KU or Wide?

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Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Wide?
How to choose between the two as a self publisher

In today's indie author world there are two choices: Kindle Unlimited (KU) or Wide.

There are pros and cons to both, but ultimately there is no “right” decision. It really depends on your genre, level of involvement you want, and a whole mess of luck.

What is Kindle Unlimited (KU)?

Kindle Unlimited is a subscription service offered by Amazon. If you spend $9.99 a month, you get unlimited access to the Kindle Unlimited library.

This is awesome if you are a big reader. Since many romance readers are voracious, there is a great market for romance. (Also LitRPG is big here too)

Authors are paid by how many pages are read. This is traditionally around .05 cents a page (half a cent). At 250 words a page, that means a 50K novel read from cover to cover nets an author about a dollar. This money is paid out of a monthly “pot” that fluctuates in amount.

Any author that wants to be part of this program must be Amazon exclusive. They cannot sell their books on any other sellers. (E-book only. Print is different) Their book will be part of the KU program and be available for sale on Amazon only.

Authors can join KU for 90 day contracts. You cannot get out early.

What is Wide?

Going wide is when an author sells their book on multiple sites. Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, GooglePlay, and Kobo are the big book sellers. Authors sell their books on all these (and more).

Pros and Cons

Pros of KU

  • Ease. Being exclusive means you only have to have one version and uploaded it to one place. It also means that when you advertise your book, you can have all the ads lead to the same purchase page instead of making readers choose which version they want.
  • Higher search rankings. Books that are “borrowed” in the KU program are counted in Amazon's search algorythms. Check out the top 100 books on Amazon and you will see a lot of KU books.
  • Readers are more willing to try new authors with KU. They haven't “spent” money, so they are more willing to take a risk on an author they haven't tried yet.
  • Amazon has some nice perks for exclusive books. There are Kindle Countdown deals and sales.
  • If you are a top seller, you can get bonuses.

Cons of KU

  • Exclusivity. You can't publish other places and have other revenue streams
  • No hitting lists. With only one seller, you can't hit NYT or USA Today's bestseller lists.
  • Following the rules. If you break the rules, Amazon will kick you out of the program. Unfortunately, many authors have been caught up in unfair practices or even targeted by other authors.
  • Payment. One dollar for a full novel that sells for $2.99 or more is a big discount. The theory is that there are more readers in KU, so you'll make up the difference with volume.
  • Unsure payments. All the page reads come out of a big pot. This means that the actual value of a page fluctuates on a monthly basis. It's usually around half a cent, but also tends to trend lower. You will never be exactly sure how much money you are getting paid.
  • The problems with KU. KU is a mess. There are so many issues, scams, and payout issues. I'm not going to go into them here, but you can read about them here: https://andrewbeymer.com/2018/05/11/kindle-unlimited-snafu-scammers-suspended-accounts-and-page-read-reductions/. Innocent authors have seen their Amazon accounts terminated without warning or recourse. As someone whose entire income is books, this is terrifying.

Pros of being Wide

  • Selling your book everywhere. Not everyone wants to buy from Amazon, and this means you can sell your book to them. It also means you can use cool promotions (B&N just announced coupons!)
  • Can hit best seller lists like New York Times or USA Today
  • You know exactly how much money you are making
  • Amazon is less likely to ban your account due to scammers

Cons of being Wide

  • More work. You have to upload to each site. You have to set your advertising to a specific website. You have to keep track of it all
  • Less visibility on Amazon. Amazon favors their KU books because that makes them money. It means less natural visibility from Amazon unless you are a big seller.

So, how does an author choose?

If you are brand new, I recommend KU. It's easier and you will get more readers willing to take a chance on a new author in KU. It simplifies marketing and it gets your foot in the door.

If you're not brand new, this gets trickier. You have to look at your numbers. Are page reads a huge part of your income or are sales? Are you willing to do more work? What does your audience expect? (For example, the only website that sold stepbrother romances was Amazon. The other retailers wouldn't sell them, so being wide with a stepbrother romance isn't a good idea.)

It really comes down to whether you will make more money selling to multiple websites or if you'll make more with page reads.

There are many authors that do the first 90 days of their book launch in Amazon KU, then at the end of their term, go wide.

There are authors that launch wide and then go to KU when sales have slowed down on other retailers.

There are authors that are exclusive. There are authors that hate KU. There are authors that fluctuate and change as the market and their needs change.

It's a tough choice. Luckily, it's just a 90 day one. Experiment. Find your market. Then roll with the punches to keep your books where you want them.


Back in Kindle Unlimited!

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So, Big News!

All Krista Lakes books are back in Kindle Unlimited!

What does that mean for you?

Well, if you are a subscriber to KU, then you can read my books for free! If you don't subscribe to KU, that's ok! The books are still available to purchase on Amazon! Unfortunately, this does mean they are no longer on the other retailers. We may go back after the 90 day requirement, so enjoy now!

