One in Ten

Not to be confused with the great UB40 song of the same name, this ‘One in Ten’ refers to the Amazon formula for ranking free ebooks, for which downloads are said to equal 1/10th that of priced ebooks, as referenced in this excellent blog post by Cristian Mihai about free ebooks.

I had commented on that post but got my math wrong when I calculated my own estimated downloaded readership following that 1/10th formula and came up with a number of 1/100th instead. The idea is to take the total number of downloads of your free ebooks and take ten percent to determine how many people actually read the thing. This probably doesn’t give you the right number if you have multiple books out there because chances are that a certain percentage of readers of one of them are the same readers of another one or more.

I’m kind of thinking that Amazon is probably right, or close to right, in their formula, because after all, they have the data. Through their built-in Kindle spyware, they not only know if you read something, but how much of it you read, what you underlined, how fast you read it, and how many other books by the same author you subsequently downloaded. It’d be so nice if they had an open API to share that data. Fat chance!

The self-publisher is left to guess by ratings, reviews, goodreads additions, and so on, at their actual readership numbers. You’d like to know, but what difference does it make, really? My own free ebooks experiment has resulted, so far, in more than a half million copies downloaded of some thirty-plus titles, including two of which have been downloaded more than one hundred thousand times each. Just sticking with one of those titles, then (assume they are the same readers of all the other titles), let’s say that comes out to more than ten thousand actual readers. That’s a thousand times more than ever read anything I wrote before self-publishing, so it’s frickin’ awesome. Would a thousand times that, or a hundred thousand, make any difference? Or a thousand times that again, or a million?

To paraphrase Chuang Tzu, nothing is ever enough for the person for whom enough is not enough.

And as my friend Cynthia once said, about growing tomatoes, one tomato is great. more than one is abundance


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