From The New Publishing Standard:
Author Jørn Lier Horst moved to Strawberry publishing house Capitana, and went from having titles on one platform to being widely available. He experienced a huge economic upswing. ”It was like a revelation when I saw how much larger market share Storytel had, and what it meant to me.”
Rather undermining the popular myth that authors cannot make money with unlimited subscription services, seven high-profile Norwegian authors have hired a lawyer to ensure their books are on more unlimited subscription platforms to raise their earnings.
The debate strikes at the heart of the faux narrative in the Anglophone publishing arena – and especially among self-publishers – that unlimited subscription means earning less.
. . . .
[I]ndie authors [who sign} up to Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited and then [complain] about low returns had only themselves to blame. Put simply, by signing up to KDP Select to be in Kindle Unlimited indie authors forego income everywhere else due to Amazon’s insistence on exclusivity. (And that’s before we even begin to think about the need to pay Amazon for visibility using Amazon Ads.)
In Norway it’s not so much a demand for exclusivity as that audiobook publishers are keeping content to their own platforms to attract consumers. For publishers the compromise is that they forego sales/downloads on other platforms, but the sheer volume of titles they field makes that worthwhile. For authors, not so much.
. . . .
Norway is in the unusual position of publishers owning unlimited distribution platforms. Authors with Aschehoug and Gyldendal which owns Cappelen Damm that runs the subscription service Fabel) are having their titles excluded from rival Storytel Norway, jointly owned by Cappelen Damm and Sweden’s Storytel. A third and much smaller player in Norway is Ebok Plus, owned by Vigmostad & Bjørke.
Author Tom Kristensen told Norway’s VG:
Here, there are two major players owned by the largest publishers, and which exclude each other’s authors. They have used us in a competition game. We lose millions of kroner on that. Now that’s enough.
While Unni Lindell said:
Publishers hold back for their authors how much they actually lose by not being on both platforms. They also hold back that they actually have a duty to deliver to all platforms – in the same way as they have a duty to deliver to all bookstores.
This a reference to the Norwegian Book Act that says a book must be available in all bookstores, regardless of ownership of the store.
But according to the Norwegian Writers’ Association only 20 titles have been exchanged between Storytel and Fabel in 2020.
. . . .
[S]everal authors have decided to call in their contracts, if of five years or older. They have had their titles re-narrated and have put them out on all platforms. Jørn Lier Horst, for example, has had 21 old book titles re-recorded.
But the original publishers are not best pleased, are disputing the contract annulations, and arguing they still have audio rights, putting Storytel Norway in an impossible situation. Now the newly re-recorded titles are in limbo.
Storytel Norway Country Manager Håkon Havik told VG that the company was not taking sides, but needed legal clarification to allow the titles on the Storytel platform.
Storytel initially wanted to include these titles – but after receiving information from the Publishers’ Association and their lawyer that this is not legitimate, we chose to wait. Storytel is not a party to the case, but perceives it as a serious dispute over publishing rights.
And in a statement to the Norwegian Publishers Association Storytel has said:
Storytel does not want to get into a situation where we are potentially left with compensation claims for having included intellectual property to which the publisher has no rights, and has chosen this line vis-à-vis both parties in this case. In other words, we do not include the titles in question from any of the affected parties until it has been clarified who the actual publisher is.
Link to the rest at The New Publishing Standard
UPDATE: PG was working fast when he wrote the following and relied on outdated information enhanced by a brain freeze. Membership in KDP Select is no longer required in order to receive 70% royalties.
Check the comments for more detail.
PG apologizes for the error.
Begin original post FWIW:
PG was puzzled about the remark concerning indie authors and Kindle Unlimited in an article that otherwise focuses on two Norwegian publishers that apparently have something like a shared monopoly on Norwegian-language audiobooks.
Kindle Unlimited is an optional program. Some indies elect to participate with some or all of their ebooks and others elect not to participate.
KDP Select is the umbrella program that determines whether a book is in Kindle Unlimited or not.
If an author enrolls a book in KDP Select, the book is automatically also included in the Kindle Unlimited program. KU is a part of the KDP Select program. If you’re not enrolled in KDP Select, you can’t participate in KU.
