Amazon Lowers Kindle Unlimited Payouts

4 November 2015

From the Smashwords blog:

Last Friday in a bit of news that was missed by most indie authors, Amazon quietly announced that because they’re pricing their Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service at $3.00 per month in India, authors will now earn less.

I’m sorry to say I predicted such a devaluation back in March in an interview with the International Publishers Association titled, Not all Subscription Services are Created Equal. In that interview I warned there was nothing stopping Amazon from waking up one day and deciding that their $9.99 subscription service should be priced at $3.00 instead.  So now it’s happening in India.  Amazon hints it will happen in other countries too.

Was I prophetic?  Not really.  None of this should come as a surprise, yet thousands of authors will be surprised once they realize the slippery slope that is KDP Select.  It’s an inevitable outcome when authors surrender full pricing and compensation control (via their KDP Select enrollment) to a company whose entire business model is predicated upon commoditizing and devaluing products by stripping suppliers of pricing control.  Amazon does this in the name of offering customers the lowest possible prices.

There’s another potentially more insidious form of devaluation taking place, and sadly the indie author community (which supplies the bulk of KU titles) is Amazon’s unwitting accomplice.

Kindle Unlimited is training readers to think that single-copy ebook purchases are too expensive.

. . . .

Kindle Unlimited is crucifying single copy sales upon the altar of greed and gluttony.

Link to the rest at Smashwords and thanks to Toni for the tip.

PG doesn’t understand how gluttony plays into ebook subscriptions, but he’s not too enamored with Mark’s view that indie authors are “unwitting accomplices” or otherwise unable to look out for their own welfare without Smashwords’ help.

If Smashwords wants to effectively compete with Amazon, providing an excellent online environment where indie authors earn a lot of money because readers can easily discover books they like on something better than a Tinkertoy website would be a more effective strategy than trashing Amazon.

In PG’s unfailingly humble opinion, any hint of sore losership in a company’s marketing communications is a terrible idea. In that respect, a comparison between the content and tone of this Smashwords post and the Draft2Digital blog is illuminating.

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Smashwords Announces Distribution to Gardners Books: Expanded distribution to over 400 retail stores, 2,000 public libraries and 400 academic libraries

16 October 2015

From The Smashwords Blog:

Smashwords today announced a comprehensive distribution agreement with Gardners, the UK’s largest book wholesaler.

The agreement significantly expands the global footprint of the Smashwords ebook distribution network, enabling Smashwords authors and publishers to reach hundreds of online retailers, public libraries and academic libraries.

On October 22 Smashwords will begin delivering 230,000 ebooks sourced from the over 100,000 indie authors and small independent presses to 400 ebook stores powered by Gardners operating in 32 countries and serving customers in 138 countries; 2,000 public libraries in the U.K.; and 400 academic libraries in the UK, Europe and Middle East.  The agreement excludes Smashwords erotica titles.

. . . .

Gardners powers the online ebook store operations of over 400 small and medium-sized booksellers globally as part of its white label ecommerce and digital content fulfillment & distribution services.

Notable retailers with ebook stores powered by Gardners include, , in the UK, in Sweden , in South Africa and Denmark., which is owned and operated by Gardners, is interesting because it features and supports hundreds of independent brick and mortar retailers.  Every sale benefits the consumer’s selected shop. Hive features a large range of titles from the Gardners catalog of over five million items which include ebooks, print books, DVDs, audiobooks, stationary supplies and more.

Smashwords authors and publishers will earn 60% of the after-VAT list price at Gardners-powered ebook stores, the same terms as they earn with Smashwords at iBooks and other major retailers.

Link to the rest at The Smashwords Blog and thanks to Stephen and others for the tip.

Smashwords Nightmare

2 October 2015

From author Alice Sabo:

My books are for sale where?

Let me preface this. Back in 2012 when I self published my first book, I was happy to load White Lies into Smashwords and send it off to all the retailers they distribute to. Finding my ebook on sale at Barnes and Noble or iTunes was exciting. When Smashwords expanded, I thought that was fantastic. My books were available all over the world. And my reports showed me a trickle of sales in foreign countries. I was delighted.

