Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Why I'm Leaving KU

When I first began my writing and publishing journey I started it with an open mind and excitement in my heart. I published my first book in March of 2014. I was nervous, excited, hopeful, scared, and naive. I believed I wrote an amazing book, a wonderfully entertaining tale, and was positive readers would all agree with me.

Well, reviews were mixed. I had some great ones and heard from some people who absolutely LOVED the book. Then I got it: the dreaded one-star review. The person trashed my editing (although they stated my story was a great one). I was devastated, to say the least. I mean, I put a lot of time into that story, not to mention a part of me as well as money. 

I know, you are laughing at me while rolling your eyes at the obvious knowledge that yes, editing is important. Well, I know that, NOW. I had no clue back then. I honestly did not think that people marked you down for lack of professional editing. (May I remind you of what I admitted in paragraph one when I said I was naive, among other things?)

Skip forward a few months and my second book was out. Again, the whole thing all over...again. The second book was received much better, and it was released when Amazon was rolling out the KU program in full force. The nifty thing about KU back then was they paid you a full royalty payment as long as the reader read at least 10% of the book. Great for us authors, not too great for Amazon, which they later realized. They then revamped the program and began to offer authors payment based on each individual page that is read. So when a reader borrows your book you are paid 1/2 cent (give or take a fraction) for each page the readers reads.

This was a bit more fair to Amazon, although us author probably grumbled at the loss of the actual royalty, Either way, the author still received compensation for people reading their work. This compensation could not be taken from you if a person returns your book like it is when a person purchases the book and then asks for a refund after reading it. (Yes, that happens..)

You all may be wondering what my point is. Why I am leaving KU... what is the big deal, right?

Well, the big deal comes with Amazon's rules when it comes to books that are enrolled in the KU program. 

Let me fill you in a bit:

In order for an author to have their books enrolled in the program we have to "sign" a contract/agreement stating we will make digital formats of our book exclusive to Amazon only. In other words, if an author has a book in KU they cannot have that book listed as an e-Book on Nook, Kobo, iBooks, etc. Amazon promises, in return, to pay the author their "payment" for each page read. (For my book, Blind Sensations, my payment ended up around $0.50 total for each time the book was read in its entirety.) Just to give a clear understanding, my royalty for my books that are $2.99 is about $2.00. So having that book on KU makes me $1.50 less than if someone were to purchase it outright, however, I still receive compensation.

Great, right? I thought so.

Amazon gets paid $9.99/month for each person who pays for the monthly membership and I get paid for each time a page is read in one of my books.

So why am I leaving KU, you ask? Simple. I haven't been getting anything from KU.

Well, I shouldn't say nothing. That would be a lie. I will say that with the introduction of Page Flip (which makes reading faster for readers, and makes navigating and saving your spot much easier) my KU page read counts have gone down. Drastically down. I mean, they have gone from over 10k page reads a month to less than 300 last month. BIG difference, right? 

How is that possible? How do I go from having well over 10k/15k monthly page reads all year long to less than 300 in just one month time? 

Well, the answer would be "Page Flip". You see, when a reader decides to use Page Flip in order to read a book, they are making it easier on themselves, but Amazon has not devised a method for them to track pages that are read in Page Flip mode. So a reader can enjoy the entire book and love it, but the author will never be compensated for it in any way.

When I noticed the sudden decline in my KU reads I was worried that I had done something wrong to my readers. I emailed a few people from my email club to ask them if they had been reading any of my books recently. They sent me pictures showing they were... yet I never saw that reflected on my sales dashboard on my publishing account.

So I investigated and found out why. And then I got mad. Like, really upset. Then I decided to email Amazon to find out why they felt it was 'OK' to offer that, knowing they were not able to track page read counts, to readers without first allowing the author to authorize their books to be read in such format. Because, let's face it, Amazon still collected their $9.99 from members while keeping the money from my books each time they were read. Almost a theft of sorts... which I definitely pointed out to them in my email.

Here is a copy of my mad, upset email to them:

I have un-enrolled all of my titles from the KDP Select program due to Amazon's breech of contract with authors who are enrolled in said program.

According to Amazon, and my "contract" to remain exclusive to them, I am prohibited from making my ebooks available for sale or purchase anywhere else. In return for me remaining exclusive to Amazon I was promised payment for my books when they are read by customers. I receive an average of $.005 per page for each page that is read on my books. I have, until recently, enjoyed having my books available on Amazon and promoting your KU program to my readers.

Now, I have possibly lost out on the opportunity to advertise my books with other ebook retailers such as iBooks, Barnes&Noble, etc. in my effort to hold up my end of the bargain. And what does Amazon do as a thank-you? You offer readers a new way of reading called, "Page-Flip". While saving the reader time it is now allowing them to read my books absolutely FREE to me, while YOU still pocket the $9.99 per month. Now, I have gone from making $0.005 per page read to NOTHING. But you know what? YOU still get your money from the customers.

I am DONE! I will not allow my work to be given away for free while you make all the money. I am now taking all of my books off KDP Select and will make sure all of my readers are aware of your slight to the authors. You may not care, and that is your right, but this is my career and livelihood that has been put at risk. My exclusivity to you is now finished. My readers, who are loyal to me, will be made aware of this and the effect Page Flip has on authors.

And, just in case you needed a refresher on the promise KDP Select authors are made, check out this link:

I have asked my readers if they have been reading my books. They have sent me images of my books on their Kindles. They also admit they have been using Page Flip and were appalled that they have been using something that is preventing me from getting paid.

I will also be making this known, just in case it wasn't already, to ALL social media outlets.

Thank you for requiring me to uphold my end while you breech your promise.


Ashlee Shades - enraged author

So, can you tell I was upset? What made it worse was they waited over two weeks before replying to my email. This was their "generic" response...

Dear Ashlee,

Thanks for your inquiry. We regularly audit and monitor pages-read systems for accuracy with a particular focus on making sure we have correctly filtered out fraudulent reading activity, while including all legitimate customer behavior. The KDP business team has not found any systematic issues impacting your results. Please note that, as always, individual title performance can vary and be impacted by a number of different factors such as seasonality, genre trends, series age, etc.

We always appreciate the questions and feedback we get from authors.

Best regards,

(Not including the sender's name for their privacy)

What does that tell me? That says that there was no fraudulent activity affecting my page reads. In other words, they do not find me guilty of gaming the system, cheating them - whatever you want to call it. Not once to they address my email and the concerns stated there.

Because of their prior knowledge that they admit knowing they were not able to track page reads, and their lack of decency in giving us authors the option to remove our books prior to the release of Page Flip so we could take our books elsewhere, and lack of respect in responding to and addressing my issues/concerns, I have decided to do something that was requested of my a long time ago: I am taking my books to other outlets as well!

I am now currently in the process of loading my books for consideration at iTunes, Nook, and Kobo as well as keeping them up on Amazon, just not on KU after December this year.

I will also be giving away free e-Books periodically from my email club. 

I am excited to being this new venture in publishing my work and getting it out there. It is not about the money, it is about the moral and ethics of how Amazon handled KU... and it is me finally doing something I should have done long ago in branching out to other outlets so I can share my stories with a broader range of readers.

Thank you to all of you who do read my work however you do. I truly am grateful to each and every one of you who have taken this journey with me - for your kind words, your encouragement, and support. Best wishes and love to you all!