On the matter of Kindle Unlimited…
There’s been a boatload of discussions around whether or not Kindle Unlimited (KU) is the Second Coming or the death knell for indies and publishing in general.
There are allegations that it is a two-tier system favoring the high rollers and leaving the rest of the pack in second-class-citizenship. Mark Coker of Smashwords decries the exclusivity requirement (KDP Select), and while nodding in admiration for Amazon’s “brilliance” he claims: “We should also recognize when Amazon’s business interests don’t align with author interests.”
Others dive into the royalties issue and see indies drawing the short straw.
Apparently Amazon has noted some of the harsher criticisms and might relax the exclusivity clause.
As with every issue, there are more pros and cons than you can shake a stick at. I’d like to give you a taste of my experiences with Amazon and KU in particular. Don’t fret, this isn’t one of those mega-posts you have to bookmark for when you have more time. It’s a Cliff Notes version of why I learned to love and hate Amazon…
Up front, let me state for the record: I started out with a couple of reputable romance publishers. One went belly-up but I got my rights back, smiles all around. The other? Well, let me say it’s all thorns, no roses, and I signed away my rights for perpetuity because I was so vera vera excited about my first contract, I never considered the implications of what I was agreeing to.
Yeah, my bad. And I really like those stories. Bridge. Water. Lesson learned.
I did the next logical thing: I self-published on Amazon under a pen name, writing YA and light romantic comedies with a sports theme. I garnered very nice reviews, from perfect strangers, so wow. Sales were slow but steady, then the algorithms changed and sales creeped down, then they fell off a cliff. I went wide like the pundits suggest, adding Smashwords (ahoy, pirates, behold a feast!) and ARe and other ebook distributors.
You know the mantra: slow but steady wins the race. I’m in it for the long term, so fine. It’s all good. Then Nya had stories to tell and characters to release into the wild, then another book under a different pen name (yep, nom d’confusem) caught readers’ fancy and poor romcom/YA me sat in a corner sucking a proverbial thumb and waiting for a wee bit of love.
Come August, current year, that thumb-sucker’s still waiting. I looked at those books with oodles of positives and realized the best of the lot hadn’t sold a single copy in nearly two years. I had even added an audiobook version to tempt new readers/listeners…
What to do? I put 5 titles in EbookPartnership which addresses global markets. Zilch. I promo (respectfully, no spamming), and I try to do it right. Nada.
When the Zon launched KU, I researched all the ways it’s a bad idea or the best idea ever, and decided to give it a try. Hells bells, it’s not like that publishing contract I signed where I’d lost the rights to my two titles forever! It’s a 3-month test.
Let’s do this thing, dammit.
I took 6 of my Nya shorts and novellas and went exclusive on KDP. They weren’t selling anywhere but on the Zon anyway, so I basically sacrificed nothing by closing down all the other channels. And voilà! I’m getting quite a few borrows now, and on 99c titles, the royalties based on that pool of funds has meant a bit of a windfall. Plus I can make them free or put them on a countdown deal and hopefully raise awareness and interest in my full novels.
Thus encouraged, I took down all the romcoms and put them into KDP Select/KU. I put Points on a Curve free for 3 days and garnered 958 downloads. It might have been more except for one strange glitch…
I was barreling along, earning #2 in the sports genre and #10 in sports romance on the 3rd day when all of a sudden the book fell off the charts and downloads halted (I mean they hit a brick wall). This happened within 10 minutes of me checking and then rechecking the numbers (like you do, don’t judge). Annoyed I was, but it’s not the first eyebrow-lifting glitch I’ve run into with the Zon. See my post on returns a year later.
Anyhoo… I stopped the promotion and have been in cooling off mode before shooting the complaint bots a nastygram. More on that later.
On the plus side, a title that hadn’t seen the light of day in years, suddenly has both borrows and sales. Not a lot – I ain’t never gonna be no Janet Evanovich – but enough to make me smile. In addition, I’ve noted carryovers to the other titles – folks who picked up PoaC are now looking for other stuff by moi. And that’s a good thing that wouldn’t have happened without Kindle Unlimited.
While I do abide by the measures of success as having pride in one’s work and writing for oneself, if I only wrote for me I wouldn’t be out there working my a** off, spending beaucoup bucks on cover artists and editors and advertising. Nope, to do it solely for my own enjoyment, I’d write a novel, share it as a word doc with a few friends who like my stuff, and then tuck it into a virtual drawer and move on to the next.
Le sigh, I am crasser than that, needier than that. I want/crave for folks to read my work and hopefully get back to me with a reaction—good, bad, indifferent. I just want to know if my words, my stories, my characters made an impact.
And to know if that happens requires sales. And reviews, let’s not forget reviews.
So, for now, I’m giving a thumbs-up to KU and to Amazon.
Like I said, it’s only a 3-month commitment and I can do whatever else I want when that period expires.
Just remember, your mileage may differ.
I’m SO glad it’s working for you. It makes me happy that you’re seeing at least SOME of the gains you should be making by virtue of your incredible talent, alone.
I haven’t done even an eighth of what you’ve done, and I’m still getting a modest sale or so every other month (keep in mind, the only promo I do – period – is what goes out on my Twitter feed) and – so far (do I dare write this? will I jinx myself if I do?) I’ve had a borrow once a month since I enrolled. That’s enough for me. While I’m sure it’s going to (somehow) bite us in the butts later on, I have to say, I like this program.
And I’m glad, all over again, that it’s working for you, too – because you deserve a spot up on that NYT Best-Seller’s list, way up towards the top, and if this isn’t going to give you that, at least it will get you something. Wishing you the best of successes, always!
Aw, thanks Mo, appreciate that! And keep working on building your fan base. It takes time, a *lot* of time. Best of luck!
This is a fantastic assessment, thank you for sharing! I can’t pull my current series to stick it in KU, but I’m thinking about it for related short stories and for a series of novellas in another genre. Might as well try, right?
Thanks, Kate. It definitely seems to work best for titles in the 99c – 2.99 price points. Good luck!
Thanks for sharing your experience. Yes, we all have to make our own decisions on what works. I’ve put a couple of books which weren’t selling into Select/KU. We shall see.
It’s not forever, so I see no reason not to try it.
Interesting post… opinions are all over the place on this one and it’s hard to decide what to do sometimes. I’m glad it’s working for you. :D
Everyone has different needs and experiences, Carly. I always vote to give new things a try. If it works, that’s great, if it doesn’t, just move on. I think the design of this program suits the lower price points and shorter works. For an epic fantasy going for $6.99, the numbers just don’t add up. For the shorties and for certain genres, it does add a viable option to the author’s toolbox.
I put one of my novellas on there and got NOTHING!! Therefore, I will not being participating in KDP select or KU. It did nothing for me.
I’m sorry yours wasn’t a positive experience, but at least you tried, Scarlet.
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Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
I’m still holding fire on this issue – I do not like the exclusivity thing and what worked for Nya may not work for me… essentially I am waiting until I have a few more books out there to take a risk with KU.
My sales have dropped into nothing in the past year – mostly because I haven’t had the energy to do more than just write for most of it (the baby is an energy vampire, I swear!) and once I’ve managed to get something else off my hard drive and into the world, I will look at the issue again…
A lot can change in a few months though.