Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Kristen Lamb — Photo

Posts Tagged: Kindle Lending Library paid by the page

When Amazon’s publishing program, Kindle Direct Publishing launched, many authors had high hopes. KDP promised writers a seemingly fair shot at visibility, competitiveness and better compensation. KDP and it’s Kindle Unlimited (KU) program—in theory—presented what appeared to be a more “meritocratic” chance at fame and fortune. Paid per page read. Good books would make more money!

Btw, it’s me. Cait Reynolds. Taking over, yet again. I’m here to continue Kristen’s dismantling of the most common grifts impacting writers. She asked me to talk about a subject that, sadly, I know all too well. The Kindle Direct Publishing—KU Grift.

This is an updated and CORRECTED post…I forgot I was writing and using my own mental shortcut of just calling everything KDP. I’m only human…well…mostly human. Part hamster. 

*has flashback* *everything spinning*

Where was I? Oh, yes..

As I said, at first KU looked like a sweet deal. Meritocracy! FINALLY!

Yay US!

Initially, it sounded like a great idea and KDP did have some notable accomplishments, like shaking up legacy publishing and allowing fresh and diverse voices a chance to be heard.

Many writers were super excited. So much to celebrate! We were so tired of being used by those “other publishers” who didn’t SUPPORT OUR DREAM. We were thrilled KDP and KU was different.

Success was OURS! If we just worked hard enough, put out enough content, and promoted until we dropped dead from karoshi (Japanese for ‘death by overwork’)….

*screeching noise*

Wait, what?

Does all this sound familiar?

If you haven’t noticed, KLamb and I are tackling the multitude of ways writers are being exploited, used, abused, and often shamed for wanting to be paid in actual money.

Which brings us to KU, or as I like to call it…

The KU Hamster Wheel of Death

Kindle Unlimited? Yeah, We Tumbled. I Know…Things…

My name is Cait Reynolds, and I’m a KU Survivor.

KU and me? We go back a ways. I was once young and foolish with more dreams than sense. KU reduced me to the animal state. More hamster than writer.

Oh, but the price I paid for wisdom.

I was one of the lucky ones. I escaped, bloodied and battered, but thankful to be alive with all four paws. Others were not so fortunate. May Squeaky rest in peace… *moment of silence*

We all start out the same. We want action, adventure…RICHES. Alas. Truth in war and KU is much the same. More gory than glory.

Vintage photo of Cait Reynolds during her tenure with various defunct publishers…

I’m the tough, battle-scarred old hamster sitting in my corner of the darkened rodent cage far from where the young ones socialize at the Nutri-Log. They’re still fit enough to enjoy the habitrail.

I sit alone in my corner, a bottle of gut-rot clipped nearby. With my good eye, I watch all the brash young hamsters eager to see some real action at last. A thoughtful youngster notices me and, on a dare from the others, approaches slowly.

I’ve been known to bite, so his caution shows he has at least some smarts.

The kid’s fearless and bold. He tells me he’s got a book and just signed up for his first tour of duty with KU. Amazon has given him orders to deploy. He’s off to Kindle Unlimited where The Wheel awaits.

“Is it glorious like in the stories?” he asks, voice quaking with forced cheer.

“Son,” I say, sipping my bathtub gin from the spout. “Walk away.”

“I can’t,” he says, stammering. “All my friends. They say it’s the best way to go BIG! One member of our group made ten thousand dollars in a week using KU!”

“Really? Who? Name.” My whiskers twitch.

“Um…um….” He backs up.

“NAME!” I shout, slamming my paw hard into the cage making it rattle.

Everyone is silent. All eyes are on us.

The kid shuffles his paws through the urine-soaked sawdust. “I uh, well it was actually a guy from a group who had a friend of a friend who knew this writer…”

“The Wheel will kill you. The Wheel is pain and death.” Lowering my voice, I say, “You wanna live? Walk away.”

I raise my voice for the others. “Do not tangle with THE WHEEL. The KU WHEEL cannot be reasoned with. It cannot be bargained with. And it will not stop ever…until you are dead.”

Come with me if you want to live…

Kindle Unlimited—To Beat the KU Wheel, KNOW The Wheel!

KDP, KDP Publishing, Pay the Writer, Cait Reynolds
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Daniel Davis

I told my metaphoric hamster story to (hopefully) make an impression. This is a matter of life and death. Writers are fighting for survival while the rich play games at our expense.

Amazon promises authors—via KDP—that we can be that successful author who quits the day job in a haze of confetti, middle fingers, and glory.

Exposing the KU WHEEL…

Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing promises if we (writers) just work hard enough, we can become that mythical creature known as The Kindle Millionaire.

