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?
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?