Tag Archives: ebook subscription services

2016: The Year So Far For Internationalist Indie Authors

2016 The Year So Far

2016 is simply racing by. Either my calendar is on amphetamines or February’s gone, April is looming, and we’re well on the slippery slope to 2017, with 2020 just around the corner.

A step nearer to the the first decade of 5G and the Internet of Things. A decade that, for publishing, is going to make the tumult of the 2010s seem rather tame by comparison.

I’ll be re-visiting the future as we go, because any of us planning on still being on the writing and publishing circuit in the 2020s needs to be preparing now for the challenges ahead.

But we also need to keep one eye on the present because, to paraphrase John Donne, no writer is an island, and events unfolding around us largely unnoticed now will determine all our futures.

So I’m kicking off March with a look back on how 2016 is shaping up so far for us internationalist indie authors looking at the bigger picture than next month’s pay-cheque. (A reminder there, for any new readers, that I write in British English!).

And a reminder too that I live and write in West Africa, and sometimes the distractions of Third World life play havoc with my blogging schedule.

This is my first blog post in over a month. But I do post far more frequently – pretty much every day, often several times a day – over at the International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

While blogs have a permanence and discoverability Facebook sorely lacks, Facebook Groups are great for interaction. It’s a telling point that the Facebook Group, with fewer members than there are followers of this blog, gets far more productive, daily engagement than the blog does.

So do pop along and sign up to the IIA Facebook Group and enjoy daily reflections on Going Global.

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Meantime, back to 2016 so far.

Amazon is lining up suppliers for a new music subscription service intended to go head to head with Apple’s music subscription option and to challenge the established music subscription players like Spotify.

Currently Amazon offers a limited music subscription service option free to Prime members, but this latest move – expected to materialise in the latter half of this year – indicates the mighty Zon has bigger ambitions than just keeping Prime members on board.

It begs the question, where does Amazon go from here with subscriptions? And more pertinently for us, ebook subscriptions?

I’ve long suggested Amazon will, when the time is right and the costs are down enough, make Kindle Unlimited available free to Prime members.

KU may have a million titles, but in real terms the choice is limited, just like the Prime music and video selections.

But whereas Prime members get the music and video free they are asked to pay full price for KU (aside from the one free title a month).

The logical next step would be to make KU available free to Prime members in its current format, and then re-launch KU proper as a “real” ebook subscription service, dropping the exclusivity condition.

Dropping the exclusivity condition for self-publishers for the extended KU could bring into the game the titles of the many indie authors who play the wider game and are therefore excluded from KU by Amazon’s current rules.

That would be a win for the revamped subscription service – lots of new content to attract paying subscribers – and also a further income stream for authors.

But also a win for Amazon’s wider game, undermining the subscription competition.

It may seem like there is no competition to KU, especially now Oyster is out of the game, but to the extent that’s true at all, it’s only true in the US and UK.

Internationally subscription services like Bookmate, 24Symbols and Mofibo are doing just fine, and in the “home markets” niche subscription services are also doing well, while a new global subscription service, Playster, may yet surprise us.

Given Google has soaked up the Oyster team and skills-base it seems likely Google Play will enter the ebook subscription scene at some stage, perhaps with an international service to compete with Bookmate, Playster and Scribd.

And then there’s Apple.

Pundits like to dismiss Apple as a hardware firm that dabbles in content-supply, but that’s self-evidently untrue. Apple has plenty of content ambitions or it wouldn’t have introduced a music subscription service or be fielding 50+ global ebook stores.

Yes, Apple will remain primarily focussed on hardware, just as Amazon remains primarily focussed on e-commerce but dabbles in hardware and building its own content creation. The two are not mutually exclusive.

Last year Apple entered the music subscription game – something Amazon is now preparing to respond to. And while there are no indications yet that Apple is sounding out big pub on launching an ebook subscription service, it‘s a safe bet that it’s on the way.

For Apple, it’s an extra income stream for very little effort as they already have some 50 global iBooks stores. And of course it would be an extra arrow in their quiver to attract buyers to their hardware, which is the whole point of Apple’s content ventures. For the many publishers who don’t have a problem with subscription services per se, but are studiously avoiding KU for obvious reasons, an Apple subscription service would be welcomed.

And in another slow puncture in the wheel of Apple- isn’t-interested-in-content it’s just been announced Apple’s first original TV series is being made.

Something to keep an eye on as this year unfolds.

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But music subscription is not the only content push Amazon is planning.

Currently Amazon is advertising for new technicians to take Audible to a whole new level. I’ll be covering this in detail in a dedicated post on audio shortly.

And yet another event on the Amazon horizon is the arrival of an Amazon used-ebook store.

At the moment it’s only an industry rumour, and there’s no real indication of how this might work, or what its impact might be.

My guess is an Amazon used-ebook store would, like KU, be aimed at the indie circuit. I’ll reflect on why in another post, as so much else to cover right now.

Video, for example.

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Amazon has been actively building its film and TV production arm and clearly has ambitions far beyond simply adding to the free content available for Prime members.

Video is big business. Not just in the US but globally.

Of course, film and TV have long been available worldwide. Nothing new there. But what is new is a) the scale and b) the delivery.

Here in West Africa freeview satellite dishes are everywhere, for those lucky enough to have electric. That’s the same across the world. But old-fashioned satellite broadcasts are a hang-over from the twentieth century, like analogue TVs.

As the Globile (global mobile)  New Renaissance unfolds, access to video – by which I mean mainstream film and TV, not just three-minute home-made footage of a playful kitten on Youtube – is moving to new heights, delivered by mobile broadband.

As the world goes globile (global mobile, don’t forget!) and internet speeds and reliability move to new levels, pretty much the entire globe is within reach of mainstream video, just as pretty much the entire world can now access our ebooks.

Netflix kicked off 2016 with an expansion into 130 new countries, including Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Russia, taking Netflix’s reach to 190 countries globally, and in twenty languages.

“In 2016 (Netflix) plans to release 31 new and returning original series, two dozen original feature films and documentaries, a wide range of stand-up comedy specials and 30 original kids series. Netflix will also work to make the rest of its content available worldwide, so it offers the same programming in each market.” (LINK)

So let’s be clear on this. Netflix will be showing classic film and TV from our western culture, making it available around the world to audiences eager to lap it up. And pay for the privilege.

Books are no different. We only have to look at the bestseller charts around the globe to see how translations of top-selling American and British books are being devoured by eager readers in countries are removed from the culture of the US and UK.

