Episode 159 – Copyright Infringement, Audible Gifting, and the Kindle Unlimited Survey (Featuring J. Thorn)

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Question of the Week: Do you think Kindle Unlimited will be significantly larger in 3-5 years? If so, how will it impact indie authors going forward?

J. Thorn joined the podcast this week in our latest lab segment as the trio chatted about Audible’s removal of the gifting feature and Written Word Media’s KU survey. After thanking their patrons Wanderer’s Escape, 5 Numbers of Destiny, and Email Lists Made Easy for Writers and Bloggers, J., Jim, and Bryan discussed tips on avoiding mistakes, turning your mistakes around, and taming your dictation dragon. News stories included another word on Amazon Cash, why you shouldn’t fight piracy, the classic future of indie titles, new changes to Kindle Worlds, Audible losing a feature, and an insightful KU feature. This week’s Question of the Week: Do you think Kindle Unlimited will be significantly larger in 3-5 years? If so, how will it impact indie authors going forward?

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What You’ll Learn:

  • How writers can learn from the mistakes of three authors
  • What one author says she would do differently if she could start again
  • What tips authors can use to increase the accuracy of Dragon software
  • Why Amazon Cash is a useful option for households with no bank account
  • Why one author says trying to stop pirates can damage your career
  • Why indie books could become the next generations’ classic novels
  • How a new Kindle Worlds policy is changing what stories can be submitted
  • How authors may need a new method of getting copies to audiobook reviewers
  • What a survey can tell authors about the reading habits of KU subscribers
Links:
Question of the Week: Do you think Kindle Unlimited will be significantly larger in 3-5 years? If so, how will it impact indie authors going forward?

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  • I contacted Audible about removing the gift option, and they gave me a vague answer about focusing on their most popular features… but if you read between the lines, they still allow to to gift things, but they only allow gift SUBSCRIPTIONS. It works like this: any book in your library, you can gift to someone, and that entices the person to get a trial audible membership. But, they can only receive one free book this way. It’s all about getting people to sign up for audible subscriptions. And, authors suffer, because it’s harder for us to provide an easy way to get reviews, and listeners willing to review suffer, because they can’t get their review audiobooks as easily. But, amazon doesn’t care about that, as long as it leads to more people signing up for audible memberships.

    • Yup. I know indies want more control of their pricing and to be able to make books free, but it’s not happening. If the audiobook market gets flooded with $0.99 and just cheap books in general, it will hurt their subscriber base. Why would people still pay $14.99 for a membership? Unlike Kindle, Audible’s primary business is subscriptions.

      • I wasn’t talking about permafree or 99c audiobooks, I was talking about how amazon made it harder to distribute promo codes by eliminating the gift option

        • I know…I probably shouldn’t have replied to your post. I was more talking about something Bryan mentioned on the show about pricing…. on what you were saying, it really sucks they took that damn button away. I don’t want to just give codes to people and hope they will use it on my book. Good to see there’s somewhat of a workaround…

          • Bryan

            Bring back the button!

      • Bryan

        Great point, Zach. Maybe Amazon learned from Audible on that front ;).

    • Bryan

      Ah, so you can gift to folks who haven’t gotten subscriptions yet. Makes sense. Thanks, Jim.

  • I was in the middle of an Audiobook Boom promotion (like BookBub) when this happened. I spoke with two reps at ACX and two at Audible. Three of them were as surprised as I was. Horrible communication for their reps and their sales force (authors). The “Send a Book” feature still works but is limited to 10 and only from the listening app.

    Bonus Complaint: When Audible listeners also post a review on Amazon, it’s not a Verified Purchase. Does Amazon not understand cross promotion. Maybe they should visit Vistaprint. 😉

    • Bryan

      Not surprised about the poor communication, Darren. Haha, yeah, Amazon should learn about cross promo. Maybe that’s why they’re de-emphasizing CreateSpace :).

