Kindle Unlimited


Amazon can’t twitch without indies taking notice. For a brief period yesterday morning, a landing page for a new Amazon streaming service appeared online. A thread at KBoards exploded with the news (are the KBoard forums the best watchdog, author community, and training center all rolled into one, or what?), and then Engadget, Time, and others followed with coverage of their own.

Author and all-around awesome dude Jan Strnad wrote up one of the first detailed opinion pieces about the service, and I share some of his concerns. Subscription services have been rough on musicians. Will they be rough on authors? It’s too soon to tell, but there are a couple ways that books are fundamentally different than music, and perhaps reasons to be cautiously optimistic.

The biggest difference between books and tunes is the time investment. You spend hours, days, even weeks with a good book. You can stream hundreds of tunes in the same amount of time. So hopefully the revenue stream to authors won’t be as diluted as it is for musicians. It also sounds like Amazon has increased the funding for the borrow pool, and I’m guessing profit from the $9.99 monthly fee will go toward funding this program as well, so if they can keep the rate-per-read at $2 or get it higher, this could be a great source of revenue for authors.

Another way that this could be good is the same way that piracy can be good: Exposure. I’m reading a great book right now that my mom handed to me after she read it. Do authors freak out over this common occurrence? I don’t. I want to be read. I hope people pass my books along. The new and shiny aspects of anything will scare some and excite others, and that’s normal. In the last day, I’ve heard from some indie authors a lot smarter than me that we’re about to see our income go up. I’ve also heard from some indie authors a lot smarter than me that this is the end of the world. In a few months or a year, we’ll have a better grasp on how this will play out.

A few things in Amazon’s favor. The first is the inclusion of audiobooks. That’s been a surprising revenue stream for quite a few indies. The second is the 10% sample trigger. For the reader, the $9.99 monthly charge doesn’t change, however many books they try. I think this low trigger will really help spread the wealth to a lot of new writers. The third is the Netflix Reality. People pay a monthly fee to have access to Netflix films, but they still go to the cinema, buy movies elsewhere, and watch TV. Voracious readers will see that $9.99 as one or two books out of their budget every month. That still leaves them shopping for reads on the side.

One of the coolest things I’ve seen in the last two days were the announcements from Scribd and Oyster. Both companies congratulated Amazon on entering a field that they helped to popularize. They welcomed the competition, and spokespeople from both companies took pride in the validation this move gives to their own hard work. I love that attitude. There are a lot of companies out there fighting to please readers and to make reading competitive and awesome. While I’ll be keeping a very close eye on what this does for author income, my main reaction to this is that reading is the best thing you can do with your free time, and it just got easier and more affordable. Will we be subsisting on crumbs in the future? Or will we see the entire pie just get bigger? Right now, I would bet on the latter.


More thoughts as they are coming to me:

Last I heard, the Kindle app on the iPad didn’t allow for direct purchases. Will Kindle Unlimited provide a workaround? If a reader is paying a monthly fee, Amazon is able to bill directly and automatically outside of the app, meaning grabbing a book and reading it on another device will be more seamless than before. This could add to the “stickiness” of the Kindle reading architecture. Not sure if that was part of the plan or just a side benefit. Obviously, Amazon needed to enter this game while it was heating up rather than waiting on the sidelines to see how it shakes out.

How will the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited coexist? Will this be like a main library and a sister branch? It appears they share the same pool of funds for authors. One thing I’ve learned about Amazon from watching their moves is that they seem to try as many things as possible, figure out what’s working and what isn’t, and focus their energies accordingly.

Thoughts as I try out Kindle Unlimited:

I just grabbed a copy of Chabon’s WONDER BOYS. Been on my TBR pile forever. The book loaded straight to my Kindle like a purchased title. I didn’t have to pay anything, as there’s a 1-month free trial of Kindle Unlimited. It was almost too easy. Dangerous, like that 1-Click button. Curiosity becomes choice.

I see a lot of readers giving this a try because of that. Interestingly, the audiobook version of WONDER BOYS also showed up on my device. My wife does 80% of her reading by audio; I rarely listen to them, but now I might as well give it a try. I wonder how many readers will start doing the same? Honestly, I can’t wrap my head around all the implications of this service if it takes off.

I try to base all my decisions as a self-published author on what’s best for the reader. It makes decisions easier, and it almost always works out. This streaming nonsense looks magical from my voracious reader perspective. Like: Too good to be true magical. I hope that means it’s good for writers. In a few months, we should be able to tell.

Some THE SKY IS FALLING thoughts:

The biggest advantage self-published books have over traditionally published books might be price. As a FB follower pointed out, if all books are “free,” because the $9.99 is already being paid every month, will indies suffer disproportionately? Perhaps in the long run. Right now, it seems that the Big 5 is not going all-in with book streaming. And they might, in order to spite Amazon, continue to withhold books from KU. So just as with their god-awful pricing strategies, their unwillingness to serve readers might continue to work to the self-published author’s benefit.

More thoughts, a few days later:

Amazon’s model for KU is to pay a mix of full price and a flat fee. Traditionally published authors get the full price, because their publisher gets the full sales commission. Self-published authors get a flat fee, probably something around $2 per read. There have been howls over this bifurcation, with people claiming that Amazon, for the first time, is treating indies worse than traditionally published authors. But that’s not true. Amazon has often treated indies worse than traditionally published authors.

Indies don’t get pre-orders, for instance. This has changed a little recently, with some select high-selling indies able to get pre-order buttons. (More on favoritism in a bit.) Indies can’t get into the Kindle Lending Library without being exclusive to Amazon; traditionally published authors can. Indies don’t get the full retail price paid when Amazon discounts or does promotions; traditionally published authors do. Indies only get two category listings on their ebooks; major publishers can often get more than this. Indies have their pay cut if they price below $2.99 or above $9.99; traditionally published authors have no such limitations.

These are just the differences off the top of my head. There are probably more. What advantages do indies have to counter all of these disadvantages? 70% royalties and the freedom to price their ebooks below dickish levels. And it’s hard to overstate the power of not being dickish. But let’s be honest about the bifurcation. It’s always been there. As has the favoritism.

Some high-selling indies have been able to secure pre-orders for over a year now. The argument has been that these indies have proven they can stick to a release date. Amazon is reluctant to allow just any indie author to set a date, promise a product, take a customer’s money, and then not deliver. Incidentally, I’ve come down on the side of pre-orders not being great for self-published authors. It would take a blog post to explain why. (Remind me in a week, and I will.)

That favoritism extends to KU. Some indies, myself included, are in the program without being exclusive to Amazon. But this isn’t a permanent exemption. We didn’t even know what we were signing up for; we just knew it was a time-limited trial. We are going to have to make a decision with our books, on a case-by-case level, to leave KU or go all-in. My guess is that Amazon was forced to invite as many bestselling authors as they could get because of the difficulty in getting major publishing houses to sign on (none have). Their goal was to get top-selling books into KU, and their side hope must be that they can convince us to stay. I’m not sure how many will.

So Amazon is treating indies differently than traditionally published authors, which is how things have always been. They are treating some indies differently than other indies, which is how it’s always been. I’m sure they negotiate with publishers differently based on size. I’ve seen how publishers treat authors differently based on sales. It sucks, and it’s unfair, and it’s the way things have to be to some degree, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for more equality wherever we can. We should.

Personally, I’m very uncomfortable enjoying any privileged status. When I saw how this was shaking out, I didn’t like that I was getting special treatment. I doubt I would have opted in had I known. My temptation is to make a decision right now rather than in the timeframe Amazon has given me. I could go exclusive with them and remain in KU, or I can ask to pull out and see if they would let me. (I could also go into B&N and run around moving my print copy off its current co-op front-table space and shelve those books spine-out in the stacks, but that’s laborious.)

Those are the personal issues I’m having. They are separate from whether or not subscription services are even sustainable.

Are subscription services sustainable?

I don’t think they are, except as loss-leaders. My understanding is that Oyster and Scribd rely on venture capital inflow. Their losses today can only be turned into profits tomorrow if they (1) Pay publishers and authors less per “read” (2) They substantially increase their monthly fee to their users or (3) They maintain a high number of subscribers who don’t use their services much.

Starting from the rear:

(3) is how gyms make money. It’s hard to get excited about a service that only supports itself if people pay not to use it. Then again, I love libraries, and this is another way that subscription services are a lot like libraries. A lot of people pay; very few go.

(2) Will be nasty if it happens, but the realistic monthly fee to make everything balance might be double what these companies are currently charging. Subscription services pay somewhere between the full amount and 60% of the total sales commision for a “read.” That means subscription services are in the hole after two books are read in a month, per user. And readers don’t even have to get through the entire book. This is a house of cards destined to collapse.

(1), of course, means paying publishers (and authors) less per “read” than they would normally receive on a full purchase.

It may be that (1) is the only solution. And this runs counter to all my advocating for author pay, but the problem with the current bifurcation isn’t that indies are paid too little, but that the traditionally published authors are paid too much. If this model isn’t sustainable at full price, subscription services should either go away, or publishers and authors should be comfortable making less for a “borrow” than they do for a “purchase.”

Consider this: Is it a good thing to fight for wages that will collapse a system so that nobody gets paid? It’s better to not have that system in the first place. It isn’t even clear to me that a temporary read is worth more than a flat $2 fee. Print books get passed around all the time, and nothing makes its way back to the author or publisher. I’m more upset at Amazon offering full purchase commissions to traditional publishers than I am the likely $2 we’ll get. They are too desperate for that content. Leave KU for indies. And let all indies in, not just those who go exclusive. Hell, lower the subscription fee to $7.99 and tout this as an indie free-for-all.

I feel like Oyster and Scribd forced Amazon into something that they know doesn’t work. And they are being dinged for trying to come up with a balanced model that makes it work. That’s like comparing a fair wage to a union worker who starts off at $40 an hour with zero experience. Yeah, good for that worker. But the factory will be gone in ten years, and how did that help anyone?

In sum: I’m still not sure what I think about all this.

It’s jut too early to tell. I’m watching my sales charts for the first time in years. Sales went down when I got into the Lending Library, but borrows went up. I’m making slightly less, but I’ve got more readers. I’ll take that any day. When KU launched, my borrows tripled, which is what I’m hearing from others as well. And my sales went up slightly, as borrows are affecting sales rank. I view this as a library system, and libraries shouldn’t be charged full price for every borrow. But is it a model I’m cheering on? Not at all. I’m watching it warily. I’m trying to be my usual, optimistic self. And I’m going to give it at least a month, for fuck’s sakes, before I proclaim this the second coming of sliced bread or the end of the world.

