Wednesday, March 2, 2016

This Girl Needs to Get Paid: Or Why I Sell My (Self-published) Books Through Gumroad and Not Amazon

A few weeks ago I put my short story collection (The Weather's Always Fine in Paradise) up for pre-order on Gumroad. Another writer friend contacted me and said "I saw that you have a new book coming out, but when I looked for it on Amazon, I couldn't find it."

I told him I prefer to distribute my self-published* work through Gumroad because I get paid considerably more per sale that way. (If you aren't familiar with Amazon's rates they take 30% of the money and give you 70%. Unless you are selling something for $0.99, in which case they take 70% and give you 30%. Gumroad charges $0.25+5% of the price. Even on the $0.99 sales, I make a much higher percentage with Gumroad.)

"Yeah, but Amazon has such a big piece of the marketplace."

But I make more money with Gumroad.

See, here's the thing. I understand browsing for books. I understand that Amazon are not only a marketplace, but also an aggregator. (When was the last time you didn't use Amazon to look for that book you read a few years back but can't quite remember the title or author?) I understand that while bookstores still maintain 40%-ish of physical book sales, they only have 10% of ebook sales (while Amazon has 90%). I understand that they have Top Seller lists out the ass (a couple years back I was in the Fiction - Western - Science Fiction top 10 multiple times) and algorithms that (sometimes) recommend your book to folks looking at (supposedly) similar work.

But I make more money with Gumroad.

Based on observation during the period Eggplant Literary had my SF Western novella on Amazon, the vast majority of my sales come through personal referral. That is, when I told someone to check it out or I tweeted about it or posted a link to a review. When I didn't do those things... there was just the eerie silence of watching my book plummet through the sales rankings.

Just being on Amazon was not enough.
Let me repeat that.
As a debut author with a small publisher, just being on Amazon was not enough. Sales did not magically trickle through due to algorithms or Top 10 lists. (This, by the way, is not a surprise. Targeted promotion and marketing is fucking key for authors of any level with any size publisher selling books through any venue or marketplace.)

So, when my sales are still overwhelmingly coming from me telling folks "Hey, you should buy my book," where do you think I want to point them? A marketplace that takes 30% of my profit or a marketplace that takes a little over 5% of my profit?

"But Amazon!"

Yeah. But I make more money with Gumroad. And I need to get paid.

*A publisher is welcome to sell my books however they see fit. From the trunk of their car, on Amazon, even dropped from a helicopter like a near-flightless bird over Cincinnati.

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