Should you sign up for Kindle Unlimited?

Amazon Kindle Unlimited

As both a writer and a reader, I know Kindle Unlimited from the inside out.

Kindle Unlimited (at the time of this writing) costs $9.99 per month. 

(Keep reading for information about the FREE TRIAL, though.)

Kindle Unlimited is an Amazon program that gives members more or less unlimited access (hence the name of the program) to a vast body of enrolled books.

How many books, exactly? 

I don’t know how many titles are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited at the moment. Probably no one does. But more are added every day. 

It’s a big, big bunch. (That’s a technical term, by the way.)

There are more books in Kindle Unlimited than you are going to read in your lifetime (even if you’re still in your twenties, and you don’t drink, smoke, or eat trans fats). 

Or to put it another way: You will never exhaust the books available to you in Kindle Unlimited. 

I can promise you that. 

So….what kinds of books are included with a Kindle Unlimited membership?

Well, first of all: These are Kindle, electronic books. (You probably already know that, but I should mention this just in case.) 

Not paperbacks or hardcovers, etc. 

Some Kindle Unlimited titles do include FREE audiobooks, too…but not all of them. Kindle Unlimited is primarily about ebooks. 

“Yeah, I get that. But what kinds of books?”

A lot of fiction. 

(Some nonfiction, too…But a lot of fiction.)

Genre fiction abounds in Kindle Unlimited. Romance, science fiction, fantasy, cozy mystery, etc. 

Oh, yes, and erotica, too. (Since you’ll be reading on your Kindle device, no one will know what you’re reading: the modern equivalent of the plain brown wrapper.)

Series

Many Kindle Unlimited authors publish series. So if you find a character whom you like, you may be able to follow that character on numerous adventures, over the course of a long series of books. 

Constant authorial output

Kindle Unlimited authors are largely compensated by page reads. (Like I said, as an author, I know the program from both sides.) Therefore, many of them are writing machines, in the grand tradition of the old pulp writers. 

Are there any downsides to Kindle Unlimited?

Kindle Unlimited is a great deal for voracious readers who like certain kinds of books. But there are a few other things (not necessarily sales points) that you should know about the program. With Kindle Unlimited, as with almost everything else, your mileage may vary 

In Kindle Unlimited, you won’t find the books that you see on the shelves at Walmart. 

Books by John Grisham, Stephen King, Lisa Scottoline, and James Patterson, etc. generally aren’t enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. 

(You can still order these books for your Kindle, of course—but you’ll have to pay for them.)

Authoritative nonfiction titles are scarce in Kindle Unlimited.

I like to read big, thick nonfiction books, especially about history and economics. For example: Leonardo Da Vinci, by Walter Isaacson

Those aren’t the kinds of books that typically show up in Kindle Unlimited. 

Once again: Kindle Unlimited is mostly about genre fiction.

Maybe you won’t read as much as you think you will.

Life happens, right? Maybe you’ll plan on reading…But you’ll be busy at work…Or you’ll go on vacation, or….

You know what I mean. 

And if that happens, you might not get your monthly fee’s worth.

Moreover, not every reader is a truly voracious reader.  

Are you the sort of reader who reads four or five books per year? Kindle Unlimited (probably) isn’t your thing.

Do you read multiple books per week? Then Kindle Unlimited might be for you.

The bottom line

Kindle Unlimited is a great program. Moreover, it’s an Amazon program, and you probably already have a relationship with Amazon. (If you don’t have a relationship with Amazon and you live in the U.S., you are an extreme rarity, indeed.)

But as I said: Your mileage may vary. 

So…what’s the best thing to do?

In my opinion, your best option is to sign up for a Kindle Unlimited 30-day FREE trial.

That way, if you like Kindle Unlimited, you can continue with it.

On the other hand, if you determine that Kindle Unlimited isn’t your thing, you can cancel, nothing lost.

Why not give Kindle Unlimited a try?

You have nothing to lose, after all.

