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Kindle Unlimited - good or bad for self-pub authors?

Overall— I think KU is bad because it devalues writing and creates a massive audience who don't want to pay for a book, heh heh. It also creates a shit ton of bad books getting shoved out the door fast to try and sweep up page reads. Although the latter is a given anyhow in an easy to publish market, but I think KU incentivizes this behavior. For someone wide, it's bad because it's a bitch to get into the top 100 without being on KU, which is dominated by KU gunk and big name Trad authors. So, small press and even mid-list authors who are wide are damaged by the system.

I am torn on the subject of being KU or Wide... I've been both ways, and I'm back to Wide, but honestly? Either can work, but I think KU is easier, in a sense. You don't have to pay attention to as many retailers and yadda yadda yadaa.

There is another factor: If you want Featured with Bookbub, good friggin' luck if you're KU. Bookbub wants its featured deals to target as many retailers as possible. This probably varies, but in general... yeah.
 
The way payment works. If you have a book of 50k words you get half the money of a book of 100k words as the payments all work of dividing it up by the total number of pages read.
In a sense this is indeed correct. Since all page-reads are equal, having more pages means you get paid more for having a full book read. And, with a big enough book you can make roughly the same amount on page reads as you do with a sale.

However, the reverse is also true, in that you can write two 50k words novels in the time you can write one 100k novel. And then you have two 50k novels in KU which also have 100k words in total. And while it's easier to get a person to read one full book than 2, it's also easier to sell a book if you have 2 instead of 1, even more so if it's in a series. And once you have 3, people might consider you worth reading and you can package those three 50k novels into a 150k box set, which gives you 4 items to market and sell compared to just 1.5 novels if they're all 100k.

So it's not black and white. Write what you're comfortable with and what people want to read and figure out who to sell it to later. And there's plenty of examples both wide and KU of people with both long and short works making good money.

It also creates a shit ton of bad books getting shoved out the door fast to try and sweep up page reads.
This isn't really all that new though. Pulp stories have been around forever. They're just forgotten because they weren't worth remembering. My father still has a huge collection of 50's-70's SciFi and Fantasy pulp stories. All of them costing pennies, most of them pretty bad, though entertaining reads. It's perhaps easier now with digital publishing removing a barrier of entry. But even long ago these stories got published.

For someone wide, it's bad because it's a bitch to get into the top 100 without being on KU, which is dominated by KU gunk and big name Trad authors.
Still my goal. Step 1, start selling more than 1 book a month...
 
Pulp took way more effort and capital investment. But yes, there has always been a pulp market going back to the 1800's.

Another thing about KU is the voting with the Click vs voting with the pocket book. When I had KU, I downloaded hundreds of books I never read—albeit with good intentions—and those count like a sale for book rankings even if I never read page 1. This inflates the popularity of KU books on Amazon's ranking system which leads to visibility and assists in the screwing of those not in the system. Whenever I cruise the Amazon best sellers, I now look for non-KU books not by Big Names and prioritize giving them a look.

In a sense this is indeed correct. Since all page-reads are equal, having more pages means you get paid more for having a full book read. And, with a big enough book you can make roughly the same amount on page reads as you do with a sale.

However, the reverse is also true, in that you can write two 50k words novels in the time you can write one 100k novel. And then you have two 50k novels in KU which also have 100k words in total. And while it's easier to get a person to read one full book than 2, it's also easier to sell a book if you have 2 instead of 1, even more so if it's in a series. And once you have 3, people might consider you worth reading and you can package those three 50k novels into a 150k box set, which gives you 4 items to market and sell compared to just 1.5 novels if they're all 100k.

So it's not black and white. Write what you're comfortable with and what people want to read and figure out who to sell it to later. And there's plenty of examples both wide and KU of people with both long and short works making good money.


This isn't really all that new though. Pulp stories have been around forever. They're just forgotten because they weren't worth remembering. My father still has a huge collection of 50's-70's SciFi and Fantasy pulp stories. All of them costing pennies, most of them pretty bad, though entertaining reads. It's perhaps easier now with digital publishing removing a barrier of entry. But even long ago these stories got published.


Still my goal. Step 1, start selling more than 1 book a month...
 

skip.knox

toujours gai, archie
Moderator
>those count like a sale for book rankings even if I never read page 1.
This is the first I've heard on this point. Do you have a reference for me?
 

