Kindle Unlimited: a pirate’s treasure

Here’s a screenshot of a post on a forum. Maybe you can guess the forum, but I’m going to do the sane thing here and not mention it by name, because I’m not interested in sending goons after the bad guys and becoming a bad guy myself.

But ain’t that grand?

Personally, it’s just one of many reasons I stay far, far away from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program.*

(Also known as: Customers ripping off authors by downloading loads of books while signed up to a three-month trial of KU costing 99¢, stripping DRM from those books, reading those books in a way that won’t register for the author’s benefit (AKA authors not getting paid for pages read, because Amazon can’t stop this or account for it because payment is based on page reads instead of something reliably easy to track like, you know, borrows…), and then keeping those books indefinitely after canceling the KU membership.)

Pirating happens, and so does stealing, if one defines this kind of thing as theft. (I do, and although there are technicalities about why this might not be actual theft, I don’t care. Thievery is as good a name for it as any as far as I’m concerned.) There’s not much an author can do about this that won’t cost more in time and effort than is lost to the pirating (and theft), so I don’t worry about it much. Just nothing to be done.

Amazon has proven they’re unwilling to do anything. They switched from a system that worked around this kind of thievery to make sure authors got paid at least for the download to a system that pays literally as little as possible and makes authors eat any losses because of badly behaving Amazon customers.

In all honesty, I probably wouldn’t let this stop me from participating in KU if there were other benefits that I was interested in, but there aren’t, so I don’t. It’s an ugly system, and I choose to stay as far away from it as I can.

As for the pirating and thievery, well, people are either willing to pay or they aren’t. The money gets too slim, they’ll have to read someone else’s books because I won’t be writing, so tough on them if they really liked what they stole. And if they didn’t like it, well, too bad so sad for them. That’s a sweet revenge of a different sort. Reading that stolen book wasted their time, and that’s something they ain’t never getting back. :D

*I did have one book in KU way back when. I won’t bore you with details here but there’s a link if you want to know more.

Amazon.co.uk is having a sale on print books that’s causing KDP to price match my ebook

I don’t know exactly what’s going on this morning with Amazon.co.uk and KDP, but I came across an odd value in my sales report from KDP for one of my books. I double checked the book on Amazon.co.uk, where the odd “royalty” came from, and realized Amazon.co.uk is price matching one of my books. The problem is, there’s no lower price anywhere for that ebook.

After a few clicks around the page, I found what I think is the root issue.

Amazon.co.uk appears to be having a sale on the paperback for this book, offering it at a significant discount—but only with orders of at least £10.00 of books.

Screenshot from the Amazon.co.uk web page for one of my books. Notice the price? Yeah, that’s a price match to the paperback.

Yay for them for having a sale.

Not so much yay for me.

I’m the one taking the hit on royalties earned for every sale of this book well in excess of what I’d make up for in volume because of the lower price, for a price match that isn’t even a real price match, because (1) they’re matching a paperback price and (2) the only way to get the low price is to buy £10.00 worth of books.

I have to say, I become less enamored by Amazon every year. Of course, I was part of the Amazon affiliate program well before I started publishing my books through KDP, so I never had a lot of the warm fuzzies for them as a business associate to begin with.

Still, every little blow just hardens my heart against them that much more.

Because this? Is not cool.

Changing a book cover on a paperback: New edition or not?

This post has been updated with an addendum. Turns out I was wrong.

I understand that technically I do not have to create a new edition of a paperback at CreateSpace just for a book cover change. But I’ve been mulling over my options and I’ve decided I should.

Here’s why: Resales.

If the book cover is different on more recently purchased copies of the book, anyone trying to list the old book for sale used is going to be listing a different product, because the book cover is an important part of the paperback.

When I buy a book, I expect it to come with the cover shown on the product detail page. If it were to arrive looking like a different book, I’d be pissed, because that’s not the book I thought I was buying. Covers matter to me and I’m sure they matter to a lot of people—especially people who collect paperbacks.

Therefore, I feel obligated to issue a new edition since I’m replacing the cover on the book in question. It only makes sense really.

The next question becomes do I leave the old edition for sale until the new edition makes it to Amazon and the other stores, or do I take it off the market as soon as I upload or approve my files?

I think I’m going to wait. No point in having the book off the market longer than necessary, right? Maybe I’ll even leave it up for a short while in case anyone wants to pick up the copy with the old cover before it disappears. (Okay, that’s probably not going to happen, but it’s fun pretending.)

Now, off to actually finish the new edition of that paperback. I’ve already corrected one lone typo and added some info to the front matter, but I still need to finish the actual new paperback cover design.

Addendum: As soon as I hit the Edition field in CreateSpace’s setup process for a new project, I started to have second thoughts.

That led me to a little more research, where I found this:

How do I tell one edition from another?

A new cover does not indicate a new edition as long as the publisher has not changed. What usually indicates a change in edition (providing the publisher has not changed,) is the change in the content of the book. This most often occurs with non-fiction books, especially textbooks.

So, now I’m thinking a new cover does not make a new edition, despite the issue with resales.

Then I continued, and found what Bowker had to say (Bowker issues ISBNs in the United States):

If changing the cover of a book, does a new ISBN have to be assigned?

US practice is if the book is just out or the idea is to give a marketing boost to the product, then no, a new ISBN should not be assigned. However, if the change in cover substantially changes the product (ie., would lead to customer complaints), then a new ISBN should be used.

