Eight-times More Kindle Books Turn Zombie

Friday 11th September 2015

'Brains' written in blood with zombie-coloured Amazon logo as the letter 'a'

We all know zombie books sell. But there’s a different kind of zombie book that definitely doesn’t and I suspect there are millions upon millions of them. Are most books downloaded free on Amazon instantly turning zombie with no hope in hell of ever being read?

I’ve recently had my first sales come through on the Kobo platform and it’s come as a relief. While my follow-on sales on Amazon barely show a pulse, Kobo sales are rosy-cheeked. It’s beginning to look like I’m not such a sucky writer after all. It’s beginning to look like most of my Amazon free downloads are instant zombies.

The Sales Stats

I checked my stats at around 21:50 on 10 September 2015. Across all Amazon stores, in the period from 11 August to 10 September 2015, Screw Friendship was downloaded free 462 times. In the same period, I sold (wait for it) 10 units. That works out at 2.2% follow-on sales.

Meanwhile, my Kobo dashboard as of 10 September showed 53 free downloads and 9 sales. That works out at 17% follow-on sales. (Update: I checked this morning again. 8 more Amazon free downloads, zero Amazon sales; 1 more Kobo free download, 2 more Kobo sales.) In my sample, Kobo follow-on sales are at least 8 times the rate they are on Amazon

Yes, the books are currently a little cheaper on Kobo but not much and it’s not just sales. Prior to those free downloads on Kobo, my mailing list had 59 subscribers. That was after approximately 9 months and 4500 free dowloads on Amazon. Today, I'm at 80 subscribers and the majority of my recent subscribers have been downloading ePub, not Mobi format files. The majority of my recent subscribers appear to be from Kobo.

The (Unscientific) Analysis

I’m pretty sure the vast majority of my Amazon free downloaders haven’t (and will never) read my book. My entirely unscientific analysis suggests that a free downloader on Kobo is at least 8 times more likely to actually read the book than a downloader on Amazon.

What’s going on?

Well, I could blame Kindle Unlimited; it’s a popular boogie man. But here’s my theory: readers are more engaged on Kobo because Kobo is a bookstore and Amazon isn’t.

The ambience of a store affects our behaviour. The supermarket me is a very different person than the bookstore me. In a supermarket, I’m in a hurry and I’m slinging all kinds of crap in my basket, deciding between options based on price and special offers. In a bookstore, my mood is different. I’m taking my time and thinking like a reader.

In my view, Amazon readers — bombarded by offers in every spare scrap of space — are more likely to drop into zombie mode, slinging crap they don’t really want (including my free book) into their baskets. Readers on Kobo are stepping into a bookstore. They stay in reader mode because nobody is shoving discount Pampers in their faces.

But that’s only a theory. Whatever the explanation, I’m delighted to be selling on Kobo. Which, by the way, is entirely thanks to the great team of human beings over at Kobo Writing Life, first for making Screw Friendship an Editor’s Choice last week, then for giving Pursue Friendship a great spot on this month’s bargain books. So, if you’d like to actually read one of my books (or the latest zombie smash hit), there’s no nicer place to buy it.

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