Saturday, August 15, 2015

Konrath Kindle Unlimited Numbers

I might be pretty good barometer for this experiment, because I have a large backlist, I haven't released anything new in over a year, and I didn't do any BookBubs or other promo in June or July (May was the last one I did.)

So the only real difference between my numbers in June and my numbers in July is the new KU 2.0 payout system. I'd already shared some thoughts about it last month.


Let's take a look how I did.


I have 28 novel-length works in KDP, all over 60k words. I have 17 shorter works, ranging from 8k-50k. Genres include mystery, thriller, horror, humor, erotica, and sci-fi.


In June, I made $9300 in KDP sales.


In July I made $10,550 in KDP sales.


In June, I made $5700 in KU/KOLL borrows.


In July, I made $11,600 in KENP reads.


So my KU income doubled under the new payment system. I have no idea what to attribute the extra twelve hundred in sales to, but it's pretty clear that KU 2.0 benefits me.


Under the old system, I earned as much for With A Twist, which is 23 pages, as I did for The List, which is 310 pages. That number was $1.35. To earn it, a reader had to read 10%. So they had to stick with The List for at least 31 pages, and With A Twist for 2 pages.


I didn't complain about this system. Nor did I exploit it. I thought about breaking my novels into chapbooks, and writing shorter work, but I was doing other things and never go around to it. Many of my peers, however, were taking advantage of this system by writing a lot of short work.


Good for them. Make hay while the sun shines.


Under the new system, estimating $.005779 per page read, a full read of With A Twist earned me $0.16, and a full read of The List earned me $1.79.


I wrote With A Twist for Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, years ago. I believe I was paid $450 for it, and EQMM was one of the highest paying markets for mystery shorts.


With a Twist had 45 borrows in June, earning me about $60. It also had 50 sales in June, at $0.99, earning me about $17.50.


The List had 161 borrows in June, earning me $211. It also had 87 sales in June, at $3.99, earning me about $221.


I have a few thoughts about this.


First, I wonder why I didn't pay more attention to KU 1.0 while it was in full effect, because I should have written a ton of short stories. The short story market prior to Kindle was dismal. Getting into a top market was very hard. There was a lot of competition. Most markets paid $0.05 a word, so With A Twist was worth about $300, and I was lucky EQMM paid more. But the fact that I was making $60 a month on a short story is insane. Never before, in the history of publishing, have short stories been worth so much. I was fortunate enough to get that story into one of the top paying markets in the world, and I made $450. Under KU 1.0 I was on track to make $720 a year on that same story, just in borrows.


Second, even though short stories were finally lucrative, thanks to Amazon, my readers still seem to prefer longer work. With a Twist is a Jack Daniels short. Cherry Bomb, my weakest selling JD novel, had 313 borrows in June, and 179 sales. This is true for all of my shorts and novels; the novels had more sales and more borrows. Anyone who needs more proof of this, look at the thousands of reviews I've had for novels. whereas my shorts are lucky to garner a few dozen.


Third, readers really seem to like KU. I was getting more borrows than sales.


Fourth, even though readers did more borrowing than buying, I was earning almost twice as much via sales than borrows.


Maybe this is why I didn't pay a lot of attention. I saw the numbers, saw that sales were still financially superior to borrows, and decided not to worry about borrows.


Now, there's no doubt KU was cannibalizing sales, but I wasn't complaining. I was in KDP Select, but it wasn't my only source of income. So I didn't worry about it, nor did I take advantage of it. It was what it was.


Then along comes KU 2.0.


With a Twist had 2200 KENP reads in July, earning me about $12. It also had 82 sales in July, at $0.99, earning me about $27.00.


The List had 59,411 KENP reads in July, earning me $343. It also had 105 sales in July, at $3.99, earning me about $255.


While it is impossible to figure out how many readers read all of The List without Amazon releasing how many downloads there were (and I'm continuing to press Amazon to release this info), we can do some quick and dirty math.

59411 pages reads divided by 310 pages (the length of The List) equates to 191 borrows, assuming everyone read the whole book. I think this number is pretty worthless for a few reasons. First, there must have been people who didn't read it all. Maybe they started it in June and it carried over. Maybe they borrowed it at the end of July and didn't get very far into it. Maybe they hated it and stopped.


But comparing the 161 borrows from June, 191 in July sounds somewhat realistic.


Under the same math, With A Twist looked like it had 95 borrows in July, vs. 50 in June. That seems a little odd. But I'm not a math person, I'm not good at interpreting data, and I don't even know if there is anything here to interpret, other than the bottom line of how much I made.


Cherry Bomb had 148,000 reads, and 226 sales. So in June I made $422 in KU on that title, and in July I made $855.


My assessment:


Under KU 1.0, Amazon was rewarding writers for enrolling in KDP Select. Amazon wanted as many titles as possible, to build their Kindle Unlimited catalog. Shorts are easier and faster to write than novels, so Amazon rewarded short stories by paying authors much higher for shorter works, way out of proportion with novels and with the paper short story market, in order to get more titles into KU so it appealed to more subscribers.


Under KU 2.0, Amazon is rewarding writers for being good writers. Amazon wants writers to hook readers for longer than 10% of the ebook. Amazon wants good, meaty novels, which my numbers point to readers liking more than shorts.


My takeaway:


Under KU 1.0, I should have written a hundred short stories and made a fortune. Amazon was paying ten times more per word for shorts than they paid for novels. There was no incentive to write well, or to engage readers. The main incentive was to put out a lot of shorts and hook the reader for 10% of the length of the story.


Under KU 2.0, I'm continuing to do what all professional fiction writers have done throughout history; write novels. It's what readers want. With the rare exceptions of a few authors, no one made a living selling shorts. There was a brief moment, during KU 1.0, where shorts were valuable. Their market value has now dropped. Novels are going to earn writers more money. But they have to be good novels.


That said, shorts are still worth more than they were in the legacy paper world. I got $0.075 cents per word writing for EQMM. I got $0.5 cents a word for writing Whiskey Sour. In other words, as a professional mystery writer, I made about seven cents a word selling to a top short story market, and fifty cents a word selling to a top mystery novel market.


Under KU 2.0, I make the same per word/per page whether I write mysteries, or novels. And I like that a lot.


My conclusions:


1. My readers seem to prefer KU borrows over buying. This ties into my belief that subscription services will one day rule the world.


2. My readers prefer my novels over short stories.


3. Amazon is now rewarding authors for writing well. If you can hook a reader, and sustain that reader, you'll be rewarded financially for as long as you can keep their attention.


My predictions:


1. The scamming will stop. KU 2.0 won't allow anyone to get paid $1.35 for slapping together a 5 page How To ebook lifted from Wikipedia.


2. Short story reads will go down. I have a feeling that under KU 1.0, a lot of the shorts that were read to 10% weren't read completely. Kindle Unlimited is an all you can eat buffet. If you pick up a slice of pizza, and it isn't good, you don't finish it. You take one bite and move on.


I also believe a lot of readers didn't know they were borrowing a short story in the first place. A good cover, and a good blurb, made them download it without knowing the length. Why should they care about length when everything is all inclusive? Readers borrowing a lot of your shorts doesn't prove that readers prefer shorts. But if I'm wrong, and readers truly do prefer shorts over novels, then they'll be downloading more shorts than novels, and novel-length works shouldn't effect your bottom line much. After all, a novel may have more pages, but your readers will be downloading more shorts than novels to make up for that because they can read them quicker.


3. Some writers are going to leave KDP Select because they don't like KU 2.0. This is good. It helps competition, and will encourage Amazon to offer bigger incentives to get them back, so everyone benefits. The scammers who leave will mean a better KU experience for readers.


4. All writers are going to have to up their game and improve. This is good for everyone. A great cover and a smart blurb isn't enough. If we want to thrive in KU 2.0, we need to write great books that readers not only want to borrow, but that they also want to finish.


Never before have writers been so directly rewarded for writing well.


5. Kindle Unlimited, and ebook subscription services in general, are the future. Some writers may feel Amazon is punishing authors with KU. I don't think that could be farther from the truth.


Amazon is giving readers what they want. And Amazon continues to incentivize authors. We're getting the carrot, not the stick.


If you were killing it with KU 1.0, congrats. I hope you made money. Now move on. Common sense has to tell you that the more words you write, the more you should be paid, and that the longer that readers enjoy your writing, the more you should be paid.


That's what KU 2.0 is all about. And if you don't like it, remember that it's optional. You can leave anytime.


But subscriptions are here to stay. Roll with it.

135 comments:

William Ockham said...

I am not convinced that any other subscription service has a business model that works. KU works because it is a customer engagement tool for Amazon. They can afford to break even or even lose a little money on it. They want readers to consume as many stories as possible. Every other ebook subscription service depends on many readers wasting their money. The shape of the ebook consumption curve makes that nearly impossible.

Joe Konrath said...

Every other ebook subscription service depends on many readers wasting their money.

That's only true if the artist is compensated well.

Spotify screws artists. Therefore, it works as a business model.

William Ockham said...

Joe,

I don't think the Spotify model works for ebooks. Everyone except Amazon has to play ball with legacy publishing. Legacy publishing can't afford to get pennies from reads because of the "big sellers get big advance" makes that unattractive.

The Hostess with the Mostest said...

Of course since I'm in something called Ebooks Are Forever, I can't experiment with KU. Not complaining. I think EAF is going to be great.

David Beers said...

Spotify doesn't screw artists. Record labels screw artists by signing them to shitty deals on streams. It's a similar model to the publishing industry. Hate the labels, not Spotify.

Mark Asher said...

I think subscription services for ebooks will end up winning. I don't feel the same kind of ownership of an ebook as I do of a physical book, so if I'm in on ebooks, I might as well rent 'em.

That said, I've lately been gravitating back to physical books for a lot of my reading. I seem to enjoy it more. I also enjoy patronizing the local indie bookstore. The whole experience, from buying to reading, is different and a bit more satisfying.

The Behrg said...

Joe - Thanks for sharing openly the math. Not a lot of people willing to be so open about what they're making, how many books are being downloaded, etc.

gniz said...

Joe, you're right. You should have been writing shorts while the market was hot. I made a lot of money doing it--maybe a decade's worth depending on your viewpoint.

But your comment that they're only using the carrot is flat out incorrect.

The carrot is everything you touted in your blog post.

The stick is if you aren't in KU, or drop out of KU. Your rankings are much lower, your "stickiness" in the rankings is much worse.
Generally, your visibility outside the KU ecosystem is much worse in the amazon store. How this is not "the stick" continues to elude me, but perhaps you'll explain.

And don't give me the whole "it's their store, they can do what they want" dodge. Answer the question. Is a rankings hit to your book the stick, or isn't it?

gniz said...

Also Joe, any opinion on what's being claimed about Amazon's corporate culture by the NYT?

Seems to be slightly at odds with how you've described the vibe there....

David Lang said...

@gniz

do you have any evidence of them "punishing you' for not being in KU?

can you point at two books, one in KU, one not with the same buys+borrows that behave differently in the rankings?

as I see it, what you are arguing is like saying that if you stop selling paperbacks through Amazon (only selling hardcovers) your rankings suffer and Amazon is 'punishing you' for not selling paperbacks when what's really happening is that you are just selling less and the rankings reflect your sales, without caring about the format.

gniz said...

"@gniz

do you have any evidence of them "punishing you' for not being in KU?

can you point at two books, one in KU, one not with the same buys+borrows that behave differently in the rankings?"

What I'm saying is that I had an entire series in KU that was very high performing and highly ranked. THE DAY I withdrew from KU my ranking on those books dropped by like 200 percent. Within a few days, I was probably down a thousand percent. It wasn't anything subtle.

PS You can't get buys and borrows outside of KU. The borrows are the extra visibility. It's a perfect system. Unlike your paperback example, being in KU requires EXCLUSIVITY. It's not just a format to play in, I have to GIVE SOMETHING UP to play there.

And if I don't want to, I lose lots of visibility. It's totally within Amazon's rights to make it that way. But to say it's not a carrot and stick approach is a bit on the ridiculous side to me. I've chomped on the carrots and been smacked by the stick.

And now you're going to tell me the stick aint real? Sorry, I didn't just fall off the turnip truck yesterday...

gniz said...

Also, I know exactly why my rankings dropped.

I had less borrows, therefore my units moved was cut in HALF. Borrows were about half of my units moved per day and a borrow counts equal to a sale in rankings.

Amazon punishes rankings declines and sales volume declines. So I got hit with the one-two punch of a steep decline, which Amazon then takes as evidence that folks don't love your book anymore. And then it starts internally recommending your book less, yada yada.

It's all algo's. None of it is black magic spooky stuff. It's a great system and it works for Amazon. Carrot and stick.

David Lang said...

just basing your ratings on the number of units moved isn't punishing you for not being in KU, it's just reflecting how much Amazon customers want you. It also shows that KU isn't cannibalizing your sales or your sales would have jumped drastically when you pulled out of KU.

It's a perfect parallel to the example I gave of deciding not to sell paperbacks any longer.

or another way of viewing it. If you changed your sales to no longer sell to half the US states and your sales volume dropped, would you be complaining about how Amazon is punishing you for not selling across the entire country?

gniz said...

"If you changed your sales to no longer sell to half the US states and your sales volume dropped, would you be complaining about how Amazon is punishing you for not selling across the entire country?"

You're entirely misstating the way KU works, though. In order to gain access to that channel, I need to REMOVE myself from all the other channels besides Amazon.

So it's not anything like selling paperback or choosing not to sell my paperback. Selling my paperback doesn't EXCLUDE me from using other channels. When I opt into KU, I automatically self-exclude from all those other channels.

I then have to accept KUs terms of payment, their page reads program, etc. I can't get the visibility and the borrows and the rankings without KU, but KU exacts a price for access to that channel.

Again. Carrot, and stick. It's very simple. Why do you have so much trouble with this concept?

Patrice Fitzgerald said...

Thanks, Joe, for your transparency here. Amazon is a constantly moving target. I had a new series of shorts that did gangbusters in June (under a pseudonym -- the stories were slightly sexy) and has of course done far less well since KU2.

One of the challenges is whether or not to chase the latest high-earning strategy. You could move everything over just in time to have your advantage disappear.

Joe Konrath said...

Everyone except Amazon has to play ball with legacy publishing.

Amazon does play ball with legacy. That's why Hachette has the Agency Model.

But legacy doesn't play in KU. Yet.

They will.

Joe Konrath said...

Of course since I'm in something called Ebooks Are Forever

I am too. I'm also in KDP Select. Amazon is aware of EAF, and they haven't shown that they care.

Joe Konrath said...

Record labels screw artists

Yes they do. According to my pro musician friends, who are indie, so does Spotify.

Joe Konrath said...

The stick is if you aren't in KU, or drop out of KU.

That's not a stick.

Carrot and stick is a donkey. They pull the cart and get the carrot. They don't, and they get beaten.

