Tag Archives: Kindle Unlimited

On Demand

As a Purveyor of Fine Publications, I have to be constantly aware of how the public is consuming media. It’s not a surprise, I think, to those who visit the Mad Genius Club to hear that consumption of entertainment is in the throes of another sea-change, and has been for a while. You will still, however, run across those who wonder who moved their cheese, or who think that consuming media in one way is the best way and no other way is valid. Friends, we cannot think like that. We have to remain nimble, and ahead of the curve, or at the very least just behind it. We cannot afford to remain at the flat bottom shaking our fists at the wave telling it to stay off our lawn. Not only is the general public not interested in our lawn, they have moved past lawns into xeriscaping and polyculture and are wondering why we’re still insisting on that boring old monoculture of grass. Grass doesn’t do anything, except dry up and get brown when it stops raining every August.

I published a blog post yesterday – and how long have blogs been around? I mean gosh, I remember publishing the school newspaper on the stinky printer in the principal’s office and if a paper jam happened we were flat out of luck. And it wasn’t that long ago fanzines were mimeographed, and now they’re on efanzine and delivered  conveniently to your email (I highly recommend Uncle Timmy’s The Revenge of Hump Day, by the way). But I digress. I published a thing, about books and how cranky I was about certain trends (speaking as a reader) and a lively discussion was sparked in the comments and on social media. Time was, you’d have to go to a con to have that many geeky voices chatting on one subject in that time frame.

One of the facets of the conversation was about Kindle Unlimited. I know we’re all familiar with it here, and have discussed the pros and cons as both authors and readers, but I still find that I have to explain it when I bring it up on social media, and there are a lot of misconceptions out there surrounding it. One seems to be that if a person reads in KU, the author isn’t compensated – we are. We might not get as much as we would were the reader to buy the books, but frankly I understand limits to book spending money, and I’m happy to get a little money than none at all. I suppose if the reader really wanted to support an author for their work (or for, say, their nonfiction outside of paid-work) they can look at the author’s website for a tip button like I have on mine in the upper right corner. Ahem. Or they can read and return the book on KU and then buy it outright. We get paid twice!

Kindle Unlimited, I explained yesterday, is like Netflix, for books. It is, in short, part of the new trend in media consumption. On Demand.

Consumers demand what they want to watch, read, or play right now. They don’t want to wait, they don’t want to sort through what’s on the shelf of the bookstore or video shoppe, and settle for second choices (or third, or fourth, or…). They don’t want to check and see if it’s in the budget. And they aren’t too concerned about re-consumption, if you think about it. Netflix offers the ability to binge-watch a TV show (check out Father Brown if you love crime and humor), a series of movies(Captain America is the best superhero), or discover stuff you didn’t know was out there (Australian crime shows are a lot of fun). As Netflix became more and more popular Hulu came on the scene. You can now purchase passes to most TV channels on-demand. The days of having to subscribe to a $200 a month cable package are gone, folks. And it’s the same way for books. You could buy all the titles you wanted individually, or you can get a reading pass subscription to something like KU (I haven’t tried the others out there, like Scribd) and binge-read to your heart’s content.

I think that’s the way of the future. I watch my kids, and I see them reading. A lot. Not always what I’m coaxing them to read, but they read massive amounts of fanfiction. My Junior Mad Scientist showed me her open tabs on her laptop the other day, and um, yeah. She’s my kid. I didn’t know you could have that many open tabs without crashing the browser. I strongly suspect that as she gets older and her tastes more sophisticated, she will move (as I did, around her age) to a different reading format that isn’t so… unreliable. However, I don’t think that she’ll move on to bookstores and libraries, at least not as I knew them as a teen and young woman. I suspect her world will look a lot more like on-demand access to books, movies, and games. She already has a Steam account, for videogames, as does her brother. I have the admin rights to both, so I can give them games (and see how much they are playing). She has access to my Kindle Library and I can buy her books… like Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones (I got a dual SQUEE! over this one. My girls had seen the movie and didn’t know there was a book).

I appreciate and understand the love for paper books. Heck, last week I was posting glamour shots of some of my dead tree collection here on this very blog, and I’m likely to do so again. (Pulps, anyone? LOL) The reality is that paper is dead, and in more ways than just one. E-ink readers, which I remember reading about a mere 15 years ago as being novelties presented at some Japanese tech convention, are not only common, but relatively cheap. Tablets that can do more than my first computer are so ubiquitous I’ve given one to my 11 yo son, repeatedly. I read on the computer, on my tablet, on my phone… and rarely, in paper. I know I’m not an outlier in this.

So I put all my novels and most of my short works in KU. For the moment, that restricts me to Amazon, but frankly my sales outside Amazon were not sufficient to offset the ‘reads’ I’m paid for through KU. It appears that my monthly royalties are about a 50/50 split between purchases and KU reads. It’s been well worth the move to having my work in KU. And as a reader, it’s great to have access to on-demand books.

