Amazin’ Amazon, Or Unlimited Fail, Part II

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Back in July, I wrote a post about my initial thoughts about Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program. Here’s a link to that post if you want to read it or refresh your memory.

Back at that time, I had two books published, but I never had put The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning in KDP Select as I had with The Inventor’s Son. Therefore, I really have no idea about how well The Beginning would have done as a Kindle Unlimited book. It’s been said many times that shorter works do well in Kindle Unlimited. But since my ultimate goal was to put The Beginning as a permanently free book for my readers to get a good taste of my new series, I never considered putting it into KDP Select, even before Kindle Unlimited was introduced. I know that since The Inventor’s Son was a longer work, and because the terms of KDP Select require that I exclusively keep the book available at Amazon, I knew I’d be pulling out Book 1 when the 90 day term ended. I was interested in an international audience, and while Amazon does distribute to other countries, their reach is not as vast as, say, Apple or Google Play.

Well, that was back in July. While I personally have not, as a newly published author, seen any change whatsoever in how many of my books sell on Amazon as a result of Kindle Unlimited’s implementation (though I did recently hit the top ten Teen & YA Steampunk Hot New Releases on Amazon for The Scientist’s Son, thank you very much), many other authors have seen a dramatic decline in their sales and royalties.

To give you a very clear example of the change that has been taking place, in just the royalty made on a ebook borrowed from Amazon (which Amazon Prime members had been able to do for a while on a much more limited basis). When I first published back in May of 2014, my royalty for a borrowed book had been comparable to the royalty I would get for a sale, but it was never a percentage of the list price, merely a flat rate. But since then, the most recent (as of November) royalty has declined, almost 35% of what it was in May, for a borrowed book. A great number of authors still enrolled in KDP Select are concerned that the royalty will decline even further, and that because their books are borrowed way more than are sold, their livelihoods are being threatened by this program.

If you are a reader, then you may not quite understand the difference between Kindle Unlimited and other subscriber services such as Scribd or Oyster. To a reader, there is only one major difference: when you subscribe to Scribd or Oyster, so far as I know, you can read a title, but there’s no “Buy” button next to it, like there is on Amazon. To an author, there are many more differences, not the least of which is no requirement to be exclusive to Scribd or Oyster. If someone wants to buy the book they read on Oyster, they can buy it from a variety of retailers. If, however, someone wants to buy something they had previously borrowed from Kindle Unlimited, they have only one retailer to buy it from, and that’s Amazon.

There is another very important difference to an author whose book is borrowed from one of the other services besides Kindle Unlimited, and that is that the author is paid the very same royalty for the book that they would have been paid if it had been purchased elsewhere. With Kindle Unlimited, this is not the case.

There is even more concern about Kindle Unlimited’s vulnerability to being scammed. Many angry authors back in July noted that it would not be very difficult for someone to post one chapter at a time in order to make high amounts of KU royalties. Apparently, there may just be such schemes going on now. Amazon, in my opinion, does not do enough to counter such activity. The entire program could flop if this kind of stuff continues.

When I say one chapter at a time, I mean, literally, one chapter of a longer work. I don’t mean short stories. I believe Kindle Unlimited could be a great boon to the author of shorter works, and if The Inventor’s Son: The Beginning had been enrolled, who knows? It might have been successful. However, I cannot see enrolling any book from this series into Kindle Unlimited.

I’ll probably follow this post up with another one a couple of months from now, once the mass exodus from KDP Select has begun in earnest, and I’ll be able to assess what 6 months of Kindle Unlimited bundled with certain Kindle models will mean for the program and the books enrolled in it.

Also, on a bit of a related note, I’ve still got my eye on getting the Inventor’s Son books onto Oyster in 2015. I will, as always, keep everyone here posted. I already have them available on Scribd.

I do think I will be doing as least one more post before the end of the year, but I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone a happy and healthy Holiday Season!


5 thoughts on “Amazin’ Amazon, Or Unlimited Fail, Part II

  1. I have pulled most of my books out of KU and am just waiting for a few more 90 day runs to expire – so I am with the deserting herd. I just find I do better when I am marketing to a few different e-book distributors and NOT just Kindle. I own a Kobo myself and I find most of my paying customers on Kobo – so I just did not feel right going strictly Kindle.

    Still, I have to wonder if once the herd has migrated OUT of KU, if that isn’t going to bump the monthly KU stipend up a bit – especially where you consider that the stipend is calculated by the number of authors and 10% read/borrows.

    We’ll have to wait and see, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m excited about Apple and Google Play. I’m seeing the shift with my permafree most of all. Downloads from Amazon have dropped, and I’d say now Google Play and Apple and B&N have picked up the slack.
      The stipend will not increase much unless those “scamlets” we’ve spoken so much about on kboards stop flooding Amazon.


  2. Pingback: Amazin’ Amazon? Or Unlimited Fail, Part III | S B James, Doing the Write Thing

  3. Pingback: Amazin’ Amazon? Or Unlimited Fail? Part IV – SB James, Doing the Write Thing

  4. Pingback: Amazin’ Amazon? Or Unlimited Fail? Part 4 – SB James, Doing the Write Thing

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