202 responses to “Kindle Unlimited”

  1. To paraphrase Cory Doctorow – you can’t make money on obscurity.

    1. That doesn’t stop some people from trying! :)

      1. To all the indies taking their football and going home, a big wave! Bye!

        To the rest of us (especially us old tech-nerds who have seen the sky fall dozens of times in the last 20 years), this represents a great opportunity. All the obscure titles have a moment to rise to the top and be rewarded on *actual reader satisfaction* before the whole thing changes again.

        Amazon may have just won its pricing war by making price absolutely moot. You can’t “own” digital content anyway. It practically doesn’t exist. It’s an experience you borrow.

  2. This is something that I might have been interested in, since I read about 40 books per year. Unfortunately, just like every other awesome Amazon service, it’s not available in Canada yet, if ever.

    I would very much like to pay Amazon for many of their services, like Amazon instant video, Kindle lending and not Kindle Unlimited, but again I just have to wait and hope for the best.

  3. You know I’m ever-skeptical on Amazon, but I’m cautiously optimistic on this one. I have no doubt subscription services are the future, and if Amazon can get the model right for future players to adopt and experiment with they deserve the praise.

    I’m happy to see you clarify your own optimism when you were skeptical in the past on subscription services. It sounds to me like it might be tied in to Lender’s Library and Select, which would probably be the worst possible development, forcing people to go exclusive to get in on the subscription service. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

    1. I just noticed the service has been officially launched in the US and some of your stuff is in there. Can you confirm if you need to be in Select?

      1. Us “normal” indies need to be in select. I don’t know about those “outliers” like Hugh ;-)

        1. I think the same will be true for all of us. My understanding is that Amazon needed content, and they approached some indies to have us opt in to something without knowing what it was. After a period of time, we will have to choose, just like everyone else. I think it was the only way they were going to get some of us to try it out.

          I used to be Amazon-exclusive years ago, mostly out of laziness. I was too busy writing to upload everywhere else. When my books took off, I got complaints from Nook owners, so I expanded. My overall earnings went down as a result, but it was important to me to service those readers. But I’ve always been on the edge of going back to exclusivity, for several reasons. One is to consolidate sales into a single source to increase ranking and therefore visibility. Another is just simplicity of workflow and updating titles. If KU works for me, it will probably be the last straw that gets me back into KDP Select with all my titles, which I think is what Amazon is hoping for.

          1. I was curious about this as well. I would love to participate in a program like this to try it out, but I am not an outlier. I don’t know about going exclusive to get these perks, as I don’t think it’s best for my readers. Interested to hear what you have to say about being an outlier at RWA next week. I wish I had the same opportunity you have to try this out without being exclusive.

          2. Thank you, thank you, thank you for mentioning this! I was originally “all in” with KDP Select, and then decided to put my content in as many stores as possible. After a little more than a year, I did an honest evaluation, and realized that I made more money in KDP Select than anything else. Now most of my content is in KDP Select, and I’ve never been happier.

            Sure, I’d rather not have all my eggs in one basket, and at times I don’t feel as if Amazon has authors’ best interest at heart, but it’s hard to argue with the numbers.

      2. From what I see from an article in Publisher’s market place….

        1. All authors in Select are in KU without the ability to opt out. If you don’t want to be KU you have to leave Select. You’re book is added to the KOLL calculation if someone reads at least 10%.

        2. They are putting books into KU without publisher’s consent…and can do so as long as any download is compensated to the publisher as a sale.

        3. For Amazon Authors, and titles added with publisher’s consent…you earn the same rate you would have if someone bought the book…but only after they read 10%.

        1. Reading over at Chuck Wendig’s blog someone posted that you can, in fact, opt out

          1. I’ve heard this as well.

          2. The way you “opt out” is you leave Select. You can’t be in Select but not in Kindle Unlimited.

  4. David Macinnis Gill Avatar
    David Macinnis Gill

    A couple of things I found interesting:

    From talking to friends and colleagues, I don’t think the big traditional authors new KU was coming, and they seem to be in the dark about it as much as the rest of us.

    I expected the Amazon Worlds books to be in KU automatically. Many are, such as the early Wool Saga books. My Wool story, The Choosing: Silo 13 isn’t on KU, but my Select books are. It makes me wonder if the KU list is still very fluid, even though Amazon is actively selling KU memberships.

  5. “It sounds to me like it might be tied in to Lender’s Library and Select, which would probably be the worst possible development, forcing people to go exclusive to get in on the subscription service.”

    This is the case, according to what I’m seeing for my books. The ones that are in Select are automatically in Kindle Unlimited. There is no opt out. And for my books that are not in Select there is no opt in for Kindle Unlimited. This stinks.

    The Big 5 will be able to include some or all of their books in Kindle Unlimited if they choose to, while also including them in Scribd and Oyster. But indies will be forced to go exclusive with Amazon in order to be available in Kindle Unlimited. No.

    I appreciate what Amazon has done for me and all indies. I really do. In 2011 I was one of the few authors who earned over $25,000 on Amazon. But I’m not happy with them trying to force indies to go exclusive with them. I don’t think it’s going to be a good thing for us long term.

    I hope they will change this policy, but I doubt they will. Unless there is a mass exodus from Select by indies, why should they?

    1. I’m pretty sure there’s an opt out. You don’t have to be in this if you don’t want to, but the default is that you are.

      1. Nope. It’s lumped in with KOLL. There is no opt in/ opt out. I don’t care about the opt out. I want to be able to opt in even though I’m not in Select. There is no provision for that.

        1. Are you sure? I heard otherwise.

          1. Yes Robert is right – there is no opt out – Select and KU are tied. The only way to “opt out” is to leave Select.

          2. That’s the way it is right now–at least for me. Although, I’ve seen other authors saying the same thing on Kboards. Maybe it’s just temporary, but I doubt it. And what’s to keep Amazon from requiring that indies opt in for Select at some point? Who could afford to say no to that? Opt in for Select or be thrown out of Amazon altogether. By then, readers are hooked on Kindle Unlimited and Amazon can pay authors whatever they want. Put a couple million in the pot and divi it up like they’re doing right now with KOLL and KU. And by then, Scribd, Oyster and everybody else would be out of business.

            We always thought we had a backup plan if Amazon decided to reduce our cut. We could band together and create our own indie bookstore. But who’s going to pay what you want to charge for ebooks when they can go with a $9.99 monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited? If you’re lucky, you might get $2 a book like KOLL has been paying. But maybe that number will drop to $1 or $0.50 or $0.10. We’ll have no control over it.

          3. Subscription services have been rough on musicians. Will they be rough on authors?

            Follow the money. Is the guy who has the rights to the music making money? Is it rough on him?

            When we follow the money, we have to make a distinction between authors and rights holders.

            And what’s to keep Amazon from requiring that indies opt in for Select at some point?

            Nothing. And nothing keeps independents from saying no. That’s how a free market works.

          4. Here is the policy explained in a FAQ from Amazon:

            “If you do not want your book(s) in Kindle Unlimited, you have the option to immediately remove your book from KDP Select. To do so, please include the ASIN for your book when you complete this Contact Us form. We will remove your book from KDP right away and contact you to confirm. “

    2. Well, it’s confirmed. If you’re on Scribd/Oyster and maybe others, you get your full share of the book cover price just as if you’d sold, if the reader reads through. This is calculated proportionally, which is fair.

      If you’re in Select, you’re automatically going to be on KU, and you’re not getting your 70% or 35%, you’re getting a few bucks as part of that pie in the sky.

      Authors screwed. I had more faith in Amazon and defended them to the hilt, until now. Don’t tell me this isn’t the end of book buying on amazon at the full set price, at least for genre books. Why would anybody buy a trilogy of books sets at 3.99 etc., when he can buy the KU farm for nine bucks a month?

      1. Because, just like in Netflix, the trilogy could leave the service and the reader would no longer have access to it. For example, Shawn the Sheep was streaming on Netflix, then Netflix lost the contract to Amazon Prime. Because I pay for both streaming services I still have access, but if I want full, unconditional access, I need to purchase it on DVD. Which I did.

        I cannot see how this would be any different. It sounds like an opportunity for “double” purchase, to me. As a reader I find a great trilogy on KU, then I purchase it to always have it. As the author I would make twice as much on one reader.

      2. Because you are not buying the farm for 9 bucks a month. You are only renting an acre of land. I think there are a lot of readers that want to actually own the books they spend their money on, not merely rent them only to lose access if they cancel their subscription.

    3. Hey, Robert. Haven’t seen you posting much lately on the blogs. Hope you’re doing well.

  6. I’m going to suspect that “downloading” won’t be enough to trigger a part of the pool. I bet Amazon will want the reader to “read” at least a certain % of the book (40%? 50%? the whole book?). It will be interesting to see if authors try to “game the system” by asking loyal fans in the program to download copies of their books that they had previously bought/read in order to get a second dip at the revenue pie. I knew they would be doing this sooner or later…whether it will be good or bad for readers/authors…I have no idea.

    1. I think it’s 10%!

      For indies, anyway. It’s probably a higher threshold for Big 5 books, but with a full purchase amount sent, rather than a piece of the pool.

      1. Mary Ellen Courtney Avatar
        Mary Ellen Courtney

        If it’s 10%, do you think anyone uses the ‘look inside’ feature? Maybe they won’t bother if they can borrow as many books as they want. I’ve never had a spike in borrowing that came close to the spike in sales as a result of a promotion. I figure the people who borrow are reading and doing some, I hope positive, blabbing.

        People game the Select system by reading the book and returning it within the first day or so. Can’t control that. I can’t imagine asking my readers to cheat on Amazon. Why would anyone degrade their reputation like that for a few bucks?

        I see my books were automatically enrolled in KU. This will be interesting.

      2. I dug a bit further and you are correct it is 10%. Traditional titles that are added to KU without consent get full price for a download even if it’s not opened. Amazon and titles added with publsiher’s consent get full wholesale price as if there was a sale. Self-published authors get a credit as if it was checkedout via KOLL if they read to 10%.

        I think the indies are being screwed in this. Traditional people get full price but indies get a small cut of a pool? I don’t like such a two-tiered system.

        1. Mary Ellen Courtney Avatar
          Mary Ellen Courtney

          Where did you get the information about Traditional titles/full price vs. Indie titles?

          1. Publisher’s Weekly Lunch Marketplace ( They were quoting from agents who got letters from their clients an a Scolastic spokesperson who explained that Hunger Games is in KU against their consent.

        2. I will take my seat on my tier, take my $2 per KU download, and ponder the notion that my $2 is more than the author of many published works will get when his book is clicked on KU.

