I’m withdrawing from KU. Here’s why.

For most of my career, I've been a loyal KU author, sticking through it despite the changes that Amazon made. Some of the changes I liked. For example, I'm a fond fan of the pages read system–with a caveat.

It's broken, and because it's broken, I'm leaving KU.

It's not broken in the technical sense, although it's a technical issue that has ultimately broken the system. No, it's broken because of cheaters, scammers, and people out to make a quick buck. Click farms, mostly from China, enable cheaters to buy a service, get tens upon tens of thousands of pages read, and manipulate the system so they can be winners of the great Amazon game.

The problem has only gotten worst, and sorry–writing already is enough ‘pay to play' as it is. If I'm going to have to pay to play, to have any hope of reaching real readers, something has to change.

For me, that's going wide and trying to reach more actual readers.

The problem is even more nefarious than just one-off cheaters gaming the system, although there are plenty of those. No, it's deeper, and we–authors–are the problem.

I'm not putting any blame on Amazon or any retailer on this one. No, this one is entirely on us as a writing community.

We can be nasty, vindictive people, especially in lynch mobs, and KU authors are easy targets. All a cranky, vengeful person needs to do to cripple to competition is to grab a copy of the book out of the KU system (which is remarkably easy to do if you know what you're doing) and upload it to another vendor. One report later, and revenge has been had.

This trend has been growing recently. I personally know a handful of authors in KU who have been the target of this. It gets worst. Foreign scammers are also taking advantage of this trick to try to make a quick buck through theft. The reality is, if you're wide, there are fewer options for these cheaters, it's faster to resolve this problems, and when these problems do arise, your source of income isn't completely cut off.

Before, those were risks I was willing to take. I wasn't making much money to begin with, and that's just me being honest about it. I don't make minimum wage, I don't make a living wage–I make enough to pay for my expenses so I can keep writing. Maybe one day I'll find a better base income. That day… is probably not coming anytime soon. I'm all right with that.

But now is as good a time as any to get out. KU pages read income has plummeted. The general pools are getting smaller, the earnings from each page read is shrinking, and the hard-earned money of my readers is going to crooks and cheats.

So, no. I can't, in any good ethical standing, remain in KU. So, my exodus has begun. I've removed most of my books from auto renewals, and I've begin adding new books to other major retailers.

To begin, here are the books that are currently wide:

Storm Without End:  iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Inktera

Storm Surge: iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Inktera

Playing with Fire: iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Inktera

Water Viper: iBooks | Nook | Kobo | Inktera

In the next few weeks, I will gradually be releasing the rest of my books to iBooks, Nook, Kobo, Inktera, and Tolino. I may expand into other markets later, but that will be a decision I leave for later. So, to those of you who have supported me through KU, thank you so very much. I really appreciate you sticking with me through these years. I truly hope you'll continue to keep reading my books, but I understand if you choose to only read KU titles.

I simply can't stay, not when the only way to play with any expectation of decent pay is to cheat. I'd rather take the 60% pay cut, which is what I currently stand to lose with my decision to go wide, than remain in a system that rewards scammers, cheaters, and crooks disguised as authors.

I have always played the game fair.

I will always play the game fair.

Authors aren't my enemies. They're my friends. They're my colleagues. They're my entertainment on a bad day. They're often the sunshine on a rainy day thanks to the words they have worked so hard to craft.

This issue goes far beyond income. It is a matter of integrity, and mine is worth far more than the money.

I prefer to lift people up than bring them down, and when a system cultivates a culture of aggression and competition without good spirit, much like the KU system currently is, it's time for me to leave.

I'd rather struggle more but remain true to who I am as a person and an author. And, even as I wiggle the plug free and spread my books around, I hope I might be the lucky one who doesn't hit the ground but figures out how to fly after the fall.

Thank you so much.

If you would like to help support me as an author, there are many ways you can do it without spending a cent, although buying a copy of my book(s) is always so, so very appreciative.

Follow me!

Following me on Bookbub, Amazon, goodreads, facebook, and twitter (my cat's account) are great ways for you to keep in touch with me and help support my books… but, there's more!

Please share.

Authors often try to share books from friends hoping to help their friends out–readers, I can't express enough how important it is to us authors when you speak up about our books. First, you validate us. You remind us we're doing something worthwhile, and that someone–you–see us. Writing is lonely work. My day is spent typing or handwriting. When I'm not doing that, I'm editing, with short breaks in between to talk to my editor or to other author friends.

When ‘normal' people are watching TV or talking about their favorite things, I'm writing.

I often forget I actually can–and do–make a difference to someone.

Sharing reminds me of that, and it helps when the going gets tough. It also gives me something I can't put a price tag to: through you, I may meet new readers and fans.

Without you, I don't have a career.

Leave Reviews.