Then the sales abruptly stopped. In the past 8 months, I’ve sold only 1 book through all those distributors. I thought it was odd that as I published new books my sales went down, but I haven’t been doing a lot of advertising.

Last month I decided to experiment with putting 2 books into KDP exclusively. I unpublished them from Smashwords on August 30, and waited. And waited… Luckily, Scattered Seeds was a pre-sale and didn’t go out to all the distributors. Lethal Seasons was another story.

First unhappy surprise – Kobo redistributes my books. I discovered this through a forum somewhere. So I went out to look and sure enough, there are my books on a French website. I have no idea what the market is for post apocalyptic survivor stories in France, much less for those in English in a non-English speaking country. As the author and publisher of that book I was annoyed that I didn’t know about this redistribution. Although I admit it could be in the fine print somewhere that I carelessly skimmed over.

Second unhappy surprise – Smashwords can’t control their partners. I am still waiting for Flipkart to remove Lethal Seasons from their website, 31 days after making the request. I have emailed them several times, only to be told that all they can do is ask. Even now that they have severed their partnership, Smashwords seems unable to retrieve its catalog from Flipkart.

Link to the rest at All there is . . . and the rest of it

Here’s a link to Alice Sabo’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Do E-Books Earn More Money at Lower Prices?

16 September 2015

From Brady Dale at The Observer

. . .

With e-books rising and print’s share declining, there’s a fierce debate about what e-books should cost. The publishers recently won the right to raise their prices on Amazon at will, but signs suggest it’s not paying off. At least, if you measure the payoff in dollars. Evidence suggests higher prices may not be the best way to make more money in the digital literature market, but publishers may have other reasons for jacking up costs.

. . .

If any books were necessary, one would think it would be the books from major publishers. Those are the books you are most likely to get quizzed about at cocktail parties or that your boss is most likely to say that you should read. Yet even for these stickier titles, higher prices lower sales. In fact, lowering sales so much that the publishers are making less money than they made before.

Meanwhile, all told, more writers are producing more books and making more money than ever before. A lot of that increase has occurred outside major publishers, though.

This is a point that Amazon has made in the past. Last summer, it gave the public a peek into its data around prices and e-book sales. The Amazon Books Team posted on the Kindle Forum, writing:

For every copy an e-book would sell at $14.99, it would sell 1.74 copies if priced at $9.99. So, for example, if customers would buy 100,000 copies of a particular e-book at $14.99, then customers would buy 174,000 copies of that same e-book at $9.99. Total revenue at $14.99 would be $1,499,000. Total revenue at $9.99 is $1,738,000.

Smashwords, the online retail giant’s little baby brother, made a similar point on its blog. It wrote that, in its experience, lower prices modestly increase total income while majorly boosting readership, which the company contends better insures a writer’s future.

. . .

This question of perception may explain what’s going on with the major publishers. Booksellers still account for most of the publisher’s money and relationships. They no doubt fear that low e-book prices undercuts the sales of physical books in the storefronts of their old friends. Fair enough, but the world is changing.

. . .

Publishers, it seems, are making less, as well. Of course, they have the right to do whatever they want, but the move doesn’t seem to be helping anyone but—perhaps—booksellers. So, why are the big guys still raising e-book prices?

Link to the rest at The Observer

This post provided as part of a package of perpetual participation during PG’s vacation by Bridget McKenna

Smashwords and Flipkart to End Distribution Relationship – Amazon Scores Victory

26 August 2015

From Smashwords:

Smashwords and Flipkart are ending their distribution agreement first announced in August, 2013.

The unfortunate news effectively hands the market for indie ebooks in India to Amazon.

A few weeks ago, I notified Flipkart that Smashwords was placing its distribution agreement with Flipkart under review.

I provided Flipkart a deadline by which Flipkart was asked to repair certain problems related to the listing and removal of Smashwords titles, and to provide Smashwords an acceptable plan to prevent such issues from recurring in the future.

I informed Flipkart that if these requirements were not met that Smashwords would request the immediate removal of all Smashwords titles.  The deadline was missed and an acceptable plan was not presented.

This morning Smashwords received word from Flipkart that after careful consideration, Flipkart determined their systems are not yet capable of supporting the dynamic nature of the Smashwords catalog.  As a result they will begin winding down the relationship with Smashwords and remove our titles.