Jellyfists

New Member
>those count like a sale for book rankings even if I never read page 1.
This is the first I've heard on this point. Do you have a reference for me?
I don't think Amazon comes right out and states it directly, or at least that I can find. (Maybe someone has a link?) I'm pretty sure it's been that KU borrows count as a sale in terms of rank, at least since I started publishing back in 2016.

Here's a quote about it, though, from Dave Chesson of Kindlepreneur (the guy who created Publisher Rocket and other author apps):
As we know, ranking is based on book sales. The more books you sell in relation to your competitors, the higher your ranking. That leads to more book sales and even more visibility.
Here’s the interesting thing: when a reader borrows a book in Kindle Unlimited, that ‘borrow’ counts as a sale to Amazon’s algorithm.
KDP Select or Not? Is Kindle Unlimited Worth it?
 
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Puck

Minstrel
I guess one thing that does worry me generally about the KU world (but perhaps this is a general issue with eBooks these days), is this idea of pumping out a novel a month etc. That does worry me in terms of quality. Even if you look at someone like Terry Pratchett, who was very prolific compared to many other fantasy writers - he was still only averaging something like 2 novels a year, not 12!

A novel a month might be a route to making reasonable money for some but it seems to me that it probably does require the writing of formulaic pulp fiction. Of course, there is clearly a market for that to a degree, but it is quantity at the expense of quality. Going down that route you almost need to make a conscious choice to be a pulp writer even if you are actually capable of being something better than that.
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
I guess one thing that does worry me generally about the KU world (but perhaps this is a general issue with eBooks these days), is this idea of pumping out a novel a month etc. That does worry me in terms of quality. Even if you look at someone like Terry Pratchett, who was very prolific compared to many other fantasy writers - he was still only averaging something like 2 novels a year, not 12!

A novel a month might be a route to making reasonable money for some but it seems to me that it probably does require the writing of formulaic pulp fiction. Of course, there is clearly a market for that to a degree, but it is quantity at the expense of quality. Going down that route you almost need to make a conscious choice to be a pulp writer even if you are actually capable of being something better than that.
I try my best to pump out a novel a year—but I usually fail—although my third novel only took 11 months.

Writing a novel a month (or even a week in some cases) is one model—one possibility. It works for some. When I've read these novels, it's usually very formulaic (possibly fun) but still formulaic. It's like (romance genre) I walked into the nightclub and saw these guys, and one came over, and... I want to be clear. I'm not being cynical. I really do respect what some of these authors are doing. Great business model. It's just not for me.

Back to fantasy. Michael Moorcock pumped them out in the 70s, but he was writing mostly novellas. Some were really good, but sometimes they were just filler material. I've got nothing against this. I like reading pulp novels sometimes. No problem. But it's not the only way. Some people have found success by spending longer on their books, deepening their story through numerous drafts. Patrick Rothfuss and George R.R. Martin are not exactly pumping out a novel a month. Neither did Tolkien.
 

Jellyfists

New Member
I guess one thing that does worry me generally about the KU world (but perhaps this is a general issue with eBooks these days), is this idea of pumping out a novel a month etc. That does worry me in terms of quality. Even if you look at someone like Terry Pratchett, who was very prolific compared to many other fantasy writers - he was still only averaging something like 2 novels a year, not 12!

I don't know that speed of writing necessarily translates to quality. I think that's a bit of a myth, to be honest. Some writers just write fast, and that's how they work. They probably outline and do a lot of the pre-writing in their heads before they even put a word to the page. That's their process. Maggie Stiefvater talks about how she does a ton of thinking about her books before she puts word one to a page for an outline or draft. Then there are writers like me who have to spend 30K words to free-write about a story before I can even write an outline, much less a draft. lol!

Also, I don't think you can really compare a traditionally published author to an indie author. Some indies release faster simply because they can. A traditionally published author may have a non-compete clause in their contract, meaning they can't publish any books that will compete with themselves. Then their publisher takes two years to bring the book to market. Some of those authors may be capable of writing faster, but they simply can't due to contractual obligations.

