If you’ll indulge me for a few moments here, I would like to address a question that several author friends have passed my way in the last few days. After typing my response once, then copy-and-pasting it a few more times, I thought it better to simply post my thoughts here and hope that maybe somebody else will have something insightful to add, or at the very least will walk away feeling at least a tad bit more enlightened on a recent issue that had arisen in the indie scene.

As many of you well know I am sure, the indie writing scene pretty much lives and dies w/ Amazon. Sure, there is Createspace, Smashwords, Apple, etc., but by and large, Amazon is where the magic happens (to borrow a cliché). As a part of expanding their already robust empire, last fall Amazon began a subscription ebook service known as Kindle Unlimited. Like w/ Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc. it was a simple enough model wherein an individual pays a set monthly amount and is allowed unlimited ebook downloads.

As for the content portion of this system, authors are given the choice about whether or not they want their work to be included. If it is, they receive a proportion share of a (rather impressive) royalty pot Amazon makes available each month. If not, they can continue selling ebooks the way they always have.

Starting this month, Amazon tweaked the format – instead of doling out royalties for downloads, they will now keep track of pages read and allot royalties accordingly. (yeah, it gets a little hairy determining what a page is on an iReader, but you get the gist)

Needless to say, this has elicited a firestorm of responses from authors the world over, running the full gamut of levels of logic/outrage. I won’t try to get into them all here, but I would like to point a comment that was made on Hugh Howey’s discussion of the topic and again later mentioned on J.A. Konrath’s site:

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

And for short fiction writers, that was definitely the case under KU 1.0’s broken-ass rules.

Because when you can write ten short stories in far less time than it takes to write a 750-page epic novel, while getting paid 10X as much for your efforts, there’s a word for that.

It’s called an arbitrage opportunity.

When arbitrage opportunities arise, if you’re nimble you can exploit them for short term gains. But never, ever bank your livelihood on them, because by definition, they are temporary — brief bubbles that never last.

Market forces will iron any arbitrage opportunity out, sooner or later. So you make hay while the sun shines, and prepare for rainy day.

I’m genuinely sorry for the writers whose livelihoods were impacted by this change. Having your income drop suddenly sucks, and I sympathize. But if you look on the bright side, the folks who you were effectively taking money away from — writers of longer fiction — are finally getting their fair share of the KU “pot.”

For a brief time you made far more money as a writer than you would have under an equitable system, while we made far less. We don’t begrudge you that.

So don’t begrudge us writers of longer fiction our fair share, either, now that your arbitrage bubble has burst.

This is utter gold. Like this particular individual (it appears), I joined KU for the express purpose of getting my work into as many hands as possible. I have written shorter stories and such, but that really isn’t my thing and I didn’t want to expend the time/energy just to take advantage of a loophole built into the KU system.

Do I begrudge anybody that did? Absolutely not. Do your thing guys.

Do I expect any blowback against me now that the system has, as this commenter put it, corrected itself? I’ll let you be the judge of that…

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