WHAT THE HELL

Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

Amazon strikes…again

Holiday Face

Well, no sooner do I decide to put my forthcoming novel, Occasional Soulmates, in the KDP Select program — selling the ebook strictly through Amazon — than Amazon goes and announces this new gig, Kindle Unlimited, throwing my strategy off track before it even gets rolling. Read all about Kindle Unlimited here (which I reblogged yesterday from David Gaughran). Understand that it is essentially the same as Oyster Books, only emanating from the Death Star.

As Gaughran analyzes it, we’ll have to wait and see what effect this new program has on self-publishers. There are a lot of variables, and it’s hard to tell how promotional outlets will respond to accommodate a shift from individual sales to monthly subscriptions, though it’s probably safe to say that Amazon doesn’t want to kill independent publishing. I have to think they’re making money on it, even if it’s pennies a copy. Lots of pennies are piling up.

But my impression is that it will be very difficult for books like mine to stand out among the over 600,000 titles in Kindle Unlimited, even if none of those titles are from the big publishers. By way of example, I haven’t had a single “sale” in Oyster, as far as I can tell — not that I’ve done anything to promote my stuff there. I’d expect Kindle Unlimited to be equally opaque. After all, people will read what floats to the top. They can’t read what they don’t know exists, so competition will be fierce for eyeballs.

I guess it’ll all become clear as we go along.

In terms of KDP Select, though, I think I’ll maintain that strategy, at least at the outset. I know a lot of people out there have e-readers other than the Kindle, and I know that most of us are pretty mad at Amazon these days. But in getting Occasional Soulmates ready to publish, I’ve reviewed my non-Amazon sales and have to admit the number is tiny. Just for analytical purposes, let’s say they represent about 3% of my total. Most of them were sold via Barnes & Nobel, but again, we’re talking single digits here.

Some readers with Nooks and Kobos will say, “What about me?” — and I have a strategy all set to go. First, I’m also doing a paperback edition this time around, so that will give eager readers a chance to have and hold an actual book. Sure, it’ll cost more, but it’s a physical object, and it’ll have my picture on it too!

Beyond that, though, if you’re truly wed to your non-Kindle device and don’t want to pony up for the p’back, I’m ready to work with you. Buy the ebook on Amazon, and I’ll send you a file formatted in EPUB or PDF (or whatever your device prefers). Of course, you’ll have to provide some kind of proof of purchase, but that can be as simple as emailing me your Amazon receipt.

If Yesterday Road is any guide, I’m talking to fewer than twenty people right now.

Don’t forget, Amazon provides free software so that you can read Kindle books on pads and phones, so you don’t absolutely need a Kindle.

A lot is happening in self-publishing these days, not the least upsetting of which is Amazon’s hard-assed business strategy and now the Oyster-like Kindle Unlimited. For semi-literary novels like mine, or novels that don’t fall into the most popular ebook categories, though, there’s simply no market outside of the Kindle. We’ll see if the paperback makes a difference. I hope it does. I’d like to reach people who haven’t taken the plunge into ebooks yet, or people who just like real, honest-to-god books that smell nice when you fan them under your nose. I know you’re out there!

What are your impressions of Kindle Unlimited and how it’ll affect us indies? Disaster or opportunity?

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30 comments on “Amazon strikes…again

  1. Green Embers
    July 21, 2014

    I wouldn’t worry about it, at all. I was reading an article where it went over statistics of people who read and in the U.S. it is about an average of 5 books per year. Which means in the U.S. I doubt the subscription numbers will be that high. Personal anecdote but I do not intend on subscribing, I have plenty of books in my TBR pile as it is.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      Yes, it seems a classic case of why fret over something you can’t control…

  2. Pamela Beckford
    July 21, 2014

    Even harder for those of us publishing poetry books – I am an avid reader and I’m not signing up for Kindle Unlimited. I don’t think it will really save me that much money in the long run.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      I’m the same way, and I also don’t read very fast so I’d always feel like I’m not getting my money’s worth!

      Not sure what it means from the writer’s side, though. Could cause a whole change in the way we promote.

      • Pamela Beckford
        July 21, 2014

        Not even a category for poetry unless I missed it. It’s already hard to promote my books

  3. Gwen Stephens
    July 21, 2014

    Amazon has done a lot of good things for writers, including opening up the heavily guarded gates of the publishing industry and making it accessible to anyone who wants to call himself an author. But it’s clear (to me, at least) that Amazon is a business, first and foremost, and it’s looking out for its own bottom line. They wouldn’t roll out this new program if it carried no financial advantage. Like you’ve said so aptly above, only time will tell what this means for the little guys.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      That’s the irony in all this: Amazon has been good for indies and has nearly single-handedly created a market for our stuff. Yet, they are a corporate behemoth and are always looking for ways to grow and dominate. It’s like the friendly T. Rex who suddenly notices you look like food.

  4. islandeditions
    July 21, 2014

    I really like your way of appeasing the Kobo readers! Now that is thinking, man!

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      Let’s hope it works!

      • islandeditions
        July 21, 2014

        Still, a very generous, and ingenious, way of making all your readers happy, and your book more widely available.