Don’t think you need to be a Stephen King or an E.L. James to sell well abroad. Indies can do it too. Those of us who have made the effort to reach out to global audiences have, both for our translations and English-language originals, found a positive reception. Number one on Kindle China, anyone?

But we don’t need to stop at books. Savvier indie authors will be looking at operations like Netflix and asking ourselves – “Can they use my content?”

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If the Netflix scenario were a one-off story, this would still be significant But it’s far from one-off.

A South Korean TV subscription player in January expanded across Asia, observing astutely, “Korean content travels well”.

Hard on the heels of HBO announcing (end 2015) plans to stream video in Spain later this year and the global expansion of Netflix in January, Spain’s Telefonica announced plans to create and broadcast eight to ten series a year, starting in 2017. While Spanish-language focused Telefonica also plans to team up with other major European studios for co-produced English-language works.

January also saw the news that UKTV is to launch a new flagship subscription service called ‘W’ (don’t ask!) laden with original shows.

Steve North, W’s general manager, said, “We have a treasure trove of compelling original commissions, our own crown jewels.”

The tagged report notes that “UKTV’s investment in original content has pulled in millions more viewers to its portfolio of channels”. (LINK)

These are just a few among numerous similar developments as the Global New Renaissance blossoms, allowing countless new players to not just distribute but to create original content.

Which means production studios around the globe are screaming out for new content that can bolster their catalogue. Not just the big Hollywood film and TV studios and their equivalent in other countries, but the upstarts like Amazon Studios, Netflix, HBO, etc and the perhaps less-well known but still big enough to pack a punch producers like UKTV.

No, we don’t need to be professional screenwriters to be excited by this.

Yes, we can stay as we are, fingers crossed, and dream. it’s always possible someone will stumble across our works and want to option them for a TV series or a film. It happens.

But savvy indie authors will be proactive, not trusting to luck.

As I’ll be exploring in detail sometime soon, there are a number of agents who specialize in licensing IP rights for other media. There are also a number of agencies operating IP databases where production teams go to search a database as an easy way to find good content that by definition is available for licensing.

And then of course we have the option to approach production studios ourselves with our titles and show why they would work in other media, or to partner with a third party to produce a script/storyboard/whatever that will get the attention of those production studios. Amazon has its own film storyboarding software available free to use!

Several big publishers are setting up units specifically to team with video-production studios to develop their book titles in other formats, and the only thing stopping indies getting in on the act is our own tendency to think of ourselves as “ebook authors”.

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Moving back to books, and potentially good news on the horizon for indies looking to reach Australia’s readers. Amazon is launching The Book Depository in Australia (LINK), possibly as a prelude to a wider Amazon AU store down the road to compliment the Kindle AU store.

The Book Depository sells print, so is not on the radar of most indies because of our unhealthy focus on ebooks even at “home”, let alone in markets in far flung lands like Australia.

Equally safe to say that for most indies the Australian ebook market is the Kindle AU store, although there are numerous other options to read ebook readers in Australia.

With ebooks accounting for about 7% of total book sales in Australia right now, and ebook take-up growing by 26% per year, it’s worth taking Australia seriously.

That means at the very least being available on Kobo AU, Google Play AU and Apple AU, while for the more ambitious among us there are plenty of other players.

Angus & Robertson, for example, which is supplied by Kobo.

While some smaller AU ebook retailers lost the battle for survival (JB Hi-Fi and Big W both called it a day) other players are holding their own.

Not least Booktopia.

Amazon’s The Book Depository is the biggest player in Australia for on-line print titles even before it sets up shop in situ, but the second largest on-line bookseller is Booktopia, which last year bought out Bookworld, previously owned by Penguin Random House.

Booktopia doesn’t give out ebook stats but it shipped ten million print books last year and expects that to increase now it’s absorbed Bookword’s customer base.

Booktopia expects to sell $80 million worth of print titles in 2016. Amazon, boosted by the Book Depository local-launch, is on target to sell $200 million of print titles.

How much of that $280 million Australian print market will indies be getting a share of?

Very little, no doubt.

As we all know, trad pub has an oh-so-unfair advantage because it can get books into bricks and mortar stores and we indies can’t. Or so the chant goes.

The reality, of course is that indies can, if we make the effort, get print books into bricks and mortar stores, at home and around the globe.

But that debate is academic here because that $280 million market being discussed is all on-line sales, not though bricks and mortar stores.

Very unhelpful for us looking for any excuse to take the path of least resistance. Great news for those of us who are serious about becoming international bestselling authors.

But let’s stay briefly with ebooks. For indies looking at Australia, aside from Kindle AU there is Apple AU, Google Play AU and Kobo AU, as well as the aforementioned Kobo partner store Angus & Robertson. Then there’s Booktopia’s ebook store and beyond that smaller but still significant players like QBD.

If our books aren’t in these stores then obviously Australian readers who frequent these stores will not be able to buy them. It’s that simple.

Being available is half the battle.

How to reach Australian ebook readers? Amazon, Apple and Kobo are easy enough to get into, of course. Google Play not so much, as neither Smashwords nor Draft2Digital distribute to Google Play. Luckily for us, both StreetLib and PublishDrive do.

To get into QBD we need to be in the Copia catalogue, and to get into Booktopia the Ingram catalogue is required.

Yeah, I know. It’s a cruel world. How dare they make life difficult for us over-worked, under-paid indies.

But here’s the thing. The retailers are responding to consumer demand. For some obscure and unfathomable reason consumers prefer to buy from stores that are convenient for them not for us.

Yes, it would be great if readers the world over were all thinking, “Those poor indie authors trying to do it all on their own… Why don’t we all buy from one store to make their lives easier and then they can spend more time writing and less time trying to maximise their distribution.”

But the reality is, our typical reader no more cares about us as authors of the books than we do about the screenplay writers who create the TV dramas and films we ourselves love to watch.

And let’s be honest with ourselves here. How many of us could even name, let alone care about, the writer or writers who wrote that TV drama we were enthralled by last night? Or the latest blockbuster film we watched at the cinema last week?

Exactly.

Bottom line is, it’s our choice. We can put consumers first or put ourselves first.

The path of least resistance is always there if we want to walk it.

But we wouldn’t be here reading this in the first place if that were the case, so take a deep breath and check out Ingram and Copia distribution if you haven’t already.

Australia, with urban populations separated by huge distances, is perfect online-store territory for both print and ebooks, and perfect long-term ebook territory now smartphones have replaced dedicated ereaders as the primary reading device.