      3. I usually read the preview to a book, which is about 10 percent; then, if I like the book, I buy it. When it downloads to my Kindle, the book starts from where I left off with the preview. For the sake of the author, I wonder if that practice will constitute my having read 10 percent of the book, just in case I don’t read another 10% after download. Does anyone know whether or not it would?

  7. For writers every new development is The End of Everything. I wouldn’t bet on Amazon Unlimited actually being The End of Everything. But maybe that’s just me.

    1. Yeah, this isn’t the End of Everything. It’s just the End of Something. And the Start of Something Else.

      The only constant is change. Be agile.

  8. I’m willing to wait and see how Kindle Unlimited shakes out, since I just came off a fairly successful two day freebie promotion for my first novel, Without Bloodshed. I’m still working on my second and third novels, so I’m more concerned with exposure than money, despite wanting to quit my day job so badly I can taste it — or was that acid reflux?

  9. Expect to see a slew of serials and series consisting of 10-20 page “books.” If one read can net you $2 (or close), there’s no point in writing long 500 page books anymore, like I’ve been doing (like a sucker, apparently). All my books are huge and I sell them for $3.99, but if I’m only going to be making a $1-$2 per “read,” why the hell don’t I just chop it up into 5 “parts” and make dip 5 times for one book?

    1. I thought of this as well. Also, what happens if someone borrows your book one month, reads, say 15%, deletes it, then reborrows it the next month and reads more? I’m assuming the ‘Zon will have methods to keep track of that sort of foolishness, but it seems like there’d be lots of ways for creative people to bump their numbers.

      1. This is talked about…you are paid for the download as part of the KOLL calculation in the month the reader goes about 10%. Any future downloads/reading by the same customer results in nothing additional.

    2. I’ve thought of this, too, John. I’m currently publishing a serial novel in 4 parts, each about 100 pgs. And I’ve got two novellas I plan to publish by the end of the year. I was considering expanding the novellas into longer books, but I doubt I will now. Something to consider.

  10. If my own addiction to Scribd’s subscription service is anything to judge by (thanks to a Smashwords free year’s membership) this is the end of people bothering to buy genre books at full price, whatever is set. Not that I’m the greatest canary reader in the mine, (probably too old, too expat, too highbrow) but an investment adviser once told me, ‘Buy shares in things you can’t live without.’ I’m realizing firsthand how addictive this subscription habit is, but over time, Amazon’s payment “pot” model may kill off Scribd and Oyster’s payments of full list price to authors for a full read. Bezos must have seen how fast Scribd took off and changed gears.

    I too have no intention, ever, of sticking to one distribution platform. It’s just bad, bad business practice for a supplier to become dependent on one client, (listening, Hachette?) But if that means my books are knocked into some buy-only ghetto as the Kindle Select Unlimited subscription model eclipses private e-bookshelves, this is very, very bad news.

    It’s the first time in a happy working relationship with Amazon, that I’ve seen what looks like arm-twisting on the distant horizon, even if only ‘by default.’

    1. I have to agree. I am, on the whole, very supportive of Amazon, but their exclusivity is bad business, and this latest development (the exclusivity part, at least) is terrible. And I really don’t understand how Amazon (or others) can complain that other retailers boycott Amazon imprint titles when a large part of the Amazon focus is to keep books out of other retailer’s stores.

      I’m not going all-in with a single retailer, ever. I’m surprised to hear you would, Hugh. I know Kobo has been pretty supportive of your work, for example. But obviously, it’s your career and you should do what you think is right.

      I have to say, all this changes my opinion on a few things.

      1. Kobo has been great. I can see retailers becoming publishers of sorts and doing a Kobo-exclusive release. King and others have done something similar. When access is open and global (you can read a Kindle or Kobo book on practically every device), I don’t think “exclusive” means what it used to mean.

        1. I have a lot of years of experience in the tech sector, as well as overseeing 3rd level customer support at my last company, and the average Joe has no idea how to side-load a document to a device and even less desire in learning how.

          Would be nice if that changed, though.

          1. @Maia Sepp

            With Kobo or Kindle or iBooks you don’t need to sideload anything. The books that you purchase from those retailers automatically load onto whatever corresponding device or app you use to read them. Even manually downloaded books of either format, sold from an author’s website for example, load up (for me, anyway, on my Macintosh) with just a double-click.

  11. Way too many unknowns right now to form any opinions, other than this is interesting, and something we had to know was coming. If I had to guess, I’d assume the inclusion of the KDB select books was a way to prime the pump. I agree with Michael Sulivan, who said there will most likely be a “read minimum” to trigger any royalty payment. Since they track not only the amount read, but the speed with which books are read, that should be simple for them to implement. He suggested 40%, which makes sense, but I could see something much lower, maybe 15% – 25%. Let’s hope they share some information with authors shortly to limit the freaking out.

    1. It’s public now. 10% will get you a cut of the KOLL pie. But 10% for Amazon Authors, or traditionally published authors whose publishers add them to KU get their full wholesale price. For traditional published that Amazon puts in KU without publisher consent. They get full wholesale price for downloading – even if the book is never read.

      1. Do indies get the same payout amount, whether their book is accessed through KU or KOLL?

        1. The monthly sales report shows one column for KU/KOLL, so I would say yes, the payout amount will be the same.

  12. I mulled over subscribing. Even though I read a lot and often, I don’t read or buy enough to justify expending $119.88 / year. I could buy one eBook a month and still not spend that much money in a year.

    1. So will this decimate genres like romance, which rely on power readers? Because, as you point out, it’s power readers who get the best deal out of this.

    2. In addition, if you are already a Prime member on Amazon, you can already borrow one book a month for free. For less voracious readers, Amazon is also competing with their own Prime service.

  13. I really like the idea that you get the audio book alongside the e-book. I assume you can switch between one and the other as you read/listen, which might catch on as a new habit – listening in the car on the way to and from work (or while surfing your smart phone on public transport), and then picking up again by reading at home etc. For me, it helps books compete against everything else that people can do with their “spare” time, and that’s got to be a great thing :)

    1. There are 600,000 ebooks and only 2,000 audio books so a lot less audio books. It will be interesting to see how the audio side plays out.

      1. One thing I’m not clear on (OK, there’s a lot I’m not clear on, but my few remaining neurons can only process one answer at a time). If a KU subscriber DLs your ebook and gets the audiobook bundled with it, do KDP authors with audiobooks get and additional slice of the pool? If not, it would seem like those of us who’ve paid upfront for audiobook production are getting screwed. And if an author with an ebook/audiobook combo DOES get a bit more, will reading 10% of the ebook trigger the dual payment, or conversely, will listening to 10% of the audiobook do the same? My head’s hurting here.

    2. Remember that Whispersync essentially cuts an author’s ROI for producing an audiobook essentially to zero.

      1. I was dismayed enough by how Whispersync was butchering my Welsh names in a fantasy that I was spurred to make my own 1st Audiobook.

      2. I think a lot of authors are missing the real advantage of Whispersync.

        As a reader I have time for maybe 15-20 paper/ebooks books a year. I love audio books, but at $14+ a pop, I stayed strictly w/i the 12 credits a year my subscription gives me. I use to covet those credits and only use them on highly anticipated books by well known authors that I loved.

        After they started pushing Whispersync matching, I can now buy an ebook ($2-5) and then add on the audio ($1-3) and come out saving money. Does that cut into the author’s royalties. ABSOLUTELY! But in the last 2 years I’ve averaged 90 audio books a year. In case you missed that… NINETY.

        I almost exclusively buy Whispersync books these day.

        And people who are big audiobook fans have caught on and are doing the same (although, maybe not 90… I may have a problem)

        What that means for and author, especially and INDIE author, is that I can consume more books as a reader and I’m more willing to pick up books from an unknown author.

        So as far as my usage of the Whispersync program, don’t think of it as cutting your royalties to nil. Think of it as someone who probable wouldn’t have bought your book is giving it a try, and may turn into a fan!

        Just my two cents.

  14. So in sum, do you as an author want the full royalty of 60% etc. from Scribd and Oyster or 10% from Amazon per subscription reader?

    For the moment, it looks that stark to me.

    From the readers’ point of view, it’ll be Amazon first, then the other services.

    Those of us authors not enrolling into the Select Club are screwed, left out on a ‘buy only’ limb when ‘buy’ looks increasingly clunky and costly to the power readers.

    1. It isn’t 10% payment. The 10% is the amount the reader must read before the royalty kicks in. The royalty itself is based on the same formula that the Prime Library uses, which comes out to about two bucks per book to the author.

  15. My brain is hurting. Just hurting! I personally love subscription services, but as a writer who is just starting to make good money–partly by being on multiple platforms–my brain hurts. Just when I think I have things figured out, something else comes along. *head desk*

    I hope Amazon sets up some new policies to along with new services. Instead of 90 day exclusivity, maybe 30 or 60. That makes giving Amazon the jump on my new releases a lot more palatable. What about audio books? Can I make them exclusive even if my ebooks aren’t? What about rolling programs with special promo opportunities: add your book to the program for 90 days and we’ll feature it in XYZ ways. There is a lot of possibility here and it could be a really cool opportunity…if my head every stops hurting!

    1. But it’s not the “early exclusivity” that’s the real problem, IMHO. If I had to give up the first 30-60-90 days, well, maybe. But I would have to STAY exclusive if I wanted not to be in a buy-only ghetto.

  16. I went to take a look at the selections that are being offered through this new service and was very pleasantly surprised! So many books that have been on my TBR shelf forever that are normally $9.99 on their own, this is seriously going to give me the opportunity to read piles and piles of literature I’ve wanted to get to but haven’t financially been able to.

  17. My biggest concern is how KU will affect the pool of funds that go to KOLL authors. It’s been pretty easy for Amazon to predict how many books would be borrowed through KOLL every month since there’s a one-per-month-per-subscriber limit. I can see the first few months of KU hitting that pool of money pretty hard.

    Where the payment to authors has been a fairly decent $2 or so, I could see it dropping to fifty cents, twenty cents, two cents… hard to say. And ultimately it’ll be up to Amazon to decide how much they’re going to pay for KU downloads.

    Meanwhile, I have to stay out of the fray because I don’t want to be exclusive to Amazon at this point.

    1. My guess is July’s KOLL will have a lot more titles that divide it, which is why they raised the pool by $800,000. My prediction….the price per will go down but it may take some time. I think people will download left and right but it will take awhile until they hit 10%.

      1. When I download a Kindle book, I sideload it, strip it of DRM and read it as an EPUB. (For my own convenience, mind, not piracy). I know I’m not the only one.

        So how on earth would Amazon know when I had read 10%?

        1. You are in the very small minority of overall readers. Most book buyers would read what you just said and have no idea what you’re talking about.