 

 

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, MARKETING

Reading on a Budget

As we were working on the family budget last night, I looked at the line item for Kindle Unlimited, and pondered canceling it for a moment. I haven’t been reading since… August. Maybe even since late June. I just haven’t had much time. The First Reader shrugged when I asked him what he thought “I don’t use it.”

Actually, he does, he just doesn’t always realize it. The man reads whatever I put on the kindle account, if it catches his eye, he just doesn’t often ask me for specific titles. But it did get me thinking about a couple of things. First isn’t really related to books. Well, sort of.

Reading time is usually important for me. It’s how I retreat from the world, relax, and come back refreshed and ready to go again. I haven’t had much of that (up until very recently and more on that later) for months, which isn’t a good thing. The First Reader reads for much the same reasons, and his reading has been on lunch breaks, mostly. He also goes through kicks where he’s reading one author, and we mostly own those books in paper. Both of us are, normally, voracious readers, which is why Kindle Unlimited seemed to have been a good idea when I signed up for it a year or so ago. If you didn’t know, you can borrow up to ten titles at a time. Once you read a book, you can return it and immediately borrow another. In other words, unlimited reading material and yes, the author gets paid (although reviews per read are lower, please keep in mind reviews matter if you want to keep books coming from a favorite author).

Reading seasons, at least for us, fluctuate. I’ve not been reading much. The First Reader and I, talking a while back, discussed these dry spells where reading (and I should clarify that this pertains to fiction, I’ve been reading massive amounts of scientific papers and textbooks) is difficult. It feels weird to us, like we’re somehow ill and it’s unsettling to not be able to read. I discovered that my ‘dry spell’ was broken once we were moved into the new house, by a small thing that wasn’t possible at the old house. We have a proper bathtub. So I can sit and soak in the tub and read. I can’t indulge often – perhaps weekly – but I have confirmed something else by doing this.

My fiction creative well is somewhat linked to my reading. I’ve been getting flashes of stories since I was able to do this. Not much, yet, I don’t have the time to let it be more than the illumination of scenes in a flashbulb moment. But they are coming. I was beginning to wonder if I was broken.
But back to the kitchen table discussion. We try to sit down now at the first of the month and formally plan out what will be spent that month. With the kids here, and the move to the rented house (and the long-term plan of buying a home in a few years), we’re trying to be intentional about money. It also makes me think ahead, and realize that with school ending in less than two weeks, I’ll have reading time again. And writing time! And… actually, it’s a bit scary, the whole school-done thing. I need to ramp up the job search, but I also want to write like heck to get some income rolling in down the line.

I’m rambling. I think my point, lost somewhere in the weeds up there, is that I can’t be the only reader who has to justify their book habit in a budget meeting. I even have the advantage that as a writer, I can argue it’s necessary for business reasons. As that businesswoman, I am acutely aware that my readers won’t even look at my ebook if it’s 9.99 or more. Well, they might. If it’s available through their local library. So I scrutinize my pricing, and I put my work in the KU library, and as a result even though I haven’t put out a new novel in well over a year now, I have a steady trickle of people reading my stuff, and buying it. I imagine if I looked around at promo sites, and put some money in advertising, I could swell that trickle, but until I’m ready to push the next book, that’s not in the budget either.

So for me, Kindle Unlimited is worth the ten dollars a month. It’s a fairly large pool of reading material, and as with any book marketplace, Sturgeon’s Law applies. You will have to look to find the good stuff, although for me the alsobots help with that. And there are scammy books in KU, which offend me not just as a reader but a writer. The scam is that someone figured out Amazon calculates pages read not on each click of the page (good news to the privacy conscious) but on where in the book you are when you sync with wifi again. So the scammers put in TOC links, or other links, which when the reader clicks, take them to the back of the book. Voila! KU is tricked into paying out for hundreds or thousands of pages read. This kind of crap makes it harder for real authors, and in some ways is almost worse than the poorly-written crap that just makes people give up after a few pages. (hat tip to George Phillies for the article link).

Join Amazon Kindle Unlimited 30-Day Free Trial (Yes, shameless promotion. I do get a little ad money if you sign up for the free trial through this link, in interest of full disclosure)

Oh, and I don’t read on my tablet in the bath, although I could (large Ziploc in case of splashes or sleepy author dropping), instead I’m working through some of my paper TBR pile. Having just moved, I can see all my books again. And it makes me aware of how deplorably disorganized they are… nope. Not touching that until after graduation. The list of to-do-while-I’m-supposed-to-be-writing is growing ever longer.

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Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, PROMOTION

KDP Select or Not?

Yesterday, a FB friend asked whether she should set her new book up on Amazon so it could be “borrowed”. The discussion turned into one a number of people were interested in — in fact, one of the participants asked Sarah if MGC could do a post on KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited from an author’s point of view. Since Sarah is away from home and I didn’t have a topic ready to go this morning, I’m stealing the idea.

I’ve been on the record for some time telling writers that they need to explore how well their books sell on the various different platforms available to us. I know some who sell well on Kobo or Barnes and Noble. Some love Smashwords. But, most of the writers I know have all come to one conclusion: the majority of their sales come from Amazon.