Most Australians speak and read English meaning there’s no need for translations to reach this lucrative overseas market.

Yet indies seem largely indifferent to Australia’s charms. Even Australian authors seem to obsess more about the US market than building a fan-base at home. Which is crazy when a glance at any Australian bookseller – print or digital – shows the retailers obsessively promote home-grown Australian talent.

Whether Booktopia can hold its own when The Book Depository goes live in Australia remains to be seen, but the one certainty is the Australian book market – for English-language print, ebooks and audio alike – is worth taking seriously.

I am. How about you?

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Coming back to Amazon yet again, and Kindle Unlimited launched in China last month.

But don’t get too excited. Unless our ebooks are in the Kindle China store in the first place then we’ll not be there.

The good news, for those of us who are there, is that there is no exclusivity conditions so we can continue to reach reads on China’s many other and mostly bigger, ebook retailers while still getting the benefits of KU-China.

Kindle China is not part of the KDP set up, so there are none of the Kindle star names in KU-China to compete with.

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Finally for today, and staying with China:

More Than Half Of China’s Population Is Now Online!

Last summer I reported that India has more people online than the USA has people in it.

2016 kicked off with news that over half of China’s people are now connected to the internet.

688 million people (50.3% for fellow maths obsessives) are connected, and 620 million of those connect using mobile devices.

A reminder, if needed, that the world is going globile. That’s global mobile for anyone who’s not been keeping up.

And also for any newcomers, a mention that the Beijing-based aggregator Fiberead will translate, produce and distribute your titles in China at no up-front cost.

But let’s come back to going globile.

More Indians on the internet than the USA has people in it. Almost twice as many Chinese on the internet than the US has people in it.

Globile – global mobile – is enfranchising literally billions of people who previously had no access to books.

Now people almost everywhere on the planet have a device in their hands that can be used to read our ebooks. As I reported at the start of the year, even Easter Island, the remotest inhabited island in the world, has wi-fi.

The US is and will remain for a while yet the biggest book market in the world. But collectively the rest of the world will dwarf it many times over in coming years.

Already in 2015 India leapfrogged the UK to become the second biggest English language book market and the sixth largest book market overall.

Savvy indies will of course remain focussed on the US and UK markets that sustain us now. But we will also be sowing the seeds for future harvests in the now nascent markets.

Think about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Go globile in 2016!

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For daily news and views on the global ebook scene, and some great debate, join The International Indie Author Facebook Group. (LINK)

 

 

 

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Despite The Demise of Oyster, Ebook Subscription Services Are Mostly Doing Rather Well.

Mofibo may not be the first name to spring to mind when we indies think of ebook subscription services, but despite the constant flow of assurances that Oyster’s demise marks the end of the ebook subscription model, the model is actually doing just fine, thank you very much.

The demise of Blloon added fuel to the fire of speculation that ebook subscription services are dead in the water (KU excepted, of course), but that’s to ignore the inconvenient reality that even in the US many ebook subscription services are doing rather well – Epic! and Hoopla spring to mind – and more are coming online almost by the day. Even Disney is in on the act.

And in that big bad world beyond the US…

Yes, Blloon has fallen by the wayside. But Bookmate, Skoobe and 24 Symbols and a host of others are still going strong after several years, many are expanding, and new operators are appearing all the time, eager to jump on this lucrative bandwagon.

Nubico in Spain, Storytel in Sweden and Elisa in Estonia, for example.
And of course Mofibo.

Over at Publishing Perspectives this past week Nathan Hull of Denmark-based ebook subscription service Mofibo has some interesting observations to make on this subject. (LINK)

As Hull notes, while Oyster is closing down, its team were picked up by Google, so clearly they were doing something right, even if they didn’t quite manage to balance the books.

And Hull reminds us of MySpace, which the elders amongst us will remember was the social media titan as ebooks began to take off back in 2009-10. Despite having 75 million monthly active users MySpace fell by the wayside.

Was this the end of the social media experiment? Clearly not.

In similar vein, while many rejoiced at the demise of Borders and claimed it heralded the demise of print books and b&m bookstores, print is actually still holding its own years later despite the rise of ebooks, and even the mighty Amazon is now opening b&m stores to sell print titles.

The point being, if one or even several players in a business sector fail, this does not automatically mean the model is broken.

And often the next generation of players emerge all the stronger for it.

Hull says, “It would be a grave oversight by agents and publishers to not pursue dialogue, gather research and then experiment in field. Stagnation should not be an option.”

I can only add indie authors to the “agents and publishers”list.

But Hull has far more interesting revelations on offer.

As Business Development Officer for Mofibo Hull has the inside gen on how Mofibo is doing, and it turns out Mofibo is doing rather well.

In Hull’s words, “Much of the digital money for authors in Denmark is from Mofibo, the ebook subscription company where I work. No, it’s not a global brand. It’s not Amazon. It’s not Google. It’s not Apple.”

Which is worth dwelling on.

Many of us indies look at the size of an operator and conclude that if it’s not some mega-corporation it isn’t worth a second look.

But as Hull reports, “…the revenues generated (by Mofibo) are new money and do not affect print income. With print remaining unaffected, Mofibo has transformed the share of digital book sales in Denmark from 3% to 18% in just two years.”

Yeah, that’s the problem with these small-time start-ups without the brand recognition and deep pockets of an Amazon or Apple or Google. They have absolutely no chance of making an impact.

From 3% to 18% in two years?! Somehow I can’t imagine the authors and publishers who are in the Mofibo catalogue are complaining too much about that!

But as Hull says, “….It gets better. Unlike other retailers, Mofibo also gives all the data back to the publishers, allowing them to learn about their readers, the readers’ habits, their environments and much more, effectively providing the publisher with a wealth of business intelligence they have never previously received from a traditional retailer.”

Hull finishes, “Mofibo is a sustainable and profitable company seeing double-digit growth this year.”

That is, a sustainable and profitable ebook subscription service seeing double-digit growth.

Of course one big advantage Mofibo has is that it is not competing with Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited in Denmark, and very unlikely it ever will, as Amazon’s international Kindle expansion does not appear to have the smaller European nations on its schedule.

Which means two things for indie authors.

First, that if you are exclusive with Amazon for whatever reason you will not be seeing any benefits from the rapidly expanding global ebook markets outside the Kindle countries.

Secondly that, whatever you may read on the indie blogs circuit about how ebook subscription services are doomed, the reality is many ebook subscription services are doing rather well and delivering many benefits to authors and publishers.

