Some months back, I talked about Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited and how I did not feel comfortable about having my e-books available exclusively in Kindle form. For those unfamiliar with what was discussed, here’s a quick explanation. In order to be part of Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited, your book cannot be available in any other e-book format (Nook, Sony, Apple, etc.). This of course means your the e-version of your book cannot be up for sale through Smashwords, Nook, and other e-formats. This did not rub me the right way at the time, but since then there as been no activity for either of my books through Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, or other outlets besides Amazon in spite of a lot of promoting on my part.
But then another disturbing trend began to appear. I started seeing my books selling on Amazon and I began hoping this meant a growing trend in sales. However, there was a problem. In spite of the sales I was not seeing any royalties, which puzzled me greatly. After waiting a few days and seeing this continue to happen, I delved further into the matter and discovered that ALL the recent sales were returned either the same day or the next day. Wondering how this could be happening I quickly learned that a number of individuals have been purchasing e-books, reading them in one day, and then returning them for a full refund. In short, turning Amazon into a sort of ‘library’ where they could get a good read and then return the book without paying a cent in the end.
Now, I fully understand that sometimes people can buy a book that turns out to be nothing of what they expected and would like their money back. This is something Amazon and other companies do allow. However, to abuse this privilege and claim ‘It’s my money and I’m entitled to a refund…’ repeatedly is a real problem. Every author I’ve seen on Amazon makes a portion of their book available for free so prospective buyers can get an idea if the book is something they’d like to read. I myself make about 16% of my book available as a sample so people can decide if this is something they want to buy or not. Yet, a number of people have instead turned Amazon into a revolving library that they don’t have to pay for.
Having lost out on a number of sales, I decided that if my book was going to be treated as if it was part of a library, I wanted to get something for my efforts. So with no sales happening on all other fronts, I took my books down and enrolled them exclusively with KS and KU. Now once you’ve enrolled in KS, your book is also available in KU where you earn money every time your book is borrowed and people read it. However, starting July 1st, this is changing to paying the authors for every page read, which benefits those who right longer books instead of putting out a bunch of really short works which had been the case before.
Now I’ve only joined recently and have yet to see much activity, but I’m hopeful. I think a lot of people have held back because I advertised a “FREE” weekend where almost 400 people grabbed their own Kindle copy of “The Bridge”. This coming weekend, I’ll be offering “The Ship” for free as well. From there, we’ll see how the ‘borrowing’ goes and if there’s any increase in paid sales. I’m hoping that as a result of all these giveaways will increase the reviews for both books and will lead to actual purchases or paid borrows through KU.
I don’t know if this approach will help or hurt, but sometimes you have to try something different. As for those who do not have a Kindle, I do have e-copies of my books in E-Pub and PDF formats and will sell them to you personally. The price is the same as at Amazon $2.99.
*Final note: Amazon has been starting to flag and shut down some of these serial-returners. But there are a great number of them out there and decent authors are suffering for it. Hopefully an answer will present itself and I can put my novels out there in other formats for you all. In the meantime, my contract with KS and KU is only for three months. If I don’t like what happens I may pull the books out and put them back up on Smashwords and other places, we’ll see.
I hope my experiences here are providing you all with insights of what to watch out for as you decide what format to put your own books in. There are many pitfalls and unforeseen issues, but hopefully being warned about what could happen will help you navigate and avoid them.
Until next time, take care and keep writing.