. . . .

Our primary concern was Flipkart’s delays associated with the removal of Smashwords titles that had been unpublished. Most of these titles were removed because the Smashwords author or publisher made the decision to enroll their book in KDP Select, an ebook self publishing option offered by Amazon that requires authors to make their books exclusive to Amazon.

Once authors enroll a title in KDP Select, Amazon requires the author to immediately remove the book from all competing retailers otherwise the book is removed from the KDP Select program and the author is warned that repeated offenses could lead to the termination of their entire KDP account.

As you might imagine, these fire-and-brimstone emails from Amazon are unnerving to authors.

. . . .

Many indies don’t understand the long term implications of KDP Select.  The million or so books enrolled in KDP Select are almost entirely provided by the indie author community. Amazon coerces authors to enroll their books my making KDP Select books more discoverable and more desireable to Kindle customers, while making non-exclusive books less visible and less desirable.   The message is quite simple:  If you want to sell more books at the world’s largest ebook retailer, you must be exclusive.

I don’t blame indies for their difficult decision.  I met with one indie author a few weeks ago at a conference who told me words to the effect of, “I hate the exclusivity of KDP Select, yet I’m in it because I have a mortgage to pay.  Books in KDP Select sell better than non-exclusive books.

. . . .

I believe KDP Select is toxic to the future of indie publishing because it forces authors to abandon competing retailers and become more dependent upon Amazon.  When competing retailers lose access to this important inventory of indie titles, they can’t compete.

Amazon wields its dominant market share like a club to bludgeon authors who don’t fall into compliance with Amazon’s exclusivity or pricing requirements, even when the lack of compliance is not the author’s fault.  No other ebook retailer practices such draconian punishment of authors.

. . . .

To be clear, the termination of our agreement with Flipkart is not Amazon’s fault.  However, Amazon was a catalyst because the harm they’re causing our shared authors made it impossible for us to give Flipkart the runway they needed to improve their systems.

Although Flipkart is a small ebook retailer and the financial impact on Smashwords authors will be negligible, I’m more concerned by what this signals for the future of ebook retailing around the world.

Link to the rest at Smashwords

How to Publish Ebooks – an Ebook Publishing Intensive by Mark Coker

26 July 2015

Thanks to Chris for the tip.

Is the subscription model in trouble? Scribd dumps romance titles

30 June 2015

From author Bob Mayer:

Got this just now from Draft2Digital through which we have titles in Scribd:

As we all know, the concept of a subscription service for books is extremely new. There are several models on the market now for effectively monetizing subscriptions, and none of them exactly matches what we’re used to from traditional sales royalties. As the market experiments with different approaches, there are bound to be some missteps and false starts along the way. In fact, we should expect this business model to evolve even more in the near future.

Scribd took a significant risk putting in place a model that paid authors the same amount as a retail model for each book read by a subscriber. As we all know, romance readers tend to be incredibly avid readers. In trying to cater to this voracious readership while under this progressive payment model, Scribd has put itself in a difficult place. In a bid to better balance these operating expenses, Scribd is immediately slashing the volume of romance novels in its subscription service.

If you are receiving this email, then you are a Draft2Digital author who has published books in the romance genre to Scribd. This means that some or all of your romance novels are likely going to be delisted from their service today. (Books that are priced at free will not be removed.)

While a large number of romance novels will be removed from Scribd, it isn’t all of them. We aren’t privy to the exact guidelines Scribd is using to decide which romance novels will remain, and it’s our understanding that they remain in flux at Scribd. However, over the coming days, we will be working closely with Scribd to resolve the exact criteria and share them with you so that you’ll have the opportunity to restore all of your titles to the service.

Please Note: If you write in other genres, understand that those books will not be affected by this policy change.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause and assure you that we are working with Scribd to explore alternative solutions to this challenging problem, always searching for new terms that could restore our full catalog to their service.

Believe me, this situation is just as difficult for Draft2Digital as it is for you. We also stand to lose a significant portion of our revenue due to this change. More importantly, we regret that we couldn’t give our authors more notice, but unfortunately we were informed quite late in Scribd’s decision-making process. It has been our highest priority throughout these discussions to preserve as many of your books in the service as possible, and we will continue to pursue that goal going forward.

