Why I’ll Be Skipping Kindle Unlimited

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Amazon has unveiled its Kindle Unlimited program, which allows readers to pay a ten dollar monthly fee to have access to a huge catalog of books. The major publishers have not signed on yet, so you’re unlikely to find many big new releases, but I’m led to understand that Amazon is paying a wholesale price to authors with best-selling books while most indie writers will be paid a “share” of $2 mil.

Amazon tried offering shares out of a fund before, and I experimented with that. The amount of money I received was negligible. Seriously negligible. Frankly, I’m not excited to Spotify my writing career.

I’m also less than thrilled to know that I would have to enroll in KDP Select to take part, which means that, in order to place a book in KU, I’d have to pull it from every other vendor. Guess what? I’m not doing that. Certain other indie authors have been enrolled without being forced into exclusivity (for now, at least). I’m sure this is Amazon’s need to include a few bestsellers in the KU library, but since I’ll never sell as many books as Hugh Howey, I won’t be getting the same lovely treatment he receives.

And yeah, this is a library you pay $120 a year for. That’s not a great deal for me, since I have a local library system with a great selection of ebooks, but I certainly understand that some people don’t have that kind of access or, if they do, they don’t want to put a hold on a title and wait their turn to read it. That’s especially true for people who want to read a book but don’t feel the need to own it.

Anyway, I’ve tried a lot of different things over the last few years. I’ve published traditionally. I’ve tried KDP Select. I’ve sold fiction directly from my website. I’ve offered fiction on a donation basis. I’ve signed on for the Kindle Lending Library. My books are on Oyster and Scribd, which are other subscription-based services. The one thing I *didn’t* try was selling a story for a bitcoin (just too busy at the time bitcoins first became a thing, and now they’re too expensive). But I won’t be trying KU; exclusivity in return for a “share” seems like a really bad deal.

What’s more, I don’t intend to experiment with tactics like putting the first book of a series (or a piece of short fiction) in KU to prompt sales of other books. Hey, if a reader is already paying $10/month and has access to over half-a-million books, are they really going off the preserve to hunt down (and pay for) book 2? Some would, obviously, but many wouldn’t, and it seems to me that the purpose of a subscription service like this is a pool of captured customers who have no desire to go elsewhere.

Finally, I have to wonder what Amazon sees as the long-term plan for KU. Are they hoping to get people to sign up like gym memberships? Because the most profitable members of any gym are the ones who never actually go to the gym but who continue to pay their dues because they know they should. I’m hoping that KU doesn’t create an ecosystem of readers who never venture outside the KU offerings (I wonder if there’s any research demonstrating this problem with Oyster or Scribd?) along with people who never get around to reading books.

UPDATES: Thoughts by John Scalzi and further consideration over on The Bookseller

UPDATE REDUX: Kindle Unlimited from a reader’s POV.

Scrubbing a certain word from my blog

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I’ve always hated the words “pron” and “pr0n.” It always seemed like prudery. Nihil veritas erubescit, I say.

Well, no more. I still don’t blush at the word, but I won’t be spelling “pron” correctly on this blog any more, not even when I use it jokingly to refer to writer pron or whatever.

See, WordPress’s Jet Pack plugin allows me to see the search terms that Googlers use to find my blog, and many of them are searching for child pron. What fucking moron types “little girl pron” (spelled correctly, mind you) into a Google search box?

Unfortunately, I can’t do anything to report these people (I hope Google can) but I can at least change my site so that search engines will (eventually) stop sending them here, where I occasionally talk about my son. So I’ve spent the last hour searching my blog and deliberately misspelling That Word, even when it appears in fiction samples. The only place I haven’t changed it is in URLs inside links, but I may scrub those, too, eventually.

[Update: per advice from Twitter, the URL links are gone, too. I had to drop two old posts into the trash until (if) I can work out a way to reinstate them with permanent short link/redirects.)

Amazon news that might actually be true

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New reports suggest that Amazon is considering launching an Oyster-like “Kindle Unlimited” service that would allow readers, for $9.99 a month, unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of titles.

The really exciting thing about this for Amazon fans is that it appears that they’ll include audiobooks, too. That’s pretty cool.

This is something I’d be very interested in, depending on the contract terms. A Kindle Unlimited program would be a great way to introduce readers to my work; the real issue is how often those readers would venture outside the program for their books.

Is Amazon really in talks to buy Simon & Schuster?

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That would be crazy if it’s true. Of course it’s also, possibly, a misreading of this article: Amazon in talks with Simon & Schuster: Moonves

Still, I’m not sure why Amazon would want S&S. What does the publisher have that Amazon doesn’t? A bigger share of their author’s revenue? I suspect a great many S&S authors would rather jump ship than go over to Amazon, if only so their books would still be available in many different stores.

In other words, I’m really, REALLY doubtful that this story is accurate.

Great books for cheap (Humble Bundle)

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There are a bunch of (DRM-free, multi-format) sf/f ebooks available right now (for maybe another week) through the latest Humble Bundle. What’s more, as per other Humble Bundles in the past, more books will be added as the timer counts down.

This “bundle” benefits the SFWA medical emergency fund and First Book, a program that puts new books in schools full of underprivileged kids, because god forbid we should ever fund education properly.

Check it out. Even if you are only interested in half the books, you’d be getting a good deal and helping worthy causes.

