Into Kindle Publishing? Under New Payment Rules, You Should Write Longer Books

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Authors who use Amazon’s KDP Select program, which includes the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, will be compensated in a new way as of July 1, 2015.

Previously, ebook authors earned money each time a customer downloaded their book through Lending Library or Unlimited. KDP Select authors will now be paid based on how many pages readers view, instead of the previous system that paid based on “total qualified borrows.”

What do these new changes mean for you?

If you publish a 200-page book that’s read in its entirety 100 times during a given month, you will earn twice as much (from the KDP Select Global Fund) as an author whose 100-page book was read in its entirety 100 times during the same month. Only first read-throughs count; you don’t earn extra when people re-read your book.

Of course, if your 200-page book was read halfway through 100 times, you would earn the same as the 100-page author whose book was read in its entirety 100 times that month.

The new Amazon KDP Select system

Amazon says the new system is a result of feedback it received from authors who requested changes to the old “pay per download” payment method, pointing out “great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.” It’s similar to Spotify’s “pay per track” model, which the music streaming service uses to pay artists.

What does this mean for authors?

Some writers believe this new system will reduce the advantage that short book authors used to enjoy. Many authors use a strategy of publishing lots of short books, then rely on Amazon’s recommendation engine to suggest new titles to readers who have purchased their other work. But the new system also incentivizes writers to make sure their content is something people will read through to the end.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, writes on his blog that he believes the platform will provide all authors with more equal footing, saying, “What Amazon has really done is remove the advantage that some short books used to have.”

With the old system, many authors worked to create a number of different titles in their series in order to increase their profit, as they were paid for every sale. The pay-per-download system, regardless of book length, led to some authors breaking down what could have easily been one regular-length novel into a series of short stories (which would each count as an individual download) to increase their profit. The new system will let these authors simply release one book (with the same number of pages as the combined series) and make the same profit.

How does Amazon count pages?

So what counts as a page under this new system?

The company has instituted a standard page-counting measure to ensure that authors don’t game the system by placing five words on each page or using 20-point font. This new scale is called the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) and standardizes each book for page count purposes by using a common font, line spacing, line height, etc.

Readers can still customize their reading experience and adjust font size and other factors through their devices, but this measure helps standardize the page count for fairness. Images, illustrations, photographs and graphs will also count towards the total page count, though Amazon has not disclosed how many words each image will count for.

If you’re an Amazon author, you can find Amazon’s KENPC calculation for your ebooks by looking at your Bookshelf, then clicking “Promote and Advertise.”

But don’t count on people rapidly flipping through your book to boost your earnings. “Readers will also have to linger on a page long enough to read it before it’ll count for a royalty check,” The Verge warns.

And what about super-slow readers? Those won’t hurt your total sales. If someone reads your book over several months, you’ll be paid for the pages they read each month.

How do authors feel about these changes

A.J. Cosmo is one author who will likely be affected by this change. He writes short children’s books, including “My Babysitter is a Monster” and “The Monster That Ate Our Keys.” He predicts the overall quality and artistry of books will decline as authors focus on sales and figure out how to earn the most from the system.

“The ebook market is flooded, dominated by search keywords and highly competitive,” Cosmos says. “Gone are the days of writing from the heart. Now you research what to write and do A/B split test the results until you get a salable product. This is wonderful for making money but something artistic dies in the process.”

While some authors fear declining profits and may pull their short books out of the running, that could leave a larger share of the KDP Select Global Fund for authors who stick around.

Regardless, this change will incentivize authors to create content that people want to read cover to cover — and that’s always a good move as far as readers are concerned.

What do you think of Amazon’s recent changes to this payment policy?

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Kristen Pope is a Jackson Hole, Wyoming based writer and editor. Her work has appeared in Discover, Backpacker, Western Confluence, International Journal of Wilderness, and Planning Magazine, and she is the managing editor of JHStyle Magazine.... .

Kristen Pope | @Kristen_E_Pope

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Comments

  1. If authors aren’t already writing content that people want to read cover to cover, they’re attempting to game the system and make sales — which is what people did before the change by releasing short books, which got to the 10% point a lot faster, and sometimes made them more than the book was even selling for.

    This change doesn’t hurt authors who put their readers first and who always put out a quality book.

    A couple thoughts: 1. fiction authors shouldn’t be hurt too badly by this change because they’re better off staying out of KDP Select and publishing on as many platforms as possible. 2. If they do choose to stay in KDP Select, they should focus on the data — you know how many pages people read before they stop, so if there’s a pattern of stopping before the end, that might indicate a problem.

