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Where and how homesteaders buy books

Kindle Unlimited survey

A huge thank you to the 217 readers who took my survey last week! Four of you won my discarded paperbacks (and two of the winners haven't gotten back to me yet with their mailing check your email). I thought I'd go ahead and share the results here because I know many of you are interested in microbusinesses, and self-publishing ebooks on Amazon has actually turned into about half of our annual income in recent years. So if you're thinking of publishing a homesteading-related ebook, this market research might help you get off to a good start.

I'll begin my analysis with Kindle Unlimited. You can read my early thoughts on the program here. After writing that post, the large quantities of borrows meant that Amazon dropped their payout to about $1.30 per book read to the 10% mark...which was still a very good deal since so very many of my books were borrowed so very frequently. I loved what those in the industry call KU1.

Then KU2 came around in summer 2015 and started paying authors per page read rather than per borrow. I manage Aimee Easterling's novels, and they soared under the new program. Unfortunately, my how-to books were penalized for being short on words and long on pictures. Under KU2, I ended up getting only about 45 cents for a book read all the way through. And to make matters worse, many readers used my books as references and only read the pages they were interested in, lowering my borrow income yet further. In the end, I had to admit that the income from KU borrows wasn't making up for the fact that I had to commit not to sell my ebooks on any other retailer in order to be part of the program.

Preferred ebook retailers among homesteading audiences

Luckily, survey results proved that I won't be making too many readers angry by pulling out of Kindle Unlimited. Among my blog and email list audience, only 11% of you read much non-fiction using Kindle Unlimited while 20% of you actually prefer a non-Amazon ebook retailer. Looks like I'll better serve my readers by going wide (as indie authors refer to pulling their books from KDP Select and uploading to all retailers) rather than offering my titles through Kindle Unlimited. So I'm in the process of making that switch with my most popular titles now.

Non-fiction format
In the meantime, another survey question gave me something entirely different to chew on. I've come around to reading almost all fiction on my kindle, but I have to admit that I still prefer to read non-fiction on paper. So I wasn't surprised to find that 62% of you felt the same way. Lately, I've been focusing on expanding and polishing one or two titles per year to hit real, physical shelves, and it looks like that will continue to be my annual goal going forward.

Trailersteading book jacket

To that end, long-time readers are probably aware that Trailersteading is already up for preorder on Amazon. I got the finished cover file this week and am highly impressed by the designer's awesome job. My favorite cover yet!

Work in progressIn other book news, I'm about 70% of the way done writing my all-new and straight-to-paperback The Ultimate Guide to Soil, which will probably go up for preorder this winter. (Don't worry: there will be an e-version too.) I've been having so much fun writing this book, especially since I've forced myself to leave out any science geekery that gardeners can't feel, smell, or easily impact in their own dirt. The result is an entirely hands-on soil book that I hope will be perfect for those of you who like to get your hands muddy.

When I first wrote about The Ultimate Guide to Soil, actually, I told folks that the book was going to be an expansion of Homegrown Humus. But when the time came to fold the cover-crop information in, my soil book had already gone over my publisher's recommended word count and seemed quite full. So 2016's paperback will be an expanded and revised print version of Homegrown Humus to complete the tale. I'm actually glad the books will stay separate because I have a lot more I want to add to my cover-crop saga!

Phew! That's a long, nerdy post. I hope some of you aspiring or actual authors will get something out of it. And don't forget to have fun in the great frontier of indie or hybrid publishing. I know I do. Happy publishing!

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Well I am looking forward to your soil book... i am certain it will be a treasure trove of practical information.
I have put forth lots of effort to begin building soil here, even in the face of outright derogatory comments from a neighbor, and phrases like "nobody here does it like that" ( referring to my no till process) and "my dad never planted a cover crop"... of course at the same time, they mention how wonderful the garden looks. 😊

Comment by Deb Sun Oct 11 17:34:19 2015
Hello Anna, I thank you for sharing this. I read your posts daily because you seem so honest to share your successes and failures. I'm happy to see that your writing has become a source of income for you, you can't run a homestead on the sales of eggs alone. You are an inspiration!
Comment by Michael Mon Oct 12 19:04:08 2015

The survey results are fascinating--thanks for sharing!

Do you think you got any additional exposure to non-blog/e-mail readers through the KU program that would boost your new books?

Also, looking forward to the soil book!

Comment by Jake Tue Oct 13 00:52:31 2015

Deb --- Thanks so much for your enthusiasm! Hopefully this book will make your neighbors think you're even weirder. :-)

Michael --- I appreciate your kind words! Ebooks definitely do a better job than eggs of paying the bills and leaving me time to experiment (and play with goats).

Jake --- I'm expecting to see my ranking decline after pulling out of Select, which will unfortunately make my books less visible to folks who troll the bestseller lists. But I'm hopeful that wide distribution will make up for that. If not, I can always pull back into exclusivity.

There are other benefits to Select that I didn't touch on here, but the promotions seem to be losing efficacy. Free is much less effective than it used to be at selling other books in a non-fiction series (although the strategy does great with Aimee's fiction, where you end book one with a teaser for book two). And Amazon no longer lets me mark down my picture-heavy books to 99 cents with their Countdown deals, which really washes out the effectiveness of that perk.

And that's probably more than you wanted to know. :-) But it definitely is a hard decision to make, and I'm still second-guessing myself.

Comment by anna Tue Oct 13 13:47:31 2015

One very unique homestead, $1,500 per acre, the opportunity of a lifetime