Exodus! Konrath Joins The Big-Hitters Leaving Kindle Unlimited As Amazon Continues To Punish Indies For Their Loyalty.

Go Global In 2014

When Joe Konrath launched his latest attack on trad pub, in the form of a “translation” of Macmillan CEO John Sargent’s statement to Macmillan authors, we looked on in amazement as Konrath appeared to take hypocrisy to a whole new level.

Konrath slammed Macmillan for even thinking about putting Macmillan backlist titles into subscription services, saying that these services devalued books, and that authors were badly remunerated, even noting that indie authors were complaining about Kindle Unlimited’s lousy payout.

But as we asked in comments on the Amazon-affiliate blog The Passive Voice, which carried Konrath’s post (LINK),

“If subscription services are such a bad idea, why are your titles in one at all, and why is it they are in the one that, unlike Scribd and Oyster, treats indies as second class, imposes conditions on indies other publishers are not required to meet, pays indies less than other publishers, and will not even tell us in advance what that ever-diminishing payment will be?”

Konrath didn’t respond to that. But other authors picked up on the apparent hypocrisy and successful indie author Mel Comley, on Konrath’s own blog, coyly asked Joe exactly why he had all his titles in KU if subscription services were such a bad idea.

Konrath responded,

“I’ve taken them all out after this period”, adding lamely, “to compare numbers.” (LINK)

And so we end 2014 with a bang! Konrath adds his name to the list of big-hitting authors like HM Ward who are deserting Kindle Unlimited after seeing their income plummet.

It’s not clear when Konrath will be officially out, but the wording offers room for further speculation. Konrath says he’s taking all (not some, all) his titles out “after this period”. The mixed tense suggests he’s pulling them when the current 90 day KDP Select runs finishes.

(Edited) But why wait? When KU launched, all Select titles were included but it gave indies the chance to opt-out. Konrath clearly chose to stay in despite his belief subscription services devalue books. It seems that opt-out is no longer available, which presumably means Konrath is leaving KDP Select itself, and with it Amazon exclusivity, and going back to all the big retailers.

A safe bet this news will make a lot more indie authors question the value both of being in Kindle Unlimited, and in KDP Select.

Hugh Howey perhaps the exception. Howey left KDP Select back in 2012, but in September of this year was saying going all-in with Amazon was his inclination. (LINK)

Howey of course was one of the authors who got the red carpet treatment from Amazon and was allowed to be in KU and sell on other retailers too. And needless to say he has seen a lot more sales/borrows from Amazon as a consequence.

With logic that beggars belief Howey then concludes that being exclusive with Amazon, with just 65% of the US ebook market and sweet FA of most of the global market, reaches more readers than being available on all retailers everywhere and on Amazon as well.

If Howey cannot grasp the simple fact that Amazon is tilting the playing field in his favour to keep him on board, increasing his titles’ visibility at the expense of other authors not exclusive with Amazon then there’s no hope for him.

Or maybe Howey really believes that 65% of the ebook market is somehow bigger than 100%.

By all means go exclusive with Amazon, Hugh, while they are rigging things in your favour. You write for a living, not for free. But don’t pretend you really think that somehow Amazon’s KU has magicked out of thin air millions of new readers equivalent to more than 35% of the US ebook market. Most KU subscribers are the exact same Kindle readers who were previously paying full price for our books and now getting the same books for less.

Or just maybe you will do the right thing and join Joe Konrath in pulling your titles from KU. KU might not be hurting your pocket, Hugh, but you know as well as we do that for most indies it’s a different story. You can’t champion our cause by looking the other way.

2015 was already promising to be a watershed year for the industry, and this latest show of disaffection from Konrath, one of Amazon’s most vocal supporters, makes the prospects for 2015 all the more interesting.

Now it’s time for the other Amazon cheerleaders like David Gaughran and the aforementioned Hugh Howey to declare their hand and draw a line in the sand. Come on guys, grasp the nettle.

Hard through it may be to understand, we don’t need more posts telling is how scammy Author Solutions is. We don’t need more posts telling us how evil trad pub is. Seriously. We’ve got the message. You’re preaching to the choir.

Here’s the thing, guys. We indies know about Author Solutions. It doesn’t affect us. We know about trad pub. If it affects us it’s already too late because we are contracted, or we’ve made a conscious choice to go down that route.

What Amazon does affects us all, every day, whether its “royalty” cuts at Audible or stealth “royalty” cuts through KU, “royalties” that vary from country to country, lower “royalties” at certain price points, demands for exclusivity, etc.

