This is a fairly important and long blog post…significant change is in the air and I have been scrambling for the past two days to see what I can do. I’ve always been upfront with the blog members on what’s going on – good and bad – so here is a little discussion on what I (and others) am facing today. I am posting this on a Sunday night and, in an effort to let our weekday-only readers see and absorb this, I’ll wait until after lunch time tomorrow (Monday) to have a new post.
What am I talking about?
First, a little bit of background…
Unless you are a subscriber to the e-Ink version of the blog where Amazon’s cut is 70% of the revenue, I don’t charge for access to the blog or for the blog’s free app for your Kindle Fire. As described on the blog’s About page (at least, until I revise the wording on that page later this week), the free books I tell you about are free at the time of posting, and I don’t make any money off of the free book offerings; I also haven’t charged advertising to third parties for book promotions.
Part of the way I get paid for the effort of this blog – and the website’s operating costs and the development of the free Kindle Fire app – is via affiliate sales: I put a unique link in the post so that if you click on the free book I posted about on a particular day and purchase something else during that Amazon session, I receive a variable commission primarily based upon the sales price and item purchased. While that doesn’t increase the cost to you, I do get a referral fee as a commission. I’ll be the first to raise my hand and say that revenue stream has been nice, and has been one of the key factors I was tracking in my longer term goal of being able to quit my day job and work for myself as a full-time blogger.
So, what’s the change?
On Friday morning, Amazon sent out an update to everyone who participates in their affiliate program (about two million or so affiliates) announcing a change, effective March 1st, with three significant new conditions:
- If you have a site promoting primarily free Kindle books and meet both condition #2 and #3 below, you will not be eligible for any advertising fees you may earn during the month.
- At least 80% of all Kindle eBooks ordered and downloaded during a session is attributable to a particular affiliate identifier are free Kindle books, and
- 20,000 or more free Kindle books are ordered and downloaded per month during a session using a particular affiliate identifier.
Amazon did not define what “primarily” in #1 means. I have a pretty good idea what it means!
For this blog, and many others both larger and smaller than this one, this is a huge change; if you look at just #2 and #3, it means I would have to have a ratio of less than 4 free Kindle book downloads to every paid Kindle download. That, my friends, is absolutely impossible to achieve in today’s world for not only this blog but most blogs or websites informing people about free Kindle books.
I am lucky in the fact I didn’t quit my day job, but there are many other individuals and companies out there who have built a business around the promotion of free Kindle book offerings – I am certain you’ve visited many of these sites as they are quite good and offer their own unique take on things; I’ve visited them, also, and a lot of them are pretty good. I would imagine this move by Amazon will put many of these people out of work starting next week, and those websites will be shut down by their operators over the course of the next few months. Seriously.
Why is Amazon Doing This?
I can only speculate. The rumor mills, however, are running overtime on some of the blogs I visit. While free Kindle books will still be offered through the Select program (the Select program is a program for independent authors where Amazon strikes a deal: make the book exclusive to Amazon for a three month period, and during that three month period Amazon will allow you to (a) offer your book for free for five days, and (b) Amazon will pay you about $2.00 each time an Amazon Prime member borrows your book for free), it would appear Amazon is throttling back the emphasis on free books now that there is a large population of Kindles out in the world.
It would also appear Amazon does not want websites that primarily talk about free Kindle books being part of their affiliate program.
Personally, I think the move is pretty heavy handed – primarily the part you will lose all affiliate revenues if you reach a certain threshold related to free Kindle book downloads. Many of us were surprised this policy change only targeted free Kindle book downloads and did not, for example, target free MP3 downloads or free app downloads.
I could put on my analytical hat and argue the pros and cons of each side, but that’s another series of posts for another day and venue.
What Am I Going To Do?
Believe me, I’ve thought long and hard about this one! I’ve weighed many alternatives from radically changing the blog’s format to calling it a day and going back to woodworking as a hobby.
I’m not going to throw in the towel: I’ve spent a few years building this blog up to where it is today, primarily relying upon word-of-mouth vs. advertising and watching it grow. If you add up all of the venues people are reading this blog (their Kindles, web page, free app, RSS feeds, social media sites, and email) about 125,000 people stop by and read it each and every day (now, if I could somehow turn that into a couple of bucks a year from each of you!). That’s a lot of folks, plus being from Texas my ego won’t allow me to just quit without trying to reinvent things and take the challenge and see if I can make it work.
Here is what I’ve decided to do – and I will talk about each one in a little further detail:
- Go back to focusing on the tips to enhance the Kindle user experience. I did this a lot at the onset of the blog, and I can certainly do it again.
- De-emphasize the free Kindle book offerings. I’ll still have posts about free Kindle books, but I doubt they will be to Kindle books on the Amazon website but, rather, to free Kindle books on other booksellers’ websites (there are other Kindle bookstores in the world in addition to Amazon!) or to author websites.
- Allow authors to advertise their “for sale” offerings of Kindle books on the Amazon website.
- Have more interactive posts, soliciting your feedback and participation, on the blog’s website.
- Continue to tell you about free apps and games for your Kindle Fires and e-Ink Kindles.
