In more ways than one.
Let me explain. Three months ago I tried an experiment. I pulled my books from all the other vendors and went all-in with Amazons KU program. I was following the advice of many that had gone before me and decided to give it a try to see if I could emulate their success there. It was a decision I thought about long and hard, but in the end I decided was worth the 90-day commitment.
I was wrong.
Entering KU was initially a positive. I saw a nice jump in sales, and page-reads were at a level that had me on track for a 30% increase over my average monthly income. Not as good as I had been told to expect, but not bad either.
Then, Amazon happened.
One of my biggest problems with Amazons KU program was its lack of transparency. Amazon shares little to no information on the program with its authors and is anything but clear as to how it really runs. They also have you over a barrel from day one as they can make changes to the program at anytime and without warning. As they did so right around the time I entered it. Was my timing bad, or was I simply a victim of bad luck? I’d say both. But being at Amazons mercy was my first mistake.
Right around the time I entered KU they made a change to the algorithm. This is not something they do that often, it’s a constantly evolving program and we expect it to be tweaked from time to time, but this was a major change. I heard from friends making six figures telling me they were suddenly down by up to 30%. Some even more. A few had lost income in the neighborhood of 90%. In other words, career ending losses. It started a thread on Kboards that grew to over 3,000 posts and is still growing to this day. Everyone was desperate to figure out the new changes. The thread is filled with a lot of theory and speculation, but in the end there is little more than that. The truth is; nobody knows what Amazon did, they only know that’s its effecting their bottom line in a negative way.
As it did to me. My initial upward spike quickly turned into a long slide down. I’ll spare you the details and just say that by the time the ninety-day commitment was over I was pulling down the same numbers as I had been when I was wide. And that was with my first book Closure being offered FREE. (I’d been forced to put a price of $2.99 on it to justify going onto KU)
So, lesson learned. KU is as bad a deal as I thought it would be. While I may have gained a few readers that I might not have reached the old way, it just wasn’t worth it to be exclusive to Amazon.
What does that mean for you the reader?
A lot actually. Those of you that get my books from places other than Amazon will now have access to them again. My entire Jack Randall Series is in the process of going back to all the vendors they use to be at. Apple, Kobo, NOOK, and Google already have my books up and available (or soon will, there’s always a glitch somewhere). Bill is working hard to make the transition as quick and easy as he can. If you have a problem with a download please don’t hesitate to bother him, by sending an email to email@example.com. He doesn’t care what time it is or anything. No, really!
So I am Free of the KU prison. Closure will also be free again too. This takes a little while to accomplish as you are mostly dealing with computers and not people. You have to point and yell on the internet to get one vendors computer to price-match a book that’s on another vendors computer. I wish I were making that up but I’m not.
How did Amazon respond? I’d heard stories of books getting a drop in ranking, or a slow turn-around when coming out of KU, or even a period of time-stoppage where the book sold nothing and sat as if frozen for a few days only to have a sudden spike before returning to normal. I got none of that. What I did get was something new.
My first book Closure has 1500 reviews on Amazons US website alone. 92% of these reviews are 4 star or above. One has 223 up-likes and has been the first review you see for years. Guess what’s at the top of the page now? That’s right, 1, 2, and 3 star reviews. I guess this is Amazons form of the doghouse. How long will it last? Who knows. But I can tell you this, it won’t change my mind about leaving KU. I should have trusted my instincts and business sense in the first place. If there was any chance of me trying KU again in the first place they’ve just made it harder for me to consider it. If anything, it’s made me even more determined to build a readership on the other platforms. I’ve seen battered wife syndrome while working as a paramedic, I certainly won’t let Amazon put me in that kind of relationship.
But business is business and Amazon is doing what they will. I’ll simply recognize them for what they are and work with them as best I can.
So no more KU. From this point on I intend to be wide and keep working on what the readers want; more books.
The next Jack Randall novel, Homeland, should be ready soon. I’ll also be adding to The Twelve Shepherds as scheduled. I have some ideas for giving Larry his own spin-off series and have spent a few hours toying with a SciFi idea. I hope to speed up my production this year as several distractions have been taken care of. The disco ball is finally hanging in the kitchen.
Audio is on Bill’s list. We tried to get Optimus Prime to do the books, but he had scheduling conflicts. My kids were very disappointed. But as soon as I hear the voice of Jack in the audition tapes we’ll be going into production.
Hardcovers! We’ll soon have the hardcover versions of all the Jack Randall books out through Lightning Source and available on all vendors. Yes, even in New Zealand.
The Twelve Shepherds! I hope to ramp up the release schedule and get Season Two out a little faster.
So that’s it. I hope to be blogging more and sharing some more personal happenings of what goes on is casa Wood. Stand-bye for that.
Thanks to everyone who hung in there with me while I experimented with KU. I apologize for leaving you and won’t let it happen again!
13 thoughts on “I’m no longer in Kindle Unlimited!”
You really got the south end of a northbound steer, RW. Just when you entered KU the whole system collapsed. Amazon has made a huge change that has dramatically and negatively affected thousands of indie writers and they’re not breathing a word about it. One thing many people are noticing, Amazon is vigorously pushing its own imprints over indie books. Look at any bestseller category and there will always be three or four out of ten that are Amazon imprints. So now we’re competing with the company that’s doing our selling because, when they walk into the store to offer goods for sale they always show their own goods before they show indie goods. I feel screwed altho it is their store and they can do whatever they want. I’ve marked my books for getting out of KU in March. If things aren’t reinstated by then, I’ll be joining you wide.
