Kindle Unlimited: Good Plan or KU Hamster Wheel of Death?
When Amazon’s publishing program, Kindle Direct Publishing launched, many authors had high hopes. KDP promised writers a seemingly fair shot at visibility, competitiveness and better compensation. KDP and it’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program—in theory—presented what appeared to be a more “meritocratic” chance at fame and fortune. Paid per page read. Good books would make more money!
Btw, it’s me. Cait Reynolds. Taking over, yet again. I’m here to continue Kristen’s dismantling of the most common grifts impacting writers. She asked me to talk about a subject that, sadly, I know all too well. The Kindle Direct Publishing—KU Grift.
This is an updated and CORRECTED post…I forgot I was writing and using my own mental shortcut of just calling everything KDP. I’m only human…well…mostly human. Part hamster.
*has flashback* *everything spinning*
Where was I? Oh, yes..
As I said, at first KU looked like a sweet deal. Meritocracy! FINALLY!
Initially, it sounded like a great idea and KDP did have some notable accomplishments, like shaking up legacy publishing and allowing fresh and diverse voices a chance to be heard.
Many writers were super excited. So much to celebrate! We were so tired of being used by those “other publishers” who didn’t SUPPORT OUR DREAM. We were thrilled KDP and KU was different.
Success was OURS! If we just worked hard enough, put out enough content, and promoted until we dropped dead from karoshi (Japanese for ‘death by overwork’)….
Does all this sound familiar?
If you haven’t noticed, KLamb and I are tackling the multitude of ways writers are being exploited, used, abused, and often shamed for wanting to be paid in actual money.
Which brings us to KU, or as I like to call it…
The KU Hamster Wheel of Death
Kindle Unlimited? Yeah, We Tumbled. I Know…Things…
My name is Cait Reynolds, and I’m a KU Survivor.
KU and me? We go back a ways. I was once young and foolish with more dreams than sense. KU reduced me to the animal state. More hamster than writer.
Oh, but the price I paid for wisdom.
I was one of the lucky ones. I escaped, bloodied and battered, but thankful to be alive with all four paws. Others were not so fortunate. May Squeaky rest in peace… *moment of silence*
We all start out the same. We want action, adventure…RICHES. Alas. Truth in war and KU is much the same. More gory than glory.
I’m the tough, battle-scarred old hamster sitting in my corner of the darkened rodent cage far from where the young ones socialize at the Nutri-Log. They’re still fit enough to enjoy the habitrail.
I sit alone in my corner, a bottle of gut-rot clipped nearby. With my good eye, I watch all the brash young hamsters eager to see some real action at last. A thoughtful youngster notices me and, on a dare from the others, approaches slowly.
I’ve been known to bite, so his caution shows he has at least some smarts.
The kid’s fearless and bold. He tells me he’s got a book and just signed up for his first tour of duty with KU. Amazon has given him orders to deploy. He’s off to Kindle Unlimited where The Wheel awaits.
“Is it glorious like in the stories?” he asks, voice quaking with forced cheer.
“Son,” I say, sipping my bathtub gin from the spout. “Walk away.”
“I can’t,” he says, stammering. “All my friends. They say it’s the best way to go BIG! One member of our group made ten thousand dollars in a week using KU!”
“Really? Who? Name.” My whiskers twitch.
“Um…um….” He backs up.
“NAME!” I shout, slamming my paw hard into the cage making it rattle.
Everyone is silent. All eyes are on us.
The kid shuffles his paws through the urine-soaked sawdust. “I uh, well it was actually a guy from a group who had a friend of a friend who knew this writer…”
“The Wheel will kill you. The Wheel is pain and death.” Lowering my voice, I say, “You wanna live? Walk away.”
I raise my voice for the others. “Do not tangle with THE WHEEL. The KU WHEEL cannot be reasoned with. It cannot be bargained with. And it will not stop ever…until you are dead.”
Come with me if you want to live…
Kindle Unlimited—To Beat the KU Wheel, KNOW The Wheel!
I told my metaphoric hamster story to (hopefully) make an impression. This is a matter of life and death. Writers are fighting for survival while the rich play games at our expense.
Amazon promises authors—via KDP—that we can be that successful author who quits the day job in a haze of confetti, middle fingers, and glory.
Exposing the KU WHEEL…
Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing promises if we (writers) just work hard enough, we can become that mythical creature known as The Kindle Millionaire.
If we can suffer through the grind and suck, it will pay off and our biggest worry will be how to choose between offers from HBO or Showtime. Coin toss maybe?
If we just work hard enough, we will find a way to:
Single-handedly manage the workflow for a producing a book from start-to-finish every two-to-four weeks while…
Keeping up with daily meaningful interaction with ALL our followers on InstaFaceTwitChat while…
Driving massive traffic to our Rafflecopter giveaways while…
Hosting fun, unforgettable Facebook events, setting up blog tours, adding to our list of newsletter subscribers while…
Also doing all the freelance work of cover design/editing/proofreading/marketing support that we pick up in order to make ends meet while….
Working a day job and maybe bathing.
Okay, forget bathing *sprays on Axe for Women*.
We do ALL OF THIS…until our Kindle Millionaire status kicks in!
