Brave New Publishing—Amazon Testing Paying Authors by the Page

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.


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

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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).


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


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  1. I can’t tell you how many “free” kindle books I’ve downloaded and have yet to get to. In other words, good intentions didn’t result in reading the book, meaning if I had downloaded it from KU, that author would still be waiting for me to turn the pages so they could get a little money.

    I think the idea sucks for everyone except the most popular.

  2. PLEASE keep it clear that this is for BORROWED books only, NOT for sales.

    And frankly, Amazon has had to adapt to authors and their friends who have abused the borrow-rate system up until now. Authors were having their friends “borrow” their books and then using the read-aloud feature to “read” the books even if they weren’t in the room. (This is for Kindles that have that feature. You had to read past the 10% mark for the author to get paid for the borrow.)

    Also, and this is the real crux of the problem: Authors were taking novels and breaking them into sections and putting those up separately, making people borrow multiple mini-titles to read the entire novel. That meant multiple borrows and multiple full borrow PAYMENTS to the author.

    A sneaky way to buck the system and get paid multiple times for one story.

    Amazon has got limited funds in that KU program since readers pay one flat monthly fee. If authors are abusing that system and getting paid 4 or 5 times for one book, then naturally Amazon was going to do something about it.

    So, again, a few people ruin it for everyone, if you want to look at it that way.

    I say indie authors (like me) ought not look a gift horse in the mouth (to reuse your horse image). Amazon has changed my life as an author, and I couldn’t be happier. But I am vexed that the lower-tier slush pile authors are too bent on finding loopholes and abusing the system, making it harder for those of us trying to build real careers.

    1. Well, I did try to make it clear by bolding in red the parts affected and I bolded some more in case it is unclear. I love Amazon and they have been good to me, but often they WILL test things in a small area and expand later. That is just good business. And, you and I are on the same page in that I think this might be BIRTHED from Amazon trying to counter abuse like you mentioned. But it DOES impact us for good and for bad. Rate of completion might not be a bad way of ranking. Sure would be more accurate than all the algorithm juking.

      1. I’m not saying I love the new system. I’m on the fence. I’m just saying that Amazon didn’t birth this out of thin air. It is clearly a response to abuse… and abuse that was likely starting to impact them negatively. Can’t say I blame them for that.

        And yes, you were clear… but toward the end you wrote this: “I think it’s hard enough selling copies of books, but if I saw that those who bought only made it 50% through?”

        See? That doesn’t happen with a sale… just a borrow.

        1. Yeah, I meant if they adopted “Percentage of Completion” as a new form of ranking. I see that as a viable outcome. There has just been WAY too much abuse. Authors buying truckloads of their own books, sock puppets, fraud, on and on and on. And, we have to war game everything so we are prepared. Weird times, indeed.

          1. Agreed on the “weird times” thing. But I am still (somehow) excited about all the options open to me as a writer. I see this as a way to get that slush pile OFF the readers’ backs (something I have also been saying for years — that the slush pile has simply moved from the publishers to the agents and now to the readers). Holding my breath that things continue to offer me options I didn’t have even a decade ago!

          2. I see bad and good. EVERYTHING has two sides. As the social media expert for writers, I have seen abuse that makes me SEE RED. Getting a pen name close to a NYTBSA and using similar covers and fonts (in a bait-and-switch kind of thing). Juking algorithms, faking reviews, getting friends who never read the book to leave reviews. I have seen GOOD writers end up at the wrong end of a Goodreads gang of trolls and get driven out of publishing because they couldn’t come back from the waves of one-star reviews. Rate of Completion rankings might help combat this. And they might be a wise addition (if not a replacement). Especially because not everyone takes time to write a review. If a book only has a handful of reviews but a super high Rate of Completion ranking, that could be a good thing to guide readers and help the writer.

    2. Some great additional points here. Thank you.

    3. What’s wrong with me? I never even thought of trying some of these underhanded tricks to make more money. I’m such a loser. 😉

      1. NOOOO! Please don’t.

        • mcm0704 on June 22, 2015 at 10:56 am
        • Reply

        LOL, me, too, Theo.

  3. I think tracking how much has been read of the book is ridiculous. The author wrote the book. Amazon sold it. The author deserves a percentage. End of story. I have cosmetics that I did not fully use, food purchased that I didn’t like, and on and on it goes. What if Kraft only made money if I finished the last bite of the mac and cheese? Kristin, I’m quite amazed you would think this might be a good idea. Suppose I give someone an ebook as a gift and they don’t care for it. Think of all the print books on shelves that no one has read. The point is, a product exchanged hands for a price. Will Amazon return the buyer’s money if they don’t read the book? No! Oh, so Amazon keeps the money no matter what. They simply don’t pass the money on to the author. Am I missing something?

