Book Sales
$1055.70           KU Units (765 borrows x $1.38 ann’cd payout)
Trio of promos Jan 24-28: ENT, BookBub, and BMT’s “free” ebook submission tool. BBub category: Mystery. Total downloads over the five days, 40,000+. FAIRYTALE had 35 reviews when it was accepted, and (to date) has 86 reviews.

February 2015 total: $2047.85 [projected]

$1,104.81     Book Sales
$942.54      KU Units (683 borrows x $1.38 projected payout)
No promos this month. Ooops! I failed in my plan. I DID schedule a free promo for Book 4, A Thousand Tombs, March 1-5 via BMT’s “free” ebook submission tool. Total downloads over the five days, 2554. I started out with about a dozen reviews and just hit 20. Mission accomplished!

NOTE: ALL sales and borrows across all titles slowed to a snail’s pace the final week of February through NOW. Anybody have a theory why?

BONUS for these free promo days – it seems a certain number of readers who subscribe to different free book lists borrow books via KU as opposed to downloading. My January free days saw 305 KU borrows. Authors get paid on the borrow even though the book is free: that means I earned about $420 via KU during that free promo FROM the free book, which more than covered BBub’s hefty $355 price tag. Sweet!

NOTE: Borrows did not rack up to that degree during my December freebie.

My takeaway? I’ll be honest, the number of borrows in January shocked me. It’s tough not to be happy about that, as I doubt I would have earned an equal amount if my series was available on other sales platforms, although I could be waaaaaaay off base.

Because countering my experience, here’s a great post by Louisa Locke plus an update outlining her thoughts and why she left Select. Also, my friend and fellow author Helen Hanson reported over 8,400 downloads from iTunes alone during her recent BBub promo for 3 LIES: A Masters Thriller. YIKES! Am I missing out?

But then, another friend and fellow author, Toby Neal, reported this when I asked her about KU: “I’m still doing great in KU! I’ve been a two-time top 100 most borrowed author. January, 2015 my number of borrows was in the several thousands.” Toby has been KDP Select since the beginning of her writing career, and has no plans to change that.

So I’ll keep at it for a while. I scored another BBub March 27 (aaacckkk!), this one for a freebie for Book 3, Paint Me Gone, which also had 35 reviews when I submitted it for consideration. Maybe 35 is my lucky number?

To close, it looks to me as if authors can be successful via different business models, including Select, making books available on all sales platforms, and first book perma-free. It’s not a one-size fits-all road to success. There is no single path. Just choose a way and keep on writing!

More food for thought:
Authors Earning More or Less with KU?
Is This Why Kindle Unlimited Affects Sales?

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59 Responses to My Dec 2014 – Feb 2015 Book Royalties

  1. Charles Ray March 9, 2015 at 2:07 pm #

    My KDP sales numbers haven’t been quite as much as yours, but the combined sales/KU revenue for the past six months has been respectable – and relatively steady – so I have no complaints. I do find, too, that when I do two to three free books a month, sales for that month go up. No free books, or only one, and sales go down. I’m convinced that the ‘Zon is the place to be if you want to maximize reach to readers.

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 3:56 pm #

      It’s all about BookBub, Charles, I can’t take the credit. I’ve got my fingers crossed that revenue will stay relatively steady, but I agree, without regular promos I doubt that will happen for me. Thanks so much and best to you!

  2. Diana Douglas March 9, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    Thanks for posting. I thought it was very encouraging.

  3. MM Jaye March 9, 2015 at 2:16 pm #

    I’m cheering for you! So so happy your awesome Gen Delacourt mystery series has picked up. Nice plan. Best of luck!

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

      Thank you so much, Maria! It’s mostly about BookBub and everything is slow right this minute, but I’m encouraged.

  4. Helen Hanson March 9, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

    Thanks for the mention, Molly! The exclusive part of Select goes against my nature. My husband is the only one deserving of such commitment. But if I had Toby’s numbers, I’d probably feel differently. In the meantime, I’m working on it . . .