Not just in terms of immediate rewards in the form of royalties, but in the form of data that can help authors and publishers refine their own business models to perform even better in the future.

The downside for indie authors is that, as best I can tell, there is no easy route into Mofibo right now.

Understandably Mofibo are not geared to handling micro-accounts from individual authors. Less understandably they do not seem to be on the distribution list of any of the major aggregators.

I’m really hoping someone will pipe up here and prove me wrong. It would be wonderful to know there is an indie-friendly aggregator supplying Mofibo.

Until such time, be sure to keep Mofibo on your radar and be ready to jump in just as soon as the opportunity does arise.

Ebook subscription services are going nowhere but up.

Like digital libraries, ebook subscription services are going to be a major part of the digital publishing scene over the next five years.

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This post first appeared on The International Indie Author Facebook Group on Thursday 12 November, (LINK)

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large

Gunjur-Coastline-Gambia

We tend to focus on in-depth posts and analysis on the global publishing scene for the EBUK blog, and as the entire EBUK project is a not-for-profit operation run by volunteers it often means smaller, but no less important, items of interest get passed by.

So we asked frequent EBUK blog contributor Mark Williams to run a regular column here sharing with us pertinent shorter news stories, as ever throwing in his unique perspective as an international bestselling author and surveyor of the international publishing markets from the far shores of West Africa.

And yes, that is his local beach. As he likes to remind us, he lives the writers’ dream, hammering away at a keyboard on picture-postcard white sandy beaches lined with picture-postcard green gently swaying palm trees next to a picture-postcard warm blue ocean beneath picture-postcard blue skies.  Hey, nobody said life was fair!

The View From The Beach – Mark Williams At Large.

May Is Short Story Month. Are You Ready?

It’s actually the third Short Story Month – it started in 2013 – and momentum is gathering as more and more people look for “bite-size” reading. (LINK)

Millennials have been particularly identified with the demand for this type of material, in part reflecting the rise of smartphone reading and lifestyles where working hours are far more flexible than in days of yore.

Vintage/Anchor Books are releasing a short story every day during May to mark Short Story Month, all priced at 0.99, and I think they are on to a winner.

I also think, because I’m going down this route myself, that short non-fiction, and especially short narrative non-fiction is also the new black.

Amazon’s Kindle Singles and B&N’s Nook Snaps have already proven the demand for short digital material, and Vintage/Anchor see a lot of potential to engage readers with shorter offerings.

We were all surprised to find Millennials, the generation most comfortable with smartphones, preferred reading paperbacks to reading ebooks, but my feeling is its all to do with length. Reading a 100,000 word novel on a smartphone (as opposed to an e-ink ereader) is probably not the most pleasant of reading experiences, but for consuming a shorter work in a short space of time a smartphone may well be the ideal vehicle.

As indies we have in some way painted ourselves into a corner with our 0.99 full length novels flooding a handful of key markets, but we need to step back and view the markets from the perspective of readers, not writers. Something we collectively seem not very good at, as the huge number of exclusive-with-one-retailer indie titles shows. What better way of telling readers that what we care about is us, not them…

As the global New Renaissance gets into second gear we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about what will sell and where, and what will be commercially viable, and likewise we should all divest ourselves of any straight-jacket notions about marketing and promotion.

Kobo Parent Company Rakuten Enters The Magazine Publishing Market. Expect Amazon To Follow Suit Soon.

I’m surprised Amazon hasn’t gone down this route yet, but with Rakuten leading the way it’s now pretty much inevitable they will do so.

Rakuten’s first venture is a fashion magazine in Japan, and rather cleverly all the fashions featured are also for sale on Rakuten’s Ichiba retail site. (LINK)

Purely speculative but I would imagine India would be the ideal place for Amazon to follow suit. Amazon’s fashion arm has been making big strides in India, and an e-magazine devoted to exposure for fashion items available on the Amazon IN store would boost Amazon’s challenge to the 600lb gorilla in the Indian e-commerce marketplace, Flipkart, which happens to own India’s 600lb gorilla e-fashion site Myntra.

If I were a betting man I’d put money on both Flipkart and Amazon launching e-magazines this year. And if I were adviser to Jeff Bezos I’d be asking why Amazon doesn’t have both an e-zine and a print zine of its own in the USA.

Career Authors Alert: Selling Rights Vs Selling Ebooks.

Here’s a White Paper that’s free to download from Publishing Perspectives. Its theme: Global Rights and Licencing.

This is only 20 pages, but well worth the time if you are serious about being an international bestselling author.

Don’t be misled by the title. A lot of indies think in terms of selling ebooks. Even thinking about selling print books is a stretch. So selling “rights” might not be something you think indies need to be bothered with.

If so, think again.

Selling “Rights” should be at the heart of your career strategy so you can let someone else worry about the donkey work of selling your work beyond your comfort zone, while you actually spend your time writing the next book.

But it’s not just about selling the book. It’s about selling the translation rights, the film rights, the TV rights, the boardwalk rights, the game rights, the…

So long as we indies are locked into the microverse of ebooks we are never going to be able to compete with the big boys.

The White Paper is mainly about global book (print and digital) rights, but also includes a very useful section on film rights – something ALL of us should be thinking about.

It also includes a “starter” for the global markets by focusing on two countries regular readers of EBUK or my posts elsewhere will know are high on my list as places to be focused on: Brazil and Indonesia.

I know few of you are convinced about Indonesia, but ponder this little gem from the report:

Of the 32,000 titles published in Indonesia in 2014, 50% were translations of foreign languages, with English the front runner.

Other snippets from the post reiterating what I’ve been saying:

“Germany is the trans-Atlantic powerhouse.”

“Japan is the fourth largest publishing market.”

“The Spanish language markets offer global opportunities.”

“Turkey is taking off.”

“Poland and the Czech Republic are showing strong signs so life.”

The global New Renaissance is a fact. It’s happening all around you as you read this. And you can be part of it. Front seat tickets are on sale right now.

Or you can be a bystander and wave as it passes you by.

Hopefully this link to the GoogleDocs download form will work for you. (LINK)

If not, pop along to the Publishing Perspectives website. (LINK)

Asia Watch 1.

 Tencent, the Chinese e-titan, has just seen its value exceed two hundred billion dollars, leaving the likes of Amazon in its wake. (LINK)

Yet another clear sign, as I’ve been warning this past few years, that the centre of digital gravity is shifting east, and we should all be focused on getting a foothold on these oriental players now, before the rest of the west wakes up and starts a stampede to climb on board.