And just so you know- the new Christmas Novel (coming in November) will be in KU as well!

 

…and that's a lot of exclamation marks! (I'm just excited about this!)


I’m Leaving Kindle Unlimited.

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To my loyal Amazon readers, I am so sorry.

I'm leaving Kindle Unlimited (KU).

Why? Because Amazon isn't paying me fairly any more. They aren't paying any author in the program fairly anymore.

If you're unfamiliar with how KU works, readers purchase a subscription to the service for $9.99 a month and get unlimited reading of any book enrolled in the program. This is great for readers, and I love that people on a budget can get my books. As a reader, this is a great deal.

On the author side, it's not quite as exciting.

In order to be a part of KU, the author must only put their book on Amazon. They can't publish it anywhere else (like iBooks or Barnes and Noble). This is a missed opportunity for authors that we have to accept in order to participate. This was a tradeoff that I was willing to make.

The real issue comes with how authors are paid. Amazon pays us by the page read. There is no set page rate for how authors are paid. There is a monthly pool that authors all have to split. Amazon calculates how many pages the entire KU reader base read and then splits the pot between everyone.

Traditionally, the page rate has been around half a cent a page. That's not great, but it was workable. This month, the split came to $0.004 a page. Not 4 cents a page. Less than half a cent a page. This is the fourth month in a row that the rate has gone down, leading to a 20% decrease in pay over the past year.

How angry would you be if your boss decreased your pay by 20% while they made record sales?

For a book that is 250 pages long (which is where most of my books are) that means we earn about $1 if someone reads the entire book cover to cover. That is not anywhere near what is considered fair value.

In addition, Amazon has allowed scammers to take over their marketplace. If you go and look at the top 100 books in the store, you'll find several with the reviews saying that this book is nothing but jibberish. However, those scammers are taking their cut of the prize pool and getting the same .4 cents per page I am.

And Amazon doesn't even care.

It takes me 2-3 months to write a book. I take time away from my family to do this. I pour my heart into each novel, and with Amazon deciding to decrease my pay every month, it means that I either have to work faster and sacrifice quality, or make less money for my family.

Amazon is hurting authors. I'm actually really conflicted about this because I know this will hurt my KU readers, but Amazon is leaving me no other choice. I used to love being a part of KU, but Amazon has ruined it for me, and now my readers.

So, dear reader, unfortunately, I have to leave Kindle Unlimited.

I hate doing this to you. If you want me to come back, tell Amazon. Tell them that they are not providing a good customer experience. Tell them that you want authors to be paid fairly. Tell them to get a grip on their business and not let fake books take all the money from real authors.

Email Jeff Bezos himself. (jeff@amazon.com)

If you want to help me, tell a friend about my books. Tell them I'll be on iBooks now.

Here's a link to what's been going on in the Kindle Unlimited program. It's ripe for scam artists to steal the pot and Amazon is doing absolutely nothing about it.

Scammers Break The Kindle Store

*It will take some time for all the books to come out of the 90 exclusive period on Amazon. Yours Truly is already out of KU. The rest will be following as their contracts expire.

 


Why I Love Kindle Unlimited

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I've seen a lot of big name authors, and small ones too, hating on Kindle Unlimited. There are some definite concerns with the program, but I want to put my experience with Kindle Unlimited up and let readers decide for themselves.

What is Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is a new service that allows you to read as much as you want, choosing from over 700,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks. Freely explore new authors, books, and genres from mysteries and romance to sci-fi and more. You can read on any device. It's available for $9.99 a month and you can cancel anytime.”

That's Amazon's official answer. I picked it up myself, and I've really enjoyed it. For ten bucks a month, I get to read as many of their books as I want. Since I read a fair amount of books for research, this has helped out my book buying budget significantly. I'm still limited by the Kindle selection (as authors have to opt in to the service) but I've read more this month because I didn't have to stop and think, “Will my husband freak out at another $2.99 book charge this week?”

So, from the reader's side of things, you pay ten bucks and you get to check out ten books at a time. You don't get to keep them, but you can read them as many times as you want as long as the book is enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. It is kind of like a paid library with the option to buy if you want.

The Author's Side of KU

A little bit of back-story is necessary. To start, you need to know how Amazon authors are normally paid for sales.

We get 70% royalties on anything priced $2.99-$9.99, and 35% on anything below $2.99 or above $9.99. (This is why you see most books priced at 99cents or $2.99. The price point of $1.99 just isn't viable with this pay scale.)

Thus, for a $2.99 book, the author earns about $2. Most indie books are priced here since it's a nice sweet spot.