    All the best,


    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Helen, my pleasure and I agree, I don’t consider myself the exclusive type. BUT …

  5. Jan Christensen March 9, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

    Thanks so much for this information–not everyone will be so frank about sales, so it’s hard to know what to do. I think your idea of one free book a month might do the trick.

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      My pleasure, Jan, and I agree that’s it hard to decide what to do. I kind of “fell into” Select and it’s a good fit with my marketing plan this year. As for next year, who knows? Best of luck to you!

  6. John Chapman March 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

    It’s my opinion that Kindle Unlimited will lead to the Select books becoming ever shorter. After all an author can get a $1.40 payment for a 12 page ‘book’ just as easily as for an 800 page book. It’s inevitable that authors will see this and start to produce short stories for KU/Select. Eventually Amazon will spot this trend and set different rates of payment based on book length or demand a minimum word count.
    My books are all 90,000+ words and are NOT in Select apart from 2 short stories, 10 and 30 minute reads, which are targeted at KU.

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm #

      I agree, John, that KU books will get shorter – they already are, and authors like Toby are already targeting novellas and short reads for the program. Even readers are asking for shorter, quicker reads, so I don’t have an issue with that – but I HOPE it leads to Amazon’s creating a tiered payment program, I think that’s the fairest way.

  7. Belinda Pollard March 9, 2015 at 4:07 pm #

    Thanks for being so generous with the information, Molly. You have given me a lot to think about. And congratulations on turning this into a real career, by sheer determination. You have worked so hard. Am now cheering for your every month to be January+++. 🙂

    Am looking forward to seeing how Paint Me Gone goes on BBub. It is still my absolute fave of your books, Molly Du Maurier. 😉

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 4:35 pm #

      Made me laugh! Sounds like a good pen name. The “one book free a month” model will only work well with a string of titles, so you better GET BUSY!

      • Edita A. Petrick March 9, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

        Hi, Molly – just wanted to mention – not in a negative vein – but the BMT tool is not exactly free. It’s $14.99 per credit – and once you PayPal that then you can submit your ONE free title – I’m guessing here if you want to submit another title, it’s another $14.99/credit.

        Don’t get me wrong – I think BMT is a good tool and worth that amount but I just hate it when they advertise it “free” when it’s not. And then you have to wade through a lot of info and clicks to find out just what it costs – and even then it wasn’t all that clear. Like many, I get tired and annoyed when things aren’t presented in a clear and straight-forward manner. Thank you for sharing your info. I really appreciate that and will continue reading. Edita

        • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

          Hi Edita! BMT (and I) use the word “free” when referring to their service because the tool is designed for submitting FREE ebook promos to 30+ sites that accept and advertise free ebooks. I’m not sure how they (or I) could make it more clear and as you’ve pointed out, the tool itself is not free, you’re absolutely right, there is a charge. Still, for $15 a pop and anywhere from 2k – 8k downloads (I’ve experienced both ranges), it’s the best value in book promos out there. Several other websites exist that are ALSO designed to assist authors in submitting free ebooks to the same and/or similar sites, and they all charge authors for the privilege – and most of them charge a lot more than $15. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I appreciate your thoughts and support!

  8. Lisa Medley March 9, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

    Thanks so much for this great post! It helps me so much to know what’s possible 😀 Best to you!

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 5:51 pm #

      My pleasure, Lisa! Go out there and knock ’em dead.

  9. Helen Hanson March 9, 2015 at 6:19 pm #

    Molly, I agree, for $15, the submission tool really saves you time to reach those other sites. Though you still need to hand submit a few on their list. And many of the sites offer premium placement or guaranteed placement if you so desire.

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      Helen, I’ve used BMT at least four times now but I’ve never paid more to get on the sites that request donations or guaranteed placement. I’m all about the low-cost promo budget … except for BookBub, arrrrggggh!