Tencent, Alibaba, Xiaomi, JD and a host of unpronounceables I’ve been tagging these past years are now coming of age and with that come opportunities unparalleled in the west as the global New Renaissance shifts into second gear.

The upstart start-up Xiaomi has just upped its ebook game with a deal with Trajectory, Macmillan and Gardners to get western English-language ebooks into the Xiaomi store. See more on this below.

A week or so ago Tencent became for all practical purposes the biggest ebook store on the planet (except by revenue, because ebooks in China are so much cheaper) as it reinvented itself (more on this in an in-depth look at China shortly).

JD has long been one of the biggest ebook stores in China, and last year signed a deal with one of the Big 5 western players to get English-language ebooks into China, where demand for E-L literature is high.

In doing so they followed the lead of OverDrive, now ironically owned by another eastern giant, Rakuten.

Alibaba doesn’t sell ebooks yet but you can sell your print via Alibaba through its US store 11Main. Expect Alibaba ebooks soon.

As the only western indie author to have a title hit the number one spot on Amazon’s Kindle China store I’m probably better qualified than most to say savvy indies should all be making sure China is not just on their radar but on your URGENT ACTION NEEDED list.

And make sure India and Indonesia are there too, because these are among the next eastern hot-spots for indie authors willing to step outside their comfort zone.

UK and Australia Digital Libraries Now Supplied By 3M.

 The 3M Cloud ebook service is now available in the UK and Australia, having shifted north to Canada last year. (LINK)

We’ve covered 3M on the EBUK blog before and will run an update on the global library markets soon.

Here just to remind you that, erotica authors aside, you can get your ebooks into the OverDrive catalogue via Smashwords.

The pay-up-front aggregator Ebook Partnership will get you into the OverDrive global libraries (over forty countries) and also into the OverDrive retail outlets which Smashwords does not deliver to.

Or you may prefer to pop along and try Ebooks Are Forever, a new initiative by Joe Konrath to get indie titles into US libraries. (LINK)

Magzter Now Open To Indie Authors.

 The global digital magazine retailer Magzter also sells ebooks, and following a reference in a post here on EBUK recently they kindly reminded me that indie authors can now upload direct to Magzter.

Go to Magzter (LINK) and set up a publisher account and then upload your titles. They need to update the site as it seems to suggest you can only publish magazines still, but if you go through to the next stage you’ll find a portal specifically for ebooks.

I get my books into Magzter through a third party so can’t say what the experience is like, but I can say Magzter is a fast-growing global player (over 200 countries).

As most magazines are non-fiction I’m expecting non-fiction ebooks to do particularly well on Magzter, and all the more so if the subject matter ties in with the theme of the more popular magazines.

At the moment the Magzter ebook store is sparely populated and this is a great opportunity to be a big fish in a small pond if you play your cards right. My guess is many people will discover e-zines before they discover ebooks, and most of those will discover ebooks on the same site they buy their e-magazines from.

Watch out for a detailed post on Magzter soon.

 Asia Watch 2.

Xiaomi Steps Up Its E-Book Game! Are You Ready?

  Xiaomi, the upstart start-up from China, has in just five years has gone from nowhere to be one of the biggest smartphone players on the planet.

This month it has been announced Xiaomi has a deal to take western ebooks into its China store, with strong indications the ebook stores will be extended to other countries in the near future.

Nate at Ink, Bits & Pixels has the scoop. (LINK)

Trajectory recently fixed a deal with Tencent to get English-language titles into the Chinese market, and what is gobsmackingly wonderful about this new deal is that it also involves Britain’s wholesale distributor Gardners, which means there is a back door in for indies.

Needless to say l’m already in Gardners, so looking forward to seeing my English-language titles in Xiaomi alongside my Chinese translated titles which have been doing rather well in the China markets.

Yes, before you ask, there is serious demand for western E-L titles in China. Last year OverDrive did a big deal to get western content into China and in September we reported here on the EBUK blog on HarperCollins signing a deal to get its E-L catalogue into China. (LINK)

Now Macmillan has followed suit.

We’ve said on previous occasions that Xiaomi isn’t yet taking on western titles but that it will, and when it does, to jump in with both feet.

It’s happening.

And it won’t stop at just China.

Earlier this month Xiaomi sold 2.12 million smartphones in twelve hours when it did a special sales event across its outlet countries, which include key nations like Thailand and Indonesia, India, Brazil and Turkey.

If you’re serious about becoming an international bestselling author then you need to be serious about players like Xiaomi. Because Xiaomi is serious about ebooks.

Subscription Services Get Bigger & Better. Mostly.

Digital music has been around a lot longer than ebooks, in a meaningful commercial sense, but only in 2014 did digital revenue finally exceed “physical” revenue for music.

And much of that was driven by subscription. (LINK)

Meantime Netflix had a stunning Q1 picking up 5 million new subscribers (LINK) while continuing to make profit.

The naysayers love to say ebook subscription services are unsustainable, and then point to music as an example of why, but music is doing just fine and film and video subscription – far closer to ebook subscriptions than music – goes  from strength to strength.

A given ebook subscription service may come or go, but as a commercial entity the subscription model is working just fine for all digital products. For content providers? Spotify not so much for musicians, and Kindle Unlimited not so much for authors. But early days.

New subscription services are emerging by the day. The Danish subscription service Mofibo will be launching in the UK this year.

And be sure to watch out for the new kid on the block, Playster, due to go live this summer. Playster plans to offer an across the board digital subscription service with music, video, ebooks, audio, etc, all for a fixed fee.

Simon & Schuster have just signed up for Playster. (LINK)

And in separate news Penguin Random House, while still eschewing subscription for ebooks, has put its audio books into Scribd.

Back in February HarperCollins put its titles into the Russia-based subscription service Bookmate. Expect Macmillan and Simon & Schuster to follow suit soon.

Although CIS based, Bookmate is far bigger than just Russia, and is focused on targeting places Amazon blocks downloads to. But with an Amazon Russia Kindle store rumoured to be around the corner the competition between Bookmate and Amazon might be about to be heat up.

I’ve been in Bookmate a while, and can’t say as I’ve seen much action, but I have great hopes for Bookmate in the future. Bookmate is fielding a quarter million English-language titles, only a handful of which are indie. Plenty of opportunity for savvy indies to get traction in the nascent markets Bookmate serves.

Be part of the subscription ebook scene or miss out, because the readers are heading that way in their droves.

 Book Tango / Book Country – What Worries Me Is Books On Board.

