Amazon Lowers Unlimited Payments

no moneyI don’t personally have anything enrolled in Kindle Unlimited (or Kindle Select, or anything else exclusive), so I can only share what I’ve read.

Apparently Amazon has expanded the Unlimited subscription service (which normally allows subscribed readers to read as many enrolled ebooks as they want for the $9.99 monthly fee) to India where they are only charging $3.00 a month to subscribers, meaning that authors will make less on an enrolled book read in India than if the same book was read in the United States or another country. (I don’t have Amazon’s numbers but I would guess since the fee is roughly 1/3 the cost of the normal subscription, reads would be worth 1/3 as well – again, this is only a guess on my part.)

If you don’t have many Indian readers, you may shrug and say “so?” But the worry of many indy authors enrolled in Unlimited is “What’s to stop them dropping the price to $3.00 everywhere?”  And then cutting the author’s paycheck. This is of especial concern when 1/3 of ALL authors already make LESS than $500 a year. 

The effects could be farther reaching than just author’s Amazon paychecks. As books are devalued – worth less to readers who are used to getting them for free – sales drop on all platforms. I’ve personally seen several reviews on Amazon that state something to the effect of “Wait until the book goes free” – as if the reviewer “knows” that ALL books will eventually be free. Mark Coker of Smashwords (who posted a very good blog about the Unlimited effect) quoted Randolph Lalonde who despite getting good reviews on his $2.99 to $3.99 books has gotten angry mail from people demanding that he make his books free. 

Am I advocating jumping ship from Amazon? No. I don’t advocate abandoning ANY platform.

Exclusivity is a personal decision for an author, and while I refuse to ever do it, someone else may be happy that way – and that’s great. What I think is sad, however, is how many authors I’ve spoken to who AREN’T happy but feel like they have no choice. “Amazon is the biggest.” That’s true, but Amazon is only the biggest because we make them the biggest – not just as readers (quick, and be honest, where do you buy books at?) but as authors. When we list our links most of us (myself included) list Amazon first. We submit books to email lists that cater exclusively to Amazon links.  When we post a link on our twitter profile (or our tweets) we use the Amazon link rather than a personal webpage that has links to all retailers. And I know, if I’m in a hurry in an email message or Facebook comment, I will ONLY give someone the Amazon link because I think “It’s the biggest. Everyone buys there”. Much like reading Twilight, we’re all doing it because “everyone else is” – and everyone else is because that’s where all the links point – that’s where the top link is, that’s where we’re told is the best place to go – either literally or subliminally.

If you’re happy reading Twilight (and some people are – there’s nothing wrong with that!), then you should keep doing it – stay exclusive and post Amazon links everywhere. But, if you’re only doing it because “you have no choice” or “everyone else is”, remind yourself that you DO have a choice. Either way, go check out Mark Coker’s great article. 

16 Comments

  1. I’m glad you wrote this post. I just heard about this an hour ago, and being a mom with kids coming home, my night’s shot.

    I’d like to add that this past weekend, a lot of authors on Amazon (myself included) did not get paid from the US store on October 29. I felt a great surge of panic on October 30 when I didn’t see it in my account, and a lot of authors were feeling the same thing. As far as I know everyone has now been paid, but what if, for some reason, in the future Amazon misses the date and doesn’t pay for 15 days or a month later? If it weren’t for the quarterly check from Smashwords which came right before November 1, I would have been seriously hurt because I’m the bread winner in my family. For me, this was a huge wake up call on how we need to support other channels to sell our books at.

    1. I just had a thought about the link thing.

      My suggestion is to use a Book Launch page (https://booklaunch.io). This is the single best tool I’ve used this year. On it, you give your book cover, a description, and every single link your book is available at. On that one page, I can link to Amazon, iBooks, B&N, Kobo, Smashwords, etc. Then I publish that page and have the Book Launch link. I can even use it during my pre-order period. So that could be a solution to anyone who wants to link to more than Amazon quickly. 🙂

      1. A great idea, Ruth! 😀

  2. Ron Fritsch says:

    Thanks for your thoughts on this, Joleene and Ruth. I’ve never had a book in KDP Select, but I’ve been thinking about it for my next one.