  10. Jacqui Wood March 9, 2015 at 6:57 pm #

    To begin with, Congrats! You should be so proud! I appreciate your straightforward trend data. Gives much food for thought and sincerely look forward to your final ROI, return on investment. Your marketing strategies are a real eye opener☺

    Always with appreciation.

    Jacqui Wood

    • Molly Greene March 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

      Thanks, Jacqui! BookBub promos are very pricey so I hope my ROI isn’t pitiful. Whatever it is, I will share the numbers!

  11. Laura Zera March 9, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

    Just dropping in to give you a big, fat CONGRATS! How amazing!!! And not only are you figuring this out for yourself, you’re sharing some brilliant information here.

    As for this: “it seems a certain number of readers who subscribe to different free book lists borrow books via KU as opposed to downloading.” I wonder if they know that the author gets paid through KU, so they do it out of benevolence?

    Finally, what is Zon? I Googled it and didn’t find anything book related.

    • Molly Greene March 10, 2015 at 8:01 am #

      THANK YOU Laura, and oops! “Zon” is Amazon: the might Zon. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if KU subscribers borrowed books because they know authors get paid that way? I’m not sure that’s true; it may be more likely readers borrow books rather than downloading free because borrowed books go back to Zon and don’t clutter up their Kindles. But what do I know?

  12. joybelle2012 March 10, 2015 at 5:37 am #

    Good for you Molly, hope the good sales keep on rolling in.
    I must say that I have very good freebie sales on Smashwords and that I am slowly starting to sell on IBooks through smashwords.
    My problem is that although I have submitted two lots of tax forms to the USA, one last year and another in Jan. this year,I still do not have a tax no. As I live in South Africa I need this in order to be paid, so up to now I have never received a dollar, even though sales have been made.
    Any suggestions?
    I have thought of asking someone in USA if I can send them scanned copies of a completed tax form and get them to post the forms for me in the USA. -I think the problem might be with our post office here, as they regularly go on strike for months on end and then somehow mislay all the post.
    Any suggestions here will be most welcome.

    • Molly Greene March 10, 2015 at 8:04 am #

      I’m sorry, Joybelle, I have no idea as I’m US-based. Perhaps other readers might be able to help, or you could approach a Euro-based author as see what they did, or you could ask in one of the Kindle forums. That’s the best I can do!

      • joybelle2012 March 11, 2015 at 3:05 am #

        I got good news from Smashwords this morning, -as they have received the copies of the forms I sent to them. This means that hopefully the dept that hands out the tax numbers, will have received the originals I sent to them.
        Smashwords have agreed to pay me out at 35%, but when the tax number goes through they will up it to 70%.
        Is this normal?
        Hope your sales are still going well, Molly.

        • Molly Greene March 11, 2015 at 9:04 am #

          Sorry, Joybelle, I have never had a payout from Smashwords so I cannot advise, but sounds like you’ve had good news!

  13. Michael Kelberer March 10, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    Hi Molly – thanks again for generously sharing your actual sales numbers with us. I hope more authors will begin doing this – it’s a great way for us all to support each other in this brave new publishing world!

    As a longtime business geek, the thing that stands out for me is less about the specific tools you use (although great info and thanks again for sharing!), but that you have an actual and proactive plan for ongoing publicity. I think its true generally that energy and persistence are the real engines of success.

    Best of luck and looking forward to tracking that success with you!

    • Molly Greene March 10, 2015 at 8:35 am #

      Thank you Michael and I agree 100%: it’s not so much the actual mechanics of the plan, it’s HAVING a plan – and then working it – that makes all the difference. As you said, persistence is the make-or-break element.

  14. Ben Wallace March 10, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    Thanks for sharing, Molly.
    As if Toby’s constant pictures of beautiful Hawaiian sunsets wasn’t reason enough to be envious.

    • Molly Greene March 10, 2015 at 2:00 pm #

      I KNOW! If she wasn’t such a wonderful person I would just hate her.

