For the first time since becoming a full-time writer, I have begun to see my sales drop below previous years (basically my sales are now going down year by year instead of up). This shouldn't happen as I have more books out and more fans. I am keeping my part of the deal by regularly releasing new books that people enjoy, so my earnings really should not be going down (they should, in a perfect world, go up). The slump began for me with the advent of Kindle Unlimited. My books were automatically entered into this 'Netflix for books' scheme and I at first had no problem with it as I trust Amazon a great deal and have always been treated fairly by them. However, in the last 3 months I have watched the average royalty drop from over $2 to $1.33. If the trend continues then my full-length novels will soon be making me less than a $1 per sale (I then lose even more money on the exchange rate which is very poor once Amazon's bank take their cut). Rather than do nothing, I have forwarded my concerns to a contact I have on the KDP UK team. The letter is below and hopefully it will get taken seriously as I feel confident that I am speaking on behalf on many many panicking authors.
Please leave your comments below so that I have evidence that my concerns are representative of others (I know my contact checks my blog and will see your comments).
Hi "my contact at Amazon":
I’m really disappointed and let down by Amazon. About 50% of my traditional sales (which make me roughly £2 a sale) have migrated to Kindle Unlimited (which last month made me 80p per sale). Amazon is steering the business in its own favour and trying to create a 'Spotify for books'. Incidentally, Spotify artists make roughly 0.0006 per listen (should we be preparing to expect the same type of renumeration). The last three months I am 30% down on last year, which is crazy considering I have more books available, more fans, more platforms (ACX etc). I should be growing, not shrinking. Prior to Kindle Unlimited, I was beating last year’s figures every single month without fail (which should be the case as I continue releasing books and growing my fanbase). Now I am going backwards, earning less and less despite releasing new work.
The main problem with the Kindle Unlimited program is that it is penalising authors who write decent, novel-length work. I know a few a authors who write nothing but shorts and are benefitting because they are are getting $1.33 for titles they sell at 99c! This doesn’t seem sustainable to me. Amazon obviously want the price point to be between $2.99 and $9.99 (as they apply the 70% royalty rate to this range), so why are they making Kindle Unlimited more appealing to authors who write cheap, short books while penalising those such as myself who take a long time writing decent books with professional artwork and editing. Amazon is incentivising the wrong section of it’s author-base. It is endorsing cheap, throwaway fiction. Authors who write and release books at $2.99 “Which is what Amazon want) expect a royalty of $2, but as their sales are being eaten up by KU, they are receiving only $1.33. It is even worse for authors, such as myself, who were selling well at $3.99 and higher.
Here is an example of the problem.
This person has spammed Amazon with hundreds of 20-page leaflets (check the samples and you’ll see they barely even qualify as that) under several pen names. He is benefitting more by doing this than I am by taking my time and releasing good work and growing a readership (I’m being penalised for being a professional). This is crazy. How can Amazon give money to people doing this at the expense of its loyal authors who have supported the platform for years.
My earnings have plummeted since KU came out and I have seen droves of authors saying the same (the only exception is the prolific short story writers). Many have decided to pull their books already from Select after watching the royalty slowly dwindle from $2.20 to the latest low of $1.33. I am considering doing the same. I have been exclusive to Amazon for 4 years, but I am for the first time considering taking my work to other platforms as the benefits to being a member of Select are no longer existent. I’m really upset that my livelihood, after having worked so hard, is starting to dwindle away in favour of those looking to make a quick buck. I have been a massive advocate of KDP and have steered dozens of authors in your direction, but I feel suddenly that Amazon doesn’t care less about me.
Rather than just complain, I would at least like to say something constructive. I believe Amazon needs to do 1 of 2 things. Either commit to a $2 payout per borrow via KU, or introduce a minimum word count of 20,000 words (although I would prefer to see it at 40,000). This would immediately eliminate these ‘spam titles’ and ensure that the royalty pot is shared only with deserving authors. The pot is going to dilute even further with the introduction of the foreign platforms, so I dread to think how low the royalty will go. If authors have any sense they will remove their books as this entire scheme seems designed to help Amazon at the expense of the authors who have helped it build the superiority it currently has.