Amazon doesn't beat you for not participating. "Not rewarding" doesn't equal "punishing".

Joe Konrath said...

Also Joe, any opinion on what's being claimed about Amazon's corporate culture by the NYT?

I read the piece with a high level of amusement.

I've been interviewed by journalists, including the NYT. I know how it works. They cherry pick quotes to fit their agenda.

Here's Amazon corporate culture in a nutshell: If you want to work there, you have to be among the best and the brightest and you'll work your ass off.

Since when did that become bad?

If you don't like Amazon, don't work there. We aren't talking corporate stores where workers have no choice. Amazon pays you to move to Seattle. They give you signing bonuses. They give you stock. And they want you to bust your ass.

I don't see a problem.

I do see a problem with the NYT running hit pieces like this and pretending it is deep investigative journalism. That's indicative of a deep problem with media in our society.

Joe Konrath said...

I have to GIVE SOMETHING UP to play there.

Welcome to the wonderful world of publishing. Ask your wife about it. She'll tell you how swell it is.

Joe Konrath said...

Selling my paperback doesn't EXCLUDE me from using other channels.

Uh, my paperbacks, the ones pubbed by Thomas & Mercer and the ones I self-pub through Createspace, are excluded from other channels. Bookstores refuse to carry them.

That's the price I pay for working with Amazon. I know it, and accept it as the price of doing business.

You really think you can work with companies and not excpect any sort of toll to pay?

gniz said...

"You really think you can work with companies and not excpect any sort of toll to pay?"

And I never said only Amazon uses the carrot and stick...

YOU said they don't use the stick.

I say they did.

Then you change it to, "well everyone does that."

So????

Joe Konrath said...

Exclusion isn't a stick. Voluntarily opting out isn't punishment.

Every business dealing has a cost.

These are two diferent concepts. You're conflating them.

Alan Spade said...

"1. My readers seem to prefer KU borrows over buying. This ties into my belief that subscription services will one day rule the world."

I think that shows that most of your readers are hardcore readers who don't hesitate to subscribe to a subscription service. If you think about it, most of indie readers are hardcore readers.

Why? Because indie authors aren't mainstream. We cannot have ads on TV or in the NYT. Our prime target is book lovers.

I heard that there was 1,1 million subscribers to KU. Do you think it represents the majority of readers? I don't think so. It could be argued, though, that these 1,1 million read more than all the others.

"5. Kindle Unlimited, and ebook subscription services in general, are the future."

A huuuge assumption. Now is the time of windfall for the authors in KU. But there are two effects that will contibute in lessening the money for KU authors:

- more authors in KU (and your post will contribute to that) means the shares of the pie will slim down
- more subscribers, and more page reads, also means the shares of the pie will slim down

No other platform than Amazon will be able to support the heavy losses of a subscription service like KU: other subscription services will therefore, from the start, pay the authors a lot less. Why do you think that competitors like Kobo don't do it? Either they will not gain enough authors for the subscription service to be worth it, or they will lose tremendous amounts of money in order to lure the authors to this service (that's what Amazon is currently doing).

Alan Spade said...

"Exclusion isn't a stick. Voluntarily opting out isn't punishment."

As I said, the prime target of indie authors happen to be, for the most part, KU subscribers.

Maybe, as an author with no ebooks on KU, I don't feel punished. But I sure feel like a warrior who has a very tough time fighting for the little crumbs of visibility left.

Not punished. Just oppressed.

The Hostess with the Mostest said...

You're bigger guns than I am to Amazon.

G. M. Frazier said...

I have a total of 12 novels published and all are in KU. I have one novel that has "broken out," so to speak, and out sells all my others by a factor of 10 to 1. Here is what that book earned me for May and June of this year under KU 1.0:

May: $249.00
June: $693.34

And here is what it earned the first month of KU 2.0:

July: $1153.75

So far, I'm liking KU 2.0.

gniz said...

"Exclusion isn't a stick. Voluntarily opting out isn't punishment.

Every business dealing has a cost.

These are two diferent concepts. You're conflating them."

You say tomato...etc

I think you're engaging in spin, as am I, to be fair. We both have our own ways of looking at the situation. We keep coming up against the fact that we mostly agree on facts but disagree on the lens through which those facts should be viewed.

I don't have a problem with that. I just like playing devil's advocate. Lately in the indie community its a little too rah rah for my tastes...

Alan Tucker said...

@gniz

I hate to burst your bubble, but exclusivity isn't going away. If anything, Amazon will offer more reasons to be exclusive. A platform is a platform is a platform. The only thing differentiating KU from Scribd from Oyster is the content they offer. The same goes for streaming services in television and music. Even video game consoles entice users to their platform with exclusive content. Why else would Netflix, and now Amazon Prime, create original content? I can't imagine they are covering the costs of production from advertising revenue. Those shows are tools to bring in subscribers. Big Pub didn't agree to Amazon's payout model for KU, so Amazon leveraged its strength (the huge Indie community) to tout all the books you can't read anywhere else besides KU (in relation to subscription).

Scribd and Oyster can't sustain their business models over the long term. Paying the Big Pubs full sale price for borrows is a losing proposition. Eventually, they will run out of capital infusions and either Big Pub will agree to be paid less, or those services will disappear. We've already seen Scribd's cracks in its armor by reducing its romance offerings earlier this year.

Right now, authors have to weigh the benefits of exclusivity to Amazon against the benefits of being available everywhere. That's a business decision each author has to make on their own. Sure, it'd be great for Amazon to offer all the benefits of Select and KU to everyone, but what's their incentive to do so?

gniz said...

Alan, Please show me where I said Amazon was wrong for doing any of this.

All I did was take issue with Joe's assertion that Amazon only uses the carrot and not the stick.

None of my discussion had anything to do with whether or not it was good business or would continue, grow, or who else did it.

These are all things people are reading into my statements. My contention was extremely simple. Amazon does hit you with the stick as well as give you the carrot.

Alan Spade said...

"Sure, it'd be great for Amazon to offer all the benefits of Select and KU to everyone, but what's their incentive to do so?"

Because by keeping their competition alive, they would be forced to improve constantly. When all the market is yours, you don't need so much to fight for this market.

Indie authors should go to Amazon because it offers something valuable to them. Not because it's the only game in town.

Making a choice because you think there's no other choice usually don't lead to something healthy.

spajonas said...

Thanks for all the numbers! This is all great news for authors and I'm definitely going to go all-in to KDPS very soon. I would say, though, that I think number 2 is wrong in your predictions. Amazon has a very large short story market (including Kindle Singles) and even put those shorter works in their own categories by time (30 min read, 45 min read) so readers do know they're getting short stories. I don't think it's bait-and-switch. But maybe some authors will write less because they WERE taking advantage of the system. I'll continue to write them because they're fun :)

Joe Konrath said...

more authors in KU (and your post will contribute to that) means the shares of the pie will slim down

Amazon already has that covered. A fixed pie, or fixed payment, would mean the potential for slices to get smaller. Since Amazon can always pump more money into it, that isn't the case. That also covers more subscribers.

No other platform than Amazon will be able to support the heavy losses of a subscription service like KU

Amazon doesn't talk dollars, but the world was under the impression that Zon was losing heavily when the introduced the Kindle. I believe Amazon has made it profitable, and can do so with KU.

As for other subscription services, they'll exist as Spotify and Pandora do--by paying artists pennies.

Joe Konrath said...

I just like playing devil's advocate.

Keep at it. You're doing fine.

Joe Konrath said...

Because by keeping their competition alive, they would be forced to improve constantly.

Amazon doesn't strive to beat competition. Amazon strives to improve the customer experience. They'd do this even in the absence of competition. This is one of their core principles.

Good interview with Bezos here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/amazon/11800890/jeff-bozos-interview-amazon-prime-jeremy-clarkson.html

Alan Spade said...

"As for other subscription services, they'll exist as Spotify and Pandora do--by paying artists pennies."

At least, I do agree with that. But that means that Amazon, at one point, will also pay artists pennies. Because if Amazon doesn't, the other subscription services won't be able to compete with KU at all.

Nat Russo said...

Joe, I'm curious about the market for short fiction, given your comments. Is there any indication that anthologies of short stories sell well?

The reason I ask is that I've noticed the same thing with my short fiction. Even though it's set in a universe that readers seem to love, with one of their favorite characters, it just doesn't sell. Certainly not well enough for me to dedicate the time and effort it takes to polish a good short story.

But I'm tempted to keep writing short fiction on the side and bundle multiple stories together. Separating the art from the business for a moment, what does your business sense tell you about this? Good idea, or waste of time?

Cheers.

Joe Konrath said...

Is there any indication that anthologies of short stories sell well?

Not as well as novels.

Erotica may be an exception. Shorts tend to do well. Erotica can really exploit the micro-niche, and people seem willing to pay three of four bucks for only a few thousand words.

Alan Tucker said...

@Gniz,

My post was not meant as an attack. I was merely addressing your lament that Amazon asks for exclusivity for the benefits that Select and KU provide.

I'd love to see them drop exclusivity and give us all the same benefits, but I don't see that ever happening.

@Alan Spade (awesome name BTW!)

What business has ever done something expressly to help their competitors stay in the game? You might bring up Microsoft's investment in Apple several years ago, but that was a ploy to get Apple to better support Office and include the software as a bundle in new Mac purchases for a while. Again, I agree it would be amazing for us Indies to have the perks of Select and KU and still be able to sell on other platforms. I just can't come up with a reason for Amazon to do so.

Brian said...

My experiment with KDP Select indicated that it's not ideal if you only have one book out. I'm releasing my second novel soon, and I plan to re-enroll then.

Mackay Bell said...

Joe, I can't say how much I appreciate how free you are with your private sales information. Sharing these kinds of detailed numbers is so helpful to writers starting out. I truly suspect the self-publishing world wouldn't be as great a place as it is if it wasn't for your early and continuing leadership. Thanks!

Alan Spade said...

Bezos said (in the article of the Telegraph linked by Joe):

"We can work on things that don’t need to work for five, six, seven years…"

That's a wonderful thing when applied for research and development. Something big publishing proved unable to do. Not so much a wonderful thing when you use Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited as loss leaders.

And let's remember J. Bezos uses loss leaders when it's convenient for him to do so, not all the time for everything. Otherwise, he wouldn't be worth $47,8 billions.

Selena Kitt said...

If what you say is true, Joe - then a sin of omission isn't a lie. :/

There's active negative reinforcement (i.e. beating a donkey with a stick) and there's also passive negative reinforcement (i.e. the carrot he's working towards but never reaches).

They are actually BOTH negative reinforcement.

If Amazon removes specific benefits from everyone who doesn't choose to participate - it IS a punishment. Withdrawing a benefit is a punishment. Especially when that benefit is a baseline benefit that you've been getting all along. In other words, Amazon has made the playing field uneven for those in/out of KU. They're taking away visibility (cutting it in half).

And you can't even really call it a "benefit" - because they're not giving us something new. They're taking away something we previously had without KU.

KU is a stick, Joe. It's actually a very BIG stick.

I'm in Michigan - so this is the analogy that came into my mind. Say I work at Ford. Ford comes to their workers and says, hey, we're changing the way we do things around here in two weeks. Unless you agree to work a certain amount of overtime, we're going to cut your overall hours in half and you won't get any overtime at all.

Amazon is, in essence, saying you have to stay in/join KU 2.0 and become exclusive and get paid the limited amount of money they say you're going to get (and they can change that amount at any time...) OR you can go wide and don't have to be exclusive, but if you publish on their site, you will have your visibility cut in half and consequently earn less money.

And they couldn't DO this if they weren't, effectively, the only game in town. In the past two years - hell, just the past YEAR, the percentage brought in by other retailers has gone down by more than half. At some retailers it's decreased tenfold.

We can use all the analogies you want, but I'm going to call a spade a spade here. In the world of self-publishing, how Amazon runs KU amounts to little more than coercion and extortion.

(continued in pt 2 below ;) )

Selena Kitt said...

And yes, they have the right to do it. Because they CREATED the right to do it. By treating writers the way they treat their workers. Someone mentioned that NYT article. Here's a quote from it in regards to Amazon's hiring and the way they treat even their white-collar staff, where the turnaround is insanely high:

"You’d have to have a never-ending two-mile line around the block of very qualified people who want to work for you.”

Yes. That's exactly correct, and it's true. This is how amazon treats and views workers. And how it views us as content providers. They have a never ending stream of writers who want to work for them. If I go away, if you go away, Joe, if any of us get together in guilds or groups and try to collectively do something to force change? There are 1,000 writers behind us just waiting to take those spots.

I know traditional publishing sucked - but the way Amazon is beginning to treat their authors is making traditional publishing look like fluffy kittens. Write a book a year and do book tours? Oh the horror!

Try writing a book a month. Or more. Work harder, work faster! This is us, now. Working for pennies (half-pennies, actually), trying not to fall off the 30-day cliff (which you will, if you're not merched by Amazon or putting out a book a month) and hoping Amazon doesn't take away something else.

But they will. At each increment, they're going to keep taking things away. It's actually pretty textbook conditioning. Look at what's happened already. First we got 70% priced between $0.99 and $2.99 in all countries. Yay for Amazon, boo for traditional publishing! Then that decreased to 35% in new countries unless you were in KDP. Oh, well. Then they added KU, and "ghost borrows" became a huge factor in gaining visibility. Yikes. Have to be exclusive to Amazon in order for people to find my book? Ugh... But, ya know, it's wasn't TOO bad, because KU 1.0 authors were earning $1.80 a borrow. If your book was $2.99, that was a little under that $2.09 70% you'd get from a sale. But whoa, look at that... borrows were suddenly outpacing sales 2:1! And that $1.80? Well that number went down... and down... in fact, it decreased over a year to $1.30 a borrow. Now in KU 2.0? We're making half a penny a page. And we have NO IDEA how much money we're leaving on the table - because Amazon won't tell us those metrics (even though they have them).

Making hay while the sun shines is great. But that means we're all hay makers. We don't own the farm or the land, and we are dependent on the goodwill of the farmer. Yeah yeah, I made my own farm, but let's face it, this farmer already OWNS ALL THE GOOD FARMLAND! :P

And I have to tell you - this particular farmer (Amazon) isn't as good a guy as you seem to think, Joe. And he does, in fact, carry a pretty big stick. I know, because I've gotten hit with it, more than once.

Selena Kitt said...

Sorry that should have been between $9.99 and $2.99. My fingers slipped. :)

MFox said...

What Selena said.

KU would be fine if it didn't fubar authors who opted out of the system AND also herald the erosion of royalties.

I see lots of novelists talking about $1.35 a read as the new goal, as if 70% royalties never existed. The shift in mentality and psychology is staggering. And you're contributing to it.