The thing that's important to realize for many of the prolific authors, though, is that the authors who are releasing a book a month aren't necessarily writing a book a month. The prolific authors out there are probably right now working on their release planned for April, May, or June 2022. If you're Amanda M. Lee, you may be working on your January 2023 release right now. A lot of prolific authors have front-loaded their releases by spending four, six months, or a year to write ahead so they can set their releases for every month to two months. Then they send those books to their editor while they write the next one. Adjust it to your schedule. If you're capable of writing, as Stephen King suggests, a draft every three months, then it might be better for you to take a year, write a bunch of books, then have those books edited and ready to go before you even release book one. Then you've built a cushion for you to finish the next book while the finished and edited books release every month to two months.

Also, you have to write to your process. I tried to be prolific. I tried to do the book a month and write four books ahead before releasing them. I wrote them back to back and pushed myself to do 10K a day. All it got me was burnout so bad that I didn't even want to write my name for a year and a half. If you don't have it in you to do 12K words a day, then I don't recommend trying it. Or don't try it long-term. You're just going to hate getting up every morning to write. If your upper limit on words per day is only 1K, then you're not going to be releasing a book a month unless you're releasing novellas. (Which some authors are able to do and make a decent living... but they're probably writing romance or erotica, not fantasy.) Now I've settled in that I can write 2K words a day and not hit burnout. And some of those days are just 1,200. That's okay. My bare minimum is 1K and if I can hit that number in a day, then I can go to bed satisfied with my writing for that day. So learn what your upper limits are and be realistic about them. Don't do what I did and burn yourself out. That's no fun at all, trust me.
 
I guess one thing that does worry me generally about the KU world (but perhaps this is a general issue with eBooks these days), is this idea of pumping out a novel a month etc. That does worry me in terms of quality. Even if you look at someone like Terry Pratchett, who was very prolific compared to many other fantasy writers - he was still only averaging something like 2 novels a year, not 12!

A novel a month might be a route to making reasonable money for some but it seems to me that it probably does require the writing of formulaic pulp fiction. Of course, there is clearly a market for that to a degree, but it is quantity at the expense of quality. Going down that route you almost need to make a conscious choice to be a pulp writer even if you are actually capable of being something better than that.
Speed and quality are in no way related. And neither is one more formulaic than the other. It's different for each writer. It comes down to 3 things only:
- how many words can you write in an hour
- how many hours do you write in a day
- how clean is your first draft

I write 600-750 words an hour, which is on the low side of average for very prolific writers. 1.000 words an hour is not uncommon. Which means that a 100k word novel takes 100 hours to write. If you do it full time, then you can get that done in 3 weeks with a 40 hour work week. That leaves you a week and a half to do other stuff, like plan the next novel, edit, marketing and so on. Work more than 40 hours a week, and there's plenty of time.

If you write a reasonably clean first draft, then after those 3 weeks you send it to your editor, he works on it for however long he needs. Once you get it back you just accept all changes and you publish. Start back at step one and you've got a novel a month without too much issue. If your editor is not fast enough to match your speed, then just get two editors.

There's a few things to keep in mind. The first is that most prolific writers write in series. This makes writing faster, since you already know your setting and characters. So there's less research time which goes into this.

Then, I don't think anyone starts out at this speed. You have to build up to it. Writing is like a physical activity in that sense. When you start running marathons, you don't start doing them in 3 hours. You work up to that by slowly increasing your speed.

Also, there's a few things you can do to increase your output. You can write shorter novels. At 75k words, you only need 75 hours to get that draft done. You basically get 4 for the time of 3. You can also dictate. I haven't tried it, but many who have claim it increase their output significantly, as in doubling or tripling their output. If you can go up to 2.500 words an hour, then that 100k novel suddenly only takes 40 hours. Yes, when you dictate you need to go over the whole thing again to edit, but in my experience a second draft only takes a fraction of the time of the first draft. And what a lot of slower authors do is to stockpile a bunch of novels to rapid release them to build momentum and after that they move at a slower pace.

Of course, rapid releasing is not the only way to succeed as an author or in KU. Plenty of writers do just fine at a slower pace. It's just one way to do it, which takes advantage of the Amazon algorithm which favors new releases, and binge reading habbits. If you write slower then you just have to do other stuff, paid marketing is an option, as is having a newsletter, and there are plenty of others.

