I'm so glad you asked! When you buy from an author directly, you're putting money back into their writing. Subscription services like Kindle Unlimited place heavy restrictions on authors and limit readers too. Readers can only borrow 20 books at a time in Kindle Unlimited, but you can't keep them. I don't know about you, but I love re-reading my favorite books!
If a book is available in Kindle Unlimited, authors aren't allowed to make that book available anywhere else, not Barnes & Noble, Apple, Kobo, or GooglePlay. Certainly, not on their website. Special editions or swag boxes that readers love aren't allowed. That book exists only in Kindle Unlimited, and the author is paid roughly .004 cents per page for the first reading of the book.
This means that authors are only paid through the subscription once a reader reads the book. My TBR pile on my e-reader is enormous. I won't say how big because it's a bit embarrassing, but if you're waiting for me to read a book to be paid, chances are high that I've already moved on to the next shiny new novel and forgotten about the one I downloaded two days ago. It happens all the time. Plus, payments for books sold outright on Amazon are taken immediately from the reader, but the author doesn't receive that payment for at least 60 days.
It's hard to buy Ash cat food if I have to wait two months to feed him, let alone my husband, kids, or that weird see-through woman who keeps crashing on our couch and asking about the necklace she lost. (Okay, she might be a ghost and can exist on air, but as for the rest of my family, we're flesh and blood.) Imagine an employer holding onto your check for that long. Retailers and book distributors also rely on foggy math and sales reporting that's not exactly transparent. We're supposed to trust that the ever-changing sales reporting dashboard is 100% accurate.
Amazon also charges a .30 cent delivery fee on a basic formatted eBook and additional fees if the author adds special design elements that readers love. All retailers take a significant cut from authors. Usually, at least 30% goes to the retailer simply for distributing the book. Any eBooks on sale or priced below $2.99 drop an author's royalty rate to 35%. Creators pay a steep price to retailers just for having the book available on their platform.
When an author makes their book available on other retailers, they are penalized too. Amazon gives visibility and preference to books exclusive to Kindle Unlimited. Even when authors buy Amazon ads, the retailer will give Kindle Unlimted book ads more visibility than books that are not exclusive.
What about audiobooks?
Audiobooks are an even riskier proposition for authors and an expensive deal for readers. Your basic subscription to Audible only allows readers to download and listen to one audiobook per month. Authors are forced to receive a 25% royalty rate if they upload their audiobooks anywhere other than Audible. They only receive 40% of the retail cost if they give Audible exclusivity, and that's less than half!
However, audiobooks are incredibly time-consuming and expensive for indie or hybrid authors to produce independently. They cost anywhere from $150-$300 (or more) per finished hour to hire a voice actor. For every 10K words, it's roughly one hour, so a 70K novel could cost $2100 to produce. If you use Audible's platform, you can choose not to pay upfront and split royalties with the narrator, but you can't upload your audiobook anywhere else. It's automatically exclusive to Audible and has an even lower royalty rate for authors, plus a risky proposition for narrators because they only get paid when your audiobook sells. I tried this route once, and the voice actor was a disc jockey who reached out to me to record my books. He had a nice voice, so I went with him, but the audiobook quality wasn't very good. So, now I fund audiobook production with human voice actors through Kickstarter.
Big Guys versus The Little Guys
Amazon and Audible (owned by Amazon) want exclusivity because it decreases competition and underminds a healthy book industry that offers readers more choices. Their competition for books is large corporate bookstores like Barnes & Noble, community-minded retailers like Books-A-Million, or the little indie bookshop you love so much. When you shop at places other than Amazon, you support struggling retailers that will eventually close their doors without readers like you. Do you remember Borders? I do. When you buy from the author through their website or at book conventions, you support the person who created the story you love so much!
This year I started thinking about Borders, MySpace, and one of my favorite movies from the 90s: Pretty Woman. I'm showing my age here, but it taught me a valuable lesson. When I cut out retailers, I can afford to offer you bigger discounts and products that will never be available on retailers, like exclusive short stories, box sets, collectors editions, and merch. My husband is a wildly talented artist, creating kickass designs for t-shirts, water bottles, and swag, which will launch through my website. I'm also relaunching my books with splashy new covers, expanded anniversary editions, and subscriptions to save my readers' money and give them extras. I will only offer human-narrated audiobooks through Kickstarters to fund their production because they're such an expensive proposition. But I'll provide AI-narrated audiobooks on GooglePlay, Kobo, and through my website at a reduced rate, and you'll be able to tell the difference when you read the cover art because it'll say narrated by X voice on Google.
Offering you the ability to connect with me directly and buy from me means that if something happens and a retailer goes out of business, I'll always be able to reach my fans. When you buy my book anywhere else, I have no idea who you are and can't tell you when the next book comes out. If you support my writing through my website, it also means I get paid immediately after the sale, not 60 days later when you shop at www.acjames.com.
Is it safe for me to shop on your website, you ask?
Absolutely! My store operates on one of the safest e-commerce platforms in the industry. It's also integrated with Bookfunnel for eBook and audiobook file delivery, and they provide real human customer service if you run into any problems. Of course, I won't stop selling my books through other retailers because I believe in making my books available to readers wherever they live in the world. I also make sure my books are available to borrow for free through libraries. Reading and books were my passion long before I became a professional writer. That's why I publish everywhere and not through places that demand exclusivity. The world is better for creators when we support smaller retailers or book stores struggling because of gigantic monopolies.
In the words of Julia Roberts, this is the year I say who, I say when, I say how much. (It's a rainy day today; perhaps I'll rewatch Pretty Woman.) Thanks for taking the time to read this and for supporting my writing, no matter how you buy or read my books!