Category Archives: Ebook Bargains UK

Where Next For Review Scams. KU, Maybe?

Go Global In 2014Here’s a neat little variation of the age-old buy-a-review scam.

This enterprising Brit will, if you hand over a fiver (£5 GBP) buy your ebook from Kindle UK, up to a value of £1.99, and then leave you a VERIFIED positive review. (LINK)

For a £1.99 title you’ll get 70% back anyway from Amazon, so £1.40 coming back to you from the buy itself. Therefore a five-star verified purchase review for just £3.60.

Anyone with more money than scruples racing off to take advantage should bear in mind Amazon can, if so inclined, pretty easily find out what this person’s Amazon account is, ban her and remove any reviews she has placed.

This from the Amazon review guidelines: (LINK)

“We do not permit reviews or votes on the helpfulness of reviews that are posted in exchange for compensation of any kind, including payment (whether in the form of money or gift certificates), bonus content, entry to a contest or sweepstakes, discounts on future purchases, extra product, or other gifts.”

Meantime we await with interest the first entrepreneur to offer their services to download, say, five of your KU titles and skim through 10%, netting you a pot payout for each one. A KU subscriber need only get two paying clients to cover the subscription.

For the author it would be a no-brainer (no ethics, either, but that’s another story). With the pot at around $1.30 per borrow, five titles downloaded and skimmed through (by 10% read, Amazon just count how many pages were turned) would net the author $6.50.

The scam artist charging $5 could easily carry ten clients a month, netting them $50 income. Twenty clients and a $100 a month, etc. Pay out the KU subscription and they are up $40/$90 on the deal. As KU is unlimited they can download and skim through ten books in as many minutes, never reading a word of any, and making themselves a nice little income and the author a nice little income.

Maybe it’s already happening. If not, rest assured it soon will be.

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

800,000 Ebooks Downloaded From Digital Libraries In New Zealand in 2013. How Many Were Yours?

Go Global In 2014

When we said back in January that digital libraries an subscription services were the new black and we should all be climbing on board, the suggestion fell on largely deaf ears.

Hey, don’t worry. We’re used to it!

And while the news that US and Canadian libraries had seen 100 million digital downloads through OverDrive was met with surprise, most indies didn’t see it as relevant to their lives, because most indies were not in OverDrive.

That changed this year when Smashwords fixed a deal to get indie titles into OverDrive’s library catalogue. True, there were more than few problems along the way not least when OverDrive appeared to shunt all Smashwords titles into a ghetto zone only viewable by librarians – there are today over 150,000 indie titles showing in the OverDrive public catalogue through Smashwords.

Along with a good many through forward-thinking aggregators like Ebook Partnership, who have been supplying OverDrive much longer.

New Zealand, a small country with a small population (less than 5m) saw 800,000 ebooks loaned from its digital libraries in 2013, through OverDrive and the local library distributor Wheelers. (LINK)

That was before Smashwords got indie books in, but even before that many indies had been seeing increased library traffic year on year from digital libraries, including those Australia and New Zealand, for several years.

Safe to say the 2014 figures for digital libraries in New Zealand and everywhere else will be significantly higher. And for 2015…

As we said back in January, digital libraries and subscription services are the new black. (LINK)

KU aside, that remains true.

But just like in any other outlet, while being there is half the battle, getting discovered is in large part down to you.

Find your links in OverDrive (LINK) and let people know. Tweet and FB to readers in Australia, New Zealand, etc, etc, that they can borrow your books from their local library.

We are the luckiest generation of authors ever to have lived. We have opportunities to reach global audiences quite unimaginable ten… even five… years ago.

A report just out values the global ebook market at $14.5 billion. (LINK)

OverDrive is one such portal to the world. Thanks to Smashwords it’s easier than ever to be there, and at no up-front cost.

Make no mistake, digital libraries ARE the new black, and OverDrive is the single biggest supplier of global digital content.

And there are plenty of other ways for indies to access the that $14.5bn global ebook market.

Not there? Your loss, because the readers are.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

British Indie Authors Hit The # 1 Spot On Amazon China

Go Global In 2014

Regular readers will need no reminding how often we say the global ebook market is a golden opportunity right now, for those indies willing to step outside the box, leave the comfort zone of the home market, and embrace the opportunities laid at our feet by the digital revolution.