  5. francisguenette
    July 21, 2014

    I’ve been going back and forth, like you, reading everything I can out there on how this new twist is likely to effect those of us who do have trouble raising ourselves above the Amazon throngs to be noticed. I am going to pull back to only dealing e-books through Amazon. I’ve tried the other platforms and my experience is like yours – the sales don’t justify losing out on any chance at the opportunities Amazon may or may not end up offering. I took David Gaughran’s words, on realizing he had missed out on the advantages of Kindle Select by not jumping on the bandwagon sooner, seriously. In some ways I had already come to the conclusion about going only with Amazon before the whole story of Kindle Unlimited hit, so I’ll do it and just see where it takes me. Totally agree with the idea of having a real book – it’s made all the difference for me. Don’t underestimate the power of the local market.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      Thanks for your analysis, Fran. I think David would be the first to admit that things are always changing too, and what seems a wise decision today looks iffy in six months. I guess all we can do is make the best choice for ourselves now and try to adapt as it all morphs in time.

      I’ve been watching your local experience with interest, by the way. Keep reporting!

  6. TuiSnider
    July 21, 2014

    Huh? Wha? I’ve been too busy writing… Didn’t even realize there was a thing called Kindle Unlimited. Thanks for the heads up! Always something new to learn.

    Btw, I’m dropping by from #Mondayblogs on Twitter I’m @TuiSnider there, and would be delighted if you’d drop by my blog sometime! Nice to meet & tweet you!

    p.s. If you’re interested in meeting writers, every Thursday night Twitter is loaded with writing chats. I lead the first one called #StoryDam at 8pmET and it just takes off from there with #k8chat and #10MinNovelists. Very inspiring night for writers! Hope to see you there.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      Thanks for popping by, Tui. Happy to look you up on Twitter, but as for meeting more writers? I’d rather meet more readers!

  7. Phillip McCollum
    July 21, 2014

    I’m so far away from having any skin in the game, so my opinion doesn’t hold much weight at the moment. I can only sit back and hope that things work out for all parties involved!

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      Keep an eye on things, Phillip. You’ll be publishing one day soon and you’ll have to have some idea of what the hell’s going on! I just wish things would stabilize for about six months…

  8. sknicholls
    July 21, 2014

    I have RC&R on all retail platforms but I have been thinking about going Kindle Select with my new series, but that may be a while. Curious to see how this pans out. I don’t like the 10% factor so much though. I’d like the money on the sale.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      I think you get money if the reader goes past the 10% mark, which isn’t unreasonable. The question is, how much money? Right now, nobody knows…

      • sknicholls
        July 21, 2014

        Pity though. I have about 8o unread indies on my reader right now. I would hate for them to have to wait for me to get 10% through their books before they got paid. That may be a ways down the road.

  9. John W. Howell
    July 21, 2014

    On the paper edition, be prepared for shocking rank numbers when you start.

  10. Author Rebecca Heishman
    July 21, 2014

    As a reader and a writer, I have explored Kindle Unlimited, and I see it as a win/win for both sides of the aisle. I have actually delved into some new indie authors who are popping up all over the place with the program. I see it as another good way for any author, indie or published, to reach new audiences.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 21, 2014

      Well, let’s hope you’re right. I’d like to think KU offers a new outlet for indie authors to be discovered, but not at the expense of the sales-per-copy model.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  11. cinthiaritchie
    July 22, 2014

    As someone published through a traditional publisher, I see this as a win, even though I’m mad as hell (get that? A pun on your blog title, lol) at Amazon since it not only hijacked my book, it’s now unavailable in print version on the site (part of the Hachette fight).
    If I understand it correctly, KU will level the playing field between eBooks priced through traditional publishers and indie publishers. Another plus? Indie publishers will be able to promo without heavy discounts since readers with KU won’t be as influenced by pricing. That is, if I understand it correctly.

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 22, 2014

      I think you’ve got it, Cinthia, and in the long run a certain equilibrium is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, for now, anyway, the big 5 publishers don’t seem to be participating in KU. I’d imagine that’s temporary, while the new round of deals are being negotiated, but if everyone’s playing hardball it could be quite a while before we see how this might work with traditional and indie books all in the same pond.

      I’ll always worry about how to make my books stand out in a setting where I’m competing with the marketing power of the biggies. Not that they drop tens of thousands on every book they publish…

  12. 1WriteWay
    July 27, 2014

    Speaking solely as a reader: I tried those old-timey subscription book clubs years ago and couldn’t keep up with that. (Of course, subscribing to a book club didn’t stop me from buying books at regular brick-and-mortar stores so that might have contributed to the problem.) I wouldn’t even entertain the notion of subscribing to Kindle Unlimited. Even if it saved me money, I’d wind up worse off than I am now: too many books, too little time 😉

    • Kevin Brennan
      July 27, 2014

      Yeah, I’m definitely not a “power reader.” And if I have a book on my Kindle, I beat myself up until it’s read.

      In the end, I doubt if I’d save much money. Not sure I spend $120 on books every year anymore… (My bad!)

      • 1WriteWay
        July 27, 2014

        And then there are libraries. You don’t need to spend $$ to read then 😉

  13. margaretjeanlangstaff
    July 31, 2014

    Was hoping to see a review fm you by now, Kev, on my latest opus …. 🙂 You goose

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This entry was posted on July 21, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , , .
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