Oooooohhhhh…. Ahhhhhh…..

If we can suffer through the grind and suck, it will pay off and our biggest worry will be how to choose between offers from HBO or Showtime. Coin toss maybe?

If we just work hard enough, we will find a way to:

Single-handedly manage the workflow for a producing a book from start-to-finish every two-to-four weeks while…

Keeping up with daily meaningful interaction with ALL our followers on InstaFaceTwitChat while…

Driving massive traffic to our Rafflecopter giveaways while…

Hosting fun, unforgettable Facebook events, setting up blog tours, adding to our list of newsletter subscribers while…

Also doing all the freelance work of cover design/editing/proofreading/marketing support that we pick up in order to make ends meet while….

Working a day job and maybe bathing.

Okay, forget bathing *sprays on Axe for Women*.

We do ALL OF THIS…until our Kindle Millionaire status kicks in!

KU Dream? It Was Never Gonna Happen

The point is that the KU model drives authors to get continually faster and louder just to hold onto their place in the rankings, let alone go up.

Faster and louder also means continually having to spend more money up front on marketing and book production.

There’s no delayed reaction windfall coming from KU.

There never will be.

There simply cannot be because we will never be able to catch up or even truly get ahead. Even when it looks like we have finally got the hang of a successful book production and release strategy, Amazon changes the rules and algorithms on us.

Why? Because they can.

Because they have to. Because they’re not in the business of making anybody other than Amazon shareholders truly rich.

Remember that.

In order to generate income in this model, we have to create volume of pages to be read and market the crap out of those pages. We are also competing against all the other authors who are doing the same thing. Therefore, we must create more volume and do more marketing.

And NOW you understand the KDP Hamster Wheel of Death.

No it isn’t fair. Fair is a weather condition.

And, like Kristen says, “Amazon is gonna Amazon.”

Show Us the Money Kindle Unlimited! Oh, You Can’t!

Why are we writers in such a hurry to churn out the pages? WHY are we in that much of a rush to earn that whopping $0.00419 per page read (August 2017 KDP Global Fund Payout)?

Let’s take a moment to examine the KU payout structure more closely.

The KDP Global Fund is the pool of money from Kindle Unlimited subscribers. It’s what funds the royalty payouts to authors. The KDP Global Fund has grown steadily since its inception.

Payouts from the fund, however, have stalled, stagnated, and even declined.

KDP Payout Rates
Image from Written Word Media (writtenwordmedia.com), 4/13/17. It’s an excellent article with insight into the inner workings of KDP.

Case in Point

If a reader outright buys a 100-page ebook at $2.99, the author makes $2.09 in royalties. If a reader borrows the book via Kindle Unlimited and only reads 30 pages, the author makes $0.12. The payout is capped at $0.75 via Kindle Unlimited.

The reader is also under no time constraints to read the book. They could read those 30 pages the same day, or six months from now.

Or never.

The author has no control over when and how many pages are read. That’s like trying to run a business without knowing when your customers are going to pay you, how much they will pay you…or if they EVER WILL pay you.

On what planet is this a successful business model?

Let’s open a bakery where a customer takes her choice of our cakes and only pays us if and when she eats the cake, and pays per bite. But if the consumer never eats the cake or decides to return the cake for another cake after taking two bites…then too bad.

WTH?

Oh, so this business model dumb for a baker but AWESOME for writers? No. It isn’t.

The KU Grift

KDP, Cait Reynolds, Amazon, Kindle Direct Publishing

Amazon is pulling a grift with Kindle Unlimited and counting on the naivete of most readers and writers. Remember Kristen’s earlier post? The best hustles are completely legal.

Most people want to believe in a world where business is conducted in good faith, because to think differently is terrifying. We must have a certain amount of faith and trust or everything crumbles.

Amazon offers the Kindle Unlimited service to avid readers who–in good faith–assume Amazon is working for the benefit of the authors participating in the program.

Those enjoying the benefits of KU assume writers are being compensated and treated justly (much like most readers of HuffPo blogs have no idea most writers are unpaid workers).

Writers, simultaneously, are relying on urban legends and empty promises while killing themselves for fractions of pennies….and it looks a lot like this.

Are We a Human or a Hamster? A Writer or a Rat?

Kristen has talked a lot about blogging and exposure. MEGAs can be predator or benefactor depending on how well we are educated (because MEGAs can spot a sucker and always need more to power the grift).

Same applies to Amazon. Amazon is not our friend…but also not necessarily our enemy. KDP and KU can be useful. It has a purpose and can offer benefits which we will talk about another time. But, like all MEGAs, Amazon must be handled with CARE.

