Is Kindle Unlimited Hurting New Indies?

I was planning on posting the new TOC how to using Calibre this week, but I’m afraid that I haven’t been able to get to my computer to get the screenshots together this week – so next week it will be – promise. Getting back here today though, it seems that the whole writing world is up in arms about Amazon’s announcement that authors will earn by the page read, rather than by the percentage of a book read when a book is borrowed with Kindle Unlimited. Having vivid memories of starting out as a newbie to self-publishing of how easy it was to get totally confused and thrown off course by announcements from some established authors, I’m really glad that this didn’t happen back then.

It’s a fact that any Indie author out there right now with one, or maybe two books published, is not going to be laughing all the way to the bank. It’s also a fact that readers buy from sources other than Amazon, especially in places like Canada where Kobo is popular, so if your book is Amazon exclusive those would be readers who wouldn’t have the opportunity to buy it. Then again, even if your book is available at all of these other outlets, that doesn’t mean that anyone will buy them there. Two of my books were on all of those sites for quite some time, and I have to risk being shot down in flames here, and truthfully say that since they’ve been taken down from them a very short while ago, they’ve earned more from KU downloads than they ever did there.

I’m not being an Amazon groupie here – I’m well aware that there are authors who truly hate them. I don’t hate them. I just think that we, as self-published writers, need to get things a little more in perspective. We aren’t obliged to put our books on KDP Select. All it means if we don’t is that we don’t have any Amazon free days and a couple of other perks. We can still make our books free regardless by putting a free price on them at Smashwords, and asking Amazon to match the price – this is how we get to having permafree books. Before, when a reader downloaded a book using KU, all that was required for the author of a twelve page book to get the same payout as an author of a two hundred page book, was for the reader to read ten percent of the book. Now authors will be paid for pages read. I don’t see what all the fuss is about – page for page sounds fair to me. As writers I would have thought that we’d be more concerned about readers reading our entire books because they love them, rather than getting cross with Amazon for evening out the playing field.

When I’ve been asked, I’ve always advised newbies publishing their first book to start out the gates with three months on KDP Select, and I stand by that. The authors feeling this particular crunch in their pockets are authors who are already earning minimum four digit monthly incomes from their books, mainly because of loss of actual sales. When it comes to the newly published author, would you rather get a share of the KU pot for a borrow of your book, and the potential of new readers who might not otherwise have been prepared to actually pay for it, or dig your heels in on principle and sell none at all? If Amazon were to close its doors to Indie publishers tomorrow, how well would we all be doing sales-wise? The angry comments about Amazon giving better promotion to Select books also confuse me a little. On the one hand there are the questions of what the benefits are to being Amazon exclusive, while at the same time complaining that those who are Amazon exclusive are getting preferential treatment. That question seems to answer itself right there.

UPDATE: I’m moving this very helpful information up from the comments section. It’s from bestselling author and self-publishing expert Chris Mc Mullen. Click on his name here to go to go and read a great related article on the difference between borrowing and lending on Amazon.

“ I don’t think Amazon specifically favors Select books. However, every KU and Prime borrow helps the sales rank, even if not read to 10%, and there are many borrows not read to 10% that don’t show in the sales reports. That means Select has a larger impact on sales rank than the shown borrows + sales would suggest. That sales rank boost really helps visibility.

But that’s not the only thing. Select books will earn over $100M in royalties in 2015; that’s a huge market. Which lessens the market outside of Select. But that huge KU customer base clicks on the Kindle Unlimited filter in search results, which eliminates all the books that aren’t in Select. Obviously, that helps Select books with visibility, too.

Amazon doesn’t need to do anything special to favor Select books. The reward is built-in. ”
Thanks Chris!