    1. Remember that this is only for books borrowed through their Kindle Unlimited program, NOT for books *sold* outright. Hope that helps!

    2. Oh, I don’t KNOW if this is a good idea at ALL. I don’t like the “paid by the page” but the idea of promoting based of rate of completion might not be all bad. I am with you. I wrote it, you sold it. We are done. And I am the world’s worst for buying more books than I have the human capacity to read. So like I said, this DOES kinda freak me out. But this is why we need to keep an eye on it.

      1. But again, you are comparing apples to oranges. It is NOT about books sold, only books borrowed under KU. Still trying to keep that distinction clear, but it is already muddied here… 🙁

        1. I will go fix it 😀 .

        2. Hun….you’re a woman that does not mince words…you’re direct, precise and fair. I don’t know you, but I like you. To me you honor someone when you read (actually READ) what they write and respond (honestly/fairly) to what the wrote. Thank you for your honest/fair assessment of what Kristen wrote. You both have valid points and I sincerely appreciated the interchange between the two of you…..

          1. Thanks so much. I love Amazon but am on the fence about this till I see how it plays out. I think Amazon is aware that they could shoot themselves in the foot if they misstep too badly in either direction. They are in the unenviable position of having to placate authors AND readers… as all publishers do. I’m not sure I understand the assertion that Amazon is only in this to make a profit — because that’s true of EVERY publisher, isn’t it?

            I ADORE Kristen’s blog — it’s one of just 2 or three blogs that make me I stop everything and read new posts immediately. Love her humor and her savvy! So down-to-earth and accessible, and FUN too!

            • Lucie on June 22, 2015 at 3:39 pm

            You’re welcome. And I, too, enjoy Kristen’s blog. I felt that your response to her was in no way indicative of anything but a respectful exchange of opinions…..being a rather direct person, myself, I just appreciated the directness and clarity. To me it’s honoring someone’s writing (by actually reading what they wrote!) when you respond in that manner. That and the fact that I’m a pretty honest, direct woman myself, and highly appreciate it in others. I find that sometimes that my “directness” and “passion” can be misinterpreted…any ways….blah…blah…blah…thanks to BOTH of you for your valuable input! 🙂

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    • annaerishkigal on June 22, 2015 at 10:11 am
    • Reply

    At this point the ‘pay per page’ will only apply to authors who voluntarily opted in to Kindle Unlimited, so it’s a very narrow corner of the Amazon ecosystem meant to correct the hot steaming mess they made with their original KU proposal which saw people chopping novels into serials and SEO scammers posting 30 page blog articles as a ‘book.’

    However, as you point out, everything has a dark side, and this is something else we need to watch.

    HOWEVER … we indie authors seem to under-respect our contribution to Amazon’s growth as a global player. Why does Amazon care if indie authors are exclusive? Why do they keep trying to corral us when book sales are such a slender profit margin for them? WHY?

    Because indie authors PAY to send people to the places that sell their books. We are Amazon’s un-acknowledged and un-paid free marketing department. We send people to Amazon, and while they are there, Amazon shows them the cat collar and shoes they looked at the last time they were there. We get customers in the door. People read a lot more books then they drive to the mall, so every time we send somebody there to download a book, Amazon has them ‘in the door’ of their shop to sell them something else. Amazon has a free, unpaid, un-acknowledged marketing department of 600,000 ‘salesmen’ who bring customers to their door every … single … day.

    Business which scorn indie authors and keep us out do so at their peril. I blogged about this in my ‘Read Local Project’ article which is a project we’re running in our local community At some point, maybe indie authors will realize just how important they are to Amazon’s success?

    Imagine if all indie authors, everywhere, agreed to do a ‘Dark Sky’ event for a single day like Wikipedia and the other web browsers did to protest Congress’ intrusion into the internet? Wham! Black sky. The bulk of indie authors don’t promote their books and don’t send their customers to Amazon for JUST ONE DAY and instead use that energy to ask their readers to support them by not buying from Amazon on just that one day. Individually, our sales are so small it wouldn’t hurt us all that much. But collectively? We are 600,000 strong.

    Independent and commercial musicians just wielded this power to slap back a stupid KU-like live streaming idea that wouldn’t have compensated the musicians at iTunes. So we could do it to Amazon. All it would take is a bit of coordination.

    • Kessie on June 22, 2015 at 10:14 am
    • Reply

    This mass hysteria gets bigger with every new media outlet that picks it up. Did Gizmodo even quote the original Amazon email explaining how this works?