As we constantly stress, no-one can be everywhere, and no-one can do everything, but for the savvy author willing to take the long term view and work the global markets alongside the domestic ones there’s an open goal out there.

We repeatedly advocate indies to walk away from the us-and-them divide that creates an artificial  literary apartheid between indies and trad-pub, and for indies to partner with “local” publishers in overseas markets to maximise their reach.

Ana as we’ve also often said here, it’s just a matter of time before some western indie breaks out in a foreign land and becomes an in-store chart-buster in the bigger nascent markets.

That time has come.

Number One China!!!

This week the British writing partnership of Mark Williams and Sarah Griffiths, writing together as “Saffina Desforges”, took the number one spot on Amazon’s Kindle China site. The Chinese translation of their British blockbuster hit Sugar & Spice bumped such inscrutable names as JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith along the way.

The book has previously topped the charts in France in 2013, and before that on Amazon UK and Waterstone’s in 2011, when it was not only the biggest selling indie title but the eleventh best-selling ebook in the country.

Now they’ve conquered China, and have India, Indonesia and the rest of the world in their sights.

A UK or US publisher behind them? In fact the book that has sold a quarter million copies in the UK alone was rejected by every major British and American publisher.

Innovative publishers in France and China, who both approached the authors, took a different view, and have both been rewarded handsomely.

Unsurprisingly, many indie author don’t even know there is a Kindle China store. Kindle China is not run as part of KDP (you won’t find even a hint of the Chinese Kindle store in your KDP dashboard) and while some KDP titles do appear there, most don’t. No, we have no idea why.

How big is Kindle China? That’s another unknown.

The Chinese ebook market is often said to be the second biggest after the US. That seems very likely given the population in China and the doubted interest in ebooks, but most observers accept the Kindle China store is not one of the major players. The largest store is believed to be JD.

Neither Apple, Google Play nor Kobo have an ebook presence in China (unless you count Hong Kong and Taiwan) and Amazon of course keeps its numbers to itself, but we are reliably informed the #1 spot on Kindle China typically turns over around 2,000 sales a day.

Not to be sneezed at. But before jumping to conclusions about the size of the Chinese ebook market bear in mind both JD and Douban are probably much bigger than Kindle CN.

And needless to say the Saffina Desforges authors, because they follow closely the advice we give here on the EBUK blog, not just on Kindle China. Thanks to their Chinese publisher they are also riding high in the charts on China’s biggest ebook store, JD, and on rival stores like Douban.

No, they’re not getting 70% (if Kindle China even pays that much), or anywhere near.

But as we say here often, x-percent of something is a thousand times better than 100% of nothing, and making headway as a fanatical indie in a market as alien as China is a road to despair. China is one of the hardest markets to access as a western self-published author, although as we’ve explored in previous posts, the demand for English-language books in China is high. (LINK)

Which is why we strongly advocate partnerships with overseas publishers or overseas translators.

A good “local” publisher (be aware there are good and bad, just like back home – do your homework!) will have good relations with local retailers and have a full distribution arrangement. And of course they’ll get the best possible translation done.

Alternatively, partner with a translator on a percentage basis. Yes, you can pay up front and get a translation done yourself and pocket all the proceeds from sales. But unless you are then able to market and distribute effectively in that foreign land and in that foreign language then it’s unlikely you will see many returns on your investment.

Paying a translator a percentage per sale to distribute and market the book gives them an incentive to not just do the best possible translation but also to do their utmost to see the book succeed afterwards.

~

 Here at EBUK our blog posts often meet with the response, “But I haven’t time,” “it’s all too much effort” and “the nascent markets are pie in the sky – I want to see statistics and proof that these markets will deliver”.

Yes, but we somehow find time to write that book to the best of our ability, edit it, proof it, format it, cover it and distribute it to the domestic retailers, all of which takes months or even years. Why do we then baulk at adding a few more hours to maximise our global reach?

As for waiting for proof the nascent markets can deliver… Do be serious.

Here’s the thing: The US was a nascent market in 2009-10.