Apple manages to pay us 70% (or more accurately to charge us just 30%) across the board regardless of list price, regardless of where the sale is made, and without demanding exclusivity.

Scribd and Oyster manages to pay us a full “royalty” rate for our borrows in their subscription services.  No exclusivity required.

Meanwhile Amazon has been turning the screws. We’ve seen KU payouts drop from around $2.30 to below $1.40 in less than six months. For ordinary indies not called Hugh Howey Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s digital equivalent of a sweatshop factory in China or India. No wonder Joe Konrath is calling it a day.

Come on guys, give the Author Solutions bashing and Trad Pub a bashing a rest for 2015, and start addressing the real issues that affect us indies every day. Kindle Unlimited is top of the list.

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20 responses to “Exodus! Konrath Joins The Big-Hitters Leaving Kindle Unlimited As Amazon Continues To Punish Indies For Their Loyalty.

  1. Verily, doth a nose hair drop from Jeff Bezo’s nostrils and float to the ground and AAAG does not know it?

    KU sucks for indies? AAAG says that’s just business! Instead, let’s all discuss the fabulous royalties AMZ pays us each and everyday. I’m so excited about the 65% royalty I’m getting from my sales into Merrie Olde Englande.

    No, really, I am.

    rick

  2. LOL!

    For any occasional visitors wondering why we put “royalties” in inverted commas in the post and what Rick is referring to here, it’s the oft misconceived idea that Amazon pay us royalties.

    True, they do if you are an Amazon imprint author. But nowhere near 70%. Try half that.

    But for regular indies selling their ebooks through Amazon (or indeed any other retailer) Rick’s point is that Amazon is not our publisher (strangely it’s called self-publishing for a reason) an what they hand over each month is our residual from the list price after they have taken their commission.

    By dressing it up as a royalty Amazon avoid too much attention on the fact they are slamming many indies with a 65% sales charge for giving customers cheaper ebooks.

  3. To make the point clearer, read this immensely dishonest bit of tripe from Hugh Howey when he launched a silly petition importuning indies to mix it up in the Amazon vs. Hachette fight, a tussle in which Indies had NO stake:New York

    +++ Publishing once controlled the book industry. They decided which stories you were allowed to read. They decided which authors were allowed to publish. They charged high prices while withholding less expensive formats. They paid authors as little as possible, usually between 2% and 12.5% of the list price of a book.

    Amazon, in contrast, trusts you to decide what to read, and they strive to keep the price you pay low. They allow all writers to publish on their platform, and they pay authors between 35% and 70% of the list price of the book.

    You probably aren’t aware of this, but the majority of your favorite authors can’t make a living off their book sales alone. Very few authors could when New York Publishing was in charge. That is changing now that Amazon and other online retailers are paying authors a fair wage. +++

    I believe a blog located in Orwell’s native country is an appropriate place to post this.

    8.5K naifs actually fell for this ploy, Some have since realized they were jobbed.

    The whole episode reminds me of a certain poem by Lewis G. Carroll involving oysters. I’m not sure which role Howey and Amazon should play in the work.

    rick

  4. KU doesn’t “suck” as long as you are putting in 99 cent books (or whatever the VAT increases books to in 2015 for each specific country), and they keep their payout above the 70 cents you could get on that book if it’s in the Kindle match program.
    Sure, it’s hitting the big guys more, and yes, they may have the option to pull out early;however, except for the “select few,” the rest of us indies are held hostage to the 90 day contract.
    I’ve pulled most of my books out of KU (once their 90 days are up), but have kept shorter reads in. The higher payout is actually convincing me to keep these shorter works in KU with links to my other, longer works that are not in it, as links at the back of the read.

    • +++ KU doesn’t “suck” as long as you are putting in 99 cent books (or whatever the VAT increases books to in 2015 for each specific country), and they keep their payout above the 70 cents you could get on that book if it’s in the Kindle match program. +++

      I don’t write $.99 books and it’s a bit difficult to see how you make money on such a model. Also, what do you mean the $.70? The KU program only charges $.30 for downloads, not $.65? Actually, doesn’t it work on some sort of pooled revenue model? And doesn’t the person who’s subscribed have to read 10% of book before you get paid?