If you have any further questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

So. Make of it what you will. But to me it means a lot of steps in the wrong direction for subscription services. It means that if a certain genre gets too many borrows for the subscription price, yet the service has to pay authors, the system is breaking down. Something has to give. De-list titles. Already happening. Pay authors less? On the horizon.

Link to the rest at Write on the River and thanks to Jaye, Deren, Julia and several others for the tip.

Here’s a link to Bob Mayer’s books

PG says this is certainly upsetting, but it’s nothing compared to what happens to authors when their publisher goes bankrupt and both their royalties and their rights drop into a black hole.

Here are some thoughts from Mark Coker:

Scribd, the fast-growing ebook subscription service, today announced dramatic cuts to their catalog of romance and erotica titles.

Effective immediately, I estimate 80-90 percent of Smashwords romance and erotica titles will be dropped by Scribd, including nearly all of our most popular romance titles. Books priced at free are safe and will remain in their catalog.

Based on what I’ve been able to glean, the lower the price and the higher the word count, the better the odds the book will remain. Few books priced $3.99 and above will remain. Scribd is not publicly revealing the formulas for what stays and what goes, probably because much of this is still in flux. They’re cutting all publishers and distributors with the same blunt knife.

It’s ugly. The problem for Scribd is that romance readers are heavy readers, and Scribd pays publishers retailer-level margins for the books.

. . . .

Bottom line, romance readers – readers we love dearly at Smashwords – are reading Scribd out of house and home. Scribd’s business model, as it’s set up now, simply can’t sustain the high readership of romance readers. They’re not facing the same problem with readers of other genres.

. . . .

While I understand Scribd’s need to stem the bloodletting, and I support their decision for this reason, I don’t think they found the right solution yet. I think a better solution – one which would strike the right balance between the needs of readers, authors, publishers and Scribd – is to introduce tiered subscription options that would allow moderate readers to enjoy the Scribd service at the $8.99 level, but then offer heavier readers another subscription tier – possibly priced at $14.99 or $19.99 or whatever – that wouldn’t break the bank to the detriment of all authors.

Link to the rest at Smashwords 

London Book Fair 2015: Self-Publishing Smashes Through

16 April 2015

From Publishers Weekly:

Once again, events tailored to independent and self-published authors at the London Book Fair’s Author HQ were jam-packed, and among the London Book Fair’s most popular offerings. PW checks in with a leading indie service provider, Smashwords founder Mark Coker, about the state of self-publishing in 2015, and what the future holds.

So, to start, give us a sense of where you see the self-publishing market in 2015, and what you see going forward?

When I started Smashwords back in 2008, there was a tremendous stigma associated with self publishing. Self -published authors were seen as failed authors, and in a sense this was true because it was a print-centric world back then, and without the help of a publisher authors couldn’t get distribution into bookstores. But thanks to the rise of e-books, authors now have the chance to be judged by readers.

In 2015, self published authors are learning to think and act like professional publishers. They’re embracing best practices, and learning to use professional tools of the trade such as pre-orders, professional cover design and they’re hiring professional editors. And readers have responded positively. But, for self-published authors, for all authors, in fact, the easy days are over. There’s now a glut of high-quality low-cost e-books out there, and that glut will only increase as more authors up their game, and as more authors self-publish.

How do you see the impact of self-publishing being felt in the traditional publishing industry?

I think traditional publishing still doesn’t fully grok the impact self-publishing is going to have on their businesses. Self-publishing isn’t for every writer. Many writers would much rather outsource the publishing process to a publisher so they can focus on writing. But I think many authors are unsatisfied with things like publishers paying 25% net on e-books, and many are questioning the value-add of publishers.

The other week I interviewed a romance author, Jamie McGuire, who started out at Smashwords and Amazon in 2011, hit the New York Times bestseller list with Beautiful Disaster, and then sold her rights to Atria in a two-book deal. She loved her experience at Atria. She said they felt like family. But a year ago she decided to return to self publishing, because she couldn’t justify surrendering her e-book rights forever to a publisher. When authors who love publishers leave publishers, it’s a problem.