Imagine if John Locke, Amanda Hocking, Joe Konrath et al had sat on the fence and waited until there was firm evidence Kindle US and Apple US and Nook were going to pay off before they put their books out.

The UK market was nascent in 2010-11. Imagine if the Saffina Desforges partnership or the hugely successful partnership of Mark Edwards and Louise Voss has sat back and waited until there was firm evidence the UK market could deliver.

It’s exactly the same with the global markets now at the nascent stage.

Wake up and smell the coffee!

We are the luckiest generation of writers ever to have lived! We are not just witnesses to, but participants in, a global New Renaissance quite unprecedented in human history.

Yet many of us are still partying like it’s 2009.

Indonesia? India? China? Here at EBUK we’ve identified these countries as the most exciting prospects on the planet for authors, yet we’re being told it’s pie in the sky. No western author and their western books with western setting and western characters are going to sell well in these countries, no matter how well translated. You’d have to be JK Rowling or Stephen King to even get noticed.

Really? Then how did a translation of a British crime novel, set in the UK, that has neither a UK nor a US publisher behind it, hit the number one spot on Amazon’s Kindle China store this week?

Back in 2009-11 windows of opportunity were few and far between.

As 2014 draws to a close there are more windows of opportunity open than at any time. But windows of opportunity don’t stay open forever.

As we enter 2015, how many windows of opportunity will you be looking through?

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Self-Published Ebooks Return To W H Smith

GoGlobalIn2014_500

A year after the British ebook retailer and high street bookseller W H Smith banned self-published titles from its cyber-shelves, we’re delighted to report indie titles are back.

It’s not clear yet what is being allowed in, as so few titles are showing, but those that are include titles uploaded direct via Kobo Writing Life and titles uploaded to Kobo through Smashwords.

As yet we are not seeing titles uploaded to Kobo via Draft 2Digital, Bookbaby and other aggregators, but that probably reflects our small sampling quota, not policy.

So far we’ve been unable to elicit a response from W H Smith or Kobo, and unless we’ve missed something there’s been no official announcement, but this is surely great news for the indie movement.

Back in late 2013, following the tabloid media drawing attention to a number of unsanitized self-published titles in the W H Smith ebook store courtesy of Kobo, both W H Smith and Kobo’s New Zealand partner store Whitcoulls closed their ebook stores, while Kobo removed all self-published titles from its catalogue.

W H Smith re-opened their ebook store with not a self-published title anywhere to be seen. Whitcoulls briefly re-opened with a small selection of self-pub titles but then closed shop completely and now do not sell ebooks at all.

Kobo allowed a curated selection of self-published ebooks back into its stores, but none were getting through to W H Smith.

Until now.

It seemed for a long while like W H Smith was just going to carry on with just trad-pubbed titles. So what made them change their mind?

Neither W H Smith nor Kobo are saying.

Originally W H Smith said self-published titles would be banned until Kobo could offer assurances about the quality of titles being put through. Are we to believe it took a full year for Kobo to meet that criteria? We think not. Kobo put its own house in order very quickly.

More likely is that W H Smith was, in the fullness of time, able to see the financial impact of having no self-published titles selling, while looking on enviously as other UK ebook retailers raked in the indie cash.

While good news, this still leaves two mainstream UK ebook stores off-limits to indie authors.

Neither Sainsbury nor Blinkbox allow self-pubbed titles, but in fairness that has more to do with their structural set-up than a policy decision to bar indies per se. Both Blinkbox and Sainsbury deal direct with the big publishers rather than go through a middleman like Kobo as W H Smith does.

Will Blinkbox and Sainsbury open up to indie titles in the future. Our guess is yes.

Sainsbury area sensible lot, and while they have the convenience of their current trad-pub set up through Anobii, they will be acutely aware of the money indie titles could be bringing in on top.

Blinkbox? Blinkbox is anyway likely to be sold off next year, as the parent company Tesco has run into serious difficulties for reasons that have nothing to do with Blinkbox. In fact all reports were that Blinkbox was (is) doing well, both with ebooks and with other digital content.

Who will buy it? No indicators of serious interest as yet, but our guess is that the Chinese titan Alibaba, the world’s biggest e-commerce operator, wouldn’t turn its nose up at the prospect.