      +++ Amazon has a pool of funds which is established at the start of each month. This is the same fund that has been used for “borrows” for people who are enrolled in Prime (they get 1 borrow a month). The fund does not take into account the size of the book or it’s price. Instead it takes the total amount of the pool divided by the number of borrows to calculate a unit price. This unit price is then multiplied by the number of times an author’s books are borrowed. Historically, the per unit price has been about $2 (sometimes a bit more, other times a bit less). The “downloads” from KU will be treated like a “borrow” once the reader gets past the first 10% of the book. +++

      +++ Self-published authors are paid from a pool set by Amazon each month. They have no idea how much they will be paid per book. Traditionally published books get paid exactly as they would if a sale were made. They know exactly what the unit price will be for each book and are not relying on the Amazon’s whim as far as what their unit price will be. +++

      Actually, does anyone have a clue onwhat they make on Kindle books? Do you? I’d like to know more.

      rick

  5. One more thing—indies seem to forget, KU is not about ebooks or your sales. It is about Amazon being able to “capture” email addresses and purchasing habits so they can better predict what to sell the consumer next.
    Look at the big picture, see how you can use it to your advantage (depending on your moral center there is a huge range of options), that’s what indies can do.

    • +++ One more thing—indies seem to forget, KU is not about ebooks or your sales. It is about Amazon being able to “capture” email addresses and purchasing habits so they can better predict what to sell the consumer next.
      Look at the big picture, see how you can use it to your advantage (depending on your moral center there is a huge range of options), that’s what indies can do. +++

      How do you use any of this to your advantage if YOU don’t capture those names and addresses. Don’t you think Amazon should offer an opt-in feature that enables you to communicate with your readers?

      rick

  6. ::Amazon lets you opt out of KU at any time.:::

    No it doesn’t. For indies, if your books are in Select, you are in KU, period. You cannot opt out of KU and remain in Select. The only way you can get a book in Select out of KU is to unpublish the book for the remainder of the Select period. In which case your book is not on sale anywhere. Further, the terms offered to Indies are significantly different from the terms under which traditional publishers have been given.

    KU might be a win for traditional publishers, but there’s developing evidence for Indies that it is not a good deal for them because of the different terms offered. Certain high-selling Indies were allowed to be in KU without being exclusive to Amazon. I don’t know if Konrath was offered that deal. Only a handful of Indies were.

    I may have my issues with Konrath, but putting books into Select to test the impact of KU isn’t hypocritcal and it’s not lame. It’s data gathering.

    The subscription terms and structure of KU and Scribd, and Oyster are significantly different, by the way, so testing the impact of KU requires a different set of data and a much different risk than testing Scribed or Oyster.

  7. Your post really misses a lot of the nuance of this discussion. Amazon may have 65% of the US ebook market, but what percentage of the indie market does it have? I assure you it’s a hell of a lot higher than 65%. For an indie author like Hugh, if the marketplace that is most friendly and sells a massive majority of indie books is Amazon, does it not make sense to focus there? Maybe. Maybe not. But those are strategic decisions that various authors have to make about their own time, resources, and things like genre. Your dismissal illustrates a lack of understanding and knowledge to be worthwhile at all.

    As to KU itself, it is absolutely not the right venue for strong-selling indie authors. It will undercut their sales, and they will lose revenue. It can have a tactical use (and I believe that Hugh is very good at this), but outside of that it is mostly valuable for new authors and shorter works. Of course Amazon includes major selling books like The Hunger Games and Harry Potter as a way to draw in subscribers, but anything between new and mega-selling requires a hard business assessment.

    I love the comment about Apple paying 70% royalties across the board. I would love if Apple was 1/10 as savvy at selling books as Amazon. That’s the kind of pressure that would really help authors. As an author with a novelette priced at 99 cents that is consistently in the Amazon Short Reads top 100, I would LOVE to get 70% royalties on that. But the reality is that Apple is really crap at selling indie books. Again, the Amazon share of the indie marketplace has to hover around 90%. It just has to. So rather than pressuring Amazon, the real value here would be to pressure Apple (and Google) to get its act together.

    As to Scribd and Oyster, they will move to the Amazon royalty model or go bankrupt. There is no middle ground. If they charge $10 a month, and a person reads three books, and the payout to the publishers is $12, you are looking at bankruptcy. I mean, Oyster and Scribd could do things like limit the number of books you can borrow in a month to 1 or 2, so maybe they do that. As things stand, they are on a path to ruin with their current compensation plan.

    Hey, I’m an author. I wish it weren’t true, but I’m also a businessman, and I understand the economics. If I want to take part in a subscription model as a writer I either have to embrace an Amazon-like payout or I have to hope that a service that limits borrows dramatically can survive.