I think traditional publishing and self-publishing are complementary. Each can make the other stronger. But most traditional publishers still practice a culture of no, rejecting most of what comes in the door, and they still view this rejection as a core value-add. I think publishers can no longer take their power for granted, and need to recognize they are service providers to authors. And to better serve their clients, publishers will need develop a broader spectrum of services so they can say yes to more authors.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Does Agency Pricing Hurt Reading Consumers?

10 April 2015

From GoodEreader:

Mark Coker, CEO of Smashwords and a long-time supporter of the agency model, spoke to Good e-Reader about why this model is good for authors and publishers–the two stakeholders who must secure a profit in order to continue providing books–and good for smaller retailers who otherwise couldn’t compete with a corporate behemoth in terms of pricing. More importantly, Coke addressed one often overlooked concern:does the agency pricing model hurt consumers?

. . . .

“If an author or publisher is trying to screw them over with a price that is just outrageous, readers can say no. And publishers will hear that. Authors will hear that. Readers can put pressure on authors…if a reader feels like an author’s book is priced too high by the publisher, you can bet that all they have to do is tweet at that author about the book being priced too high, and the publisher’s going to be hearing that customers are angry. The marketplace has a lot of power. If readers can accept that it’s important that authors and publishers profit from the sale of a book since it’s their profit that allows them to continue this great service of providing books, then everyone can be happy. If readers think everything should be free, that’s obviously an attitude that is not sustainable.”

Link to the rest at GoodEreader

PG says price competition is a fundamental fact of life for most consumer products in most of the prosperous nations of the world.

The argument that books are special and shouldn’t be exposed to the horribleness of price competition is designed to protect traditional publishers and physical bookstores. PG doesn’t see that authors as a group have received great benefits from publisher-enforced pricing for books.

And why would anyone believe that Big Publishing knows enough to set the optimum prices for books? The last retail store owned by a publisher closed decades ago. Tradpub’s lame direct sales attempts are a joke.

For all of its attractions, New York is a fiendishly expensive place to live and the concentration of publishing headquarters in that metro area means publishing executives have no experience with how the rest of the country responds to pricing.

OTOH, from the viewpoint of indie authors, PG says choosing legacy publishing prices on the forty-first floor will mean more readers buy indie books and indie authors make more money.


New Amazon Service Eliminates the Need for Authors

1 April 2015

From the Smashwords Blog:

The publishing industry is reeling today after news broke this morning about Kindle Author, Amazon’s new service that  generates high-quality fiction using complex software algorithms.

It’s like Build-A-Bear for ebooks. The reader tells Kindle Author what they want in a story, and then Kindle Author automatically generates the book .

In this post, I’ll explain how Kindle Author works and I’ll share never-before-seen screenshots of the service.  I’ll explain the science that made this breakthrough possible, and then I’ll wrap by discussing what this means for Smashwords authors and the future of publishing.

. . . .

Kindle Author is a new option for purchasing ebooks in the Kindle store.  It’s receiving heavy promotion on the Amazon home page, which tells me Amazon is making the service a strategic priority for their business.

. . . .

Amazon’s overt move to redirect customers from human-authored books to machine-generated books is unprecedented, but it’s not a huge surprise considering how other Amazon-exclusive books already receive preferential merchandising in their store.

. . . .

Once the customer clicks to Kindle Author, they’re presented with a simple point and click interface of pull-down menus and radio buttons.  It’s quite easy to use.  It’s even fun.  It’s like color by numbers, but with words.

Customers select story characteristics from among thousands of different options.  As you can see in my screen shots at left and below, some of the radio button options are a bit quirky, but this is probably deliberate because it makes for better fiction.

A reader can tell Kindle Author, for example, they want to read a medieval epic fantasy of two million words that involves kings, queens, princesses, swordplay, intrigue, castles, a sexy young mother of dragons, and a stainless steel throne made out of spoons and forks.

Look out, George R.R. Martin.  Game of Thrones has met its match.

Kindle Author gives readers the option of having the book written in the style of their favorite authors. That’s right, if you want your paranormal romance written in the style of Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac or Jane Austin, it’s yours with the the click of a button.

You can even choose to have public domain books rewritten in the style of other authors, or in a style that blends multiple authors.

Link to the rest at Smashwords Blog and thanks to Deb for the tip.

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