Although there’s been no official hints we strongly suspect Alibaba will be looking closely at Barnes & Noble’s Nook, also up for grabs in the new year. A double whammy of Nook and Blinkbox, both of which Alibaba could buy out of pocket change, would give Jack Ma the leverage he needs to mount a digital content challenge to Amazon simultaneously in the US and UK.

That said, as we’ve speculated in the past, Wal-Mart are also a good bet to buy out Nook, and who knows, maybe Blinkbox is on their radar too. Wal-Mart own the UK’s Asda, a large rival supermarket chain to Tesco and Sainsbury.

Grabbing Blinkbox from Tesco and mounting a digital challenge against Amazon UK while throwing money at Nook to gain digital traction in the US would  make a lot of sense.

Both Alibaba and Wal-Mart are extremely profitable and both awash with cash right now, just at a time when their mutual rival Amazon is struggling to show any profitability at all.

Given the choice we would welcome Alibaba over Wal-Mart any day. The business ethos of Wal-Mart and Alibaba are light years apart. Will either, both, or neither take the plunge? We’ll find out next year.

Meantime let’s finish where we started. Self-published titles are back at W H Smith. Well, some. And probably the rest will follow, except maybe the erotica titles.

Are your titles in yet? You can check here. (LINK)

Is anyone seeing titles from Draft2Digital or Bookbaby getting through? Is anyone seeing self-published erotica titles getting through? Do let us know.

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

What We Do With Your Listing Fees.

Go Global In 2014

If any of you have been along to the EBUK website recently and been deterred by the ongoing reconstruction, you’ll be pleased to know the overhaul is finally done and the revamped website is fully functional.

And for the grammar pedants among you thinking that was a poor use of the conditional tense, if you haven’t been along to the EBUK website recently, or indeed at all, the revamp has been done regardless.

Well, actually there’s still some minor fine-tuning to come, but nothing that will make life too miserable.

First and foremost, we have a clean new look to the site. (LINK)

Listing options and fees are of course still clearly labelled and easily followed through to the automated metadata upload server, as before.

In addition we now have a currency converter that will allow you to with one-click convert the rates not just from our standard GBP to US dollars or euros, but also to Australian dollars, New Zealand, dollars, South African rands, Indian rupees, etc.

Across the top bar of the website you’ll find the links to subscribe to the daily newsletters, and of course to the blog.

You’ll also see some references to West African schools, children and babies.

West African schools? Children? Babies? What’s that all about?

 

sponsor2

Well, some of you may know that, while we’re based and run from Bedford in freezing Great Britain, EBUK’s founder is a British author who sensibly lives in The Gambia in sunny West Africa, where he funds a number of children’s projects through his book sales.

When EBUK was launched the idea was that, aside from helping authors reach readers in the nascent ebook markets around the world, any proceeds after costs would go to helping support babies , children and schools in one of the most impoverished countries on the planet.

And, though we’ve not mentioned it until now, that’s what we’ve been doing.

All the EBUK team devote their time freely to the project and, aside from the unavoidable expenses that accompany running a promo newsletter (email marketing fees, payment processing fees, web-hosting fees, etc) all the money that comes in from the project in the UK goes back out again on the bigger project in West Africa.

Obviously we’re a small outfit, charging low fees and bringing in low revenue, but even so, this month so far your EBUK listing fees have helped put ten children into nursery school and helped two pregnant mothers get medical treatment otherwise unaffordable to them.

Starting December we’ll be doing some regular posts here on the blog about this side of the EBUK project, including images and video so you can see directly how we spend your listing fees.

In 2015 we will be expanding the sponsorship projects we are involved with, and we’re hoping authors and readers will come on board to offer some support of their own. With that in mind, we’re looking for volunteers to help make this happen. Anyone interested to know more should email us at: theinternationalauthor@gmail.com.

We have a lot of ambitious and innovative projects in the pipeline, including “Sponsor-Me” ebooks and e-zines, and in particular we are hoping to attract pre-natal sponsorship for carrying mothers, with the idea that the sponsor can then support that child from pre-birth right through the crucial first five years (one in five babies in Africa won’t see their fifth birthday) and then through school and beyond.

More about all this in coming weeks.

Meanwhile, with the site revamped and the daily newsletters finally revamped, it’s (hopefully) back to “business as usual” for us with the blog and our take on the global ebook scene.

Thanks for your patience while we’ve been sorting things.

If you haven’t placed an ad with us lately, or have come across this post and are discovering us for the first time, do pop along to our website and see what’s on offer.

As ever, we are not Bookbub and not trying to compete with Bookbub. Our focus is on the nascent ebook markets of the world and our low fees reflect this. Expect results in bingo numbers, not telephone numbers.

But bear in mind too that, running expenses aside, all the money from the listing fees goes towards babies, children and school projects in one of the poorest countries on Earth.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Ebook Bargains UK Rolls Out Buy Buttons For OverDrive, Scribd And Oyster And Kindle Unlimited.

Go Global In 2014

Here at Ebook Bargains UK we are committed to promoting a healthy and diverse global ebook market.

From the beginning we took a conscious decision not to go down the affiliate route.

This was a) to maintain our editorial independence as observers and commentators through the blog;

b) to ensure we were open to promoting ebook stores as widely as possible, regardless of whether they had an affiliate scheme we could make money off;

and c) to ensure we were not drawn down the route of favouring some better-selling authors over others less-well-established who were less likely to bring in affiliate fees.

The downside to that of course is that we rely solely on advertiser fees for revenue. As our subscriber base is small (inevitably, as we are targeting nascent markets) the fees are low, which in turn impinges our ability to develop as rapidly as we might like.

But we are getting there. If you haven’t seen our daily promo newsletters recently, check out the links below, to see how things are changing for the better.

First and foremost – and one in the eye for those who repeatedly assert we are anti-Amazon because we occasionally run posts on the blog that are less than flattering about the Everything Store – we now carry buy buttons for the Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service.

We think it safe to say we are the ONLY ebook promo newsletter carrying KU buttons at this time.

As of this month we are also carrying buttons for OverDrive digital libraries, and the subscription services Scribd and Oyster. Again, we are probably the only promo newsletter reaching out to readers using these platforms.

For those unfamiliar, we also carry buy buttons for the global Txtr stores and Google Play stores, for Smashwords, for All-Romance and OmniLit, for Blio, Versent and for Books A Million, and of course the usual suspects Amazon, Apple, Nook and Kobo.

In addition, this month we have increased our support for indie bookstores in the US, and now have buy buttons for no less than four Kobo-partnered independent book-sellers.

These are Flights of Fancy in Albany, New York ; Gulliver’s in Fairbanks, Alaska; Poor Richard’s in Kentucky; and Skylight in Los Angeles.

Check out today’s Ebook Bargains USA newsletter (LINK) to see some of these in action.

Obviously the buttons appearing depends on the authors concerned having books available in these stores on the day.

Unlike other promo newsletters we are not price-restricted. If you have a title free in one store, 0.99 in another, 1.99 in another, and 2.99 in yet another, you can still include all the retailers in your EBUK listing.

In the EBUK newsletter for Britain (LINK), for example – advertisers are promoting titles not just on Amazon UK and KU, Apple UK, Google Play UK, Nook UK and Kobo UK but also Waterstone’s, Hive, Txtr UK, Foyles, Blloon, OverDrive and Scribd. In addition we also carry buttons for W H Smith, Sainsbury and Blinkbox , although these stores are currently off-limits to indies.

For the Ebook Bargains Australia newsletter (LINK) listings again could include Amazon AU, Google Play AU. Kobo AU, Apple AU, Txtr AU, Angus & Robertson, Bookworld, Collins, Dymocks, QBD, Booktopia, Fishpond, Pages & Pages, Big W, JB Hi-Fi, etc. And not forgetting Scribd and OverDrive

For the Ebook Bargains Germany newsletter (LINK) authors can promote their titles not just on Kindle DE, Apple DE, Google Play DE and Kobo DE but also domestic ebook stores like Hugendubel, Thalia, Buch, Bucher, Weltbild, Der Club, Bol and Ciando, and of course not forgetting Scribd. We have yet to have any author with titles in Skoobe, but when that happens…

Sadly the most exciting prospect for indie authors – India – is as yet the one most ignored by indie authors.

Today’s Ebook Bargains India newsletter carries listings for thirteen titles but only one of those thirteen has an India listing other than Kindle India.

Partly that’s the fault of the retailers. Neither Apple nor Nook are represented on the subcontinent. Kobo has a rather pointless partnership with W H Smith India and Crossword, and if they have a ”localized” India store it’s not possible for authors elsewhere to get the links for promotion.

Google Play has an India store, but none of today’s titles are in Google Play. We carry Scribd links in the India newsletter, but by chance none of today’s titles are in Scribd. C’est la vie.

More disturbing is the fact that India’s biggest store by far, Flipkart, is easily accessible to India authors through both Smashwords and Bookbaby, yet only one of the titles listed today is in Flipkart.

Landmark have lately stopped carry ebooks, but other domestic stores like Newshunt and Rockstand are upping their game by the day. And yes, as and when authors have titles in those stores we will carry buttons for them.

Here just to remind everybody that our feedback from subscribers in the nascent markets like India is very clear. They want to see deals in the stores they shop at where they are.

For India the most requested stores are Flipkart, Rockstand and Newshunt. We carry titles in Kindle India every day, so obviously those who do shop at Amazon are happy, but those that don’t are not going to change their buying habits to suit us indies. They’ll just buy books from other authors that have made the effort to be available.

That doesn’t mean indies need to try be everywhere. That simply isn’t possible, even if it were sensible.

But it does mean that, if we want to reach a global audience – and if you don’t, you’re reading the wrong blog – we need to put ourselves in our readers’ shoes now and again, and see things from their perspective.

Here’s the thing. Readers don’t care a damn what’s convenient for us indie authors. They don’t know or care how difficult store B is to get into compared to store A. They don’t know or care that D2D is much easier to upload to than Smashwords but that D2D doesn’t get our books into Flipkart and neither get us into Google Play.

Australians who buy from Angus & Robertson, Booktopia or QBD are not going to sign up with Amazon or Kobo just because it’s so much more convenient for us indie authors. If they want to get their books from their local digital library and we aren’t in the OverDrive catalogue they’ll just read someone else’s book instead.

Likewise the 60% of German readers who do not currently get their ebooks from Kindle DE are not going to change their buying habits just to enjoy our books. They still have plenty to choose from in the Tolino Alliance stores like Hugendubel and Thalia, in the Ciando stores (Ciando has its own dedicated English-language ebook store, such is the demand for English-language books in Germany) or Txtr DE, Apple DE, Kobo DE, Google Play DE, etc.

More hassle than it’s worth? Not necessarily.

While some global stores are nigh impossible to get into, and many others are, to say the least, challenging, it’s nonetheless never been easier to get diverse  global distribution.

Smashwords will now get you into the OverDrive catalogue serving digital libraries across the world, as well as the global subscription service Scribd. Smashwords gets you into India’s Flipkart. So does Bookbaby, and Bookbaby also gets you into places Smashwords does not, like the e-Sentral stores of SE Asia.

As we wind up 2014 and head into the brave new world that is 2015 we indies really need to address the issue of diversity.

Wonderful as Amazon is, putting all your eggs in one basket is never a wise idea, and as we’ve noted on many occasions, no matter how well Amazon is doing for you in the US and UK, it is not the dominant global player outside those shores, and never will be.

Diversifying your distribution does not mean leaving Amazon. You can still reach the exact same number of readers on Amazon that you do now while also being available to readers elsewhere.

As we wind up 2014, and launch our Diversified Distribution In 2015 campaign, we’ll be looking at all the latest options open to indie authors to reach readers where the readers are, including review of which aggregators gets you where, and which do it best.

Diversified Distribution In 2015!

 Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

A Royalty Cut By Any Other Name… Kindle Unlimited Launches In The UK.

Go Global In 2014

As Kindle Unlimited is launched in the UK today, it’s clear the Big 5 boycott is holding steady.

No major trad pub titles are in apart from the same handful of selected big names like Suzanne Collins and J K Rowling, and a selection of heavyweights from another era, like Arthur C. Clarke and Kurt Vonnegut.

