Ah! Good old Amazon. We keep hearing about how they have gone from being an Indie’s best friend to her biggest enemy. However, when it comes to Kindle Unlimited (KU), they may be doing something right.
We seem to all be aware that a big change has happened with Kindle Unlimited. The short of it is, it used to be that all authors were paid a specific amount per month for each copy of their KU-enrolled books that were downloaded and read past the 10% mark. As of July first, KU authors are paid by the number of pages read. Some authors think this is great, others not so much. There are a lot of reasons as to why I am mixed on the new program, but here is why I think it makes sense.
Amazon seems to be saying that they agree with all of the authors who have said it was unfair that someone who wrote a 50 page short story made the same amount of money as someone who wrote a 300 page novel. I am one of those authors. I even considered making my last book a two-parter just so I could cash in. I mean, why not charge $2.99 for each installment, and then get double on KU?
I actually started to split my story, but it meant bringing in elements that would ruin the flow, which in turn diminished the power of the message. In the end, my art won over my pocketbook. I stand by that decision. However, although it may have been artistically correct, I still missed out on making a few dollars—you know, those precious little things that allow me to put food on my table. How does an individual choose which is more important?
What if we eliminated that choice and, as a community, developed a method for fair pricing?
For a long time I have felt that Indie authors need to unite and abide by a code of ethics. This includes things like using a professional editor and paying for a cover that does not look like your kid did it in a stock art program. Maybe it should also include a pricing structure. What if we all charged 99 cents for a novella and up to $2.99 for an average book and called it a day? Let’s say 0-99 pages is 99 cents, 100-199 pages is $1.99, and above that is $2.99 or more. I am talking true content here, not ads and filler.
But wait! There is more. Let’s also talk about eliminating free promos.
When you give away a book you are giving away your entire product. Show me another business that gives away their entire product as much as Indie authors do. If you go into a bookstore and something is offered at 66% off, don’t you think that is a great deal? They are practically giving it away! (They aren’t. Everyone is still making something off of the sale. Also, they are charging something for it because it has value.) Well, putting a $2.99 ebook on sale for 99 cents is the same, deeply discounted, deal. Yes, it is like throwing your book in the bargain bin. Still, you are making something off of the killer deal because the book has value.
Now tell me how you see your free book. How much value does it show?
If a deeply discounted book is considered the bargain bin, what is a free one considered?
Why does Amazon allow free books if they don’t make money off of them? Actually, they do make money. If you give that book away elsewhere, that’s where the customer will go. Thus, Amazon could lose out on other sales that could happen during that visit to their site. Amazon understands that even if the author doesn’t make a penny, they still can. The author, a.k.a. the one who did all the work and paid to create the product, is the one who loses.
You can’t put a 99 cents novella on sale, so I understand giving that away. However, I put nearly a year’s worth of work into each of my novels. Charging $2.99 is not unreasonable. An occasional sale of 99 cents is fine, but why do we need to lower ourselves to giving away our hard work? How many times have we seen resulting reviews like, “This book is terrible. Normally I would not have picked it up, but it was free.”? Don’t forget the infamous, “I want to read that book so badly, but I will wait until it is free.” Really? For a book that costs less than a Starbuck’s fix? People will buy a liquid candy bar and maybe even tip the staff for a minute of work, but they won’t spend less money on a book that will take them hours, possibly even days, to read. Why are we authors encouraging this behavior?
Yes, this is our fault. We are enablers. If we would stop giving away our work, people would stop expecting to get something for nothing. They would also stop leaving bad reviews based on how much they hated a book they never normally would have considered opening but did so at our encouragement.
I know a lot of authors are concerned about exposure. How are Indies supposed to get attention? Well, you have to pimp that freebee, right? That’s the same thing as pimping a sale. The only difference is with a 99 cents sale, people will actually read the blurb before buying the book instead of clicking because they like the cover and then possibly hating the content.
If you still want to try a free promo, how about giving away a short story related to one of your books? Give the reader a reason to buy something. That is more like giving a sample. (BTW – Giving a real sample rarely works. I know a lot of authors who have participated in first chapter freebees. The number of downloads were disappointing. Why? People don’t want to read a partial story. They truly want something for nothing.)
The system needs to stabilize. Charging even a small amount shows that we believe our product has value. Indies are often seen as people who produce bad work in an effort to swindle a fast buck. If we unite under a code of quality that reflected our value, imagine how it would help lift the stigma of being an Indie. We deserve to be taken seriously.
So yeah, as much as I think the new KU program needs work, Amazon might be on to something.
POST SCRIPT: I’d like to thank Tracey Lyons for pointing this out. From the Amazon website:
What price will Kindle Worlds charge readers for stories?
Amazon Publishing will set the price for most works between $0.99 and $3.99.
Amazon is setting the price and I don’t see the word free there. Yep, Amazon wants you to always pay for fan fiction. What does that say about Indies?