  18. I’ve been pleased with the free promotions and countdown deals as part of Kindle Select, however I will not participate in KU. Writing is time consuming and soul rending work; if I don’t value it, no one else will. This attitude may well leave me in the ranks of obscurity and unknown authors, but I’m willing to accept that over pennies.

    1. Why do you assume it’s pennies? I’ve been part of the Kindle Prime Library for a couple years now, where people read for free, and I get about two bucks per borrow. This has been a significant amount of money. So significant that I’ve chosen to stay exclusive to Amazon.

  19. As a voracious reader, I love this and am all over it. My TBR pile is more of a mountain, and this will give me a chance to get my hands on a lot of books I might not otherwise get to read. I also love that it will give me the flexibility to try a bunch of new books. If they’re not for me, I don’t have to read beyond the threshold–and make no mistake, I WILL read every book to the minimum threshold as I want authors to get paid for this.

    As an author, it makes me a little nervous. I worry too about subscription models, given how terrible they’ve been for musicians, just to give one example. I’ve seen a lot of conversation lately about how artists need to be paid a living wage, so I wonder how services like this will alter that equation.

    On the other hand, this could be a boon for writers looking to break out. I make enough to pay some bills but hope to get to living wage status at some point. I’m excited by the thought of reaching a wider audience–and not just because of the monetary end of things. I love that readers will have a chance to sample my work and decide if they like it. If not, they can move on to the next book. If so, maybe they’ll give another of my books a try, even if it’s in a different genre.

  20. Sorry if this has already been mentioned, but this feature is still limited to books in the KDP Select program, right? I honestly can’t imagine every single author pulling their books from other retailers in order to become a part of the pie. So readers will still be left with this limitation on what they can read, which means, it can’t be very much different than what KDP Select was in the first place. Am I wrong?

    1. I’ve been transitioning toward KDP Select over the last year. My last two shorts went straight into Select. You can read them on any device. It makes my life easier, and it concentrates sales, ranking, and reviews into one funnel. If I need to modify a book, I do it in one place.

      It might be that Amazon eventually offers enough incentive that authors go Select and never look back. What if they bumped their KDP royalty rate up to 80% for Select members? Shit could get crazy, fast.

      1. LOL! You can say that again. I too have my short fiction and poetry in Select, but not my writing guides or novels. I don’t think I’d transition all my stuff to Amazon unless they were willing to offer 90%. :-) Haha. That could be a while. Better stock my fridge.

      2. I’m really sorry to hear this Hugh, as exclusivity really goes against your “what’s best for the reader” stance. A few shorts here and there is understandable, but if you do this for the bulk of your material, I think it sends a bad message. It it a pita to support multiple platforms? Yes. Does it ultimately earn you enough to make it worth your time? Probably not. Surely you can afford to hire an intern to manage posting and even if you lose a bit of money on that, isn’t it worth not cutting out all the nook, kobo, and ibookstore folks?

        1. I’ve also considered not publishing my stuff to any platform going forward, but just making it available to download for free from my website. Adding a tip button for the people who will inevitably complain about me giving my stuff away (which is why I had to add the pirate button that I currently have).

          I’ve thought about making all my stuff perma-free.

          Right now, I don’t use one of the top 4 distributors because of a policy dispute. Am I not serving their readers? If readers are exclusive to a single website or retailer, does that make any sense? It would be like saying: “I really want to buy your book, but it’s at B&N, and I only shop at Books a Million. Sorry.”

          Maybe I’m missing something. To me, if your ebook isn’t on every single platform possible (and I doubt many ebooks hit every platform), then what’s the argument for being on one fewer? Or none at all? The short stories on this website aren’t for sale or free anywhere else. What’s that?

          Just thinking out loud here, because I don’t have an answer for any of these things. Except to say that “serving the reader” doesn’t mean, to me, making my ebooks available everywhere, regardless of policies, EULAs, and other concerns. If my ebooks are available, DRM-free, in a single place online, they are available to all readers.

          1. I’d be very interested to see how the first model works for you. I think there are a lot of interesting things that can be done with direct that simply haven’t been tried yet. There’s a lot of potential there, but someone has to figure out the right model. I do like the way you’re thinking on it though. I know Ksenia Anske does something similar. I believe all her ebooks are free on her websites, where she also accepts donations, and she sells print on Amazon.

            I do take issue with one of your points though, and that’s the one about a reader not buying your book because it’s available on one platform but not another. I purchase most of my ebooks from iBooks or direct, and the primary reason is that I prefer the reading experience on the iBooks app above those of Kindle or Kobo. I prefer not to buy from Amazon, because often those books have DRM, and even if they don’t there are still a few steps to convert to ePub. With that said, I do occasionally read on the Kindle app if I really want to read a book and it’s only on Amazon (though it does annoy me to see that). And personally, if I see a book that’s only available in print, chances are I’m not reading it.

            If the book is only available on one platform, I believe you are disadvantaging readers. If your chosen platform is Amazon, anyone who reads in an ePub environment has to convert before reading, and while I can easily do that, I’d argue a large chunk of readers cannot. You’re also making it hard to find because it’s only in one place. As someone who advocates for readers all the time it seems odd to see you make such a turn. I’ll also add though, making it available for direct purchase with all formats is a slight solution to this, because then even though a reader has to find it, they can easily get whichever format they need. Though with that said it could also reduce the ability for discovery. It seems like the easiest discovery happens on other platforms, then you could funnel them back to the website for direct sales (or free downloads) from there. Or you could simply rely more on word-of-mouth for your books to get around.

            Either way, there are a ton of models to consider, though I’d argue for at least some variety in platforms.

          2. My concern with exclusivity is the power it concentrates into one distributor. One reason Audible was able to lower its royalty rates is because authors have very few other choices — there just aren’t comparable services out there for indies. Right now, the strength of other distributors is what keeps Amazon in check. As many many indies have argued in the Amazon/Hachette discussions (including you, IIR) — if Amazon tried to lower rates on indies, indies could just move to another platform. But that’s not a very viable solution if the readers aren’t at those platforms.

            I’m not an anti-Amazon, sky-is-falling person, but I continue to keep the Audible royalty drop in my mind when I look at new shifts in the industry such as KU.

      3. While it would be nice to modify in one place, you are in fantasy la-la land if you think “you can read them on any device” applies to Amazon downloads. You CAN, if you know how to convert. If you know how to use converters, if you are a geek. Out of ALL the people I know personally, I am the ONLY ONE who knows how to get e-books to “any” device. It is techno-weenie salad for everyone else…and if they happen to love nook/kobo/sony/moonreader+ etc., they are shit out of luck if the title is “just on Amazon”.

        Amazon makes all of this extremely opaque…you have to know how to use kindle for PC, you have to know where the titles are stored once downloaded, you have to know converters or Calibre, and then you have to sideload the resulting file via other means. Then you have to hope to the gods that the title isn’t DRM’d, because those additional steps to strip are even MORE of a mess.

        I don’t mean to sound harsh, but come the frick on man.

  21. Just read this post at Publisher’s Marketplace (

    It appears that KU will be a two-tier system.

    For self-publsihed: They get a prorated share of the KOLL pool whenever anyone reads past the first 10% of the book

    For Amazon published (and traditional published titles): They get their full cut as if someone actually purchased the book. There is a slight difference depending on whether the publisher opted in, or if Amazon put them in the program without consent. For those without consent they get paid as soon as a book is downloaded…for those with consent (both self and trad published) they get their cut if the reader goes beyond 10%.

    1. I’m surprised the trad. pubbed books trigger at 10%. That’s a lot lower than the competition, which triggers at 20% – 30%.

      When Amazon does something, they go all-out. It’s crazy. My mind is seriously spinning because of all this.

      1. I’m happy about the 10% but really very disappointed with the fact that traditional authors make their full share and indies make a part of the KOLL split. It’s a two-tiered system that rewards traditional authors much more than indies. I think this is the first time I’ve seen Amazon really pitting these two groups against one another and making it more rewarding for those that go traditional.

        1. Except that traditional authors have lower royalties in the first place. I think this is to ensure that they don’t suffer.

          I’m not sure how I feel about this. Conflicted, definitely. I’m still gathering information before making decisions.

          1. I don’t think the author’s concern was taken into consideration. I suspect the payment was designed to entice publishers into KU. I think small publishers will sign up but the big five won’t.

        2. It’s not new. The KOLL worked the same way.

        3. Also not all trad titles are included. I think they are cherry-picking a few to entice readers to subscribe.

          1. Yes, they have added some titles (like Hunger Games) against the will of the publisher. I don’t think any of the major publishers are adding books voluntarily at this time.

        4. By traditional author do you mean someone pulished by Hachette or Random House?

          If so, they would heve to get more than $2 per book. I think that’s where KOLL has hovered. How much more per book do they get?

          1. Yes, the big-five authors. They are paid the same way that they would be if the book was “bought.” so it depends on the price of the book and the margin that publisher has with their Amazon contract.

    2. For a newbie to Amazon-speak, can your clarify what the difference is betweenself-published and Amazon published?

      1. Yes…All authors that put their books for sale through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) those are self-published authors. Amazon published means those that signed contracts with one of the Amazon Imprints such as Montlake, 47North, Thomas and Mercer, there are about a dozen imprints. The full list is here:

    3. So, I wonder how many authors there are out there trying to figure out how to pay people to page through 10% of their books like they were paying people to write 5-star reviews.

      1. There will certainly be people on sites like fiver who will start up such programs – you can guarantee it.

        1. Amazon will also implement algorithms to look for unrealistic speed-reading. And then scammers will figure out ways to delay and automate the page turns. And then Amazon will look for precise page delay rates. And then scammers will introduce randomness to the page turn rate. And then Amazon will look for perfect randomness, etc…

          There are so many ways in which this is a complete breakdown of sane economics. When you have programs that work like gym memberships — that is, you make money from people paying NOT to use them — you have something strange going on.

  22. Mary Ellen Courtney Avatar
    Mary Ellen Courtney

    From the blurb I just received. Answers a few questions:
    KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund
    each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than
    10% of their book–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle
    books–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded.

    Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted.

    1. That is not what I read. Publishers get full wholesale price, KDP Select authors get their money from the KOLL pool once 10% is read. Can you post what “blurb” you are talking about?

  23. I think what this does, more than anything, is gives us authors an incentive to only or mostly release novels in parts or short stories. Like John and Alan said above, there will be a “slew” of 10-20 page stories being release, growing the number of books borrowed exponentially. I think one of the key things to watch for will be whether or not Amazon compensates that by increase the share so that we are paid according to the size of what we release or the original sale price. However, that is potentially a very precarious situation. Just because someone writes a 700 pager does mean it is automatically a better read than the 50 page short.

