Within the last few days I’ve seen many posts from authors who are upset with the proposed new plan that Amazon has to pay authors, whose books are in the Kindle Select program, by the pages read rather than by if the reader turns the pages on at least 10% of the book as they are now doing. First off, this applies to the Kindle Unlimited plan, the one where clients pay $9.95 a month to borrow any book that is in the plan and it only applies to digital books. If they read the whole book, then the author gets the full royalty payment on it. If they only read 42 pages, then the author gets paid for the percentage of the book that is read.
Unfair, the authors scream. How is this unfair? First, the author has the choice of enrolling the book in the Kindle Select plan for 90 days. The author can also remove the book from the plan. As it is, the author is committing to giving Amazon exclusive digital distribution in order to enroll it in this plan. Once the plan expires or it is removed from the plan, then the author can place the digital book with any and all distributors. In return, Amazon markets the book, places it on sale, and may make it available to the Kindle Unlimited plan for a period of time. Meanwhile, the writer promotes it on social media or via a web site and collects royalties every time the book is sold and for whatever percentage of the book is read on Kindle Unlimited. Incidentally, if Amazon puts the book on sale or in their free for a few days, it’s my understanding that the author still gets the royalties.
With the current plan, any book that gets the target percent read will receive an equal share of the pool, based on the book price the writer sets, that Amazon has for royalties for the month. I have seen more than one “writing guru” advising followers to write shorter books or even put short stories on Amazon. People are paying 99 cents for a 25-page short story. Is this fair? Is getting the same royalty for it as someone who writes a 150-page novella for the same price fair? Authors have been complaining about this. I have a book that is 330 pages and someone else has one that is 510 pages and we both sell the book for $2.99 (theoretically), is it fair that we both get the same royalty?
I have heard that some authors are breaking their books into chapters and selling them chapter by chapter to take advantage of getting 10% of the book read so they can get paid if someone only reads 5 pages and they can increase their sales by turning a 20 chapter book into an almost $20 series of Kindle books.
The new payment model that Amazon is proposing will address this issue by paying according to page count, not book. Amazon will also ensure that the books are not padded with extra pages by using their own format for size and word counts, so extra spaces between lines and extra large print won’t increase the pages.
It’s a Library
Consider this. If you have a book on Amazon, on another distributor or in a bookstore and someone purchases it, then you are paid a royalty for the book. If the person then loans it to someone else, swaps it for another book at a used book store or gives it to a library where others may read it, the author does not get a royalty. If you think of Kindle Unlimited as a lending library, which it is –the reader does not keep a copy of the book – then you are getting paid if someone borrows the book and reads part or all of it. You just don’t get as much if the book isn’t the reader’s cup of tea or doesn’t hold attention. Is that unfair? I don’t think so.
As I will be publishing my first, actual “for sale versus free fan fiction”, book soon, I am looking at the Kindle Select program. If it helps to get my book out to potential readers, then I am a step ahead in the marketing. If the readers like my book, then I will get a royalty. If they only read 30 pages and drop it, I still get a little money and some important feedback. If Amazon will let authors know how far the reader got into the book by letting us know the page count, then we can look at the pattern of drops and see where they reader might have lost interest in it. This then allows the writer to see if there is something at that point that could be improved to keep the reader engaged. This can be a valuable tool.
Will this stifle creativity, as a few authors have cried? Will this force them to conform to the same standard that traditional publishers require with the same format of arcs, highs and lows that sell books? Will everyone become lemmings following the leader off the no-creativity cliff because that is what the publishers expect? I don’t believe that will be the case. I do believe that the book will need to interest the reader and be well-written. It doesn’t have to follow the standard but needs to be coherent. You can write and publish any kind of book you want through Kindle, but it needs to engage the reader or your book won’t find any takers.
If you write about something you’re passionate about and no one else cares, then you won’t sell that book to anyone. If you put it under Kindle Select and the description is misleading, it might lead a reader to download it, read a chapter or two then decide this isn’t what was expected. This happened to me recently. The book sounded like something I would enjoy, but when I started reading it, I found it wasn’t what I thought it would be. While I normally read a whole book, even when it isn’t the best, I had to abandon this one. Under this new program, the writer would get paid for the 50 or so pages I read. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad book, just that it wasn’t one that I enjoyed.
Not Ready for Kindle Writers
More people than ever are writing books and Amazon and other publish-yourself publishers are making it easy for them to get their books published without it costing the fortune that vanity presses charge. I priced one many years ago and it was about $3000 to publish a book, which I would then have to go out and sell myself. It’s much more expensive now. Amazon publishes the book for no cost to the author. Anybody can write a book. That doesn’t mean it’s a good book. It doesn’t mean they are good writers. I have read some that really needed work before they were published, some that didn’t make any sense and I tried to read some that were really poor books. Possibly this approach from Amazon will help to weed some of the books that need more work, editors and better writing to be a success out of the pool. If readers consistently dump the book after the first chapter, then there’s a problem with the book. It failed to hook the reader.
Preview the Book
Most books on Amazon have the first chapter available to read before you purchase and this is true of the Kindle Unlimited books as well. You can read a few pages to see if you like the writing, the author’s voice and if the story sounds like something you’d enjoy. From this standpoint, with Amazon’s policy of refunding money if the customer isn’t happy, I feel that any book that is purchased, whether it is Kindle or hard copy, should not be refunded if the purchaser reads it, then claims not to like it and asks for their money back. I couldn’t believe that people do that with a book. You can’t do that in a book store. Especially when you can preview the book. You read the covers, you read a few pages, then you buy the book or put it back on the shelf. You don’t buy the book, read it, then return it and get your money back. That’s a scam as far as I’m concerned.
So bottom line, I am willing to give the Kindle Select program a try because:
- It will help to get my book out to my potential readers, which will help me build my brand.
- It may bring me royalties I wasn’t expecting to get from readers willing to read new authors.
- If it doesn’t get full reads, then I may gain insight into why the reader quit reading the book, even if I don’t get a report from Amazon, but I really hope they will provide some feedback to the writers.
- Readers who really like a book they read on Unlimited do sometimes buy a copy to keep on their Kindle or even purchase the print copy.
- I have nothing to lose by trying this program and all the above to gain.
Comments on this post are welcome and encouraged.