Although many in the books world have taken a somewhat dim view of Amazon in 2014, one group has stayed pretty firmly in Amazon's corner: self-published authors. That might be changing, however, now that self-published authors are expressing dissatisfaction with Amazon's Kindle Unlimited. Uh-oh. According to The New York Times, self-published authors say they earn dramatically less using Kindle Unlimited, and many are opting out of the program as a result.
“Six months ago people were quitting their day job, convinced they could make a career out of writing,” e-book consultant, publisher, and author Bob Mayer told The New York Times. “Now people are having to go back to that job or are scraping to get by. That’s how quickly things have changed.”
The change understandably isn't sitting well with a lot of authors. The move also doesn't make a lot of sense to many. Case in point: Holly Ward, who writes romance under the name H.M. Ward, gave an example of a consumer who might have previously been buying $100 of books a week — $5,200 a year — who now under Kindle Unlimited only generates $120 of revenue instead with the $9.99 subscription. That's quite the difference.
Ward, who is one of Amazon's breakout self-publishing success stories and has sold more 6 million books, has opted out of the Kindle Unlimited program, and she isn't alone. Quite a few authors are not only upset but also concerned that Kindle Unlimited might only be the beginning of bad terms for them, and that soon Amazon might start treating self-published authors like just another supplier — which, given the feud that happened between Amazon and publishing house Hachette this year, is something to think about. After all, individual authors don't have the kind of resources to stand up to Amazon the way publishing companies do. Some are so concerned that there is reportedly some talk of forming a kind of union to make sure their concerns are heard.
Whether or not this dissatisfaction among self-published authors will ultimately prove to be a game-changer remains to be seen. Will it have an impact on the way Amazon does business when it comes to self-published books? Who knows — but it is worth noting, however, that if enough authors do decide to opt out of Kindle Unlimited, the service could take a real blow.
Kindle Unlimited still doesn't offer any books published by the "Big Five" publishers, so its competitive advantage over other subscription book services like Scribd and Oyster (or your average library card, which is free) is the vast library of books self-published through Amazon. However, if self-published authors start pulling their books from Kindle Unlimited, the program's currently impressive library of 600,000 books might start to look not so impressive after all.
As someone who is always on the side of individual humans against multinational mega corporations, I'm all for a self-published authors' union — or other type of collective. After all, Amazon has so far been a boon to writers looking to self-publish, providing a platform that enables them to make money. But Amazon is also a multinational corporation, one still looking to balance out their bottom line. It's a little disturbing to think that the company responsible for more book sales than any other entity in the U.S. continues to see books as a "loss leader," selling them cheap as a way to get people onto the site to buy other items — ones with better profit margins.
If self-published authors do get organized, they might be able to remind the corporate giant that the books that originally launched Amazon's success should not be undervalued. And that's something that's good for the whole wide world of books.