Selling Books: KS/KU or Going Wide?

First, I want to apologize for not catching that the Familiar Generations books had not been properly enrolled in Kindle Select. Amazon’s author interface changed, and the button to enroll the books in Kindle Select, which puts them into Kindle Unlimited, had changed location as well. Instead of a click on the pricing page, it now requires going to a separate page and confirming that yes, the book should be enrolled.

A little about KS/KU. When I started, I “went wide,” meaning my books were available on Kobo/Rakuten (a global sales platform used by Waterstones and by a lot of Asian readers), in Barnes & Noble’s Nook library, and on Amazon. I tried Apple iBooks, but their EPUB formatting and my EPUB formatting flat out refused to cooperate, and I gave up.

The trade-off was lower Amazon royalties. Over the course of a few years, I noticed that Kobo did not bring in much income, B&N was OK, and Amazon provided 80-90% of sales. Then Waterstones had a very awkward episode with readers discovering that some writers had broken the rules, and were selling erotica (and let us say, hard-core erotica) as romance. This led to a huge clean-out of both the offending books and a number of others. The criteria for defining “might be naughty” were both vague and odd (pearl necklace on a Regency character? Book dropped. Too much neck above the neckline? Book dropped. Those were two infamous ones.) Now, this didn’t affect me, but the year that Kobo announced “We will close from December 17-January7 so upload everything as early as possible for holiday sale” did catch me.

Because of all of these different things, I opted to enroll in Kindle Select, which makes the books available in Kindle Unlimited. At the time I only had a dozen or so titles, so it wasn’t hard. My income increased, and I gained readers. All was well.

Fast forward to 2019. KS began having some problems, in part because of attempts to reduce fraud and cheating that cast too wide of a net. I wasn’t directly affected, but it caught my eye. B&N changed their terms of service for writers, including a clause that, if brought into effect, claimed your IP forever. That inclined me to not return to wide distribution. Certain behaviors by Amazon in 2019-2020 set off more alarms, mostly concerning censorship and restrictions on book they might sell in the future. Again, it did not affect me directly, but . . .

So, we are in 2023. Several writers I know have left Amazon KS and returned to wide distribution, and have done very, very well. I’ve considered it, including looking into the dollar cost of reformatting certain books to meet other distributors’ standards, getting ISBN numbers for titles, and so on. It would be an investment, but might pay off in the medium to long term. However, I also know that a lot of readers are facing tighter and tighter budgets. KU/KS also accounts for roughly half my revenue.

All that said and weighed, I decided that I will stay in KS/KU for the foreseeable future, while starting to plan for changes, in case Amazon changes terms or start more censoring of books.


21 thoughts on “Selling Books: KS/KU or Going Wide?

  1. Wise decision to plan for contingencies. Should the Amazon staffers actually read book excerpts, and realize your characters believe in God and are motivated to act rightly in His Name, a shadow ban may come in.

  2. Thank you. I love your books. I am living on social security. Having good books on kindle unlimited is a life saver.


  3. First and foremost, it’s your decision to make.

    However, I prefer to have my eBooks in ePub format and have been converting Kindle eBooks to ePub format.

    Unfortunately, Amazon had messed up things.

    They are pushing a new Kindle format which cannot be converted to ePub.

    While I can still read the Kindle eBooks, I am no longer able to convert them (and store the ePubs on my PC & back them up).

    So while I enjoy KU, I know that Amazon doesn’t let authors put KU eBooks in other e-stores.

    Right now, I’m checking KoboBooks for any Kindle eBooks that I might purchase.

    Oh, I will be still purchasing your books from Amazon but I still wish that I could find them in the KoboBooks store.

    Again, this is your decision not my decree.

  4. I think I have never commented here but I’ve been reading the blog (and at least one of your stand-alone books, I have a very big TBR pile so i’ve left the series for now on that pile) for some years.
    Of course you must do what makes more sense for you, but I’m with Paul, I also like my Kobo, so I’m very wary of buying new books in Amazon since this last change in their policy, you won’t have many readers affected by that policy, but keep that in mind in the cons list when considering staying Amazon exclusive.
    Anyway, best luck with your books

    • Thank you. I’m trying to keep track of the changes in the different options, and the various terms of service for both readers and writers.

  5. I did not realize things were quite so convoluted. Good grief, that must take away from writing time/enjoyment.

  6. I understand your position.
    I like to have my own copies of books, but for KU is too convenient and reasonably priced so I mostly use it.
    I agree it is wise have backups and plans in case something happens to or with KU.
    I was disappointed that Nook pretty much disappeared as a real competitor to Amazon.

  7. Last three months, 48, 49, 48% of my income has been KS/KU, but like you I’m planning for possible options. I went wide with my first novel, sold a total of FIVE copies through B&N, and they refused and STILL refuse to delist that book, so I can never put it in KS/KU…Grrr…

  8. Authors, figure out what works best for you. I can give up a few six-packs of Diet Sprite to buy your books!

  9. I read to take my mind off my chronic pain problem (or at least that’s what I tell my family)! I read about 300 books a year. I have about a dozen authors whose books I try to always buy, but even that strains my limited book-buying budget. KU is the only way I can afford to read everything I want to. Thank you for listing your books. I enjoy them immensely.

  10. Over the last four years, most of my reading has been on Kindle, and most of my exploratory / new to me authors have been either KU or samples, as I have found few authors whose writing I like well enough to read anything they write (except for the NTT, the Mad Genius Club, and the author / commenters here and on Sarahs’ blog.
    Amazon is behaving like the old pre-breakup Bell System. We’re the phone company, and we’ll damn well act like it. I try to use other purchasing channels when possible, but my wants are often too specific to find alternate sources for the goods.
    Preparing for Amazon to try to further screw authors seems a reasonable preparation, as does backing up all blog or online content on owned physical media, and using a secure personal / group hosting site and / or service. Even WordPress can be hosted as a program running on your own computer, to avoid the possibility that they will delete your site and all the work you have done there.
    I used to think that I was paranoid, but I have realized that I was not being suspicious enough. Damn.
    John in Indy

  11. While I do find e-books useful (and for some of the titles I enjoy, it’s unfortunately the only option), I still find satisfaction in opening an old-fashioned paper book – and the battery never runs down at the cliff-hanger moment on a paperback. I’ve purchased the Familiar stories in both formats and get a great deal of pleasure from both – I’m looking forward to the next traditional-format release to add that to my library as well.

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