- Continue with my rambling blog posts on a periodic basis about whatever I’m thinking about when I sit down to the keyboard and start banging away.
Back to the Tips
When I started this blog, I had a few “how-to” tips and I would post about the one or two Kindle books that were being offered for free that particular day on the Amazon website (compare that to the 1,000 or so new Kindle books that are offered for free each day now). I have gotten away from the tips because of the sheer volume of the freebies, so I believe it is time to go back to what started it all.
You can send me your questions via email now (michael at fkbooksandtips dot com) and I will start answering them via posts if they are repetitive in nature, individual email if they are not, and post out the questions I have no idea on how to answer to the blog readers for their input and observations.
De-Emphasize the Free Book Offerings
With all of the books that are being offered for free, it would seem (to me, at least) a lot of times it has been a matter of throwing things up on the wall in order to see what sticks: it was hard to focus on the quality of the books as the quantity could bog you down. That’s part of the reason why I haven’t posted about any freebie that didn’t have at least a 4 or higher user rating. I’m going to make it more selective and focus on less of the free offerings and more of a quality offering; that means instead of 15 – 20 free book offerings I tell you about per day it will certainly be a lot less.
I do, however, have a lot of freebies to tell you about and things will remain “normal” or the same as it has been through Tuesday of this week. After Tuesday, things are going to slow way down on the freebie side of things: I can’t take the chance free book offerings from earlier this week will trickle over into March and kill this 4:1 ratio Amazon believes is the correct ratio.
Most of that is due to the penalty Amazon is going to impose on sites that have a lot of free Kindle downloads effective March 1st – while 20,000 free Kindle downloads may seem like a lot to you, let me try to put it in perspective as it relates to this blog…the Amazon reports for how many free books have been downloaded are non-existent (although, surprise, they have promised to be able to tell us what that number is on March 1st), my unscientific guesstimate is – based on the number of clicks on my affiliate links in 2013 in relation to the number of purchases – about 50,000 or so free Kindle books are downloaded just from my site each day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. I can only dream I had the 4:1 free to paid ratio Amazon will soon require.
While it might mean I have less posts per day it certainly doesn’t mean I am going to shut the free book spigot off entirely. I’m just going to point you to alternative sites and locations offering free Kindle books, along with instructions on how to get them to your Kindle – it’s actually quite easy to get them to your Kindle!
Allow Authors to Advertise
Over the last two years, I have been inundated with requests from independent authors and publishers to allow advertising; sometimes, I think this blog is the only large Kindle book blog that hasn’t accepted advertising – many people have wondered why I haven’t, including my own family, but here’s the simple reason: I was making enough money off of the affiliate links to pay for the blog’s operating costs and to put a little extra money in my pocket for a family vacation, and since I was happy with that I didn’t want to set up the administrative side of things.
Last year, you may remember the poll I had that over 10,000 of you responded to – over 90% of you said you would be okay with sponsored / featured / discounted titles in a blog post as long as it was a quality book offering. I’m taking you for your word on that one, and will only allow a minimal amount of targeted advertising with books that are 4 out of 5 star-rated or higher. Consistent with what I have done in the past with the free book promotions, there will be absolutely no erotica or overly suggestive content, and if it doesn’t seem like it’s a book I, my family, or friends would enjoy I will not be able to promote it. This will still be a family-friendly oriented blog / website.
I know many independent authors read this blog, so you may be asking yourself “how do I get in?” If I have posted about one of your free book offers over the past year I still have your email address – look for an email from me later this week on the specifics. I’m not out to gouge anyone or make a quick buck, but will try to make it fair and equitable to everyone. If you miss the email, I will be updating the “For Authors” page on the website later this week.
It will also be a time to start back up the giveaways many of you have wanted to sponsor for Kindle Fires, etc. Those sponsorship opportunities will be in the works, also, and I know the blog readers always love a good giveaway.
More Interactive Posts
A blog is supposed to be interactive, right? I’ll be continuing the informal polls where you can participate – I read each of your comments as do others. They will just be more frequent! If you have potential questions you would like to see on the blog, please feel free to shoot me an email with your suggestions (michael at fkbooksandtips dot com). Unless you request anonymity, I will give you full credit in the blog post for coming up with the particular question.
More Free Apps and Games
Amazon may be de-emphasizing the free Kindle book downloads, but I’ll still be telling you about the free apps and games for your Kindle Fires and your e-Ink Kindles. Just expect me to tell you about them with a little more frequency.
Sometime this week, the name of the blog is changing from Free Kindle Books and Tips to Kindle Books and Tips; I know, that’s not very original but it’s the best I could do on a moment’s notice! The URL (www.fkbooksandtips.com) will remain the same for now because too many external sites point to this domain. Will it change? I don’t know!
Change is sometimes good, and I think this blog can survive. Will the changes be enough to have the blog overcome Amazon’s requirement #1 at the beginning of this post? I don’t know – if I can’t overcome requirement #1, requirements #2-#3 are a moot point. Time will certainly tell!
If you’ve read this far – whew, that’s a long post! Thanks for sticking with me over the years and, God willing, I’ll still be here blogging about the Kindle several years from now!