True story! I don’t blame them for the timing, or for looking out for their own best interest, but it was a one-sided deal to begin with and has only gotten worse in my opinion. I think we’ll see Amazon become more and more like a trade publisher (pre-2007) over the next few years. As you pointed out, we’re already seeing them push their own titles over indies on the front page of the store. This is nothing more than digital coop space, the equivalent to the trade published books owning the front table at the entrance of every Barnes & Noble. I think the authors taking their books wide today will be labeled as “early adopters” next year. There’s a lack of leverage here as far as the indie author is concerned, going wide may not increase that much, but I’ll take a little leverage, and whatever safety it provides, over no leverage at all.
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@Randall and John – you might want to check out the International Indie Author Facebook Group – http://www.facebook.com/groups/441469159372773/ – where the focus is on going wide in every sense of the word.
Amazon added 2,000 imprint titles just last year (fielding about 5,000 in total now), and at current rates is on target to be fielding 10k imprint titles by 2020 – all getting priority over regular indie titles.
The writing has been on the wall a long time – buying Goodreads, paid ads (now for all KDP, not just Select), dropping affiliate schemes for promo newsletters, etc, etc, and of course the October Author Earnings Report confirmed it is indies, not trad pub, that is paying the price.
Signing exclusive with Amazon is still great if we can get a sweetheart deal, but just jumping in to Select with nothing more than the Select box ticked is a major gamble.
As per my Group new year kick-off post – https://www.facebook.com/groups/441469159372773/permalink/619052698281084/ – I believe we’re in for an exceptionally challenging year in 2017, but there are also huge opportunities for those taking going wide seriously and fully embracing the Global New Renaissance unfolding.
Amazon’s thirteen global stores are not to be sneezed at, and obviously the big players in the US and UK, but being in KDP doesn’t get us into Kindle China
Many of the Kindle stores are barely making an impact, (Germany aside, where Amazon is about level with Tolino) and outside of the Kindle countries Amazon either imposes the whispernet surcharges or blocks ebook downloads altogether.
John, having been in KU so long you’ll be starting off wide like a newbie, and it will take a good while to gain traction, but if you use the full reach of Smashwords, Draft2Digital, StreetLib and PublishDrive to reach the 500 or so global retailers, the dozens of global subscription services and the 50,000 global digital libraries (many more if you are willing to pay up-front for distribution – these are all free/pay-as-you-sell).
And that’s quite aside from the exciting new opportunities emerging in print, audio, translations and other formats, domestic and global, and the broadening opportunities for D2C and bulk corporate sales.
Excellent advice, Mark. I’ll be checking that out.
I’ve always wondered about the Chinese market. I’ve heard that translations are immediately pirated and you have little to no way to counter it. But that market is HUGE and certainly deserves a look. I have some feelers out for doing a German translation, but have not yet pulled the trigger on that.
Thanks for the link, I imagine you’ll see me there soon.
I was the first (and I think still the only) western indie to hit #1 on Kindle China, back in 2014. Then the China Kindle market was comparable to the UK market in 2011 in sales terms. But Kindle CN is a relatively small player in China and Amazon have shifted their focus to India now.
The piracy issue is more hype than substance. Piracy happens everywhere – just look on Amazon US – and no doubt it happens in China perhaps on a larger scale because in population terms it’s a much larger country. But I’ve seen no evidence it’s an issue to lose sleep over.
As the third biggest ebook market (exc. China) Germany is definitely worth taking seriously, and all the more so for print.
If you do a Chinese translation, whats the best vendor to move it through? I know of a few stores that operate in many markets and have branches in Hong Kong, but whats the big Ebook market there? Does Alibaba have an ebook store?
Germany just moved up the list, thanks for the tip.
Great information, Mark! I’m so happy to find you, someone leading others out of the dead end that KU has become. My daily page reads are down almost 100K since November. I don’t want to play any longer, like Randall says. Thanks again.
Sadly, I jumped into KU this fall as well. Great timing!
I had a dozen novellas KU exclusive (under a single pen name). As each one ended its 90 day run, I’d go wide with it.
Low and behold, the books remaining in KU suddenly got zero visibility. They went from steady, moderate sales to zero in a matter of days.
Lesson learned: if you’re in with KU, be ALL in. If you’re wide, be ALL wide. Amazon’s computers notice when you’re half in and half out and it’s truly the worst of both worlds.
I’m still in the same boat with my serial novel, it went into KU an episode at a time and will have to come out that way as well. It’ll take months, but if that’s what I have to do so be it.
You have to really wonder about a company that has a “punishment algo” for those that leave them.
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Although I’m not an author, I have noticed on KU that some of the books they show on KU they show on other pages where you have to pay for them. I have wondered how authors were making money off of KU. I am an avid reader and loved the idea of being able to read as many books as I want (usually 1 book every day or 2).I appreciate good authors and you deserve to be paid appropriately for your work
However, you and the authors who have replied to your comments have helped me decide to drop KU. I also tend on letting them know I don’t appreciate them thinking they can manipulate their customers by dishonest practices. I will just have to slow down on my reading because I can’t afford to spend a lot on books each month because I am disabled.