indie voice

Kindle Unlimited Proves Unpopular for Indie Authors

LOOKING FORWARD AND LOOKING BACK

The transition from one year to the next always comes with retrospectives on the previous 12 months. At the same time we look ahead at the New Year and try to guess what’s coming.

In his retrospective, hybrid author and indie superstar Hugh Howey called 2014 the “the year the stigma of self-publishing died.” The outliers – like Howey – stopped being the big story and the spotlight instead turned on the thousands of indies with a tribe of small, loyal followers. Even though those authors didn’t become a “household name,” they were still able to turn writing into a career in 2014.

But Howey makes sure to note, they didn’t get there through luck – but hard work. “The problem with this turn of events — if it can be thought of as a problem — is the idea that anyone could have this level of success,” he wrote. “People I see doing well with their writing are working incredible hours… Similarly, we don’t give the element of chance enough credit for those who do break out. Great books go ignored every single day.”

Mark Coker of Smashwords laid out his predictions for 2015 in a piece for Huffington Post. His crystal ball hasn’t divined the best news, however. Coker believes more authors will self-publish and that volume will mean indies capture a higher market share. But he also predicts slow growth for all authors – the traditional folk, too; more competition between indies and the big publishers, who will push more into the low-price stage that indies have so far dominated; and that more indies will get tired of the fight to get their books noticed and quit. But like Howey, Coker points out that best practices and lots of hard work are the recipe for success.

BE CHEAP TO BE POPULAR?

The introduction to the book world of Kindle Unlimited was one of the biggest stories in 2014. Unfortunately for Amazon, most of the news–from the author side–has been less than positive.

On 11/28/14, mega selling indie author HM Ward noted on a Kindle Boards post entitled KU Crushed My Sales that she included her titles in the KU program for 60 days and lost approx 75% of her income. Says Ward, “My sales dropped like a stone. The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn’t compliment each other, as expected”, and further, “Taking a huge ass pay cut while I’m still working my butt off, well that’s not ok. And KU effected my whole list, not just KU titles.”

And it’s not just about the money.  A recent report in The New York Times detailed that the “all you can eat” subscription service has the potential to devalue the written world, much like Taylor Swift decried in her spat with Spotify. Prolific romance author Kathryn Le Veque revealed that she was forced to reduce  the prices on some of her 44 titles in order to become more popular, and therefore make more money, through KU.

“In the old days, as artists became more popular, consuming their works got more expensive,” David Streitfeld wrote. “But Kindle Unlimited is pushing Ms. Le Veque in the opposite direction.”  And Le Veque says many authors can’t do what she did.  “Most of them don’t have 50 novels for sale,” she said. “I am worried that I will have to drop my prices more to stay competitive. I watch prices literally daily.”

Coker detailed in his 2015 predictions that authors with titles in the KU system–yet another Amazon service that demands exclusivity from participating authors–are getting paid $1.39 per book on average. That’s great if your book is priced at $.99 cents. Not so much if it’s priced higher. Simply put, authors with titles in KU will get paid less, will be unable to sign up for distribution elsewhere, but–because it’s Amazon, may jump on the KU bandwagon anyway.

PRINT BOOKS STILL REIGN

Think the world is being taken over by eBooks? A report from Publisher’s Weekly this week told a different story. Stores all over the country sold plenty of print books last year, according to Nielsen BookScan (they capture 80% of all book sales in the U.S.)

Print book sales rose 2.4% in 2014 ; about 635 million print books were sold. Through retailers and clubs, sales rose to 519 million. A handful of titles can be credited with this rise, and they’re mostly juvenile fiction. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy, and Jeff Kinney’s The Long Haul led the charge. Adult nonfiction was also a star, but adult fiction sales declined simply because there was no break-out book last year.

The lesson?  While ebooks may be the most cost-effective way for self-pubbed authors to get their work out there there’s nothing that replaces the discoverability factor of a good-old brick and mortar bookstore.  And with the New Year, there’s no time like the present for indie authors to consider making their print titles available to over 37,000 book buyers via IndieReader In-Store’s unique distribution service. The bonus?  Free digital review access  for your title (think NetGalley) to reviewers, librarians and bloggers when you sign up.

THIS WEEK IN BOOKISH ART

What was once figments of our readers’ imaginations were brought to life this week in two sets of illustrations depicting some beloved classic novels.

BookRiot offered some beautiful renderings of the mythical lands we know and love from beloved fantasy series Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire, The Lord of The Rings, and Chronicles and Narnia. Over at the Huffington Post, the dark, disturbing and haunting world of Grimm’s Fairy Tales were rendered in stark black and white silhouettes.

INDIEREADER SURVEY RESULTS

The results of our survey are in! Thanks to those who participated, we learned that most of our readers – about 35% – are authors or publishers, and about the same number are also readers. Readers only (most of them female) made up about 25% of our fan base.

Favorite genres? Mystery/thriller dominated at 38%; “other” followed at 29%; and historical fiction and romance followed at 26% and 25%. We also learned that of all our Indie Reader Services, authors were most likely to use our Professional Review Service and enter our annual Indie Reader Discovery Awards.

In the world of social media (where we learned most of our readers hear about us), please check out our “Best Of” picks for December over at Pinterest.

The winner of the $50 Amazon gift card is indie author Jim Proctor.  Congratulations and thanks to everyone who participated in IR’s first survey.

THIS WEEK’S HOT LIST

IndieReader’s “The List Where Indies Count” began May 2, 2011 because there was no other list that tracked self-published books.

Here’s this week’s IndieReader top ten list as of January 5th, 2015.  As is usual, romance dominates.  Titles are compiled on Sunday for Monday’s post, culled from The New York Times, USA Today and Amazon best-seller lists.

Happy Indie reading!

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