For myself, I had my books on all the major markets for awhile. I used Smashwords first to get into some of them and then moved to Draft2Digital. Of the two companies, I far and away preferred Draft2Digital for ease of use and ease of understanding their reports as well as payment schedules. However, the one thing that was consistent between the two of them was that my Apple sales were almost non-existent. Kobo not much more. B&N I uploaded myself and if I made double digits between them, I had to call it a good month. At the same time, my sales on Amazon were well above 1o to 1. Well above.

So I pulled my novels from the other stores and took them exclusively to Amazon. The first thing I did was sign up with the KDP Select Program. The basic requirement for this program is simple. You agree not to offer your book or short story anywhere else for a period of 90 days. You can set it up so the title is automatically renewed at the end of the 90 day or not. So you aren’t tied into the program if you select it.

The benefits of the program help too. Enrolled titles earn 70% royalties in Japan, India, Brazil and Mexico. You can also choose to enroll your title in the Kindle Unlimited program. More on that in a bit.

Another of the benefits of the KDP Select Program is you can enroll in the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). What this means is that Prime members can choose to borrow one book a month from the KDP Select books. There is no due date. So they can read the book at their leisure. They can’t borrow another book until that first one is returned. And, as with Kindle Unlimited, you are paid for each “normalized” page read of a book borrowed under KOLL.

Kindle Countdown Deals is another benefit of being enrolled in the KDP Select Program. These are limited time discount deals you can set up.

1) They’re time-based: Not only does this give you more control over how long your book is discounted, but the time remaining for the promotion is visible to customers to increase excitement for the price discount.
2) Customers see the regular price: It’s easy for customers to see the great deal they’re getting, as the regular price is included on the book’s detail page, right beside the promotional price.
3) Royalty rate is retained at lower prices: You will earn royalties based on your regular royalty rate and the promotional price. As a result, if you are using the 70% royalty option, you’ll earn 70% even if the price is below $2.99. (As per the KDP Pricing Page, regular delivery costs apply.)
4) There’s a dedicated website: Customers can discover active Kindle Countdown Deals at http://www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals.
5) You can monitor performance in real time: Your KDP report will display sales and royalties at each price discount side-by-side with pre-promotion performance.

The keys here are that the customers can see they are getting a deal and how long the deal is available for AND you maintain the same royalty rate throughout the sale.

You can also offer your book for free, up to 5 days during the 90 day enrollment period. Note, however, that you receive NO royalties for books downloaded under this promotion.

Then you have Kindle Unlimited. For readers, this is a subscription service that allows them to download up to 10 eligible books at a time without actually buying them. For authors, it is a variation of the KOLL. We get paid not for the number of times a title is downloaded (how it used to be) but for each “normalized” page read. To find out how many “pages” are in your title, you need to go to your Bookshelf. Click on KDP Select Info. Scroll down to Earn Royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund. At the bottom of that section, you will see the number of “normalized” pages for that title.

Now, what does all this mean to an author?

For exclusive rights to your e-book — and it is e-book only, not print or audio — Amazon will automatically enroll you in the KOLL program. From a personal standpoint, I never earned all that much from KOLL. It was great when it first started and I was an early adopter. But as more indies and small presses started taking part, and as some unethical “authors” learned to game the system, the payouts lowered. At that time, everyone earned the same thing. We were paid X-amount per borrow. It didn’t matter how long or short the book or story happened to be. That meant it helped writers of shorter works but penalized those of us who wrote novels. We complained, and so did some readers, and Amazon reworked the payout scheme.

Where my income jumped was with the invention of Kindle Unlimited. I’ll admit I wasn’t sure it would make any difference. After all, how many readers would pay a subscription in order to borrow up to ten books at a time? Then I thought about my reading habits and realized I would save money with KU. First, it meant I’d be more likely to try a new author than before because I wouldn’t be out any money. I could download the book under KU, read until I was hooked or not and then return the book. Second, it is easy. When I go to a book’s product page, I see right there if I can borrow it or if I have to buy it. When borrowing it, I can download it to a specific device just as I can when I purchase it. When I try to download an 11th book, Amazon tells me my limit has been reached and shows me the oldest books borrowed and asks if I want to return it.

From an author’s standpoint, this is a wonderful tool to be used to reach new readers. As noted above, the new rules on payouts are also more fair for writers of longer work than the previous rules were. Yes, folks have gamed the system and Amazon has taken steps to stop it. That is going to happen, be it Amazon or some other entity.

What I have found with the inception of KU is that my normalized pages read has gone through the roof compared to what I used to get under KOLL. My KU payment now ranges anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of my monthly royalties. It is higher those months when I have a new title out. What I am hearing from readers who contact me is that they see the announcement for the new title and, if it is part of a series they haven’t read, they will borrow the first book under KU and, if they like it, will then buy it and the other books in the series. I get paid for the number of pages read for the borrow as well as for the subsequent sales.