    If this takes off, then I think the future will look very much like what Hugh has already begun to create (and no, I don’t mean a dystopian world where the very air outside eats away at our our liver faster than Hannibal Lecter can tuck his napkin under his chin). I think most indie authors will begin to release their books in parts. In the past, that model meant faster turn around and a growing income. Now, with Kindle Unlimited, it also means more market share of, well, this new market.

    I think the only way we can tell if this is a GOOD thing or a BAD thing will be to see what Amazon does with the overall funding. Suppose 100,000 books are borrowed in a month, and they set aside $1.2 million to fund it. But if this new program means that a year from now 500,000 books are borrowed per month, but Amazon hasn’t increased the fund accordingly, then WE take the hit. But we have no way of telling what’s going to happen, unless I missed some detail about their funding source increase according to the books borrowed.

    So I guess, as it is with most things, we’ll just have to wait and see.

    1. Has anyone tracked the KOLL allocation and money paid per book since it went into effect. I would love to see how it will change post KU.

      1. It’s been around $2/borrow since inception. Highest I’ve seen it is around $2.60. I think it was $1.80-ish one month.

    2. I think what this does, more than anything, is gives us authors an incentive to only or mostly release novels in parts or short stories.

      That is a good supply side strategy. To succeed, consumers would have to choose those short books over alternative normal sized books. It will be an interesting experiment to watch.

  24. I think this is a great opportunity to get some exposure for new authors or for a new series. But at this time all of my titles are in Select, so by default I’m “all in.” It will be interesting to see how this works out.

  25. My major concern is with the requirement to be in Kindle Select. That means we have to be exclusive to Amazon. It severely limits our distribution options. Any thoughts on that aspect?

    1. I’m trying to wrap my head around that very issue. I’ve already been leaning toward KDP Select for other reasons. My thinking is this: If your books can be read on practically every device, how is your distribution limited? If you make your works DRM free, they can be ported anywhere. There are dozens of small distributors I don’t use at all. In fact, I’m beginning to wonder if our visibility doesn’t become more diluted with greater distribution. It’s counter-intuitive, but if you sell X number of copies across 10 outlets, your ranking on those outlets will be much lower than if you sold even a lower Y across a single outlet. I could be wrong about this, but it’s something I haven’t seen discussed before. Will require some testing.

      Not sure if this analogy is right or not, but I drive Ford exclusively. You might drive GMC. But every road is open to both of us. Another way to think about this is that retailers are becoming publishers in a way. Hachette might have a particular author locked down, but anyone can get that author’s book. There is a Kobo, iBookstore, Google Play, Amazon in every single pocket. Choosing any one still provides wide distribution. What it limits is discoverability.

      1. A device is not a platform. People don’t have relationships with their device manufacturers. They have relationships with their platform providers. That’s where they hear about new products, where they get new benefits, and where they send their credit card dollars.

      2. Any idea how it works with KU ? If I transfer/convert an ebook from a Select author to an epub device, how will Amazon check if I read 10% ? Will I need to pseudo-read 10% on my “Kindle” application for the book to be counted ?

        1. Good question – I’d really like to see an answer!

        2. I believe so yes…you would have to “pretend read’ the kindle book or the author will get nothing.

      3. Exactly, Hugh, so if I can use six different discovery channels or key categories across a variety of platforms, why would I want to be restricted to Amazon’s?

        e.g. Amazon offers International Mystery and Crime.
        Smashwords does not

        Smashwords offers Historical Fiction, Greece and Rome
        Amazon has NO Historical category specifically for ‘sword and sandal’ genre, leaving us to flounder around Non-Fiction, Rome, Historical Thriller and Action Adventure or Miltary.

        In short, the more platforms, the more spread.

        1. My advice to other authors is to publish everywhere they can. Or everywhere they want to. If your goal is to maximize earnings, audience, availability, etc., I would definitely publish to all outlets. It’s the prudent and wise thing to do.

          When I consider what to do with my works, I’m think about my existing readers, the 1,000 or so people who want to read what I write, wherever I publish it. I did away with exclusivity a couple years ago, despite misgivings. I miss the simplicity of publishing to a single place, and letting whoever wants to read my stuff find it. Maybe that’s my introversion talking. It feels like it.

          Whatever I end up doing, it won’t be an endorsement for others. It’ll be my own choice, and it’ll be with a small group of readers in mind, not the millions of readers I might be missing out on. Still puzzling this stuff out. I think a lot of it comes from a craving for a return to obscurity, to be honest.

      4. Hugh, if my book isn’t available at, say B&N as an EPUB because I went exclusive with Amazon, that doesn’t mean that the potential reader will hike over to Amazon to buy it in mobi/azw form (thus consolidating my ranking on Amazon as you suggest).

        No, it means he doesn’t buy the book. Lost sale. No impact on Amazon ranking.

        If Amazon offered the industry standard format (EPUB) instead of the idiosyncratic version, this could evolve the way you say. But they don’t, and a great many potential customers will give up before buying.

        1. Industry standard? Anyone know how many books have been sold with Amazon’s standrad vs the industry standard? I’d say the industry standard is the one that dominates in the market.

    2. Exclusivity to one platform harms readers and gives too much control to one party. I’m against the practice. Even if it means I make less…I owe it to my nook, ibookstore, and kobo customers to have the books available to them, even if I don’t earn as much in the process. The income I would use is not enough to offset abandoning these readers.

      1. Offering something new on Amazon which was never offered before harms nobody. It is a net gain for consumers.

        1. Subscription services aren’t new. Scribd. Entitle and Oyster all have them, but they don’t have the exclusive aspect.

          1. Subscription services for music (and movies) have been around for at least a decade now. People still buy.

            As someone on Facebook said about KU: “Formerly free and called a library.”

          2. I realize subscription services are not new. But this instance of subscriptions is new. Books aren’t new either, but each instance is.

            My contention is that selling any book on any single platform is a net incremental benefit to someone. There is no harm to readers when I sell my book on Kobo and don’t sell it on Amazon.

  26. I find this very exciting and am holding on to the really thought-provoking point Hugh made in his post – “trying to make decisions as an Indie writer based on ‘what’s best for the reader.’” They’re the ultimate judges, which Amazon realised long ago and which made me decide to ignore the gatekeepers and go Indie.

    So I’m sticking with this concept – I think it will prove as good a compass as any in the new seas ahead of us.

  27. I just read a lot of words and my head is spinning. I’m curious if anyone knows how this affects the Amazon ranking? I just looked at my sales report and I have a bunch of borrows, less sales than I’ve had all week, and my ranking seems to have slipped a few notches. Can someone dumb it down for me? Thanks!

  28. Yep, just when everything seemed to be on a smooth path, something changes. I have had about 3,600 books lent on the KOLL since I went exclusive with KDP select, and yes, the average has been about $2 a book. Have sold outright 87,700 books in the same time period, including createspace paperbacks (786), and have average probably $2.50 per book (hard to calculate with different prices at different times). I still have no idea how many people borrowing my books would have bought them outright if they were not offered through the KOLL. I have enough fans right now that I am sure the sales will keep going with some of the series. One strategy I am thinking of is doing a new release and not putting it in KDP select for the first 60 to 90 days, when the most sales occur, then switching it over to take advantage of the other programs. Also putting my books which really haven’t lent well on other platforms as well, since KDP doesn’t seem to be helping them too much. Last year, at DragonCon, Kevin J Anderson told me in a personal conversation that he didn’t see why I had released a book with 200K+ words (Exodus: Empires at War 3). He suggested books in the 40K word range. I balked at that, but now it might make more sense to do that, as well as releasing one every month just to keep the interest up.

  29. Is there any data on how much of the amazon readership is predicted to enroll in KU? This seems like a lot of dramatic prognostication if only 3% of readers end up enrolling in the program. I’m begging someone to provide some numbers here–even approximations. Objectively, this 10% rule seems like a death sentence for anything that isn’t a 30 page serial…right? Unless KU doesn’t represent that many readers in comparison to the total reading market?

    I have no sense if this is a complete paradigm shift or merely a talking point of the day! I would feel a lot better if someone could provide some kind of reference point.

  30. Hugh
    I’m not so sure that the distribution is as wide as you think – although I am not claiming the solution as there are so many balls in the air with this one. Kindle might have an app on most device (not Kobo ereaders, Nook ereaders etc but I guess most tablets). Probably is if I am a Kobo reader and I buy and iPad or an Android tablet, I am going to download the Kobo app, and you book is not available to me. Same for Nook or iBooks or Google Play. What Amazon wants, and fair play to them – they are a business – is for you and I to go exclusive with them so the other platforms wither and die from lack of good content, or they compete with their own exclusive deals, which means readers either have to manage multiple reader accounts or miss out on some author’s work. Neither of those is customer friendly in my mind.

    I see it like exclusive deals on cable sports. One year I need to have DirecTV to get a certain sports package, because it is exclusive, then the deal changes next year and Time Warner Cable gets the channel exclusively. So am I to dump the dish and sign up for cable now? I think these exclusive deals hurt consumers, not help them. (This is an example – I don’t have either dish or cable, I’m a writer for crying out loud!).

    Perhaps there is potential for a 2 tier system, but I don’t know how it might help or hurt indies. I look at say Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. I have both. Netflix to me is good for my son as he can watch lots of kids shows without advertisements for crap food etc. But their movie library is a bit like the Kindle Unlimited looks to me now – a handful of good movies, but mostly backlist stuff and “made for TV” type content. If I want the latest release, I still go to Amazon Instant video (or it could be Vudu or any other service) and pay up to $5 to rent a Saturday night flick. So I pay per unit for the latest stuff, but also have a subscription for the older backlist. I wonder if something similar might happen with books, as I note the Trad Publishers don’t seem to have the latest works in KU, just mainly backlist.

  31. Hugh,

    Two things I’d love your take on:

    1. How do you think this changes pricing habits? For instance, you price many of your ebooks at $5.99, and this would yield you about $4.20 per sale. Now, it seems as if your earnings will be capped at $2 per download. Perhaps you will get more downloads, but does the price of the ebook matter anymore?

    2. I, for one, have become an ebook hoarder. I buy many more than I can read. I wonder how the habits of ebook hoarders will change now that they don’t have to jump on every kindle deal to secure a lower price. What do you think?

    1. 1) I don’t have the time to experiment with price points, so I’ll continue as before. I think most ebook readers will still be shoppers. The KU will be a small subset of readers.

      2) For the KU audience, promotions will no longer be a motivating force, except where promotions increase visibility within KU (increase in ranking). Great question, though. Will KU members be able to hoard ebooks when they can disappear from the program due to opting out?

