Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Sky Is Not Falling (and other thoughts about the changes in the Kindle Unlimited program)

KBoards has been on fire the last two days, as every short-fiction author moans and groans about Amazon’s new plan to change their borrows system to pay per-page-read, not a flat rate for any book read past 10%.

Technically, I guess I should be upset as well. After all, Storm, my 5-part short, does well on Kindle Unlimited. I think my income will drop by about 40% as a result of this change. But I’m not really upset, and here’s why.

Money isn’t the only reason I write short serials. In fact, it doesn’t even place in the top 3. Here are the top 3 reasons I write serials.

  1. It helps me release something quickly. I average between 30k and 40k published words a month. If I were writing 65k novels, it’d take me anywhere from one to two months to write a book, and that’s assuming everything goes well. But in the meantime, my readers will forget about me. New authors are busy releasing new books. If I don’t release, I will languish into obscurity.
  2. It increases reader retention. A serial is the best way to lock readers into your books. (See fascinating post on Rachel Aaron's blog.) It is insanely hard to find a reader. To keep them hooked to your books is exponentially harder. Series are a way to combat that.
  3. It gives me more books to promote. Let’s face it – some authors might make it without any form of promo, but most of us need to promote often to keep our books in the spotlight and to gain new readers. But at the same time, I don’t want to be promoting the same book over and over, and I definitely don’t want to be promoting a standalone book for free. Writing series books really help with that.
These reasons are basically good business practice – but they are about selling books, not writing them. That being said, I do have more personal writing reasons to skew to a shorter book.

  1. I’m easily bored. A 90k story might never get finished. A 15k story will almost always get finished.
  2. If a book bombs, and fingers-crossed that one never will, it’s a lot easier to move on when you haven’t invested three months of your life in it. Assassin’s Revenge – the entire series – took almost six months to write. It’s doing well enough, and it’s been well-reviewed, but had readers hated it? Let's not go there. 
  3. I’m incapable of writing long. It’s something about the way I pace books – I’m all about the high-notes, the key plot points, the climatic events. I can’t write restfully. I’m working on this and it comes with practice, but it’s only in the last few months that I’ve broken the 50k barrier. 65k in a book might never be possible for me.

Now, I’m not entirely altruistic. While I will always write, I might not write at the pace I do, neglecting friends and family and hobbies and my cat, were it not for the fact that I earn money at this. I watch the Kindle Unlimited rate keenly. I plan promotions and give away books. I run contests and hope to participate in boxed sets.

But I’m less than two years into what I hope will be a lifelong journey and I know there’ll be shocks and disruptions along the way. I need to remember - at the end of the day, I’m a writer that wants to keep writing and get read. While the business portions of this profession cannot be neglected, the urge that drives all of this is a creative one – a desire to tell the best possible story I can.

And no matter what Amazon does with the Kindle Unlimited program, the urge to tell a story never goes away.

That’s what’s important. That’s why the sky isn’t falling today.

1 comment:

  1. Great post, Tara. I'm happy to see your feedback because while I only have two books in KU right now, I admit to being worried about the glut of poor quality tiny/short books flooding Amazon trying to cash in on the 10% payout. My gut tells me that quality writers of all lengths will continue to make money because people will read/finish their books of all lengths and if you put out the WC/pages we do per month, it should work its way out (assuming the pay per page is equitable) I think the people it will hurt the most are those who are not writing quality work that readers will abort reading somewhere after 10% where they would have been paid before but before the end. I could be full of crap, but that's my two cents.