    First, it’s only for KU. Second, if you have your books on all platforms, this is no big deal. Kobo already tracks completion rate, and scores authors and books accordingly. Nobody is whining about that. In fact, Kobo and Apple and in the running to steal Amazon’s crown, Ebook-store-wise.

    Sure, Amazon will screw authors in the future. It’s our job to build platforms and sell books everywhere, not just Zon.

    1. Yes, it linked back to Amazon detailing how this works and I made sure to link to it too. I don’t think I am promoting mass hysteria, but this IS a pretty big deal and it is important we stay on top of this. And sure, Kobo can track completion ranks, but it isn’t always the first to market with an idea that starts the revolution (Ie. Tesla versus Edison). Amazon adopting this? A whole ‘nother level. It could be good or bad. We will just have to see how this plays out and keep our voices heard.

  5. In a convoluted way, this reminds me of the “read-through” rates of magazines and newspapers. The Wall Street Journal leads everyone by a huge margin in the extent by which articles are read all the way through, at last check by 87%. In contrast. the NY Times has a read-through rate in the 20% range. As do most newspapers. This has to do with how articles are written. The ones that don’t get read through are written with that outdated inverse pyramid style that most newspapers used to have, but have discovered lead to poor read-through rates. It’s why the Journal is considered to be the best newspaper out there by those who judge by quality. A good account of how they achieved their quality is outlined in James Stewart’s FOLLOW THE STORY.

    Interesting post, Kristen, as all of yours are. I don’t know your own “read-through” rate, but suspect it’s high.

    And, thanks for the shout-out–I appreciate it hugely!

  6. Ebooks are still a new animal so I can’t fault Amazon for trying to perfect the system. That said, Amazon is also a corporation seeking to profit. That should never be forgotten. It’s always wise to be cautious and informed. There are authors, good and bad, and there are also people who’s ambitions are less about writing good prose and more about scamming any system put in place. I can already imagine someone sitting at home brainstorming endless pages of shock writing, one scene after another so outrageous that some readers will keep turning pages out of, if nothing else, disbelief. Eventually, that disbelief becomes disbelief that the writing quality was horrible. That’s not the recipe for a writing career, but if a writing career isn’t your true goal you aren’t going to care. In the end, and as has always been the case, quality writing is the best approach, even in an ever-changing and fickle industry.

  7. Reblogged this on Catherine Wolffe and commented:
    If you sell your books on Amazon, you’ll want to read this article.

  8. Like you Kristen I’m not sure how I feel about this new way of publishing that Amazon are introducing. On one hand, as you said, the completion rate will mean that bad reviews might not have a real effect on whether or not a person buys may book. And as an added bonus it can give a writer an idea of where people are stopping from reading their books and maybe encourage the writer to go back and fix a few flabby areas.

    On the other hand it could be really bad. For instance sometimes I’ll get part way through a book before I move on to another one, not because I’m bored of the book or it’s no longer riveting but because I’ve been distracted or need to research something in another book on my Kindle. Sometimes I completely stop reading a book because I’ve gone off my reading phase. (yes I have phases where I read and phases where I don’t, I’m weird like that)

    The worry does come if they expand that to all areas of their eBook market although it’s potentially that they’ll have authors lower the initial buy price and then pay extra money for each page read after that. It’s a little confusing how they could do that, still attract authors to self publish and continue to turn a profit. It may be that very reason why it won’t get expanded to the entire eBook market.

    I think though that none of us can see the future and until it comes around the only thing we can do is prepare ourselves and have some sort of back up plan in place in case this happens. And until I actually publish something I’m not sure whether I can give a clear opinion on this without knowing the ins and outs of the Amazon publishing section first hand.

  9. I think it’s just different. They are inventing the new way of doing business, so they try things. If it works well on KU, it may expand into sales too. I doubt Amazon created this simply to prevent people from bilking that system. The sales system gets scammed too. I’m in the not bad/not good camp. It’s just different.

  10. Linda M Au is right…this new approach is in response to some authors who’ve been scamming the system. I’ve come across some “books” that had just enough pages so that if you even opened the book, you were 10% into it and the author would be paid. There are always unscrupulous people who try to pull scams. And I resent it. I hope that Amazon is successful in calling a halt to these shenanigans. I know of groups of authors who try to churn out new “books” every week and stick them into KU, trying to get rich off Amazon’s KU program. The problem for authors who are not trying to scam readers and Amazon is that legitimate sales have fallen off because of the lure of free books (even those which aren’t worth even opening up on your Kindle). I would like to see Amazon drop the KU program, but I do understand they are trying to keep up with the competition, similar subscription services like Scribd.