KU is not the next big opportunity, it's the next big loss. Just wait until the royalties fall even lower and they start to take 70% away. Your own logic points to that being true--Amazon lured authors into KU with payouts that could be leveraged into an income increase for short fiction...and then took it away. If they'll do that for KU, they'll do it elsewhere too.

Let's see where your earnings are after the next big KU change.


Joe Konrath said...

If Amazon removes specific benefits from everyone who doesn't choose to participate - it IS a punishment.

Selena, that's like saying Comcast cable TV is punishing me by withholding HBO from their basic package. If I want HBO, I have to pay more. A perk I don't get isn't punishment. This isn't semantics. It's the difference between not being allowed to have something, and having something taken from you. You can enroll your titles in Amazon without going exclusive with KDP Select. If you enroll in KDP Select, you get benefits.

Amazon certainly has censored certain titles. That is the definition of taking away visibility.

Giving more visibility to KDP Select titles isn't taking anything away. In the bookstore world, books with coop got front table treatment. That didn't take away from my books, which are still spine out in the mystery section. If you wanted front of table, you paid for it.

Write a book a year and do book tours?

I worked so much harder in the legacy industry than I've done as in indie it boggles my mind that I was actually able to do all that shit I did. It exhausts me to think about.

Dealing with Amazon is cake compared to dealing with the Big 5. Frosted chocolate double layer cake.

But we both know that depending on anyone else for your income is risky. Which is why we both started companies.

David Lang said...

@MFox,

so you think having someone borrow a book should pay just as much as someone buying the book and owning it, being able to loan it out to others, etc?

that's a strange position to take.

gniz said...

"Selena, that's like saying Comcast cable TV is punishing me by withholding HBO from their basic package. "

Was HBO ever part of basic cable, Joe?

I think in that example, it would be like Comcast saying you now have to pay for NBC or something. People would flip out because they used to get it and now they need to pay.

Before the advent of KU, my book had virtually the same visibility and prospects as every other book in the kindle store. Sure, Amazon might do a daily deal, some promos, etc. But day in, day out, I was on an even playing field.

After KU, my prospects are REDUCED unless I enter into the KU program.

That's not withholding something we never had. It's taking away something we used to always get and making it contingent on doing what Amazon wants (which has a cost attached).

Carrot meet stick. Stick, meet carrot.

Anonymous said...

Hi-KU reader here. I read both novels and shorts by my favorite authors. I read novels on weekends and shorts on weeknights--kind of like a bedtime snack. I actively search for content in the 40-120 page range for weeknights, and generally 120-360 pages for weekends, although I have been known to read a whole series of 120-page items in a weekend.
I am not a typical consumer, but the rabid KU reader isn't. I am rather bummed out when an author pulls out of KU. There is one series I would love to re-read, but it isn't on KU any more, and I won't buy it just to re-read it. Sigh.
My teenage daughter and her friends tend to still buy in paper. One kid buys the first book in the series and they all read it. Then the next kids buys the second book, and so on. And they re-read until the pages fall out. My daughter also likes Kindle books, but she prefers being able to share paper with her friends.
Just a couple of data points. Thanks for the blog post, I enjoyed it.

Selena Kitt said...

David: You're actually never buying an ebook. You're buying the license to read it. You can't sell it to someone else, you can't loan it (aside from lending programs that allow you to) it's never technically "yours." So borrowing a book and buying a book... what is, really, the difference?

Joe: your logic boggles my mind.

"Giving more visibility to KDP Select titles isn't taking anything away. In the bookstore world, books with coop got front table treatment. That didn't take away from my books, which are still spine out in the mystery section. If you wanted front of table, you paid for it."

In your example... say Borders (let's pretend they still exist for argument's sake, and yes, I miss them, and all the rest of the competition for the 'Zon) originally had shelves where everyone's book was face out. You could see everyone's titles, author names and covers. It was an equal playing field. Then Borders decided to turn all the books spine-out instead of face-out UNLESS you paid them not to do so.

That's what Amazon's done in this instance.

You're pretending that there was never a level playing field for self-published authors, but there was. I was there, before you were, even! :D I had erotica books in the top 100 store-wide, something that was unheard of and nearly impossible to attain after the adult dungeon was created (until EL James came along anyway).

After KU was unveiled, that level playing field went away. Visibility for non-KU books dropped like a stone. This new "benefit" for KU authors made a previously level playing field uneven. So it was something we had - and was then taken away.

In your HBO example, it only works if HBO was already part of basic cable, and then Comacast decided to take it away unless people paid for it.

And people would be angry - but what could they do, because Comcast was the only game in town, practically, soooo...

And so it is with Amazon authors.

Your analogy about coop is apt - but before KU, coop on Amazon didn't exist (unless you're talking about legacy, Amazon imprints or actually getting merched...) KU is now the coop table for self-pubbed books.

Legacy publishing, I'm sure, had/has the opportunity to pay Amazon to be merched. But self-published authors never did (until recently, and it's not technically the same thing, buying "ads"...)

Before this change, self-published authors had a level playing field - at least with other self-published authors. Now, we don't. So Amazon has taken something away. And it is, effectively, a punishment.

I believe you, that dealing with the Big 5 sucked. I imagine Amazon does seem like "chocolate cake" in comparison - and my complaints sound like "first world author problems." :P

But that doesn't make the lesser of the two evils not ALSO evil, kwim?

The milk we were drinking with that cake's already been spilled anyway. Authors pretty much don't have a say. We have to work our way through the new system (and whatever new system gets tossed at us next) or we take our bat and ball and go home.

But my point is, either way, authors are losing.

MFox said...

@Dlang Right, wrong or indifferent borrowing devalues books and sets the stage for royalties to erode across the board. Joe, himself, is telling you that in his post.

Past behavior predicts future behavior.

Anyone who thinks 70% royalties are the end game is not operating in reality. KU serves multiple purposes, one of which is to condition authors for the coming drop in royalties.

Go into KU, make money BUT don't crow like it's a sustainable money train because it's not.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

Agree so much with Selena.

Joe agrees with her too, in essence, but doesn't have a problem with it/sees it as business as usual.

I still think it's weird that he won't call a stick a stick.

He calls the stick; "cost of doing business."

Same difference.

I love Joe. Don't care about our difference of opinion at all.

Jill James said...

Self-publishing is a confusing world. I'm just trying to keep up. :)

Selena Kitt said...

I love Joe. Don't care about our difference of opinion at all.



Well that goes without saying. :)

Joe Konrath said...

In your HBO example, it only works if HBO was already part of basic cable, and then Comacast decided to take it away unless people paid for it.

Actually, it works if basic cable had no HBO, and then HBO was created and the cable company asked for more money. They aren't punishing me by charging more for HBO.

I'm trying to think of other examples and coming up blank. The reason I'm coming up blank is because there isn't much analogous to what Amazon has done for authors. Amazon gave authors an opportunity to reach their customers. What other business does that? In the past, that was only possible through gatekeepers--middlemen like legacy publishers and agents--who took a huge cut and kept full control.

So Amazon opens up and lets everyone in. They decide they don't want to sell certain types of erotica. I don't like that decision, but hey, it's their store. I have no right to tell them what they can and can't sell. Then they decide to do a subscription service. Again, whether I like it or not is immaterial. Amazon cares about customers, customers want subscription. Amazon needs authors to meet the needs of subscription readers. They could have mandated that all KDP ebooks went into KU. Instead, they put KU in Select, making it optional. But they have to incentivize Select in some way. One way is with ranking.

Do you actually propose Amazon should have two ranking systems? One for Select books and one for normal KDP? Certainly you can see that's silly.

What if Amazon makes Select non-exclusive? The number of Amazon execs I've told that to is in the dozens. It makes too much sense for Select to be exclusive. It's also better for authors, because Amazon has to incentivize us to put our work in Select. They've made it beneficial.

Those who don't opt in to KDP Select aren't being punished. They've chosen to also sell at other retailers. This is akin ot the non-compete clause in legacy publishing. Sign with one of the Big 5, they don't want you to sign with anyone else. Those clauses sucked, and are a lot worse than what Amazon is doing here. But they are legal, and they aren't put in there to punish writers; only to benefit the publishers.

I don't like Amazon omitting erotica. I don't like Amazon deleting reviews. I didn't like Amazon pulling 1984 off of Kindles. I don't like KDP exclusivity.

But none of this is akin to punishment. This isn't like taking a toy away from a child, because the child (us) can walk away at any time. We are free to choose.

Authors pretty much don't have a say.

If I felt I didn't have a say, I'd blog about it. I know you don't think that Amazon listens to our complaints and suggestions, but they do. Their corporate culture mandates that they do, because they are constantly striving to do better. At this point, they're willing to make some authors unhappy because they place more value on exclusivity.

If we get away from the "Amazon is harming authors" rhetoric, I think we agree on everything else.

I love Joe. Don't care about our difference of opinion at all.

Right back at you guys. Thanks for defending your opinions and engaging in discussion and debate. I can pretty much guarantee that Amazon is watching, and discussing it.

And they aren't planning retaliation.

Jade K. Scott said...

"Do you actually propose Amazon should have two ranking systems? One for Select books and one for normal KDP? Certainly you can see that's silly."

Joe, I don't think that's what Selena is getting at, at all. I believe it's the exclusivity thing that is the problem. If Amazon removed the exclusivity requirement, there would be pretty much NO problem with KU2. We'd have extra visibility and still have the ability to go wide.

Amazon is a business. Essentially, all self-published writers are, as well. I get that. And I understand they have to do whatever it takes to make KU profitable for the company and its shareholders. That's a given.

The trouble is that before they were offering a real incentive to be exclusive. Several, really. They were offering a good income, added visibility, the ability to run free days (which wouldn't even BE necessary if we weren't required to be exclusive, because we could have perma-free books via other retailers that would be price matched.)

Now they are asking for exclusivity merely for the added visibility, which we wouldn't even NEED if KU didn't exist. We HAVE to have that boost now, in order to compete with those people who DO.

I think if they added some NEW incentives to KU, the exclusivity requirement wouldn't sting as much. As it is, we're required to be exclusive to get the same visibility we had before KU. And that most definitely DOES feel like a punishment.

I write a lot of shorts. I made good money under KU1. I also write some longer books under another pen name. They make slightly more under KU2. I can see both sides of the coin. But as a whole, I think the whole system is unfair. Writers have to be in KU if they want visibility (unless they are already very well established with their own marketing such as a large Facebook fan page or email list in place) and if they aren't, they aren't going to get as many raw sales because of the lower visilbity.

I'd be happy with the new program for the most part if the exclusivity requirement was removed. As it is, I'm left rubbing the big knot Amazon left when they hit me with the stick and wondering what I can do to break free.

I've decided I will give them the first 90 days exclusivity, and I'm turning off auto-renew. That way I get the added visibility in the beginning, and by the time the book has lost its newness factor (it falls off the 30-day cliff) I can go wide for a more fair payment. It doesn't pay to be exclusive past 90 days anymore.

Alan Spade said...

Joe, sorry, but your level of denial here is astounding (regarding the stick Amazon uses).

"Do you actually propose Amazon should have two ranking systems? One for Select books and one for normal KDP? Certainly you can see that's silly."

Amazon already has not two, but three ranking systems in place:

- the basic ranking system for self-published authors
- the KU ranking system, with each borrow increasing visibility, even if the ebook is not read
- the huge advantages Amazon gives to its own titles (from its own imprints) like Amazon First, when the ebook become free during a month before publication for Prime users of Amazon, and each download counts as a sale, with the incentives for the Prime members to write a review. You can get a thousand reviews in a month with this kind of incentives. I witnessed it with some of Amazon's imprints titles.

Amazon has already gamed its own system. In a big way. With all due respect, you would have to be very naive not to acknowledge that.

Joe Konrath said...

@Alan.

I'm not sure how you believe ranking systems work, but none are accurate. Nielsen TV rankings are a guess. So is the NYT bestseller list. Both can be manipulated. Both are subject to influence. Both are, ultimately, arbitrary.

Amazon only has one ranking system. It has several algorithms using different metrics that play into how its ranking system works. To call it unfair is like calling the Academy Awards unfair for giving an Oscar to a movie you didn't like, or to say the Academy punishes those who don't win.

You can't game your own system. It's your system. You aren't required to be held up to some morally objective standard, if such a thing even exists. Let's say I want to rank my favorite books on my bookshelf. There is no right or wrong way to do this. My way is my way, and I don't have to have input from the authors to decide how I want to rank them.

It isn't your god-given right to be able to sell books on Amazon. Or anywhere. In the US, we have the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Not guaranteed retail placement.

If you want a better ranking, go all in with KDP Select. It's that simple.

Do I like that? No. But claiming you're being punished misunderstands what actual punishment is. Even if Amazon banned your books, they aren't punishing you. They are a retailer, and working with them is voluntary. They captured the ebook market by being very good at what they do. If you want access to the customers that Amazon has accrued, they have some rules if you want to sell on their site. Their site, their customers, their rules.

A sense of entitlement can sneak up on the best of us. When you're given an opportunity, it's easy to believe that you deserve that opportunity. And that you deserve more opportunities. That you're owed opportunities. And when opportunities are denied you, you're being targeted for punishment.

Amazon isn't even denying you any opportunity in this case. You can opt in. It comes at a cost you don't want to pay.

I'm not the one in denial here, Alan. You can go into KDP Select and get better rankings on Amazon. Or put your books in other retailers. It's your choice.

Bemoaning the fact that you can't have both is silly.

Tom Maddox said...

As far as subscription services go for books, I just have a hard time ever seeing them become the norm.

Normal readers read maybe a book a month. I personally read a little more than that but most of this month has been spent on one longer book that I purchased for $5.99.

If that is the only book I complete this month then it is silly for me to pay $9.99 for Kindle unlimited. Oh, and the book I am reading is not available in Kindle Unlimited anyway.

I just think that average readers don't consume enough content to make the subscription model worth the cost to them. Added to that fact is that the average reader is most likely reading Big 5 books which are not available in KU. I just don't see book subscriptions becoming as common as music or movie/tv subscription services.

Joe Konrath said...

I just think that average readers don't consume enough content to make the subscription model worth the cost to them.

With new tech, the power users are often the early adopters. But laggards come around when choice becomes limited and the price drops.

When KU is included in Prime, and includes Big 5 books, I think casual readers will jump on board.

Tom Maddox said...

"When KU is included in Prime, and includes Big 5 books, I think casual readers will jump on board."

I agree that those two things would make a huge difference. I just wonder how distant of a future we are talking about? I don't see The Big 5 going for it anytime soon. Shoot, they are back to Agency pricing and charging $13.99 or more for new releases. It feels like they have not progressed in 5 years.

Selena Kitt said...

Legacy publishing has only one acceptance system. It has several ways you can get there that play into how acceptance works. To call it unfair is like calling the Academy Awards unfair for giving an Oscar to a movie you didn't like, or to say the Academy punishes those who don't win. You can't game your own system. It's your system. You aren't required to be held up to some morally objective standard, if such a thing even exists.