So, how much do we get paid? It varies based on the money in the global fund (and Amazon sends an email each month detailing how much money is there) and how many titles are enrolled as well as how many normalized pages have been read. I did some quick math and it looks like it runs between $0.006 to $0.004? (or 0.6 cents to 0.4) per normalized page. Based on the figures for June, it came in around $0.0492 cents per normalized page (again, assuming my math challenged brain did the math right). That doesn’t seem like much until you start looking at the bottom line — and you realize that is money you probably would not have made had you not enrolled your book in the KU program. (Figures edited to clarify amounts — asg)

Something else I am seeing is that my short stories are not being borrowed under the KU program at nearly the same frequency as my novels. That may be because folks aren’t worried about spending 99 cents and not liking what they bought.

There is one downside to the KU program for both writers and those readers who also post reviews. Amazon’s algorithms place more weight on those reviews written by “verified” purchasers. Right now, they do not view a review from a KU reader as being from a verified purchaser. So those reviews don’t get as much weight. There has been push-back from both authors and KU reviewers about this. Possibly Amazon will change this in the future. I hope so. Until then, just be aware of it.

So, should a writer enroll in KDP Select and KU? That is up to you. I always recommend an author try other outlets before making the decision. Why? Because they may find that their experience is different from what mine has been. However, if you have done your research and have been following the Author Earnings reports, if you have talked to other authors and asked about their experiences — especially if they write in the same genre you do — then you may have enough information to make a decision without taking time to try out other markets.

For me, it has been an easy decision. I make much more from KU earnings than I did from the other outlets combined.

And now for some self-promo:

I am currently working on Dagger of Elanna, the sequel to Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1).

War is coming. The peace and security of the Ardean Imperium is threatened from within and without. The members of the Order of Arelion are sworn to protect the Imperium and enforce the Codes. But the enemy operates in the shadows, corrupting where it can and killing when that fails.

Fallon Mevarel, knight of the Order of Arelion, carried information vital to prevent civil war from breaking out. Cait was nothing, or so she had been told. She was property, to be used and abused until her owner tired of her. What neither Cait nor Fallon knew was that the gods had plans for her, plans that required Fallon to delay his mission.

Plans within plans, plots put in motion long ago, all converge on Cait. She may be destined for greatness, but only if she can stay alive long enough.

Like all my other books, Sword is available for purchase or for download through the Kindle Unlimited program.

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When is an indie doing well?

I was going to write about the latest payout numbers from the Kindle Unlimited Program today — and I will get to it shortly — but a member of my critique group asked a question Sunday that had me sit back and think. Several weeks before, instead of our regular meeting, we held a mini-workshop. It was something we’d planned for more than a month. We hadn’t advertised it because I was building the workshop around the needs of our group members. During the course of the session, a newcomer came in. That was fine. We invited her to stay and tried to make her a part of the workshop.

Now, during the course of her time with us, she referred to the book she had just self-published and kept telling us it was “selling well”. No explanation. Nothing more than a repeat of the same mantra of it was “selling well”. So, fast forward to this past Sunday and one of our regular members asked, “what does selling well mean to an indie author?”

When Kyle asked me that, I had to think. My immediate response was that it depends on the author and that author’s personal goals. I know there are some authors who are happy just being able to say they have published something. They don’t really look at what their sales are and look at any monies coming in as found money. But that answer sort of cheated, at least in my mind. So I thought for a moment and then asked myself what it meant.

To me, an indie is doing well when she can say that she earned out during a year on one title what she would have made as an advance from a traditional publisher. My response, based on that, was that when I make $5,000 in a year from a single title, I’m selling well. But was I right?

Another member of the group, one who has experience in the romance side of the industry, said my figure was a little high. She said that for some, that figure would be $1,000. So, I did what I often do, I asked our own Sarah what she thought. Her figure was more in line with the $3,000 mark. So there is no set figure, not really. You have to look at what the average advance in your genre for authors of your level happens to be. That means, for most of us, if we earn anywhere from $1,000 to $3,000 for a title in a year, we have just earned out an advance. In other words, we made as much money as most traditionally published new authors would make for their first few books.

Keep in mind, if you earn that much money and keep earning on a single title, you are doing better than a lot of traditionally published authors who don’t ever earn out their advances.

So, how does this fit in with the new Kindle Unlimited payouts?

That’s simple. As a writer of long fiction, my payments under the new KU rules jumped dramatically over the previous months. From what I’m seeing, I’m not the only one to have this result. J A Konrath blogged about his numbers this past Saturday.  He noted the upswing in monies earned under the new program and made some interesting observations about the revamped KU program. I’ll come back to those observations shortly.

Hugh Howie has also weighed in on the new payouts.

Before I get to their observations, here is what I saw with my titles in the KU program. In June, I earned $1.35 for each title downloaded and read past the 10% mark. It didn’t matter if it was for a 10 page short story selling for 99 cents or a 300 page novel selling for $2.99. That old program was great for short works priced at 99  cents. You made more for a borrow than you did for a sell. But it sucked for novels priced $2.99 or more.