I strongly recommend that you give Kindle Unlimited a FREE try. And while you’re thinking about Kindle Unlimited, you might also want to check out the newest Kindle devices from Amazon.

The ossification of indie publishing, ten years on

I was lurking in a closed Facebook group for authors the other day, when I came across a post from a youngish (early 30s) writer who was lamenting the difficulty of breaking even under the Kindle Unlimited publishing model, as it has evolved:

“I’m a new author. I published my first book on April 14th and my third yesterday. I’ve been running Amazon ads with limited success in sales. I have no idea how they’ve done with KU. I’ve sold almost 570 books (most on a free promotion of book one) and am over 30,000 pages read on KU. Advertising costs are killing me. I have one ad that’s brought me 49 sales. Another that got me 11, the rest aren’t near double digits added together. I’ve read books on advertising, watched videos, researched, used KDP rocket, everything I can think of. I’m living on a teacher’s salary with a wife and 3 kids. I just don’t know if advertising is really worth it at this point. Any ideas?”

Then other authors chimed in with advice. (That’s what such forums are for, after all.) They all gave him the same advice, more or less:

1. Write a really long series! Eight to ten books! 

2. Spend $749 dollars on Mark Dawson’s “Advertising for Authors” course!

3. Invest even more in Facebook and Amazon Marketing Services ads. Maybe spend $800 to $1,000 on a Bookbub promotion!

4. Hope and pray that you “earn out”. (I.e., hope and pray that your combined sales and Kindle Unlimited page reads exceed your high advertising costs.)

 

Then I noticed a post from yet another author:

 

“Interestingly, I think I would do better to dump writing novels or short stories and concentrate on my blog, because several [companies] have approached me to advertise on it….”

 

I looked up the other author online. Like me, she writes across several genres, including nonfiction. She blogs about current events (as I have been known to do). Her politics are pretty much the opposite of mine, but that’s an irrelevant point for our purposes here.

This blogging author’s posts received crickets from the other authors in the group. They didn’t know what to do with it. 

Write on a blog? Do actual…online content marketing? What the heck is that?

Roughly ten years ago, when the “indie publishing revolution” began, it was greeted by loud voices of denial in the traditional, New York-based publishing establishment. I remember, circa 2010, actually reading claims that publishing oneself on Amazon amounted to “cheating”.

Now that independent publishing has become such a fixed part of the book ecosystem, that charge sounds ridiculous, of course. But remember the mindset of 2010: There was very rigid, collective mindset regarding “how things are done”. Back then, anyone who wanted to succeed as a writer had a narrow focus on the world of New York publishers and literary agents. 

I’ve found an interesting paradox where writers are concerned: Most of them are “progressive” on political and social issues. Those writers who do make their politics known online almost invariably engage in public hissy fits about Trump and the GOP. They gush about Obama and Elizabeth Warren. 

But when it comes to publishing itself, these same writers are more conservative and hidebound than the evangelical wing of the Alabama Republican Party. 

A mere ten years after indie publishing became a thing, it has become as ossified as traditional publishing was fifteen years ago. Just as aspiring authors were once obsessed with “landing an agent” and “getting a contract”, they are now obsessed with their “Amazon sales rank”. 

This leads them to ignore other writing channels that could be advantageous (like a blog, distribution on other online retailers, etc.) It also leads them to spend irrationally on AMS and Facebook ads, because they don’t want to let their Amazon sales ranks slip. The Amazon system encourages this, of course, because Kindle Unlimited borrows are counted as sales for ranking purposes, and the Kindle Unlimited program stipulates exclusive distribution. 

The result is an overheated ad market, and a Kindle Unlimited catalog stuffed with hastily written books. Many authors are now losing money on AMS ads, so that they are effectively paying to publish. 

That isn’t independent publishing, that’s vanity publishing. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

The problem isn’t a sinister plot at Amazon, per se, but the one-size-fits-all mindset that has taken root in the indie author community. Roughly a dozen indie author gurus (most of whom sell books and expensive courses) have now become the sole voices for how independent publishing should be done.

