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.
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:
I hope you understand.
Thanks for reading & Merry Christmas!