Under the new program, I earned approximately $.005779 per page read. Taking the number of “pages” read for Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1), my latest novel, and dividing it by the number of “pages” Amazon says Sword has, I made approximately $3.88 for each “download”. (Here I made the assumption that everyone read the book all the way through. Unfortunately, at this time, we have no way of knowing how many times a book is downloaded under the KU program or how far a reader goes before he stops reading. Hopefully, Amazon will correct that in the future.) That is a different of $2.53 per book read. That’s a huge jump in royalties and a welcome one.

Going back to Konrath’s post, a 23 page short story that earned him $1.35 in June earned him 16 cents. Yes, this is why those writers of short fiction — and those who had been gaming the system — were screaming when the new rules were announced.

So what does this new system do, really? What is its purpose?

Both Konrath and Howey agree that the system rewards authors who put out good work and hook their readers. If you are write a good book, they will continue reading. If you continue putting out good work, adding to your list of available titles, they will continue buying or borrowing your work.

I will add one more thing that I have been seeing. I’ve seen — well, I’ve heard from some of my readers — they they first try my books on Kindle Unlimited and then, once they liked something, they went ahead and bought it as well as the next titles in the series. That is a win-win for me as an author because it means I have found a new fan, I have received royalties from the KU program and then from the sale.

So, to get back to my initial question. What does it mean when an indie writer says they are selling well? It is a personal call, one made by each author. For me, it is making as much as I would if I had received a traditional publishing contract and, looking at my numbers for last year and this, I can say I am selling well. But it also means I have to keep writing and improving my craft and figuring out better ways to market my work because I want to improve my sales. After all, I’m not one to suffer for my art.  😉

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Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

Are you ready?

Edited to add note on Apple losing its appeal. Scroll to bottom of post for more.

Obviously, I’m not. It is Tuesday morning and I haven’t clue one for a blog topic this morning. So, I let my google-fu do the walking and found several posts of interest. Well, to be honest, I let my fingers virtually walk over to The Passive Voice and, as always, PG was a trove of interesting posts and I’ve pulled a couple of them for discussion. If you aren’t already following PG, I highly recommend you do so. It is, in my opinion, the best site for gathering news and information about the publishing industry out there. You can find the Passive Guy here.

The first post that caught my eye was an excerpt from The New Yorker. In A Book Buyer’s Lamet, the author discusses how difficult it is to know where to go to buy a book these days. The stores are almost identical in how they look and in what they stock. The author looks at the decision of where to buy a book as an “ethical” decision. In other words, where would it do the most good since literary culture is “under threat from several directions,” and “every opportunity to come to its relief should be seized”? In short, the article is a love letter to independently owned bookstores.

I’ll admit, I love the indie bookstores and miss those that fell victim when Borders and Barnes & Noble came into the area and drove them out of business. I applaud those that have cropped up in recent years, finding their niche market and building a clientele to keep their doors open. These stores have, as I said, found a niche market and cater to it. They have employees who love books and love working with their customers. That is something that is all too often lacking in the big box bookstores.

However, as much as I love the local indie bookstores, I will not jump onto the Amazon is evil bandwagon that the New Yorker’s columnist dances around. As Passive Guy points out, “[t]he exquisite moral balancing described seems to ignore one big reality – most bookstore employees are working at minimum wage with little hope of being able earn enough from their employment to live in a pleasant residence, support a family or enjoy the even the most modest trappings of a middle-class life. They are the ultimate wage slaves.”  As Colonel Klink from the old Hogan’s Heroes TV show would say, “Very interesting”.

Another post that caught my eye was this one from Patricia Wrede. In it, Ms. Wrede relates an incident at a book signing when she admitted to the person behind her in line that she was working on her next book. That person, also a writer, proceeded to want to know what conferences Wrede had been to, if she was on Facebook, blogging, etc. Everything the other person was asking about were things she thought Wrede should be doing to promote herself.

Gather a group of writers in a room and ask them about promotion and you will get as many different answers as there are writers and then some. That becomes especially true if you have a mix of traditionally published authors and indie authors. As Wrede points out in her post, there are some authors who make as much, if not more, from their blogs and lectures and courses as they do from their writing. There is nothing wrong with that. Absolutely nothing at all.

The post is interesting in the questions Ms. Wrede asks. “What, exactly, is it that you hope to sell? Yourself? Or your books?” But the bottom line is simple and she wastes no time in pointing it out. No matter what you are hoping to sell, if you are a writer, you need to remember this. “[F]undamentally, the only thing that every writer has to do is write.” Everything else is a tool to make your work more visible. It is up to you to decide what you are going to do and how much. No one besides yourself can make that decision for you.

Elizabeth Hunter has a great post about the upcoming changes to Amazon’s payment policy for borrows/loans under the Kindle Select/Unlimited programs. Much as I said last week, there is no reason to panic yet about these changes. For one, we don’t know how these changes will impact anyone. We can speculate, especially where shorter works are concerned. But that’s about it. As she points out, no one is making you take part in the program. You can opt out, and Amazon has made it easy to do so, if you are currently enrolled in KDP Select. Or you can stay in. The decision is yours. Don’t let yourself be swept up in the panicked reactions that we are seeing from some folks about these changes. As Ms. Hunter says:

You are the one who controls your books.

