Is Kindle Unlimited Screwing Authors?

adding machine tape

TCO Note:

At TCO, I wanted to give authors a platform to talk about things they want to talk about, in the event they would like to keep their name out of the “hubub”. I was asked if I would be willing to post this blog post anonymously, and I didn’t hesitate to say yes, in response to what has been a hot topic the last week or so. In this case, I agree with the author, as I think we will have to see how this plays out. However, as a reader, I find the opportunity to borrow the books from the authors that I love a positive one. I will likely continue to buy them upon release date, because I like having them right away. That doesn’t mean I won’t consider signing up for KU if and when the time is right, as long as the authors are paid fairly.

Published Author Blog Post:

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere in Outer Mongolia for the past few weeks, you’ve likely heard about Amazon’s roll-out of a new payment system for Kindle Unlimited. It seems not a day has gone by since that announcement where there hasn’t been someone screaming about how unfair this system is to authors. My question is WHY is it unfair?

“Because there’s a good chance authors are going to get paid less than a penny per page!” some will scream. They’re right. Based on the numbers they gave for last month’s total pages read and the Global Fund they use to payout, authors would have made about .0058/page read.

“SEE! They’re screwing the authors!”

But are they? Yes, there are some authors who can’t live off what they’ll make based on this per page model. Some of them are brilliant authors who have mastered the craft of writing short stories. Interestingly enough, I’ve seen several of those authors say they’re not sweating the new KU policy. They don’t rely on borrows for their income.

The ones who are going to take the biggest hit are the ones who tossed up a bunch of crap and happily walked to the bank knowing that they made over a dollar per “qualified borrow” as long as someone turned past the first page or two. Trust me, they’re out there. And a lot of people unknowingly supported their methods by picking up ridiculous books they’d never buy, simply out of some morbid curiosity. When they couldn’t stomach more than a page or two, the author still got paid for the whole damn thing. Please don’t think I’m saying all or even most of the authors of shorts have done this. I’m just saying that the ones who did do this are the ones who “screwed” everyone else. Trust me, if Amazon knows whether someone reaches 10% of a book or not, they’ve known for a long time whether someone’s reading to the end or not.

Now, back to how authors are getting screwed… However Amazon is determining page count  (which, from what I can tell seems to be how many screen pages the book is on their standard device display), one of my 2014 releases contains 358 Kindle Edition Normalized pages.

Using the .0058 number as an estimate, a borrow read from beginning to end will earn me about $2.07.

Using the Kindle Unlimited Payout for April, each borrow of the same book would have paid out $1.35. That’s about .003/KENP. Sounds to me like an pay raise under the new system!

“But what if they don’t read the entire book?” you ask… Well, that’s definitely a risk I have to take. On the other hand, if I’m truly putting out the best work I’m capable of, should I be thinking in terms of how quickly someone puts my book down and doesn’t finish it?

When I release books, I set the price at $2.99 as an introductory price. Once Amazon takes their cut, I’m left with about $2.04/copy. That winds up being about the same as I’ll look to make from books in Kindle Unlimited. But what if my book is longer and I still want to sell my books at the same price?

Quite simply, my royalty is going to stay the same, but my per page royalty goes down. Before you get all upset, NO, this has not been talked about by Amazon. When my most recent book released at $2.99, based on Amazon’s KENP, I earned about .0051/page. That winds up being about thirty cents LESS than what I would earn per borrow, provided that the reader reads it from beginning to end.

I guess what I’m trying to say is this… there are differing opinions when it comes to who’s getting screwed with Amazon’s new policy. If anything, I see this as being good for readers, because in the past two weeks, I’ve seen new titles flooding into the KU marketplace. Authors of full length novels who couldn’t take the 45% pay cut under the old model are now placing their books in the program as a way to reach new readers.

Only time will tell if the model is going to prove beneficial to all parties. Until then, remember that authors choose to put books on Kindle Unlimited. We commit to three months at a time, and can choose to not automatically renew that term. It would be nice if Amazon had given a warning on the changes that would allow those who didn’t want to participate under the new model time to bail, but they didn’t. But within three months, anyone who’s in there is there because they decided it was beneficial for their personal brand.

This post may contain affiliate links. Advanced Reader Copies are accepted by Two Chicks Obsessed in exchange for an honest review without additional compensation.

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