I would complain if the cover was different, but I guess buying used copies, it’s just a chance you take.

Finally, I found some information in the Amazon KDP Support forums that makes a lot of sense after having read the previous two items. I can’t find a permanent link to the actual reply so here’s a link to the full thread and here are the relevant quotes:

I’m wanting to do a second edition of my novel…. There are minimal changes to the text (literally, MAYBE two words were corrected); the real reason for the second edition is that I have a completely new cover I’m wanting to use that will better fit my series…. [W]hat do I do in order to have my listing reflect the new cover and new edition without losing my reviews? Or is it unnecessary to make such a big deal out of a “second edition” when the cover is the only thing being updated?

The reply:

I would call that (as trad publishers do) a “reprint” and not a second edition. A second edition means significant content changes. Some of the publishers I work for have it down to a percentage requirement–such as, 40% of this book must change in the second edition. That’s the highest percentage I’ve seen; lowest was 20%. Changing the cover image does not, in my mind, warrant calling it a second edition. Second printing, if you’re printing–not that that really makes any sense in POD, of course. But with trad publishers who print up batches of something at one time, if they catch a few errors that they do wish to correct, but aren’t ready for a second edition, the email we get says “Let’s save this in a file for reprints” or “We’ll catch it in reprints.”

On that note, because there really are only very minor text changes to the book (one typo corrected and a few lines of updated front matter), I’m going to update the first edition with the new file and cover image and not create a second.

As for some other books I’ll be updating soon, they’ll have to be new editions, because the trim size will change and CreateSpace won’t let you do that as an update.

Revisiting the cumulative title sales spreadsheet

I had a thought that maybe there was a way to make updating my cumulative title sales spreadsheet easy enough that it would be worth keeping it up to date so I revisited the spreadsheet today for about an hour or so.

As you can see in the image above, I have several sheets in the workbook. The thing is, I know just enough Excel to know how much I don’t know.

But I had a thought and I followed up on it and that thought led to another and suddenly I’d found a way to make the currency conversions for the KDP sheet easily and quickly—and in a way that would work for future additions to the KDP sheet without requiring any additional effort on my part.

You see, if you’ve seen the KDP reports from Amazon, you’ve probably noticed they don’t include the currency conversion for the payments the way the reports from everywhere else does. It’s an inconvenience, but it is what it is.

My challenge was to find a way to prorate each month’s payment to each month’s sales. The way I chose to do it a few days ago was inelegant and not wholly accurate for each book. That bugged me, but it was a time versus accuracy dilemma, and my need to save time and effort won out.

But now I’ve figured out how to do it with zero additional upkeep.

#1

I created a column for a conversion factor in my book sales report where I track royalties earned and royalties paid by month for each vendor.
Sample row data (extraneous columns deleted):

Oct 2016 Amazon.de EUR 36.87 38.43 1.0423108

The conversion factor is simply the payment amount, which I have a column for ÷ earnings in the original currency, which I also already have a column for.

#2

I multiplied the foreign currency royalties in the KDP sheet by the conversion factor and got the USD royalties for each item (which I’d consolidated from the monthly KDP reports). I did this for all the rows in the KDP sheet.

If I’d had to do it manually, it would have taken forever.

The trick with the formula was to use the SUMIFS function because my royalty payments spreadsheet has only one row for every date and marketplace combination. That means the sum is always going to return only the conversion factor that matches the date and marketplace that the formula needs to calculate the USD royalty. It was just good luck that since KDP reports don’t show transaction dates, I had set up all my rows in the KDP sheet to contain only the period end date, which is also how I’d set up my royalty payments sheet (Oct 2016 is actually 10/31/2016 but set to the MMMYYYY format).

#3

I created a table so I could use the VLOOKUP function to solve the problem of having different names for the marketplaces in the two sheets (Amazon Kindle US Store vs. Amazon.com) but that was actually the easy part. :)

Anyway, what this means is that my brain spent a lot of time working on this while I wasn’t actively working on it—even after I’d decided it was too much trouble to keep up. But that happens sometimes.

I’m happy to say the sheet works well with the new formulas, even if my formulas are a bit of a hack. Updating the cumulative title sales will be a simple process that shouldn’t take more than half an hour every few months, and it’ll have the actual payment amounts from KDP applied to the correct months’ foreign sales.

I’m glad I was able to come up with a solution, and I swear, it feels like it’s taken me longer to write this post than it took me to fix the spreadsheet.

I had considered the idea of one massive spreadsheet that I could put into a PivotTable, but I didn’t consider that a good long term solution. The data between reports just isn’t standardized enough and I sure didn’t want to spend a bunch of time standardizing it each time I decided to update the cumulative title sales report. And I’m pretty happy with the solution I’ve come up with, because it means I can just copy and paste the new data into the appropriate sheets and I’ll be good to go.

Smashwords might be tricky, but my current plan is to just delete and re-add all the data from the updated reports, instead of append it. This is necessary because Smashwords throws in new transactions for some very old periods sometimes and trying to pick those transactions out of the whole would be a waste of time.

I don’t figure I’ll update this spreadsheet more than once a quarter anyway, but I’m tickled that it’ll be maintainable without a lot of effort. :D

Now, off to do some other stuff before I call it a night. It’s 12:03 a.m. and I swore I wasn’t going to bed late again! :o