A look at what's coming and what is already here.
In the publishing world, things are constantly changing. What was relevant yesterday is no longer relevant today. What worked to sell books just one month ago has now become obsolete. Marketing to the masses is now problematic, even with social media, because everyone is struggling to be seen and the cost of ads is on the rise. Where once an author could spend 20-30% on ads, now that price has increased closer to 50%. Example: Spend $100 daily to make $200, netting $100 profit. Not to mention, readers are complaining that their feeds are full of sponsored ads and have begun hiding the ads or staying off SM altogether.
In today's market, not only are there more authors than ever before, there is the invention of AI, with those who feel it's a good idea to have AI write their books for them. I won't get into the negative, shady side of that. I'm sure you've already heard/read about it ad nauseam. Needless to say, the addition of AI has become a serious issue. Scammers are gaining the top spots in categories on retail sites, making it even harder for legitimate authors to compete to be seen.
This also has made it difficult for authors to remain in the Kindle Unlimited program since many of these AI scammers have entered their books as a means to a high payout. What they are actually doing is causing a drop in the rate per page read. I'll explain more in a second, but let me briefly stress the scam issue. One particularly sketchy character has stated that he intends to produce 10,000 AI books this year to add to the program. Most AI books are poorly constructed and copy their writing styles or phrases from legitimate authors without express consent. That's stealing for those living in the gray areas. Also, most computer-generated books are poorly written because they are a mash-up of styles. This crap hurts legitimate authors, folks. Those of us trying to write the best books possible and earn a living are being hit hard. Sledgehammer hard.
Now let's talk about the problems this causes for authors…
Authors know they will earn less per book when they enter the Kindle Unlimited program. That's a given. Their goal is to reach more readers and have more of their books read than they would have if they were to try to market and sell their book outright.
However, that landscape is quickly changing, too. Authors can't reach readers as easily because Amazon reconfigured their categories a few months ago. This lumped a lot of authors under one umbrella, not allowing them to break out into smaller categories to be seen or to rank. Remember, only the top 100 books in a category are seen. So if a trending author has 25 books in a single category and is a NY Times bestseller with hundreds of thousands of followers, their books will always have those top rankings. The other authors must fight for the remaining 75 spots through marketing or social media pushes. Also, remember what I said about those AI scammers? They are creating programs to read their pages because KU authors get a higher ranking than others.
To put it into perspective, one of my most popular books was always in the top 15 of my chosen category. Since that category was deleted, I now rank around 116 in a generic category. Readers no longer see my popular book unless they specifically search for it. So, the idea of putting our books in the KU program to gain more readers is now a wash.
Let's break it down further…
Last year, authors were paid roughly .0044 per page read through the Kindle Unlimited program, they are now making .0038 ppr. How does that break down? Well, if an author produces a book that is 350 KENP pages, they now earn $1.33 where previously, they earned $1.54. That same book, priced at $4.99, would earn $3.49 per sale outside of the Kindle Unlimited program. However, Amazon requires authors to be exclusive to their retail site, not allowing us to sell our books or earn more from retailers like Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, or Google, to name a few. Nor can we sell our books directly from our own websites.
Now, $1.33 might not sound bad to some of you, but I'm about to rain on that parade.
The average cover art for most authors these days runs about $400+ per book. That price usually includes branding or matching the style of the other books in a series, allows for some minor tweaks to the design, and it provides the cover files for an ebook, audiobook, paperback, and perhaps a title page.
Then, there is the cost of a professional edit. Line edits are usually .01-.02 per word. A 65,000-word book usually costs me $1,170. So, I'm already on the hook for $1590 going into the publication of a book. I need to sell at least 456 books to break even or have 1,196 people read that book on the first day through the KU program. (Or a mix of the two.)
That's not always easy to do. But now you understand why authors push preorders so hard. We want to know the income will be there for the book we intend to publish. And it isn't always. Some who are more optimistic will continue a series regardless of preorder and release sales, knowing in their heart of hearts that once readers discover those books, the series will take off—hahaha! Sorry, that was a sad little laugh on my part. As one of those adorably optimistic authors, I just wrote the 4th book in a series that has totally tanked from day one. Yes, the few hundred people who have read the series say it's my best ever, but sometimes, no matter what you do or how hard you market, the bulk of your readers aren't interested in stories outside a chosen genre.
Realistic authors will give a series two books, at most three, then call it quits if they don't sell. They won't continue a series that is going nowhere or that doesn't have the sales numbers behind it. If the ROI (return on investment) isn't there, they cut their losses, unlike some of us. (Cough, cough, T.M., cough, cough.) Readers get upset when a series isn't finished, so they wait to buy all the books at once the next time. But again, if the first books don't sell... This creates a vicious cycle, doesn't it?
