Amazon and I have a rocky relationship…
For the first year or two, I published my Infinite Vampire series wide, meaning that I listed the books on as many retailers as possible. It didn’t sell well, except for on Amazon. The allure of higher royalties from the ‘zon, along with some marketing options like being able to list books free for a couple of days, led me to consider KU, or Kindle Unlimited.
Kindle Unlimited is great, if you write what the KU audience reads.
Kindle Unlimited lets readers pay a monthly fee, and then they can download and read as many books as they want. It’s a great deal for those readers who blast through books, as long as they can find content they like. I gave it a shot, and I pulled all my books form the other retailers so I could fulfill the exclusivity requirement of KU. On KU, I ran a couple promotions, and I got some downloads. It felt good, but I never made more than a few dollars a month through the program.
While I did gain some good feelings from KU, some things started to feel worse and worse. I had all my eggs in that basket, and when it wasn’t producing sales, it felt kinda scary. Also, during the COVID-19 pandemic, I watched as corporations like Amazon raked in massive wealth while it’s employees suffered. It didn’t feel good to be locked into their brand, to be an author that was exclusively providing them with my creative content. And if that wasn’t enough, While I wasn’t too concerned regarding censorship with my first series, I was nervous about the new series I was about to publish.
Trashy Romance is a sex-positive, scorching, series of love stories.
Some of the characters are queer, some are straight, some are trans, and some are non-monogamous. What if Amazon wouldn’t let me sell the books on their platform? What if my books got flagged as ‘adult products’ and removed from search results? (AKA ‘getting dungeoned’) My books do have some less-than-vanilla sexuality, and uncommon relationship dynamics. This was a legitimate concern, and it happened. I published the first and second book at the same time, and each book met with challenges that feel a lot like censorship.
Trashy Romance: Curbside Pickup (Trashy Romance, #1) got miscategorized into Erotica, meaning that my plan to advertise the book through Amazon Marketing Services was tossed to the wind. According to various reps I dealt with, the book was auto-flagged as erotica because of some keywords: sex-positive, and LGBTQ inclusive. I have no idea if that’s true, but reps did tell me it was the case. The book was also dungeoned, for an unknown reason, and upon a content review, it was determined that it was not worthy of being dungeoned, it did count as erotica on Amazon, because it had sexuality in the first chapter.
So, even though the book is not erotica, Amazon sells it as erotica, because there’s some mild sex in chapter 1.
The second book, Trashy Romance: Back-Alley Treasure Trove was also dungeoned, but only the print edition was. It was lucky enough to find its way out of erotica, thanks to my slow build: there was no sex in the first chapter. So each of my books got hit with Amazon’s censorship, and I can 100% say that Amazon’s actions on those books negatively impacted their sales potential.
Suffice it to say, I’m very glad that I published wide.
I may not get many sales outside of Amazon, but it feels good to have a big basket for eggs. It also feels good to diversify. I know KU works great for some authors – certainly for those who write the genres and kinds of stories KU readers tend to like. My experiences and troubles may be uncommon, but they happened…and I’m wide for life.
You can get my books on Amazon, Google, Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and maybe by the time you read this, they’ll be in a few other, surprising places that I’m currently investigating.