      1. If you’re the sort of reader who usually reads a book once, hoarding will be supplanted by borrowing without limits.

        Ebooks are great, but unlike books they cannot serve as ornaments or decorations in one home. So, if you can borrow an ebook there is no use in buying it.

        Hoarding is often done via deals due to the time-scarcity factor. With KU this factor is eliminated.

      2. There is a limit to how many books you can download at one time. On Kindle Unlimited it is 10 books spread out over up to 6 devices. So no hoarding is possible.

  32. So, reading the Kindle site you can get out, at the price of removing yourself from Select. Does this change anyone’s opinion?

  33. One of the joys of self-publishing: Got the announcement this morning, talked it over with my husband, outlined the pros and cons, and decided to try it out on one title. Within an hour it was delisted everywhere else and is now available to borrow. If it doesn’t work out, then in 90 days I’ll opt-out just as quickly, re-list everywhere else, and I haven’t lost anything, I’ve only gained data at the very least.

    I’m excited to see how this works out! I love the flexibility of self-publishing. I’ve already got a marketing plan ready to take advantage of this 90-day window :).

    1. Caethes
      You are so right, this is one of the beauties of indie publishing. We can try anything and move fast. I am going to try something similar to you. I hope it works for you.

  34. Hugh – I’m surprised about your take on exclusivity — if I was to go exclusive with Amazon, the income I’d lose from all the other venues would be well into the six figures this year. Amazon only accounts for half of my sales. Any clue on why that’s so different from your experience?

    I did find that in the early days I made far more at Amazon than anywhere else, but as soon as I got some traction, the other places caught up (if I lump them together). I wonder if there’s some kind of bell curve and at the very high end Amazon trumps all the others again? :) I’m really curious about that fact you must be having such a different experience than me.

    1. I already don’t use some outlets because of policies I disagree with. I make quite a bit from non-Amazon outlets. But it could be a lot more. I don’t opt in to all the promotional opportunities I’m offered. I just don’t have the time.

  35. I completely agree with those who’ve said that exclusivity is bad for readers and authors.

    I also agree with those who have said that people will continue to buy books outside of a subscription service.

    But I do worry they will buy FEWER books outside of the subscription service. I subscribe to Netflix and only buy movies on demand occasionally–and it’s usually a movie that has already been vetted by the rest of the movie-watching world.

    I’m wondering how many subscribers will take a chance on my self-published books when they can already download tons of others for free. Even though the first book in my Gatekeeper’s Saga is free, I still wonder if readers will want to invest in reading it if they know they will have to purchase the rest of the series outside of their subscription.

    I’m usually an optimistic person, and I absolutely love what Jim Johnson said about change and being agile, but I’m a little worried.

  36. […] bad for authors (I don’t see how readers could possibly lose but maybe I missed something). This link to Hugh Howey’s blog offers a good look at a cross section of reactions from authors, many of whom sound very concerned […]

  37. So I’ve been polling my readers and most of them don’t seem all that interested in subscribing. A lot of them just don’t think they read all that much to justify the $10/month expense. I was very surprised.

    1. Especially if they are already a member of Prime on Amazon and so already get one free book a month.

  38. As a reader, I like the idea. I am not a writer, however I cannot help but think that the KOLL/KU pool concept (as it seems to be currently structured) becoming enlarged will result in an unintended consequence: average book size will become smaller.

    Think about it. If you are writing a book that could either be one mega-novel or 3-5 novellas, why would I go big when I get $10-ish through KOLL/KU for smaller reads of the same story. And as the books within KOLL/KU trend smaller, the per unit pay pool gets diluted with more units read per reader each month.

    It would be a death spiral for the system and the only solution would be for Amazon to tie the KOLL/KU payment amount closer to the purchase price rather than pay the same regardless of whether it was a 10-page short vs a 500-page omnibus.

    1. Indeed. Because I’m one of those guys who can’t seem to write anything smaller than 400 pages, and in my genre, it’s just me and 3 other guys who write books that long. Now, though, with this new system… I dunno. Why would I kill myself writing a 400-page book when others are making 5-10 times on 20-page “book” series that, when combined, barely come out to 250 pages? I love writing, but I’m not STOOOPID.

  39. Exclusive with Zon, or go on multiple platforms? Which policy best serves readers? And which policy best serves the author?

    I had this debate with another well-known author, who advocated the many-platform approach, whereas I defended my choice to be in Select and exclusive with Amazon. Her argument was that exclusivity denies availability to users of other devices — Nook, Kobo, et al. I understand that argument. But my rejoinder was: I reach MORE readers, in the aggregate, by being in Select.

    If one of my goals as an author is to reach as many readers as possible, then do I care HOW they obtain my books? Try some extreme thought experiments, to illustrate my point.

    Suppose you had the opportunity to sell ten million copies of your latest book…but had to do that exclusively in, say, Texas, and nowhere else. That’s one million readers, but all Texans. However, if you reject that option, you’d would sell the same number of copies as you do now, scattered all over the world.

    Would you turn down the opportunity to sell to ten million Texans, instead of (say) ten thousand readers from everywhere else? What is your objective? Geographic and demographic dispersal of your books — or total number of readers and fans?

    You could make similar thought experiments. Suppose Walmart came along and offered you $5 million for EXCLUSIVE print distribution rights to your latest book, on Nook. Now, you could think, “Oh, that would discriminate against all the people who don’t use Walmart, or have one nearby.” But Walmart has a huge big-box footprint in the marketplace. Would you pass on this offer, in order to accommodate people who don’t use Walmart?

    You see where I’m going with this. The fact is that no matter how many ebook distribution platforms you have, you’ll never be available on all of them, everywhere. Amazon has a locked-up market of millions of Amazon Prime members, many of whom borrow ebooks each month. They offer you, through Select, the opportunity to reach those millions of borrowers — at the price of exclusivity. It’s a trade-off, as all transactions are. You have to give up something to get something. How to decide?

    During the five months before I put my first novel into Select, it was available on all platforms. The borrows that I accumulated on Select were far greater than the combined sales on all those non-Amazon platforms. Which means: I was reaching more readers via Select than I was everywhere else.

    So, in the big picture, I feel that I am serving more readers by allowing them to borrow my books through Select, than I would be by pulling out of Select and making my books available on competing platforms. If I have to choose, I’d rather accommodate and reach more readers than fewer ones. Other authors may make different decisions. But I’m not writing for numbers of platforms; I’m writing for numbers of readers. As long as Mr. Bezos introduces my work to more readers than anyone else does, he’ll have my continued business, even if it has to be on an exclusive basis.

    1. “Would you turn down the opportunity to sell to ten million Texans, instead of (say) ten thousand readers from everywhere else? What is your objective? Geographic and demographic dispersal of your books — or total number of readers and fans?”

      This is thought-provoking.

  40. I made a few editing glitches above — forget that I said “$1 million” and “on Nook.” You get the drift of my point.

  41. David Forsyth Avatar

    I’ve been sharing and discussing. Mixed reactions from authors. I am excited about it. Prime borrows already pay for all my utility bills. ;) But I just realized something. This 30 Day Free Trial of KU is a great way for readers to help their favorite indie authors out. Even if you don’t want to pay $9.99 per month, try it for 30 days and borrow a book a day. It costs you nothing, but as long as you read through at least 10% of the book it will trigger a payment to the author. Don’t tell everyone to do this, or the value of each borrow will drop. But for those who clue in… Well, every borrow helps. Grab Hugh’s “I, Zombie” if you haven’t read it yet. And try one of my apocalyptic fiction books too! Why not? ;)

  42. That’s an excellent point, Robert.

    I can see how the ability to reach more readers is good for readers. But in your scenario above, it’s only good for readers in Texas. As a writer, you’re basically saying you don’t care about the readers in the other states. So really, it’s good for you, but not so good for readers in general. Which is okay. I’m not judging you. Most of us are in this business to make money. I just don’t think it’s fair to say that you are being exclusive because it’s good for readers.

    I also wonder, if by limiting yourself to one distributor, you make yourself vulnerable to whatever terms that distributor decides to renegotiate.

    Or what if Walmart/Amazon goes out of business (not that I think either of them will)?

    I love the sales I get from Amazon and have been VERY tempted to try select, but I just don’t know. I don’t think it’s for me.

    1. Actually, I’m not saying “I don’t care about readers in Texas” or “…on Platform X”; I am only saying, “I care about reaching the most readers. And within the marketplace as it now exists, how to I reach the maximum number of them?”

      Yes, it is also better for me to reach more rather than fewer readers. But it’s also better for more readers. I don’t care to which state capital they pay their taxes, or whether it’s an even geographic/demographic distribution (it will never be). So, why should I care which devices and retail outlets they use to get my books?

      In response to the “what if Amazon goes out of business or changes its terms” concern, my response is: By then, I’ll have enough readers that I can pursue other options, and many of them are likely to follow me to those other platforms. Right now, I have to navigate the marketplace as it currently exists, knowing full well that it will change constantly in the future. How many of you honestly anticipated this move by Amazon, or its timing? We’ll be blindsided again tomorrow, despite all our carefully arranged strategies. So, I’ll take the best advantage of current opportunities as I can, until new ones emerge. For me, exclusivity with Zon now makes sense. When it doesn’t, I’ll pursue some other path.

      1. You should blog about this. It’s a unique and persuasive argument.

        1. Actually, Hugh, I DID blog about this some time ago, provoking a bit of a debate with Kristine Kathryn Rusch (whom I greatly respect). It’s in the second half of this piece:

          Let me add something to what I said above. I think the argument between “Amazon exclusivity vs. multiple platforms” is, in logic, no different from the argument between “self-publishing vs. traditional publishing.” Isn’t one of the big arguments against indie publishing:

          “You’re limiting your sales only to ebook readers. You’ll never reach the print audience! You’ll never get your books into libraries, bookstores, and corner newsstands! You will be seriously limiting your readership!”

          Well, we all know why that argument is false. Self-publishing has opened up opportunities for thousands of us to reach readers that we never could have otherwise. It has built new careers, like yours and mine. Even if we had been able to land publishing deals, given the realities of today’s book market, many of us would have sold far fewer copies and reached far fewer readers through traditional publishing than we have through self-publishing.

          So, has it mattered to us that while we chose to reach thousands of people “only” through ebooks, we simultaneously “deprived” bookstore customers and library patrons of our works? Why, then, should it matter that we choose to reach thousands of people “only” through Amazon, rather than through its many competitors?

          Isn’t this the same issue?

