Amazon recently announced their Amazon Unlimited program where a $9.99 monthly fee lets you read all the e-books you want, which has been dubbed “Netflix for e-books.” Two other services called Scribd and Oyster also offer similar unlimited e-book reading plans too, so what does this mean for you as an author?
As a self-published author, this basically means your e-books will get buried in the massive library of other e-books from known names like Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, which is no different than seeing books by well-known authors being sold in bookstores while your own self-published books remain obscure from most of the public. In other words, don’t expect these unlimited e-book plans to boost your self-published offerings by much. The most you can hope for is additional exposure, but that will likely translate into minimal additional profits.
Unlimited e-book reading services are great for consumers, but not so great for most authors since this essentially gives you a small percentage of money compared to the amount you would earn if someone bought your e-book instead. Still, this gives someone a chance to sample your work, which means unlimited e-book reading services will likely be better for non-fiction works rather than fiction.
Right now, romance e-books are the most popular types of e-books since you can read them anywhere for light entertainment. However, once you buy one, you’ll likely never want to re-read it again, so fiction tends to be popular but disposable. An unlimited e-book reading program would likely kill sales and replace them with borrowing through an unlimited e-book reading service, which means lower overall profits.
For non-fiction, the picture might be a bit brighter. Once someone samples your e-book, they may find it useful as a reference. They could always reference it through the unlimited e-book reading service, or they might be motivated enough to want their own copy. Then again, they might simply replace a sale with continual borrowing through the unlimited e-book reading service.
In general, the amount of money you make through additional exposure through an unlimited e-book reading service will likely not make up for potential lost sales, especially if your e-book is priced higher than 99 cents.
Since unlimited e-book reading services are becoming normal, the key is simply to accept this fact and focus more on developing your own loyal audience rather than hope an unlimited e-book reading service will attract a huge audience for your books all by itself. Ultimately, nothing can replace your own efforts in marketing your e-books on your own and attracting a loyal audience that wants what you have.
So ignore unlimited e-book reading services. The chances that they’ll help you is small. Rather than worry about the impact of unlimited e-bookreading services, focus on creating quality e-books that are related to each other, and continually satisfy your core audience, one new reader at a time. In the long run, directly marketing your e-books to a loyal fan base will still be far more lucrative than any unlimited e-book reading service will ever do for you.