Now you can listen to my son’s music

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My son put his music on Soundcloud, which is apparently a place where people can post their music for free, where you can listen for free. If you’re the sort of person who goes for electronic music in general or dubstep in particular, give it a listen. He recommends people start with the song “Cavernous” although I think that one, while it has a strong drop, isn’t as strong as some of the music he hasn’t uploaded. It certainly has an unpromising start, IMO, but it’s his music.

And lest we forget, he’s 12. so please don’t be rude about the work he’s doing.

Randomness for 7/8

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1) How to save a rusty ruined cast iron skillet.

2) Dad photoshops young daughter into sf/f movies.

3) Insights from a real sword fight.

4) Authors dress up as their favorite characters.

5) “There are older and fouler things than Orcs in the deep places of the world.” Frankly, I say this fossil isn’t scary enough for the name.

6) Ten ridiculous Kickstarter campaigns people actually supported

7) Conversation with Twitter bots draws in Bank of America. #lol

Regarding petitions and joining teams.

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I’ve been mostly offline this week for my birthday stuff and to prep the release of my new book, so I’ve missed most everything going on lately. I even missed the pro-Amazon petition that’s been making the rounds.

Other authors stepped in though:

John Scalzi on treating publishing as a business:Amazon, Hachette, Publishing, Etc — It’s Not a Football Game, People

Chuck Wendig picks through the absurdities of the petition itself: THE PETITION TO PAINT AMAZON AS UNDERDOG

Fellow Team Caitlin author puts some numbers to the cost of publishing his books, self-published and not: The Cost of a Good Book

The petition itself is not Hugh Howey’s work, but he’s part of the group of authors who created it, and since he’s got such a high profile, people are attributing it to him.

That’s a little unfair, but the guy has made himself the public face of pro-Amazon partisanship, so it’s not exactly surprising. He turns up in the comments of Chuck’s piece, too, arguing his piece and explaining that his support of Amazon is provisional on their good behavior.

Sadly, he still hasn’t learned that publishers compete with each other. He claims they’re a cartel because they don’t compete on the royalty rates they offer writers, completely missing the fact that they compete on the advance they offer and the rights they take. This has been explained to him before, but it doesn’t do any good. If they don’t compete on royalties, he doesn’t believe their competing. It’s ridiculous, but you can’t force a person to understand.

Personally, I think Scalzi’s post comes closest to the point of the petition: It’s the creation of a team sport mentality to rally a fan base. I’m not even sure it’s something they do consciously, but there’s a positive feedback loop to crying “Revolution!” and “We have to stick together against the enemy!”

There’s no other point to urging others to support a corporation that sees you as an ATM. If boycotting Amazon means that readers will not be able to buy some authors’ work, those authors ought to be diversifying their business.

Look, I’m not against Amazon. Just yesterday I put a new book (with Twenty Palaces fiction inside) up for sale on their site! But it’s also with Barnes & Noble, and soon other places, too. I skip KDP Select because I don’t need Amazon’s basket for all my eggs.

Also, skipping Select means that Amazon takes a 65% commission on all sales, no matter what the price, in certain territories like Mexico and Japan. I don’t want to pay them so much, so I don’t let them sell in those countries. Readers there can still find my work in iBooks or on the Nook.

Have I mentioned that I worked there for a while? I did, in the warehouse “fulfillment center” way back before they opened a bunch of them all over the country. I liked (most of) the people, but didn’t stick around. There were just too many people who were GungHoOurCompanyWeMustBandTogetherToConquerAll! (One of the supervisors told us that Christmas was going to be a “war” around there, and we should be ready to put our personal lives on hold. At Christmas. For a corporation. I shit you not.)

And now I find the same attitude from people who don’t even work there.

Last week, I got into a Twitter conversation about whether Howey is “pro-writer.” The other person thought so (I’m sure Howey feels the same way) but to me he’s always pro-Amazon. The way he talks, you’d think writers’ and Amazon’s interests were so close together you couldn’t slip a piece of paper between them.

They’re not. Obviously. And I don’t mean “they might diverge at some point in the future.” They’re different right this very second, and no pro-corporate boosterism is going to change that fact. It might spread around the web like a meme and motivate fans to buy books, but it’s not healthy in the long run.

On an unrelated note, this is totally my latest earworm.

Terrible Indie Author Advice

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On 6/22, I blogged about a terrible piece of advice an indie author offered, which was to harass readers who leave negative reviews until they’re deleted. Seriously awful.

Well, the link to the original post now takes you to a 404 page, because the blogger has wisely taken it down. However, on the same day I wrote that post, he offered *new* advice, recommending that authors spam Twitter hashtags with pregenerated tweets scheduled at ten minute intervals to promote their books. When people tell him that’s not cool, he plays a clip from Spinal Tap: (“Lick my love pump”). Classy.

The best marketing advice is this: Write a book that people love so much that they tell all their friends about it. Not attacking reviewers, not highjacking TV show hashtags, not advising other writers to do these things. Write books people want to evangelize for. It’s not a guarantee of success (there’s no such thing), but it’s honestly the best thing you can do.

“Seriously: this is epic fantasy unlike anything I’ve ever read.”

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So, the hunt for blurbs for The Great Way is going pretty well. Author C.E. Murphy has even written a preview review (Hey, I should trademark that) that is really positive and spoiler-free. I could probably grab a couple of nice blurbs out of there. Even nicer is that she wrote this on the day after the last book in her Walker Papers series came out. Seriously, I turn into a narcissistic maniac when my books are released, so I’m incredibly grateful that she took the time.

This also makes me hopeful that these books won’t pass through the market like shit through a goose, and you know what I think about hope.