Approach is everything and education and strategy is key. Be willing to walk away and trust in something better.

***

Thank you, Cait! I actually asked her to do this post since the young hamster in the story…was me. And she stabbed me. But we made up and became besties 😀 .

What are your thoughts? Have you been caught on the KU wheel? Survived? Lived to tell the tale?

I have some new classes below to help you out and show you HOW to play to WIN, so make sure to sign up.

I LOVE HEARING FROM YOU! And I am NOT above BRIBERY!

What do you WIN? For the month of OCTOBER, for everyone who leaves a comment, I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

DON’T MISS KRISTEN’S NEXT CLASS!

HARNESSING OUR WRITING POWER–THE BLOG!

Instructor: Kristen Lamb
Price: $50.00 USD Standard
Where: W.A.N.A. Digital Classroom
When: THURSDAY OCTOBER 26th, 7:00 PM E.S.T. to 9:00 P.M. EST

Whenever I mention the word “blog” writers go pale and likely envision some mindless alien life form that rolls over crowds of screaming people, then melts and absorbs them.

For clarification that is the BLOB and NOT the Blog. Though the way blogging is so frequently taught? Totally understand the confusion.

Blogging is THE most powerful form of social media, and ALSO the most misused and misunderstood (hence why writers avoid it and throw holy water on it).

Twitter could flitter and Facebook could fold but the blog will remain so long as we have an Internet. The blog has been going strong since the 90s and it’s one of the best ways to establish a brand and then harness the power of that brand to drive book sales.

The best part is, done properly, a blog plays to a writer’s strengths. Writers write.

Oh it is also the easiest of all forms of social media to monetize and the more love you give it, the more it will give back.

This class is going to cover:

  • How author blogs work. What’s the difference in a regular blog and an author blog?
  • What do we blog about? What is going to draw readers and get them excited?
  • How do we understand the magical sorcery of Google and harness it to work our WILL? *evil laugh*
  • How can we monetize a blog? Oh no! Asking for money! Scary stuff indeed.
  • How can you cultivate a fan base of people who are uniquely YOUR fans?
  • How does a blog sell books? Because they do…seriously.

Blogging is only hard if we make it that way. This class will help you simplify your blog and make it one of the most enjoyable aspects of your writing career.

NOW OFFERING BLOGGING GOLD!

Includes the class (recording included free in purchase price) PLUS one hour with me one-on-one discussing your brand and your blog. How can you connect to and cultivate YOUR readers?

Blurb - Cait Reynolds
BLURB BOSS: Writing Blurbs that SELL BOOKS. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 10, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
BRAND BOSS! When Your Name Alone Can Sell. $45 USD. Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2017, 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
PLOT BOSS: Writing novels readers want to buy! $40 USD. Thurs., Nov. 16, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!
Bad Boys. $45.00 USD. Friday, November 17, 2017. 7:00-9:00 p.m. EST. Click the image to register!

 

Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie
Image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Kenny Louie

We live in a really strange time and technology has altered the publishing landscape into something we could never have imagined in 1999. The changes have been nothing short of science fiction. Well, buckle your seat belts because it is about to happen again. Just about the time we kind of get the knack of things, it seems there is yet another upheaval and we have to adapt.

This is why I wrote my social media branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World.  My methods keep us from having to tear down and start over every time something in the tech world goes topsy-turvy and we can maintain brand momentum no matter what. But this time it isn’t social media throwing the curve ball.

It is Amazon.

I’ve worked hard to be balanced in all my opinions about publishing. Yes, New York had (has) its problems, but when many authors were railing to tear down traditional publishing, I worked hard to show that there are two sides. Amazon might favor authors and genuinely be on our side, but that could change so be wary. I detailed a lot of my concerns a couple years ago (2012!) in a post, Amazon—Beware of Greeks Bearing Gifts.

Just so y’all know, sometimes I scare myself with my predictions because science fiction easily becomes dystopian fiction. Just a slice…

Amazon is the 500 pound gorilla in the room, only we can’t see it because it is hidden neatly inside a giant digital Trojan Horse. Don’t get me wrong, I buy plenty of stuff off Amazon, and they have done a lot to help shake up the industry and get New York hopping. Without them, I don’t believe we would have seen so many miraculous changes so quickly.

Ah, but every fairy tale has a dark side…

…once the competition falls away and Amazon burns New York to the ground? What happens to the writer? What happens when we fall asleep and it is safe for Amazon’s Trojan Horse to unleash the gorilla?