  11. Reblogged this on Illuminite Caliginosus.

  12. Reblogged this on Mandy White and commented:
    I can already hear the paperbacks-only crowd crowing in triumph, “AHA! See? I told you ebooks were evil!” But like them or not, the cold truth is, ebooks are an indie author’s biggest source of income. Amazon’s latest experiment via Kindle Unlimited is going to pay authors according to pages read rather than by books sold.
    Some authors are going to panic when they hear about this one, I’m sure, because humans have a natural tendency to fear change. I’m approaching it with a sort of curious apprehension. As Kristen Lamb points out in this post, this could be the big playing field leveler we have been waiting for. Equal pay for equal work, so to speak. A 180,000 word epic fantasy would no longer earn the same as a 10k novelette, which is the case under the current payment system. A riveting page-turner by an unknown author might finally get the credit it deserves. Meanwhile, the illegible heaps of beetle dung that tend to permeate the ever-growing selection on Amazon’s bookshelf would be more effectively sorted under the new system.
    Am I for it? That remains to be seen. If used strictly in the Kindle Unlimited program and Prime lending library, it makes sense. If it were to migrate over into the area of mainstream sales, then I’d feel nervous.

  13. Give them an inch and they will end up taking a mile. Like you say everything has a positive and negative. First it is important to remember companies are not in business to be friends or help authors/readers – it’s all about profit – and increasing the bottom line each and every quarter. All about money. The way business is done is rapidly/drastically changing and so much is experimental with potential of digital.
    Completion rate could be a valid and beneficial guide for readers, but it as the only one is dangerous ( trolls and the games people play as you mentioned)
    Pay by page would be beneficial for those who write longer pieces and managed to do it well enough that people read to the end. (But then as you say, there’s the possibility of being wordy just to get the page numbers up)
    What about those people who jump back and forth in the book? Sample the end, then seriously read ( people do actually do that). And there are those who are busy and read in burst – a couple of chapters now…pause for a bit of time before getting back to it and then having to reread/backtrack a chapter or couple of pages to remind yourself where you were when you stopped…or those who get lost and have to jump back and forth to understand the plot/ why the character is acting one way or another.
    Will they double count pages read more than once?
    Lots of questions about unsteady path
    Great analysis and discussion. Appreciate it

    • bethtreadwayauthor on June 22, 2015 at 10:54 am
    • Reply

    I read sporadically. Does this mean an author should be punished because I read for research or put a book down for months or a year, then pick it up again?

    Dickens was paid by the word, but people still bought the entire rag his work helped sell. I’m a little uncomfortable with art being sold by the inch rather than the complete vision of the artist.

    Books and eggs are VERY different products in my world, yet Amazon treats both the same. I’m paying for the vision, not how fast I can race through.

    • mcm0704 on June 22, 2015 at 10:58 am
    • Reply

    Thanks for this information, Kristen. This wacky writing world just gets wackier by the day. And I appreciate that you brought it all back to the quality of the writing. We can put our energy into worrying about and fighting the system, or we can put that energy into making our next book better than the last. Hopefully, that will matter more in the long run.

    1. I think the quality of the writing is the only thing that “should” matter. I hate seeing writers who juke algorithms or commit fraud get ahead of writers who write an excellent story. It isn’t fair, but fair is a weather condition. At least if our books sell because we did a great job, we can sleep well at night knowing we did the right thing. There will always be people out there to make a quick buck.

  14. Quality is indeed the key. Personally, I’m delighted by this pay-by-page approach for KU. I want to write books that people want to read, not just stockpile. The onus is on me to create a page-turner that keeps the reader engaged, fired-up to know where the story will go and how it will end. If I do that, I’ll earn more from KU. They’re motivating writers to create more compelling, better quality stories – why would that be in any way a bad thing?

  15. I heard of this idea either last year or the year before. I still don’t know what to think about it. My knee-jerk reaction is writers are going to fill pages with fluff just to make more money, and readers who feel morally obligated to finish every last book they start are going to be in for a world of even more pain.

    On the other hand, I’m curious to know how far people read through my books. If they have a common stopping point–if at all–it’ll teach me something about my writing. I love learning how to be a better writer. A good editor is tough to afford on journalism wages…

    Despite all that, I will continue to work on writing better stories. People will come back for more if they like me, while Dimwit of the Gigantor Fluff Tomes won’t see returnees. I think that’ll be the great equalizer in the end.

    1. Fluff won’t help if people lose interest. I am with you. It poses some interesting benefits.

    2. While that information could be very useful, we aren’t likely to get it. Rather than counting the number of “borrows” each day as the KU system does now, they’ve said it will count the number of pages. We will get per book breakdowns at the end of the month, but beyond that, we won’t know if 100 people read one page or if one person read 100 pages. If you watch the rankings of your book(s) like a hawk, you might be able to glean some idea of your completion rate, but it will be largely guesswork.

