Here’s a story that’s been getting some play over the last couple of days. There’s a piece on The Hustler from a fellow named Sidd Finch who reportedly makes $150,000 a year by gaming the system on Amazon as a “Kindle Gold Rusher”. (Found via The Passive Voice.)
He started out by looking at bestselling titles on Amazon, figuring he could do better, and then studying the existing bestsellers and writing a book of his own along the same theme. From there, he branched out into writing outlines and then paying ghost-writers to complete them for him, and paying other people for reviews to make his books look better. Sheesh.
It’s an interesting strategy. The funny thing about it is how much it resembles some of the content-mills from a few years back, before Kindles were the big thing and everyone was having to sell e-books on their own. Indeed, a popular scam back in the day was to write collections of short non-fiction e-book articles on subjects like how to beat speeding tickets and then sell the collections for other people to make money republishing as “their own” content. (Generally, the only person who ended up making the money was the person who sold the rights to someone else.) Now here we have someone doing something similar, a bit more successfully.
Nate Hoffelder compares it to a latter-day Stratemeyer Syndicate, the company responsible for many of the famous juvenile adventure series of bygone years—The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Tom Swift, etc. A lot of commenters reflect that the recent changes in Kindle Unlimited’s lending rates might lead to a (well-deserved, in their opinion) cut in pay for the guy.
But I’m starting to wonder now. With Kindle Unlimited, we effectively have a new kind of network full of people who can read whatever they want to for free, but their reading for free pays something to the people who wrote it. Maybe it pays less now than it did before the rate change, I don’t know. It pays differently, anyway—but it still pays something. (And then there are the old-fashioned readers who will pay a few bucks for ownership.)
For years, I’ve written stories and posted them free to the Internet, just because it was a place to get some readers and a way to be a part of a community. But my recent experience self-publishing my Indianapolis guide has shown me that self-publishing via Amazon is almost as simple as posting to the Internet. I just need to come up with some cover art, then I can upload the story, and any KU subscriber can read it for free.
And I look at that market and wonder what’s keeping me from trying that? Maybe I should. I won’t make any $150,000 per year, but I should at least be able to make something. Especially if I can get my existing readers to read me there.
Maybe I should sit down one day and give it a shot.