If you publish your books on Kindle (what indie author doesn’t?), you may be aware of the new changes in their KDP Select program, effective July 1, 2015. (You can read the official announcement from Amazon here.) Now, instead of being paid for every qualified borrow, authors will be paid for every page read. Kindle rolled out the new changes to try to make up for unbalanced payments between short works and long works in the KDP Select program.
If you don’t have your Kindle ebook enrolled in KDP Select, then this will have no affect on you. You’ll still be paid a lump sum (70% of the price you set) for every book downloaded. (Or 35% for books priced less than $2.99.)
But if your book IS enrolled in KDP Select, you may begin to see changes in your royalties – good or bad.
If you publish on Kindle, you have the option to enroll your book in KDP Select. If you do, your book will be available for borrowing in Kindle Unlimited (KU) as well as the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). The only difference between them is how readers enroll in these two programs. Enrolling your book in KDP Select puts your book in both lending programs.
KU and KOLL are very popular amongst readers. Why? Because for less than $10 a month, they can borrow books for free – much like the public library. We’ll talk in the next section about how you – the author – get paid.
The drawback is that KDP Select requires your book to be available exclusively on Amazon. No Barnes & Noble. No iTunes. Not even Wattpad or your blog. Zip. Nowhere. None. Many authors feel nervous about concentrating their income to a single source, but that’s another discussion.
But there are also huge benefits to authors. The exposure from KU and KOLL is not to be sneezed at. And KDP Select gives you access to tools such as Kindle Countdown Deals, which is really helpful when creating a time-limited promotion, and is also the only sure way to price your book for free (temporarily) on Amazon.
Okay, definitions out of the way – let’s talk about how you earn income off KDP Select, and how that’s changed in the past month.
The Old System: 10% Qualifying Read
But your payment had nothing to do with the price you set on the book. (The price you set only applies to people who buy your book, not people who borrow it on KU and KOLL.)
Amazon maintains a mysterious phenomenon known as the KDP Select Global Fund. I’m actually not to certain where the money in this fund comes from, but it fluctuates month-to-month. Under the old system, Kindle would divvy up the money in the Global Fund evenly between every qualifying 10% read for every author in KDP select.
Math. I know. Bear with me.
So let’s say you had 25 qualifying reads one month. (25 people read more than 10% of your book.) The equation would look like this:
Global Fund ÷ All Qualifying Reads the World Over × Your 25 Reads = Your Royalty
On average, authors reported earning about $1.50 per qualifying read. Many authors complained that this equation didn’t take into account the fact that some books are way longer than others – and yet all books only receive the same $1.50.
The New System: Pay Per Page
So, let’s say you have a 200-page book that’s read all the way through 25 times. Now we have an equation that looks like this:
Global Fund ÷ All Pages Read the World Over × Your Share of Pages Read (which is 200 × 25) = Your Royalty
Math majors, please forgive my horrendous use of parentheses.
Obviously, the real math will be far more complicated. When accounting day rolls around, the 25 people currently reading your book will be at various stages of completion – or may only read 100 or 50 or 10 pages. I’m glad I’m not in charge of accounting for KDP – and I’m sure the world is glad, too!
A New Era for Authors
Difficult math aside, this should solve the problem of uneven distribution of the Global Fund between books of different lengths. But it introduces something never seen before in the history of book publishing: Authors getting paid not for the whole book, but for the portion of it that was read!
Let’s not even dwell on the fact that Amazon tracks how many pages you read in every book you pick up.
Personally, I’m still sorting out how I feel about this arrangement. If all ebook retailers started paying for number of actual pages read, it could prove pretty devastating to authors. But realistically, do I see this happening, outside of a lending program like KU and KOLL? Probably not. If readers had to pay directly for the number of pages they read, it would be like punishing them for reading.
However, while the old KDP Select payment program unfairly disadvantaged long fiction, some authors fear that the new program may unfairly favor long fiction. Time will tell – and if the new payment program sticks around, no doubt a lot of authors will start looking to write 100,000-word, plot-driven novels.
It’s this unlimited control that KDP exercises over the authors in its Select program that encourages me to go wide with my publishing, putting my books out on as many retailers as possible. My opinion right now is that I’d rather have the security of a diverse income stream than tempting benefits on the single largest book retailer in the world.
What do you think? How will KU Pages Read affect authors and the publishing industry?