Kindle Unlimited 2.0

posted in: Indie Publishing, Writing | 0

July’s numbers are in.  Some prominent indies are discussing them.  Such as Hugh Howey and Joe Konrath.

Numbers are good, actual data.  There’s been a lot of speculation over the past six weeks since the switchover was announced.  A lot of indies have been wailing about the new system.  More than a few forums have seen threads were posters haul out their limited math skills to try and prove this or that point about what’s been dubbed KU 2.0.  Actual data is nice because it at least puts a crimp in a lot of the power debating; no more speculation, only review.

I’ll be honest, there are boards I’ve given up on because they’re flooded with . . . I’m honestly not sure what a good label would be.  They’re flooded with a lot of indies who don’t really strike me as people who want to write.  What do I mean?  Places, and people, where most of the discussion centers around – once one boils and strips down the individual questions and comments to their essential elements – how to get the most money with the least effort.

Writers write; that’s what being a writer is supposed to be.  KU 1.0 was bad, IMO, because it saw a LOT of people pop up and cheer about how they could crank out little five and ten thousand word whatevers, put them up, and collect $1.35 for every borrow.  Anyone who can’t produce five thousand words for a short in a day, two tops, really isn’t trying.  A piece of fiction of that length isn’t a story; it’s a scene – maybe two scenes – at best.  Now, there are short stories I’m a fan of.  In fact, my favorite story ever is a short, and a graphic novel short at that.

But let’s be brutally honest; the extreme vast majority of what those sites’ inhabitants were pumping into KU 1.0 were NOT threatening to share shelf space with Neil Gaiman.  Ignoring the how-to and self-help and reference pamphlets, these were little ditties detailing how some guy raced his car really fast and beat some other asshole to the store, or how some girl walked in on her secret man-love changing shirts and fell into a brief encounter steaming with torrid heat.

Nothing’s wrong with fiction like that, of course; but it’s not fiction for the ages.  And it’s certainly not the kind of work, doesn’t require even close to the same level of writer effort, as a longer form work does.  Even a novella, something in the 40K word range, demands a certain amount of structure that a 5K short doesn’t.  That structure requires more work to setup and maintain, and that’s one of the differences between this recent wave of short ‘fiction’ and some longer forms that have been more typical prior to KU 1.0.

KU 2.0 seems to definitely be swinging payouts in the direction of longer form works.  A lot of the “not fair” complaints have tried to allege how readers want shorts, how skewing the pay scale away from KU 1.0’s short form favor penalizes readers who prefer shorts.  Well, how many readers are in each camp; short versus long?  It is difficult to find a single source to link to as so-called ‘proof’, but anyone who reads and who pays attention to readers knows short readers are the minority compared to novel length work consumers.  Short works can climb the charts in their genre categories the same as every other eligible title; novels dominate.  Author after author, those with careers longer than the last year or two, have mentioned time and time again how their longer works are more popular than their shorts.  Yet there have still been some KU 1.0 short writers who insist how it’s not fair to ‘penalize’ them for writing short.

Amazon owns Kindle Unlimited; it’s their subscription program.  They determine how they pay out the fees customers put in; and they also have the Big Data that Amazon has built its business upon to look at to best keep those subscribers happy.  If short works would do that, KU 1.0 would remain, or even skew further in favor of incentivizing shorts authors to continue putting shorts in.  This new KU 2.0 skews towards longer works, and there’re probably extremely good reasons for that.  It should be obvious, and risks becoming pedantic, to explain why at this point.  You either get it or you don’t.  If you don’t, I’m sure there’s a writer’s cafe somewhere that’ll be happy to pat your back while you cry into your Cheerios.

For those authors who are genuinely producing quality shorts, who are dedicated to the craft of writing – short form or otherwise – and who aren’t just looking for the least effort with the most payoff, KU 2.0 changes nothing.  If you’re a dedicated short writer, keep writing.  Your payment for the shorts is the same as a long work; each page read pays the same.  The difference for you is your 500 pages of payment that a subscriber might generate for you by reading your stuff will come from eight to ten short titles, instead of one single novel.  If you’re a serious writer, nothing changes and you just keep writing.  It’s only if you’re a get-rich-quick type that you’re pissed about KU 1.0’s demise.


Writers write.  That’s what being a writer is; it’s why we call it being a writer.  It’s not write for one hour a day and live high on the hog.  It’s cranking out the story, crafting the worlds, and taking readers places they want to go.  Not everyone, most people in fact, have enough control over their imaginations to conduct themselves on narrative journeys.  That’s why writers became a thing; because most people like engaging in stories, and need someone to produce it so they can enjoy it.  Without writers there’s no movies, there aren’t shows, or plays, or comics, or the next wave of fiction forms that haven’t even been invented yet.

If you’re a writer, KU 2.0 won’t bother you.  Everyone else will raise hell.

And, of course, you can always simply leave KDP Select.  That’s all it takes to not be part of KU.  If your work is so valuable to so many fans, you should be fine.

But the latest bit of change is here.  Data has arrived in the form of facts, and that’s that.  Time to keep writing.