      I’m for the change in theory. The real question is where the payout number ends up after the first few months of honeymoon. The borrow rate steadily declined from launch, starting over $2 to its current level of about $1.35. Great for shorts, which are often priced at $.99 or $1.99 and receive less than that for an actual sale, but not so good for full-length novels priced at $2.99 and higher.

      My guess is Amazon wants to get the borrow payouts to be more in line with what authors receive from sales in order to bring more of the popular novel-writing authors into the program. So, short stories will take a hit, as well as all the scammy short books that have been showing up more and more. It will take a few months for everything to sort itself out, however.

      1. Well, we shall all see what happens. 🙂 I can’t say I’m worried.

        1. Worrying won’t do any good, whereas vigilance will. I agree 🙂 .

  16. I got the e-mail about this, and like you, I was wondering if this would be a good thing or a bad thing. I have been getting steady royalties this year (my books are in the Kindle Select Program so they are in the Lending Library and KU), for the first time, and I sure hope this doesn’t stop them. I guess time will tell.

    Smiles, Nancy

  17. Reblogged this on Nancy Segovia and commented:
    Is Big Brother Coming To Call? I guess time will tell.

  18. It’s a scary world for sure if that gorilla gets loose. I’ll be keeping my eyes wide open, and continue to make my writing as good as it can be. Just signed up for the “First Five Pages” class! So excited to have my writing ripped apart…*ahem*…I mean, critiqued! 😉

    1. Muah ha ha ha ha…I mean, YAY! We will have fun!

  19. This is one of the best things Amazon could do for authors! There are 35 page kindle ebooks written about how to write a short kindle ebook every month, every week and even every day! They promote writing short and writing fast; some of these authors have been doing this since the advent of KU and are making thousands of dollars of month because they have 80, 100, even 200 short kindle books in their backlist that are bringing them the exact same stipend from the KU fund as the author who is writing 250 page mysteries twice a year. That’s just incredibly unfair!

    Also, these short ebook writers don’t even write most of the books themselves, they hire ghostwriters on Elance or Fiverr to write it for them by simply giving them a loose outline and telling them to “fill it in” — and, yes, many bloggers are publishing their longer blog posts as short Kindle books so they can take advantage of the KU fund.

    I’m all for it! It’s about time. 🙂

    1. I knew some writers were doing this, which bugs me. I am a “By the Rules Gal” so that stuff makes me twitch. I don’t think Amazon is “out to get us” but we do have to be aware of what’s going on.

  20. Reblogged this on Vampire Syndrome Blog and commented:
    Many Amazon KDP authors have been following the “more and shorter stories” model for years now, and this will only amplify that trend.
    Many readers only read the first pages of works that don’t ‘hook’ them’, so from the authors’ perspective, quantity would be better, because it increases the odds of getting pages read, and with ‘pay-per-page’, this would increase income.
    Now you could write something horrid, and if a million people or more read the first few pages… $ 3:) 😛
    This may further endanger long-form novels on KDP, which could also mean a greater percentage of long-form works going to outside (of Amazon) publishers.z

  21. This experiment will convince more people to join the program. KS is already overcrowded with authors who joined hoping to grab a piece of the pie. More books in the program based on this experiment leads to further saturation of choices. Readers don’t spend hours going through books to find one they like. I won’t join KS unless I decided to host an ebook sale.

  22. I don’t trust anything Amazon does. Always keep in mind that Amazon launches new programs to benefit its own interests first and foremost. So far, every change to the KDP system has damaged authors, not helped them. This pay-by-the-page idea is fair on some levels, but hideously unfair overall. Now writers not only have to trust Amazon to report their sales and borrows accurately, but to give an honest accounting of pages read. Having dealt with Amazon for many years as a small press publisher, I can promise you their accounting processes are often clutzy and require constant oversight.

    Besides, do movie theaters pay film studios based on how many customers watch the whole film? Do cable TV companies pay content creators based on the number of minutes per viewer? Do music producers pay performers based on what percentage of a song the audience listens to? No, no, and Hell, no. (Musicians and songwriters are already screwed in so many other ways.)

    Envision a day when Amazon and its ilk controls the publishing industry; when the advances are gone or just token amounts and the royalties are based on pages read. That’s yet another layer of uncertainty the writer can’t control. This is not a good thing. Writers are being turned into third-world factory workers. Locked in a system that offers them no protections and being paid for piecework at the whim of the Big Boss.