    • The Write Life should clarify that these changes only affect BORROWS through Kindle Unlimited/Lending, a program you can only get your book into by enrolling in KDP Select.

      If an author goes through KDP Select and a reader BUYS a book, the author gets paid royalty as normal. (If you sell for $2.99, you get 70% of that.) If a reader BORROWS a book through Kindle Unlimited, the author will now be paid per page read.

      As this article is written, it sounds as if any author who enrolls their book in KDP Select will be paid on a per page basis, which is false.

      • Amanda, your comments are so informative! I personally didn’t enroll my book in KDP Select, simply because I was unsure about the controversy surrounding the program.

        I agree with you. If we continue to write good books for our readers, we can be successful. It’s an interesting time in publishing, but I’m hopeful.

        Jenny Bravo
        http://www.blotsandplots.com

        • I enrolled my first book, a weaving pattern book, in KDP select, and it makes almost as much in KOLL units as full sales. My poetry book I started in KDP Select, but took out of it so I could lower the price from $2.99 (select minimum)to $.99 (Amazon minimum), not that it’s made sales either way.

        • Do you have your books on other platforms, Jenny? (Oh. Totally read your self-publishing report.) I know I have a few Nook readers, and Kobo has a good handle on the international market, so like I said — fiction authors are better served by going wide. (If you want to chat about getting your book on other platforms, I’d be happy to pass on what I know.)

          • Frank Andriuli says:

            Hi Amanda,
            You seem very knowledgeable about this whole area, so I hope you can provide me with some guidance.

            I’ve written a number of short stories, but only one novel so far. So, I was thinking about e-publishing my short stories first. Getting some money would be great, but I mainly thought it would be a great way to get my name out to help when I get my novel out.
            I had only heard of Amazon. You said there are more platforms out there. If you can send me info on who they are & how I get in touch, I would really appreciate it.
            Frank

          • Frank,
            Amanda may have suggestions, but I wanted to also point out this previous post on TWL that briefly highlights some self-publishing options. The discussion is pretty great, too!

            Lisa
            TWL Team

          • Hey there thanks for this article it helped me understand the system a little better. Am doing pretty well, I have a recipe book on their the last 4 months. I have only made 54 dollars on it.
            Amazon has only paid me for January. Not sure why they didn’t pay me this month or the month of December. I released the book on November 18th 2015. Could you please tell me why they are not paying me monthly? I just released two other books recently and one of them got a far amount of free downloads but no reviews yet. Then I have a third book and it has not gotten any downloads whatsoever. I even did the 5 day free book promotion and nothing. Not sure why some books do well and others don’t do good at all. Got the right keywords and everything and it is showing in the search engines. Now the first one I mentioned has gotten three positive reviews already. I was told that if I got enough reviews my book would do better but I don’t see that as the case.

            Here is my Author Page if you want to check it out so you can see what I mean.

            http://www.amazon.com/Jaimie-E-Houck/e/B01AU1S6OU/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

            Thank you any insight would be great.

      • Amanda,
        Thank you for clarifying this VERY important point!!
        As someone new to e-publishing and all it entails, I was starting to get really worried. I would’ve thought to stay away entirely from Kindle. Now it makes sense.
        -Maureen

    • You don’t read a dictionary cover to cover. We’re not “gaming the system” if we’re writing books that aren’t chronologies or intended to be read as such. I expect my readers to flip through the book, find the project of interest, and do that project. Will I be hurt by this? Too early to tell. But I can imagine someone (or several someones) flipping through the book too fast to count, then stopping on the page or two of the project they want, they’re basically getting my work for free under this new system.

      • Do you have your books available as print, too? It sounds like they’re better suited for that than an ebook. I wouldn’t buy a ebook dictionary because searching on those devices is a pain — I would buy a physical copy. I’ve also chosen the physical copy of workbooks because an ebook — while convenient — would be difficult to use as a workbook.

  2. I can understand concerns about how a change in financial arrangements in publishing will affect artistic values, but realistically, that has been a concern since monks were copying manuscripts on vellum and decisions had to be made about which books were valuable enough to be worth preserving at great expense in man-hours and animal skins. There will never be a time when artistic criteria alone determine what is written, let alone what is read.

    In the world of physical books, longer books have long tended to carry a higher cover price, resulting in a comparable price-per-page with shorter books. This system was balanced by pricing certain genres (such as children’s books) on a different scale. I suspect that either Kindle or a competitor will eventually add some balancing factors to the new pay-per-page system described in this article.