When NY is razed and Amazon has no real competition, do they have to keep giving us the same sweet royalty rate? And they already have a nasty reputation. They pulled that little stunt with a publisher who dared to cross them. Two years ago, they removed all the “Buy Buttons” off all the Macmillan titles. So, if Amazon will use the brass knuckles on a major publisher that crossed their path…what about us? The little guys? What happens when a writer miffs them and they unleash the gorilla?

Lord Acton so eloquently said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and that statement is as relevant today in 2012 as it was in 1887, because while industries change and technology changes, humans are timeless. So what happens when it’s Amazon’s turn to hold all the keys to the kingdom? Will they use them any differently than those they crushed to gain them?

Unlike NY, Amazon isn’t searching through all the millions of wanna-bes for a handful of investments. Anyone can publish quickly and cheaply. Writers are running to them! The problem with this is they get all the benefits of being a publisher without any real sacrifice.

A lawyer friend of mine noted that when writers publish on Amazon, we all agree to the same blanket contract. This gives Amazon all the perks of being a publisher without concerning itself with any of the traditional protections for the writer.

And, I understand that writers haven’t been treated all that great in the past, but we need to ask the tough question. Is this future better? Is trading one dictator for another a good plan?

When I wrote this, I had reservations about digital publishing. Granted I love it. When you write books on social media, traditional publishing just doesn’t fit and I would never have been able to publish at all without it. I also love the global distribution. But, the idea that our words are stored in the ether gives me pause. In this post I just cited, I mentioned the pace of expansion, how quickly Amazon was making money. Yes, a 57% gain in one quarter was awesome, but…

As a former salesperson, I knew there would come a time when that windfall would taper off.

What then?

I ran across this article yesterday on Gizmodo. Amazon is launching a new “idea.” They are experimenting with the notion of paying authors based off the number of pages actually read. Yes, it is a real thing. I had to look too. See HERE.

According to Gizmodo’s article:

“Beginning on July 1st, authors who self-publish through Amazon’s KDP Select Program will become part of a new publishing experiment. Currently, Amazon divvies up a pot of money to its native authors each month, based on the number of times their e-Books are “borrowed” through two separate Kindle services: Kindle Unlimited, a standalone, $9.99 / month subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library, an Amazon Prime membership perk. In the new scheme, authors will be paid for each page that remains on the screen long enough to be parsed, the first time a customer reads the book.”

Before anyone thinks I am anti-Amazon or yelling “FIRE!”, I’m not. In fact, this is too new for me to even fully know how I feel. Right now this only affects books borrowed.

For all we know, this experiment remains in the realms of a narrow section of the overall Amazon model (the lending part) and the impact is not that large or might even work out well for authors. But I do think we have the responsibility to be watchful and if I am really honest? This trend scares me more than a little bit.

Why?

Because businesses are in the business of making money, not giving away money. If they can find a way to increase profit margin, they will. Sometimes this works in our favor. I.e. Efficient distribution. Sometimes? It gets a bit 1984 and paying us by the page seems way tempting to those who are in the business of running publishing empires.

Benefits of Being Paid by the Page

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 8.48.53 AM

Yes, I see the “benefits.” As it stands, a writer who publishes an awesome page-turner is paid the same per unit as someone who publishes a book unfit for human consumption. Additionally, writers who publish longer works are paid the same as authors of short works.

Under this plan, the author of a riveting 120,000 word epic fantasy will be paid more than an author of a riveting 50,000 word short. Authors of works so boring it would peel the paint from the walls will get paid the same, no matter the length.

To Amazon’s credit, this is actually a very fair way of doing business with writers.

But this notion of being paid by the page is concerning. Yes, it is all well and good when this “experiment” is part of a small slice of the Amazon publishing model, but what if this expands? What if the test “works so well” that it becomes part of the overall publishing model? In ten years, how will we be making our money? Off books sold? Pages read? A combination of both? Is this good or bad? I don’t know.

But, no matter what, we are wise to pay close attention. It is our future on the line.

Separating the Slush

I can see one major benefit from this notion of “paid by the page.” I think it might be the ultimate playing field leveler. Why? One of the largest problems that has faced the Digital Publishing Paradigm is the slush. In the traditional model, we had gatekeepers to separate “good books” from “bad books” or even simply delay “books that needed more work and weren’t ready”.

In the past few years, the slush pile has been offloaded to the readers. To combat this, we’ve seen the rise of sites like Goodreads to help guide readers to the good stuff. Book reviews and book reviewers have also tried to intervene. Yet, despite these noble efforts, we have also seen book reviews grossly abused (I.e. sock puppets inflating bad books and trolls tanking good books). We’ve also witnessed all kinds of algorithm abuse.