Amazon has been able to muster 650,000 titles for Kindle Unlimited’s US and UK sites by pulling in Select titles, nearly all of which are in English.

But what happens when Kindle Unlimited goes “international” and extends its reach to Germany and France, and possibly other European Kindle nations like Italy and Spain, as is widely expected next month?

A safe bet the Big 5’s EU operations have no more intention of getting in bed with Amazon on this than their US and UK counterparts.

This puts Amazon in a difficult position, as there are far fewer local-language KDP Select authors to pad out the European KU offerings than there are English-language titles. A KU France or KU Germany launch that asks readers to pay for access to a handful of French or German titles and a ton of foreign language (English) titles is not going to have readers stampeding to sign up.

The UK version of KU, by contrast, should do very well, at least at first. But will it benefit indie authors long term? Somehow we doubt it.

Oyster isn’t in the UK at all and Scribd, while it can be used by Brits, is almost unknown this side of the Atlantic. It means Amazon has an open goal in Britain.
Bear in mind readers who are not indie authors will have no idea that the three big names used for promo are pretty much the only three big names. It will probably take several months for the penny to drop, as readers exhaust the handful of names they do know, and are tempted to try those they don’t.

It’s a clever ploy by Kindle chief Russ Grandinetti – the most dangerous man in publishing right now – to play this as an opportunity for readers to try new authors they might otherwise have avoided. At face value it sounds like Grandinetti is supporting both readers and indie authors.

Unfortunately, given the quality of much of KDP Select’s offerings, many readers will find out the hard way, using up their monthly download limit instead of using Look Inside, that for every top notch indie title that can compete with the best trad pubbed titles, there are a dozen NaNoWriMo first drafts with a home-made cover that should never have seen the light of day.

With the first month free Brits will be rushing to sign-up and try it out, and as with the US launch, Amazon will be giving heavy promotion to KU titles to make sure it looks like a success.

No coincidence this UK launch is one month from the dreaded Q3 financial statement, which will report Amazon’s worst losses ever.

The surge of Brits signing up to KU and the inevitable ton of downloads that result, will be a major news item to deflect attention from the financial mess Amazon is in. And you can bet your grandmother’s bottom dentures Amazon will forget to mention that the first month’s sign-up was free, so totally meaningless.

But for indie authors getting all these downloads from KU this is great, right? As Hugh Howey delighted in telling us, he saw absolutely shed-loads of KU borrows after Amazon thoughtfully included his titles in the scheme.

But there’s the thing. Howey didn’t volunteer his tiles for KU. He couldn’t. He was non-exclusive on multiple retailers, and the KU rules are quite clear that indie authors, unlike other publishers, have to be exclusive with Amazon to get any preferential treatment.

So Amazon put his titles in KU anyway – hey, they make the rules, they can break them – and then made absolutely sure Howey got maximum visibility so the KU borrows would mount up, knowing Howey would then let the world know how well KU had done for him.

And lo and behold, it came to pass.

Howey’s borrows soared, but of course his income didn’t.

As we’ll explain further below, KU is an integral part of Amazon’s stealth royalty cuts programme. A KU borrow pays out around $2. A sale of the same title gets 70% of list price. For a $4.99 title a KU borrow means a drastic cut in income over a sale.

Not very helpful for keeping the top-selling authors in the loop. If they are going to lose money on every borrow they may as well stick to direct sales on Amazon and stay on other retail platforms as well.

But Grandinetti had already thought of that, and introduced the Kindle All-Stars jackpot payments, so the big names in KU will get a substantial cash hand-out from Amazon to make up for their lost income through the KU borrows.

But why is Amazon so desperate to keep indie authors in KU in the first place?

Quite simply, because while for the handful of top names the All-Star cash handouts will more than recompense any likely losses from KU, for the rest of us it’s a royalty cut by stealth.

Consider: While a few shorter and cheaper titles will pay more than the standard payout, most indies will be losing out when they have a borrow instead of a sale.

A $4.99 ebook sold at list price nets $3.50 for the author. A $4.99 ebook borrowed via KU nets the author around $2. Probably less because the pot will need to be shared between more authors.