Again, that's why it's essential to preorder or buy books in a series you want to read as soon as they are released (even if you plan to hold on to them to binge all at once), so the author will continue with it. If they think there is no interest, they will abandon the project.
If all that isn't enough, the Zon holds off for two months to pay authors, waiting until book returns are settled to take it out of author profits before cutting a check for the difference. Those of you who buy a book, read it, and return it to buy the next in the series, thanks for that. Nothing like taking it up the butt with no lube, am I right? Some other retailers pay faster and don't allow the massive amount of ebook returns, but still, those gaming the system hurt others.
I'm trying to make the point that if you see an author changing up their game plan, it isn't to screw you. It isn't that they don't understand your financial struggles when they have to charge a specific price for a book. It isn't that they want to remove their books from the subscription program that allows you to read unlimited books at one low monthly cost. It's simply so that they can earn a living, pay their mortgage, and still provide you with the best books possible for your reading entertainment.
What are our options…?
Many authors have decided to sell direct.
Starting October 1st (and this is hoping the sun is still shining and the creek doesn't rise), I'll have an e-commerce shop in place for readers to buy my books directly from me. As my books cycle out of the KU program, they will be sold on my website. And yes, my books will still be available to purchase on all other retail sites, including Amazon (but not to borrow through the Kindle Unlimited program). I will also have my books available to borrow through the Kobo Plus subscription program because Kobo doesn't demand exclusivity from authors. We can sell our books wherever the hell we want to. Yay, Kobo, for being awesome and not trying to hold the monopoly on ebooks!
You can buy ebook and paperback bundles through my site at a discounted rate. There will be gift card options for readers to suggest as presents from their family or friends and coupon codes to enter at checkout.
By selling directly, I don't pay commissions to anyone else, and I can offer discounts on books. Win-win, right? I think so. Fingers crossed this works well, or you may see me as a greeter at your favorite superstore.
So don't be afraid of the changes coming. This might be a good thing.
Frequently asked questions:
Can I still read this on my particular device (Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc)?
Yes. The file will be formatted as ePub, making it work for all those devices.
How do I get my book when I order it?
Ebooks and audiobooks will be distributed through Bookfunnel within seconds of ordering them. Once the money is subtracted from your account, the payment center tells Bookfunnel to email you the chosen product in the format you've purchased. You'll receive an email with the download link. But please don't share it, because there is only one usable link per purchase. If you give it to someone else to download, you're going to be out of luck. 🙂
Paperbacks will be printed on demand. You order the book, and the payment center subtracts the funds from your account and electronically notifies the printer. Then, the book is queued to print and ship directly to you from the printer. Just like online retail sites, I never touch the product.
Autographed paperbacks, when available, will be shipped directly from my office with a personalized dedication. These books will not be discounted beyond the bundle price. The profit margin is low when they are printed and shipped to me.
Can I still preorder a book?
Yes. Please do! Preorders will be deducted from your account immediately upon placing an order; however, you won't receive a file until the book is published. I aim to release preordered books on my website two weeks before retail sites as a thank-you to those ordering directly from me.
There should be an option to preorder paperbacks in the future.
What if I can't download the file?
Bookfunnel has a wonderful support center that can help you immediately. Please note you will need to contact them directly with any download issues. Once an author uploads a book to their site for distribution, it's not a technical issue the author can handle for you. However, if you cannot resolve a problem through them, I'm happy to have my assistant step in.
Will you bundle books and provide a discount?
Yes, for all formats: ebook, audiobook (if available), and paperbacks.
How do I redeem coupon codes?
At checkout, there will be an option to apply the code directly under the products in your cart. You should immediately see the discount once you click that APPLY button.
What denomination of gift cards will you offer?
Gift cards will start at $5 and go up from there. The consumer will have the option to select the amount to purchase. They will be available for all products sold directly from the author's website.
What if I can't afford to buy your books?
There are many ways to finance your reading habit, my friend.
- Tell your friends and family you prefer gift cards from my website.
- Join your local library and request they order my books.
- Watch for quarterly, holiday, Black Friday, or Cyber Monday sales.
- Use the PAY LATER option at checkout.
- Talk your wealthy friends into buying the paperback and loaning it to you.
I hope this helps by giving you insight into the publishing world, for today anyway. Please leave a comment and let me know how excited you are by this new way to buy books. Also, feel free to leave a question, and I'll be happy to answer as soon I'm able.
Love & Lemon Drops,