Amazon is what it is – the biggest and best way for self-published writers to have the opportunity to sell our wares, with the added possibility of eventually earning enough from our writing to quit our day jobs – with quite a bit of hard work to come and more books, I hasten to add. Most of us aren’t anywhere near that point yet, so yelling about this and taking our books off KU because of this honestly sounds counterproductive to me. So to any brand new Indies out there about to boycott Amazon because of this, please think twice before you do, and consider what is best for your own book right now, rather than any cash you could potentially be losing if you’re currently making less than fifty dollars or so a month. KDP Select isn’t a life plus seventy year contract holding you down – it’s three months – test it for yourself first.

Owl Holding Kindle

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37 thoughts on “Is Kindle Unlimited Hurting New Indies?”

  1. I am no Amazon groupie either and understand that some people don’t like them and won’t publish on their platform or will choose to be nonexclusive. Thing is that I only publish with Amazon and am fine with it. It is a calculated decision that has to do with both the ergonomy of formatting and marketing and also with how I don’t feel comfortable having to keep track of multiple selling platforms. Keeping up with social media and writing projects is already busy enough. So far, my experience with Amazon has been good too. The only reason why I use Smashwords is for free eBooks, which are a very small fraction of what I do (in this case they won’t be on Amazon down the road). I also write a lot of different types of books, fiction/nonfiction and of various lengths, from short reads to longer ones. So the pricing is of course different and as much as being paid per read page baffles me a bit, I doubt it will make a drastic change to what I earn at this point. No book, regardless of how it is published, is guaranteed to be purchased by this or that number of people.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m also happy going Amazon only right now. Apart from it being nice to see my books all over the place before, it’s better now from a sales point of view. I’ve also been wondering about the non-fiction book page counts. Hopefully they’ll also make allowances for all the work that goes into illustrating children’s books and so on too even though their page counts are low.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Jack! I agree with you. I think that Amazon offer a brilliant opportunity to Indies, and I’m amazed sometimes when I see some totally off the wall and totally illogical rants about them around and about. All things considered, I reckon they’re quite nice to keep some writer’s books on their platform after the abuse that gets hurled at them.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m one of those luddites that don’t read books in any electronic format so as a reader it is physical books all the way. I realise I’m in a bit of a minority these days.

    I’m generally not an Amazon groupie. When I was starting off I had some of my books exclusively to Amazon but I was never happy with it and only once did I utilise any of the so called Amazon benefits of having free days and aside from several thousand people getting a free read, it did nothing for me.

    So I got rid of the exclusivity and by using Smashwords are now on iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and all manner of things and I must say I am making many more sales this way. Some weeks they outnumber the Amazon sales. If it is ok, I’ll put a link to a post I wrote just a few weeks ago on the same subject. http://stephenliddell.co.uk/2015/06/09/kindle-vs-ibooks-or-making-waves-in-publishing/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A lot of authors are making excellent sales at Smashwords and the rest, so I’m not against them in general. I think that the writers who are doing well there are fairly established though, or with traditional beginnings so that readers actively seek them out there. Maybe genre also has something to do with it – not sure really. I think Select is great for newly published first timers, and even though I’ve got a couple of books up, I’m preferring it at the moment also. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. A nicely balanced view, Jo. I’ve been reading various blogs on the subject and am waiting with baited breath to see what happens because I’m just sitting on the fence, whiling away my summer!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Noelle! Whiling away your summer sounds absolutely fabulous – such a thing to do! 🙂 It’s always a good idea to watch what’s going on before you decide which way to go so that you’re happy with what you finally choose.

      Like

  4. That’s a sensible perspective. 🙂

    I don’t think Amazon specifically favors Select books. However, every KU and Prime borrow helps the sales rank, even if not read to 10%, and there are many borrows not read to 10% that don’t show in the sales reports. That means Select has a larger impact on sales rank than the shown borrows + sales would suggest. That sales rank boost really helps visibility.

    But that’s not the only thing. Select books will earn over $100M in royalties in 2015; that’s a huge market. Which lessens the market outside of Select. But that huge KU customer base clicks on the Kindle Unlimited filter in search results, which eliminates all the books that aren’t in Select. Obviously, that helps Select books with visibility, too.

    Amazon doesn’t need to do anything special to favor Select books. The reward is built-in.

    Liked by 1 person

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