 The rebranded Book Tango (LINK) has long been on my watch list, but what worries me still is the links and references to Books On Board, which went under two years ago this month. (LINK) Surely two years is time enough to get the website updated?

One good reason for looking at Book Tango was that it distributed to Google, which the main pay-as-you-sell American aggregators like Smashwords and Draft2Digital do not. But with both Xin-Xii and Narcissus able to get your ebooks into Google Play I still can see no reason to risk playing with Book Tango. But I’d love to hear from anyone who has and has some experiences to share.

+ + +

I’ll wrap this session up with something from trad pub at the London Book Fair. Yeah, thought you’d be impressed. But love it or hate it, trad pub is here to stay and doing rather well. And we can learn a thing or two from it.

At the London Book Fair Faber & Faber CEO Stephen Page talks about how a “new ecology” has emerged in the publishing industry.

Quote: “The previous ecology got hammered and challenged. A new one has emerged that is partly around the resilience and return of physical books, partly around the new confidence there is.  There is a new confidence about the options open to publishers, about the creation of value, about investing in content with confidence. There is a shift towards the consumer, which is still continuing and isn’t finished yet, and just a new confidence about the tools and opportunities open to us.” (LINK)

For those indie fundamentalists who live and breathe the “self-pub good, trad pub bad” mantra it’s bad news. Far from rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic (try finding an indie blog between 2010-2013 that didn’t say that), trad pub has sealed the hole, pumped out the water and fired up the engines again.

For authors who prefer to live outside the tribal lines it’s another sign of a wonderful future ahead for all of us who are willing to embrace the New Renaissance rather than chase archaic print dreams in digital formats.

The opportunities are just beginning to emerge, and many indies will miss most of them because many of us are still thinking books and readers. That is soooo 2009.

Look at the words Stephen Page uses. “Content” and “consumers”, “tools and opportunities”.

Yes, we can dismiss these as meaningless biz-speak, but alternatively we might want to consider that trad pub, having adamantly refused to keel over and die as the indie movement gleefully hoped back in 2009-12, might just be on to something.

For industry-watchers there is not just a new confidence but a new vibrancy in the publishing industry as 2015 gets under way. So very different from the uncertainty and near-despair that epitomised 2010-12.

Indies would do well to watch trad pub very closely, because trad pub is very clearly thinking about the next five years, not the next five weeks.

Individual publishers and bookstores may come and go, but as an industry trad pub and trad pub retail will be stronger than ever in 2020 as it embraces the tools and opportunities of the global New Renaissance.

Where will you be at in 2020? Riding high with them? Or still trying the same tactics that worked so well in 2010 and wondering what’s gone wrong?

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery Promo Newsletter Launches Today!

DiversifyIn2015

We’re often accused of being anti-Amazon. And we’ve been particularly scathing of certain elements of Amazon’s ebook subscription service Kindle Unlimited.

So it may come as a surprise to some that we have today launched a promo newsletter exclusively dedicated to promoting titles in Kindle Unlimited.

But here’s the thing. The Ebook Bargains UK project is dedicated to helping authors reach readers, across as many retail platforms as possible and as widely as possible.

We are also dedicated to helping authors make informed choices about their distribution objectives and how they can best build a loyal global following while developing a career as a writer. That means calling foul when we see clear downsides to retailer operations. Our views on the royalty cut for authors that is Kindle Unlimited need no rehearsing here.

But our role is not to boycott retailers or retail services. As above, it’s to help authors reach readers.

And for those authors who have made the (hopefully informed) choice to stick with Kindle Unlimited – maybe to take advantage of the currently excellent payout KU offers 0.99 titles – the Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter is one more weapon in their armoury.

Obviously there’s only a handful of subscribers at the moment – this is the first day – but that should improve rapidly as word spreads. A free newsletter for readers highlighting Kindle Unlimited titles in both the US and the UK. You can see today’s Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter here. (LINK)

For authors, the deal is simple. Any title booked to appear in the main daily prom newsletters and that is in Kindle Unlimited will automatically appear in the Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter as well.

In addition we’ll be adding extra titles from advertisers who want to specifically promote their KU titles just to the Kindle Unlimited daily Discovery subscribers. For the princely sum of just £2 (yes, two measly British pounds) we’ll add your KU title in the next Kindle Unlimited Daily Discovery newsletter we can fit it in. As ever, first come, first served.

It will only take a handful of KU downloads to put you in profit on that deal!

Obviously Kindle Unlimited is the best known of the easy-access ebook subscription services, so we’re starting off with KU. But we hope to launch a Scribd Discovery newsletter in the very near future.

Finally, a reminder. Unlike most promo newsletters the Ebook Bargains UK newsletters do not carry affiliate links. We are retailer-neutral.

And the proceeds from the EBUK project go towards supporting babies, children and schools in West Africa. More on that very soon.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

As The KU Exodus Grows, How Much Longer Before Amazon Puts All KDP Titles In Kindle Unlimited?

DiversifyIn2015

In a telling comment over at The Passive Voice this week it was noted that

“On Christmas Day Amazon was offering a huge sale on ebooks, with a big splashy banner on its front page telling customers about $2.99 ebooks. Every single one of them was a Hachette title.”

Compare that to the situation a few months back when Hachette was evil incarnate and indie authors were being begged by Amazon to side against Hachette in a dispute we were not involved in. Many indie authors did as Amazon asked, happy to have a go at the Big 5, never stopping to ask who, when the time came, would fight our cause for us when we indies were at odds with Amazon.

And so it comes to pass.

Amazon rewarded our loyalty with Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service that, unlike rival subscription services Scribd and Oyster, punishes indie authors by first demanding exclusivity, second cannibalizing their sales, replaced with borrows, and third paying the authors a pittance decided on Amazon’s whim each month.

Hugh Howey gave us all a pre-Christmas laugh with his ludicrous suggestion Amazon treats us as second class because we are all scammers and pirates who treat Amazon customers as second class. Howey declined to explain why Amazon therefore continues to treat the Big 5 as first class despite them being convicted of conspiring to give Amazon customers higher prices. In fact, as we see with Hachette, it seems the more problems the trad pub causes Amazon, the more favourably they get treated.

Safe to assume Hachette paid Amazon big money for the placement on the homepage on Christmas Day, but also safe to say Hachette got a ton of sales at the expense of indie authors at similar prices.

Anyone still dreaming that Amazon needs us indies to offer cheap fodder for the masses needs to wake up. 2015 just got whole lot harder.