You’re it. You’re the boss of your work. You.

So please stop bitching and just take the reins.

Read the post. Not only is it spot on, in my opinion, it has a GIf of Beaker. Anyone who uses Beaker in their post is all right in my book.  😉

Finally, there is this article. At some point, Amazon took down “A Gronking to Remember”. Now, the title alone is enough for me to raise an eyebrow but, well, I guess even Patriots fans need their erotica. Anyway. . . .

The issues with the book basically come down to this. First, the cover had an image of NE Patriots player Ron Gronkowski on it, in uniform. Needless to say, the Pats weren’t happy. So the author removed that “offending” part from the cover and republished. What the author apparently didn’t do was get permission to use the image of the couple seen embracing on the cover. Folks, this is why you always make sure you have the rights to all elements of your cover and any other images you use BEFORE you hit the publish button. I haven’t had a chance to read the court filings but, if the cover story is correct, the plaintiff is suing Amazon, saying Amazon should use facial recognition programming or something similar to check covers before allowing a book to go live.

Uh, no. Not only no but hell no. It is not Amazon’s responsibility — or Apple’s or B&N’s or any other site where we can sell our books — to make sure we have done what we are supposed to do. It is our responsibility as authors to make sure we have the rights to use the images we’ve chosen for our cover. Not only the image but the fonts as well. If you want to call yourself a writer and you want to go the self-published route, then remember that you are also a businessman and act accordingly. This isn’t grade school where you can say you didn’t know better or no one told you you couldn’t use that image. Grow up and take responsibility for your actions.

Ms. Hunter put it best in discussing whether or not a writer should go with the changes at Amazon — and they apply to every aspect of being an indie author:

At the end of the day, I keep coming back to the concept of choice. Writers have more choices now than ever before. We can chart our own path. With all those choices comes a lot of confusion. Some people want a road map for how this is done. And the fact of the matter is, in this new publishing landscape there is no road map. We’re all stumbling along. But it’s not nearly as complicated as the hand-wringers want you to believe.

  • Write a good book.
  • Present it in a professional way.
  • Find places to sell it. (There are lots.)
  • Charge whatever price you want.

You are in control. You don’t like how a retailer is treating you? Don’t sell there. You don’t like the idea of subscription services and how they pay? Then don’t enroll your books. You don’t like giving books away to readers? Don’t.

I couldn’t have said it better.

So, what do you think?

Edited to add:

Word has come from Publishers Weekly that Apple has lost its latest appeal to overthrow the decision holding it responsible for price-fixing. “We conclude that the district court correctly decided that Apple orchestrated a conspiracy among the publishers to raise e-book prices, that the conspiracy unreasonably restrained trade in violation of the Sherman Act, and that the injunction is properly calibrated to protect the public from future anti-competitive harms,” wrote Debra Ann Livingston, for the court. “Accordingly, the judgment of the district court is affirmed.” 

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And Panic Ensues

Eight days ago, Amazon announced a change to their Kindle Unlimited Program. For those who aren’t familiar with KU, it is a two-pronged program. For readers who pay $9.99 per month, you can borrow e-books enrolled in the KU program. This also includes a number of audio books as well. There is no time limit on when you have to return the books except you can only borrow 10 books at a time. If you are a voracious reader, KU can be a godsend for you because of the money you can save. As an author, KU is simply another method to help promote your books. Under the current rules, you get paid a share of the global fund put aside each month by Amazon, once 10% of your book or short story has been read. Simple so far, right?

Now, from the beginning, a number of authors have had issues with the KU Program. Initially, there were the Amazon haters who saw this as a way for Amazon to make money while not paying authors. That was the knee-jerk reaction. The real issue many of us had with the program was that every title received the same share of the pot, no matter how many “pages” it might be. In other words, a short story that regularly sold for 99 cents that would receive a 30 cent royalty for a sale would, on average, receive $1.40 for a borrow. That is the same amount per borrow that the $4.99 full length novel received. It didn’t matter how long your story was or how many words you wrote. You got the same amount out of the global fund per borrow.

And that led to the system being gamed by a number of authors. It was a very well-known “secret” that certain authors would put out short, very short works and put them into the KU Program because they knew they would make more per borrow than they would per sale. Hitting the 10% mark in a short story often happened before getting past the legal page at the beginning of the story. So they would get paid before the reader even knew if they liked the story or not. Conversely, for a novel, several chapters — or more — had to be read before payment would be accrued.

Folks complained and Amazon listened. Eight days ago, the company announced changes to the KU Program that will take effect the beginning of next month.

One particular piece of feedback we’ve heard consistently from authors is that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers. We agree. With this in mind, we’re pleased to announce that beginning on July 1, the KDP Select Global Fund will be paid out based on the number of pages KU and KOLL customers read.

