Why I Love iBooks

author terry schottGuest Post
by Terry Schott

You might not realize this, but you love iBooks.

In early 2010, Amazon was the only place to sell eBooks, and they paid authors a 35% commission. Then iBooks announced they would be inviting authors to sell in their store. Amazon responded by increasing their payout to 70%.

So, if you sell a book online and make 70% commission from it, then say it with me: I love iBooks.

Even though other vendors have entered the market since 2010, the majority of indie authors choose to sell their products exclusively through Amazon.

If you spend any time listening to interviews, reading articles, or talking with other authors, most experts and successful authorpreneurs assure us that the best way (the only way) to make money is to be faithful to Amazon, forsaking all others.

Can this be true?

How about you? Is your strategy to remain narrow, and if so, how’s it working out? If the dollars are pouring in, then stop reading this article and keep on doing what you’re doing.

If, however, a few years have passed and you’re not where you want to be as a self-published writer, take a moment to consider my story. It’s a bit different from most of the tales out there, at least from what I’ve been able to find when I search for sales and marketing strategies on the internet.

In a nutshell:

I have a seven-book series. The first book is perma-free. Of those who buy book two, 85% read the rest of the series. Does it matter how much that income is? I guess it likely does, so I’ll give you a ball park. Last year, iBooks paid me over six figures in commission from eBook sales.

On Amazon, over 100,000 people have downloaded book one. Of those, 504 have left reviews, 318 of them five-star.

On iBooks, over 500,000 people have downloaded book one. Of those, 11,340 have left reviews, over 7,100 of them five-star.

Last year, my income from iBooks was over twice my Amazon income. This year, it is even more.

Turns out that iBooks has some cool things going for it which can help an indie author sell eBooks.

Here are a few points to consider:

1) iBooks has a ton of readers. I don’t know exactly how many iPads, iPhones, MacBooks, and iMacs are out there, but it’s a lot. That means there are millions of users who click on the iTunes store to purchase music, TV shows, movies, and yes, eBooks. Sure, you’ve read articles declaring that there are no readers on iBooks, but think about it — really think about it — for a second. If Apple is still in a market, you can bet that they are making money from it.

2) iBooks customers leave reviews, and indie authors love getting reviews. Scroll up and check my numbers. Yeah, they may not be typical (do I even need to type this disclaimer?), but there is no denying that iBooks readers left a lot more reviews than my Amazon customers. Don’t be negative. Look at the numbers and picture them beside your book. If you’re searching for more reviews, you can find them on iBooks.

3) iBooks updates your changes. One of the cool parts of self-publishing is that you can make edits and corrections to your books and upload them at any time. Alas, some platforms do not send those changes on to people who have already downloaded the less-than-perfect version. With iBooks, readers are encouraged to update your eBook and read the best possible version.  That’s a big advantage to both you and the reader.

4) iBooks seems to be harder to scam. I don’t recall ever seeing a ninety-nine cent eBook on how to climb the charts of iBooks. I haven’t read about scammers filling fake books with thousands of pages of gibberish in order to steal commissions from honest writers. Nor are there sales programs on how to force your way to the top of the sales rankings on iBooks. Why is this important? Because once you get onto an iBooks list, you have a better chance of staying there. Amazon’s rankings seem to change every minute, don’t they? If you somehow manage to get to the top, you slowly slide back down over a period of hours, days, weeks, or months (if you’re lucky). From my experience with iBooks, if you climb the list, you are more apt to stay there for longer.

5) iBooks sells to a lot of countries. Sure, you may do well in the United States, but what about the other countries? I sell in many more countries through iBooks than I do on Amazon. The numbers per extra country might not be huge, but they all add up, right?

6) iBooks reports are better. If you upload directly through iTunesConnect (very simple to use), then their dashboard shares a lot more data than Amazon. The more you know about your business, the better you can do. iBooks helps you tremendously in this regard.

Does any of this guarantee that if you list your products on iBooks, you’ll become a bestseller overnight? If you decide to do this, remember that you are starting from scratch. How long did it take you to find success on other platforms? Two months? Six? You have to give the new platform a chance, same as always.

Follow the same path you did when you started elsewhere. Put in the time, and build your new audience. It takes a while for people to find you, read you, and spread the word.

I know that, for some, there are significant benefits to exclusivity with Amazon. I’m not telling you to abandon those perks if they are working for you. I am suggesting you try new things and experiment to grow your business. A friend of mine has a nine-book series. After having the first book free for a long time, he made a bold move and made books two and three free as well. At first, he was afraid of losing the income from the other two free books, but it turned out that by giving away the first three for free, he doubled his monthly income from sales of the paid books.

Success comes from trying new things. I’ve found that there are a lot of eyes on iBooks, and they are hungry for more books.

I wish you success on your journey, whatever steps you decide to take.


Terry Schott is the Canadian science fiction author of the five volume The Game is Life series, with Fragmented, a sixth book in the series, coming soon. He is also the author of Cyber, Shadows, Idiom, and Ascension. You can check out Terry’s books at his website, his Author Central page, and of course – you guessed it – on iTunes.