    • Toby Neal March 10, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

      Dude. Come visit. Seriously. 🙂

      • Molly Greene March 10, 2015 at 3:28 pm #

        Wait … what is that I hear *Ben stampeding to Hawaii*

  15. Toby Neal March 10, 2015 at 3:11 pm #

    OMG, I thought you read my blog post I put up today:

    But you were just DOING it after our big talk last year! Brava! and check out my post if you want to pass it on.

    • Molly Greene March 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

      Haha, no, I posted yesterday, but saw yours earlier and shared! Best to you Toby, and thanks so much for all your help and support!

  16. Kayla Dawn Thomas March 10, 2015 at 5:10 pm #

    Thanks for the super helpful article! I’ve been on the fence about ditching Select since last fall. When I realized almost half of my check each month was coming from KU, I re-upped. Things have slowed down since the holidays and I was toying with leaving again, but after reading this, I’m pretty sure I’m going to hang in there.

    • Molly Greene March 11, 2015 at 9:02 am #

      Kayla, it seems some authors are thriving with Select and KU, and others are withering on the vine. No stats re: predicting which authors will do well and which will not, but it looks as if the Romance writers have exp’d more negative affects. I’ll all for being on all platforms, and most of my author friends are non-exclusive and happy about it. So think deeply and read Louisa’s posts before you decide!

  17. Sue Coletta March 11, 2015 at 3:28 am #

    I had no idea that’s how KU worked, as far as how the authors got paid. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing your wisdom, and being transparent about your sales. Very brave.

    • Molly Greene March 11, 2015 at 9:05 am #

      I’m not sure how brave it is but thanks, Sue!

  18. joybelle2012 March 11, 2015 at 5:27 am #

    Your revenue report has actually given me some hope, Molly
    As now I realize that authors do not earn as much money as they claim.
    A few people wrote on a site I log onto -to say they sell around 1000 books per day and this made me feel desperate. Now I am going to be more realistic and feel grateful for every sale I make.
    Thanks for all the tips you send us.

    • Kayla Dawn Thomas March 11, 2015 at 8:22 am #

      Agreed! It’s refreshing to see real, attainable numbers.

    • Molly Greene March 11, 2015 at 9:08 am #

      There’s a whole slew of authors who make 10x the royalties I’m reporting, and a whole slew who make much less. My goal is steady-on at about $3,000 per month net. I have a ways to go, and lots of authors who’ve already made it there to learn from!

  19. Josa Young March 13, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    Hi, ReadCheaply which is genuinely free, delivered the same amount of downloads as Ereader news today. thanks again Molly for a great post.

  20. Larry Brill March 14, 2015 at 12:00 pm #

    This is just one more reason why you ROCK, Molly. Your candid discussion of the nuts-and-bolts is empowering. You and Michael are right, it’s all about having a plan and executing. I’m still working my miniscule fan base to post reviews in order to get on BBub. Wishing you continued success.

    • Molly Greene March 14, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

      Thanks so much! You’re exactly right – work those fans and mini-promos until you can accrue enough to get into Bbub. Go, Larry!

  21. Dena Jo March 15, 2015 at 7:44 am #

    What is ENT?

    I have a different theory about why subsequent novels get fewer reviews. I believe it’s because the people who didn’t like the first novel don’t read the next novel, and so there are fewer potential reviewers. With each subsequent novel, as readers abandon the series, the number of potential reviewers continues to shrink. You see the exact same pattern with series that are enormously successful, i.e., FSoG or the Crossfire series. Each subsequent book has fewer reviews than the previous book.

    • Molly Greene March 15, 2015 at 9:25 am #

      Dena Jo, ENT is EReader News Today. And of course, your theory is correct, a lot of things play into why first novels garner more reviews. But I have found that when I offer free promos on subsequent books in a series, they get more reviews. Since the books in my series work as stand-alones, it makes sense for me to do it. Thanks for your comment!

      • Dena Jo March 15, 2015 at 9:30 am #

        You’re very welcome. Thank you for your blog!

  22. DL Lewis June 19, 2015 at 9:46 pm #

    I don’t understand BMT’s reference to the “credit” they charge. Does this mean I have to pay something to each of the 30 sites they allow me to submit to?

