Troubling News about Kindle Unlimited

Deborah Smith:

I’m seeing comments like Tom’s from writers on Kindleboards as well; the evidence seems to be growing that Kindle Unlimited has damaged sales for a significant number of self-published authors at Amazon. Other factors hurting sales (besides the stagnating ebook market in general) are Amazon’s favoring of its own imprints in promotions and rankings (those Amazon-published books don’t get ahead on the bestseller lists simply on their own merits,) and the changes in algorithms that create more “churn” on the lists, preventing books from sticking at high levels for long. A book has to demonstrate some serious strengths to escape housekeeping sweeps by the algorithm bots. Wouldn’t it be fascinating if we could turn off those formulas for a few weeks and see which books actually sell the best?

Originally posted on T.R. (Tom) Harris - Science Fiction Writer:

Amazon just announced that the payout for Kindle Unlimited rentals (KU’s) is only $1.33 each for October. This compares to $1.52 for September, $1.54 for August and $1.81 for July, the month the program started.

As a result of this drastic drop in payout, I’ve received a number of emails from authors I know about whether staying in Select and KU is worth it at this point. The following is an email I sent to my friend George Hudson, author of Sol Shall Rise. It pretty much lays out my thinking on KU and Amazon as a whole at this time.

“Yeah, George, KU is a problem right now, but it’s larger than that. Overall, Amazon is underperforming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still the eight-hundred pound gorilla in the room and we need to always be on it. But looking at a combination of much lower payouts for KU, along with the…

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Hachette-Amazon deal–more bad news for the rest of us?

David Streitfield at the New York Times reports: “Amazon and Hachette Resolve Dispute.”

More dominance for Amazon and the big publishers, less opportunity for everyone else?

So far as I can tell from what we know (only the basics) and what the insiders are guessing about, Hachette got what it wanted–control over pricing of its books and an acceptable contract in terms of how much more it will pay Amazon for various promotional services–and Amazon agreed to give Hachette’s books even more promotion. Very similar to Simon & Schuster’s (assumed) deal. If the other big publishers get similar deals (and I’m betting cash dollars they will) then look for Amazon to give much more feature space (and search engine priority) to Big 5 titles and Amazon’s own imprint titles, which already receive a lot of favored treatment. For small and medium presses, hybrid authors and self-published authors in the KDP program, will that further undercut what was once a relatively level playing field?

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Romance authors get it clean AND dirty

The updated BISAC Codes, 2014

BISG has updated the fiction group with 11 new sub-categories of interest to authors in the fiction markets. Romancers will be happy to have a “clean & wholesome” code to alert readers to their tamer novels, while authors of erotica will now have specific sub-cat codes for a variety of popular divisions in their genre.

(they’re the ones with asterisks beside them at the website)

/Collections & Anthologies
/Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror
/Traditional Victorian
Fiction-Mystery&Detective/Amateur Sleuth

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Granny squares to delight for. 44 weeks

Granny squares to delight for. 44 weeks of members’ patterns from the Block A Week project at the Crafty Crochet Community (see their FB site.) Number 45 coming up soon. Patterns are available and free. Wowser times infinity.

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Selling books doesn’t make you a book publisher

Vanity Fair attempted an overview of the Amazon/Publishers fracus this month.

Former Amazon employee Rebecca Allen discusses the Vanity Fair article on “The Zon”

The self-pubs are interpreting both the Vanity Fair piece and Allen’s fairly neutral assessment of it at The Digital Reader with their usual Amazon-good and Publishers-bad theme.

Their commentary on Allen’s piece at The Digital Reader highlighted a belief that because Amazon has a massive system for collecting data on what sells and what doesn’t, it therefore knows far more about publishing books than publishers know.

My response below:

Bezos sells widgets. He knows how to sell stuff. Any kind of stuff. He collects massive amounts of data and he crushes vendors into the tightest contracts they can stand (or he kills them and takes their customers). It is a huge mistake to believe that because he knows how to sell certain types of pop books cheaply that he is superior at publishing books. Two different things. Now, with KDP and subscription services, also with his video and audio content, he’s building a walled garden of cheap entertainment provided by authors willing to work for the dream of big payoffs few will ever receive. Because he’s identified a few genres of fiction as big draws for a customer base that spends heavily on the more important merchandise, he’s thrilled to have self-pubs provide a tidal wave of 99 cent or free romances, thrillers, and other pop fiction that customers will eat up like popcorn. But that’s not book publishing. That’s book manufacturing. His longtail is a piecemeal factory world where authors and musicians work for pennies and Amazon reaps the rewards.

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Hugh Howey says Publishers R Bad, Volume: Infinity

Hugh Howey’s latest. I won’t bother dissecting it other than to point out that Hugh’s logic falls apart on many levels, but this one is the easiest example: He says HBO selling its shows direct to consumers is a good example of direct artist-to-audience business models that are the new order of things. Therefore, similarly, in book terms, publishers are no longer necessary, and authors should sell direct to readers.

Except: HBO is not an artist. HBO created, edited, packaged, invested in, marketed, distributed and will continue to manage all the assets of said programs it is selling to the consumers.

That makes HBO a publisher, Hugh.

Hugh’s argument is not applicable or meaningful to book publishing, I guarantee. But it is dazzling in it’s charty, psuedo-statistical appearance.

My bigger point is:

Among a small but very loud faction of indie authors, bashing traditional publishers is a religion. Not just publishers, but the authors who sign with them, who are compared to hostages deluded by Stockholm Syndrome, or misguided souls who need conversion.

You’d expect that kind of high school level taunting from indie authors who’ve left a Big 5 publisher with war stories to tell, or even struggling authors who’ve suffered an inordinate and particularly brutal number of rejections from major houses.

But when highly successful indie authors engage in it, devoting a massive amount of their time and energy to bashing publishers — often with wildly inaccurate commentary and dubious experts chiming in, what’s the motive? Wouldn’t their time be better spent working on issues that help indie authors? Certainly there are plenty of problems facing those who self-publish, especially as Amazon, the biggest platform for indies, routinely throws new challenges into its KDP program.

And yet the loudest voices, the self-styled leaders of the indie authors, spend little time working on issues that benefit their fellow authors and a great deal of time tilting at large windmills that have no bearing on their own success–except, perhaps, for the PR benefits they accrue by posting yet another diatribe for clickbait.

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A Not-So-Golden Panel Discusses Amazon

As reported in Booklife

“Will Amazon lead us into a golden age of publishing?” was the topic of a New York-based panel organized by Ted Talkish the New America Foundation. It was a very poorly chosen panel. Howey is an endless propaganda machine who offers misleading rah-rah; the others were piecemeal players who couldn’t offer a coherent overview of the issues. There should have been an ABA rep there, a major lit agent, and a small or medium publisher who deals directly with Amazon on the issues that are hammering authors and publishers into the trenches. BTW, Howey’s contention that booksellers should stock Creatspace titles is just one example of his unsupported arguments. Booksellers stock relatively few print titles. They don’t stock books that aren’t returnable to a wholesaler (Createspace and most other POD books aren’t.)

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