          For the same reasons many of us chose ebook self-publishing, in the current marketplace I choose to be exclusive with Amazon, via Select. I’ve calculated that I’ll reach more readers that way. I wish it were otherwise. I wish that BN and Kobo and Smashwords and others could have gotten their acts together and provided me with sales platforms that would bring my books more readers than does Kindle Select. But they haven’t. And if some readers choose to patronize them and thus can’t obtain my books through those channels, well, it’s no different than the fact that some readers can’t obtain my print books in bookstores and libraries.

          So, let me underscore my bottom line: I’m interested in maximizing readers — not maximizing distribution channels, as some sort of end-in-itself. If market circumstances change and no longer make Amazon exclusivity advantageous to me, I’ll adapt. But for now, if readers want my books, they know where to find them. And if that “limitation” inconveniences some readers, I know that it conveniences a greater number of them.

          1. Again, a very persuasive argument. Helps clear some things up that I’ve been wrestling with.

  43. Any thoughts on whether or not there will be an impact from the “reading delay?”

    For example, if 1,000 KU readers download my book today, but some of them wait 6 months or a year before reading the first 10%, what will that mean for my sales and rankings? What other impacts might that have?

    And what happens if I’m not in KDP Select at that point?

    1. From the FAQ’s Amazon is posting, you’ll get your “income” as each of those people cross the 10% mark…even if you are out of Select then. As for sales rankings. I’m not sure if you get credit when the download occurs or when you reach 10%.

      1. Kindle Unlimited only allows 10 books to be downloaded at the same time which may limit the number of books someone keeps in their KU library for six months. Once you exceed 10 books the first book is removed. It is not like someone can download a 100 books and then take their time reading them.

        This also means that if you are out of Select after 6 months and someone who did not get around to reading your book when they first downloaded it goes back to find your book in 6 months or a year, they just will not find it available to borrow anymore

  44. I was thinking about not renewing my books in Select, but now I think I will keep them a little while longer. In terms of exclusivity I don’t like it but darn it Amazon offers me something. Every other store in terms of fighting Amazon exclusivity just seems to be “Hey we’re not big bad Amazon”. And that’s not enough for me.

    What would happen if Barnes and Noble came and said sign exclusively with us and your book will get 80% royalties AND it will be placed in book stores. But instead the Nook is dying. I just don’t see Apple Nook Kobo competing for my books other than “We’re not Amazon”

  45. Robert, I promise I’m not trying to be a thorn in your side. I totally understand what you’re saying about reaching a greater volume of readers.

    And I’m all about making as much money as possible.

    And I am not one to give away opportunities because I need to hold up an ideal (like being mindful of all types of readers). I wouldn’t mind telling all my other readers that they have to come to Texas to buy my books if it really meant I’d sell more books.

    But I’m still not convinced that exclusivity is best for authors.

    Right now my Amazon royalties comprise 65% of my total royalties. Even though the rest is a combination of Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play, that 35% is still a pretty good chunk of money.

    Plus, when I want to make the first book in a series free (as a loss leader), I can do so at Smashwords, but I can’t through KDP. Once Amazon matches the free price, then I can buy a BookBub ad and get hundreds of thousands of downloads, which dramatically increases my sales of the subsequent books in my series.

    As a self-published author, I feel I have more freedom and more choices by not being exclusive. And I believe this helps me to sell more books.

    But I’m open to other ideas, and I’m interested in what you have to say.

    1. With 35 percent coming from other venues, it makes a lot of sense for you to stay on those platforms. I’m not saying “my way or the highway.” Going indie is about options, and on these various paths our mileage varies. I’ve had thousands of borrows from Select, and it makes sense for me to stay there. I’m also curious to see how this new Unlimited deal will play out.

      Good luck to us all!

    2. But I’m still not convinced that exclusivity is best for authors.

      Schrodinger’s Cat comes into play here. It is best for authors, and it is not best for authors. We have to observe the specific author to see which it is..

    3. You can publish the first book in a series on all platforms and then decide separately whether to publish the follow ups exclusively or not. So it seems you can actually have both options with a series.

  46. Question: Do you think it would be “against the rules” to serialize already published novels, and publish the pieces through KDP Select to take advantage of Kindle Unlimited without having to remove the originals from other retailers? If not, it might be a way to get the best of both worlds …

    1. Yes! That is very much against the rules. Once it’s published, Amazon won’t allow you to publish parts again for more money.

  47. The big question is what will happen if or when Amazon gets trad publishers into KU. Many readers still think that trad-published books are better than indies. Once you remove price differentiation, will readers be willing to give indie books a try through KU?

    1. I don’t know. But I do know there is less risk in downloading an unknown book under the subscription plan than paying cash for it. Risk is reduced.

  48. Only when I look at my spreadsheet over three years, do I see for a fact that non-Amazon venues, plus paperback are delivering a third of my sales, so there’s no way I’d go Select/Unlimited. (This is over three pennames and three genres)

    Moreover, I’m thinking that this is the first time Amazon is screwing authors on the share of returns, in relation not only to other subscription platforms like Scribd and Oyster, but also by favoring the Big 5 with no exclusivity requirement for them, only for indies.

    No transparency, no equality and no reward.

    That is harsh and I didn’t think until now that Bezos thought so little of us indies as to make it clear he’s corralling in the indies with disdain.

    in the Hachette/Amazon standoff, I wrote editorial comments published in the Independent and Huffington Post, arguing Amazon’s corner. Now I feel duped to think the Amazon Syndrome Naysayers might actually be right about the long term plan Bezos has to just eliminate everyone else. It’s stupid, Jeff, just when the Author Earnings report shows that indies are grabbing more and more market share.

  49. Oh, yeah, on the question of the Texas readers. Under my ‘literary pen name,’ I’m not going to find many Texan fans, judging by reader feedback. Maybe if I wrote Texas type stories, I would.
    Under my ‘Asian thriller,’ penname, ditto. Lately most of my readers on Goodreads were a rash of five stars from the Middle East. A lot of expats in Asia. Some English mystery fans. Go figure.
    I need the broad reach, as I’m hoping to find readers wherever I can. Amazon just isn’t global enough for me and my pennames. It’s actually still mainly an American platform. For those of you writing primarily for the US mindset, have a ball. But it isn’t the world.

  50. This development is obviously not a “one size fits all”. Self-publishers run a business and with every development, an assessment should be made followed by a sound business decision.

    Will some authors make less money? Maybe. Will some authors make more? Maybe. But no author was ever assured of making a windfall, regardless. There was never a guarantee before and there isn’t one now.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe the fear is not really the new platform (because it’s surely great for readers) but rather what it will do to our bottom lines. I’ve heard this from my grandmother, my professors, Hugh, Konrath and others: always keep the overheads low. I live a very simple life, with some indulgences, but I stay lean. If tomorrow my income was slashed in half, I’d be quite comfortable. Hmm… I always thought that the self-pub world was covered with all the info an author would need but maybe some of the authors with finance backgrounds should start something.

    Also think of it as a new market. You don’t forsake the market where you flourished but think: how can I make this new market work for me? What type of readers will it attract? How can I cater to them? Do I need to change a few things? It’s a cliche but be positive before negative and maybe some ideas and clarity will flow. And some readers will not be attracted to this new platform, and these readers may be your readers. Also, this is only available to US readers, which leaves millions of author readers out. So assess. Assess. Assess.

    But let me say that I understand the concern. I’m not saying it’s something to shrug your shoulders at. It’s a change no one was really prepared for. But it is certainly not doom. Indies are the most versatile publishers, no reason to panic. Just fit this new development in the scheme of things, or don’t.

  51. I’ve always said that so long as my interests as an indie author are aligned with Amazon, things will be great. So far Amazon has seen indie authors as a huge (and frankly easy) revenue source which works well for all involved — we both make money off the same action: the sale of a book. And while I do think that KU can be a useful tool and benefit a lot of authors, especially in terms of discoverability, I still haven’t decided whether the interests for KU align with mine.

    Amazon gets paid the subscription fee regardless of books read. I only get paid if someone reads 10% of my book. We’re no longer making money on the same action. It’s still in Amazon’s best interest to keep me happy so that I’ll stick with them and provide them content, but they’re no longer making money off me the say way they were before.

    One of Amazon’s considerations is now “how to make KU as attractive as possible so that readers will join?” The strength of a subscription service isn’t necessarily in having the largest breadth of content, but in having the content that the largest segment of population will want to read. My participation won’t impact the success of KU much at all, while Hugh’s participation will likely create quite a large impact. Will this shift be a change from the way things are now? No idea.

    My other concern with KU is the exclusivity. Any kind of exclusivity makes me wary. I think, as with Select, KU can be a great tool for goosing sales of a book or introducing an author/series, but my hope is that authors won’t add their entire catalogs. One reason Audible was able to lower royalty rates is because there weren’t any real viable alternatives for authors to turn to.

    As an author, it’s in my best interest to ensure there are always viable alternatives. I don’t think this is Amazon creating some sort of long term plan to reduce royalties or screw indie authors — to the contrary, I agree that this program can lead to larger sales for authors who use it well. But I do think that one reason Amazon won’t lower royalties for indies is because we have alternative platforms. This is why it’s important to keep those other platforms vibrant which means not only making our books available on them, but encouraging readers to use them as well.

  52. The more I think about it, the more troubled I am by the fact that Amazon is treating self-published authors as second-class citizens. Usually they are treated pretty much the same as traditional (some few exceptions such as pre-orders) but they enjoy equal placement on best-seller lists, highest rated, and also boughts as they are based on customer behavior not co-op dollars.

    But now we have:

    1. Distribution: Traditional books don’t need to be exclusive, but self-published books MUST be.

    2. Payment: Traditional are paid as if a purchase was made — which is of course tied to price of the book. Self-published authors are paid from the KOLL pool and whether their book retails for $0.99 or $9.99 their share is the same.

    Am I the only one bothered by this second-class citizen treatment? If given the choice – wouldn’t we want the terms that traditionally published books get? Why are they offering the publishers so much? Because they won’t opt in any other way…and even with such attractive terms I suspect most big-five won’t as they can’t accept change, especially if it might hit their most voracious readers. Why isn’t Amazon offering self published authors such good terms? Because they know they can get us for a lot less. At least that is what I’m thinking. It all comes down to power. What we really need….is a site where authors can sell direct to readers, set their own prices and get paid 100% (or as close to it as possible). That way Amazon and the big-five can do whatever they want but we all have a safety net…oh wait…we can’t have that AND be in KU. Doh!

    1. Am I the only one bothered by this second-class citizen treatment?

      I don’t know. I’m not bothered.

      If given the choice – wouldn’t we want the terms that traditionally published books get?

      We live in hope of brighter days to come. I’d actually like better terms if I had the choice.

      Why are they offering the publishers so much?