There, fixed it for you... :P

----

Alan is correct about how ranking works on Amazon (how are you possibly seeing it differently, Joe? You're one of the smartest guys I know in this business... *scratching head*) And it IS "unfair." Just like legacy deciding what does or doesn't get published, paying for coop for one book and not another, giving all the money to the big names and saying screw you, midlisters...

But it's their ball field, right? The game's changed.

And Amazon is getting JUST what they want, guys. They have continually groomed us for this, conditioned us (and readers) and they're squeezing us slowly toward their ultimate end. Amazon has plenty of patience. They ran in the red for YEARS, waiting to become the giant they are before lowering the hammer. They aren't committed to excellence, they're committed to CONTROL.

~~They incentivized shorts to bring in LOTS of numbers to KU. Check!
~~They are now incentivizing novels to give readers something more meaty to chew on. Check!
~~Novel authors are joining KU 2.0 in droves, just like shorts authors did in KU 1.0, because YAY money! Check!
~~More books go into KU and Amazon is happy. Check!<
~~Amazon gets more KU subscribers. Check!
~~The pot goes down, settling lower and lower in KU 2.0 (just like it did in KU 1.0...)
~~Authors get used to getting paid less...
~~Readers get used to getting more for "free" or less...
~~Amazon increases its stranglehold on the market with exclusivity requirements, taking books away from other retailers, decreasing their foothold in the market...

You can't see where this is going?

And just like the shorts authors in KU 1.0 who "took advantage" of the system, novel authors are now jumping into this with both feet, realizing they're going to get more for a borrow than a buy. They're now "taking advantage" of KU 2.0... big time.

From the blog post I referenced above: "Is KU cannibalizing sales? Probably but I don't care."

Right. When in the history of anything has cannibalism been sustainable?

She has no idea how much money she's ultimately leaving on the table. NONE of us do! Because Amazon won't let us know that, even though they have the metrics. But novel writers can rake in the cash with novels for a while under KU 2.0 just like shorts writers did under KU 1.0.

But that isn’t sustainable. This is temporary money.

Sure, Amazon’s given us a choice. You can kept cutting off your limbs and eat them for dinner. Until you have eat your heart out. Or you can starve.

YAY Amazon! ???

I know you were screwed by legacy, and I've been screwed by Amazon, and so we're coming at this thing from opposite ends, but we're going to end up in the same place, my friend. And it isn't going to be the lovely heaven we imagined where our mortgages were paid off in two years and the money train just kept on rolling through...

It might look like heaven - for a while. But you have to know that the game is going to change again, and we're being squeezed, like cattle being sent down the chute to slaughter.

Our future as authors is going to be Dickensian existence working for ha'pennies by the light of the laptop late at night spinning the longest, most outrageous, cliffhangery tales we can think of...

And where's your freedom then?

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with Selena Kitt and Alan Spade about the carrot and the stick. As a test, I withdrew one of my nonfiction books from KU.2. I chose this particular book because it regularly received one purchase and one borrow per day during KU.1. During the time it was out of KU.2 it received ZERO sales. After three weeks with no sales I panicked and put it back in KU.2. Guess what? The sales started again the very next day. There’s definitely a stick. It’s big and it smarts.

I mostly write children’s books, romance and erotica. After reading this blog and many others plus analyzing my July sales numbers, I’ve finally decided that I’m going to be writing and publishing much less than I currently do. I’m just not getting the return on my efforts that I want.

Yesterday my husband burst into my writing room shouting “Help me in the garage! Get up and do some work around here!”
I wanted to shout back at him “I am working!”
But, then I thought to myself. Am I working at something worthwhile? Will all of this hard work bear fruit or should I switch to something more lucrative?

Sure, I made almost as much money in July as I did in June, but I worked so much harder for it. I primarily focused on my children’s books, bundling them and adding extra content. The bundling worked and drove up sales, but at a heavy cost. I didn’t have much of a life in July and now I’m resenting it.

My husband’s a smart guy so I asked him for his opinion about KU.2. He said “Get out now. If they’re starting at 0.0057, then by January the pay per page will be 0.0017. If most of the authors are happy receiving $2 for something they should be receiving $7 for then writing’s gone down the drain. Get out now and go do something that makes money.”
So I did. I put down my laptop and went outside and made $120 cash money. And it felt good. Really good.

Alan Spade said...

" He said “Get out now. If they’re starting at 0.0057, then by January the pay per page will be 0.0017. If most of the authors are happy receiving $2 for something they should be receiving $7 for then writing’s gone down the drain. Get out now and go do something that makes money.”
So I did. I put down my laptop and went outside and made $120 cash money. And it felt good. Really good."

You have a great husband, anon. That's the spirit.

"It isn't your god-given right to be able to sell books on Amazon."

You are right, it isn't, Joe. But when two businesses make a deal, it must be win-win.

What was once a healthy relationship has turned into an abusive one.

It's exactly the same thing than at the time booksellers and big publishers invented coop. Suddenly, the market was no longer a level playing field. It had become very unfair, and, in a word, rotten.

With digital goods, it's all the more visible, because Amazon had built a wonderful algorithm system, and then has incentivized authors into gaming it with KU. So sad. The engineers who built this system, which I admired so much, must be shaking their heads right now.

Alan Spade said...

@Selena: your comparison with cannibalism rocks.

Joe Konrath said...

There, fixed it for you... :P

I agree with you. Legacy isn't unfair. There is no fair in contract negotiation. Both parties want to get as much as they can.

But legacy contracts are unconscionable. Amazon is not unconscionable.

And even unconscionable contracts aren't punishment. I signed them willingly.

You theory that Amazon is conditioning up like lambs to be slaughtered is interesting, Selena. Maybe it's true. We'll see if payments get lower.

The problem is, if payments do get lower, authors will leave KDP Select and help strengthen competition. Which means Amazon will need to offer more incentive to bring them back.

Amazon furthering Amazon doesn't mean authors will automatically be screwed.

Joe Konrath said...

Get out now. If they’re starting at 0.0057, then by January the pay per page will be 0.0017

I'll bet your husband a beer that it doesn't. It'll fluctuate, but I bet we have some months where it goes up from .0057.

As for your books not sellign well, since you're anonymous I can't review them and make any suggestions. But here's something I wrote on Kboards yesterday. It may not apply to you, but it's worth repeating:

I'm not directing this to the OP. This is my standard answer for anyone who asks: Am I good enough?

If you have to ask, then you probably aren't.

I'm 45. I landed my first publishing deal when I was 32. I got my first rejection letter at 22, and I managed to collect several hundred in the decade before I finally sold a book.

Those ten years were learning years. Getting rejected forced me to get better.

Now there are no gatekeepers. Any author can self-publish their very first manuscript. I had to write half a million words before any of them were any good, and I'd be mortified if any of that early stuff was ever published. But, if I'd been born in 1990 instead of 1970, I probably would have self-pubbed those early stories, spurred on by guys like Konrath sharing his numbers and showing how easy it is to do.

That would have been a mistake. I would have never found a fan base with those early books. They weren't good enough.

There are many reasons why books don't sell, a lot of them coming down to luck. But things like mediocre covers, or confusing genres, or poor jacket copy, will hurt sales. So will bad writing.

The problem everyone has, myself included, is it is almost impossible to judge your own writing. I call this Ugly Baby Syndrome, and blogged about it 9 years ago: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2006/12/how-good-am-i.html

As writers, we need to seek criticism in order to improve. I has just talking to a writer who was deluded about her ability and had a dozen reasons why she was taking a path that I was 100% sure was the wrong path. It was painful to see it, but hopefully she'll learn from the experience and her next book will benefit. Or, perhaps I'm wrong, and she'll succeed in sprite of the obvious flaws. Either way, it wasn't a fun conversation for either of us. I don't like hurting people, even for their own good. And no one likes being told they aren't ready for prime time.

If you're not selling well, taking your story to a critique group could be a real eye-opener. I understand the need to ask for critiques on Kboards, but that's probably best done via email or chat, because the Internet is forever and you don't want a bunch of writers tearing you apart in a forum that future readers could Google. There are books and teachers and writing groups that can help.

Happily, everything is fixable. There are millions of voracious readers, and if you aren't selling well, you can make your stories better and all you've lost is time and a few potential fans.

Seek out some critiques. Listen. Learn. Improve. This isn't an easy profession, and even if you do everything right, it is no guarantee of success. But success is a whole lot harder to find if you're doing things wrong. So make sure you aren't.

Joe Konrath said...

What was once a healthy relationship has turned into an abusive one.

That's just not right.

When I was dating my wife-to-be, I gave her flowers all the time. Now I give her flowers on holidays, or sporadically.

So she used to get more flowers than she does now.

That doesn't mean I'm punishing her. Or abusing her. Or don't love her as much.

Brad said...

Musicians can survive subscription services by selling t-shirts and performing live. There will, alas, never be a Bookapalooza or a Monsters of Prose Tour. Pity. But there are options.

I'm branching into audiobooks of my backlist - no success yet, and few titles done so far, but it's part of my future plan for a diversified income. FLOGFLOG Bradiobooks. I'm lucky that I have dulcet tones and audio editing experience and I can do this myself.

I decided NOT to go with Audible/ACX/Amazon precisely because of all this. The fact that we got two weeks' notice that our world as we knew it was ending, well, that was no way to treat a business partner. I need to do LESS business with Amazon, not more, thus the indie store.

I'm also doing copy editing, and anything else "creative" to fill the hole in my income from the change in KU. Ain't never goin' back to Cubicle City, 'cept in a pine box, mister.

Adrian said...

> I had to write half a million words before any of them were any good, and I'd be mortified if any of that early stuff was ever published.

This sounds suspiciously like an historical revision. I thought several of the books you used to test the self-pubbing waters were the ones you wrote before your first legacy deal, like Origin and The List. Were these part of the half-million words that weren't good enough? Because I seem to remember you holding them up as examples of books the gatekeepers didn't think were good enough yet did well after you self-pubbed them.

I don't see KU as consumer-oriented because exclusivity is anti-consumer. As an author, I can't imagine depriving the 30% of my readers who use Nook, iTunes, Kobo, or Smashwords as a reader-friendly move, even if I could make more money in the short term by joining Kindle Select.

Joe Konrath said...

Were these part of the half-million words that weren't good enough?

No.

I wrote a million words before I was published. I've said so many times. Those first half million haven't been published, and never will be in my lifetime, as long as my caretaker is more proficient than Harper Lee's.

Origin, The List, Disturb, and Shot of Tequila, were pre-Whiskey Sour, but I landed an agent with Origin. She simply couldn't sell these. These were written in my late twenties, early thirties.

I've got five novels, and dozens of short stories, that will never see the light of day.

Alan Spade said...

One thing that will be interesting to watch in the following months will be the Kindle Unlimited Eligible category on Amazon. For the moment, it's 975,049 titles.

I have a feeling it is going to explode. Why? Because competition gets tougher and tougher:

- the market of Amazon's competition is shrinking (I wish that Authors United could confirm that, but what Data Guy said in the comments of this blog seems to confirm it)
- to become noticed even on Amazon is harder and harder: even if it's canniblaism and they know it, more and more authors will opt in KU.

That's human nature: the hunt for the prey will always come first.

But what is interesting with the indie market, is that you can't take pride in just having your ebook on Amazon. Contrary to trad publishing, where pride might sometimes (often?) replace money, authors want to be rewarded for their efforts.

There is also much more communication and comparisons between authors than in trad pub.

If this explosion happens, I would be very surprised to see the KU income rising. There will be a point when productive authors will say: "it's not worth it anymore". The game of Amazon will be to delay this point until there's no competition left, by pumping more and more money into KU.

Alan Spade said...

Yesterday, the figure was 975,049 titles in KU. One day later (less than 24 hours), it is 972,785. That's 2264 less.

Maybe I've been wrong. In this case, I've never been so happy to be wrong. (Though I know it's far too early to establish a trend).

Nat Russo said...

I wouldn't read too much into that. That's less than a quarter of 1% fluctuation. I think we need to look at a much longer time frame to get an accurate read on trajectory.

Joe Konrath said...

Yesterday, the figure was 975,049 titles in KU. One day later (less than 24 hours), it is 972,785.

According to the ever helpful Nate Hoffelder, this is the history of the KU monthly pool:

May 2014: $1.2 million
June 2014: $1.2 million
July: $2.5 million (Kindle Unlimited launches)
August: $4.7 million
September: $5 million
October: $5.5 million
November 2014: $6.5 million
December 2014: $7.25 million
January 2015 - $8.5 million
February 2015: $8 million
March 2015: $9.3 million
April 2015: $9.8 million
May 2015: $10.8 million
June 2015: $11.3 million
July 2015: $11.5 million

With one exception, it has always gone up. If writers are leaving KU, it will be interesting to see what happens to the payout.

Alan Spade said...

And I believe, Joe, that Amazon pumps much more money than the official figure into KU.

You see, it's an easy calculation. You have 1,1 million subscribers in KU. At $9,99 the subscription, the total amount of KU revenue for Amazon is $10,98 million.

$10,98 million is less than $11,5 million

But it costs money to run KU. And do you really think each of the 1,1 million subscribers read just 200 pages in a month? (the quivalent of $1 for an author). These are heavy readers. They read much, much more than 200 pages in a month. They want their investment to pay off.

Of course, these readers buy other things on Amazon. But the day Amazon will want for KU to become profitable by itself, not taking into account indirect sales, the authors' revenues will drop.

The fact alone that the sum KU anounces each month is wrong should make authors very wary.

You can ask someone like Broken Yogi, who seem to have studied that subject. I think he'll agree with me.

This makes each author who have more borrows than sales an author subsidized by Amazon.

Anonymous said...

Joe,

Thanks for the KU1 v KU2 comparison.

What I would really like you to do is a KU1 V KU2 V "The old method where I did my own marketing/sales/advertising and sold all my books on the various platforms."

I guess I'm still not convinced that KU = more payout for authors at the point. I'm not disagreeing that it won't someday be the status quo- but I think I recall a previous blog post where you made $2M in a year with the old method across all your books. These KU2 numbers don't come anywhere close to that. Maybe I remembered or am reading it wrong?

Alan Spade said...

I'm totally confused and scratching my head. The figure on Amazon.com is now 1,053,031 titles on KU. 77,982 more than when I looked last time! It doesn't make any sense to me.

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=lp_154606011_nr_p_n_feature_nineteen_0?fst=as%3Aoff&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A!133141011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Cp_n_feature_nineteen_browse-bin%3A9045887011&bbn=154606011&ie=UTF8&qid=1439924298&rnid=9045886011

Broken Yogi said...

Alan is right that Amazon is throwing free money at KU authors. Grab it while it lasts.

