Sales Channels–When to Stay and When to Go

Hello there!

So, I’m on a little “how is this pub thing done” kick at the moment, and wanted to share something about distribution. Or, to quote my Grandma, “Lawd, don’t put all your eggs in one basket, Kendra. What if you drop it?”

Country cliche (but in this case, true, as Grandma raised chickens and has literally dropped a basket of eggs), but one that stays with us because of the very important truth it contains: never rely on one source. Whether that’s for income, a business venture, research or chocolate, relying on one source can leave you high and dry if that source evaporates.

That’s also true when you’re selling something, whether that’s chocolate (I’m obsessed, I know), sofas, or books. Getting into the right channels creates sales. Which is why, despite having a lion’s share of my sales coming out of Amazon for Kindle, I won’t enter the KDP Select program. A lot of people have written about this better than me, but I’d like to add a unique spin.

I’m no longer selling on Apple’s iBooks.

Weird for an iPad owner to say, right? But here’s my rationale. First, unless you go through Smashwords, you have to own a Mac that can support the OS version required to post directly to the iBooks site. I don’t.  Second, while I use Smashwords and like the platform, and despite the fact that they boast a daily feed to iBooks, it can take days (or weeks) for new content or price changes to filter through. When you want to be nimble with your pricing strategy, that’s an unnecessary hurdle…and kind of a bummer. Finally, at least for me, my iBooks sales routinely lag behind Kobo and B&N. So, because that channel isn’t doing any heavy lifting, and it’s kind of a pain to update versus the other, more direct, channels, I’m leaving. But there’s one more reason why, and the only reason I even considered it: iPad/iPhone users can get their content anywhere.

You can download the Kindle or Nook apps to your device, sure. But even more interesting? If you go to Smashwords (via Safari–their mobile site is quite good) and purchase a book, when you click on the .ePub link–the Apple OS will automatically ask you, via popup box, where you want to download the content. You can put it in iBooks just that easily. Or into the Nook app. Or you can click on the .Mobi link and drop it into your Kindle app.  I’ve used Smashwords many times to purchase books for my iPad, and I haven’t found it to be a hindrance at all.

Given the challenges of keeping my content updated in iBooks directly and the ease of getting the content elsewhere, it made sense to drop this channel. Are my eggs now in one basket? Nope. I publish eBooks four places: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and Smashwords.  My content is available on Scribd and Oyster, too. My paperbacks are available on Amazon and CreateSpace. I’m just making a business decision that will give me more power and control over my content and pricing by moving out of one channel. This might not work for everyone, but it’s working for me so far.

What about you? Any sales channel best practices to share? Are you happy with iBooks as a channel, or have you found a different way?

 

6 comments

  • I make money from Apple and wouldn’t want to leave that on the table, but I didn’t sell much there until I had a permafree title in the store. I know lots of people don’t make much.

    I do try to be everywhere (though I still need to take the time to figure out what’s up with Google Play), for more exposure and for reader convenience. I personally have an iPad and shop at Amazon, but I do have readers who like the iBooks store and ask when the books will be available there, even when I’ve said it’s at Smashwords if they want it now.

    I’ve found the customer education thing to be daunting if not impossible, when it comes to things like saying, “Well, you can use your iPad and buy it at Smashwords or Amazon” or, “here’s a page that tells you how to sideload my eARC onto your Kindle…” because such a small percentage of people are actually following you that closely to get that stuff and/or want to change their normal habits.

    Anyhoo, just rambling. If you’re not selling books there, it probably doesn’t matter. If you are selling some, it seems a shame to uncheck the distribution box on Smashwords if you’re uploading there anyway. I just ignore Apple when I run sales at the other stores. The only way it should be a problem is if you’re trying to price lower at Apple/Smashwords than at Amazon (in which case Amazon will email you :P).

    • I respect the argument, I really do, but I’ve had enough issues with my pricing getting stuck not for days or weeks, but more than a month. Even after contacting Smashwords, and getting reassurances the file update sent, the sale price lingered. I’m planning to run a big, short-lived sale with my whole series for my newest release. For now, I’m okay with not releasing MA5 to iTunes to give me flexibility on pricing, especially since Amazon is preternaturally fast at finding those sales elsewhere to price match it back down. Will I upload there again someday? Sure. Just not until the series is in steady state pricing-wise. Probably late summer, once all the books are out and the audiobook is uploaded to iTunes. And then maybe it’ll get more exposure, too.

      Google-Play is a mystery to me, too. It’s something I want to look into, but I don’t know very much about it.

  • People CAN get books on Smashwords doesn’t mean that people WILL. There is a tremendous mental barrier to people buying from a place they’re not familiar with, even if there is no technological barrier whatsoever. Just “It looks funny” is enough to turn people off. Looking at myself, I have a laptop and tablet. There is a free Kindle for Android/PC app available that allows me to buy from Amazon. I only downloaded it recently and I still don’t buy from Amazon.

    Look at B&N. My books are there, but I’m not in the US, so have to go through Smashwords. It can take a really long time for updates to take effect. I only get 60% of sale price, and for a long time, I barely sold anything there. Now it’s my third-best channel (after Kobo and Amazon, yes, in that order). You never know when books will suddenly take off (or, more likely, earn you a few hundred bucks) somewhere. “I’m not selling much there” has to be the single worst reason to delist somewhere. I would only withdraw from channels if I wanted a book in Select.

    • This is all true, and I respect your position (and agree with it for the most part). But there’s a little more to my decision. My sales went down (and they’ve never been awesome) on iTunes, after I released the fourth book in my series. I was selling really well everywhere else, but I saw no uptick at iTunes. The slow updates also forced my regular price to drop on Amazon because of delays in pricing changes. This actually cost me money. My point isn’t to be in only one channel. Rather, it’s to understand when a channel is not only stagnant, but working against your business plan. Then, in might be a good time to drop out and reevaluate.

  • You do not need to meet the OSX requirements for the publicly advertised versions of iTunes Producer. The older version are still available on the site. I am using iTunes Producer on a PPC iBook G4. Ironically that means that I upload iBooks on an iBook that cannot read iBooks.
    See http://empty-grave.com/2012/04/older-versions-of-apple-itunes-producer-software-2-0-1-2-1-1-2-2-1-2-3-1-2-4-2-5-1-2-6/

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