But there is, in fact, more than one way to do it. Let’s not forget that a mere decade ago, the very idea of independent publishing was considered radical and fly-by-night. There are still a few New York literary agents out there, who are convinced that this whole indie publishing thing is a brief flash in the pan. They’re waiting for it all to end, any day now.

No, indie publishing isn’t going to go away. Indie publishing is here to stay. 

It is too early, however, in the indie publishing movement, to declare that there is only one path to success…only one way to do things. It is too early for indie publishing to become hidebound and ossified. 

The undeniable dark side of indie publishing

One can generally expect mainstream journalists to be hostile toward indie publishing. This is a matter of self-preservation as much as anything else.

Both traditional publishing and traditional journalism have been battered by the Internet in recent years. Mainstream journalists long for the days when anyone who wrote articles that people actually read was employed by a major media outlet.

Likewise, back then a small coterie of New York agents and editors decided what the rest of the world would read in book form.

The bloggers started it all…and then the indie authors turned the applecart over, too.

Damn them all!

But this doesn’t mean that indie publishing–whether on blogs or on Amazon–is a perfect environment. Fifteen years ago, the advent of monetization schemes for blogging (Adsense, affiliate programs, etc.) gave birth to click farms and keyword stuffing.

And–surprise, surprise–indie publishing on Amazon has created incentives for scamming, too. A a recent article in The Guardian describes what is going on, with particular emphasis on Brazilian romance author and accused serial plagiarist Cristian Serruya:

 Serruya is just one example of the dark side of the stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap, flood-the-market culture which has come to dominate self-publishing – particularly in the lucrative romance genre and on Kindle Unlimited, an Amazon service which gives readers access to more than 1m books for £7.99 a month, many of which are self-published and unvetted for plagiarism.

Alison Flood, writing in The Guardian

Let’s be clear about one thing: Indie publishing is not going away. It will continue….just as blogging has continued.

But this doesn’t mean that the incentives built into the system can’t be changed, to make various forms of scamming less attractive.

More than a decade go, Google discovered that its search engine results were dominated by click farms and keyword stuffers. Google responded by changing its algorithms. There are still click farms out there, of course; but they are less of a factor than they used to be.

Why? Google’s algorithms no longer incentivize click-farming.

Amazon needs to make similar changes. It has been possible to self-publish on Amazon for at least 15 years. It has been possible to self-publish on the Amazon Kindle for approximately a decade. Self-publishing, in and of itself, isn’t the problem.

Kindle Unlimited–which pays according to page reads, not purchases–incentivized all manner of bad behavior. (This has been documented by David Gaughran and many others.)

Take away Kindle Unlimited, and there is suddenly no incentive to publish a book on Amazon that customers won’t be willing to buy.

This will reduce the incentive to publish page-stuffed, junk books…as well as plagiarized titles that can presently be read for free in Kindle Unlimited.

‘Revolutionary Ghosts’ in Kindle Unlimited…for a while, at least!

I’ve enrolled Revolutionary Ghosts in Kindle Unlimited for the next 90 days.

Eventually, it will probably be going out to other stores and platforms. For now, though, you can read it for free if you have a Kindle Unlimited membership! I hope you enjoy it.

 

About Revolutionary Ghosts:

The year is 1976, and the Headless Horseman rides again!

Steve Wagner is an ordinary Ohio teenager in the year of America’s Bicentennial, 1976.

As that summer begins, his thoughts are mostly about girls, finishing high school, and driving his 1968 Pontiac Bonneville.

But this will be no ordinary summer. Steve sees evidence of supernatural activity in the area near his home: mysterious hoof prints and missing persons reports, and unusual, violently inclined men with British accents.

There is a also a hideous woman—the vengeful ghost of a condemned Loyalist spy—who appears in the doorway of Steve’s bedroom.

Filled with angry spirits, historical figures, and the Headless Horseman of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” Revolutionary Ghosts is a terrifying coming-of-age story with a groovy 1970s vibe.