On Openbooks.com and who should be using it

ba-cover-tiny(Actually, first, a confession of a rather embarrassing math issue I should have noticed on my own: in that Kindle Unlimited post a couple of days ago, I didn’t check the math and rolled with another author’s suggestion that Amazon was implying you’d get $10 a page.  That’s per page written, not per page read.  Amazon’s suggestion is $.10 per page read.  I still think that’s ten times higher than you’ll actually get, but it’s still a misreading of what the email says.  I hate it when other people pass on that sort of stuff uncritically and I apologize for doing it myself.)

I have had– by my standards, as always– a really good couple of months as an independent author.  Today marks two full months since I have had a “zero day”– a day where no one downloaded or purchased any of my books.  I had a signing in May where I sold nearly 60 books in a day, and June is on pace to be very close to or actually pass May’s numbers without the bump from the signing, which is really remarkable.

My numbers across the board are trending upward, which is a good thing.  But the single best source of downloads for my books so far in 2015 has been a site that I’ve talked about a couple of times but haven’t really devoted direct attention to: Openbooks.com.

(Actually, let’s do this right now, because this post is gonna come off as a little shilly: they didn’t ask me to write this, and I’m not being compensated for it.  The model has some weaknesses and I’ll be discussing those.  This post is my opinion as a user of the site; it’s just gonna turn out to be a pretty positive one.)

Right now my only book on OpenBooks is The Benevolence Archives, Vol. 1.  BA has been downloaded, as of this exact second, 223 times since January.  There was a point where it was in the top 10 for their entire site; it’s still performing relatively well in the Fiction category and is the second-highest Science Fiction book.  For comparison’s sake, BA has been on Smashwords since July 2014 and has 247 downloads.  Openbooks will pass that this month.

Here’s how the site works: All of the books on OpenBooks are initially free.  The site operates on a “pay what you want” model (rather annoyingly called “pay what it’s worth,” a phrase I have some linguistic quibbles with) and you are prompted to pay some recommended amount (the author sets that amount) when you finish reading the book.  You can freely share any book you download as well, and folks you share it with are also prompted to pay if they like.  Other than that, it’s a typical book site– you can review what you read and all that.

(No one’s reviewed BA over there yet, although the site itself did a great review of the book.  I keep trying to fix that and haven’t gotten anyone to bite yet.)

Here’s what they’re good at: the site is young and doesn’t have a huge number of books yet, so they’re doing a really good job right now of helping their authors.  They monitor Tweets and blogs and RT stuff that they find interesting and they seem to do staff reviews of books at a fairly fast clip.  It may be just that I’ve hit a lucky patch, but right now my book is getting downloaded from the new, lesser-known site several times more often than every place Smashwords feeds combined.

What they do less well:  right now, as I said, the book’s been downloaded 223 times.  Three of those presumably 223 people have decided to pay me for it– a conversion rate of 1.34%.  That’s better than the site’s overall conversion rate of 1.08%.  And those three payments have added up to less than three bucks.  So nobody’s getting rich off this site right now.  Including, I think, them.


If you are an author who is following the plan that I am– of having a perma-free book that you’re hoping will drive sales to your other work, you need to have your book on OpenBooks.com, because then the low conversion rate basically amounts to occasional free money since the book isn’t supposed to cost anything anyway, and these guys will help to push your book.  The site is still young and so getting in on the ground floor is a good idea.  The staff claims in the forums that they’re working on ways to drive up the conversion rate, and I believe them; it’s just not working super well right now.  I wouldn’t recommend putting pay books on the site just yet because the conversion rate is so low.  Then again, most of your volume is going to come from Amazon anyway– BA is 99 cents at Amazon because I can’t price it free, and despite me making it as clear as I can to everyone that you can get this free everywhere else it still sells several copies a month.  It may be that if the book is free in one place that it wouldn’t hurt sales very much, but that would be an experiment for someone else to do.

So, yeah.  You should check the place out.

(Back to Kindle Unlimited: you may be asking what’s the difference here? and that would be a fair question.  I’d be perfectly happy to put BA 1 on Kindle Unlimited, because I don’t care about how I get paid for that book.  OpenBooks is also a lot more open about their numbers and their process than Amazon is.  If I want to be in Kindle Select, I have no choice but to be in KU as well.  I don’t like that.  I would rather have an honest this book is free for everyone except people who choose to pay for it than we’re gonna rake in a bunch of money for your books, and then pay you a very small amount of that money according to a formula that only we have access to and will change anytime we want.)

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  1. Pingback: The Pay What You Want Model (PWYW) | PUB401

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