For novel and long non-fiction authors, this is a very good thing. But there have been a number of authors panicking over this announcement. It hasn’t been helped by articles such as the one posted by The Telegraph with a headline shouting “Amazon to pay Kindle authors only for pages read.” The misrepresentation continues in the first two paragraphs:

If you are an author whose book fails to grip in the opening chapter, it could prove costly.

Amazon is to begin paying royalties to writers based on the number of pages read by Kindle users, rather than the number of books downloaded. If a reader abandons the book a quarter of the way in, the author will get only a quarter of the money they would have earned if the reader stuck it out to the end.

I can’t blame any author reading that for worrying. It is an example of not only poor journalism but lousy research, not that it surprises me.

A couple of paragraphs down the author of the article then notes that such a change in policy brings into question just how much data Amazon can mine from its customers. Give me a break. Every time you sync your Kindle or your Kindle app, or any other e-reader for any other vendor, you are giving them information about what you have been reading and how far you have been reading. This is nothing new. If you read the terms of service you agree to when you sign up for their services and the FAQs, you will see this. But, this particular journalist has to reach for the most sensational non-issues possible. Don’t believe me, it isn’t until the fifth paragraph before she clarifies that this new payment method applies to the KU program.

This sort of reporting is fanning a flames of fear and Amazon hate simply because folks aren’t reading the e-mails sent out by Amazon.

Will this impact the bottom line for authors? Absolutely. How much, one way or the other, we won’t know until we see the new rules in action. However, it will do exactly what many of us have wanted — it gives novelists the opportunity to earn more per borrow than short story writers. I say it gives us the opportunity to do so because we still have to hook and hold a reader. If we can’t do that, then we need to know that. And guess what, we will be able to have an idea if we are doing our job because one of the new items to come out of the program is we will be able to see how many pages of an enrolled work were read.  Something else to think about, we no longer have to hit that 10% threshold. So, if someone reads 15 pages and decides that book isn’t for them — and it will happen — we will still get paid for those 15 pages. That is better than nothing.

And I convinced that this new program answers all the concerns I’ve had about the program? No. One question I have is when we get paid for pages read. Say John borrows a book in June and starts reading it in July but doesn’t finish it until September. Do we get paid for the number of pages he read each month? Or do we get paid after he finishes the book in September? Or do we wait until he turns the book in? And what about if he reads the book again? Do we get paid a second time?

Still, instead of doing as so many are threatening and pulling my books out of the program before the changes go into effect, I’m going to wait and see what happens. Frankly, I am more concerned about folks finding new ways to game the system than I am about the change in payout levels. Amazon has already taken steps to try to prevent one way of increasing the number of “pages” an e-book has. It will implement a system of “normalizing” type. That should prevent folks from having a single word or two per page. (Not to mention how readers would react to that sort of thing. I can see the negative reviews now.) But, where there is a will, there is a way.

So, what are your thoughts about the changes to the program and are you going to stay in or pull your titles out until you see what happens?

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Oh the whining and whinging – repost and update

(Apologies first for doing a repost and brief update. I have to leave the house shortly to take my mother to a doctor’s appointment that will last all morning and possibly part of the afternoon. It is one of those marathon testings that will, hopefully, finally give us at least some insight into what’s been going on with her the last few months. It’s nothing serious and is only intermittent but she has no warning before an episode happens and, once it does, she is wiped out for a good 24 hours after. So, I hope you understand that my mind is elsewhere today. As for the update, I will post that at the end of the original article. Until later!)

I do so love how some folks have to hunt to find some sliver of something that might, in some faraway galaxy, be construed as ill-will by Amazon. Once they find it, they run with it, doing their best to make it into a “big” deal, never considering what the actual facts might be. After all, it’s Amazon they are condemning, so why worry about such minor things like facts? The haters are going to hate, no matter what.

The latest example comes from the New York Times. Yes, yes, I know. It is a bastion of journalistic integrity. How could I doubt it when it hosts headlines like this: Amazon Offers All-You-Can-Eat Books. Authors Turn Up Noses.

The article starts out by saying that authors are mad — again — with Amazon. It goes on to note that “[f]or much of the last year, mainstream novelists were furious that Amazon was discouraging the sale of some titles in its confrontation with the publisher Hachette over e-books.”

Now, the teacher in me would take the reporter and the editor who approved the article to task for that sentence. After all, it implies that all mainstream novelists were “furious” with Amazon over the Hachette issue. Funny, I don’t remember it being every mainstream author. In fact, the only ones who seemed to really be furious were the favored few and those who felt it necessary to align their names with those same little darlings of the Hachete world. Most of the other so-called mainsteam authors — and what is a mainstream author? Could the article actually mean traditionally published authors? — were busy doing what writers do. They were writing. Note also how the article doesn’t mention once the suggestions made by Amazon to help these so-called furious authors, suggestions that would have put money into the pockets of the authors and that were summarily tossed aside by Hachette. But I digress.

According to the article, there is too much competition out there for writers now. Without the gatekeepers to limit the number — and “quality” — of books available, there are just too many choices for the poor reader to choose from. This is a variation of the argument that is also going around that Amazon is a purveyor of lettuce and shouldn’t also be selling books because, duh, they sell lettuce.