  23. I’m determined to be optimistic about this because I’m already determined to make my writing better with every book. If it’s adopted in the overall ranking, I’ll see it as a good thing. I get frustrated with the slush and the number thieves because I worked hard on writing a good book, but I’m not seen. If my book isn’t as good as I thought, I want to know where the readers stopped enjoying it so I can learn from my mistake.

    1. I wonder too if this would force reviewers to finish a book before they can review it? I have my suspicions about at least one of my few reviews as to whether or not she even read the whole thing.

      1. Good question. Few reviewers read an entire book. Most skim the pages, read reviews, or read the samples and blurb on Amazon. Far short of gathering enough information to provide adequate reviews and critiques.

      2. That would be nice. I had one person leave a review for one of my books saying, “I read five pages. This book is terrible.” I just laughed.

  24. I don’t want to be paid by the page, I don’t think. But I think this is like most ideas – it has a narrow way of correct use to be a really great idea…and a wide field of abuse and loophole that will allow it to be a terrible idea. And because humans are awesome at cheating, we’d mostly just see the abuse and loopholes and not so much the success of per-page.

  25. Another thing to remember here is Amazon won’t be paying a flat rate royalty per page read. The amount per page will be a percentage of the total pages read of ALL books enrolled in the KU program. Then they multiply THAT by the total money in the fund to give you your cut.

    While being exclusive to Amazon works for many, it doesn’t for me. I sell more with all four of my pen names on other sites than I do with Amazon. It’s taken me five years to build up my fan base, but now 60% of the books I sell are on Kobo, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble.

  26. If each page has to be parsed in order to be counted as read, I’m presuming this will happen wirelessly. Does that mean that pages read out of range of Wi-Fi or with data transmitting turned off (e.g. while on an airplane) don’t get counted?

  27. Reblogged this on Mr. Writerly and commented:
    Very interesting stuff here. As of now, this only has to do with borrowed books, but who knows how it might change publishing over the next few years…

  28. Reblogged this on Lenora's Culture Center and Foray into History.

  29. I wonder how ‘hardcopy’ books will fare? I know Kindle is the wave of the present (I am a Luddite and live in the past with my freshly-killed trees paperbacks) but will this changeover be another stab into the dying hard-print novel?

    • Kit Dunsmore on June 22, 2015 at 2:36 pm
    • Reply

    Being paid by the page sounds, just for a second, like good old fashioned “paid by the word”. It sounds like “write more, make more”. But as you describe it, that’s only true if you are good and your writing is popular, and if they take this beyond the borrowed books and into sales.

    Either way, II wonder what readers would think. Wouldn’t they want to only pay for the part of the book they read (even if they are just borrowing it)? If I start a 200-page book and only get to page 20 and quit, can I please be reimbursed for the 180 pages I didn’t read? Or do they not pay attention to these sorts of details?

    1. Kindle Unlimited is a flat fee per month for unlimited amounts of books to borrow, so no reimbursement on any individual book. I think it’s just a flat $9.99 a month…

    • Patrick Hodges on June 22, 2015 at 2:57 pm
    • Reply

    I love this idea. Of course, purely from a selfish standpoint, I have written only two books, but on both of them I have had people tell me repeatedly that they “couldn’t put it down.” Now, I grant you, I know my books aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of joe, but I would hope that anyone who borrows my book has at least an inkling of reading it. I wonder if now somehow authors are going to sabotage their competitors by borrowing books, reading only a few pages, and then returning it, thus lowering that book’s completion rate. Hey, it’s not paranoia if it’s true…

    Hey, it’s an experiment. Meaning, if it doesn’t pan out, it won’t become policy. I have no idea how long this experiment is going to last, but I think, at its heart, it wants to reward good writing, period. There isn’t a system in the universe that won’t have people looking for ways to buck it, but if this levels the playing field for writers like me, heck, I’m in.

  30. Reblogged this on adielem and commented:

  31. If they change, we change. If they go too far – see Apple v Taylor Swift – somebody may call them on it. Or a loot of somebodies. A competitor will step up and be nice and steal market share.

    I’ve read for years how the end of the world is coming and maybe this time it is but we authors are customers, too, and we can basically put our stuff out there via Paypal and PDF if necessary.

    Ammy is a distribtor but if I’m a new author, I’m doing all the marketing, not them. I’m getting my name known, not them. And for 99% of authors, Ammy never makes them money. So…

  32. The potential for abuse is too high. Right now it’s borrowed books, but what if it goes to all books? Then when I run a sale and sell a thousand copies I have to wait until people read my book to get paid. Who else is treated like that. Sorry pizza hut I only ate one of the six slices of pizza I ordered so I’m not paying you today, but as soon as I finish the left overs I’ll come back and pay you the rest?
    This is the reason I’m not an Amazon only author and why I buy my books from other digital presses when I can.

