Face Book is a hotbed of information and opinion ops this fine morning (not fine for long, not with storms bearing down like a freight train).
One of the major kerfuffles has been over Amazon’s newest “initiative/adjustment” to how they compensate authors in the Kindle Unlimited subscription service.
Chuck Wendig had a good go at it today. The Passive Voice’s lawyer/blogger took a look at the payout structure, taking his cue from Hugh Howey (a known apologist for all things Zon).
Amazon’s own Help section that details the changes to the payout portion of the program is somewhat less than clear, employing what some folks term “mathemagics” and it leaves no stone unturned in the relentless quest for obfuscation.
We can argue and debate and gnash our collective dentures all we want, but there’s a personal side to these changes that one author, Samantha Holt, pinned… No, she nailed it.
Here, with Samantha’s approval, is the entire text of her letter to Amazon. Let’s make this GO VIRAL, folks.
I love you. I always have done. You provided me with a chance to have my dream career. You provide great customer service and an easy to use platform. But with the introduction of new rules around Kindle Unlimited, you are failing authors and readers alike. I believe you’re an innovative company. I think you want to break new ground and have done a great job of it. But now you are trampling on those who have made you a great deal of money.
I’ve made you a lot of money over my career. I’m not a huge name but I’ve done very well for myself and even better for you. I’ve rolled with the occasional punch you’ve thrown (your inability to remove troll reviewers and come up with a decent refund system that means immoral readers don’t steal from me with ridiculous ease) and I’ve learned to play your game. I was one satisfied customer and author.
Authors have often suffered. Pirated books and complaints of 0.99c is too much to pay (yes, seriously) are just some of the things we have to deal with. There are few other careers where you can spend years on something and then have complaints that a price higher than a cup of coffee is too much. But that’s not your fault, Amazon, and we take these things on the chin. At the end of the day, publishers and authors have been able to charge what they want for a book–what they believe it’s worth.
Until now. Now you want to pay those in Kindle Unlimited per page read. The figures you gave are incomprehensible to even the smartest of minds and totally unpredictable seeing as your ‘fund’ changes each month. So now if we put a book into this system, we take a gamble. For years worth of work, we might only earn pennies. Before, we generally had a very solid idea of how much a borrow could earn. How is it ok for an author to earn for only 3 pages read when you borrow a film at a flat rate? When you don’t pay per second listened to on a song?
You listened to, I suspect, a few big names who were terrified when Kindle Unlimited came in. They don’t like change and a lot of big names were extremely happy with their high earnings and didn’t want that to change. I didn’t want that to change either. I believe they worked hard to get there. But then so did all the mid-listers like myself. KU gave me the opportunity to reach new readers. With its help I reached spots I never thought I would reach and earned you a ton more money. Like thousands of others mid-listers, we adapted to your new borrowing scheme and together made it a success. Avid readers enjoyed the scheme and the ability to meet new authors, while those who weren’t interested simply continued as usual.
Now you are expecting us to roll with the punches again and tolerate this treatment. I’m a single mum and this is my sole wage. I know I’m not alone in this and I’m aware I’m lucky to be able to support my family with writing but believe me it is not without blood, sweat and tears from all of my family that I am able to do so. These changes are unpredictable enough for me to lose my trust in Amazon. I no longer believe they want the best for their authors or that they understand we are at the centre of their success.
So what happens next, Amazon? When authors pull out (yes, it’s happening already) of KU and readers can no longer find such a great variety? What happens when readers can no longer find novellas on KU because they won’t earn enough by borrows? Speak to my readers and you will find these claims that ‘everyone wants longer books are not true’. A ‘real book’ isn’t based on length, genre, price or anything like that. Readers want variety. What appeals to one, won’t appeal to others. My novellas, interestingly, always sell better, but am I going to be forced to take them away from people who have paid for a 6 month or year long subscription to KU? This, Amazon, is where you will be failing your customers.
I hope you will listen to this. I don’t want readers to stop using Amazon. I actually feel more failed by other platforms who have failed to make a usable, author and reader-friendly service and who don’t seem to have a full grasp of how to push forward. But, Amazon, for once, you are not pushing forward. This is a huge step backward. I have a vague hope you might pay attention to this smaller voice but perhaps not. I’ll still have your back but you won’t have my trust anymore.
Yours not-so-faithfully anymore,
Now it’s YOUR TURN.
Amen – although I think we should all just opt out of ALL subscription reading services, they will do this profession no good in the long run. We, as writers, need to value ourselves and our work as much as the retailers value their customers. We do not have to say yes to subscription reading, or perma-free, or .99 as the ideal price point for work we spent countless hours and dollars creating. And every time we do, we make it harder and harder for ALL of us, ourselves included. Stop looking for the quick couple of bucks that come from being an early adopter of these trends – look at the health of the industry for us as creators going forward and just say NO
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You make great points, Sessha, as always.
Hi Seesha, thanks for your view–a common one I’ve found. Frankly, I wish I could afford to take that standpoint but there are too many people willing to fill that gap that we would be cutting of our noses to spite our faces. If you take a look at my books, you’ll find them priced generally at the $3.99 price point which brings in a fair price for 50k books–and they do sell. The reason being is I have used the 99c and free days as a loss leader. To me, this is no different than paying for advertising, most of which don’t often guarantee results. From a business standpoint (which I MUST take to keep a roof over my head), I’ve learned to be flexible and treat writing as a business. This is not for everyone but when your family relies on you to be cold and calculating, you do what you must. I believe in knowing your worth (for this reason I’ve never joined any boxsets) and sticking to it but I also appreciate the opportunities Amazon have afforded me to promote my books. Without them, I simply wouldn’t be where I am now and I am saddened that other platforms are spending their time complaining about Amazon rather than stepping up to the mark. Subscription reading brought in significant income that allowed me to make a life choice that I couldn’t have done without it–I have no regrets giving it a try. But they have moved the mark in a strange and convoluted way. We know it won’t benefit authors but so too will readers suffer. As to whether my books will remain in KU is another thing. IF I can continue to earn from titles, they’ll stay but I foresee my novellas coming out. I’m not going to make a leap until I can be sure and unfortunately Amazon have made it so unclear that no one can predict what will happen. This is a strange, unfair and seemingly ill-thought out move on their behalf and those of us who can’t afford otherwise are at their will.
Reblogged this on The World of The Teigr Princess and commented:
I don’t have anything in KU / Select. I never thought it was good business sense to be exclusive to one platform – and I paid for that with a lack of readers and sales.
This new development just underscores my feelings about Amazon. I love the place to buy things (books of all sorts included) but as an Author on there, I feel undervalued and unwanted…