Well, Saronna's Gift has been out for about six weeks now, and it's been a different experience from the other seven books. This is the first book I have marketed as a romance. Some of the others are very romance-friendly, but in this book, the point of the story is the relationship. It's also the first book I put out since Kindle Unlimited was an option.
In self-publishing ebooks, unknown authors have some tools (besides writing an engaging book) to get their work to readers. Two of the main ones are they can make books free (on some platforms), and they can price them very cheaply. Giving away a book works best as a marketing strategy if it's the first book in a series. But even that has limitations because there are so darn many free ebooks, that many of them are never read. People see “free” and click the button, but once they have the ebook, they don't feel any urge to read it right away. It might not even be a book they would want to read, but what the heck, it was free, right?
The Kindle Unlimited program is different. It's a subscription program, aimed at “heavy” readers, people who read a lot! They pay a fixed price (I think it's $10 a month) and then they can download as many KU books as they want, but they can only have 10 KU books on their device at a time. Because they have already paid the fee, they feel a need to get their money's worth and read lots of books. They don't download as recklessly as they would totally freee books, but they are willing to take a chance on new (to them) authors.
Amazon pays KU authors for every time a book is borrowed and read to at least 10% of the book. Some authors are not happy because Amazon pays a flat rate, without regard to the book's price or length. Right now, the rate is approximately $1.40. That means if a book sells for 99¢, the author gets paid more for a borrow than a sale. But if the book sells for $3.99, the borrow pays only about half what the sale would pay. Sounds like a terrible deal, right? I don't happen to think so.
Some people look at a borrow and see it as a lost sale. I don't. I see it as a reader gained. The thing is, if you're Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, anything you write will get a lot of attention. If you're Carmen Webster Buxton, your books have a ton of competition for readers' time and money. A program like Kindle Unlimited gets an unknown author over the barrier of the reader plunking down money to find out if they like a book or not. The free sample feature helps a lot, but I know a lot of people feel like it's not enough to really tell them if they'll like the book. With KU, there really isn't much of a barrier except the reader's time commitment, and they can stop reading any time, return the book, and go on to something else.
And I have to say, when it comes to “heavy” readers, romance readers have it all sewn up! They read more books than almost anyone. Which is fine with me!
Now if they would only write more reviews . . .
Addendum: Adding a link here to an excellent discussion of this topic on Jane Friedman's blog.