  • Spider McGee

    I think the subscription model will stay in place at Amazon, but I kind of despise it. It’s easy money for them, though. All they have to do is keep getting authors to put their books in. Some people will keep a subscription going forever and not even think about it, even if they don’t use it. I had the same problem with Kindle Unlimited that I had with Spotify and Netflix. It was just $10 a month, but I felt the need to use it a lot to get my money’s worth. And when I didn’t have time to do that, I cancelled it. I know people who binge-watch Netflix or Hulu 8-10 hours a day every day, but those people surely aren’t seriously trying to write novels.

    Do these thoughts seem disjointed? Well, welcome to me. I’m in the middle of writing a story and haven’t got to the point yet where I abandon it. It’s hard to crumple your computer screen up and throw it in the trash, so I print the unfinished story out and then throw it in the trash. Though this be madness, there is method in it, as Polonius kind of, sort of said.

    • I thought you used a typewriter on your mahogany desk?

    • Doesn’t sound like you’re their demographic. People who read 10-20 books a month are, and there’s a lot of those people out there. You mention Spotify….I used to spend at least $30-50/month buying records….so $10/month for me is nothing compared to that. Subscription services aren’t going away with digital media, so we just have to deal with it.

      • Simon Goodson

        I used to read 10 to 20 books a month and it still wouldn’t have appealed to me, but I’m awkward about being told what I can (and can’t) buy.

    • Bryan

      EASY MONEY!

  • Chris Syme

    Not unless the model changes. Significant expansion may be global as the ability to get books in different languages increases? We survey our readers regularly and for the last two years we’ve been asking people about KU. The percentage of subscribers has not increased significantly in the last year. This year only 18% of our readers subscribed and read exclusively there.

    • Bryan

      Yup. I wonder how those other international KUs are doing.

    • Simon Goodson

      I don’t read nearly as much now I’m writing, but even before I don’t think KU would have interested me. I want to choose from ALL the books I’m interested in, not just some.

  • Lavie Margolin

    I believe that Amazon is launching so many subscription services that those services will likely be launched into one service eventually. KDP will eventually become part of Prime and ultimately, larger. The key is how much of a priority KDP would be with that service and engage readers.

    • Bryan

      They should call it Amazon Life.

      • Spider McGee

        Good idea. “Diet Caffeine-Free Amazon” doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

  • Amar Vyas

    KU model will grow, but there could be a shift in the reader preferences. I think the following will come to fore: shorter formats, book series as seasons of 10 or more ‘episodes’ (like TV series). I agree with Jim that subscription provides relatively greater certainty in future cash flows, and therefore amazon could make a bigger push for subscriptions.

    • Bryan

      I wonder if KU’s growth will lead to a Netflix-esque platform-specific content push as well (a la Netflix).

  • I see KU continuing to grow and can only hope services like the new Kobo Plus take off as competition. We still have Scribd but I’ve no idea what their market penetration is.

    What I’m more concerned about is the effect on people like me where the KU model doesn’t make sense. I don’t read fast enough and receive many books as gifts.

    • Bryan

      Yeah, most people don’t really fit the KU profile, but the voracious readers love it. Thanks, Edwin.

  • I think KU will grow, but there may be competition, as well. Netflix was once just up against Blockbuster and Redbox, but now Hulu and Amazon are their competitors.

    Each of them came from a different business model and are expanding to overlap the others. Hulu once seemed targeted at TV viewers, Netflix from DVD viewers, and Amazon was simply huge enough to put up a streaming shelf in the virtual corner and get instant viewers, but the others still seem to be doing fine. They have a better user experience.

    • Kirsten Oliphant

      Good point! I hope there’s competition.

  • KU is creating virtual reading environment monopoly, for a captive audience reading captive authors because it is the lowest cost way to manage and profit from readers & authors. Eventually, KU will stop allowing authors who also publish through other distributors to be part of KU.

