Sitting on the KU Fence

No dice

To KU or not KU–it’s a question I’ve been pondering for months now. I wrote a post about my ongoing waffling debate about whether or not to list with Kindle Unlimited, at the end of which I’d almost convinced myself not to do it. My reasons were varied–Amazon is paying authors based on a model of number of pages read: but they can’t accurately determine this number, nor can they keep scammers from playing the system to their advantage. The changing TOS is worrisome, as well as the feeling that even for those who say KU is working well for them, this is just a bubble that will collapse once Amazon owns the entire reading market.

Only, there’s that promise of a payout now… the notion that this story, if enrolled, might be the one that catches fire. That, because of Amazon’s aggressive promoting of KU stories over others, this story will be the one that helps pay the bills, brings new readers to your backlist, cures cancer, and will make everything better. Even though intellectually, I know I have a better chance of winning the lottery, it’s a very seductive idea.

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So here’s the background: in 2012, I wrote a novella that was part of an anthology. I’d always wanted to go back and expand on the story, and finally in 2016, I got the chance. Because of its previous incarnation as a novella, I can’t submit the revised story to my usual publisher, which means self-publishing. Fine. No big deal. I’ve self-pubbed before, and while I don’t think it fits my current situation as well as working with a publisher, I recognize there might be a time when that changes, so I like the idea of keeping my hand in. Things change so rapidly in this business. What worked in 2013 is déclassé today.

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One of the big things that has changed is the notion that a stint on Kindle Unlimited is necessary to the success of a story these days. So as I am coming down to the wire with the release of Fool’s Gold (I only have the formatting left to do, and then I can upload the file), I’m looking at this decision once again.

A couple of new cautionary tales have come to my attention since I last toyed with this idea. This post is about an author who got notified by Amazon she’d been banned for life from publishing because the Zon believed she was guilty of manipulating page-clicks. Read the fine print on the post because according to Amazon, the company will hold you responsible for something a book promoting service you hire might do. Also, getting paid $1.50 for a 300 page book in KU is a bit disheartening, don’t you think? The only way KU can make up for undervaluing stories is to sell them to LOTS of people. But I digress…

This post is by an author who got the same warning letter from Amazon–only she also had someone steal her identity–and she can’t help but wonder if the two things were related: that in fact, someone deliberately ran up her KU numbers because they gained access to her bank account. Her advice was to keep close tabs on your sales through KU and alert Amazon to any unusual spikes before they came looking for you. The Digital Reader posted about similar cases, and concluded that until Amazon could distinguish innocent authors from scammers, the only way to be safe was for authors to pull their books from KU.

Whew. Not very encouraging, is it? I find myself having to weigh the risks of being permanently banned from Amazon as an author because my life is too hectic for me to watch my accounts like a hawk versus the whispers of that promised land of author recognition and financial success. The reality is neither scenario is likely to happen. And I can’t adequately say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’ to something I haven’t tried for myself. I don’t have high expectations for this story–I doubt seriously the average romance reader is going to fall hard for a story set in the world of competitive sport horses! So perhaps Fool’s Gold is the perfect guinea pig.

I’ll let you know.

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Sarah Madison is a writer with a little dog, a big dog, an even bigger horse, too many cats, and an extremely patient boyfriend. You can find her on the web at:

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6 thoughts on “Sitting on the KU Fence”

  1. Great post, Sarah. I currently don’t have any self-published titles or plans to self-pub in the near future, but a while ago I looked into this. Jane Friedman’s blog had a post from Hellen Barbara from 2014 that seemed pretty discouraging, and I think that was before some of the changes. On the other hand JA Konrath posted all his numbers in August 2015, and he seemed to favor the plan. The only entity I’m darn sure is making bank on the plan is Amazon, though. Good luck with your ventures.

    1. Thanks, Lou! Yeah, it feels a little like gambling in Vegas to me–while it’s possible to win some, maybe even win big, don’t bet against the house! 😉 I suspect I’m not representative of the typical KU author, either, since like you, I don’t have plans to enter a lot of stories into the pool. We’ll see… 😀

  2. I thought for a long time about joining KU and finally decided to do it. As a reader, I took advantage of their month free offer and love it. I’ve found new authors and bought from their backlist, These are authors I never heard of but its been good. My only worry is that authors won’t get credit for my reading and that disturbs me.

    1. I confess, it makes perfect sense if you’re a high-volume reader IF they have a wide selection of titles you enjoy. Kind of like Netflix for books. I get the appeal. But like Netflix, KU doesn’t always have the stories I want to read, so I haven’t made up my mind if it is worth it to me as a reader or not. I am *very* leery of it is an author, as you can see from the waffling. 🙂 But I think I’m going to have to give it a try to truly make up my mind!

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