If we trace the trajectory of this idea, how long will potential readers rely on reviews? If I were Amazon, I would start promoting works based of rates of completion. Could we be witnessing the birth of an entirely new form of ranking?

My book has a 87% rate of completion instead of My book was #1 in Western Romance.

If we (readers) can judge off rate of completion, this could change everything. Sure Big Shot Mega Author with a gajillion-dollar marketing budget sold X books, but the book only had a 34% rate of completion. But Jane Newbie who has thus far only sold Y amount of books and has only her social media for marketing has a 97% rate of completion. Hmmm, this might impact my decision.

Ugh, but the dark side of this…

If rate of completion extends into BOOKS SOLD (not just borrowed) as a way of accurate promotion, how long until the world can see that no one made it past Page 50 of our book? Before, we simply had to sell copies of our book. Now? We also have to face another layer of judgement?

I mean, the good side is that trolls and sock puppets will no longer impact us the same and if we write really good books we are rewarded, but am I the only one feeling the need for a drink pressure?

Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.
Original image via Flickr Creative Commons, courtesy of Stoere Schrijfster.

The Writing Matters No Matter What

This is why for eight years I have worked very hard to train you guys for success in the new age of publishing. In the 21st century publishing world, we must have a brand and a viable platform. But, we also must write excellent books. It is why I have blogged and taught on all aspects of publishing. Social media is limited in power if the book is weak and vice versa. Our writing remains our greatest sales tool.

This first five pages are essential (and now it seems the rest of them are about to be PRETTY important as well).

As an editor, I can almost always tell all that is wrong in a book in 20 pages or less. Usually, within 5 pages I can spot all weaknesses and bad habits that are likely to repeat throughout the work.

I really don’t need to read the whole thing.

For instance, if a writer shifts P.O.V. so much I can’t keep up with who’s head I am supposed to be in? I am fairly sure this is going to continue. If a writer overwrites and drowns me in purple prose? Probably not going to start writing lean and clean after page 25. And, there are more red flags the book is weak, but we aren’t talking about those today. I HIGHLY recommend Les Edgerton’s book Hooked and I am also about to teach my First Five Pages class if you want some more hands-on instruction.

This is also why I have spent so much time discussing flashbacks lately and how to use them well. I know they are a legitimate literary device. I know they can be done well and are done wellBut, I also know that flashbacks used poorly are probably the single greatest reason a reader will stop reading. And, in a world where we are paid by the page? That becomes more than a big deal.

We will continue talking about “bending time” next post. We are going to explore non-linear plotting. My problem with the term “flashback” is we tend to use it to broadly and lump every instance of going back in time into one term. So we are going to unpack some works that seem to “flashback” all over the place, but we will see they really don’t. We will dissect this unique way of delivering story.

In the meantime, does this “paid by the page” freak you out too? Or do you think this might be the great playing field leveler we have all been waiting for? Sure, Big Shot Writer sold X books, but only has a 25% completion rate, where as Small Guy Writer sold fewer books, but has a 90% completion rate? Would this influence your purchasing?

Do you like the idea of being paid by the page? Do you think it rewards good writing? Do you think it is one more reason writers are going to need therapy?

I think it’s hard enough selling copies of books, but if I saw that those who bought only made it 50% through? It probably would depress me, but maybe I could look at the book more closely and fix WHY people weren’t finishing. Maybe it would be the world’s most accurate critique. Maybe I would be grateful. And maybe I am a Chinese jet pilot.

What do you think? This revelation is so new, I am unsure even what I think, so I would appreciate your opinions.

I LOVE hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of JUNE, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Classes:

Before we go, y’all asked for it so here goes. I have two classes coming up. The class on log-lines Your Story in a Sentence—Crafting Your Log-Line is $35 and as a BONUS, the first ten sign-ups get to be victims. IF YOU ARE QUERYING AN AGENT, YOU NEED A PITCH. I will pull apart and torture your log-line until it is agent-ready for FREE. 

Beyond the first ten folks? We will work out something super affordable as a bonus for being in the class so don’t fret. I’ll take good care of you. AND, it is two hours and on a Saturday (June 27th) and recorded so no excuses 😛 .

I am also running Hooking the Reader–Your First Five Pages.  Class is on June 30th so let’s make Tuesdays interesting. General Admission is $40 and Gold Level is $55 but with Gold Level, you get the class, the recording and I look at your first five and give detailed edit.

Our first five pages are essential for trying to attract an agent or even selling BOOKS. Readers give us a page…maybe five. Can we hook them enough to part with cold hard CASH? Also, I can generally tell all bad habits in 5 pages so probably can save you a ton in content edit.

 

For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook