Sun 4 Jan 2015
For the last 3 months or so, my books have been enrolled in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program, and have only been available on Amazon. That changes this week, starting tomorrow. My books will “roll out” of KU this month, and by the end of January all of my books will be available on other forums again, this time through Draft2Digital.
I get the concept of Kindle Unlimited. I get the benefits for readers and the benefits for the forum offering the subscription. Under the model, readers can budget X dollars per month, read all they want, and never risk going over budget. Having the readers subscribe keeps them on Amazon, which benefits to some degree from the subscription, but benefits to a larger degree on Kindle Fire purchases and on everything else readers buy from the Zon, which wants to be everyone’s one-stop shop. But none of the services can survive unless the benefits flow to the author and that is the fatal flaw with the program.
KU requires that authors offer their books exclusively on Amazon. There is a large “pool” of money from the subscription fees, and authors earn a borrow/sale each time a reader. Amazon pays each author the same percentage of that money, regardless of the sales price of their book. In exchange for participation, authors also receive a bump in ranking because borrows are rated as sales, and the right to run a limited number of promos every 90 days per book by either discounting the price for a few days (a countdown deal) or by giving the book away for a few days.
While the promo opportunities and the rankings boost are of some benefit, borrows tend to “eat” sales, so even those benefits are blades on a double-edged sword. Plus, there appears to be reader backlash, meaning that readers feel that if they have to pay for a book and others are getting it “free”, that is unfair or they feel that the book must not be worth their money if it is enrolled in KU. It doesn’t matter how high a book is rated if real sales dollars are not flowing into the author’s pocket.
The largest problems with KU are the exclusivity requirement and the payment structure. Without exclusivity, many authors might enroll series leaders in the program, use the promo opportunity, and gain sales at full value for the rest of the books in each series. With exclusivity, authors will not even do that, because it means that the series leaders couldn’t be sold on other forums, and if a whole series isn’t available, readers will often buy none of it. The payment structure means that authors who should earn $2.05 on a $2.99 book are making as little as $1.33 – and lack a guarantee of making even that. It also means that authors with a .99 cent book are making way more in KU than they make in sales. The unfairness of that structure has led to a bunch of scammers who post very short pamphlets on KU – some of them are only 10 pages in length. That means that if a reader opens the pamphlet, the author earns a sale because the reader has read a tenth of the book. And that author makes as much as a real, hardworking writer who has his or her work enrolled in the program.
I don’t see how Kindle Unlimited can continue to exist under the current arrangements. If Amazon wants the program to survive, it will need to make some real changes. Particularly, it must do away with the exclusivity requirement but it must also pay out in percentages, based on a book’s standard royalty rate. For example, Amazon might pay 80% of a standard royalty rate to books enrolled in the program. That would guarantee an author of a $2.99 book a royalty of 80% of $2.05 ($1.64) and an author of a .99 cent book with a royalty of .35 cents would make 80% of that (.28 cents).
Additionally, rolling out of the program makes my books available to all readers again, and that is a good thing. Authors far and wide are leaving KU, including many who are much less insane than a crazy duck lady – writers like HM Ward and JA Konrath.
So, starting tomorrow, my books will begin appearing on other venues via Draft2Digital’s distribution service. I’m choosing to experiment with D2D because there are less technical challenges in uploading books, so they get out faster, the service shows near real-time sales numbers, and it pays out monthly. Smashwords still has challenges in some of those areas. Additionally, D2D offers some nifty features I’ll be able to take full advantage of when all my books are out of the program – like an “Also by” page and a “teaser” for a different book of my choosing.
Kindle Unlimited and other subscription programs can not exist without content – a lot of books, offering a wide and growing variety in every genre. Without content, the service isn’t worth the subscription fee. Through the current structure of the program, Amazon is guilty of some of the same sins as were traditional publishers before the indie revolution. And traditional publishers nearly went under because of their unfair treatment of authors – those who survived learned the virtue of flexibility and made significant changes. Now, if Amazon wants Kindle Unlimited to survive, it must do the same.
I’m looking forward to welcoming a legion of new readers who enjoy highly sensual novels which will have a happy ending. The third part of my “Devil” series written as Olivia Outlaw – “Devil’s Delight” – is already available through D2D because I didn’t enroll it in KU and you can pick it up today at many of your favorite retailers. By tomorrow, my “Dangerous Relations” series will be available everywhere – By this Friday, 1/9/15, my “Sultan’s Toy” and “Carnal Collateral” series and boxed sets or bundles will be out and about as will Part 1 of my Devil’s series “Devil’s Deal”- By this Saturday, 1/10/15, my “Mary Anne Graham” books will be out and about – the “Forever” series, “Romancing the Rose,” “The Duke of Eden,” and “Brotherly Love” will be available, and on January 25th, the middle book in the Devil series, “Devi’s Demand” rolls out, meaning the whole Devil’s series will be available.
So, by the end of January, the entirety of my insanely romantic and delightfully sensual books written as Mary Anne Graham and as Olivia Outlaw will be available for your reading pleasure at retailers all over the web. Do the crazy duck lady a favor and pick up one or two and find out why love is better over the top!!