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24 thoughts on “Why I Love iBooks”

  1. I’ve been selling on Apple (iBooks) since I first published (via Smashwords). In five years, I’ve only sold a handful of books there. I’d love to do better because I agree with your assessment of the potential market of iBooks. However, Apple has been a vexing channel to grow my sales. Perhaps my mistake is distributing through Smashwords? Is it better to go direct? If so, can you go direct with Apple when you’re not an Apple user?

    1. Hi Bruce,

      You can absolutely go through Smashwords or direct. If you go direct you do need an apple account (itunes account is what I used). I know that going through Smashwords and Draft2Digital and other services is just as effective and sometimes it is even better as they have access to special placements and can highlight indie authors through the big vendors.
      Thanks for leaving a comment. Good luck with your writing adventures !

  2. “In early 2010, Amazon was the only place to sell eBooks, and they paid authors a 35% commission.’

    Nope. Wrong.

    Also, iBooks brought with it agency pricing, which screwed over customers by jacking up prices, and the only way to sell books in it is either through a distributor or by buying a Mac.

    Gosh, I sure do love price controls and jumping through arbitrary hoops, don’t you?

  3. While I haven’t had the same fantastic success at iBooks, I absolutely agree that ALL markets must be encouraged. Exclusivity with any market can be suicide, because it makes you vulnerable. I’ll happily forego the promised benefits of exclusivity if it means a broader, healthier market.

    1. I agree, Stephen! Of course, I know some authors making full-time income from their exclusive deals. If I were them, I would stay put and cash my cheques. I wasn’t in that boat, though, and I’m glad that I threw my perma-free book one of my series onto more than one platform.

  4. I love this article. I have had very good response to my permafree books (through Smashwords) on iBooks. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a series to link to those free books, but now I will definitely make plans to do that. Thank you, Terry.

    1. Thanks, K.S., I had only my perma-free book with nothing else for over a year. When I did post more, the sales thankfully started to come.

      Good luck with your next books!

      1. Thank you, I appreciate it! By the way, are you doing (or have you done) a lot of paid promotion to draw attention to your books on iBooks? I have noticed that most promotion services focus on Amazon.

        1. I was lucky enough to get a Bookbub ad in 2014, and then another in 2015. I think a lot of iBooks people found me that way. Other than that, I put my head down and write as much as I can (and beat myself up for never meeting up to my own expectations =) )

  5. Terry,
    Thanks for sharing your experience with us. I just launched my first ebook on Amazon a little over a month ago and did sign up for the KDP Select giving them exclusivity. I have gotten most of my readers (so far) through the Kindles Unlimited program that offers my book for ‘free’ to subscribers. I was shocked to find out from the community that even though I was super excited about having 3,427 KDP for July, that that would only equate to about $17 dollars in royalties for me.

    Maybe if things don’t improve over the next few months, I will take it off KDP Select and publish it on iBooks. It certainly does sound like it worked for you!

    1. Hey Lance,
      Congratulations on completing and releasing your first book! That feat puts you ahead of so many people who never make it to that point =)
      The industry is always changing and it’s awesome that you are reading what others are doing.

      Best of luck !

      Terry

  6. A fascinatingly different report from what I’ve been seeing lately. Like many others, I use Smashwords to market on all the other platforms. It occurs to me, having read your article, that I don’t make many sales there, so I never (and I mean not once) check my iBooks stats.
    Thanks for the kick in an appropriate place 🙂

    1. You know what they say about a watched pot never boiling. I didn’t look at my numbers for a year and then went back to find that over 258,000 people had downloaded and left reviews for my first free book on iBooks!
      Hope you see the same when you go check =)

      Thanks for leaving a comment, Gordon.
      All the best

  7. Terry, this is a great post. I have my work on iBooks and have a few sales, however I filter payment via Smashwords. To load direct via iTunes account, do you also need to use an iMac? I was under the impression that was the only way. I hope I’m ill informed.

    1. You do need a Mac to use the itunes connect program. Knowing what I do now, I would definitely borrow one of my friends once or twice a month to use the program. Using them direct gets payments quicker into your bank account and gives you some cool data on downloads by region and such that I find useful. Of course, I do things crazy sometimes and if you don’t know anyone that would let you use their device then you’re a bit stuck.

  8. Great info! The following is not meant to be contrarian, but a great frustration I have with iBooks as an author. As opposed to Kindle or Nook, the platform to place a book in iBooks is so difficult.

    One must have a Mac. Download a program. Complete the learning curve. Encounter the assured errors. Read through and decipher the code that make up these errors. Aside from forcing the author to use a Mac (which is Apple’s model, and I get that) the process i so much more time consuming and cumbersome (counterintuitive to Apple). I load books in Createspace/Kindle in 20 minutes. iBooks takes up to two hours depending on the amount of errors. There must be a better way.

    Is it just me?

    1. Heya Darren,

      First of all, lucky you! Last time I tried to upload directly to Nook they did not appear interested in letting Canadians sell books through them direct =(

      I was pretty lucky with minimal upload issues, but a couple did occur and made me want to throw my beloved mac through the window.
      I found that formatting through Scrivener creates files that iBooks accepts every time (so far, knock on wood)
      Of course, learning to format with Scrivener took me some time… I am certainly not passionate about formatting and am pleased when it’s done.

      Good luck and thanks for the comment =)
      t

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