Add to this Bezos is reporting 10m new Prime members this Holidays season. That takes Prime membership to anywhere between 30m and 60m, depending on whose guestimates you prefer. True most of these will have signed up for the free trial to get the Prime benefits over Christmas, and Amazon won’t be telling us how many cancel when the trial is up. But let’s take a mid-way estimate to work with. Let’s assume Amazon now has 45 million Prime members.

And let’s work on one third of them being readers. Say 15 million.

A safe bet few of them are currently subscribed to KU (another $120 a year on top of the Prime subscription). Many of them will be reading full-price ebooks and Amazon will be paying out its standard rate to publishers and indie authors. Many more will be buying print books, for which Amazon will be not only paying out the standard return to publishers (strange isn’t it, how we don’t call the money Amazon pays the Big 5 a royalty, but we call the exact same payment to indies a royalty) but also paying all warehousing, packaging and shipping charges, as Prime offers free shipping.

Prime members already get unlimited free streaming of music and video. They do so because it’s a great attraction to justify that Prime subscription (once in Prime, customers are far less likely to shop elsewhere, and several reports indicate they spend more). What better way to make Prime even more attractive than to offer unlimited ebooks?

Obviously that isn’t going to happen unless Amazon can get enough cheap content enough to make available, as it clearly has done with music and video. How cheap is cheap? Our guess is, below a dollar a shot as compensation for suppliers.

By no coincidence we’ve seen Amazon force down the pay-out for KU titles month after month after month.

But don’t panic! Check your dashboards on January 15 and there will surely be a small increase in the KU pay-out. Not enough to make any real difference. Just enough for the Amazon cheerleaders to assure us all is well and Amazon has listened to our concerns. “Hey guys! Stop the exodus. Rejoice! We’re getting shafted a little less this month!”

But what happens in the months after that? A return to lower and lower KU payouts, that’s for sure. And when Amazon gets the price down where it wants it, we can likely expect all KDP titles to go into KU and KU to be free to Prime members.

Why? Because those 15 million Prime member readers will then be buying a lot less titles from the Amazon store, both ebook and print, saving Amazon a small fortune on the payout.

Yes, Amazon will have to drop the exclusivity clause for KU participation. But Amazon has already effectively conceded that point as it watches big indie names like Holly Ward and Joe Konrath, along with countless lesser mortals, vote with their feet.

Look at almost any blog nowadays – even the loyalist strongholds like The Passive Voice – and aside from those with short stories and 99c titles the verdict is pretty unanimous. Almost everyone is pulling out of KDP Select as their latest 90 day session ends and they are signing up to other retailers to try salvage their careers.

When we said, back as KU launched in Britain, that KU was nothing more than a stealth royalty cut (LINK), we were pilloried for being anti-Amazon – by the same Amazon loyalists now deserting Select in droves as Amazon twists the knife because of the stealth royalty cuts that is KU.

But we’re not anti-Amazon. far from it. We just believe it’s in the best interests of the indie movement to call foul when we see one, not to look the other way and change the subject, as the Amazon cheerleaders do.

Let’s be clear. We are all in favour of Amazon. Amazon is the single most important ebook retailer in the western ebook market. We are all in favour of ebook subscription services. Or rather, ebook subscription services that treat their content suppliers fairly.

But it was obvious from day one Kindle Unlimited had no intention of doing that. From day one it was clearly it was a two-tier system in which indies were there to make up the numbers and that, a handful of privileged top-sellers aside, we were going to get shafted with payouts.

That’s not being anti-Amazon, anymore than the indies now deserting Select and signing up with Apple and Google Play are anti-Amazon.

Nor is it anti-Amazon to look at the very real possibility that Amazon is planning to put all KDP titles into KU and make KU free for Prime members.

No, before the nay-sayers jump up and scream it, we are not saying the sky is falling. Those of you who want to believe Jeff Bezos lies awake at night thinking how he can help each individual indie author are welcome to your delusions. But Amazon is a business and Amazon will do what is in Amazon’s interests. As and when those interests coincide with ours, that’s great. We’ve all benefited and we are all grateful.

But as Kindle Unlimited shows pretty conclusively, when Amazon’s interests and ours do not coincide, there’s only one winner.

 ~

Back in early October we reported on indies seeing their non-Select titles getting KU borrows, and asked the obvious question: Was Amazon trialling the software to put all KDP titles into KU? (LINK)

It was speculative, of course, and we got slammed as being anti-Amazon for even thinking such a thing, but two months on the landscape has changed beyond all recognition.

The battlefields now are littered with the KU wounded, in fast retreat and heading for the safety of multiple retailers.

At the same time both Oyster and Scribd have seen their title count on the up and up, meaning the gap between KU’s much-vaunted 700,000 titles (now a lot less as indies flee en masse) narrows by the day. When Macmillan puts its backlist in the quality gap will soar still higher and the quantity gap will be negligible.

Amazon needs more titles to keep that gap big enough to draw prospective subscribers away from Scribd and Oyster. Fact.

It can’t win on content quality, because the Big 5 have no intention of coming anywhere near KU, while three of the Big 5 are now either in, or will shortly be in, Scribd and Oyster. Fact.

And it gets worse.

The current exodus of indies from KU is seriously upsetting the financial scales that makes KU viable. The indies who are leaving are exactly the ones Amazon need in to attract readers to pay that subscription fee. The bigger names. The top sellers. Those with high-priced titles and full length books.

Instead we see everywhere – even in the Amazon loyalist strongholds – indies agreeing that short and cheap titles are staying in KU and everything else is coming out. Pronto!

Think that through. As the ninety-day sessions expire, out come the big names and the expensive titles and the longer works, while more and more indies jump on the bandwagon with short titles to grab that ill-conceived payout that means Amazon is dishing out more than list price for what is no different from someone using the Look Inside feature.

A reader can download anything in KU, flit through to see if they are interested, then return it and try another. And every time that flit through crosses the 10% marker Amazon has to fork out.

The whole Kindle Unlimited master plan is coming apart at the seams.

Kindle czar Russ Grandinetti is no doubt spitting blood. But he’s not stupid. There’s s simple solution, and one likely as not that has been on the cards all along,or at least since non-Select titles started appearing in KU and showing up in non-Select authors’ dashboards.

Put all KDP titles into KU as standard, whether Select or not, and make KU free for Prime members.

It’s a no brainer for Grandinetti and Bezos.

Yes, it will cause a few weeks of ill-feeling in the blogospshere, but since when did Amazon take any notice of its content suppliers’ concerns? Just look at Hachette. By dropping the exclusivity clause and letting the non-Select authors stay on other retailers it will keep the whining b******s quiet and give the Amazon cheerleaders something to shout about.