What I don't agree with is the notion that Amazon is trying to set up authors for a dependency game that will end up with authors being screwed. That's not Amazon's purpose in subsidizing KU, and it's not even the inadvertent future outcome.

Amazon is subsidizing KU payouts to compete with Scribd and Oyster and other subscription outlets. They are trying to attract heavy ebook readers into their fold because these people buy lots of stuff online. All of this is aimed at the consumers, not the producers.

The problem with a lot of writers is an excess of paranoid ideation. That works great for writing tense and disturbing novels, but not so much for evaluating the real world.

Amazon doesn't have their attention on writers, they have their attention on readers. KU is there to attract readers, period. They pay writers what they need to stay in KU and attract readers. They know if they stop paying writers enough, they will lose readers.

Now, it's true that many self-published authors get so much better results from KU, that it makes sense for them to stay there. It's not just the payout per page, it's the exposure they get. Trad published writers don't have those same problems. And Big Five trad publishers don't want KU to succeed. Even if Amazon guaranteed them the same payout, they'd stay away. Just as they keep ebook prices high to protect their market, they will keep most of their books out of KU. What Amazon must be paying J.K. Rowling for her Harry Potter books is a lot. Other, smaller trad publishers participate in KU for big payouts also - much more generously, I must add. All because Amazon wants those subscribers. Not because they could give a rat's ass about writers.

There's no clever end-game Amazon has hatched in some digitally-smoke-enhanced boardroom to lure writers in and then put chains and muzzles on them when they're too doped up on KU payouts to notice. They don't know what the future holds any more than we do. They are responding in the moment to market pressures of all kinds. Writers will do just fine rolling with the weather and surfing the waves that come their way. KU is just another set of waves to surf. There will be others. The good part of it is that Amazon is giving authors a big chunk of free money to surf with. Enjoy that while it lasts.

Alan Spade said...

"Other, smaller trad publishers participate in KU for big payouts also - much more generously, I must add."

Have you got some testimonies about that?

Broken Yogi said...

The problem about all this talk of "punishment" is that it presumes a motive to punish, rather than a motive to create a better business model for Amazon and its customers. Amazon isn't trying to punish anyone. They are trying to create incentives to feed KU what its readers want. Call it carrot and stick if you like, but it's not some long, drawn out psychological battle. Nothing is added by characterizing it as some sort of judicial system motivated by animus.

Alan Spade said...

Broken Yogi: why, in your opinion, is Amazon demanding exclusivity to authors participating in KU?

Joe Konrath said...

Exclusivity makes KU more valuable to readers. They'll pay for KU membership to get ebooks they can't get elsewhere.

Original content is becoming de rigeuer for Netflix and cable networks. Amazon is following suit.

Alan Spade said...

If I remember well the statement of Broken Yogi about indie authors, we are mostly a bunch of hobbyists, and a negligible part of the publishing industry compared to traditional publishing.

So, it doesn't seem logic for Amazon to attribute some value to the indies' novels. Shouldn't Amazon rather focus on trying to get exclusive content from other mega authors like J.K. Rowling and forgetting the exclusivity for indies?

After all, exclusivity for more than one million ebooks is not so good for the image of Amazon, and it could give some weight to an antitrust case.

Joe Konrath said...

So, it doesn't seem logic for Amazon to attribute some value to the indies' novels.

It's very logical. That's why KU has so many subscribers.

As for antitrust, Amazon doesn't own these books. Writers do. And they opt-in by choice.

gniz said...

"Call it carrot and stick if you like"

I use terminology that fits the situation. When you're the one getting fed and getting hit, it makes a lot of sense.

I never said it was personal or a drawn out psychological battle. It's not personal when the dude uses the carrot and the stick on the donkey either.

gniz said...

Systems of rewards and punishments have been used by corporations for just about ever. It's not that bizarre or unique a notion.

Why wouldn't a corporation use punishments and rewards to elicit the behavior they want? Describing their methods accurately does not necessarily entail an emotional or reactive response to what they're doing.

It's just descriptive. Joe and others are the ones who try to intuit emotional responses to these descriptions, because they feel that the descriptions paint Amazon in an unfavorable light. I don't care what kind of light Amazon is painted in, thus I'm free to describe them accurately.

Broken Yogi said...

gniz, I'm merely objecting to your use of language. You're deliberately using the words "reward" and "punishment" to impute some kind of non-business related motive on Amazon's part, and thus turn the debate into an emotional one. It hearkens either to the criminal justice system, or to parents disciplining their children. Writers are neither of these. Among grown-ups in the business world, these concepts have no place. There are business incentives and disincentives, or the lack of these, certainly, but not rewards and punishments.

Broken Yogi said...

When you're the one getting fed and getting hit, it makes a lot of sense.

All this talk of rewards and punishments, getting fed and getting hit, makes me think you see yourself as a dependent child to Amazon's abusive parent, rather than as a grown man making his way through the adult world. It's really kind of weird to talk this way about oneself.

Broken Yogi said...

If I remember well the statement of Broken Yogi about indie authors, we are mostly a bunch of hobbyists, and a negligible part of the publishing industry compared to traditional publishing.

90% of independent authors really are amateur hobbyists, rather than professionals making an actual living at their craft. Even that's probably way too generous. There's simply not enough money in the game to support a million writers. And writing is hard, really hard. Most people just can't do it very well, and never will. Every even moderately successful writer is a huge anomaly. And that's the way things are throughout the entertainment/artistic industry. Nothing wrong with being either an amateur or a hobbyist either. Anyone who can actually write a novel and upload it to KDP has achieved something notable. But that alone doesn't make one a professional writer.

So, it doesn't seem logic for Amazon to attribute some value to the indies' novels.

Amazon doesn't attribute any value to writer's novels, Indie or Trad. Readers do, by buying them.

Shouldn't Amazon rather focus on trying to get exclusive content from other mega authors like J.K. Rowling and forgetting the exclusivity for indies?

That's very expensive. Indie authors come relatively cheap, and they don't have publishers playing games with Amazon that keep them out of KU for larger business model purposes. I'm sure they'd be happy to get more big trad authors, but they're losing enough money already. I'm not privy to Amazon's internal discussions about KU, or what their overall strategy is for profit, if there even is one. I'm not sure they can actually make a profit from KU, so I don't know that they have a motive to spend more money on mega authors. For the moment, Indies come cheap and easy, so they are picking the low hanging fruit first. Not sure they'll ever reach the upper branches of the publishing world through KU. Joe seems to think they will, but I don't see it.

After all, exclusivity for more than one million ebooks is not so good for the image of Amazon, and it could give some weight to an antitrust case.

It's very good for the image of Amazon. It makes readers think there's a million great ebooks in KU that they'll want to read. Turns out, 90% aren't very good. Still, that leaves 100,000 books that are at least decent reads.

As for antitrust cases, they are not decided on "image". They are decided on the facts. And since the self-pub market is still quite tiny, there's literally no chance that Amazon will face anti-trust action even if they have a near monopoly of "self-published" books. Because self-published books are not some distinct category of consumer goods separate from trad published books. Books are books to the DOJ, regardless of how they get produced.

Broken Yogi said...

Broken Yogi: why, in your opinion, is Amazon demanding exclusivity to authors participating in KU?

Joe answers this succinctly. It's a strong selling point to subscribers. It keeps these titles out of Scribd and Oyster and other competitors. It has nothing to do with trying to own or dominate authors. We are not of any interest to Amazon except to the degree that we bring customers to their store rather than to a competitor's store.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gniz said...

Broken Yogi said: "All this talk of rewards and punishments, getting fed and getting hit, makes me think you see yourself as a dependent child to Amazon's abusive parent, rather than as a grown man making his way through the adult world. It's really kind of weird to talk this way about oneself."

I have such a hard time taking you seriously when you condescend with absolutely nothing but hot air to back it up.

Broken Yogi said...

Selena,

Say I work at Ford. Ford comes to their workers and says, hey, we're changing the way we do things around here in two weeks. Unless you agree to work a certain amount of overtime, we're going to cut your overall hours in half and you won't get any overtime at all.

Actually, it's more like Ford saying we're not going to pay you for just showing up and sticking around for eight hours a day. We're going to pay you by how much work you actually get done. So some workers get paid more, and some get paid less, but overall, the amount paid out to workers stays the same. It's not an inherently unfair system to the workers, even if some suffer pay cuts and others make more. It could certainly lead to some workers looking for jobs elsewhere that pay better for what they are good at. But there's certainly a very good argument that it's a more fair and equitable pay system.

Broken Yogi said...

gniz, and I have a hard time taking you seriously when you keep using these childish metaphors to register your complaints. Your choice of words speaks for itself.

gniz said...

"gniz, and I have a hard time taking you seriously when you keep using these childish metaphors to register your complaints. Your choice of words speaks for itself."

The difference is, Selena and I (and even Joe and most others talking here) actually SELL BOOKS. We write and publish and have a vested interest in this business.

When I say you are full of hot air, I mean that you literally have no skin in the game, and it's more than obvious--so talking with you when you're so condescending is really not at all productive.

You don't bring anything to the table but regurgitations of articles you've read and other more knowledgable people's words.

gniz said...

BTW, I try hard not to bring someones sales numbers into the equation when having these discussions. I don't like saying, "your opinion isn't valid because you don't sell as many books as I do."

There are those who think that way, but I very rarely try and pull rank based on sales numbers.

However, if someone literally is a bystander and they're commenting on the game as if they're playing in it--that's something different. If you don't write and you don't sell books and then you come into a thread and mock the opinions of people like Selena Kitt who has years of publishing successfully and knows this business inside and out...and then you mock me for using terminology that I feel fits my situation...

I'm going to say that perhaps it would help if you had ANY RELEVANT EXPERIENCE on this subject. And I think, in certain rare cases such as this--it's the right thing to say.

Broken Yogi said...

Gniz, you of course know nothing about me. Fortunately, evidence and logical arguments don't require any "skin" at all. In fact, the opposite is probably the case. That's why judges aren't allowed to have any skin in the cases they judge. James Patterson outsells the whole of you put together times ten, at the very least. That doesn't make his arguments valid. Same goes for Preston and the whole of AU. And for what it's worth, I'm not at all impressed by your claims to have made millions scamming Amazon and its customers with crappy shorts. But I must admit to being envious nevertheless. If only you could translate such skills into writing good novels people want to read, you might make a career of this thing.

gniz said...

BY,

Since you continue to spout, I'll continue to point out--YOU DO NOT WRITE OR SELL BOOKS. AT ALL.

You are not a judge. You're just a guy on a blog, and not even a very interesting guy with very unique thoughts. You regurgitate others' opinions and lack experience. And it shows.

As to not being impressed by my claims--that's fine by me. I've told Joe if he has any doubts, I'm happy to show him proof. He seems happy enough to accept my dubious claims at face value. Probably because it would be difficult to fake my knowledge-base, whereas you try and pawn yourself off as someone "in the know" and fail mightily.

As to me making a career of it? I've been doing this since 2011 and have essentially done just that, whereas your career seems to consist of being a blowhard on blogs.

gniz said...

Ah, rereading your ridiculous comment, BY, and realized its not my claims you doubt. No, you're just jealous that I made money writing and selling books.

Got it.

Yeah, it's true. I had to work really hard and learn this business inside and out. It took years of effort and maybe that's why I'm invested in learning more and conversing with smart people who are also in this industry.

Since you are not in this industry at all, perhaps we should now stop our discussion.

Joe Konrath said...

Let's take it down a notch. Attack the arguement, not the person. Ad hominem doesn't win debates.

Broken Yogi said...

Gniz, you're just proving my point about your immaturity. Whether you are what you claim or not doesn't much matter, since you're obviously too embarrassed about the shoddy writing you've done to make it public to us. You sound like the poster child for why Amazon changed the payout system for KU.

I'd like to oblige Joe's request, but your arguments are simply childish complaints with no real substance to them. What is there to argue against but whining?

And it's very, very strange and quite hilarious that you would consider a reader of books to be incapable of forming an opinion about books and authors. I suppose Amazon will have to stop accepting reader comments. My goodness, they might contain judgments about the books!But thanks to you we now know that only published authors have valuable opinions on such matters.

I will give you the benefit of the doubt and assume for the moment that you are a skilled scam artist, which is a business of sorts I suppose. What you haven't demonstrated is that you are a good writer, and even more importantly, a good thinker about writing and the business of building relationships with readers. What really seems to piss you off is that Amazon cut off your ability to scam KU with crappy shorts, and to take money away from honest writers who are serious about their craft and their relationship to readers like me. Joe's way of building a career is an honest and admirable one. Yours is not. Be happy with the money you've gotten from your scams, I'm sure you earned it in some strange way, but don't expect any respect in return. The two don't go together.

Joe Konrath said...

I'd like to oblige Joe's request, but your arguments are simply childish complaints with no real substance to them.

I would also like you to oblige my request. You can make your points without personal attacks. Pretend you're debating a friend.

Writing erotica doesn't scam anyone. it provides a much needed service. Gniz did well under KU 1.0, and is justifiably miffed that the rules changed. Just like Selena is justifiably miffed that Amazon began to ban certain erotic subjects without warning authors, or explaining themselves. Neither are being dishonest. Neither are ripping people off. They had their income decimated, and of course they feel strongly about it. And I believe their points and feelings are valid, even if I don't agree with their semantics.

If your employer suddenly changed the rules of your job without telling you, it is their prerogative, but you'd have reason to complain.

It is human nature to feel threatened when things change. It is also human nature to place blame when feeling attacked. So Selena and gniz may use more personal terms to describe the situation, such as "punished", but it doesn't make their argument purely based on emotion.

Alan Spade said...

"For the moment, Indies come cheap and easy, so they are picking the low hanging fruit first."

There! You said it, Broken Yogi! Amazon does that, because it's easier to do that. Indie authors are cheap. There are easy prey.

"We are not of any interest to Amazon except to the degree that we bring customers to their store rather than to a competitor's store."

An then, you said it again: Amazon want to bring customers to their store rather than to a competitor's store.

So, the customers who read indie books interest Amazon. You cannot deny, by your own words, that Amazon has an interest, even indirect, in indie authors. You cannot deny that Amazon, doing that, is hurting competition.

Because, even if the one million of indie books just bring one reader to the Amazon store, it's one reader that is no more buying her books on the other stores. So, am I really a paranoid author so much used in writing books that I can't see clearly what happens in reality, or isn't Amazon acting out in a predatory way?

Your own words betray you, Broken Yogi. You know what Amazon is currently doing. You know they had to target the indie authors because we are cheaper. You know what they are doing does hurt competition.

Of course, it doesn't hurt so much competition than if Amazon was able to get exclusive deals with the bestellers. For the moment, the absence of indie authors will not be enough for competitors to be completly strangled. We can agree that Amazon's competition can survive, for the time being, without any indie authors.

But you know. That. Amazon. Hurt. Competition.