It’s a simple trick for Amazon to rig the charts so more higher-priced and longer-length KU titles get noticed. Higher-priced because they pay out the same money whether a borrowed book is 0.99 or 15.99. Longer length because a subscriber can easily get through ten short stories in a month and result in ten pay-outs. The same reader may get through only two 400 pagers, or one 1000 page box set.  Far less pay-out for Amazon.

Hugh Howey proved the point. Amazon increased his visibility to maximize his KU borrows and sure enough they went through the roof.

Yet almost all KU users are existing Amazon customers. There’s no evidence to suggest readers from other sites deserted in their droves to join KU. And for those with epub ereaders that would be totally pointless anyway.

What is happening is that KU users are downloading ten titles at a time where previously they would have downloaded one. And of course they focus on the first pages of the charts, where sure enough all the big names like Howey are being heavily promoted by Amazon.

These top “sellers” dominate the upper echelons of the charts and of course stay there because visibility begets visibility.

A look at the new Kindle UK KU page is instructive. Check out the Editor’s Picks and sure enough most of them are Amazon imprint titles. Check out the recommended titles and it’s the usual handful of Amazon-imprint titles, Amazon cheerleader titles and a few better-known names from mid-sized publishers that threw their hand in.

Common or garden indies like you and me? Do be serious.

The only thing lesser indies are on Grandinetti’s radar for is cutting our royalty rates by driving all sales through KU where the payout for indie authors is far less.

And with a secondary benefit that KU users who can access these ebooks all month are far less likely to go and buy a print book from a store, or buy a print book from Amazon which Amazon will have to ship.

Luckily we indies currently have the choice. We can be in KU and earn far less for a borrow than for a sale. Or we can stay out of KU.

But for how long?

Let’s return to the problem Amazon faces with KU in France and Germany. But let’s instead pose that problem as one that might shortly confront KU US and KU UK.

Here’s the thing: With 650,000 titles in KU, the Amazon US subscription service is ahead of Scribd and Oyster, but not by much.

And without the Big 5 on board, volume is Amazon’s ONLY real selling point in making KU more appealing to readers than Scribd or Oyster are.

But Amazon only got to that 650,000 figure by hauling KDP Select titles into the frame. And Amazon only has 500,000 exclusive titles in all.

What happens when Scribd and Oyster sign up the next tranche of Big Pub and small pub titles and hit 700,000 titles each? Or more?

At the moment only HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster have titles in these two subscription services. But Macmillan is currently experimenting with Skoobe in Germany.

And for two reasons it’s really only a matter of time before Macmillan, Hachette and Penguin Random House decide to put their back-list titles into Scribd and Oyster alongside the two Big 5 publishers already on board.

First, because of the proven success of the model. By all accounts Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have done well out of the deal.

But more importantly, as with the boycott of KU, the Big 5 can significantly strengthen their own position by simultaneously not being in KU and actively supporting the two key rivals to Amazon’s subscription service.

f the other three members of the Big 5 each loaded up their back-list titles to the Scribd and Oyster catalogue the gap between KU and Scribd and Oyster could be seriously narrowed, and put the focus back on content, rather than volume.

You can be sure Grandinetti already has that fully planned for.

It’s pretty obvious Amazon has already pulled out all the stops to get publishers on board, and failed abysmally. The boycott holds.

To boost KU numbers above Scribd and Oyster again, if they bumped up their numbers, the ONLY option available to Amazon will be to put ALL the KDP titles into KU.

The sop to authors will be that this time they won’t have to be exclusive. But this will be one HUGE stealth royalty cut when it happens. The algorithms will be rigged to make sure the higher-priced, longer-length Select titles get the extra visibility, just like now.

More KU downloads of indie titles. Far less royalties being paid out to indie authors for sales. Especially those who refuse to tow the line and choose to still sell on other retail platforms.

Make no mistake, KU is a stealth royalty cut. Period. And as Shakespeare once almost said, a royalty cut by any other name will stink just as much.

But don’t expect any protest from the Amazon cheerleaders if it happens.

As they will tell us deadpan, struggling to keep the smirk off their face, “Hey look guys! We’ve got tons more downloads from KU, and Amazon have paid us a shit-load of cash on top. It’s so easy, anyone can do it.”

 

 

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