Monday, June 29, 2015

Amazon is changing its paying terms for Kindle Unlimited

This month, the news broke out that Amazon is changing the way it will pay writers, starting with July 1st. Some panicked, some protested loudly and, apparently, uselessly, and some decided to pull their books out of KDP Select.

To clear out part of the misunderstanding, this change will only affect the books enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. Up until now, every writer with books enrolled in KU was paid equal shares of the Amazon KU trust fund, based on the number of downloads/burrows of those books, after 10% of the book was read. Let's face it, this wasn't exactly fair, paying the same for novels and a-few-pages-long books.

From July 1st, writers will be paid based on the number of pages read. Yep, you read it right. It's kind of creepy how much data Amazon has access to, isn't it? Well, there isn't much we can do about that. Most sales come from Amazon, so if indie writers want to make a few (more) bucks, they're stuck with it. 

Now, Amazon claims they will use normalized pages, so font size and line spacing won't matter. I guess they'll go by word count, which makes sense. Since various gadgets have different screen size, word count would definitely make more sense.

One thing is supposed to be sure, from now on people won't get rich only with shorts any longer. And badly written prose won't work either. I guess long series will work best if you manage to write compelling ones and don't get bored writing about the same characters and world all the time. Otherwise, decent novels at least will be needed for a decent income.

From a writer's perspective, the good part--aside from being paid fairly--would be to get detailed reports so we could figure out what are the parts where readers stop reading our books. That would be a great experience. Amazon's report haven't been so user friendly so far, so I'm not holding my breath. I guess we'll find out on August 15th.

The down side, from what I see, would be that, with all the ebook reading options available these days, some read pages might go unaccounted for. 10% is easier to track than a whole book. There probably won't be too many cases, but there will be some for sure.

The other big concern is that there's no way to track the read pages from the outside. We could track the sales/downloads from the live dashboard reports and the book rank, but now Amazon could feed us any data they want with no way for us to check it. Something to think about.

And there's also the issue of the limited profit, based on the size of the KU trust fund, but that's nothing new.

So, how does this affect me? I had Broken People enrolled in KU over the winter, but it never really took off. In three months, it had only a handful of KU downloads, so I removed it from the KDP Select program at the end of the term. At the moment, I have two titles available via KU, an urban fantasy novel, The Weight of a Wing, and a paranormal short story, Breaking the Chains. The short story has been recently released so it's too early to tell how it will do, but the novel is doing rather well because of KU and I'm reluctant to change that. 

Bottom of line, I'll keep things the way they are for now. If everything goes well, the whole The Stolen Wings series will be available via KU in the end. Broken People won't be because it failed to find its target audience there and, frankly, it's too much of a hassle removing it from the other vendors to ensure Amazon exclusivity. I haven't decided yet what I'll do with my upcoming space opera saga. It depends on how things work out over the summer. So we'll see.

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