Making money as a book author is an uphill battle. A 2014 survey by Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest found that a large majority of self-published writers earn less than $1,000 a year. Around 53% of traditionally published authors can say the same. Only a tiny percentage of writers make more than $100,000 from their trade.
Some authors complain that Kindle Unlimited’s recent rule changes have exacerbated the problem of low earnings. Kindle’s program is a boon to users, who gain access to more than one hundred thousand e-books in exchange for a low monthly fee. Authors, on the other hand, feel strangled by the program, because if they want their books to participate, they have to give Amazon exclusive selling rights to the book.
Not only can the participating authors not sell their books on competing e-book platforms, they don’t always get the full profit from the books chosen by Kindle Unlimited’s readers. That’s because Amazon pays authors based on pages read, not on books purchased. Moreover, the price paid for each read page can be as low at six cents! Authors whose genre of books tends toward the short side, such as children’s books and short stories, feel especially gypped, because even when they sell a lot of books, their earnings are severely limited by the number of pages in their books.
Amazon controls 75% of the e-book market, so using alternate vendors is not a viable option to many authors. They are concerned that sellers such as Nook Press and Kobo Writing Life lack sufficient customers to buy their books.
Notwithstanding Amazon’s hegemony, other retailers have been trying different methods to sell e-books. Some are innovative, and others are repurposed tried-and-true techniques. Some publishers are also testing the waters selling books directly to consumers via their websites.
One particular pricing model is a throwback to the book clubs of decades past. Upon joining the e-book club, customers are allowed to choose three books to buy at cut-rate prices. This then commits them to buying a set number of books at full price over the next year. If they don’t fulfill that commitment, customers are charged a penalty.
Another model rewards customers for bringing in friends. By persuading a significant number of friends to subscribe to an e-book service, everyone in the group benefits from a steep discount in the subscription price. A modern twist on this old idea also requires group members receiving the discount to advertise their purchase on social networks.
Finally, advertising subsidies have happened and publishing purists are not happy about it. Readers, on the other hand, are thrilled to choose from two different options and price-points when buying e-books. Those who prefer the traditional ad-free approach pay full price while others pay less and are presented with ads as they read the book. Even deeper discounts are offered to consumers who agree to share their name and email address with sponsors and advertisers.