KU Dream? It Was Never Gonna Happen
The point is that the KU model drives authors to get continually faster and louder just to hold onto their place in the rankings, let alone go up.
Faster and louder also means continually having to spend more money up front on marketing and book production.
There’s no delayed reaction windfall coming from KU.
There never will be.
There simply cannot be because we will never be able to catch up or even truly get ahead. Even when it looks like we have finally got the hang of a successful book production and release strategy, Amazon changes the rules and algorithms on us.
Why? Because they can.
Because they have to. Because they’re not in the business of making anybody other than Amazon shareholders truly rich.
In order to generate income in this model, we have to create volume of pages to be read and market the crap out of those pages. We are also competing against all the other authors who are doing the same thing. Therefore, we must create more volume and do more marketing.
And NOW you understand the KDP Hamster Wheel of Death.
No it isn’t fair. Fair is a weather condition.
And, like Kristen says, “Amazon is gonna Amazon.”
Show Us the Money Kindle Unlimited! Oh, You Can’t!
Why are we writers in such a hurry to churn out the pages? WHY are we in that much of a rush to earn that whopping $0.00419 per page read (August 2017 KDP Global Fund Payout)?
Let’s take a moment to examine the KU payout structure more closely.
The KDP Global Fund is the pool of money from Kindle Unlimited subscribers. It’s what funds the royalty payouts to authors. The KDP Global Fund has grown steadily since its inception.
Payouts from the fund, however, have stalled, stagnated, and even declined.
Case in Point
If a reader outright buys a 100-page ebook at $2.99, the author makes $2.09 in royalties. If a reader borrows the book via Kindle Unlimited and only reads 30 pages, the author makes $0.12. The payout is capped at $0.75 via Kindle Unlimited.
The reader is also under no time constraints to read the book. They could read those 30 pages the same day, or six months from now.
The author has no control over when and how many pages are read. That’s like trying to run a business without knowing when your customers are going to pay you, how much they will pay you…or if they EVER WILL pay you.
On what planet is this a successful business model?
Let’s open a bakery where a customer takes her choice of our cakes and only pays us if and when she eats the cake, and pays per bite. But if the consumer never eats the cake or decides to return the cake for another cake after taking two bites…then too bad.
Oh, so this business model dumb for a baker but AWESOME for writers? No. It isn’t.
The KU Grift
Amazon is pulling a grift with Kindle Unlimited and counting on the naivete of most readers and writers. Remember Kristen’s earlier post? The best hustles are completely legal.
Most people want to believe in a world where business is conducted in good faith, because to think differently is terrifying. We must have a certain amount of faith and trust or everything crumbles.
Amazon offers the Kindle Unlimited service to avid readers who–in good faith–assume Amazon is working for the benefit of the authors participating in the program.
Those enjoying the benefits of KU assume writers are being compensated and treated justly (much like most readers of HuffPo blogs have no idea most writers are unpaid workers).
Writers, simultaneously, are relying on urban legends and empty promises while killing themselves for fractions of pennies….and it looks a lot like this.
Are We a Human or a Hamster? A Writer or a Rat?
Kristen has talked a lot about blogging and exposure. MEGAs can be predator or benefactor depending on how well we are educated (because MEGAs can spot a sucker and always need more to power the grift).
Same applies to Amazon. Amazon is not our friend…but also not necessarily our enemy. KDP and KU can be useful. It has a purpose and can offer benefits which we will talk about another time. But, like all MEGAs, Amazon must be handled with CARE.
Approach is everything and education and strategy is key. Be willing to walk away and trust in something better.
Thank you, Cait! I actually asked her to do this post since the young hamster in the story…was me. And she stabbed me. But we made up and became besties 😀 .
What are your thoughts? Have you been caught on the KU wheel? Survived? Lived to tell the tale?
I have some new classes below to help you out and show you HOW to play to WIN, so make sure to sign up.
I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!
What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
DON’T MISS KRISTEN’S NEXT CLASS!
HARNESSING OUR WRITING POWER–THE BLOG!
Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50.00 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY OCTOBER 26th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST
Whenever I mention the word “blog” writers go pale and likely envision some mindless alien life form that rolls over crowds of screaming people, then melts and absorbs them.
For clarification that is the BLOB and NOT the Blog. Though the way blogging is so frequently taught? Totally understand the confusion.
Blogging is THE most powerful form of social media, and ALSO the most misused and misunderstood (hence why writers avoid it and throw holy water on it).
Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.
The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.
Oh it is also the easiest of all forms of social media to monetize and the more love you give it, the more it will give back.
This class is going to cover:
- How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
- What do we blog about? What is going to draw readers and get them excited?
- How do we understand the magical sorcery of Google and harness it to work our WILL? *evil laugh*
- How can we monetize a blog? Oh no! Asking for money! Scary stuff indeed.
- How can you cultivate a fan base of people who are uniquely YOUR fans?
- How does a blog sell books? Because they do…seriously.
Blogging is only hard if we make it that way. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.
NOW OFFERING BLOGGING GOLD!
Includes the class (recording included free in purchase price) PLUS one hour with me one-on-one discussing your brand and your blog. How can you connect to and cultivate YOUR readers?