Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Concern, Cash and Capitulation – My Love/Hate of KU

                                                                              by Janis Patterson/Janis Susan May

According to some, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly but expecting different results. I guess I’m insane, because I’ve been avoiding Kindle Unlimited for years. Why? Because I hate even the threat of a monopoly.
Let’s face it – the ‘Zon is closer than a lot of people – myself included – think to becoming a monopoly in ebook sales, and if that goal is accomplished, how long do you think we writers will be receiving those lovely 70% royalties? On the other hand, the ‘Zon is the 800 pound gorilla in online book marketing, and that is a very real fact with which we must deal.
I have long touted the desirability of going wide, of having my books available on numerous platforms, of supporting diversity in sales venues. (In the interest of full disclosure – I will admit to having a couple of short stories exclusive to the ‘Zon for various reasons not germane to this discussion.) However, going wide can be dangerous to one’s bank account.
The ‘Zon’s exclusivity program of Kindle Unlimited, which they push shamelessly, is ruthless. If you aren’t in KU, your books get shoved down... way down. I have typed in the exact title of one of my wide books, both with and without quotation marks to show search for entirety and by word, yet in neither instance did either show up until the fourth or fifth page. The pages of books that did show up were all KU titles – some of which did not even share a single word in their title with mine.
Even with such a handicap regarding discoverability, the biggest chunk of my income is from the ‘Zon. The other venues, which I have worked so hard and done without in order to support, offer only trifling sales. And no, they don’t advertise or push my books either.
So – the question becomes, how much can I afford to support a principle when it is not supporting me? I am fortunate; I do not have to depend solely on my writing income to survive – however, it is a part of our household income. I repeat – how much are we supposed to give up in order to support a principle? One of the writers whom I have mentored, as well as several other professional friends, are in KU and making very respectable sums on page reads alone. And no, none of them are ‘book stuffing’ scammers of any stripe – just hard working writers with good stories to tell.
I’m a good writer, too, I work hard and I have good stories to tell. I’ve won awards and been on several best-seller lists (all in Europe – go figure!) but I’m buried so far in the search engine heap my books may never see the daylight of solvency.
So I have come to the conclusion that the least I can do is experiment. I’ve decided to pull some of my better-selling books from other venues and place them in KU. If they do well, I’ll move them all. To those of you readers who use non-‘Zon venues and devices, I’m sorry I shan’t be available to you, but let’s be honest - if you had bought my books I wouldn’t have to be doing this.
I still hate even the remotest hint of a monopoly.
I hate bankruptcy even more.

14 comments:

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

Great post, Janis!
I'm considering leaving my upcoming book in KU for more than the 90 days to experiment with it also. I've worked my butt off putting the others up at different distribution sites (Smash Words, Google Play, D2D, B&N, etc) but I'm wondering and asking the same questions as you. I'd LOVE to know how your experiment works!
Thanks for sharing
PamT

Diana Stout said...

Half of my royalties come from KU, pages read. With Amazon having 60% of the market, I never can understand when people talk about going wide. Having 60% of the market share is wide, IMO. I have a writer friend who was on KU for a couple years, then decided to go wide, leaving KU. She said it was the worst mistake she ever made.

I have to agree with your thought of "why support a principle that doesn't support me?"

A great post. Got me thinking about things that aren't supporting me, too. :)

Maggie Toussaint said...

So many of us face this publishing conundrum. I have some books Amazon-only and others as wide. No rhyme or reason, though as you say, what money there is to be made is in the Amazon market for most indie authors. I'll probably be following you to the Amazon only camp, but for now, I'm straddling both worlds.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer said...

At RWA, I attended a workshop about setting up a shop on your website. The authors were very compelling.

maryhagenauthorrommance.com said...

