Why the Pink Bean Series is no longer in Kindle Unlimited

No Strings Attached

Finally, my long overdue blog post about why I’ve decided to remove the Pink Bean series from Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s ebook subscription program.

I guess the reason it took me so long to write this down is that it was something I felt that I should do in my gut more than anything.

There are the obvious (and often-repeated) reasons, like no longer being comfortable with Amazon exclusivity and making much more on a sale than on a KU borrow. Anyone who asks me will get these reasons as a reply, but there’s actually more to it, which I will try to explain below.

My #1 long-term goal is Amazon independence

This ties in with no longer wanting any books to be exclusive on Amazon, but it’s much more than that.

Amazon Independence has been a buzzword in our house for a while now. By this, I don’t just mean leaving KU, but no longer relying on Amazon alone to provide the bulk of my income, which is very much the case now.

I’ve always managed to ignore that niggling voice at the back of my brain because, well… to be perfectly honest: because of money.

If it weren’t for Amazon, I wouldn’t be typing this blog post today. Because if it weren’t for Amazon, I wouldn’t be making a living with my writing.

7 years

My first book was published in February 2012 so I’ve been doing this for almost 7 years now and I believe it’s time to look ahead, change strategies, and do things differently in the future.

The numbers are very clear: 2018 will have been our best year yet financially. I could just keep doing what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years: write like crazy, publish like crazy, put everything in KU, and think: goodness me, no matter what anyone says, writing lesbian fiction can be rather lucrative.

But that’s not what I want any more.

Because I can

Additionally, and no less important, I’m leaving KU because I can. Just like I left Facebook in May 2018 because I could. And I happen to think the two are inextricably linked. Leaving Facebook (and all social media) made me realise that I don’t need it. I don’t need it to sell books, to ‘cultivate my brand’, and I certainly don’t need it for personal happiness.

Leaving Facebook was a very personal decision, of course, that had nothing to do with business, but I did make the very conscious choice to no longer interact with a business like Facebook—or should I say a ruthless data-acquiring and money-grabbing machine like Facebook?

It seems like every day there’s an article in the newspaper about Facebook’s disgusting practices—and every day I’m so relieved I no longer associate with them. I also no longer use Facebook Advertising for that reason. In short, Facebook’s no longer getting my data or my money. That’s a very reassuring thought in this day and age.

Who’s got the power?

But this is a blog post about KU… although not really. It’s about Amazon and all it stands for. And about my financial dependence on them when it comes to my income. A not-so-reassuring thought if ever there was one. I’m not specifically talking about all the recent glitches and the slow disappearance of the Also-Boughts, which has already resulted in a significant drop in organic income.

I have the biggest issue with being at Amazon’s mercy. Yes, I make a lot of money through Amazon—to give you an example: only the other day I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed that the KU payout for November had gone up to 0.0052 per page. Which was all very nice, but it doesn’t change the issue at heart. Just like Facebook, Amazon is a behemoth of a corporation that wants to make a lot of money and, ultimately, couldn’t care less about me as an indie author.

They can change the rules whenever they want. They can change the royalty rate or the KU terms and conditions without giving any of us prior notice. For instance, only a few weeks ago, a bunch of indie authors reported that their books were no longer for sale for non-US customers on Amazon.com. But this isn’t about specifics. It’s about the power Amazon has over me, my business, and my livelihood.

I’ll always be there…

Don’t get me wrong: my books will always be available on Amazon. While I’m being frank, I might as well say that the other retailers like Kobo and Apple simply don’t offer a comparable shopping experience. And try to get your book into a Lesbian Romance category! (Although Kobo has just made these available from the back end.)

I’m well aware that Apple is just as big a corporate behemoth as Amazon, but at least they don’t require exclusivity in return for a bigger piece of the pie. Sure, I will miss the KU money, but I strongly feel like I’m getting something else instead. More peace of mind—something that money can’t buy.

I’ll be publishing in a way that is much closer to truly being independent. Because how indie are you when 95% of your income is made on Amazon?

Direct, direct, direct

As I said before, I’m leaving KU because I can. And because my long-term strategy is to sell much more direct.

For years now, I’ve been chasing higher and higher Amazon ranks, writing book after book to dodge the 30-day cliff or the 90-day cliff or whatever’s-next cliff. I’ve made a comfortable living doing so, which, admittedly, doesn’t make this an easy thing to walk away from.

Side note: Ironically, Life in Bits (the book I co-wrote with T.B. Markinson) is currently sitting at the top of the lesfic chart, enjoying a very high rank, thanks to KU. And I won’t lie, it feels wonderful. Just like getting ‘likes’ on Facebook used to give me a dopamine rush, there’s something addictively satisfying about seeing one of my books go to #1 in the charts. But, in the end, it’s just another kind of false validation.