As I saw someone mention on facebook: the Harry Potter books were released a year apart. And they did just fine. If anything, the slower release cycle built the anticipation of readers more.
 
Yeah, you can crank into the top 50 or higher in category on KU downloads alone and barely have any page reads, LOL. It's a major plus for KU authors if you consider browsers essential... or if looking to tag a "#1 best seller" banner on your book.

>those count like a sale for book rankings even if I never read page 1.
This is the first I've heard on this point. Do you have a reference for me?
 
I'll beg to differ, I've never seen a writer putting out 10k per day who writes for shit. At best, the stories and writing itself are formulaic. One such was a guy who wrote "legal thrillers' and the key for his mass numbers of words was dialogue, dialogue, dialogue and well... trials. And he was an ex-lawyer, so spewing garble came second nature at that point, heh heh. Then again, I'm finicky as hell about what I consider good, heh heh.

This isn't to say that there isn't an audience or it can't be "solid", but... Well written? Nah. Sanderson is an example of high end speed and quality, but at that juncture he also has a team around him with pro editors and other muckily mucks.
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
There's something missing in this conversation.

Writing speed is not the same as the speed of writing a book. The two are related but not the same. I don't think it makes any difference to the quality of the book if a writer writes 100 words an hour or 1,000. If it was 5,000 an hour I might have doubts. But it's too mechanical to simply say that because one hour equals X words, therefore Y hours will lead to the production of a novel. Sometimes maybe.

Some writers (like me) prefer to rest a 'finished' book for a few months (some writers do this for longer). This gives time to reflect on the story. When I do this, I see where additions are useful, where subplots can be further developed, and where some more things need to be changed. An editor won't do this work, it depends on the writer.

And this doesn't even go into research for the book, which can take months.

Of course, there are exceptions. Some stories come out almost fully formed, and in these cases, it's possible that a writer will write a great first draft that only needs minor changes, but I don't think this can be planned.
 

Puck

Minstrel
Personally, I think I would definitely struggle to write at an average any higher than 2,500 words per day. On a really good day, when I am on a roll, I once got up to about 5,000. But if I were pumping out 10k a day, I am fairly sure the quality would be poor. I suspect I would probably be fairly burnt out after a while as well. That's just my experience anyway.

I did find this on the daily word counts of a number of famous successful writers. It would seem the sweet spot seems to be about 2000 words per day give or take for most of these guys. Mind you, James Joyce managing just 90 words a day on average - wow - painful. This post is more words than that!
 
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Puck

Minstrel
And this doesn't even go into research for the book, which can take months.

For fantasy its probably not too bad as far as research goes (compared to some other genres). I'd imagine if you chose to write historical fiction, the research would (and should) take you ages. Almost the same if you wished to write fantasy in an historical setting.
 
I'll beg to differ, I've never seen a writer putting out 10k per day who writes for shit.
Faulkner on Puck 's list apparently did so. And with a Nobel prize in literature I'd say he was pretty decent. I think the spread between Faulkner's 10k words and Joyce's 90 words shows that it depends on the writer how fast you write, but it doesn't say much about the quality.

I know I can't write 10k decent words a day, but that doesn't mean no one can. And you don't have to write 10k a day to get to a novel a month. Stephen King with 2k per day gets to 60k words per month (at least by his own admission he also writes weekends). That's a (shortish) novel. At 2500 (Sanderson) or 3000 words a day you get to 55k - 90k words a month (depending on if you write weekends or not), which is also novel length.

There will definitely be formulaic novels in there. But there are also formulaic novel which took 5 years to write. If anything, someone writing 3k words a day will probably be better than many people only writing 100 words a day, simply because they put in more time practising.

Now, I do think that most writers will produce better quality work if they put in more time. And I do think that a writer who takes more time has a higher plateau because he has more opportunity to learn. One reason I don't just accept all suggestions my editor has made is that going through them shows me places where my writing can improve. If you just keep writing then you'll be too busy with your output to learn. And by taking more time in setting up and researching your world your writing can be better and more unique, which might make your novel more evergreen. But what "more time" means is different for each individual.

And as I said, writing in a series helps, since you limit the amount of research needed. Once you have the basics down then you're good to go and can do the rest on the fly. On the other hand, if you do write full-time, and you go for 3k words a day at 1k words an hour, then you have 5 hours left over in your day to do that research and planning and so on. And with 20 days a month, just 2 hours a day, you can do a lot more research than many people put into their books.