Looking at KU on its own merits apart from other benefits of KDP Select is not useful for indie authors. KU is part of the KDP Select bundle of services.
The principal benefit of KDP Select for most authors is ebook royalty rates that are twice as high.
(The author is dinged for delivery fees for ebooks, which strikes PG as an artifact of a much earlier age. Those will be deducted from royalties resulting in what is effectively a slightly lower actual royalty rate.)
In order for an ebook to be included in KDP Select, an author must set a price for the ebook within a pricing range determined by Amazon – currently $2.99-$9.99 in the US.
KDP Select also requires that an ebook enrolled in the program be offered exclusively on Amazon during the time period of enrollment. For competing ebook vendors, this requirement means they are not able to sell any books an author includes in KDP Select, hence at least some of the dire warnings about the dangers of KDP select that sometimes circulate online.
(PG remembers reading somewhere more than a couple of years ago that this pricing range was determined by Amazon to be the optimal range of prices for ebooks considering how many ebooks readers were likely to purchase at a given price point and the profits generated from each sale for Amazon and, presumably the author as well. But PG’s memory may be faulty about this matter.)
KDP Select enrollment for a book includes a book in the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) program which applies to Amazon Prime members only (PG has read that Prime customers generate significantly more money for Amazon than non-Prime customers.) KOLL pays royalties to the author based upon how many pages of an author’s ebook that Prime borrowers read. No pages read=no royalties. Some pages read=some royalties, calculated on a per-page-read royalty rate.
As mentioned, KDP Select is an optional program. An indie author can use it or not at the author’s discretion.
When an author includes a book in KDP Select, the book must remain in the KDP Select program for 90 days. At the end of the 90 day period, the book is out of KDP Select, exclusivity requirements no long apply, higher royalty rates no longer apply, KOLL inclusion ends, etc.
It is possible for an author to set KDP Select to auto-renew at the end of 90 days, thus continuing to receive the benefits from the program for consecutive 90-day periods until the author turns off auto-renew. When the author turns off auto-renew, KDP benefits and limitations continue until the end of the 90-day period applicable to the books, then stop.
Some authors have suggested that KDP Select can be gamed and the author receive more royalties if, instead of writing a single 60,000 word novel, the author break up the novel into six 10,000 page segments because KU royalties are based on pages read and, if a reader bails on a 60,000 word novel because of a slow part of the story at the 20,000 page point, the opportunity to earn money for pages beyond that is permanently lost. Writing 60,000 words in 10,000 page segments allows an author to end each segment with a cliff-hanger or some other material that will likely to propel an author to the next segment. Hugh Howey wrote a blog post about this strategy in 2015.
PG warns that he’s not certain whether Amazon has changed anything about KU or its rules since 2015 that makes Hugh’s strategy unsuccessful or unprofitable. He suggests anyone planning to use the strategy do some online research on Hugh’s blog and elsewhere to see if the strategy still works.
In PG’s grotesquely-humble opinion, the bottom line for most indie authors is that Amazon is the big dog in all the major English-speaking ebook markets and maybe in other ebook markets as well. Thus most indie authors will likely sell more ebooks on Amazon than anywhere else and maximizing their income from Amazon ebook sales by using all the bells and whistles Amazon offers is the easiest and best way to do so.
Giving up on KDP Select (which includes Kindle Unlimited) means at a most fundamental level, the indie author’s royalty rate on ebooks sold will be cut in half. And any additional income from KU, KOLL, etc., will disappear entirely.
Non-Amazon ebook vendors have their own royalty rates which authors will want to consider, but, if we’re looking at royalties at or near Amazon’s non-KDP levels (35%), an author will have to sell about as many ebooks elsewhere as the author sells on Amazon in order to break even.
PG is happy to have any errors in his perceptions explained by anyone with more knowledge of the Norwegian publishing industry than he has. He would be especially interested in any information about data-hungry authors or publishers who have figured out a way to make their Amazon activities more profitable.
Lawyer Note: PG uses the term “sold” with respect to ebooks in a generic fashion. Technically, ebook vendors license ebooks to readers under varying terms and conditions (don’t make copies and try to sell them or give them away, etc., etc.) and do not sell ebooks to readers.