Indie-author-land has been agog this week over Amazon’s latest changes to its payment system for borrowed books. In case you’ve been living under a rock (or don’t have any books in KDP Select), here’s what’s going down.
In the past, Amazon has paid authors on books borrowed from either of its lending programs, Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, only when a reader reached a certain percentage of the book. The amount the author was paid varied from month to month, depending on the size of the global fund that Amazon designated for these payouts. In other words, you wouldn’t know what you were earning on your borrows in June until mid-July, when the Zon announced the per-book royalty it would pay authors for qualifying borrows.
Under the new system, which goes into effect at the beginning of July, Amazon will still be paying authors for borrows out of the global fund – but the method of calculating those payments will change. Instead of paying when the reader reaches a percentage of the book read, Amazon will pay out based on the author’s percentage of the total pages read in that month. We don’t know yet what the per-page payout will be. That’s a big what-if, so I’ll say it again: We don’t know yet what the per-page payout will be. Just keep that in mind when you see authors doing speculative math based on some number that nobody at Amazon has corroborated yet.
Yes, Big Brother Amazon can tell how far you got in that book before you bailed. Of course they’re keeping track. How else could they keep your place in the book synced across all of your Kindle apps and devices?
As usual when Amazon makes any changes to its payout system, sturm und drang erupted on Kboards and elsewhere after the email went out on Monday. Some authors plan to pull out of Select now (although you have to wonder how many follow through on those threats – Monday’s email from the Zon indicated retention rates of titles in Select hover around 95%). But others – primarily, it appears, authors of longer works – are thinking of opting in.
Here’s why: Since the introduction of Kindle Unlimited last year, there has been a faction of authors who have been gaming the system by writing short “books” and letting them ride in Select. It’s much easier to get the reader to the magic percentage of a 10-page “book” than to reach that same percentage in a 100- or 200- or 500-page book. So some people have been writing short works and slapping them up on Select, and as long as the reader opened the book and read a page or two, the author would get paid for the borrow.
That strategy won’t work anymore. Now, the more you hold your reader’s interest, the bigger your payout will be. And the longer your books are, the bigger your payout could be. In fact, if your books are so fabulous that readers typically finish them, your Kindle Unlimited payday could be pretty darned great.
One more change Amazon is instituting: once the changeover happens, we’ll be able to see how many pages of our books readers have read – and supposedly it will be broken out by title. This could be a huge help to authors who want to keep people reading. Which ought to be all of us, right? If folks bail within the first few pages, okay, the book wasn’t for them. But if readers are consistently hitting a certain point in the story and putting the book down, or if nearly every reader is bailing after just a few pages, that would seem to signal a problem that the author would want to fix.
One question that came up when the minions discussed this around the gruel cauldron aboard the death star: What happens if a reader puts down the book partway in, and then picks it up again later and finishes it? Would the author get paid twice for that book? And what if the per-page payout was markedly lower or higher during the first go-round?
Amazon is giving disgruntled authors until mid-July to opt their books out of Select without a penalty. (Don’t worry, our RJ Crayton will tell you next week how to opt out of the program.) It will be interesting to see how many people pull their books out. The backlash may be fairly small; an unscientific poll at Kboards shows nearly three-quarters of the respondents in favor of the change.
Perhaps the best thing that may come out of this change is a renewed emphasis among authors on quality over quantity. Personally, I’m looking forward to it.
What do you think?