You and I don't see the world from the same point of view. But I'm sure I'm not the one who has blinders.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe, I have no problem obliging your request. But when someone makes harsh personal attacks on me, and tells me I have nothing useful to add to the conversation because I'm not a published author, that leaves me no choice but to respond in kind. Gniz' language is not merely emotional, it's childishly emotional. Treating Amazon like some mother figure who is obliged to feed and reward you, with the only alternatives being hitting and punishing, is some pretty fucked up psychobabble. It's worth pointing out how full of immature stupid that is.

As for him being a writer of erotica, how would I know? He doesn't list a single thing he's ever written. How do I know he didn't make his money cutting and pasting Wikipedia entries into KDP? How would you know? Whatever the case, he's got no case against Amazon for changing things up, even specifically to stop people like him from taking advantage of KU.

Amazon is not his employer. Amazon is a retail outlet he sells his stuff through. You above all people should know that, and should stop using that analogy, since it doesn't hold at all. And Amazon definitely is not his mother.

I didn't hear Gniz complain when Amazon changed the rules of the game by starting up KU, and creating the rules that he liked. So he's got no right to complain now that Amazon has changed those rules. Oh, sure, he can whine all he likes, but he's got not case for being unfairly treated. And no, I don't respect anyone who complains about that change. I think it's good for readers, good for serious writers, and good for Amazon. That it's not good for whining babies like Gniz is also a plus.

It's human nature to be a whining baby, I know. But I'm not obliged to put up with it or step on eggshells around it. For an infant, it's understandable. At his age, it's simply narcissism.

And btw, if you don't like ad hominems like "whining babies", I suggest you re-read your letter to the Justice Department on AU.

Broken Yogi said...

Alan,

Indie authors are cheap. There are easy prey.

How are they prey? You, like gniz, keep using these emotional weasel words as if they suddenly have meaning, when you provide no justification for the.

Prey would be an applicable term if Amazon were like, say, Author's Solutions, who take advantage of gullible self-publishing authors to rip them off, taking many thousands of dollars from them for useless services. But Amazon doesn't do that. They make a straight up business offer to put your books into a subscription service for a limited time, at no cost to you, with a large pool from which authors get paid by the same method. Whether it's by the borrow or the page doesn't matter. There's nothing predatory about that. At all. If you can make a case that it's predatory, do so. I'd love to hear it.

Indie authors are Amazon's base. They are pretty loyal to Amazon because Amazon has treated them well. That's not a predatory practice. Sharks don't coddle their prey for years before eating them. So Amazon has had little trouble getting a good number of their self-published authors to opt in for KU. Because it's a good deal for most of them. If it isn't, they can opt right back out.

What Predator would allow that? Trad publishing doesn't allow it's authors to opt out after three months. So perhaps it's trad publishing that's an example of treating authors as prey. Amazon, not so much.

You cannot deny that Amazon, doing that, is hurting competition.

That's got to be among the dumbest things I've ever heard. Amazon, doing that, is being competitive. It cannot be anti-competitive to offer a competitive advantage over one's competition, by the very definition of the word. Offering a supplier an exclusive outlet with compensatory advantages is a time-honored competitive advantage. It's done in business all the time, everywhere. Other subscription services also have exclusive books that KU doesn't. That's being competitive too. All in an effort to lure both authors and customers to their services. What is the point of competition if everyone offers exactly the same everything? You're thinking like a trad publisher now.

The whole purpose of competition is to hurt your competition. What did you somehow imagine it meant? The whole point is to win at the game of the economic marketplace. The anti-Trust laws do not punish companies that win at honest competition, unless they employ illegal methods or use that victory to screw over consumers. And Amazon doesn't do that.

You don't have blinders on, you just have no understanding of what you are seeing. That's a much more serious problem.

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, I have no problem obliging your request

And yet you keep refusing to stop using ad hominem. So that means you do have a problem obliging my request.

pretty fucked up psychobabble.

Maybe I didn't properly define ad hominem.

Argumentum ad hominem means responding to arguments by attacking a person's character.

Calling his points "fucked up psychobabble" qualifies as ad hominem.

See how I'm able to tell you this without insulting you? I'd like you to attempt doing the same.

As for him being a writer of erotica, how would I know?

I believe he mentioned it in a comment.

And btw, if you don't like ad hominems like "whining babies"

Using tone to further defuse a bad argument sent to the DOJ and signed by 500 authors, or using it to take Patterson, Robinson, Russo, Preston, et al down to size since they never respond to my many points and comments is a method of drawing attention to an important issue. I've explained this many times.

Getting into a flamewar in the comments section of my blog is something else entirely. My blog, my rules. Treat your fellow commentors with respect. That message goes for everyone. Except for me. Because it's my blog.

Joe Konrath said...

Amazon, doing that, is being competitive.

Yes. But that's not Amazon's goal.

I agree with you that Alan is mistaken, but the fascinating thing about Amazon is that they aren't interested in racing against others. They prefer to race with themselves.

Amazon isn't out to wipe out competition. They're out to give customers a great experience. And then to top it.

That's one of the main problems with the "we need strong competition!" argument when it comes to Amazon. Just as Walmart doesn't raise prices when it opens up in some small town and wipes out all the mom and pop shops, Amazon doesn't care much about what Google, Apple, or B&N are doing. Amazon cares what customers are doing, and keeps trying to up its own game.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe, I don't believe you are correct about the meaning of the phrase "ad hominem". It does not refer to characterizing an opponent's arguments as being wrong, stupid, insensible, immature, or emotionally motivated.

ad ho·mi·nem
1. (of an argument or reaction) directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining.

None of the examples you quote are directed at the person of Gniz. They are directed at the position and the arguments he is making.

Calling his points "fucked up psychobabble" qualifies as ad hominem.

No, it doesn't. You even give away the game when you say that I "call his points..." An actual ad hominem is directed at the person, not his points. Because even you acknowledge that I'm addressing his points with the comment, you should know that it's not an example of ad hominem. How is it that you mixed that up so badly?

What I said might count as inflammatory, certainly, and it definitely counts as insulting, but it's not ad hominem. I'm not saying his arguments are wrong because he's a whiney little baby. I'm saying that because his arguments are whiney and babyish, they hold no muster other than as childish complaints that Amazon isn't going out of their way to take care of his needs. In other words, he doesn't actually have an argument to make.

An example of actual ad hominem would be Gniz saying that my arguments aren't worth even listening to because I'm not a published author with "skin in the game". That's using my own personal life and character as a qualifier for the validity of the argument I making. It's a clear logical fallacy of the ad hominem sort.

But for some reason, you ignore the actual ad hominems directed by Gniz at me, and instead focus on accusing me of using ad hominems against him, that aren't actually ad hominems. Why is that? Seriously, what's that all about?

As for your use of the "whiney baby" remarks against AU in your JD letter, I cited that not because I disapprove of your doing that (I thought it quite justified and supported by the evidence), but because it's an example of the same thing I'm doing here with Gniz. His complaints have as little genuine intelligence behind them as AU's, and he deserves having that pointed out to him directly, and even crudely. That's not an ad hominem argument, that's a characterization of his arguments themselves. And I've laid out why I see it that way.

Getting into a flamewar in the comments section of my blog is something else entirely. My blog, my rules.

Fair enough. Just be clear about what your rules are. Don't accuse me of making ad hominem remarks when I haven't done that. And don't say I've broken that rule when I haven't.

Now, if you want to add a few more rules, be my guest. It is your blog after all. But I'd appreciate them a lot more if they were applied equally and accurately.

Treat your fellow commentors with respect.

I have tried that with Gniz, and what I get in return is disrespect and ad hominem. So yeah, I lost patience with the dude. Sorry if that disturbed you. Even sorrier that you're blaming me for it. But again, it's your blog, so ban me if you must.

Broken Yogi said...

But that's not Amazon's goal.

To out-compete the competition in getting more customers to buy from their store is indeed Amazon's primary goal. But even then, it's the method that matters, not the goal. As you say, Amazon's method is to give customers a great experience. That's a brilliant way of out-competing one's competitors. And it seems to be working.

the fascinating thing about Amazon is that they aren't interested in racing against others. They prefer to race with themselves.

If what you mean by this is that Amazon puts most of their attention on their customers, and not their competition, I'd agree. But it's not as if they aren't looking at what their competition is up to. They didn't create KU by looking at their customers and seeing what they wanted. They created it in response to what their competitors were doing. Without Squibd and Oyster, I doubt we'd have KU at all. Now they are trying to make it work for them too, with mixed results. I suppose as you think, it could someday take over the publishing world. Or it could collapse entirely. My crystal ball isn't giving me the final answer yet.

Amazon isn't out to wipe out competition.

In most cases, yes. More importantly, it's probably not in their interests to wipe out literally all of their competition. That would be very costly, and probably wouldn't last, and it would take their eyeballs off their customers, which would undermine their whole approach. It's actually their customers who might wipe out Amazon's competition, by choosing Amazon rather than other retailers. We should be considering an anti-Trust lawsuit against those customers who choose Amazon over their competitors. Clearly, they are conspirators in an anti-competitive monosopoly enterprise of global proportions.

Alan Spade said...

Joe said:

"I agree with you that Alan is mistaken, but the fascinating thing about Amazon is that they aren't interested in racing against others. They prefer to race with themselves.

Amazon isn't out to wipe out competition. They're out to give customers a great experience. And then to top it."

If they were really here to give customers a great experience, they could:

- make their devices compatible with epub, in order to please customers who had bought epub files because they used to have another device before switching to a Kindle
- selling epub files on their website, in order to please customers who don't own a kindle device (and I know the argument about the kindle app for iPad, android devices and computers - Amazon can do BOTH)
- stop demanding exclusivity to authors in exchange for some visibility for some authors: I believe that a lot of readers like Kindle Unlimited, and would like to see more ebooks in KU. The best way to do that is by stopping the exclusivity requirement. Authors like me, who will never put their ebooks on KDP Select with the exclusivity clause, will do it when it is dropped. That will please more readers.

I said "some visibility for some authors" because, let's face it: all authors are not skilled marketers. Far from it. In fact a lot of authors make their ebooks exclusive to Amazon without a single advantage, because they remain invisible.

So, Amazon's deal is in fact a fool's bargain at many levels:
- a great majority of authors don't benefit from it because of the competitivity of the marketplace
- authors who have a strong marketing brand like you Joe, are helping Amazon in making a subscription service more valuable than the traditional system of sales. Which will be, in the end, highly detrimental for all authors.

Let's face it: in what world does a borrow weigh more than a sale? Response: in Amazon's world, because subscibers are able to download many titles, and each borrow counts as a sale in ranking. Which is incredibly unfair and twisted.

That is sheer madness, because we all know that Kindle Unlimited is not sustainable by itself. Amazon makes you live in an artificial world, detached from any economic foundation. And that, my friend, is dangerous.

Alan Spade said...

Broken Yogi:

"How are they prey? You, like gniz, keep using these emotional weasel words"

That's the Broken Yogi I love. So clever in putting the burden of "emotional weasel words" on an author's shoulders. Because you, Broken Yogi, is of course absolutely innocent of that! You never use "emotional weasel words".

If you are so clever with semantics, explain to me how "the low hanging fruit" is so much different from "the prey."

""You cannot deny that Amazon, doing that, is hurting competition.

That's got to be among the dumbest things I've ever heard. Amazon, doing that, is being competitive."

There are different ways to compete, Broken Yogi. The level of pressure is very different to competitors if you try to deprive your competitors from your suppliers by negociating exclusive deals, or if you try to wage a price war, or if you try to innovate, etc.

Experience has repeatedly proven that prices were higher in a town where you just had a single store. That's what Amazon is trying to achieve.

I've proven in my response to Joe that Kindle Unlimited is a fool's bargain for most authors. This proves that Amazon, in fact, is acting agressively. So, of course, Amazon is not strangling babies, and neither is Jeff Bezos attacking us with his bare teeth.

It's much more civilized than that. So when I say "predatory", it's predatory, because I like to call a spade a spade, but you don't have to take it to the letter.

If you don't believe me, try to imagine a world where existed an exclusive deal for every good: for butter, bread, meat, etc. Either you would have as the end result a lone retailer, and the prices would be very high, either you would have to shop at a hundred different stores just for the basic things of every day life.

Perhaps that's why exclusivity deals with suppliers are not dominant in trade. Everyone is losing in the end.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm saying that because his arguments are whiney and babyish, they hold no muster other than as childish complaints

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem#Abusive

Abusive ad hominem usually involves attacking the traits of an opponent as a means to invalidate their arguments. Equating someone's character with the soundness of their argument is a logical fallacy.

But that isn't the main point. Arguing whether or not you're committing ad hominem is selective abstraction on your part. I'll walk you through it.

1. I said: Let's take it down a notch. Attack the argument, not the person. Ad hominem doesn't win debates.

Notice I didn't name names. And besides mentioning ad hominem, I also said to stop attacking, and to limit the emotional engagement.

2. Gniz never replied. You did. And continued to attack and emotionally engage.

3. I again state: You can make your points without personal attacks. Pretend you're debating a friend.

4. And you continued to attack and emotionally engage. Describing gniz's POV as childish isn't productive, and I asked you twice to stop doing it. He can be wrong without being equated to a baby unable to make decisions. You liking that comparison does nothing but through heat, rather than light, on the discussion.

5. Now we can split our discussion into two parts.

We both know you are still being insulting, and focusing on emotion, when I ask you to quit it. That's the major point.

The minor point is if your insults and desire to dwell on classifying points as emotionally stunted qualifies as abusive ad hominem.

I'll posit that most work dynamics involve a power vacuum. You work for someone. That person, or entity, has power over you, and can do things to harm you.

Equating this common dynamic with "employees are childish and whine about nothing" is intentionally provocative, insulting, and unnecessary. People are commonly fired, abused, and mistreated by employers, and that doesn't mean their complaints can be easily dismissed as babyish.

Saying "your argument is incorrect because you are a baby" is the same as saying "your argument is incorrect because you aren't a writer".

But whether we agree it is ad hominem isn't the main point. The main point is that I asked you to quit it, and you find yourself incapable of stopping. Does that mean you're fucking deaf, or just riddled with Tourette's?

See what I did there? I'd call that abusive ad hominem.

You may view gniz's arguments in terms of his misunderstanding of authority, but that doesn't mean you need to continue to call him childish.

I can point to you not following my request, but that doesn't mean I should call you deaf.

I can point out your seeming inability to stop the insults, but that doesn't mean I should say you have Tourette's.

Focusing on ad hominem is a way for you to ignore the larger point; let's focus on the debate, not on the people. Insulting gniz's writing, which you've never read, and saying he's a scammer isn't adding to the discussion.

Joe Konrath said...

make their devices compatible with epub, in order to please customers who had bought epub files because they used to have another device before switching to a Kindle

I have been asking Amazon to do this since 2009. I agree that this isn't as customer friendly as they could be. I've also requested, to everyone within earshot, that they begin selling epub files, and that they drop Select exclusivity. They could also drop the KU monthly subscription fee, and make it included in Prime.

