The Big Five Using KU? Let’s Discuss

2020 indie publishing predictions

I know we got this virus thing going on, and we’re all stuck at home. I’m struggling to keep going with a writing schedule and blog schedule because even though being home and not having to do anything is a writer’s dream, my body really does only want to dream and it’s a struggle to stay awake. I still walk, and blog, and yes, I’ll even be going to work. Not sure how that’s going to play out, but, anyway. My Mac ate some of my Vellum files, so I’ll be reformatting some of my books too, as this drags on.

At any rate, I will keep my blog posts up, of only because 2020 will be over by the time these prediction posts come out, so I want to get them done. Without further ado, we’ll keep going on, to what I think, is a very interesting topic.

The next prediction Written Word Media talks about in their 2020 predictions is that the Big Five Publishing houses will start using KU to push their huge author backlists. Michael Anderle predicted this saying, “We will see Big Five publishers using KDP (Amazon Kindle Unlimited) in 2020 as they seek to acquire income with their enormous backlists.”

This is interesting to me because:

  1. We know how much the Big Five hates Amazon. Using KU would require them to set aside prejudices and admit that Amazon isn’t the bad guy. I don’t know if this can happen. I feel like there is too much resentment toward Amazon to admit that KU can/will help them sell books. They already hate being dependent on Amazon – we know how much they depend on the retail giant, and we know how much they hate it by the amount of complaining they did last year before Christmas when Amazon didn’t order as many books as expected due to storage space. It was all the traditional publishing industry could talk about until Amazon increased their orders and all was right with the world.
  2. They still look for the “big book” every year. Their business sales model still depends on finding a huge book and shoving everything they can at it. (See: American Dirt) There’s no mid list anymore and they make a lot of their sales with the tried and true authors like Nora Roberts and Stephen King. The prolific authors who put out two books a year and make a gazillion dollars on each one. The Big Five are always looking ahead for the next big thing (which can be a good thing) and don’t, in my opinion, care about older books (which is bad for their authors but good for us indies–more on that later).
  3. The Big Five don’t like to share. Macmillan has already limited books that go to libraries, saying borrowing library books negatively affect their bottom line, when there are several studies that prove the opposite. With those kinds of attitudes, I doubt they would enroll books, even older books, in an author’s backlist in a subscription service. At least owned by Amazon. The idea that they start their own subscription service may be something worth looking out for.
  4. The price of KU may go up. The chances the Big Five being content with how much a page read is worth (usually about .0045 cents) is slim to none. If the Big Five lobby for a higher page read royalty — someone is going to be unhappy. That could be the reader who may need to cover that with a higher per month subscription price (right now a Kindle Unlimited subscription is 9.99/month), or us indies will get shafted having less royalties to claim (traditionally published books have always had more perks than we’re offered). Amazon will do what they need to do to make money and keep customers happy. Luckily for us they don’t kowtow to the Big Five, but that means they don’t care about what us indies want or need, either.

I feel with the bad history that is between the Big Five and Amazon a partnership won’t be likely. Amazon is stealing authors away like Dean Koontz and Sylvia Day. And they have their own imprints that make money and keep the Big Five from those potentially well-selling authors. Amazon doesn’t need the Big Five backlist, so I don’t see it will be likely they would give the Big Five a deal that they would be happy with.

I have agreed with most of the predictions made in this article so far, but not this one. There is too much bad blood.

But what if it were to happen? The number of books available would number into infinity. If the Big Five allowed even a fraction of their authors’ backlists into KU, I feel like that would be the beginning of the end for us, at least in KU. And perhaps even on Amazon in general. In the past, readers would by indie, and maybe still do, because our e-book prices are cheaper than a Big Five publishing house. I’m not saying readers are settling, but in these economic times, readers save where they can. If suddenly hundreds of thousands of traditionally published books are available, essentially for free, I have a hard time believing readers won’t devour those books. If that happened, I have my own prediction — indie authors would pull out of KU. The small fish, like us, not the authors like Michael Anderle who already make hundreds of thousands in KU, and move over to Kobo and Nook. We would focus on the smaller platforms that Draft2Digital helps us publish on ….

  • Apple Books
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo (including Kobo Plus)
  • Tolino
  • OverDrive
  • Bibliotheca
  • Scribd
  • 24Symbols
  • Baker & Taylor
  • Hoopla

…. and we would put all of our energy into going wide more than ever before.

No one has come out and said that the bad blood between the Big Five and Amazon hasn’t given indies the space to find readers, but I believe it has. What would we do if the traditional publishing houses and Amazon saw themselves as partners instead of rivals?

I would hate to find out.

What do you think? Would KU stay the same if the Big Five started using it? Let me know.

The next prediction we’ll explore is the scammers are going to keep on scammin’. See you then!


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