I Will Not Be Doing Kindle Vella (or Exclusivity In General)

I don’t know how many people have heard about Amazon’s new Kindle Vella. Written Word Media did an excellent post explaining it. I read the email Amazon sent out, and I checked out their video on it. In my opinion, Written Word Media does the best breakdown of this program, so I highly recommend the article if you’re wondering about it.

The downside to Kindle Vella

The reasons I won’t be putting anything into this is because I can’t put my story into a book format AND I don’t want to be exclusive. Yes, Kindle Vella is another exclusive program from Amazon.

I love putting my stories into books. I have nothing against serialized fiction, but I don’t like publishing stuff in that format. It’s why I dropped off of Wattpad. I gave it a try and didn’t care for it. It’s why I don’t do serials. I tried a serial early on with Return of the Aliens, and I felt the reader got a better deal by paying for the entire book rather than episodes. I know this is a highly controversial subject among authors. I have no trouble with authors who like this format of publishing. It’s just not my cup of tea.

Regarding exclusivity, I understand why authors are exclusive to Amazon, but this is something that has never appealed to me. For me, it all boils down to the freedom to do whatever I want with my books. I like being able to publish my books however, wherever, and whenever I want. That has always been the appeal to me even before self-publishing became acceptable. I like writing the story exactly the way I want it, I like being in charge of the cover, and I like being in charge of the pricing. The only thing I don’t like is writing the book descriptions because I’m weak at it. But as they say, nothing is perfect. 😉

A quick note about the ability to borrow my books:

Once in a while, I’ll have get a question from a reader as to why I don’t put my books into KU so they can take advantage of the “borrow” feature.

I’m on Scribd and I’m in libraries. Scribd offers a subscription plan where you can find my books. Granted, KU authors won’t be there, so that’s the downside to it if you’re heavily invested in KU. KU requires authors to be only on Amazon. They can’t be in other places. There is no such limitation in Scribd. Also, there are online libraries. Thanks to Smashwords, all of my books have the ability to be in libraries. You might have to ask your librarian about them getting my books to your library, which I realize can be a hassle, but the opportunity is there.

I avoid exclusivity for two reasons.

1. The freedom factor.

If I were to sign up for KU (or even Kindle Vella), I’d have to agree not to have my story anywhere else. That means I’m vulnerable to the retailer. Let’s say someone out there pirates my book and uploads it to a piracy site. Amazon would require me to deal with this or they will remove my book from their store. I’ve heard of KU authors going through this, and it’s a major headache because you have to nail down where your book is on a piracy site, you have to send a DCMA (which is a takedown notice), and then you have to hope the site actually removes the book. I have no control over someone out there who decides to take my book and put it on some piracy site, and I have no control over what the person running the piracy site will do. Piracy happens all the time to authors. Quite frankly, I don’t feel like chasing after piracy sites all day. I’m busy enough as it is with writing new stories, homeschooling a kid, and juggling the wife-and-mother dynamic (because I do want to spend time with my family). The last thing I want is Amazon breathing down my neck and threatening to remove my book because I went against their Terms of Service in KU.

2. The threat of removal from Amazon has already hit me, and I’ve never been exclusive to Amazon.

I had a couple of books removed from the Australian store. (There might be other countries Amazon has hit, but at the moment, I only know of one.) These books were under a publisher at the time. I asked my publisher about it, but the publisher had no idea this happened, and the books were never made available. I now have the rights to those books back and have republished them, but I don’t know if they’re up in the Australian storefront.

Also, there have been three instances now where I’ve gotten emails from Amazon threatening to remove one of my books from their store because of a price difference between retailers. This is how the email reads: “Your book is $0.02 cheaper on Kobo in this other country (then they name the country). If you don’t adjust the price in your Kindle Direct Publishing dashboard within five business days, your book will be removed since the Terms of Service say we must be the lowest price.” The problem is that even when I do the same price on all retailers, there will be a country that offers a different price. This is probably a currency conversation thing. I set my books at the US price and let retailers deal with the currency conversion. With 100 books out there, the last thing I feel like doing is going in and manually adjusting the currencies in every single country. There’s simply not enough time in the day to micromanage this.

Long story short, when I’ve gone into the dashboard over at Amazon, it turned out that I couldn’t lower the price in that particular country because I had it as long as it would already go. These were on my $0.99 books. The only price lower than that is Free, and Amazon won’t let you click a “Free” button. To get a book free on Amazon, you have to price it free on the other retailers and hope Amazon will price match it. In the end, I had to raise the price on the wide retailers to make Amazon happy. And that really sucked for readers on other retailers who should be able to buy their book at the same price an Amazon customer does. This is extremely frustrating. I can’t control how a retailer is going to convert currencies.

The bottom line is that Amazon can–and will–remove books at any time for any reason. At least when I have my books across multiple retailers, I have a buffer. If Amazon did remove a book for some reason, someone can go somewhere else to find it.

Exclusivity prohibits my ability to reach readers on other retailers, and some readers would rather not buy books on Amazon.

Now, someone might argue that If Amazon removed a book I did have exclusively there, I could always publish it on other retailers at that time. That would be a terrible decision. It would not only hurt me (from building up my audience on those other retailers), but it would hurt the person who wants to read the book on a retailer that isn’t Amazon. My original reason for not jumping into KDP Select (and later KU) was the lose-lose scenario it presented. I knew some readers who were Nook and Apple readers. They started reading my books back in 2010 when I was getting started. They didn’t want to buy on Amazon, and they didn’t want to download the Kindle app.