    1. If you do, let us know how it goes! 🙂

  3. lccooper says:

    I left a comment about this nonsense at the Smashwords blog. Amazon continues to create reasons why I’ll never enroll in KDP Select. Within four months, Amazon has eliminated the Smashwords business model from India (making Amazon, with its meager royalties, the only international self-pub option in India). Now, by slashing its Unlimited subscription to readers in India by 67%, its poised to ruin competition from the competitve landscape in India. Most retailers in India rely upon their favorite distributors, and most (for self-pubbers) are vanity publishers. I found one teeny, weeny publisher in India that offers a business model anything close to Smashwords–and it was still a vanity publisher.

    Authors should rfuse to participate in KDP Select. It’s the only way to stop Amazon’s monopolistic and predatory practices in ebook retailing. Now, if Amazon succeeds in preventing Smashwords’s business model out of India and crush the uncompetitive vanity publishers there, it’ll then go after another country, and so on. Quit feeding KDP Select, Authors, and it will go away!

    1. I agree with you. We need to look at this thing from a long-term perspective. People who are making money at Amazon today may not always be making that money. When KU shifted to KU2, a lot of authors were hurt. They saw a serious drop in their income. What makes any other author think they are somehow exempt from something similar happening to them in the future? When we are only on that one channel, we are way too vulnerable to the whims of whatever Amazon deems best for “business reasons”. Amazon only cares about their bottom line, not ours.

      I hadn’t considered this move from Amazon in India was to squash competition over there, but it makes perfect sense. I’m still upset about losing Flipkart.

      I’ll never to be in KDP Select.

      1. Me either. I make five times through Smashwords distribution than I do on Amazon.

  4. MishaBurnett says:

    For me, the main question is where am I making sales. I was on Smashwords for about six months and didn’t sell one single book. So I didn’t see any reason to stay. They can keep complaining about Amazon as much as they like, but unless they have something more to offer authors than “the other guy is EVIL!” then I’m not going to make the effort to get my work onto their platform.

    1. I think different genres do better on different on different platforms, which is why I say it’s all up to the individual. I do better sales on B&N (through smashwords) than I do Amazon, but for authors who do better on Amazon then they should definitely stay there.

  5. Will Once says:

    Um, I don’t think it’s quite so simple. The amount of money that authors earn is a function of the price of the book plus the number of people reading it. You can put a $1,000 price on your book, but if no-one buys it you won’t make the first cent. Or you can sell your book at 99 cent and sell a million. The price is only part of the equation.

    I think we’ve all spotted that Amazon likes to make money, which is good for us because while they are making profits so are we. If they have lowered the price of KU in one country that is presumably because they want to build their market share in that country. And more readers means more potential sales for us.

    I know it’s fashionable to bash Amazon, but I do think we need to think before we jump in to criticise. High price does not automatically mean good and low price is not automatically bad,

    1. Very true. I don’t think anyone is arguing about seeing reasonable or low prices. From what I’ve seen of the discussion (I’m not in KU so I have no opinion on it- their prices don’t affect me past the the devaluation process which Select already started) most authors concern is that the price per page read is going to drop everywhere, for everyone and that the new expanded markets, like India, won’t bring enough new English speaking readers to make up the difference. If the prices per page do drop, authors can have the same number of reads but make less, and while price does not determine quality, for those who really on their Amazon paychecks (especially when they have gone exclusive and sell books no where else) that royalty payment may determine whether they pay the water bill or buy their kids new shoes. As I said, I’m not in that group, because I make the majority of my sales through Smashwords channels and my book money is just happy extra, but that’s the concerns I’ve seen in forum posts, and I’m afraid they have a legitimate concern that is no different from a 9-5 man worrying about rumors of a pay cut.

  6. I used to buy books for my Kindle, but after thinking about the consequences to authors as a whole, I now buy them from iBooks to put on my iPhone. It’s hard to break the Kindle habit, so I get why people mostly buy from there. For the longest time, I kept doing it because it was easy. Finally, iBooks has made it easy, too.

    1. I admit, I do the same thing with Amazon – it’s easy and it’s the link everyone has (and i have a kindle, not a nook or apple device.) I need to stop being lazy and start buying more from Smashwords :p

      1. Amazon makes it easy. Until recently, it wasn’t easy for me to get iBooks, but my new iPhone changed that. I’m lazy, too. It’s not just you. 🙂

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