    No matter what the system may be, there will always be a fair number of authors who will do their best to game the system to maximize their own profits without regard either for art or for their readers, while a handful of authors will write great literature (or at least the passion of their hearts, great or not) without regard for their own earnings, while the majority of authors will fall somewhere in between those extremes. Many may not even be conscious of the ways the system influences their decision about what, how, and how much to write. (How many aspiring writers today are conscious of the fact that a generation ago, a first book would have been far more likely to be a novel than a memoir, especially if the writer is not already famous for something other than writing?)

    I believe it is good for writers to be conscious of the reasons for their decisions, whether economic or artistic, and make the decisions that are meaningful to them.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services
    epiclesisconsulting.com

    • Am very happy about the new system! I used to think writing long books was a waste but I have learned people want quality content and that whatever we are told is complete BS. I was told that you could write a 10 to 25 page book and that people would be happy with it. Not the case people get angry and don’t appreciate it.
      I now get the best way to make a living through Amazon is to have as many formats as possible available. That way people will be more likely to be interested in it because they know the Author has them in mind. I write for a living but it is also my passion.
      I won’t be listening to those people who just want to make a profit and write junk outsourcing everything. It makes a lot of us look bad and have to prove ourselves much more now. Am hoping I can rise above it all and that people will consider my work as valuable and insightful.

      • Hi, Jaimie!

        First, congratulations on having completed at least three books! That in itself is an accomplishment to be proud of.

        As an editor of spiritual books, I was especially intrigued to see that two out of the three were in the area of spirituality. I’ll bet that your cookbook also has an element of the spiritual in the broadest sense.

        I suspect that your type of projects are exactly the type I like to be involved in. It might interest you to know that in addition to offering editing through my website, http://www.epiclesisconsulting.com, I also sell critiques through my Etsy shop, http://www.epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com, and I will soon be offering a course on spiritual writing through Brain Matters Academy at http://learningtogo.info/brain-matters-academy/. My course is not up yet, but if you send me a message through the Contact form on my website, I would be happy to email you when it’s ready. I would also love to hear from you about whatever project you currently have in the works. (You sound like someone who probably always has something exciting in process!)

        Trish O’Connor
        Epiclesis Consulting LLC
        Freelance Editorial Services and Spiritual Direction for Authors
        http://www.epiclesisconsulting.com
        http://www.epiclesisconsulting.etsy.com

  3. I am still working on my first novel, so I’m not published yet. I have mixed feelings about this new system. I am not advocating gaming the system by any means, but many readers do download books when they are free or at a reduced rate. I am guilty of this as a reader. Oh, let me get this now and save some money. I have so many on my Kindle now that some I downloaded 2-3 years ago and I haven’t read them yet. I do intend to read them, but if the authors are waiting for me to read them before they get paid, this doesn’t seem quite fair to them. If you go into a physical book store and buy a book, you have a certain time to return them. After that, you own the book regardless of whether or not you ever read it. The author has been paid for a sale. Why should this be so different? I worked in sales and customer service before retiring, and it seems like after a certain time has elapsed, the author should be paid. I do see the advantage for the author of longer books. Not that he doesn’t rake it in already, but this should be great news for Stephen King!

    • Borrow does not equal purchase. This only applies to borrows through Amazon programs (KDP). When a book is purchased, the author gets the royalty as they always have.

  4. Great! I am going to check out the article its very informative thanks to share this.

  5. I thought it had to do with the percentage of the book read. So if you wrote a 200 page book and they only get to the 10th page, you get nothing but if they get to the 100th page – you do get something. (Must admit, I don’t know how much)

    I understand why they do this. I’ve downloaded free book and then started to read them and think – this is crap – then toss it. Percentages makes more sense than the # of pages. There are so many books out there that are under 200 pages and are fantastic books – Siddhartha, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – just to name a couple off the top of my head. And what of children’s and young adult books?

    Granted there are many books out there that I’ve downloaded for 99 cents and found it was only 10 pages long but a couple of those books were soooo helpful, I didn’t care how many pages. (One of them was crap.)

    Basically what I’m saying, is that I get why Amazon is doing it – to discourage mass producing book writers but percentage seems more viable. If they don’t want the 10 page book, then have a minimum.

    Just putting my 2 cents in.

  6. I am more inclined to agree with Rebecca Vance. I know of many authors that write a series and they are segmented according to genre. If I write a book on exercise and combine it into 49 chapters totaling 400 pages ? You the reader are concerned about your abs or weight or both but you are awesome otherwise. There is supreme doubt that you will read the other 17 body parts when you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger! You will read say 17 pages.

