So, I put The River Leith in KU last week and so far it seems to have been a worthy experiment. I chose this book for two reasons:

1) The book is normally priced at 3.99. This is important because had the book been priced higher than this, then the number of borrows to “break even” goes up by quite a lot, and the number of borrows to make some money goes up by even more.

2) The book seemed past the “backlist bump” provided by the successful release of Smoky Mountain Dreams. It had dwindled to the point where it was selling between 2 and 7 books a day. This meant that the number of borrows I’d need to obtain to make this experiment worth it were a lot less than had the book still been selling 20 copies a day like it did right after Smoky Mountain Dreams went to #1 on the Gay Romance chart.

The assumptions I made going in were based on an assumed KU per-borrow payout of $1.22. Obviously, the number could be higher or lower than that, but I thought it seemed a good middle ground for assumptions. I decided that I was selling on average 4 copies of TRL a day, and, in that case, I’d need to have around 850 borrows by the end of the 90 days in order for this experiment to not lose money.

At one week in, I can’t predict how the book will continue to perform, but here are my numbers:

KU Borrows: 132

Regular Sales: 59

As you can see, my regular sales have gone up from the average of 4 a day that it had plateaued at for the three weeks before I started this experiment. I think the increase is due to the borrows landing The River Leith back on the Top 100 charts and possibly getting back into the also-bought algorithms.

Hello, Chart! Long time, no see! :D
Hello, Chart! Long time, no see! 😀

The borrows have resulted in an approximate $161 income, and the sales have brought in $164 in income. I suspect that sales will drop off and borrows will drop off, but I think those values can show you the difference in how many borrows a person has to get to make up their full-price royalties. In this case, I generally believe that the KU borrowers are a different crowd, made up of readers I wouldn’t otherwise reach.

And, yes, just as all the posts I’d read about KU predicted, my other books have stayed pretty flat. There has been no bump at all in the sales there and I don’t expect there will be. That seems pretty clear based on everyone’s experience: KU does not generally bring readers to the rest of your books.

Conclusions thus far:

1) I wouldn’t put a book in KU that is priced higher than 3.99, unless that book is truly getting zero traction outside of KU. Then maybe as a desperate effort to get some eyeballs on the book, sure. I truly think 3.99 is an upper limit for the most part.

2) I don’t think I’d put a book in KU before it had “run its course” in traditional sales. I’ll have to think on this conclusion a bit more, but it seems like the sales I’ve made at other outlets like B&N and iTunes at full price would probably make up the KU borrows. But it’s hard to say. I imagine that a book that’s #1 on the relevant chart is going to get a ton more borrows and a ton more traditional sales.

I’ll keep you in the loop as I go.

While this experiment runs, The River Leith is only available at Amazon.

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