    1. AMEN

    2. Good grief, I’ve got books in my Kindle that I bought a year or more ago and haven’t yet had time to read. Sometimes I’ll read a few pages, something will come up, and I’ll have to put that book on the back burner. Maybe I’ll come back a few weeks later, but then I’ll reread the first pages before reading the rest. Maybe I love the book, but the author only gets paid for 10 or 20 pages. Not good.

      On the other hand, I’m one of those people who will almost always finish a book even if it’s not great.

      I think there are too many ways this could go wrong. Like you said, Kristen, businesses will reduce the bottom line if they can.

    • rooksher on June 22, 2015 at 4:36 pm
    • Reply

    This is indeed intimidating for writers, but whenever I start to freak out over the newest change, I repeat this mantra: just have to write a good book, just have to write a good book…

    1. But doesn’t it seem that, under this new formula, Amazon is telling us how to write a good book?

      1. It does. It’s why I have preached for YEARS that social media was important but to not get so fixated on the “marketing.” Yet, as you mentioned, this could be a sticky wicket. I buy more books than I ever read. The writer should get paid no matter what. Now, I DO think it might be cool for bragging rights if we had a Completion Rate. Just an extra, “Hey, people not only bought but READ and FINISHED my book.” But that could be abused too. Ah, the fun of keeping ahead of those who cheat.

        1. You’re about books purchased and unread—I’ve more downloaded to my Nook that I’ve yet to read, and I have more hard copies than I likely will be able to finish in my lifetime. Thankfully this formula won’t affect hard copies.

  33. Wow! You certainly know how to get to the heart of the matter Kristen, and of course you are right. It will spread to book sales as well.
    Look at this from a buyer’s pov – I buy lots of books on Amazon but don’t read some of them for weeks or months even. So would they also impose a time limit for paying the author a royalty? I also buy non-fic books and don’t read them cover to cover but select what a want to know from the contents page, jumping in and out on a need to know basis – don’t others do the same? So how would they deal with that electronically?
    Whilst it could be good to weed out rubbish books, it’s a bit too 1984ish as you rightly say. If someone has written and published any book, hooked a reader into buying it with good blurb and presentation, they should be paid for every sale. Readers’ tastes vary, one man’s super book is another woman’s boring read.
    Judging all books on this sliding scale is a slippery slope to a very dark place for ALL authors. What Amazon has gifted us with in one decade, they are poised to take away in the next. Again, quoting you – beware Greeks bearing gifts.
    Susan Pope –

  34. This concerns me, for all of the reasons cited in your post.

    But take it a step or two further…

    I’ve read books that started slowly and ended strong, and other novels that started with a bang but ended with a fizzle. Guess which novels stayed with me for the right reasons long after I closed the cover for the last time?

    Now Amazon is telling me how to write: focus on getting the reader to turn pages. Translation: trash the art of the novel; simply use all the bells and whistles of contemporary writing best practices—write with a screenplay mentality. Dialogue drives the story; eliminate (in the words of Elmore Leonard) anything you envision the reader skipping over; i.e., descriptive narrative; and eliminate any style or voice because (again according to Leonard) that’s the writer’s attempt to butt into the story.

    Yes, I’m afraid of where this is heading. Very afraid.

    1. The way you describe how Amazon could be butting into the writing process does scare me. Are writers no longer going to write literary novels for fear that readers will skip ahead to the fun parts? Will one style of writing dominate because that is the book that most readers will finish? AGH! I understand the reprimand for people who abuse through KU system, but there will always be people who abuse systems no matter what they are. For now and into the future, I will keep my ears and eyes open.

  35. Reblogged this on xdayschocolate.

  36. Next step will be that readers pay per page delivered to them. All the way down to pay-per-bit. So, the best way to safeguard the rights to your work has to be an update to the copyright legislation?

  37. Reblogged this on Emily Arden, author and commented:
    Great blog-post from Kristen Lamb. Lots to think about here. Have you heard about Amazon’s latest trial on rewarding authors per page read (rather than per book)? Interesting implications…

  38. This is very interesting: Amazon’s test to pay the self-published author by the page read; not the book. If successful, I’m thinking the idea will bleed into the traditional publishing business??? (Uh-oh.) If so, I think it will ultimately destroy some amount of Creative Writing (and I could be wrong on this). Case in point: Game of Thrones was not that popular when first released; it was hard to read the first part of book one, especially, which is the most crucial (author’s writing style). Now, the books are popular due to the HBO series; but I wonder how many readers actually finish the books they’ve purchased. I don’t believe that there exists only one way of writing to write a good book. But I do believe you have to write a good story in the end. But then again; I am a fairly new writer (four years +). I have many friends who did not like J.K, Rowlings’s “The Casual Vacancy” and didn’t finish it; yet, on Goodreads it gets great praise and is a huge TV show success and second book. (I hear the second book is much better.) So, on the other hand; paying by the page could create a more honest playing field for all writers. Time will certainly tell how all this plays out. One thing for sure; the “New Age of Publishing” is constantly evolving similar to technology. Great article, Kristen. I think I might have that glass of wine now.