In the writing community this argument comes up a lot, “This is a business, and you have to do what makes the most money in order to keep your job.” I’m not running my business with my head; I’m running it with my heart. I just can’t take the “feeling” part out of the equation like some can. A lot of authors out there oppose emotional decisions. This kind of thing gets argued about a lot in writing groups. Writers who write for passion are considered hobby writers who have no business sense in the writing community. If I had an eye roll emoji, I’d use it right here. Yes, I get it. Emotional decisions aren’t always the best for the bottom line (money), but there are friends I have made over the years because of my books. If I were to go exclusive, that would be akin to me telling them that they don’t matter to me.

A couple of these people have given me encouragement when I needed it most. I almost quit three times over the past decade, and every single time, it was my readers who gave me the encouragement I needed to stay in the game. People who read books aren’t just a source of income. I feel like a lot of authors treat their readers that way. I realize I don’t have a large audience, but I have one that has been supportive the whole way. That means a lot to me. Instead of agonizing over ads and marketing, I’ve decided to get my personal finances in order. The less dependent I am on my writing income, the more freedom I have to run my writing business (or hobby as some would call it) from an emotional standpoint. My aim isn’t to be a household name. I just want to connect with a few people in a meaningful way and write what I love. Exclusivity doesn’t help me reach those two goals. Being across multiple retailers does.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to contemporaries romances and other genres (such as science fiction thrillers). For more information, please go to www.ruthannnordin.com or check out https://ruthannnordinauthorblog.wordpress.com.
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11 Responses to I Will Not Be Doing Kindle Vella (or Exclusivity In General)

  1. Maria Lipscomb says:

    I looked into this Vella do not like it as I do not like bookfunnel.
    However, people should have the option as anything else
    Love your books have been reading the for a few years now, but I have a request if there is a novella in a series please let your readers know is frustrating to come across one after you started the series and missed the beginning of the story
    Thank you
    ML

    • What novella are you talking about? I typically don’t do those. The ones that pop up in my mind that have anything to do with a series are A Chance In Time and Kent Ashton’s Backstory.

      I’m not a fan of bookfunnel, either. I know some people who love it. I agree that people should have the option to do what they want. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to publishing books. 😀

  2. I’ve thought (briefly) about doing KU, but I always come to my senses. Yes, it would be nice for Amazon to put my books before others that aren’t in KU, but quite frankly, I’m afraid of Amazon. They don’t play fair with authors. They can do whatever they want, whether it’s the right thing or not. They act without asking questions or finding out the truth, and then an author’s book is taken down for a bogus reason. So exclusivity is a bad business decision in my opinion. Some might say the bottom line is what’s important in business, but Amazon can jerk that bottom line away from you in a heartbeat.

    • I do give KU serious consideration about once a year, and I end up coming to the same conclusion each time. I’ve had conversations with authors who’ve benefited financially from KU. But, like you, I worry that Amazon will jerk that bottom line from under me at any time. They can do whatever they want without explaining why they did it. I mean, look at me. I’ve had a couple of books removed with no explanation at all and no recourse. These weren’t even my bestselling books. At least I have a buffer by being on other retailers.

      I’ve decided to go back to the Payhip store. I never removed my books from there, but I haven’t updated it in a long time. I was thinking it over, and I figured it’s probably in my best interest if I have one site that is retailer independent. I just saw an option to add samples to the book, so I’m gong to work on that for the next couple of weeks. I see that some authors are selling ebooks on Etsy. I might go ahead and try that. I offer paperbacks once in a while, but I can only do that when I have time to run down to the post office, so the store is currently empty (I think). It’s been a while since I checked. I guess in thinking over Kindle Vella, it’s only reinforced how important it is for me to diversify.

  3. Yeah, I’m not doing it either. Just doesn’t feel like a good fit for anything I do.

  4. bunnymuggs says:

    I do not buy books through Amazon,.. I prefer Kobo, because I can buy with my PayPal. I do a lot of surveys to pay for my reading.. lol. I have lost some of my favorite authors who are now Exclusive to Amazon.. To bad for them as they have lost a true fan, and I have gone on to find other authors. I am so happy your books will still be offered on Kobo…keep writing.

    • I didn’t know Kobo allowed people to pay through PayPal. That’s an excellent feature. More retailers should do that. I love that you’re able to pay for your reading by doing surveys! I never thought of that.

      Thank you for letting me know you read books from Kobo. Just knowing one person at a retailer is interested in my books keeps me wanting to publish over there. 🙂

      • bunnymuggs says:

        Amazon does not allow PayPal. I have contacted many authors as to why I can’t get their books on Kobo and they all say the same thing, Amazon does not allow it once they sign to go exclusive, and they seem to think they make more money with Amazon sales. And I understand that, if book sales puts bread on the table, then so be it.. I have less newsletters to contend with, and I have found many new authors, (to me). And I am still a fan of your books, which are still on my computer, for easy re-reading..

        • I hear the same thing from a lot of authors who go into KU. They call it a smart business strategy. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s actually a bad one in the long run. The problem is that so many authors are looking at books through the lens of money. While I get that money is important, I also think the relationships that authors develop with readers is important. It’s because of the support and encouragement people have given me over the years that I’m still writing. There were times I wanted to quit. A couple of these times was when I was making good money. Despite what some authors think, money is not enough to keep on writing. The stress to continually earn more and more can make one miserable.

          I think a lot of authors are missing out. Looking back over the decade I’ve been doing this, I don’t remember how much I made each month; I remember the people I met along the way. That’s brought me way more joy than anything else. People like you who let me know that my books are being enjoyed have been a huge blessing, and my life is so much fuller because of it. I plan to keep on writing and publishing across all retailers as long as I’m around. 🙂

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