Wherefore art thou Amazon?

A few years ago there was a wonderbra ad where a woman in a wonderbra (duh!) looked over the balcony as she said oh so confusedly, “Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” (she couldn’t see him over her wonderbra inflated bust).

This led to a lot of people confusing the meaning of “wherefore”.

For the purpose of clarity, and please ignore me if you already know this, wherefore actually means “why” not “where”. When Juliet said those famous lines she was asking Romeo why he was a Montague – the arch enemy of her family, the Capulets.

Back to the intended topic of this post.

Today I have decided to get out of my head and talk about Amazon and the current changes that have royally fucked shit up for a number of authors. I’m not standing on a balcony with my perfect set of C cups, but rather sitting on the couch in sweats,  typing this post and asking what the hell?!?

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Amazon currently owns a 70-80% share of the e-book market. It’s fair to say that they are a monopoly in this industry and rightly so. They created a system that was beneficial to authors and readers and helped launch many independent authors’ careers. Amazon took away the gatekeepers of the traditional publishing industry (at a faster rate than their counterparts) and allowed authors to upload books on their platform which catered to niches and demographics that the trade pubs would never have given a chance because of their perceived “marketability”.

When I started publishing it was under the era of what authors refer to as KU2. This is the second version of the Kindle Unlimited program where authors get paid $0.0045- $0.0049 for each page that is read. From the start of September, some authors have been reporting (and continue to do so in various forums and groups) that their page reads have dropped precipitously, and the current reportings are significantly less when compared to what historical data states they should be earning on new releases and promos.

I personally saw page reads drop by 80% in August. As a relatively new author, I thought that I’d saturated my reading market or fallen off the Hot New Release lists which had reduced visibility. However, when I ran a set of promotions mid-September the numbers from Amazon were not matching up to what I had come to expect and what other (more experienced) authors I had partnered with were expecting.

At the time, I shelved it off to bad timing and a glitch in the system, but this “problem” is still ongoing and to add insult to injury, a feature called “page flip” – which cannot be unenabled by the author – in the updated and new kindles does not count the pages read by design.

What this means is that someone using the page flip feature can technically read an entire book and it will only record 1 page read and the author will only earn a payout of $0.0045 from that reader.

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The revelation has left a sour taste in many authors mouths as KU has been known to cannibalise sales.

Technically, you’re screwed on both sides as you rarely sell a book that someone has already read.

Some authors have pulled out of the KU program

Some authors write full time and are exclusive to Amazon. Book sales are their bread and butter, so seeing a 30-90% drop in earnings has hurt – a lot.

Some authors are releasing per their schedule and testing the waters.

Some authors are releasing new books, but not enrolling them in KU.

Others, like myself, have decided to hold off on new releases until this “problem” is fixed or we hear an official explanation from Amazon. At the moment Amazon states that everything is fine, but they have lawyered up and are allowing authors out of the KU program before their term is up. Essentially, this means that they are allowing authors to break their contract which has raised the question of why if everything is fine.

Personally, when I caught wind of this I decided to hold off on releasing 7 MINUTES until I could determine whether this reduced page read count is a permanent fixture or a bug that Amazon will sort out.

I apologise to all the readers who were expecting the release of the new book in September. I am currently keeping my finger on the pulse of this issue this month and you can read the reports of other authors here. I will also release the first 6 chapters of the book (free to read) the following week.

In the meantime, I am weighing up what kind of impact KU has on my reader base and hope that you will indulge me for 2 minutes by filling out the survey below.

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