Writing speed is not the same as the speed of writing a book.
In a way they are. Short term you're correct. However, if you look long term, then if the total amount needed to write a book (as in, the actual time sitting down behind a computer) is just 1 month, then you can put out 12 books a year, even if the writing of that book takes a whole year. You just need to work on multiple projects at the same time. You write on book one for 2 weeks until it's done, pick up the next project as you let it sit. And just keep doing that until you're done. Then after a year you can start releasing 1 book a month.
 
Did Faulkner write 10k per day every day? Or at least 5 days per week? And from what I see, it was 3-10k per day. So... not what I'm talking about. I can put out 10k in A DAY. But anyhow, that really isn't the point, the 10k per day referenced is the modern release a novel every month stuff. It's crap. But some people enjoy crap, so more power to them,
 
I think an obvious statement is that speed doesn't correlate to quality, but, there is a point at which speed is going to cause issues. And also, some people who write 10k per day might be able to write better anyhow, heh heh.

When I'm writing I tend to put down about 2-3000 per day, 1000 minimum and 5000 max. Mind you, I don't actually track that on a regular basis because I don't care. So, those are rough guesses, except the max because one day I was like... sheesh, how much did I write today? Heh heh. I would burn the hell out or would need to be Full Time writing to do 5k per day. When I transition to full time, I hope to produce ~750,000 words per year in finished product,


Personally, I think I would definitely struggle to write at an average any higher than 2,500 words per day. On a really good day, when I am on a roll, I once got up to about 5,000. But if I were pumping out 10k a day, I am fairly sure the quality would be poor. I suspect I would probably be fairly burnt out after a while as well. That's just my experience anyway.

I did find this on the daily word counts of a number of famous successful writers. It would seem the sweet spot seems to be about 2000 words per day give or take for most of these guys. Mind you, James Joyce managing just 90 words a day on average - wow - painful. This post is more words than that!
 

Ned Marcus

Inkling
For fantasy its probably not too bad as far as research goes (compared to some other genres). I'd imagine if you chose to write historical fiction, the research would (and should) take you ages. Almost the same if you wished to write fantasy in an historical setting.

It depends. Of course, historical fiction requires a lot of research, but fantasy can benefit from it too, and it takes some time.
Here are some of the topics I’ve researched when writing fantasy:

geology
planets
electronic engineering
occult studies
Special Boat Service (SBS)
MI5
London streets and parks
Shakerley Mere in Cheshire
basic microbiology
basic mycology
studies on human consciousness
construction of castles (and the rationale behind it)
how to use slingshots
sword fighting
firearms
mythology
moths

This list is not comprehensive. I could have extended it. I’ll just explain a few of these (bear in mind that I mix magic and science in my stories, which slants this list).

Geology
My second novel was partly inspired by Journey to the Centre of the Earth. I read two books on geology to get the feel of the actual geology of the Earth. From this, I made notes which I used to imagine what it would be like if you could travel using magic. Real science helped me imagine a fantasy journey through the planet. Geology, in part, also inspired the rock magic of my first trilogy.

Electronic Engineering
I read a single paper on this. It helped me imagine what it could be like to communicate telepathically with AI.

Geographical Research
I walked a lot of London streets using Google. This gave me a good feel. Also, many people upload videos of walking around London. I spent hours on these too, making notes that I later used. Some wasted of course.

Special Boat Service and MI5
I read several books on the British special forces and intelligence services that play a part in my new (contemporary fantasy) series.

This is just a small taste of the research I’ve done, but I hope it gives an idea.
 

Puck

Minstrel
It depends. Of course, historical fiction requires a lot of research, but fantasy can benefit from it too, and it takes some time.

The thing is, I read a lot of history anyway - so I count that as 'fun' rather than research. I certainly make use of it in my writing though. If I wanted to write about a plague in a fantasy world I'd for sure draw on a book on the Black Death I have. I have already read it, so I'd only be referring back to it for reference rather than researching from scratch. The same would go for most aspects of medieval and ancient societies and warfare.

As I write stories with medieval/folk mythology themes, I generally draw on what I have already read over the years - dipping back in for more detail / to refresh my memory if I need to.
 
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