    200 people buy the book but the author never gets paid?! Yes there will always be a problem with gaming the system – Let’s call it what it is — BEING A HUGE CHEAT! People are not stupid! you are not protecting us but attempting to increase profits on the backs of way too many authors which we might lose.

    Worse yet would be we never get to hear their story which might save 1,3, 500 lives?

  7. I am more inclined to agree with Rebecca Vance. I know of many authors that write a series and they are segmented according to genre. If I write a book on exercise and combine it into 49 chapters totaling 400 pages ? You the reader are concerned about your abs or weight or both but you are awesome otherwise. There is supreme doubt that you will read the other 17 body parts when you look like Arnold Schwarzenegger! You will read say 17 pages.

    200 people buy the book but the author never gets paid?! Yes there will always be a problem with gaming the system – Let’s call it what it is — BEING A HUGE CHEAT! People are not stupid! you are not protecting us but attempting to increase profits on the backs of way too many authors which we might lose.

    Worse yet would be we never get to hear their story which might save 1,3, 500 lives?

    We need children’s books of a higher moral quality … helping them to avoid becoming a cheat and making it all about money! This world is about money true. However there ae way too many other things to consider! I believe that Amazon has become totally detached from the many Brave-hearts that took it where it is today!

  8. As a writer of children’s fiction who has just embarked on self-publishing some previously traditionally published short stories, now out of print (one up so far), this makes me think, hmm, why bother?

    There are only about 6000 words in my first story (? how many pages), and I was planning to add some further stories (not yet written) using the same characters and setting, one at at a time, with the intention of, later, re-releasing them as a ‘collection’.

    There are also about 10 other (previously published) stories ready to go.

    I’ve invested a lot of time and money in learning about self-publishing, re-polishing the mss, and (trying to learn) about marketing. So far my sales are truly underwhelming so it probably won’t make much difference, but it seems to me, that if an author has written words and put them out into the world, then at some stage she should get paid for them if someone else honours her by purchasing them.

    It wouldn’t bother me if no-one was getting paid – that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes — but it strikes me that somebody is going to get to keep the 99c the reader invested in the book… and it won’t be me. Not even a small percentage. That irks.

    I was already having to put up with having to make $100 in any given market before any payments were directed to me… c’est la vie. It would seem that I have missed the boat.

    • Frances says:

      Cate, you haven’t missed the boat if you put your books up for sale. You still get 70%(?) in royalties on every purchase. This article refers to books BORROWED through Amazon.

  9. Amy Outland says:

    How does the Amazon payment system work if your book is published through a traditional publisher?

    Thank you

  10. I write nonfiction dog training books and am fairly new as an author.

    I agree with Rick Carter. Many times what happens is that people read only the part of the book that is pertinent to them to solve their specific problem and don’t read the rest of the book. So I don’t think this system is good for me. It may be okay for fiction writers.

    • I highly doubt this is going to be a bad thing for niche nonfiction authors. If anything, it might make sense to publish more short, and highly specific, e-books as opposed to encouraging people to write longer ones.

      Think about it from a marketing perspective. The more e-books you have available, the more “entry points” you have for new readers to find your work. Plus, one e-book helps sell all of your others. So you have an incentive to create short e-books that solve very specific problems for very specific groups of readers.

      In your case, for example, you could take what might have been a longer general dog training book and instead publish shorter e-books about different training methods or tools, or even breed-specific training manuals. Either way, readers are only going to read the portions that apply to them. Nonfiction books are often meant to be “browsed” with easy reference points rather than expecting readers to always approach them cover-to-cover.

      You’ll earn less on a per-book basis, but potentially more on a per-page basis because it can be easier to convince people to read something when you have problem-solution marketing working in your favor (with nonfiction). So people who might not have been attracted to a general book on dog training might find several of your shorter, more specific, guides valuable.

      I do think children’s authors have very valid concerns. And I’m waiting to see how things play out for short story and novella authors. But if any group could actually benefit from this new system without having to release longer work, it seems like it would be nonfiction authors.

  11. The problem is that if you write short stories/childrens books with say 20 pages you are going to be paid far less money with the pay per page from AMAZON. The new payment is less than one cent per page. The per page payment seems to be a bust for most writers whether you write lengthy stories of short stories.

  12. It seems to me that authors ought to be paid on the same system as Amazon: If Amazon collects the money for this program on a per-book basis, then authors should be paid per download. If Amazon is paid a subscription fee for the service, then authors should be paid something that approximates a percentage of what users paid in proportion to the amount of the author’s work they used.