I know this one is tough. It's so hard to write a review without sounding like an idiot. I'm always super self-conscious when I leave a review, but I try to do it anyway. Reviews really help. They help draw attention to a book, for better or worse. While I want everyone to love my books, that's not happening. But, reviews do draw attention to a title. The more reviews, the higher the chance a reader will stop and take a look at the book.

None of my titles have breached the 100 review mark. Honestly, I'll be shocked when it happens. Inquisitor is close with 93–and I'm genuinely astonished it has a 4.3 rating. It's my third book, and it has warts–it requires a certain type of reader, although I've found there are people outside of the audience I wrote it for who like it. But there's a huge audience of people who don't–and that's totally fine. I wrote it for a narrower audience.

Because verified reviews are weighed so heavily, I stopped doing ARCs of books long ago. Honestly, I got tired of trying to chase reviewers down, and when less than half (substantially less than half) of the people who promise to review actually do so, I decided to go the organic route. While I'll still, rarely, offer ARC copies, I only extend them to reliable reviewers.

If you want a free book, please wait until I run a free book day. The truth is, these will be fewer and far between, as it's much easier to do a promotion for a $0.99 and hope to make my money back from immediate sales. In reality, I will likely run giveaways through my facebook page and do instafreebie/book funnel specials rather than go through the hassle of making a book free.

We will see. The past few free book giveaways I've done have worked quite well, but as I'm changing the nature of my book selling, I'll bide my time and see how it goes with sales versus free book giveaways. Without KU supporting the free book, it's a flat-out loss for me–great for getting books into the hands of hungry readers, not so great at getting food into the mouths of my hungry cats.

Sign up for my newsletter.

My cat, Tia, is the queen bee of my newsletter, so in reality, you're actually receiving news about my books from the eyes of a sarcastic fluffbucket. I send a mailer every 2 weeks (with slight variations on the date they drop) with an extra newsletter here and there for a fancy new release. Every newsletter includes reviews as written by my cat, news about my books, some form of snippet or short story, and a giveaway roundup for those of you who like prizes. Some of the giveaways I sponsor, some I found and liked enough to share, giving my cat the orders to include them in the newsletter.

My cat doesn't appreciate when I try to give her orders. Go figure.

Thank you.

 

Leave a Comment:

8 comments
Avery K Tingle says July 27, 2017

I am so sorry this happened to you. You’re still one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. It’s good to see you broaden your potential audience (and I learned something to boot) but I’m sorry the scammers forced you away from your favorite spot. Maybe one day we’ll all learn. In the meantime, looking forward to seeing how you do elsewhere, especially Inktera.

Reply
Kat says July 30, 2017

Good luck, I am sorry you will be leaving but it us understandable why you would. Will your books still be available to buy from Amazon? I had just found you too! 😀 Maybe if enough authors leave then Amazon will put an effort into stopping the illegal activities.

Reply
    RJBlain says July 30, 2017

    Yes, my titles will still be available on amazon, just not as part of the Kindle Unlimited library. 🙂

    Reply
Wendy Jo says August 29, 2017

Integrity may be expensive initially but it won’t cost you your soul. I will happily purchase your books. Good luck and well done.

Reply
    RJBlain says August 30, 2017

    Thank you. It’s very appreciated. <3

    Reply
Diana says October 14, 2017

So sorry you left KU. I didn’t really follow the thing about “click farms”, but I’m sorry to hear the KU system isn’t working. It’s my favorite thing. It’s the only way I can afford the hundreds of books a year that I require. (And yes I am retired, lol). Other than my very favorite authors or the occasional 99 cent offer or a large collection of books, I simply can’t pay more to read than the KU fees. The fact that there are scams out there makes me shake in my boots, since it means that Amazon may eventually drop the KU system. I am hoping to afford a couple of your books after reading your short stories, but right now they are on my list of stuff to get next month.

Reply
    RJBlain says October 16, 2017

    It was a very tough choice leaving KU. My entire career was founded on it, and I enjoy letting people read at a price they can afford. I’ve begun cycling through some of my books on my newsletter, offering up a new free book every now and then, so eventually, subscribers to my newsletter will have a chance to read my older titles for free. The click farms are targeting free books of any stripe on Amazon, so I’m avoiding them for now.

    But my newsletter is definitely the way to go; keep an eye, and every few months, I’ll release a new book for free just for my subscribers. I’m looking at every 4-5 months or so between new free books. I’m hoping that’ll balance, well, having a career and giving my low-income fans access to titles. I’m also considering building a review team of loyal fans who have been members of my newsletter for a long time, giving them early review access to a title in exchange for an honest review on various vendors. That’s going to happen later, though!

    I really appreciate your comment; it means a lot to me.

    Reply
Anita Garcia says October 31, 2017

I wanted to let you know that I have enjoyed most of your stories that I have read. I am a disabled senior citizen on a tight budget and an avid reader. Because of this I primarily read books on KU. Though I am disappointed that you are leaving the program, I respect your position and totally agree with you. It is sad when people mess up a good thing for their own selfish interests. The world is not always a nice place

Reply
Add Your Reply