      One reason might be the $2 payment would put nothing in the publisher’s pocket while the subscription plan would compete with the publisher’s own paid editions.

      Why isn’t Amazon offering self published authors such good terms?

      Many self publishers are getting those same terms and better.

      A SP book selling at $2.99 normally generates about $2 in revenue to the author. The Select lending system has been generating about $2. So the SP author is getting what you suggest.

      A SP book normally selling at 99 cents generates 35 cents for the author. Under the subscription system it is likely to generate $2. That is better than the publishers get.

      Publishers do get better terms regarding exclusivity.

      It isn’t a big deal.

      1. It is if your indie published book is priced at $3.99, $4.99, or $5.99. I predict writers will be offering more novellas.

    2. I’m not pleased with the restrictions and payouts Amazon has set for KU, either. Widely different payout rules and exclusivity requirements make KU an uneven playing field that is tilted against indies, and — to me — that’s a strong argument for not going all-in with Amazon.

  53. […] Perhaps the best-known self-published author, Hugh Howey, was cautiously optimistic, sounding off in this column. […]

  54. I just want to shout out a few “Amen, sistahs!” to Q.V. Hunter and Lisa B.

  55. I’m not sure yet how I feel about KU, but I do think it’s really cool to be paid anything when people borrow my book from a library. Until recently (until there were ebooks), an author got a royalty payment only once when a library bought his/her book. Through Amazon Prime and KU we get a payment every time someone reads it. That said, I definitely think that indie publishers should get the exact same royalty deal as traditional publishers for KU borrows. By making the deals different, Amazon is risking losing a lot of indies who have, until now, felt extremely loyal to Amazon; it’s bad business if Amazon is interested in being as pro-indie in the future as it’s been until now. Also, I don’t think indies should get paid only after someone reads 10% of the book. If that’s the case, why not just pay us every time someone reads the 10% sample from “Look Inside”? (Not that I think this should happen, but I can’t figure out why they’re creating that 10% cutoff for the borrowed books.) I think that if a book is borrowed through KU, we should be paid. Plus, I think that once a book has been borrowed, if it’s not read within a certain timeframe (a year?) the author should get paid regardless. Finally, I wonder why B&N doesn’t make thair online platform more enticing for authors? Why is there no Author Central? Why aren’t royalty rates the same as Amazon?

  56. I’m not so sure that subscription services are rough on musicians. I can’t remember which label it was now, but I could have sworn that there’s one out there which has a web thing where customers can subscribe to particular bands or genres and have new releases sent to them. Baen have a somewhat similar service for books in their monthly bundles and “webscriptions”.

    Services like Spotify aren’t really subscriptions in my opinion. They’re more like radio stations, and their payments to artists are closer to those of radio stations. To expect that you get a dollar or whatever for every person who listens when your song is played on the radio is just silly.

  57. […] So, this leads me to another thought.  I am thinking about some short stories I’d like to write.  I’d sell them for 99 cents each, and if I entered KDP Select for these titles, I may make significantly more income from them.  Correct me if I’m wrong, please.  I’ve read a lot of conflicting information about this, unfortunately.  There’s a lively discussion on Hugh Howey’s website here. […]

  58. I have good feelings about Kindle Unlimited.

    As a reader, I am thrilled. I devour books and the other day I looked at a $4.99 title and realized that I could not buy it until my next paycheck because my car insurance had not cleared yet. Then I looked into the KU program and signed up for the one-month free trial, knowing that I could afford the $9.99 when it kicked in. I got the book and the audio book dropped into my Audible account. I read on my Kindle and then switched to the Audible app on my phone and listened to the story while I cleaned hotel rooms at work. I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled, as a reader.

    As a writer, well… first of all, I’m making less than $10 per month on my stories so my income can only go up (fingers crossed). This may not be true for others who are selling more but it’s where I’m coming from. Someone bought one of my erotica shorts and then returned it a week later. Maybe they read it, maybe they didn’t, but with KU, if they do read more than 10%, I get paid and they don’t feel obligated to return it if they don’t like the book.

    Since I am the rights holder, all of the money will go to me. Unlike a dear friend with his traditionally published books, who is getting hit with ‘high discount’ royalties where it seems the publisher takes the discount exclusively from the author’s portion. As indies, we have the luxury of stepping-wise as the platforms rise and fall beneath our feet. We are a smart crowd and discussions like this will help us navigate the morphing landscape. Collectively, we have a lot of power.

    I think that KU is a huge boon to short story and novella writers. It may inspire authors to serialize their novels, for better or worse. Voracious readers will become even more voracious and things may balance out financially.

  59. Lou Sytsma (aka @olddarth) Avatar
    Lou Sytsma (aka @olddarth)

    Frank Schaeffer weighs in with his perspective –

    “Traditional publishers are opaque and backward in their marketing and accounting. Unless you are a celebrity author married to the clueless publishing world and afraid of the future, it’s time to wake up to the fact that Amazon is a bookseller — in other words, a friend to working stiffs like me.”

  60. As a reader, Kindle Unlimited’s usefulness is going to be directly tied to how many books it offers.

    Just for fun, I checked the last twenty titles I have read….only thirteen were available though Kindle Unlimited…

    Unless that improves, I’m not signing up…and I’d guess that I’m not the only reader that feels that way. I’m not going to pay $10/month if I still have to purchase some books because they’re not available through KU.

    Even a voracious reader like me doesn’t get through that many books…

  61. Here’s some food for thought I haven’t read anywhere else yet.

    In my eyes KU has the potential to become the first functioning and lucrative paywall for bloggers in this century. Imagine the year 2016. Kindle Unlimited will succeed. Just like Audible and Netflix. Everyone pays ten bucks for his Kindle Flatrate. what reason is there to not publish my blogposts as ebooks on Amazon? People are paying already and will read my posts and I will finally be able to monetize my blogsposts and not just have them sit there as free advertising. Of course, you need great content and a fanbase in your niche, but let’s say that’s a given. KU then will make some bloggers very wealthy

    1. This is such a great point, Jonas. I do hope bloggers are reading your comment. There may be a great opportunity here for them.

  62. […] been updating my KU thread as more and more thoughts come to me. A couple days ago, I listed the ways that indies have been […]

  63. Regarding preorders, I have long since pointed out to Amazon that anyone willing to submit a file in advance and push back their publication date by three to six weeks should be allowed to have a preorder button, but I can see this going awry by overeager authors uploading drafts rather than final copy with intent to upload the final copy on time and then missing their deadlines. I’ve since given up on getting them to allow this. Life’s too short.

  64. Thank you Hugh and everyone for this discussion. In the spirit of experimentation, we are putting some (not all) of my wife, Gina Lake’s, and my books into select. It is nice to have several books out there, so we can try it with some of them and still have a presence on the other ebooks stores. I always avoid all or nothing thinking….oh wait I just said always. Strike that. I often try to avoid all or nothing thinking.

  65. This just showed up in a Forbes article about KU:
    “Currently, the average Scribd user is reading a little less than a book a month, says Adler, assuaging publishers’ worries that subscribers would be voraciously taking advantage of the model when they could have been buying books separately.”

    That is a remarkably low average. Maybe the subscription model will turn out to be viable in the same way as a gym membership. But it is still a weird way to build a business.

    The article also said, “Having soft launched its product in Jan. 2013, Scribd is now seeing about 50% user growth month-over-month, though Adler would not disclose the actual subsciber number.”

    That is a pretty good growth rate.

  66. […] many in the industry have wanted to think was there. Just try to pin this dude down in his posts Kindle Unlimited (Friday, July 18) and It’s 2011 All Over Again (today, July […]

  67. […] under a rock, I’ve gathered a few links for you: Lucky Bat Books, Scott William Carter, Hugh Howey, David Gaughran, Smashwords… and I’m sure you can find tonz more. Enough for an […]

  68. […] Hugh Howey offers his thoughts and points out that indie authors have never been treated as equals by Amazon and that a lot of indie authors made a lot of money with the original KDP Select back between November 2011 and March 2012, largely because Amazon artificially pushed KDP Select books which had gotten a lot of free downloads up the charts. […]

  69. […] published authors get the full price, because their publisher gets the full sales commission,” Howey explains. “Self-published authors get a flat fee, probably something around $2 per read. There have been […]

  70. […] indie writer/hyrbid Hugh Howey admitted on his blog that he was conflicted after learning his books had been placed in KU without […]

  71. […] “the same amount as it would receive if the book were sold through a regular retailer”. As Hugh Howey notes these services will appeal most to heavy readers: why would an occasional book reader spend over […]

  72. […] is paid “the same amount as it would receive if the book were sold through a regular retailer”. As Hugh Howey notes these services will appeal most to heavy readers: why would an occasional book reader spend over […]

  73. […] Hugh Howey könnte übrigens genauer wissen wie das mit der Bezahlung bei der neuen Flatrate von Amazon funktioniert, sein SF-Roman wurde nämlich per KDP veröffentlicht – und Bücher, die diese Option bei Amazon nutzen sind offenbar automatisch Bestandteil der Flat. Richtig: Das sind Bücher, die die Autoren selbst ohne Verlag eingestellt haben. (Selbstverlage sind nun auch nichts Neues und Dienste wie LuLu gabs auch schon im Netz seit – hmm – einigen Jahren. Oder BOD. Also auch nichts Neues an sich. Für sich alleine wohlgemerkt.) Was sagt Howey denn nun genau über die Bezahlung? […]

  74. […] services like Kindle Unlimited is “will I use it enough to make it worth the cost?” Hugh Howey likens it to gym memberships where you sign up for auto-renewal and then never use it. I’ve seen lots of people note that […]

  75. I think the admin of this web page is actually working hard in favor of his web site, because here
    every material is quality based data.

  76. […] Kindle Unlimited – Hugh Howey | The Sky Is Not Falling – Tara Ross | How I Learned To Stop Worrying […]

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  78. […] author Hugh Howey from the outset had mixed feelings but appears to be intimating he might do it, self-published author Holly Ward (H. M. Ward) has done […]

  79. I am an avid reader. I often read a novel a day, so KU makes sense for me. I will read an author I don’t know over one of the big hitters that I would have to pay for. Their books will eventually wind up at the Salvation Army or Goodwill and I may buy them at a nominal price going to charity.
    The scheme of breaking up books into small reads for a series will not win my favor or my money. It’s a real turn off.
    However, because the books in KU are limited, I have branched out into reading other genres that I would not otherwise explore.
    Some I have been very fond of and consider purchasing hard copies as gifts.
    I do not want to see any author cheated from revenues.
    I am simply looking at my habits from an economic standpoint similar to the assessments made here by authors.
    Fortunately overall, few subscibers read as prolifically as I do.

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