    I really think that all of the “Amazon is evil” discussion needs to be dropped and replaced with “Apple, B&N, and Google: You suck at selling indie books. Let’s help you fix that.” Because they badly need it.

    • +++ I love the comment about Apple paying 70% royalties across the board. I would love if Apple was 1/10 as savvy at selling books as Amazon. That’s the kind of pressure that would really help authors. +++

      Probably not going to happen because when Amazon won the collusion case, Apple lost interest in the book market. So while, if you’re an indie, you certainly benefited because AMZ dropped its service fee from 65% to 30% on >$2.99>$.99, you’re probably not going to get help from that quarter in the future.

      +++ So rather than pressuring Amazon, the real value here would be to pressure Apple (and Google) to get its act together. +++

      Doubt that will happen unless the courts in the US overturn the collusion verdict. Which actually might happen. There’s been some interesting talk in that area, but that’s not something anyone can predict.

      rick

  8. The whole “shut up about Author Solutions” thing seems pretty idiotic to me. That company continues to scam hundreds of authors out of thousands of dollars every year. How, exactly does that “not affect us”?

    Or are you implying that we should only tackle one problem at a time? (Which seems equally laughable)

  9. Idiotic blog post. Because he thinks Macmillan is wrong doesn’t mean he has to totally agree with Amazon either. For heaven’s sake, get a grip AND a brain.

  10. “as we asked in comments on the Amazon-affiliate blog The Passive Voice, which carried Konrath’s post”

    If you want to ask Joe a question you should do so on his blog. He didn’t post his post on TPV nor did he repost it there

    It’s not fair to fault him for not responding to a comment on a blog that isn’t his..

  11. Erotic short story authors are still doing well under KU. It’s good for shorts, 99 cent books, or new authors trying to find a readership.

    If large quantities of people are willing to pay $2.99 or more for certain books, then KU in its current state isn’t good for those books.

    Self-publishers tried KU, analyzed the results and came up with this. Good for them.

  12. +++ If you want to ask Joe a question you should do so on his blog. He didn’t post his post on TPV nor did he repost it there +++

    Konrath threatens to ban people who say things he doesn’t like on his blog. When he publicly disavows this policy, he’ll have a right to be treated “fairly.”

    rick

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  14. +++ The whole “shut up about Author Solutions” thing seems pretty idiotic to me. That company continues to scam hundreds of authors out of thousands of dollars every year. How, exactly does that “not affect us”?

    Or are you implying that we should only tackle one problem at a time? (Which seems equally laughable) +++

    Absolutely not! I have complete faith in the ability of the Irish to multi-task!

    Therefore, Gaughran SHOULD be able to whale away at AS AND take Amazon to task for putting indies in Stalag $7 and grabbing 65% on international sales.

    On this we can all agree!

    rick

  15. Love this post. Also love the way you point out the hypocrisy of Mr. Howey. Everything about that guy has struck me as disingenuous since 2011, when he would post a daily assortment of “Oh my gosh, I must be dreeeeeeeaming, IS THIS REALLY HAPPENING?!” posts on KBoards. At least a half dozen such posts a day. That guy has never paid it forward. All his pseudo-humble efforts to “share” the spotlight with other indies are really ways of keeping the attention on him. That guy is fishy as all get out. Either folks are so afraid to criticize him that they say nothing, or he has more sycophantic followers than an other writer in history.

  16. +++ That guy has never paid it forward. +++

    I have never seen him review a new writer’s work, now that you mention it. But, to be fair, he doesn’t have to.

    I do, because I’ve learned how hard it is to get reviews.

    I listened to a him on a radio interview a few months ago and remember him saying he wasn’t going to write reviews because…I dunno. Because he was going to do other stuff.

    I believe some of the other stuff was write about the “stunning” revival of independent bookstores in the US. I’m in the US. There is no stunning revival. There has been an moderate uptick in independents because all the mid-sized chains and Borders are gone, leaving some small town opportunities. I read the Forbes article on which he based his glowing prediction and it was, “O boy. There he goes again.”

    I thought about writing a brief post on the whole thing, but didn’t bother. He also wrote a post about how what was wrong with B&N was them taking out the sofas. Sigh.

    He just tends to say things. Doesn’t fact check himself. The funniest example I’ve seen of it is here:

    http://www.rule-set.com/ricks-blog/what-hugh-howey-wont-talk-about-but-should-and-dont-take-amazons-latest-claims-about-the-awesomeness-of-299-to-799-pricing-seriously-part-ii-of-several-parts-a-5-release

    When he speaks like this, I call it “Howeyish.”

    rick

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