Those who stay exclusive in Select will continue to get the bonuses like extra visibility with the KU algorithms, the five days free promo, and of course Countdown. And maybe something new to sweeten that chalice.

The rest of us get shafted with low visibility all round, just as now, as Amazon drives traffic to exclusive KU titles.

Indie authors will be able to sell on Apple and Nook and Google Play, etc, and also still get a few regular sales on Amazon, while watching their Zon income plummet as millions of Prime members download their works for free, on top of the downloads already happening through regular KU subscribers.

 

Yes, Amazon will throw a ton of money in the pot and make sure we all know it. but it will stay deathly silent about the payout, and as usual we won’t even know what it is until it happens, but a safe bet the indie authors will get paid even more of a pittance than is already on offer, instead of the “royalties” they signed up for.

Here’s the thing: None of us are going to walk away from Amazon if Grandinetti does this.

Yes, we’ll make lots of noise. Lots! Gosh, will we be noisy! And yes, we can all grandstand now about how we are pulling out of KU and Select. That’s easy.

But who among us will pull out of Amazon itself?

Amazon still has 60%-65% of the US ebook market overall and, thanks to an unhealthy focus on Amazon at the expense of other retailers these past five years, most indies get a lot more than 65% of their sales from Amazon. Further, most indies have loyal Kindle fans collected over many years. Those fans – especially the ones with Kindle e-readers – are not going to change devices and sign up to another retailer just to get our next book.

So we’ll make a lot of whining sounds, the same as usual, and then carry on, the same as usual, only with a lot less Zon cash heading our way.

Luckily our indie spokesfolk will be there for us.

Joe Konrath will do another post on how evil trad pub is. David Gaughran will do another post on Author Solutions. And Hugh Howey will explain how indies are such bloody ingrates for not staying in KU voluntarily that we deserve all we get, and by the way, KU is working fine for me. What’s the problem?

 ~

No, we are not saying it will happen. The future’s not ours to see.

But the future is ours to plan for.

What we are saying is that Amazon putting all KDP titles into KU and making KU free for Prime members is a realistic possibility. Amazon will do what is in Amazon’s best interests. Period.

Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

Diversify in 2015!

 

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

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.

Ebook Bargains UK

Far more than just an ebook promo newsletter.

Far more than just the UK.

 

Is Amazon About To Put All KDP Titles Into Kindle Unlimited?

Go Global In 2014

Increasing reports are coming in that indie authors who are not in KDP Select and happily selling on other retail platforms, are seeing KU borrows in their dashboard. On further investigation they have found their product pages carrying the KU logo and KU download button for those same titles.

Then the KU logo has vanished (but the borrows are still showing).

A glitch? Some think so.

But a strange glitch to occur in the first place, unless…

Is Amazon advance-testing for all KDP titles to be pulled into Kindle Unlimited, whether we agree or not?

We’ve speculated on this before here (LINK), and now the evidence appears to be mounting that this is part of Kindle Czar Russ Grandinetti’s master plan.

If you are thinking Amazon wouldn’t do such a thing without our permission, think again.

Take a look at this report from The Bookseller (LINK) where numerous mid-sized trad publishers are protesting, and even considering legal action, against Amazon.

Why? Because Amazon asked them is they wanted to be part of Kindle Unlimited and they answered with a resounding “No.” So Amazon just went ahead and did it anyway.

The sop to the publishers is that they are getting paid full whack for a borrow.

Indies of course are much further down the food chain, so we just get a share of the pot, and as we’ve explained before, this is nothing more than stealth royalty cut. (LINK)

A $4.99 sale on Amazon nets the author $3.50. A borrow of that same book net the author around $2 (exact amount variable). A massive cut. Which is why of course Grandinetti – the most dangerous man in publishing right now – brought in the All-Stars jackpot payments to keep the top indies on board. Yes they lose money by supporting KU, but Amazon then hands them wads of cash to compensate for the losses.

For normal indies like you and I? Exactly. A royalty cut by any other name…

As per earlier articles (linked above), Kindle Unlimited is ahead of rivals Oyster and Scribd in the numbers game. KU fields some 700,000 titles, against around 500,000 each from the others. But as we now see, many of those 700,000 titles are there without the permission of the publishers.

Safe to say all 500,000 of the Scribd and Oyster titles are there voluntarily.

Both Oyster and Scribd have Big 5 titles on board. Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins have both provided back-list to Oyster and Scribd, and more recently HarperCollins stuck in its newly acquired stock of Harlequin back-list titles. (LINK)

As Scribd and Oyster narrow the gap between KU and themselves with the number of titles available, so KU’s appeal diminishes. But if Amazon could suddenly push the KU volume over the million mark…

That would be a big selling point for readers, and perhaps more importantly right now a big news story for the media.

Those of you who saw our post on the Greenpeace assault on Amazon will also know that in the space of one month three of Amazon’s top execs have handed in their notice. You’ll also know that Amazon is about to announce its worst ever financial results, and is facing growing unrest from investors, as well as unrest in the Boardroom. (LINK)

The Q3 results (and equally troubling Q4 guidance) are due towards the end of this month. What normally happens is that Amazon rushes out a spate of news-friendly initiatives (KU itself was launched just ahead of the very bad Q2 report) for lazy journalist to recycle without looking too closely.

The launch of Kindle Germany and Kindle France at the Frankfurt Book Fair, with a simultaneous announcement that KU will now have over one million titles in, would be a great way of grabbing the headlines. And it looks as if Amazon have been doing some beta testing with non-Select titles to make sure everything is in place.

Given Amazon have rode roughshod over the wishes of the mid-sized publishers there seems little hope the wishes of us indies will be considered.

The sop to us will be that we won’t have to be exclusive. Yes, we’ll be in KU and get the potential borrows and the potential share of the pot, but we will still be able to stay on other platforms.

Of course that means the existing KU indies will be put at a disadvantage, so the downside will be that we won’t benefit from the KU perks. All-Star pay-outs, for example, will be Select only. And safe to say there will be less obvious penalties, like enhanced visibility from Select titles while the rest of us just watch our royalties go down as we collect pot payments instead of the full whack like the trad publishers.

But hey, no-one ever said Amazon was a level playing field.

Will it happen? Who can say, but no-one should rule out the possibility, and given the mounting evidence, it seems more and more likely.

If not sooner, then later. But sooner is looking like a strong contender right now.

 

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