The fragile writer ego

I’ll have to live with it that my non-KU books will no longer shoot to #1 (I think my fragile ego will be able to cope), but again, I’ll be getting something else instead: a long-term strategy to sell more and more books directly to my readers, and as time progresses, to become less and less reliant on Amazon. For me, that’s the only way forward.

All of this also ties in with my decision to write fewer books in 2019. All too frequently in the past year I have found myself simultaneously writing the first draft of book 1, processing edits of book 2, revising book 3, all while gearing up to launch another. For a while, it’s been a good way to make a living, but it’s not sustainable and it’s not what I want anymore. Most of all, because my writing has suffered.

Room to breathe

More than anything, writing is what gives my life meaning. I’m lucky that it also pays the bills. But while paying the bills, I’ve lost track of all the good things writing does for me. More than once in 2018, I simply ran out of time on a book because the next deadline was looming. I won’t name titles, but there are a couple of books that I’ve released in 2018 that I wasn’t 100% happy with—not even 80% happy, to be perfectly honest. And that’s not how I want things to be.

The Harper Bliss Book Factory

The kind of books I write—deeply emotional and often on the edge of controversy—require a lot from me. They take time and thoughtfulness and, most of all, unbridled passion, and I haven’t been able to give that to all of my books. That’s not the kind of writer I want to be.

Just like I feel in my bones that I want more independence, I also feel that it’s time to take it up a level. I want to give you longer, better, more heartfelt books with truly authentic emotion—as opposed to churning out book after book in what I’ve come to call The Harper Bliss Book Factory.

I know this has consequences for you, the reader. But for a while now, I’ve had most of my non-Pink Bean books available on other retailers. If you’re a KU subscriber and only borrow books, then I’m very sorry. If Amazon ever decides to no longer demand exclusivity, I might enrol again. I’m also not completely turning my back on KU. I can’t really say anything about it yet, but in 2019 I will do a different kind of collaboration and the fruits of that might end up in KU (as I’m not the only deciding party.)

Everything will be okay

For the first time in 7 seven years, I’ve also planned to write fewer books next year. But instead of a new release almost every month, I hope to give you longer, more thoughtful books that are ‘quintessentially me’ (to put it in a slightly poncy way). For this reason, I can’t give you a publication date yet for my next book. I’m not even sure yet what my next book will be! I’ve decided to take a writing break until mid-January, and tackle all the tasks that have piled up while I was working in my book factory. Not having my next book in the pipeline is a feeling I need to get used to, but I know that in the end, everything will be okay. It always is.

As I said before, all my books will always be available on Amazon, but also on a bunch of other retailers.

You can find my books on these stores via the links below:

Direct from me (via PayHip)
Bella Books
Apple Books
Google Play

I hope you understand.

Thanks for reading & Merry Christmas!

25 Responses

  1. As a senior and living on a very fixed income, I have to admit that being able to read your books on KU has been a wonderful thing. However, I am very aware that authors are also people just like me and have to make decisions for themselves. I have been and always will be a big fan of your books. So, having said that—I will always read your newest book and will be happy to pay for the privilege. When my children were young I told them that life really is short and as long as they were happy—–I would be happy! The same goes with you—if you are happy—I am happy. Write to your heart’s content and I will be here ready, willing and able to support you! Merry Christmas!

    1. Thank you for your very kind words, Dorothy. I didn’t mention this in the blog post because it’s still a work in progress, but I will be getting all my ebooks into libraries around the world. You can always borrow (or request to borrow) my latest release (or any of my other ebooks) through your local library! Merry Christmas!

  2. I read so many books that using KU is the only way it is affordable. That doesn’t mean I can’t read your books. It means I will be slower to get to them as I add them to my “Want” List on Amazon and buy them as I can. That makes me sad as I can’t enjoy them right away. I fully support doing what you need to do though. Good Luck!

  3. It’s wonderful that you have the respect for your readers and personal honesty to be this forthcoming. Truly, I think the life of an author like yourself must be full of business strategies and that is intermixed with your actual desire to write and how to write. I feel honored to be let in on this process. As the new books are published, I now understand why it is worth it to take a little more time and money to get the end result to me. Amazon is very easy, for sure, but now I can see why I would want to go to a new website and buy direct from you. Thanks.

  4. Dear Harper,
    I fully agree to your statement. In never use KU. I always buy books – mostly as e-books, as I am no native speaker and do not know many lesbians who read English. But I also do not like KU because of the reasons your wrote above. And I am not on facebook, twitter and all those time consuming and data collecting “machines”.
    I wish you a wonderful half-January break and a lot of energy, creativity in order to write books – using the time that you need.
    Maybe your books could be sold at ylva books in Germany as well – they also publish and sell English books.
    All the best from Claudia

  5. I read a lot of books on KU quite simply because I get to read lots of different authors to gauge whether or not I like their work. If I do then I’m more than happy to pay for their books. I really enjoy your work as there is always something challenging or thought provoking as part of the story. I eagerly await your next book.