    Do you have any feelings about ENT? That seems to be the best option for a writer like myself, who has a whopping total of only seven reviews (four on amazon; three on goodreads) for the book I want to promote.

    • Molly Greene June 20, 2015 at 8:53 am #

      No, you don’t have to pay a fee to every site BMT’s tool links to. And as I mention in this post, I use and like ENT.

      • DL Lewis June 20, 2015 at 3:15 pm #

        Thanks, Molly. I know you use ENT but I wasn’t sure that you like it. I’ve used promotional services that I flat-out hated.

        I’m grateful to you for posting all this information and answering questions quickly. I had given up hope and was settling for total failure, but your actions have got me going again. Thank you!!! You are a lifesaver, and that’s not an exaggeration.

        • Molly Greene June 21, 2015 at 8:28 am #

          Thanks DL. The only “secret” I’ve found through all my attempts to be a successful self-published author is perseverance. I follow the blogs of authors who’ve “made it,” I read posts ad infinitum about what they’ve done and how, I try to improve my craft with each book, and I use different marketing approaches/platforms and don’t repeat what hasn’t worked for me. Every author is different, every author needs to persist until they stumble on the path that’s right for them. And bottom line, only two things have REALLY made a difference for me: 1) writing more books 2) doing whatever it takes to get my titles to a point they’re accepted by BookBub.

          • DL Lewis June 21, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

            Thanks, Molly. Persistence is the thing for sure. Unfortunately, some authors (like me) tend to crumble under the weight of despair and perseverance becomes impossible. I’ve been fighting for weeks to continue another book I started and every time I sat down at the keyboard, my nasty little brain could think of nothing but “Why write something that no one’s going to read?” I’ve spent hundreds of hours trawling through blogs and sites trying to learn what I can do to make even a little progress, and all I found was vague or misleading information and ways to waste money (I’ve spent $1000 on advertising that had no results other than to empty my wallet). Until I found your site, I was blocked from moving forward. Persistence is the thing, but one needs luck as well. It was just dumb luck that allowed me to find your site and acquire information that isn’t useless: a first in my experience! I am in your debt. I might never get enough reviews to have any of my books accepted by BookBub, but I shall try again. All I can do is put my books into KDP Select and hope that the free promotions will get me some reviews. If my past experience is any indicator, no one at all will download the free books. I will try, however, starting today. Thanks again, Molly.

  23. Larry Brill June 21, 2015 at 11:48 am #

    1) writing more books 2) doing whatever it takes to get my titles to a point they’re accepted by BookBub.

    Here, here!


  24. DL Lewis June 21, 2015 at 7:35 pm #

    So much for KDP Select and the free promotion through amazon. When I went to put one of my newer titles into Select today, I was given this warning by KDP: “As this book’s enrollment in KDP Select was cancelled once before, you do not have the option to cancel again if you re-enroll.” I never enrolled this book in Select before and now they’re telling me I have to be exclusive to amazon FOREVER? Think I need another solution to getting numerous reviews . . .

    • Dena Jo June 21, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

      DL, please don’t despair and don’t give up on Bookbub. I don’t think there’s any rhyme or reason for how they decide to accept a book for promotion. I study those Bookbub emails carefully. In my May 11, 2015 mailing, they promoted a book called Behind the Mask, an erotic romance, and the book had only three customer reviews on Amazon. On September 14, 2014, Bookbub promoted a book called Miss You Most of All that had only 16 reviews. I remember those because I printed out and saved those pages from my Bookbub email. Just keep plugging away.

      • DL Lewis June 22, 2015 at 2:31 pm #

        Sorry, Dena Jo. I thought your comment came from Molly and by the time I realized it came from you, it was too late to edit my reply.

        I shall save your comment on my desktop and keep it for inspiration. Thanks again!

  25. DL Lewis June 22, 2015 at 2:27 pm #

    Thank you, Molly! I shall keep plugging away.