Sunday, November 5, 2017

Opting out of Kindle Unlimited for now

I am not going to release my next book into Kindle Unlimited this coming week, and I've been taking my existing books out as their 90-day terms in the program expire. By December 31 of 2017, I will not be in the program at all.
I apologize to readers who have come to expect my books will be there, but there are several problems with the program that Amazon has had years to fix and has chosen to ignore. It's a mess, and for now, I'm staying safely away.

4 of 6 are blatantly obvious KU scam books

and one Chinese click farm that scams Kindle Unlimited

Problem 1 is that if you read in "page read" mode, which many people do on their phones, we get paid nothing for a borrow and read of our book. Problem 2 is that many writers have discovered via testing even regular reads in normal reading mode aren't being counted fairly. Problem 3 is that we are getting paid less and less for a full read. When I began in KU, I received 75% of a normal royalty for a KU read; as I canceled my participation, that rate had dropped to 35%.

I don't like to talk about money or make my readers think about me as a money-grubbing person, but I'm afraid I must address an ugly fact here: I do need to eat and pay rent. It's hard to write books living out of a cardboard box in a viaduct with no electricity to run the computer. It's also hard to write books period, and counted over my lifetime of learning how and my hours of producing each book, I'm not making minimum wage at it. To make minimum wage for the work I have done before I die of old age is my fond desire.

But beyond my selfish need for an occasional meal and new 99-cent Walmart flip-flops and falling payments, the KU system is broken because of scammers. Anyone with half a brain can point to many scam books in the store in a moment (I bet you saw them in the image above!!), but somehow, Amazon cannot. Payouts for KU books come from pooled money, and perhaps as much as a third of that pool is going to scammers who pay click farms, usually based in China, companies that automatically run tablets or phones that flip book pages while being signed up for the free month of KU using stolen credit card numbers. A lot of these scam books aren't even in English. Some are English but are gibberish or random pages from Wikipedia or one sentence repeated for 1,000 pages. Some are real books, badly written, not selling on their merits. Or worst of all, they are books stolen from real authors like me.

Not that anyone is reading them. Huge rooms full of knock-off tablets or $5 phones are "reading" them, as in the other image above. It's out of control, and for reasons no one understands, Amazon does not care enough to stop it. Several of these books have been in the top 100 overall, or hit their "movers and shakers" list, and they still don't stop it! A single full-time staff person actually checking top-selling books could deal with a lot of it, and there is every indication they can tell when the read is happening in China or India or Indonesia, where these things are, but it's apparently not that important to Amazon.

It is important to writers, who feel they are being stolen from...who in fact ARE being stolen from. This has driven a lot of good writers out of Kindle Unlimited and thus here I am, hating feeling I must, but joining those ranks.

There are yet more problems with KU for authors, which are boring and sometimes technical and I've wasted too much writing time learning about them and understanding them, and I won't waste more writing time explaining them here. Believe me: they exist.

So again, I apologize. I love the idea of KU, but it's a broken thing, and until it gets fixed, I will hesitate long before rejoining.

What I think Amazon should do (not that they are asking me or likely to) is re-design KU so that authors get invited into it, indie writers who have proven themselves, who write good enough books that people want to read them and finish them. (They do this with Prime Reading, so I know they could also do it with Kindle Unlimited.) Then the overall quality would go up and everybody but the scammers would win. But I don't run Amazon. I'm just one of a million third-party vendors there, with no power at all except to opt out of a broken system. So that is what I'm doing, hoping (though it may be a useless hope) that if enough of the good indie writers do this, they'll start caring over at Amazon.

Again, if it causes you a problem, I apologize. If you stick with me and buy my books where you once borrowed, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If you give up on me, I understand that. You can complain to me in comments, and I'll listen, but I'm impotent to change things. You can complain to Amazon, the only entity that can change this situation.  If enough fans do, maybe they'll fix what is broken.

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