In order to become part of KU, authors must be exclusive to Amazon. This means they cannot have their e-books available on any other retailer (like Apple or Barnes and Noble). There are some authors that were allowed in to KU without having exclusivity due to their popularity. For the rest of us, if we make our books exclusive with Amazon, called KDP Select, we do get some benefits other than being in KU. For every 90 day enrollment period, a book gets 5 free days, Prime borrows (from Amazon Prime members), and a couple other sale opportunities.

Amazon is the largest book seller in the world, but for authors who have a strong presence on other retailers, going exclusive can be a difficult choice. Do you risk your sales on other retailers for the opportunity to get KU borrows and KDP Select benefits?

Borrows

Once an author is exclusive with Amazon and part of KU, they can earn borrows. An author gets paid when a reader selects their book and reads at least 10%. At the end of the month, Amazon tallies up how many borrows each author earned and then how many borrows there were in the entire store. This is the part that authors get squeamish about because the amount paid changes every month based on the amount of total borrows, and there is no guarantee as to how much it will be.

Amazon pays all the borrows out of one large pot. The KDP Select Global Fund usually starts out around 3 million dollars, but since KU began, they have added extra funds each month due to the popularity of the service. This is more than a little nerve racking for authors as we honestly have no clue what we are going to be paid that month. (and the fact that we don't find out until the 15th of the NEXT month)

For example, using the 3 million dollars as the prize pool, if only 3 books are borrowed in the entire KU service, then each borrow would receive 1 million dollars. If 6 million books are borrowed, then each book only receives 50 cents. This volatility, with no set bottom or upper limit, understandably makes authors very anxious.

KU has only been around for a few months, and during that time it has paid out between $1.33-$1.80 per book. October was the most recent month and paid at $1.33.

KU For Me

I'm sure you've all seen the posts saying that KU pays authors peanuts. That it's a raw deal for authors or that it just isn't fair. And to be honest, seeing $1.33 royalty instead of $2 or even $3.50 smarted a little until I realized that KU brought me more borrows than I ever would have had of sales. KU brings volume. If you think of it as KU buying books at wholesale, and thus selling way more of them because of it, things start to look a lot better. $1.33 sold 4 times (earning $5.32) instead of one sale at $4.99 (earning $3.50) isn't a bad deal.

There are those that say that KU is destroying the market and devaluing books. That if you're not enrolled in KU, you won't make it. This simply isn't true. One of my good friends just made the NYT best seller list for the first time and she isn't exclusive. KU has certainly changed the landscape, but it hasn't destroyed it. The service has only been around since July, so the market and reader's expectations are still struggling to catch up. 

I've been exclusive to Amazon for a long time in order to take advantage of the benefits of KDP Select. It was a no-brainer for me to enroll my books in KU, as I was already exclusive. My sales on other retailers have always been far, far lower than on Amazon. Plus, I love being able to use my free days.

I had my best month ever in October, and it was due to KU.

With two books hitting Amazon's Top 100 list (Barefoot Kisses and Hurricane Kisses) and Saltwater Kisses getting close to breaking into the list for the third time, I was the 10th best selling author in KDP Select.

This October,
I gave away close to 100,000 free books.

61% of all my books sold were actually borrows.

Due to the lower royalty percentage on 99 cent books, 66% of my earnings actually came from borrows rather than sales.

The bottom line is, I can attribute well over half of my earnings to Kindle Unlimited. Without it, I wouldn't have had the best sales month of my career. Did KU cannibalize my sales? I don't think so. Maybe some, but I think KU actually introduced me to far more readers than it cannibalized. 

Final Thoughts

For authors, KU isn't for everyone. I know that many authors don't like giving Amazon exclusivity as they feel it puts all their eggs in one basket. If Amazon decides to only pay out 3 cents next month, we would all be hosed. Amazon has had plenty of opportunity at this point to reduce the royalty rate to “peanuts” and they've never done it. I don't think they ever will. If borrows get too low, authors will drop out of the program and readers will end their subscriptions because there's nothing to read.

For readers, however, it's great! As a reader, I know I've read far more books since buying this service because I get them for “free.” I've read a couple of books I never would have bought at full price. I even read a series I had been holding off on purchasing because I didn't want to have to buy that many books. That author never would have gotten a dime of my money if it hadn't been for KU. I'm sure there are plenty of other readers out there that have experienced something similar.

People have told me that KU allowed them to read all nine Kisses books for ten dollars instead of thirty-five, and that they never would have been able to do that if it wasn't for KU. I love that people are getting to read my work at a price they can afford. 

Every month, my husband and I sit down and look at what is happening in the publishing world and figure out a plan for what we are going to do next. Will I always be in KU? I don't know. That will depend a lot on how Amazon continues to run things. Right now, it looks like I'll be exclusive for a while, and I hope that you'll continue to read my books as long as I continue to write them.

Thanks for listening to my thoughts and you can count on me working hard on my next Kisses book, due to be released in January 2015.

 

Krista Lakes