If the latter happens, what how quickly the KENP drops. But I'd be okay with a smaller amount pair per page, if enough extra people were reading me. That would be a net gain.

Let's face it: in what world does a borrow weigh more than a sale?

We have no evidence that borrows weigh more, or are even equal, to sales vis a vis Amazon's ranking algorithms.

So, Amazon's deal is in fact a fool's bargain at many levels:

You listed two. Two is many?

a great majority of authors don't benefit from it because of the competitivity of the marketplace

If KU doesn't benefit an author, they can leave and sell their ebooks elsewhere. There is no fool's bargain here. Try KU. If you benefit, stay. If not, go.

authors who have a strong marketing brand like you Joe, are helping Amazon in making a subscription service more valuable than the traditional system of sales. Which will be, in the end, highly detrimental for all authors.

KDP Select is exclusive for 3 months at a time. Then an author can opt out. Your assumption that authors will stay in KDP Select when they aren't making money, when they are able to opt out after 90 days, doesn't make sense.

If my brand makes KDP Select more valuable, then other authors will be able to take advantage of that.

Alan Spade said...

"Let's face it: in what world does a borrow weigh more than a sale?

We have no evidence that borrows weigh more, or are even equal, to sales vis a vis Amazon's ranking algorithms."

Experiences have been made and one borrows seems to weigh equally as a sale (http://www.selfpublisherbibel.de/test-how-amazons-algorithms-really-work-myth-and-reality/ ).

I believe that with KU1, Jeff Bezos wanted to touch as lightly as possible to its algorithm engine, because you don't want to mess with something that works perfectly. It made sense that he equated one borrow to a sale, also because it was less costly to do so that than to develop a new set of algo for the borrows.

But I'm a nice player. I'll admit that it's speculation on my part. You can nevertheless view on the link I provided that the borrows have a huge effect on ranking.

That means that for the same sum of money, $9.99, the cost of the subscription, a reader can borrow many books of the same author, making him benefit each time of a boost, while for the same amount, the author who has not his ebook in KU is vastly disadvantaged.

In my opinion, the borrows should have their own ranking (a third tab), because a borrow is simply not the same beast than a sale. For instance, the reader cannot keep her borrowed ebook for as long as for a sale. Not the same beast. That's why I say that Amazon has gamed its own (wonderful) system.

"If KU doesn't benefit an author, they can leave and sell their ebooks elsewhere. There is no fool's bargain here. Try KU. If you benefit, stay. If not, go."

After three months, Joe. There is, I think, a delay of retraction, but within the 3 months, the author loses money if she's invisible on Amazon. And that's the vast maljority of authors, at any time.

"authors who have a strong marketing brand like you Joe, are helping Amazon in making a subscription service more valuable than the traditional system of sales. Which will be, in the end, highly detrimental for all authors.

KDP Select is exclusive for 3 months at a time. Then an author can opt out. Your assumption that authors will stay in KDP Select when they aren't making money, when they are able to opt out after 90 days, doesn't make sense."

You don't know what could happen because of the exclusivity clause, Joe. That's the trick: if authors have nowhere else to go, it will be much more harder for them to leave. We are already almost there.

I agree that Google and Apple are here to stay. But even if they still have an ebook platform at this time, if there is no readers over there, there is no readers.

And it's not fear of the future on my part: Amazon has already proven, by prioritizing KU over real sales, that it plays its own game, not the authors'.

Yes, it's business. But it also proves that Amazon is really a tiger and has already jeopardized the future of the authors.

And you won't make be believe that's because of the competition of Oyster and Scribd, who are small fishes compared to Amazon. Amazon could have created a subscription system without linking it to exclusivity, and without making it change the rankings (or with a separate ranking).

This move is clever, deliberate, and not in our favor.

This tiger is already gnawing at our legs, though in a much more insidious way than the big publishers. We now must fight this cartel of big publishers along with Amazon.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe,

I disagree strongly with your characterization of my criticism of Gniz's arguments and postings here as "abusive ad hominem". I've already explained why. I'm strong in my criticism of his arguments, and as far as I can tell, accurate. But you're really putting out a trap here to accuse me of perpetuating that abuse, when you've the one who is perpetuating the argument, by accusing me of abusive ad hominem.

What I've done since that accusation of yours is defend my arguments, and my criticism of gniz. That of course requires me to examine what I've said, which means quoting it and repeating it in order to discuss it. You've done the same. That I don't back down from what I've said is not perpetuating anything, it's merely responding to your criticism of me. Which you keep repeating over and over again, perpetuating the discussion of it even further. And then blaming me for that. If you had simply stayed out of it, the whole thing would have died off as soon as gniz stopped responding to me. So your attempt to de-flame things has actually had the effect of making it worse, and kept it going. And so now are flaming me by accusing me of resorting to abusive ad hominem, and I think unjustly. But because it's your blog, that doesn't count? How, by your own logic, is that not the same thing?

I'll be honest with you, because I'm a straight talking kind of guy. I've been attracted to your blog, including your harsh criticism of people and things in the publishing world, and your writing altogether, because you don't mince words or back down from a fight. I like that about you. Some people hate it. You have a bad reputation out there because of the harshness of your criticism of the publishing world, including of specific people, and it's fairly easy to characterize that criticism as abusive and personal. I wouldn't call your arguments abusive ad hominem, but many people do. I wouldn't dismiss them because of the emotional quality of many of them. But many do. If you are going to turn around and apply those standards to people on your blog who have strong disagreements with each other, well, that's your right, but in my view it makes you less the man I thought you were. Which is fine, if you actually are less of that man you've presented yourself as. It would be good to know that. Disappointing perhaps, but reality is a good thing to know.

Now, I think you should notice that I haven't been abusive to you at any point in this discussion. Even the above confession isn't an abusive criticism of you. I've never attacked you with ad hominem. And I haven't attacked Gniz with ad hominem. You can claim all you want that I have, but the very definition of the phrase is very clear, as is your own previous admission that I've attacked his points, not the person. Sure, I've done so in a very colorful way, but that's the kind of guy I am. And it's the kind of guy you are too. If you don't know that about yourself, well, please, just look in the mirror now and then. It's not really an unflattering portrait, in my view at least.

Broken Yogi said...

cont.


I like colorful, expressive people who aren't afraid to say what they think. I don't even mind Gniz's criticisms, or yours, or Alan's. Doesn't really bother me, and I'm happy to respond just as colorfully to those who can handle it. I've assumed from Gniz's dishing to people here, including to me, that he can handle it. Maybe he can't, which would only confirm my previous diagnosis. He made some pretty strong, abusive criticism of me, and I'm not even complaining about that. I simply responded to it as I felt he deserved to be responded to. You can call that abusive if you like, but it's no more abusive than your take-down of any number of targets that have come within range of your verbal howitzer. Probably quite a lot less so.

Now, maybe you disagree with my characterization of Gniz's points as whiney and childish. Fine. That doesn't make it ad hominem, it would only make it incorrect. Why? Because I'm not saying that Gniz himself is otherwise known to a be a whiney baby, and that because he's a known whiney baby, his arguments are invalid. I know nothing about the guy other than what he's said here, and not all of that, because I haven't read all his comments on every thread. I didn't even know he claims to write erotica until you just mentioned it. But I did point out a repetitive pattern in his choice of words and endless whining that paints a childish pattern of complaint, with no real substance to it that I find defensible. Maybe you do. You've made a defense of him, that I don't find at all substantive either, or any kind of justification for his arguments. But I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on that.

Broken Yogi said...

Alan,

If you are so clever with semantics, explain to me how "the low hanging fruit" is so much different from "the prey."

That's very easy. Fruit is not an object of prey. It's not an animal, it's a vegetable. It's not even the living vegetative organism itself, it's the literal "fruit" of a tree, which is the living organism here. Picking the fruit doesn't kill the tree. In fact, it benefits the tree, by spreading its seed. The tree offers its fruit to the world for picking and spreading of its seeds. Animals eating that fruit are part of its evolutionary system of reproduction.

Authors and publishers are like trees offering their fruit to Amazon, to eat it, benefit from its nutrition, sell it, and spread the seed around the world. That benefits those authors, just as it does a tree. It's a mutual exchange that benefits both parties. I call self-publishing authors the "low-hanging fruit" because they are more willing and thus easier for Amazon to harvest than those harder fruits from trad publishing that are higher up on the ladder.

And it's not predatory because Amazon isn't killing the tree. Instead, like a good orchard farmer, they are taking care of the trees, feeding them, watering them, making sure they have plenty of sunlight and nutrients and are free of bugs and parasites for the most part. Predators don't do that.

There are different ways to compete

Of course there are different ways to compete. Having exclusive deals with suppliers is one of the most common such ways. As is offering lower pricing. As is innovating. As is giving the customer the kind of experience they want to repeat. Suggesting that exclusive deals with suppliers is somehow off the table is a novel argument you are free to make to judges or congress or whomever you might find a receptive audience for, but I don't think you're going to find many takers. Outlawing that would hurt competition, rather than help it. Because a big part of business is being able to choose how you want to distribute your goods, and to whom. Forcing producers and suppliers to make their products available to any retail outlet would harm competition. So you have things exactly backwards there.

Experience has repeatedly proven that prices were higher in a town where you just had a single store. That's what Amazon is trying to achieve.

First, that's just wrong. Walmart can be criticized for many things, including eliminating small business competition, but it hasn't turned around and raised prices as a result. And neither has Amazon. And guess what? If they did, the JD would have a strong anti-trust case against them, and sue, and force them to stop that shit. Which is probably the only reason they don't. So I'm not suggesting they or Amazon are angels for that. They are just aware of the laws in our country, and fear them. Which is a good thing.

Broken Yogi said...

cont.

I've proven in my response to Joe that Kindle Unlimited is a fool's bargain for most authors.

I wouldn't agree with that characterization of your debate with Joe. Or with your conclusions. KU seems to work for some authors and their strategies, and not for others. It may well change again, and the mix of responses will change as well. I suppose I am somewhere in the middle between you two. I see plenty of problems with KU that will undermine its chances of greater success - or any sort of profitable future within its own economics. Maybe it can survive as a loss leader, I don't know. But it's definitely not a negative for a lot of authors who are getting free subsidies from Amazon's investors. As long as those investors keep bidding up the price of Amazon's stock, KU is probably pretty safe.

This proves that Amazon, in fact, is acting agressively.

Of course Amazon is aggressive. You don't win competitions by laying back and acting passively. Which is why Amazon is winning the competition in many areas, and so many others are losing.

So when I say "predatory", it's predatory, because I like to call a spade a spade, but you don't have to take it to the letter.

Let's be honest, you only call it predatory because of the emotional power of that word, regardless of whether it actually applies. You don't care whether it accurately describes Amazon. It's one of those talking points that politicians repeat over and over again, thinking if they do that enough people will accept it as true. So it's just propaganda. That's why I call it a weasel word. And by the way, weasels really are predators. Farmers tending to orchards are not.

If you don't believe me, try to imagine a world where existed an exclusive deal for every good

If that were to happen, then some smart, innovative retailer would come along to offer a much better grocery shopping experience. In this alternative reality of yours, Jeff Bezos would probably lead that company, and wipe out the competition using a different strategy that gave his customers what they wanted, rather than the cozy arrangements that suppliers wanted to maintain. And the competition would be berating him for "destroying the grocery industry", and people would accuse him of creating a monopoly with his new stores that don't follow the accepted industry ways.

Perhaps that's why exclusivity deals with suppliers are not dominant in trade.

Actually, they are to one degree or another. Almost no products are sold universally in every retail outlet. Suppliers make all sorts of deals, including many exclusive ones, that limit their distribution channels to key outlets in order to increase exposure and sales. It's a major selling point for all sorts of suppliers and retailers. And it increases competition rather than decreasing it. If it didn't, it wouldn't work and people wouldn't make such deals.

Joe Konrath said...

I like colorful, expressive people who aren't afraid to say what they think.

Then start a blog. Then you can use whatever tone you'd like, while also moderating the tone of your commentors.

Broken Yogi said...

Joe, I wasn't going to respond to the specifics of your criticism of me, because then you'd just accuse me of "perpetuating the abuse", but re-reading what you wrote does seem to require it of me. Disagree with me if you like, just don't accuse me of abuse simply by responding to you.

We both know you are still being insulting, and focusing on emotion, when I ask you to quit it. That's the major point.

We can agree that I was insulting his arguments by pointing to the actual words he uses to make them, as being childish and whiney and making Amazon out to be a bad parent who metes out punishements and rewards, hitting and abusing him, and not attending to his needs. I would only say that my insults were supported by the evidence. As were his, btw. I really am not a published author with any skin in the game (yet). That's not an insult, but it is an ad hominem that has no bearing on my general views on publishing, Amazon, or the childishness of Gniz's arguments.

The minor point is if your insults and desire to dwell on classifying points as emotionally stunted qualifies as abusive ad hominem.

No, it doesn't. Pointing out that Gniz has repeatedly introduced ad nauseum the same highly charged emotional words and arguments (of a dependently childish nature) is not abusive ad hominem. It's a fact. Pointing to facts that are actually a part of the discussion, introduced by Gniz himself, is not ad hominem. It's a criticism. And yes, easily taken as an insult. But an insult to those arguments. Which I admit is hard not to take personally, since Gniz is the person who wrote them. But that's how it goes. If someone makes childish arguments and uses words painting themselves as a dependent child being abused by a corporate parent, well, that's just the facts once again. My pointing them out isn't abusive or ad hominem.

I'll posit that most work dynamics involve a power vacuum. You work for someone. That person, or entity, has power over you, and can do things to harm you.

Of course, to a degree this is commonly true. Or not. If you are an independent contractor who can take or leave a temporary offer of employment at any time, negotiate with others, and then come back at any time you like, that's not much of a power vacuum. I know many people who are in such a situation, because they have skills that are in demand. So that's the way out of that power vacuum: develop skills that are in demand. Not whine about how the rules need to be changed, or kept in place, to benefit you, because you're a dependent child who can't adapt to the changing nature of the adult economy. People without skill, who work for minimum wage, I'm quite sympathetic to protections being put in place for them. Self-published authors trying to game the system to make a fast buck, not so much. The entertainment industry is tough and unforgiving, and everyone involved ought to know that before they ever get into it. "Fair" is not a word that anyone but a child should use in this context.

Broken Yogi said...

cont.

Equating this common dynamic with "employees are childish and whine about nothing" is intentionally provocative, insulting, and unnecessary. People are commonly fired, abused, and mistreated by employers, and that doesn't mean their complaints can be easily dismissed as babyish.