  6. Like Alison, I like to borrow to see what I think about an author. I’ll probably buy the Pink Bean Series but have just bought some others like the “French kissing” series and am just now reading “High Rise : the complete collection”. I’ve already read the Pink Bean series 3 times so I know I’ll love having them.
    As I live in France up a mountain side 1h30 minutes from the nearest English language bookshop I really need to buy for my Kindle. But good for you for being independent
    Have a great New Year and may 2019 bring you much happiness

  7. I am glad your books will remain for sale on amazon, at least until I complete the purchase of the pink beans series. I only have 4 left to get , as I am on a fixed income. I will have all of them before the end of this year , then I will switch my buying to one of the listed alternatives. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and I look forward to collecting all of your written books. I don’t care if it takes longer to get them written to your satisfaction, as long as you write from your heart. You have become the writer I look forward to your next book, you are my all time favorite writer. Good luck with your future endeavors.

  8. I’m happy to hear you’re going to write fewer books next year. You’re one of my favorite authors and I love most of your stories, but it’s been a while since something felt completely fresh and surprising (thinking In The Distance There is Light and Seasons of Love). It’s not easy to prioritize quality and innovation when you can still deliver something good that keeps the $$ machine turning. I can’t wait to see what’s next :))

    Happy Holidays!

  9. Dear Harper:
    I applaud your decision to leave Amazon KU. I’ve never had a Facebook a/c (didn’t trust them) as well as KU (too expensive a mthly subscription) but have purchased e-books/hardcopies from Amazon. Kobo is my preferred e-book supplier.
    Many thanks for all you’ve written – you are one of my favourite authors (I have many hard copies of your books) and I look forward with anticipation to new books whenever/wherever they become available.
    Be happy in your writing and have a healthy and successful 2019

  10. Hi Harper,

    First of all happy Holidays for you and your family. I understand and respect your decision. I was just wondering if this means that your books will also dissapear from audible or is this an independent branch from Amazon?

    Thanks and I wish you a lot of happy writing in the future, because after all, that is what it’s about. 🙂


    Sarah (a fellow Belgian ;-))

    1. Hallo/Bonjour Sarah! 😉

      Audible is separate.

      Just to be clear, my books will still (always!) be available on Amazon, just not in the Kindle Unlimited program.


    2. I think your decision is very understandable for all the reasons you mentioned. For me personally your decision has no consequences. I live in the Netherlands and KU is no option there. Your one of the writers whose books I enjoy most. I’ll look for your books and will buy them from you or from one of the other sites. I wish you a lot of independent success in the future and look forward to any new books you publish. Kind regards, Elske

  11. I fully understand your reasons for leaving Amazon,I cannot even begin to imagine the
    pressure and stress you are under to churn out book after book as you do.I am glad you are returning to your earlier style (longer format) as I really enjoyed your earlier works. Wishing you both a Happy and Stress Free Writing New Year ,looking forward to getting your new works


  12. Hi, Harper! I hope you will consider doing an update blog six months or so from now? This fellow KU author would love to know how not being in KU has affected you and your sales.
    Much luck to you and Caroline on this new phase of your journey!
    Layce Gardner

  13. Harper,

    Do what’s best for you and the Mrs! I don’t use Kindle unlimited because I like to be able to go back a reread my books. I also really like Amazon being kind enough not to let me buy the same book more than once. They are kind enough to say hey dipstick you own this already.

    And until recently (I went a bit nuts during a holiday sale) if it was in my library I had read it at least once. I hate starting into a book and finding I had read it before thinking it was a new adventure.

    Ok now I’m just rambling… I did just wake up. I hope you do what’s best for you but trust you bring us along for the ride!

    Have an amazing 2019!

  14. Whilst I fully understand your reasons for leaving KU, I am sorry to hear of your decision as I am an avid reader of books on KU. I read a lot of books and KU gives me the opportunity to try out different authors, and if I enjoy the book I may subsequently buy the book to enjoy again (eg I have bought 8 of yours after reading them on KU). I hope this works out for you but suspect unless your books come on offer, or your collaborations are on KU that I won’t be reading as many of your books as I used to. Thanks for all your books so far and wishing you all the best for 2019.

  15. Congratulations! A very good decision. I think you are a highly skilled author. More time, thoughtfulness and passion will give us readers outstanding books; what more could we possibly want. Thank you and my best wishings for 2019.

  16. Love your books……have purchased a few and got one or 2 free… I have signed up to get two other books free but seem to have a problem getting them to my I-Pad…… also how do I order the Pink Bean Series?

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