I've been on Amazon only for four of my books. Two are on several sites and my latest book, I went with D2D. I'm already having doubts that it was a good idea. I think I should have stayed with KDP. Thanks for your comments.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I believe Encircle which has just published my new mystery novel
BLOOD FAMILY is giving exclusivity to Amazon as well. Not being a famous writer, I don't know if that will help sales. One can only hope!

Fiona McGier said...

I'm the kind of person who sticks to my deeply-felt beliefs. I never shop at Wall-mart, because as campers, we've been in too many small towns where we've been told the only grocery store is the brand-new Wallmart that obliterated farm fields to be built. Then we've toured the whole town, and found 3 boarded-up grocery stores. They come to town, do "predator pricing", selling at under what they paid, for as long as it takes to drive everyone else out of business. Then they up their prices to whatever they want, and underpay eployees because, hey, where else you gonna work?

I've had the rights back to 11 books since a publisher went out of business 2 years ago. I work 2 other jobs, both in education, so I only have my summers usually, to write/promote, etc. Last summer I had a couple of publishers interested in some of my books--until they found them all still listed on the big A. Why? I was told by a flunkie that's because it's a customer service--if someone bought a paperback and wants to resell it, they can do it there. Ah, the big A makes $, the seller makes $--I get jack. I get it. So I've had to self-publish them. I chose Smashwords, because I've used it before and it's easy enough for me to figure out.

BTW, the only publisher I'm with who didn't go out of business, has moved my 5 books in a series, to KU. Now my royalties have trickled down to almost stop. If you can read it for free, why buy it? Oh yeah, you can buy it, then return it weeks later for a full refund. Who can't read an entire book in a few weeks? Sheesh! It's like going to a gambling parlor and being surprised that you lose money. The game is rigged. So the big A makes money any way you look at it, and authors who are unknowns get screwed.

So I'm stuck, being the kind of person I am, sticking with NOT putting my self-pubbed books on the big A. Hurting myself? No doubt. But proud for every sale I do make? Yes.

Cynthia Sample said...

Thanks for this post, Janis. I've been going through the same analysis, especially since Amazon recently offered two months KU for free to new subscribers. I've had a couple of non U.S. BookBub ads which brought in excellent sales and reduced my dependence on Amazon to 65% of sales. But in a normal month, my sales are 78% Amazon. Of course, now that everyone has been released to got out and about, I think both sales and page reads will slow down. Please keep us posted on your results.

Alina K. Field said...

I think KU works best for authors who have a ton of books there. I had a short books there and I got pennies on them, both the ones I indie-published and the ones the publisher put on KU. Right now I have only one short story on KU.

It's good to experiment and see what works best, but for now I'm staying wide, and trying to reach the other vendors with BookBub ads.

I hope you let us know how this works out for you!

Morgan Mandel said...

I've been using Amazon mainly because it's just easier than switching around back and forth. I still have my first book published at Smashwords for free, which makes it perma free at Amazon as well. Not sure if I want to do Smashwords again. It seems it takes longer to get paid by them, and then I've got some more formatting to do again.

Since Amazon started KU and then changed the rules for how we get paid, I don't do well at all with the KU books. One of these days I have to figure out if I want to mix things up again, but right now I want to finish my current book.

authorlindathorne said...

What a good post! I have been slow, snail slow, in coming out with a 2nd book, so the sales of my first have gone down to nothing over the past couple of years. I honestly didn't know about KU until I read this. I'm traditionally published and my publisher put my book in many places: B&N, Kobo, and three or more other places & I sometimes see a sale on one on my royalty report. I don't think B&N reports their sales to my publisher, but that may be the "unknown," that shows up on the royalty report.
I don't like the idea of Amazon taking over. I don't like monopolies either, but Amazon seems to be "King." Anyone I connect to who hears I'm a writer and is curious enough to buy my book (like employees where I work), has always gone to Amazon. I felt awful when Borders went under. I'll feel the same if it happens to B&N, but like a lot of you said, somethings are just going to go a certain direction regardless.

Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith said...

I only have one book on KU--really don't understand how it works.

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