Why you won’t find my books on KU

Back in the dark ages when I was a newly-minted CFI, an acquaintance approached me. He needed a flight review.

Sure, I said. I charge $20 an hour, flight and ground time.

He looked at me like I’d lost my mind. I wasn’t expecting to pay you, he replied. Aren’t you just happy enough to be flying that you’ll do it for free?

And that, folks, is the mentality we see these days with ebooks. And as unpopular as this is to vocalize, Kindle Unlimited is a huge part of the problem. In case you’re not familiar, KU is a subscription service that allows readers to download an unlimited number of books (one at a time) for $9.95 a month. Authors get paid per page once the readers hits a certain percentage of their book. Sounds great, right?

Not really.

To have your books in KU, authors must participate in what’s called KDP Select. This means their ebooks can’t be available anywhere except Amazon.  Not Barnes & Noble, not Kobo, not iBooks. But Anne, you ask. Aren’t most of your sales on Amazon?

Yep. They are. That doesn’t mean I’m ok with feeding into Amazon’s near-monopoly of the ebook industry.

KU trains readers to expect something for nothing–just like the pilots who assume a CFI would just be so happy to get int a plane that they’d work for nothing. It didn’t make sense to me as an instructor, and it doesn’t make sense to me as an author. Why is devaluing the hard work of an artist acceptable? Self-publishing a book (and we’re talking almost exclusively indie books here, because the Big Five don’t participate in KU) costs money. Quality editing and proofreading expensive. Formatting costs moneys. Quality covers are expensive.

Even worse than the free expectation is that the KU payout comes from a pot. In June 2018, this was $22.6M. That’s a lot of money, right? But here’s the problem–if you encourage your readers try other authors’ books (which you should be doing!) and they start buying, you get less of the pot. Bad for readers, who are less likely to stumble upon a new favorite author, and horrible for writers.

And those moral and ethical issues are’t even taking into account the draconian terms of services of Kindle Select. Would you want your account terminated because you had a really good promotion day and the Amazon algorithms decided you were gaming the system? I sure don’t.

Do I judge writers who participate in Kindle Select? Of course not. We all make what we believe are the right decisions for our books. But you won’t find my novels there.

What do you think? Do you use Kindle Select as an author? Kindle Unlimited as a reader?



7 thoughts on “Why you won’t find my books on KU

  1. I’m with you on all points. Even before the major issues with KU and such when I put out my first book, I wasn’t a fan of the ‘all eggs in one basket’ idea. Most of my sales are on Amazon, but I still get some money from other venues which means non-Amazon folks are still finding my books. The KU stuff only makes it worse now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t waste my time going through every single book and what publishing house published the books, but KU is not made up of only indie authors. https://ebookfriendly.com/top-kindle-unlimited-books-2017/ You can find authors like JK Rowling and Margaret Atwood among others. KU wouldn’t survive if it were made up of only indie authors.

    And also, I have to disagree with your thoughts about taking money from other authors out of the pot. What? I’m not going to apologize for selling books. I want to sell books. I want my friends to sell books. But my friends’ sales are not going to pay my bills. So I will not apologize for taking money out of the pot.

    Everyone will get a different outcome using KU. The fact is, lots of indie authors write what they want, and most of what they write doesn’t have commercial appeal. I write contemporary romance, and I do okay in KU. I’m not setting the world on fire, but I make the most money from page reads.

    I’m not saying I would never go wide, but I am saying that as a debut author without a big backlist, it’s a practical way to get your name out there. Start small and see where it takes you.

    Publishing houses are not doing anything to combat the Amazon monopoly. The midlist is shrinking to become almost non-existent. Being offered a trad contact if you’re a debut author is a slim to none chance because the big houses have stopped taking risks long ago and they are only going with sure things.

    As a debut author, or someone just starting out, KU is a viable option to making a bit of cash while getting your name out there. Going wide is a whole different marketing strategy–one that newbie authors aren’t equipped to handle. When I have 10-15 books written and I can dump them all in Kobo or iBooks, then I will. But for now, just starting out, I’m happy with what I’m making in KU. And I’m not going to apologize for selling books through there, or making money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Like I said, I don’t judge others for using KU. We all have to make the right decisions for ourselves about what to write, how to publish, and how to market. But for me, there are some ethical hurdles with KU that I’m simply unable to make myself jump over–both as a reader and writer.


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