Periscope Depth

he makes love to the duke, he swordfights the queen

On Monday, I reported on my sales numbers for Too Close to Miss‘s first month: 755 copies in total. Of those 755, 583 came from Barnes & Noble.

It’s tough to find exact figures on how much bigger Amazon is than Barnes & Noble, especially in the burgeoning ebook space. The best estimates I’ve found peg Amazon’s market share at over sixty percent. That remaining forty percent is being fought over by Barnes & Noble, Sony, iTunes and other platforms as well, so it’s not as if there are close second placers. And yet in spite of that, I’ve sold three times the number of copies on B&N that I have on Amazon.

The best I can do is guess. But my guesses are as good as anyone else’s in this crazy business, so here goes:

  1. The recent launching of Kindle Direct Publishing Select resulted in a flurry of volume among the top authors on Amazon. I would wager that a big chunk of Kindle title sales in December were actually loans of KDP Select titles, which count as sales for the purposes of ranking. So anyone who wasn’t in KDP might have lost some sales as a result.

  2. B&N’s self-publishing platform, PubIt!, lets you classify a book in five categories, compared to KDP’s two. It’s possible that Too Close to Miss is ranking better in Women Sleuths than it is in Thrillers, or doing better in Mysteries > Hard-Boiled than in Suspense. I can’t tell (hey, PubIt! – good data for the next platform release!). But it makes sense that being visible in more places would result in better sales.

  3. Related to the above, it’s possible my title reached some tipping point by being associated with some best-seller. Thriller readers and $0.99 readers tend to read compulsively, downloading and buzzing through titles at high speed. If a few people bought Too Close to Miss as well as some hot title, then my book might have started showing up on more “Readers Who Bought This Also Bought …” lists.

  4. Sales were trucking along on B&N until the 20th, when they spiked to 89 in one day. Some popular blogger recommending it? Some private email list? It seems odd that the boost on that day would all accrue to B&N and nothing to Amazon. Then again, B&N’s PubIt! gives me sales by day if I want them; Amazon’s KDP does not (or if they do, I haven’t found out how). So I might be missing something. In any case, since that spike, B&N sales have been averaging between 20 and 30 a day.

Ultimately, my surge in B&N volume may not have one root cause. But it’s a good thing I didn’t enroll in KDP Select when it was offered, as I would have had to take my title off of B&N. That would have cost me a few hundred dollars, and I can’t pretend I would have made that up in KDP Select lending.

Obviously, the same results might not be true for everybody. If your book is dragging its binding in the dust on B&N, you stand a chance to make more money in KDP Select. But make sure you look at the numbers before deciding. I did, and I got a very pleasant surprise.

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