    Trish O’Connor
    Epiclesis Consulting LLC
    Freelance Editorial Services
    epiclesisconsulting.com

    • Amazon does not collect “per book” in the Kindle On-line Lending Library. Readers buy a monthly subscription that allows them to read anything in the program, and the money from the subscription is then divided up among the books read.

  13. I’m confused. Based off what I read in the article, it looks like it is only has to do with people getting paid for loans, not buys. Except everyone seems to be reacting as if it has to do with getting paid for buys. Am I reading that wrong?

    • Alice Grimes says:

      This payment schedule change only has to do with books that will be borrowed not purchased. Nothing is changing with those books that are being purchased outright.

    • You’re reading it right. A lot of the posters here are skimming this article and only processing “Amazon sales” while completely skipping over the “ebook lending” part.

  14. g, chops says:

    If writers aren’t being treated fairly, all writers should go on strike and pull their work from amazon. Without writers, publishers are nothing.

  15. CONNIE NEIL says:

    Amazon is starting to look like a monopoly. ABE books used to search the globe for wanted books at reasonable prices including cut-rate shipping. When deal-after-deal began appearing on ABE website I was told Amazon bought ABE and the shipping prices went sky-high. I do not like the fact that after many authors joined under contract, suddenly the rules of payment are changed. I can’t think that Amazon is suffering under the new rules. Think the authors are getting a better deal? Think we have a monopoly? I was looking for a showcase for my finished creative non-fiction book: Amazon, who changes with the wind is certainly at the very bottom of any list.

  16. I partially approve of the new adjustment regarding payments. I think it’s fair for writers who put a lot of efforts into writing lengthy novels and then find themselves competing with the vampires of self-publishing industry, those who pride themselves in conjuring up an e-book in one week and passing it to Kindle for the pure sake of profits. It’s also good for readers since now authors will focus more on quality rather than quantity. I think we’re all able to write 300 pages of junk but people will see right through that and stop reading, which will affect the profits. The only downside is that there’s a lot of great short books that deserve to be paid per download. The bottom line is that it all comes down to quality and value that the book provides. I wish that modern writers cling on to Prostant work ethics and focus on writing their best work. I believe a great book sells itself through word of mouth and it’s the best marketing tool I can ever think of.

  17. I am in the comfortable position, not to have to earn my living with writing. Therefore I don’t pay attention to any marketing tricks.
    But I write a lot of technical reports and to balance it, I write also about not so technical topics in my leisure time.
    My motivation to publish eBooks at Amazon is, that I do my best to understand a topic as good as possible. And if I publish it, I must pay attention to each detail and write so, that others understand it easily.
    Because I write only about topics, in which I am very interested, I have to accept, that there may exist only a few readers, who are interested in the same topic.
    Or are you interested to read about, how paths in multidimensional cubes can be calculated ? If not, then you don’t know, what a fascinating topic you miss.
    But an eBook with the title: “What you always wanted to know about Cuneiform”, will fascinate you; I am absolutely sure about it. And therefore I will write it for you; even if you should be the sole reader of it. But you are a unique person and therefore worth every effort, to write the book for you. 🙂

  18. Hi is there anyone out there who can give me the first steps of publishing an ebook.I haven’t got the faintest idea so excuse my ignorance.Many Thanks

    • This is an awesome course I have taken, that will tell you basically everything you need to know including things you didn’t know you needed to know. http://thebookninja.com/kindle-in-30-challenge-3/

      It’s not cheap, but it is very useful. However, if you are looking for information on a budget, the next link is an amazing resource with a lot of helpful information all over the spectrum: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/articles/

      This should help to get you started for sure. If you need more information, reply to this and I will see what I can find. I’ve got a lot of information on the subject and a lot of links to useful info which I would love to share.

    • Hi! I have just published my first Nonfiction eBook Travel and Work- Attitude is everything. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B01CYVUR46 .It was a lot harder than I thought but I had helped doing the book cover, editing + formatting. Feel free to ask me any questions.
      I am now working on my second book.
      Kris

  19. Tanya spiegel says:

    Ok I’m going out “there” lol. I would love to try doing a “space book” yes I call it that because it isn’t something you hold in your hand. It dosnt takes up space on a book shelf. I’m scared to death. No clue I mean none. I bearly can do a computer. But I have stories in me that keep me awake at night sometimes for days. Thanks for your advice and for all this great information.

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