Amazon does it again

Yes, Amazon has done it again — good, the not-so-good and the in-between. Let’s start with the the not-so-good and the in-between because they go together.

Kindle Unlimited. I guess you could say this is the big brother, possibly on steroids, of the Kindle Lending Library. Where the KOLL allowed Prime members to borrow a book a month, iirc, from eligible titles, KU is a subscription service that allows up to 10 borrows at a time. All you have to do is pay Amazon $9.99/mo to be enrolled in the program.

Now, Amazon is not the first company to offer such a program. Scribd and Oyster are just two that have been doing it. In this case, Amazon is the late comer to the market. Whether it is going to pan out for them in the long run, who knows? But for now, I have some concerns and, yes, I have to give Amazon some kudos as well.

My concerns as a reader are simple. Will I use the program enough to actually pay for it? Since joining on July 19th during the free introductory period, I’ve downloaded three titles. Yes, if I’d have bought the books, they would have cost more than $9.99 but then I would have come as close to “owning” them as you can with e-books right now. The would have been mine to download to my kindle, my Fire, my laptop, backup media. Well, you get the picture. I also wouldn’t have to return them if I’d bought them just because I suddenly had ten downloads from a certain list of titles. The only limiting factor would be the amount of storage space available on whatever “reader” I happened to be using.

As a writer, my concerns are a bit more mercenary. Under the KU program, someone can download my book today and keep it, unopened, in their library for months or even years. The only way I get paid is if they scroll through the first 10% of the content. I’ve never been one for delayed gratification and, in this case, my gratification is getting paid for my work.

My second concerns is the amount authors will be paid for each download under the KU program. As with the KOLL program, payments come from a fund Amazon sets up each month. This first month of operation under the KU program probably isn’t going to be indicative of what the actual payments will be for a couple of reasons. The first — and this is the good I mentioned before — is because Amazon realized it had made a mistake in the way it was reporting KU downloads on the author dashboards. Instead of showing the downloads with at least 10% of the title read, they were showing all downloads. Recognizing that this could cause consternation when the royalty reports came out and the numbers didn’t match, Amazon sent out an email explaining that for July, at least, all downloads through the KU program would result in payouts to their authors.

From the letter Amazon sent out regarding the KU program yesterday:

Key points about recent fund activity
– Your July payment report shows your total earnings, including the additional funds paid during July for books opened and borrowed but not read to 10%.
– Next week, we will update all other KDP reporting for July and August to show KOLL downloads plus Kindle Unlimited borrows that have been read past 10%.
– Even after we backfill all other reports, your July Prior Month Royalty report will remain showing all KOLL downloads plus all Kindle Unlimited borrows that were opened in July, including those not read to 10%. All future reports, including future Prior Month Royalty reports, will reflect KOLL downloads plus KU borrows read past 10%.
– If a book was opened but not read to 10% in July but does pass 10% after July, you will also receive credit for the borrow when that happens.

So, if I’m reading this right, not only will Amazon pay for downloads that don’t technically meet the requirements simply because their reporting method was faulty, they will pay again for those same books if they are later opened and read past the 10% mark. That is a good move on Amazon’s part.

The bad, as a reader, is the difficulty I had in finding where Amazon had slotted away my KU membership information for when and if I decide to cancel my participation in the program. Unlike my Prime membership which can be accessed from the main account window, this one is a bit trickier to find. It is actually under the “Manage your content and devices” section of “Your Library” in the drop down menu if you are looking at the site from your laptop. There is a tab under “Manage your content and devices” titled “Settings”. That is where your KU subscription information is. It took me a bit to find it and even when I did, I discovered you have to look pretty carefully to find the Cancel button. Hint: it is the fourth item down, at least on my screen.

Now for the not-so-good about the program. I looked at my July royalties and the payments per copy downloaded under the KU program were a bit less than I’d hoped for. Now, as I said earlier, I recognize that this first month or so under the program won’t, in all likelihood, be indicative of how payments will shake out. A lot of readers are taking advantage of the program and will drop it when it starts to cost them money. Authors are trying it out as well and I expect a number of them will drop out also. So, I will continue tracking not. But, for the moment at least, I received approximately 60% of the cover price for at $2.99 novel. Previously under the KOLL, the average was about 66% of the cover price. Of course, I receive 70% on a sale less transmission fees.  The basic difference is that I earned approximately $1.80 per download under the KU program whereas I earned approximately $2.04 per sale on that same $2.99 title. It doesn’t take long for that 24 cents per copy to add up. Now whether those same folks who downloaded the book under KU wold have bought it, I don’t know and that brings up one more observation about the program before I move on: since the KU program started, I have had no returns in the US Amazon store.Whether that is tied in with the new program or not, I don’t know. It is one more thing I will be keeping my eye on over the next few months.

Now for the really good news for those who use the KDP platform to publish their e-books. Amazon has finally given us the easy ability to offer pre-orders for our work. The process really only adds one step to what we’ve been doing before. You still go to your bookshelf and put in a new title. When you get to the step where you select the “publication date”, you can simply push the button to show it is a pre-order. Easy a pie.

There are a few things you need to keep in mind before you start out. You need at least a draft version of your cover and of the book you are offering for pre-order. When you upload the book file, you will receive a message on the title page about when you must have the final version uploaded by. Amazon will also send you another email telling you that your book is now available for pre-order and reminding you of the date by which you must have the final version uploaded so your customers don’t find their orders delayed.

From the email I received after putting something up for pre-order (and it was approved and the page went live within 3 hours yesterday):

Congratulations! Your book “Nocturnal Lives (Boxed Set)” is available for pre-order in the Kindle Store. It is available* for customers to pre-order here. If you have resubmitted your book, your changes are now live.

Please remember that you are required to provide the final version of your book file by 08/19/2014. If you do not submit the final version of the book file by this date, you will lose access to pre-order for one year. Maintaining a positive customer experience is important, and delivering your book on schedule is required to retain access to pre-order.

Upload the final version of your book file here. [link removed] Please remember to click on “Submit for pre-order” after uploading your book file.

For more details about pre-orders, check out this page.

Also, you can track the number of pre-orders in the pre-order report. [link removed]

A couple of things to note with this email. First is that I have a link I can use to promote the pre-order between now and the date it goes live. That is huge because it not only gets the word out there but can help with author ranking because pre-orders will be calculated in along with other sales.

The second thing to note is how Amazon puts the drop dead date for providing the final version near the top and in bold so you can’t miss it. Now here is the important thing to note and remember. If you do not submit the final version of the book by the date provided, you will lose the ability to offer titles for pre-order for one year. So, if you’re like me, write the date down, set alarms ahead of time and make sure you don’t screw it up.

As you can probably tell, I’m excited about the fact we can now easily list our work for pre-order. Now to finish my editing work for NRP so I can get back to writing.

Oh, and here is the link to pre-order the “boxed set” of the Nocturnal Lives novels. It includes Nocturnal Origins, Nocturnal Serenade and Nocturnal Interlude. If you order/buy it by September 5th, you’ll get it for the discounted price of $2.99. That’s basically letting you pay for one book and get the other two free. If my math is right, that’s a savings of $6.98. The set will be available for download on August 29th.

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