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Beth Cox Report: April 2016

Dear Loyal Readers, Authors, and Publishers,

Authors who publish on Amazon's Kindle Unlimited ebook platform have it tougher than ever.

In June of 2015, Amazon announced a drastic change in its payment policy to writers who made their creations available through Amazon's Kindle Owners Lending Library, and through Kindle Unlimited, as described in this article:

Instead of the old model, which gave authors a payment per copy of their book downloaded, the new model supposedly paid them "per page read". This severely reduced the revenue of ebook authors who primarily published short stories and novellas... or even cookbooks, which are not typically browsed cover to cover like a novel.

It gets worse.

Scammers have refined the art of exploiting Amazon's new system. Learn all about it from this online article:

or Ann Christy's blog:

Here's my hasty summary of the problem. Amazon can't really tell how many pages of an ebook have actually been read by its customers. Its software just notes the furthest page that a given reader has turned to.

So, scammers have devised all sorts of schemes to entice readers to turn directly to the final page of their book. Contests, coupons, anything.

In the most egregious cases, an alleged Kindle "book" actually consists of (for example) 100 pages of text, 900 pages of word salad gobbledygook, and page 1,001 offers some kind of prize that the reader is encouraged to check out. When they do, the author of this 1,001 page "book" gets credit for 1,001 pages read.

Supposedly Amazon has made an effort to crack down on gaming their system, but their system is so easy to game that the scams just keep coming.

Amazon's system doesn't pay out an infinite amount of money to its Kindle Unlimited authors. It has a fixed "pie" drawn from the total amount of Kindle Unlimited subscriber revenue, which it divvies up each month among all authors. As scammers seize more of the "pie" with their tricks, that means less money is paid to honest ebook authors.

The result is that more than a few Kindle Unlimited ebook writers who were once earning a comfortable living have been forced to take additional jobs to make ends meet. What is a struggling ebook author to do?

I can't help wondering what Harlan Ellison would do.

Why Harlan Ellison? Because in addition to being an enormously successful science fiction writer, he is well-known for adamantly protecting his intellectual property rights.

To quote Wikipedia, "Ellison has initiated legal action or takedown notices against more than 240 people who have allegedly distributed his writings on the Internet, saying, 'If you put your hand in my pocket, you'll drag back six inches of bloody stump.'"

[Ellison and Wikipedia quoted under terms of fair use].

Has anyone asked him what he thinks of this Kindle Unlimited debacle? I'm unlikely to meet him in person, and if I were to email him the question I suspect it would be lost amid the tons of spam/fan mail/hate mail he must receive each day.

(Also, he intimidates me. Just a little.)

What I do know is that Ellison absolutely does not tolerate any BS from anyone, ever. And this is one case where the BS is so out of control that the manure truck is getting buried.

My own recommendations for ebook authors are the following:

1) Look for publishing options other than Kindle Unlimited! Amazon has not fixed the problem in almost a year. Maybe they will one day; until then, there are a host of other ebook royalty platforms. The MBR website has a list of ebook publishers and dealers on our links page at

but it's barely a drop in the ocean. Do your homework and thoroughly investigate any possible ebook publisher before you sign a deal, of course.

2) Consider ebook self-publishing. A few ebook authors have gone into business selling subscriptions to their monthly work. Patreon is also a possible means of recurring support for your creations, although these models work best if you already have a significant following of readers.

3) Keep your resume and LinkedIn profile up-to-date, both with regard to your writing career and for any other jobs you may have to do on the side.

With that in mind, I'm going to declare LinkedIn the Link of the Month

as it's currently the dominant career networking website. Don't use the LinkedIn website to get in touch with the MBR though - just send us a regular email. This is because we'd rather write book reviews than spend time on social media.

And here's April's Book of the Month:

LinkedIn in 30 Minutes, second edition
Angela Rose
i30 Media Corp.
9781939924520 $11.99 pbk / $7.99 Kindle

Part of the "In 30 Minutes" guide series for newcomers to the digital revolution, and now in an updated second edition, LinkedIn in 30 Minutes is a user-friendly guide to the career-focused social media network LinkedIn. Readers will swiftly learn how to build a solid profile, and start networking online. Black-and-white computer screenshots illustrate the easy-to-follow examples of what to do and not do. In today's technology-driven era, LinkedIn is increasingly the tool of choice for locating the right job, or the right person to fill a vacancy; knowing how it works is vital for success!

As a final aside, I would like to give personal thanks to everyone who contributes to the MBR postage stamp and website maintenance fund. I'm not a traditional writer, but because of these gifts, I can afford to spend time writing book reviews instead of working part time at the local gas station.

That's all for the April 2016 Beth Cox Report. It's hard to write the next great American novel unless you have food on the table and a roof over your head!

Bethany Cox
Managing Editor
The Midwest Book Review

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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