I've vacillated in the past: Stay in Kindle Unlimited? Or go wide (meaning my books are available in eBook formats and from retailers other than Amazon). A year ago, I made the decision that I would be exclusive with Amazon and KU. I pulled my books in the Olivia Chronicles out from every other seller, and I planned to publish Elegant Freefall exclusively with Amazon.
Starting March 16, you will find Elegant Freefall at all major retailers of eBooks, as well as being available for libraries to loan through OverDrive when they purchase a library copy. The Olivia Chronicles books will be available April 20.
So, why am I going wide again? Lots of reasons. And none of them really have anything to do with money.
I'm not even a mid-lister. While I did have one really nice month on KU, my sales of eBooks in the first month of the new release actually outpaced the KU income. Then I had a month of high KU income and few to no sales (I think I ran a price break that month, too--given that KU pays out six weeks or so after the month in question, it gets confusing unless you're looking at your reports). While I made some here and there, I probably never made enough to make a car payment in full. Or if I did, it was one month that I did.
Right now, I'm looking at an incredibly slow month. My hopes were that once the holidays were over, reading in KU would pick back up. And, while I wasn't really thinking hard about going wide again, some recent reading and news stories changed my mind.
KU pays about $0.004 per page read. And no one is sure it counts pages accurately.
As a writer, I do find it a bit disheartening that for me to make the same royalty on KU that I would make from the sale of one regularly priced eBook of Elegant Freefall, someone has to read that book 2.5 times all the way through. And that's just assuming KU can actually count page reads (some say it can't).
As a reader, I have been a KU subscriber in the past. I joined when they first started and while I loved the ease of getting books and that I could check out books before buying them, I found that I typically didn't read enough books to equal the $9.99/month price. Granted, this was when I still had access to a large library in KC that had great eBook holdings through OverDrive. But I've been without library access for over a year now, and I find that between the books I buy that are not in KU and the books that I get from Archive.org, Gutenburg.org, and discounted or free BookBub books, I still wouldn't read more than two in KU in a given month.
And, I can buy two or three Indie books for $9.99 a month. And I know the authors get their actual royalty, not some wild guess at a pay per page thing.
Apparently, this scam has been going on for awhile. My books average about 65K words. Other genres like sci-fi are longer, often over 100K. So, in those instances, the page reads can actually be close to regular royalties.
I have no issues with that.
What I do have issues with are people "stuffing" books (David Guaghran has a great post from October of 2018 regarding this, as well as a recent Twitter stream). Apparently a lot of people put in back matter including excerpts of their own and sometimes of other authors' books. I don't have a problem with that per se, if it's not excessive. What is problematic is that apparently some stuffers literally cram multiple books in one to manipulate reads.
Often, the books are stuffed with stolen material. Sometimes the books themselves are plagiarized.
Recently, the #CopyPasteCris happened. A well-selling romance author by the name of Cristiane Serruya apparently was copying selections from writers like Courtney Milan, Tessa Dare, Suzan Tisdale, and even Nora Roberts.
When the case was first discovered, Serruya, who claims to be a lawyer, tried to blame ghost writers. Those ghost writers clarified that it was Serruya who provided the "excerpts" claiming they were hers and that she wanted help making them into coherent books.
What this case revealed, though, was a whole rats' nest of scamming techniques indies can't compete with. I can't put out a book every week or even every month. The idea I would be able to compete with scammers who have book mills with multiple ghost writers churning out books under a single name, as well as click farms where people manipulate page reads to keep those books in the charts--it's absurd. And then there are folks who buy reviews.
Amazon apparently is doing little to help indies and in fact apparently has reps for the scammers.
Do I think my leaving KU will make any difference? No, not to Amazon. But I will feel a bit less sleazy about it all, and I can even feel fine about doing direct eBook sales if I want to (I mean, that sounds like a nightmare in terms of figuring out sales tax, but my web store does have the ability to do that if I ever lose my mind and try it).
Anyway, I choose for now to step out of the snake pit. I mean I have no problem blocking people on social media or stepping out of it when it becomes a sh*t show, so why should KU be any different? I can spare the $7 of royalties I made in February from KU (that's for around 16,667 page reads). Note that if a book has 245 pages, that page count is equivalent to 68 copies. At a royalty of $3.49 per eBook, sales profits would be $237.32.
Still not a car payment, but neither is $7.
Could I go out and buy a lot of ads and get page reads and rankings up? Oh, probably. But the reality is that even with the best months I have yet to make enough to make that sort of ad buying worth the expense. When I did my expenditures vs. profits for 2018, which included some ads and sales, I basically broke even. Almost.
I think it was Gaughran who suggested that one very easy way for Amazon to help here would be to actually vet or investigate the "authors" who are getting so many page reads in KU that they get the big bonuses every royalty pay out. Maybe if they do that I'd consider coming back to Amazon and KU, but probably not. The system currently is so broken that it would take an overhaul. And every time I see a deal like "Three months of KU for $0.99!" I cringe a little because I know it has to decrease the KU per page payout which is already low. And it fluctuates monthly.
So, if you are a KU reader, you have until March 15th to borrow Elegant Freefall. The first three books in the Olivia Chronicles series will be available there until April 19th.
After that, you will have access to my books at all major retailers--and your library through OverDrive (and if folks request them).