Kindle Unlimited: a few observations

This is a post for writers.

Some background:

In July 2014, Amazon rolled out its Kindle Unlimited program. For $10 a month, Kindle owners in the US, UK, and some European countries can “borrow” as many ebooks as they want. I don’t have a Kindle and if you’re interested in this feature, I suggest you go to the Amazon website and check it out.

In short, it’s a subscription service.

For authors, any book that is enrolled has to be exclusive to Amazon. For some, mega-selling authors, they sweetened the deal with a “winners” pot of extra bonuses and they dropped the exclusivity requirement.

A lot of self-published authors reported big losses in sales numbers in July (I didn’t, but I seem to be in a minority). These were authors who were in KU and ones who were not. The theory went that all readers were sucked up by the program. For a while the top sellers were putting on a brave face.

Amazon bestselling author H.M. Ward broke the ranks by posting this

And then Joe Konrad added his voice

In short, it seemed that KU caused widespread carnage amongst self-published writers.

Well. Maybe. Or maybe not.

My sales have suffered absolutely no effect whatsoever. In fact, KU has been a nice little bonus to me.

So what have I done and what are my thoughts on the program?

I had a couple of short stories that I was thinking of bundling. I put them in the KU program for three months for a look-see. People “borrowed” these stories. I’d previously found it impossible to sell single short stories. I decided to add some stories that had never sold a single copy on Amazon before (short stories used to do OK on B&N but that’s no longer happening). Some of these stories feed into novels. People are clicking on the links in the back of the short stories, so I presume some sales come from them. The amount of money involved is not huge, but I’d call this a win because previously these stories were making me precisely $0 per month.

But would I put any of my full-length novels in it? No way! Why should I take $1.39 for a “borrow” when I can get $3 for a sale? I think that best-selling authors who fell for this had the wool well and truly pulled over their eyes. Maybe Amazon promised wonderful marketing. Maybe. But I’m always astonished by people who only ever expect growth, and whose outlook for the future does not include the possibility that they’re already at the top of their current game, and that there is no more growth in their current readership. After all, who still buys Twilight today?

Ironically, the whole KU affair also illustrates why, as a writer, you need to stop relying on Amazon to market your book and take control of your audience. If you plough through that thread on the Kindleboards, you’ll see people musing on Amazon’s rationale for introducing the program. That they introduced it to crush similar subscription services seems to be a popular opinion, although, by requiring exclusivity, Amazon seems to have ended up with an infinitely inferior product to, say, Scribd.

This raises the question? What actually is KU? To which my answer would be: an excellent place to stick pay-per-read articles and short fiction.

Another thing that frequently comes up in these discussions is that Amazon isn’t interested in selling ebooks, or books even, but wants to sell everything. And here we arrive at the single most important reason why as a writer you should list everywhere: because the full sentence should read:

… because they want to sell everything to people in America

If you’re not in America, Amazon doesn’t want to know about you. They charge quite exorbitant postage to deliver the littlest things. I tried to buy a $15 piccolo stand a few months back. They were going to charge me $35 for the cheapest delivery option. What. The. Actual. Fuck.

Want to sell everything, my arse. I’m not in America so Amazon doesn’t give a shit about me as customer. See also the anaemic presence of Amazon’s AU store, where we can buy ebooks only with less choice for inflated prices.

As writer, you should list everywhere, because the majority of people who read English are also not in America.

You should stop relying or spend huge wads of time figuring out how to game store algorithms, because they only need to change one line of code in their site software and you’re Dead. In. The. Fucking. Water.

Take responsibility for your own readership.

Spread yourself widely, and yes, listing widely includes having some short stuff in KU

  • Set up and maintain your website and blog
  • Set up and maintain your mailing list
  • Offer some freebies across all sites. Don’t get me started on the inability to make books free on the Amazon site by simply entering $0 in the price field, and Amazon’s inane tendency to randomly un-free titles, especially in the non-US stores. Get my stuff at Kobo, people. Please. they’re nice and reliable.

Kindle Unlimited: a few observations was originally published on Must Use Bigger Elephants

Advertisements

2 comments on “Kindle Unlimited: a few observations

  1. Excellent, excellent post. Amazon AU still charges for my perma free book, even though it’s free in the US store, in Canada, France, UK and strangely, Germany. Americans aren’t going to like my book. It’s funny and Bookbub doesn’t even have a humour section for heaven’s sake.

    Like you, I’ve been thinking about bundling some shorts for KU but I would never put a novel in.

    I confess, I heartily wish I could get my Kobo or iBooks sales to take off, so my sales off Amazon were just a part (rather than almost the whole) of my income. I dislike being beholden to one retailer. Like you, I also believe that there are as many English speakers in Australia and NZ, in South Africa and Kenya and in the UK, even in India whose attitudes and outlook are far more similar to each other than to that of people in the US.

    Cheers

    MTM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s