But the real issue the article has with Amazon is the new Kindle Unlimited program. For those of you not familiar with the KU program, it works like this. From the reader’s standpoint, you pay a monthly fee of $9.99. In return, you get the option of downloading up to 10 books at a time for free. These books have to be enrolled in the KU program, so most will be indie books. There is no time limit on when you have to read the books. You can’t loan them and you don’t own them. Think of it as a for pay library. You are paying for the ability to borrow a book for an unlimited period of time.

From the author’s point of view, you have to enroll your title first in the KDP Select program. That means you cannot sell your title anywhere else. Then, if you want to go into the KU program, you check the little box and your book is now enrolled. But don’t get your knickers in a twist — yet. You will get paid for those loans.

Maybe.

At some future point in time.

The problem with KU from an author’s point of view is two-fold. The first is that you don’t know how many times your book has been downloaded. You only find out about a download when it is read to a certain percentage of the book’s length. When that magical number is reached, you get your share of the common “pot”. And therein lies the second issue.

As with the Kindle Only Lending Library (KOLL), authors get paid out of a monthly fund set up by Amazon. The fund can vary in amount from month to month. Worse, there is no limit on the number of books that can be in the program at any one time. So, the more books downloaded and then read to the magic percentage point, the lower the monies paid out per download.

But the real problem with KU is the fact that there is no payment tier based on title price. Someone who puts up a title that normally sells for 99 cents will get the same amount of money per download as that $9.99 title gets. What that means is that those who are putting up titles that fall under the 30% royalty structure normally will get more money per download than they would for a straight sale. Conversely, depending on how much a title sells for you might make close to what you would for a sale if your title is priced at $2.99 but you will make substantially less for those books priced higher than that.

Now, how you look at that is up to you. Amazon is not, contrary to what the article says, making e-books an all-you-can-eat proposition. Most folks aren’t going to pay basically $10 a month just to maybe be able to download 10 books every 30 days or so. Some will, of course, but the average reader will quit the program after realizing they aren’t getting their money’s worth out of it.

But, as an author, you need to look at your sales stats — and that includes returns as well. My personal experience has seen a dramatic decrease in returns on the romance/paranormal romance novels. As I’ve blogged before, other authors I’ve talked to who write in the romance genres have complained of higher return rates for those books than for other genre novels they write. It has nothing to do with quality — usually — but more to do with a certain set of readers. Don’t get me wrong. Most romance genre readers are wonderful fans who would never think about buying a book, reading it and then returning it. However, there is a subset of readers who have no problem doing just that. It isn’t unusual for romance genre authors to have a return rate of 10% or more. Since KU premiered, my return rate for those particular novels has dropped dramatically. It is now at the same level as my other books, below 1% for most novels.

There is something else I’ve noticed. With the exception of my science fiction novels, sales — and borrows — of the other novels have picked up since KU began. That is a good thing. It means money in my pocket and kitty kibble for Demon Kitten and Her Royal Pussiness. Would I like a better way of accounting for the number of downloads vs reading to the magic number? You bet. Just like I’d appreciate knowing how long the average is between download to reading. But what I am finding out through reviews and emails is that a number of those who try a book on KU will then return the book and buy their own copy. Better yet, they will buy other books in the series. I know I am getting sales from KU that I might not otherwise because people do hesitate to buy from an author they aren’t familiar with.

I do wish Amazon would restructure the payment for KU to make it more difficult for authors to game the system. I don’t think something that normally sells for 99 cents should get the same payout that a $2.99 novel does, much less a novel that sells for $4.99 or more. For the system to really work, there needs to be modifiers based on price and length of the work. Without the latter, you will simply have those who want to game the system changing the price of their 2,500 work story from 99 cents to $2.99 (or whatever) to get the larger royalty payout.

The way I look at KU, however, is much like I look at the Baen Free Library. It is, in a way, a loss leader. People get my work for “free”. I don’t get as much money for their borrows but I do, hopefully, get sales out of it in the long run. Am I leaving everything in the program?  I’m not sure. I think I will tweak my offerings a bit over the next month or so to see what happens. But, for now, I’m not going to completely abandon it. Not when I do see positive results from the program.

Now if Amazon would only adjust it so the payout was based on price and length of the work, I’d be a happy camper.

Update: I have tried a couple of things since the KU program went into effect. I’ve done the countdowns and I’ve let titles time out of the program to see how my sales were impacted. The countdowns didn’t give much push but there were some additional sales. But what surprised me — and yet didn’t — was what happened when I went out of the KU program. My sales for those titles went down. So not only was I missing out on the borrow payouts but I also lost traditional sales. What that tells me is that there are those who “borrow” a book under the KU program and then go back to buy it. I still wish Amazon would adjust the payouts for the titles in the program so it is more fair — a short story should not get more for a borrow than it would for a sale and a novel should get more than a short story, imo — but the borrows are still money I might not have made. I will keep tracking and will update later, after I do a few more promotions. What have been your experiences, as a reader and as a writer, with the KU program?

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