Another middle of the night conversation (I have sleep issues) with a writer very new to the game. She owns digital rights to her first novel and recently released it on Amazon, enrolling it in Kindle Select and--no choice in the matter--Kindle Unlimited. Visions of dollar signs invaded dreams, because we've all heard the stories about the fortunate few who, when Kindle Publishing became a thing, hit big.
That was pre-Kindle Unlimited, though. And she had no idea the impact it can have. I have zero problems with people who subscribe to KU for the volume of books they can read for a single price, I have problems with the way the writers are paid.
Let's use Emperor as an example. The list price of the paperback is $15.95, and of that, I earn about $4. If I sell 500 copies, I earn $2000.
The Kindle price is $4.99, and the rate is 70%, minus a tiny delivery fee (yes, I pay the delivery fee when you buy my book.) For each book, I earn $3.50 minus that fee...so it's around $3.40. If I sell 500 copies, I earn $1700. If I take the book out of Kindle Select, which puts it into KU, my rate drops to 35%. So those 500 books earn $1.74 each, for $840.
When someone reads this book via Kindle Unlimited, I get paid per page read. Now, that's not actual page counts, but an arbitrary count that Kindle decides my book should be based on an algorithm that who the hell knows what it is. The actual page count is 302, but Kindle thinks it's 278
The payment for page reads this month is $0.0040. At 278 pages, I earn $1.11 when someone "buys" my book using Kindle Unlimited. If I sell 500, I get paid $555.
One of the problems is that with an all-you-can-read buffet, people download more books than they can read, so they have a whole bunch of books in their TBR pile. I wont earn a cent until they open the book and read...or at least flip through to the end.
Since the evolution of Kindle sales to include Kindle Unlimited, I've watched my earnings drop in a major way.
Are any indie writers breaking through? Sure. Writers who use click farms to assure a certain number of pages read are leaping to the head of the pack. Ever see a #1 book jump #368,987 to the top? Yeah...that writer paid a few hundred bucks to make that happen.
Anyway...yeah...that was the reality to which the newby writer entered digital publishing.
It's not a huge deal for me; seriously, our lives don't depend on my income. But the IDEA that as time goes on my work is worth so much less that it was just a couple of years ago kind of stings.
It's also why I will never get books under KU. I don't get them when they're free; if I want a book, I wait until it goes off sale from free and has a price attached. If you're a friend and a writer, I probably bought your book, and not when it was $0.00. KU is terrific for readers, it's horrible for writers.
I've kept most of my books in KS for the 70% rate, but I'm seriously eyeing taking them out of it and going wide--being more available on sites other than Amazon.
I seriously appreciate everything Amazon has done for indie publishing, but damn...our work is worth more than $0.004 per page.