Amazon And Its New KDP Select Per-Page Payments: Everybody Has To Swim For It Now

Image - iStockphoto: Lee Torrens
Image – iStockphoto: Lee Torrens

‘What This Means For Authors Is Debatable’

Yesterday’s news (15th June) that Amazon is changing its payout structure for Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) lending scenarios — that’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL) — has been met with somewhat muted reactions. And this is good to see. Some mature, prudent thinking is going on.

And not that we need to assert that anybody has been dog-paddling, surely something that doesn’t reward a pamphlet as generously as it does a full novel is a splash in the right direction. Or is it, as Philip Jones writes at The FutureBook, “A boon for serial writers, a nightmare for poets”? Starting in July, if you’ve been loading the system with bits and pieces instead of full-fledged work, you’ll be getting paid for bits and pieces.

In past years, the self-publishing community, when impacted by this kind of change, tended to be whipped pretty readily into overreaction. Today, while in some quarters I’m sure that hair has been torn and teeth gnashed, there’s less of what the author Hugh Howey refers to in his reaction as “knee-jerk reactions from authors [who aren’t] considering…pros and cons.”

In fact, if anything, I’d say that there’s an air of cautious joy in Mudville, Casey, at the news of this change.

  • Until now, the two great loan-based programs operated by Amazon for KDP authors have paid each author a certain amount per book, once that book was read to 10 percent of its length. In short, an author was paid by the qualified borrow.
  • At the top of July, those two programs, KU (the all-you-can-read for $9.99 per month scheme) and KOLL (the Amazon Prime-based free-loan program), will begin paying by the page read.

This represents a sea-change in the calculation of how independent authors of loaned materials — not bought books — are compensated. If  you’re buying a Kindle book, nothing has changed. (And you’re still buying a license to read that electronic copy, of course, you do not technically “own” that copy as you would a paper copy.)

The reasons this new per-page approach can cause shifts are several:

  • There has been a tendency among some writers to write short, quick books; to release new books as serials; even to break up larger books into smaller chunks — all in order to create more short products on these programs that then would pay more, and pay more quickly. If a user read only 10 percent, the “book,” however short, would pay a standardized fee for the month of the rental from Amazon’s KDP Select Global Fund. With a 25-page “book,” an author could get the same money when 2.5 pages were read that another author might get when 40 pages of her 400-page book were read. Per-page payment makes churning out all those short “books” moot.
  • A longer book could, starting in July, bring an author more money because it simply has more pages to be read. (Payments still will be paid for from the Amazon KDP Select Global Fund. The total number of pages drawing from that fund in a given month will determine how much a page is worth.)
  • Worried that people change their font sizes on Kindles, so your page 25 of a book is not my page 25? Don’t be. Amazon has devised what it calls theKindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC — I know, so many initials). This is simply a standard setting. Whatever you or I might do to our page settings on our own Kindles — me on a cardio machine at the gym or you much more sensibly in a comfortable chair at home — the system in Seattle will be measuring how many pages are read based on a single standardized setting.
  • Concerned that authors will start padding books with lots of “front matter” to add pages, as one person has suggested in the hundreds of comments logged about this? Don’t be. Amazon’s initial information tells us that the machines will track a reader “starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets the SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of a book as soon as they open it.”

You may already be familiar with this “Start Reading Location.” It’s why when you open a new Kindle book, you don’t see the cover, you see the start of Chapter 1 or the prologue or whatever. I don’t care for this, myself, and I always back up to the cover. I like covers. It sounds, however, as if covers won’t count in the payment plan. Nor will copyright pages, dedications, perhaps tables of content, anything ahead of that “Start Reading Location.”

Hugh Howey. Image: Adam Janisch
Hugh Howey. Image: Adam Janisch

One of the first to respond, Howey in New KU Payout Structure, has hailed the new approach, which comes into play after the first year of Kindle Unlimited’s controversial life. He writes:

I love this change. It’s one many of us have been clamoring for and even expecting. If anything, I’m surprised it took this long.

What this means for authors is debatable. Those who write shorter works designed for KU may see a drop in income, while those who provide full-length novels may see a rise in income (depending on how many pages readers enjoy). My guess is that the vast majority of authors will earn about the same amount as before. That doesn’t mean their income won’t fluctuate, only that this change won’t be the reason for most fluctuations.

Read More

There’s more: Read the full story at Thought Catalog

By Porter Ander­son

Writing on the Ether: Amazon’s New KDP Per-Page Payments: Everybody Has To Swim For It Now

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