I see what you did there. You turned my specific criticism of Gniz into a general criticism of every single employee in the world. That's an old propaganda trick too. And it's completely absurd, of course. You should know better than to try that argument. And besides, Gniz isn't an employee. He's a businessman himself, churning out product, as the head of his own company. No one can fire him, or abuse or mistreat him, but himself. Amazon isn't his boss, it's one of his retail outlets. There's no paternalism involved. It's a straight up business deal in the excruciatingly difficult and unfair entertainment industry. He found a loophole in the system and exploited it for a year, and made a lot of money. Amazon closed that loophole and now he's complaining about that, using all the whiney words that babies use to describe their abusive mothers. Except he's not a baby, and Amazon isn't his mother. So he needs to grow up and deal with it. Maybe my harsh words will help kick him in that direction. Maybe not.

Saying "your argument is incorrect because you are a baby" is the same as saying "your argument is incorrect because you aren't a writer".

That would be true, if I had actually said that. But because I didn't say that, it's not true. See how that works?

What I did say is that his words and arguments were whiney and childish and babyish, and demonstrably so. I quoted him to demonstrate that. And I certainly did imply that whiney and childishly emotional arguments are poor arguments that carry little weight. You've said the same thing about AU throughout your letter to the JD (and elsewhere). It's one of your primary arguments against many critics of Amazon. So I really don't see how you can sit on a high horse and claim any moral superiority here. Nor do you even need to. It's a valid criticism either way.

The main point is that I asked you to quit it, and you find yourself incapable of stopping.

I am perfectly able to stop. I did feel obliged to respond to Gniz's last post, however, despite your request that we stop the ad hominems and take it down a notch. And I explained why I didn't just stop, and why I felt justified in saying what I did to gniz. Past that point, you're just drawing this out, because I guess there's something interesting in it for you to munch on. Beats me what that is.

Does that mean you're fucking deaf, or just riddled with Tourette's?

See what I did there? I'd call that abusive ad hominem.


I wouldn't. I suppose it might be called abusive by some people, but I just see it as your characteristically colorful way of getting a point across. Makes me laugh even. And you know why I see it that way? Because I'm not a whiney little baby looking to take offense at every little thing some guy on the Internet says to me. I have a sense of humor, and a sense of proportion.

Likewise, it's not ad hominem either. You're not attacking me the person, you're attacking the points I'm making and the style I make them in. All fair game. More importantly, you're not dismissing my arguments because I'm deaf. I'm quite sure you'd never do that to an actual deaf person. or someone with Tourette's. And neither would I.

You may view gniz's arguments in terms of his misunderstanding of authority, but that doesn't mean you need to continue to call him childish.

If the shoe fits.

But let's be clear: I wouldn't be continuing to call his arguments childish if you weren't continuing to attack me for having done so a long ways back.

Broken Yogi said...

cont

I can point to you not following my request, but that doesn't mean I should call you deaf.

You can if you like. I take no offense. It's a valid way of expressing your frustration with me. I'm grown up enough to understand what you actually mean by that turn of phrase. But I think you know it's neither literally or even figuratively true. I hear you very well. I simply disagree with you. And I disagree with the notion that responding to your criticism of me is "perpetuating the abuse". That's just such a cheap argument I'm surprised you'd stoop so low as to make it. Makes you look a bit desperate.

I can point out your seeming inability to stop the insults, but that doesn't mean I should say you have Tourette's.

If I were swearing uncontrollably and randomly, it would be a valid point. Otherwise, not. See how that works? I don't have to take offense at invalid criticism. If my criticism of gniz were invalid, it would have no sting, it would just be pathetic.

Focusing on ad hominem is a way for you to ignore the larger point; let's focus on the debate, not on the people.

A huge part of Gniz's argument is emotional. That can't be ignored. It's basically emotion trying to trump reason. That's something to criticize and point out about it. Just as you have done the same with AU and others. It's not ad hominem to point to the emotional depravity of someone's arguments. It's an argument in itself against someone's method of argumentation.

Insulting gniz's writing, which you've never read, and saying he's a scammer isn't adding to the discussion.

I've never read Gniz's writings because he won't point any of us here to them. I would if he would reveal them to us. I did say that he appears to be too embarrassed by them to let anyone know what he's actually written (except you, I take it, but even then, how do you know he's revealing all his publications to you?)

So I am led to assume the worst. But I agree that calling him a scammer is pushing things a bit beyond the evidence. You'll notice I haven't mentioned that until now, when you just brought it up. He may be a scammer, he may not, I'll probably never know, because I don't think Gniz will ever reveal all the many, many books he's put out on KU. I think he said hundreds? Not sure how anyone can do that without some scamming involved, so it's not an unreasonable presumption, given how he's behaved here, but I'm not going to press the point.

Broken Yogi said...

Then start a blog. Then you can use whatever tone you'd like, while also moderating the tone of your commentors.

I probably will, when my own books come out next year.

But I'm not into moderating people's tone. I prefer that people let it all hang out.

And just to be clear, are you suggesting that I stop commenting here at your blog? Don't be afraid to say so if that's what you mean. If I'm not welcome here, I'll go away.

Alan Spade said...

Broken Yogi:

I don't agree with any of your refutations and arguments.

Is Amazon taking care of its "fruits" like you put it? No, they are not. As you said to Gniz, Amazon is not our mother. There are thousands of authors who cannot find a reader, and who might, perhaps, have a chance with other retailers, but their ebooks are stuck for 3 months in Amazon. Exactly the way they were stuck in the slush pile of big publishing.

Amazon might help the authors who help themsleves skillfully, and who are great marketers, that's all. They used to help them to a greater level then the other retailers, but now, it's mostly KU, and Amazon itself, which benefit from the exclusive books who are read each month.

I won't be able to convince you that amazon behaves in a predatory way, because it's difficult to obtain the testimonies of the preys, and even when some of them come here talking (Selena, Gniz), you dismiss their testimonies.

"No, you weren't abused, it's just business."

I would like to encourage you to interview the responsibles of Kobo and other competitors of Amazon in order to obtain their testimonies, because, who knows better than a prey if it is hunted?

But even if they would swallow their pride and admit that they are indeed hunted and that the size of Amazon make its aggressive strategy very dangerous and hurtful, you would dismiss their testimonies because they are too much involved and:

"No, you weren't abused, it's just business."

You were talking about fruits? I believe our debate has now become fruitless, because each of us will stick to his position. If someone is reading this, there is enough arguments on both side for him/her to make his/her opinion.

Joe Konrath said...

But I'm not into moderating people's tone. I prefer that people let it all hang out.

I've been blogging for a decade.

When people begin to insult each other in the comments, some people stop reading/commenting. This is a bad thing. It stifles discourse.

It's my blog, so I can belittle big targets. That draws readers. When commenters start belittling each other, it makes for a hostile environment. That loses readers. Too many forums have gone sour because they weren't moderated for tone.

Broken Yogi said...

I don't agree with any of your refutations and arguments. I'm shocked, absolutely shocked to find anyone who would dare disagree with me.

Is Amazon taking care of its "fruits" like you put it? No, they are not.

It's merely an analogy explaining, very loosely, the kind of relationship Amazon has to self-published authors. Don't take it literally. But yes, as business partners Amazon is fulfilling its end of its deal with authors. It is paying them good money. It is promoting them and giving them opportunities they've never had before. It is literally "feeding" them money. Not like a mother, but like a business that values the self-publishing authors who choose to sell their books through Amazon. A farmer is a businessman, who cares for his orchard because it makes him a profit. Amazon does the same.

There are thousands of authors who cannot find a reader, and who might, perhaps, have a chance with other retailers, but their ebooks are stuck for 3 months in Amazon.

They are only stuck there because they made the decision to put their book in Kindle Select. If they had just put their book in KDP, they could leave any time they like. It wasn't a trap set by Amazon, it was a deal knowingly entered into by both parties. As business commitments go, it's a very short one. I can't really believe even you think that amounts to predatory behavior. At the end of that three months, they can do whatever they like with their book. And Amazon doesn't punish them for doing that. They just don't get the benefits of Select anymore.

Exactly the way they were stuck in the slush pile of big publishing.

No, not even remotely similar. I have to wonder about your reasoning powers if you make such comparisons. In the first place, having your book in a slush pile means that no one can buy it, and you don't make any money off it. Being stuck in Select means your books is available to the largest single body of readers/buyers/borrowers in the world. And besides, I thought your argument was that Amazon is making Select so attractive that authors want their books there, and thus cornering the market? Now it's a bad thing to be there? Make up your mind.

Amazon might help the authors who help themsleves skillfully, and who are great marketers, that's all.

Now you're getting the idea. It's a business arrangement. The trees that bear the most fruit get the most attention. If your tree doesn't bear valuable fruit, you don't get Amazon's attention. You can still work to sell your books, but there's a ton of competition from other trees out there. Too much competition for all authors to be successful.

They used to help them to a greater level then the other retailers, but now, it's mostly KU, and Amazon itself, which benefit from the exclusive books who are read each month.

Like everything in publishing, you have to have the brains not just to write books people want to buy and read, you also have to figure out where the best places are to sell them to readers, and then you have to find a way to get word out to the right audience. Amazon offers several options, and people have to figure out which combination is for them. Maybe none of them are. Maybe trad publishing is better for them. That slush pile is waiting for you. Use it if you like.

I don't know how you can claim that now it's mostly Amazon that benefits from self-publishing. They still take the same 30% cut, leaving 70% for the author. At KU, they are losing money and pumping extra cash into the pool to keep their authors from jumping ship. It's not Amazon that benefits from the exclusivity deal (yet), it's authors themselves. By making KU more attractive, they are making it a destination for readers who go there to read self-published books. It builds readership, and increases incomes. And that also leads Amazon to pump more of its investors' money into that pool.

Broken Yogi said...

cont.

I won't be able to convince you that amazon behaves in a predatory way, because it's difficult to obtain the testimonies of the preys

If they were actual predators, it wouldn't be hard to find oodles of testimony against them. Your problem is a lack of evidence.

and even when some of them come here talking (Selena, Gniz), you dismiss their testimonies.

I don't dismiss their testimony. I simply state the fact that what they testify to is not predatory behavior on the part of Amazon. If anything, it's the testimony of smart predators who took advantage of Amazon's system to enrich themselves. The victims of a predatory business model don't walk away with millions of dollars as gniz claims. They are crying and whining all the way to the bank.

What they complain about is the measures Amazon took to change their system to deal with those predators. And I use the term loosely, not meaning it in a derogatory way. I like wolves, but they will surely prey on farm animals that aren't protected by fences. Amazon changed the fences to protect what they considered their more valuable books and authors.

Even in KU 2.0, they still get to sell their shorts and make money on KU. It's just not as crazy-lucrative for them as it was previously. They aren't being "preyed upon" by Amazon. No one took a dime away from they. They got to keep all that fast cash they made from KU 1.0. They just don't get to keep making it at the same rate anymore. That's not predatory behaivor, that's protective behavior on Amazon's part. And it protects not just Amazon, but the authors of longer works who felt they were getting screwed and their paychecks diluted by the massive short market. That's Amazon's call to make, and it's not an immoral, unethical, or predatory call.

"No, you weren't abused, it's just business."

Exactly. And they made bank on that business.

I would like to encourage you to interview the responsibles of Kobo and other competitors of Amazon in order to obtain their testimonies, because, who knows better than a prey if it is hunted?

Amazon doesn't hunt Kobo. It competes with them. It's not their business to make Kobo happy. It's their business to make their customers happy. And that same goes for Kobo. It's Kobo's business to make their customers happy, not whine about Amazon doing a better job of that than they are.

they are indeed hunted and that the size of Amazon make its aggressive strategy very dangerous and hurtful, you would dismiss their testimonies because they are too much involved

I'd definitely say that it's dangerous to compete with Amazon. But now you're switching gears from talking about Amazon's business partners, it's KDP authors, to its competitors, like Kobo. Very different category. But once again, the analogy doesn't work. Amazon doesn't actually prey on its competitors. At worst, you could say that it poaches their customers by offering better services and prices. And it does the same with self-published authors. And yes, that is definitely how business works. I don't know what kind of world you think we live in.

You were talking about fruits? I believe our debate has now become fruitless, because each of us will stick to his position.

Perhaps so, because the evidence simply doesn't support your arguments. I think there are plenty of good criticisms to make of Amazon, but you haven't made them. You have to get over these silly ideas of yours and gniz and so on and look at this situation in a calm, business-like manner. Because it's business, not metaphor. And then you might be able to make some genuine criticisms of Amazon that have value. But at this point, literally nothing you are saying has any merit. Which is a shame, because I think you're capable of doing better.

Z Zirconia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z Zirconia said...

I might be a year late on this but:

According to the ever helpful Nate Hoffelder, this is the history of the KU monthly pool:

May 2014: $1.2 million
June 2014: $1.2 million
July: $2.5 million (Kindle Unlimited launches)
August: $4.7 million
September: $5 million
October: $5.5 million
November 2014: $6.5 million
December 2014: $7.25 million
January 2015 - $8.5 million
February 2015: $8 million
March 2015: $9.3 million
April 2015: $9.8 million
May 2015: $10.8 million
June 2015: $11.3 million
July 2015: $11.5 million

With one exception, it has always gone up.


From June to July represents a 3% daily decrease from June to July (0.38m per day to 0.37m per day) while every month previously showed a roughly 10% increase in daily number of borrows, with no reason to believe that that has changed. That amounts to somewhere in the neighborhood of an actual decrease of 13% in payouts. January to February actually was an increase in dollars per day paid out, although a small one (about 1%).

Slowchaos said...

Sorry to burst your bubble on Amazon work climate Joe, but I live just down the road from an Amazon fulfillment center and I can tell you that the employees there are not happy with the culture. The comments that I have heard mirror the NYT story perfectly....

Guy R said...

@Joe

the one thing that concerns me is when you said, "When KU is included in Prime, and includes Big 5 books, I think casual readers will jump on board."

Currently Amazon's pricing/payment model is based on the $9.99/month/subscription model. It would seem to me that if they begin to include it Prime, there were would also need to be decrease in author payment to adjust for that.

Now obviously Amazon would probably get an uptick in Prime subscriptions, but I don't know if it would be enough to sustain the current payment rates. And even if it was, it would seem to be the perfect time to decrease author payment because it could be attributed to a decrease in KU income generation. There are very few businesses who wouldn't decide (or be forced by shareholder mandate) to increase income by lowering payments to suppliers (content providers).

I honestly don't believe there are very many hardcore readers currently outside of the Prime system, but I'm sure Amazon is constantly evaluating their own data on that. So I don't know what kind of volume increase you'd actually see in page-readership to make up for a decrease in per-page payment. It would depend on the amount of the per-page payment decrease, and that would depend on what Amazon decides the author/supplier market would tolerate.

Just curious on your thoughts about this. Disclosure, I am new to your blog, so I may have missed a post where you discuss this exact topic, so feel free to point me in the right direction if that is the case.