    • Bryan

      “Virtual reading environment monopoly!” Great points, JB.

  • Kirsten Oliphant

    I’m being a rebel and talking about something OTHER than the QOTW. Namely, something that came to mind when listening to the DCMA silliness from JA Konrath. It’s super annoying and just really dumb that authors (or anyone) would do this. BUT, in a similar yet related and very important note: this is becoming more common in certain areas and even a moneymaking scheme by some. Namely photographers. It’s not new, but become more commonplace for photographers to come after bloggers for using photos without the correct attribution or permission. (Some are intentionally setting it up so their photos are easily found in hopes that they’ll be used improperly so that they can file suits. This is a thing.) I bring this up because sometimes in our early blogging days or if we aren’t super savvy, we might end up in trouble. Anyway, side note, but super important. I just did a post/podcast about that, so I’m sharing. This DCMA piracy stuff is only growing as it can be lucrative. Here is my breakdown of how to avoid getting sued for image use: http://createifwriting.com/how-to-find-free-and-legal-images-for-your-blog/

    Okay, and I feel like I need to at least touch on the QOTW. Yes: I do think it will be big. I saw no less than two subscription services for bras in my Facebook feed today. Plus one for smoothies. (That cost $8/smoothie, just FYI.) I’ve seen clothes and purses and toys and now bras and smoothies all coming via subscription. It’s trendy, yes, but I do think it’s just really beginning in a lot of ways. So I think KU will keep on moving up.

    • Bryan

      Such a rebel, Kirsten!!! Thanks for posting the link about the photo usage. Interesting about the bra subscriptions ;).

      • Kirsten Oliphant

        I SHOULD NEVER HAVE LEFT THIS COMMENT. I am now getting bombarded with ads for bra subscription services. There are like 15. And I’m seeing all the ads after leaving this comment. lol

        • Bryan

          LOL!

  • Simon Goodson

    Two mentions in one show… woohoo! 🙂

    • Bryan

      Haha, Simon. You’re a winner :).

  • Simon Goodson

    I find the amazon ads shift from exclusive to anyone interesting, could they be thinking of doing the same with KU? At the other end of the spectrum there’s Audible which is much worse for authors than it used to be.

    The thing is that powerful and useful as KU can be, authors have had glimpses of the juggernaut beneath with issues like page reads being incorrect and calculation models changing, and Audible’s much lower royalty rates giving another reality check. That doesn’t mean all authors will shy away, but it does mean most are more careful.

    Also, assuming Amazon are making a loss on KU, which is likely while they grow it, there’ll eventually be a time when they either raise prices or lower payouts. Guess which they’ll go for!

    • Bryan

      Ooh, that’s interesting Simon. I guess expanding KU to everyone would certainly increase the # of titles they have. I wonder if they are making a loss…

  • Abraham Benguigui

    I think that KU has a market and a specific audience they can tackle, but there are a lot of people who do not have the time (like me) to read five books per month. Think about it this way, even people with a good level of English like myself, take longer than usual to read in English. In my case, I’m always checking for words definitions on its included dictionary. So I think that KU helps you cover that side of the market of voracious readers but unlike Netflix, you do need a huge level of passion and a decent level of English to keep up with it. So I don’t think KU will take over the market in the future, but it’ll most likely will grow a considered amount.

    • Bryan

      Good points, Abraham. Amazon needs to get some House of Cards-esque original books to really promote and make it a “must-read” situation. Thanks!

      • Abraham Benguigui

        Exactly! And I realize I forgot to mention this but in case it was not clear: I’m from Venezuela and English is my second language :). Even thought my level is goo (I wen to Penn state as an undergrad) it can still be challenging for people like us to devour books.
        Also, great show this week on the podcast!

        • Bryan

          Thanks, Abraham! Small world, being from Pennsylvania, I know many friends who went to Penn State undergrad. Go Nittany Lions!