Write more, make less?
February 20, 2015
The battle is joined, and the level of the discussion is growing.
Is the best strategy for Indie writers to write more and make less money?
Let me explain.
Kindle Unlimited is Amazon’s recent foray into subscription reading of books in a dedicated library. The reader pays $9.99 per month to gain access to over 700,000 books. She can read as many of them as she wants for that one monthly fee.
Unless an author has the clout to negotiate a special deal with Amazon, and most don’t, in order to put a book in the KU library she must agree to have the book available exclusively on Amazon.
What does the author receive if a subscriber reads her book on KU? She makes a royalty, but the amount of the payment is a pro rata payment from a monthly pot of money. Amazon determines how much goes in the pot. So each month the per book payout fluctuates. Presently it is about $1.40 per read/borrow.
Compare that to the 70% royalty which is standard for eBooks sold on Amazon outside KU, and you can see what all the hubbub is about. A $4.99 eBook generates about $3.50 net to an author, while the same book if read on KU only makes the author $1.40. The KU payment is not tied to the normal sales price of the book, or its length.
David Streitfeld wrote about this issue for the New York Times. For his article he interviewed a number of authors who shared their experiences with KU. His article should be required reading for any Indie author in the marketplace of digital books.
What is an Indie author to do in light of KU?
One of the mantras that underlies Indie writing is that an author who hopes to make any money must constantly churn out new content. Those who don’t have new work available all the time sink to the bottom of the pile and are forgotten by their readers in the time it takes to make a YouTube video.
Is the constant production of new material still the watchword for Indies in the day of KU?
But there is one caveat.
Perhaps the deal now is that an author must turn out loads of new work.
So long as her pieces are short.
Since a short work and a long one pay the same on KU, an author is better served by dividing her work into small discreet pieces, rather than writing 150,000 word books.
Five 30,000 word works would pay an Indie a lot more on KU than that one 150,000 worder.
The really difficult issue here for Indies who prefer to write long books, and who believe long books are just generally better than short ones, is that as more people subscribe to KU those readers will focus solely on the books available to them in the KU library. They simply won’t search the rest of the Kindle offerings, and, therefore, they will never run across the 150,000 worder that’s on the Kindle shelves but not on KU.
The other problem for those writers who stay away from KU is that they fear that Amazon will do nothing to promote their non-KU books to readers.
Hence the conundrum.
Write more, make less?
Break long works into shorter ones?
Try to make it outside KU?
This digital writing gig just keeps evolving.