In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway takes a look at Kindle Unlimited's price hike and TikTok's new curated feeds.
In this month's podcast, Howard and I dedicate the whole show to the latest developments in AI. We talk everything from Apple and Google's AI narration, through Midjourney and AI art, to what ChatGPT and similar tools mean for us as writers. We also talk about our own experiences of using these tools.
Kindle Unlimited Raises UK Subscription Price by Nearly 20%
Kindle Unlimited will cost more for subscribers in the UK from March 23rd. The price will rise from £7.99 to £9.49 per month. It will, though, be possible until the end of May to lock the current price in for people who take on an annual subscription. Amazon has justified the price rise by referring to the increase in titles available through Kindle Unlimited. This has risen from 650,000 in 2014 to 3 million right now. In part, this increase in titles is down to the addition of magazines and comics.
The rise in the cost of Kindle Unlimited follows the rise in price for Music Unlimited, which came into effect yesterday. That price went from £9.99 to £10.99 in the UK and $9.99 to $10.99 in the US.
There’s a really interesting piece of research from earlier this year that traces Kindle Unlimited payments from the 2014 launch to now. In that time, the payout per page read has dropped 23% from .58 of a cent to .43 of a cent. The overall payout from Kindle Unlimited has grown from $2.5m in its first month to around $45m a month at present. We don’t have greatly more nuanced figures than that. But what this does suggest is that the need for a price hike isn’t that royalties have fallen off a cliff and need emergency fund. It’s more likely that an erosion over time has caught up. Which suggests, to me at least, that this is about plugging a leak. And authors shouldn’t expect to see any benefit. Indeed, any increase in payout per page may be the result of fewer overall page views if subscriber numbers go down. Possibly as likely is that those who stay as subscribers will seek to get more value from the service, which could lead to a decrease in payments.
Findaway Voices and Apple Reverse Position on Using Audiobooks for AI Training
Many thanks to Nate Hoffelder's Monday morning newsletter for this tip. Great news from Victoria Strauss on Writer Beware in the wake of the recent discovery that Findaway Voices and Apple have clauses in their audiobook agreements that grant rights to train AI on those books. The Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists met with Findaway Voices earlier this month to express their concerns. And subsequent to that meeting, they received assurances that both Findaway Voices and Apple would no longer be using these rights. And this agreement would go back to the first appearance of the clause in 2019. This comes on top of the UK government's recent climbdown on data mining. Let's see now if this is the start of a multi-industry pushback on an issue that could affect so many of us.
“While AI definitely has great potential for exciting and interesting creative use, it is important during its development, that the rights of artists are not eroded or taken for granted.” Melissa Addey, ALLi Campaigns Manager.
Social Media: Have in-app Sales Had their Moment?
There are several interesting updates to report this week for authors who use social media as part of their marketing. First up comes a couple of announcements from TikTok. Last year it felt as though the book world couldn’t get enough of TikTok. Frankfurt Book Fair gave what had just become the world’s most downloaded app centre stage for the festival. And a series of publishers struck up deals that enabled them to approach influencers, who would be able to sell books direct through their channels. TikTok followed this with an in-app bookstore as part of the newly rolled out TikTok Shop.
It is this TikTok shop that took a step closer to a full rollout this week. Beta testing for the TikTok shop has grown in the US. It’s interesting to note, though, how this fits the wider picture. TikTok has rowed back on plans to introduce in-app shopping in the UK following a lack of interest. And other apps have also dropped or scaled back plans. It’s interesting that this comes at a time when Bookshop.org is growing its offering, and reports this week suggest bricks and mortar bookstores are remarkably resilient. What this seems to suggest is that BookTok may still be a great source of reading recommendations. And it may even be playing a key role still in getting new people into reading. But when it comes to buying their books, people still like doing so in a place that’s dedicated to books.
TikTok Adds Four Themed Feeds
This makes it interesting that both TikTok and Instagram are introducing new ways of curating the content that appears in people’s feeds. TikTok has added four themed feeds for people. These are sport, gaming, food and fashion. They will be offered to people who might be interested as a matter of course. If this number grows, it will be fascinating to see if/when it includes a dedicated book feed.
Instagram Makes it Easier to Communicate With Followers
Instagram has introduced a new way for people to broadcast directly to followers. Channels is a broadcast chat feature that will let people send messages to all their followers at once. Instagram is trialling the feature first with big name influencers but could roll it our more widely.
What all of this taken together suggests is that the way we can engage readers who then buy our books is becoming more nuanced. People like to find things on social media. And they like to engage with creators there. They also love to share their thoughts on what they read with their peers and hear what others have to say about the books they love or loathe. But when it comes to actually buying those books, they'd rather do it in a space set up for buying books, not an add-on to social media. It feels a bit like the change of direction I reported last week from Barnes and Noble. After years of assuming bookstores could only stay afloat by selling coffee and extras, Barnes and Noble are succeeding by going back to dedicating their floor space to books. Maybe the days of the everything store are done, and niche is back.
Exhibit at Indie Author Book Fair
Indie Author Book Fair will be running events in the UK and Australia over the coming years. The first will be in the artistic haven of St Ives at the end of April. They are specialising in publicising us, indie authors, to the local communities, and you can register for a stall at this or one of their future events here.Self-publishing News: Kindle Unlimited Raises Its Price but Will Writers See Any More Money? Click To Tweet