Why I Canceled Kindle Unlimited

It’s the start of a new blog – sort of. File it under “The Sort of Thing That Only Happens to Cait.” It began with going to my blog and seeing that all my images had disappeared…and ended up learning more about Bollywood porn spammers than I ever wanted to.

Long story short (because I’d have to include all the language I used when learning how to ftp into my site, clean virus and spam files, rebuild the site, etc., and that would mean putting an Adult Content Warning label on this blog), it ended up being a bit of a mixed blessing.

I lost some of my funny manuscript marginalia posts, but I gained clarity about what I actually want to blog about. And, what I want to blog about goes against the advice of almost all the author social media experts: writing.

Yup. I want to blog about writing and editing. (I know, you’re wondering when I get to the canceling Kindle Unlimited part, but it’s coming.) Apparently, I have a lot to say about it because my friends and family all cautiously edge away when anyone asks me my opinions about writing and editing.

Okay, now we’re getting to the Kindle Unlimited thing

I canceled it.

Oh, you got that already.

WHY did I cancel a service that for $9.99/month would let me read ALL the books I wanted to…so long as they were participating in the Kindle Unlimited program?

Because I couldn’t stand it any longer. The typos, the sloppy craft, the puerile plotting, the two-dimensional characters, and the utterly, utterly predictable endings all drove me into a wild rage. Admittedly, I’m a picky b*tch when it comes to reading fiction, but frankly, out of the hundreds, if not thousands of KU books I read or tried, only a handful barely come up to the quality standards that most traditionally-published books meet.

Wait! Wait, before you flame me for being one of those dream-crushing, anti-self-publishing haters, just hear me out a little more?

I have been self-published. I have worked with small publishers. I have worked with hybrid publishers. I’m pretty sure there are probably still typos in my books, and while what I have published is solid, I suffer from the writer’s dilemma of looking back at cringing at writing from two or three years ago. I feel your pain. I hear your cries of “Why, KDP, why won’t you update this file?” I know what it’s like to dwell in the purgatory of the 200,000 rankings and get that whopping $0.26 royalty payout.

But, here’s the thing. I have also seen the rise of competitive review trolling (seriously, it’s like an Olympic sport now), buying reviews, gift-ranking manipulation scandals, and Amazon’s own delightful habit of deleting reviews from people we care connected to on social media (because ‘Build relationships,’ they said…’It’ll be fun,’ they said…). I have seen the rise of ‘authorpreneurs’ where we writers are desperately hawking our other talents in editing, proofreading, ghost-writing, cover design, and layout to other authors in hopes of paying the bills for our own publishing costs, thereby creating a damnable feeder loop of dependency in the space-time continuum.

What really drove me over the edge, however, is waking up one morning and finally seeing how writing and publishing are truly in peril from Amazon KDP.

The Sword of KENP

With Kindle Unlimited, we authors are paid by the page. More pages. More money.

Except, remember that whole PageFlip thing from last year? Yeah. How many people woke up to find NO pages read? Fun times. ¬†Oh, and let’s not forget the slowly dwindling payout-per-page rate. $0.0049 per page. On a 200-page book (with pages determined by Kindle), that is a whopping $0.98 payout.

Considering that we pay $150 on average just for a decent cover, not to mention the $300-500 for editing and proofreading, and up to another $100 for layout…

Better start cranking out those pages, because now, we’re on a hamster wheel of endlessly trying to play catch-up with our expenses. Let’s not even talk about the cost of websites, advertising, swag, etc.

When we are paid according to KENP (stands for something about number of pages read whatever), we are trapped. Yes, there are authors out there making decent money from self-publishing. But how many aren’t? How many are getting lured into the authorpreneurship-hamster-wheel loop of the space-time continuum?

What is the price of all of this…because there is always a price.

The price is quality.

The price is being able to make a livable wage.

The price is having no gatekeepers to push us to improve our writing and tell us when a story is not ready for prime time.

That is why I canceled my Kindle Unlimited account. If I want to see things change in the publishing industry, I have to put my money where my mouth is.

If I want to read a book, I will buy it.

But, in return for my money (and more importantly, my TIME), that book had better be damn good. I don’t want typos. I don’t want sloppy writing. I don’t want predictable plots and boring characters. I don’t want a glaring lack of research, logic, and pacing.

If we want to keep claiming that self-publishing is where it’s at, then we need to up our game. I just came back from Book Expo America, and I have to tell you, the saddest area of the show floor was where the self-published authors all had their little tables. For all the noise about the Big 5 failing, they seemed pretty unconcerned as they watched the lines for their ARCs and autograph sessions wind three times around the booth.

Don’t get me wrong. The rise of KDP did some great things for publishing, waking up the establishment and giving access to voices that couldn’t find purchase in the mainstream. However, just like the housing boom and every other boom we’ve ever seen, there is going to be a bust.

I guarantee it.

The number of authors and books is growing at a rate that is outstripping KU subscribers. The pressure on Amazon’s profit margin for KU is increasing. Why do you think they started PageFlip? Why do you think they have been dipping their toe into various submission/gate-keeping programs?

Winter is coming. And, by winter, I mean quality control.

Which…brings us full circle back to the fact that I am going to be writing about writing and editing and publishing from now on. Okay, maybe I’ll throw in some cat marginalia from time-to-time, but for the most part, I’m here to man the barricades and lead the revolution.

Denny Basenji is joining the revolution.

So, buckle up. It’s a new day, and a new era of demanding better from ourselves in order to demand more from the publishing industry.