  39. Reblogged this on Parawl Perwyl.

    • msugar13 on June 22, 2015 at 10:52 pm
    • Reply

    I don’t know if this will carry over to all sales or not, but if it does it will have disastrous consequences. Sure, I can see how an author would benefit from knowing that 80% of the people who purchased her books stopped reading between the 50 – 55% mark. Like Kristen said, that’s about the best critique an author can get. But, really, how many authors want critiques like that rolling in AFTER you’ve published your book. Yes, it helps you know where to fix things, but all the fixing in the world may not help, if every potential purchaser is aware that most readers don’t finish your book. Would you want to buy a book that Amazon reported – very few purchasers finished this book. Would the page/completion rate that the author is paid by, would that be common knowledge or knowledge available to the purchaser. It’s a win-win for the buyer and I can see that this experiment has a good chance of weeding out the pathetic pamphlets that now pass as books on KU.

    Clearly this is Amazon’s answer to the cheaters who always manage to find a way to jacking the system. I am not yet published so I don’t know how the payment system works and I learned today from one of the commenters that some KU authors have their family and friends borrow their book and turn on the read aloud button so that they can get paid while no one reads their book. I’m blown away at the lengths people will go to corrupt the system. All of the energy and creative thinking that must go into finding newer and more clever ways of cheating the system … buying reviews, buying negative reviews for competitors and now turning on the read aloud so your book gets past the 10% mark, holy crap. Why not just put the same amount of time and creativity into … say, you know WRITING A DAMNED BOOK — WORTH READING.

    I can’t favor this new system. I have more books on my Kindle and hardback books on my bookshelves and in storage than I can ever hope to read in my lifetime, but that will never stop me from purchasing new books. What if the hardback book authors only got paid when the reader completed the book? It’s B.S. I get it. Amazon has a problem with cheaters. They need to address and remedy the problem, but not by attempting to change the theory of marketing and sales. If you offer a book for sale and I accept that offer by purchasing your book and there is an exchange of money (consideration) then a contractual sale has been completed. I don’t owe the author anything else. I don’t promise to read their book when I agree to buy it. Of course, I fully intend to read every book I purchase, but I don’t like Amazon forcing that additional stipulation into the sales contract. The author doesn’t get paid unless I actually complete the book and if I get past a certain point then the author gets what? A pro rated portion of what they are legally owed.

    I know that I can’t be the only person with unusual or odd reading rituals. Sometimes I finish a book in one sitting. I am always reading at least two or three books at one time. I switch back and forth. At night when my eyesight is blurry I pick back up with my larger print book. When I am in the car I either listen to an audio book or read from my phone or iPad. Where I am and how I am feeling often plays a role in what I choose to read. Non fiction, I skim, jump around. While I am studying the craft of writing and trying to improve my skills, I dissect books by authors I admire. I re-read and re-read chapters over and over. Will the author get paid each time I re-read a chapter.

    What about the book that I own both the Kindle and hardcopy. If I begin the book on my Kindle and then head to the beach and finish with the hardcopy must I alert Amazon that my Kindle does not accurately depict the true number of pages I read.

    What about books I give to kids, friends and teachers as gifts. They might not read the book for an entire year. According to this program, when would the author get paid for the “pay be page” method? How long does the reader have to complete the book. I hope that by the time I become published (yep, I said when not if) that I won’t be in a position of having to wait for the consumer to complete my book before I get paid. The author should be paid at the completion of the sale. End of story. In no other industry can you expect the seller to wait for payment and base it on how much of the product the consumer consumed. If I purchase a movie from Direct TV and have to leave before it ends. Can you imagine the the seller only being paid for the number of minutes I actually viewed the film?

    This is frightening. And the number of cheaters and their increasingly clever methods of cheating is just as frightening.

  40. Reblogged this on Writer's Zen Blog.

  41. I can see the by the page payment being beneficial for the author if there is also a review of why the reader chose to give up. Were they thinking this was a western but it turned out to be SciFi? Is it a troll, continually reading the author’s work but still hates it? Maybe the reader has a personal health issue or family problems. Maybe they started reading in the airport but was diverted by a terrorist threat on their airplane. So many reasons to stop reading.

  42. So does this mean that after someone buys the book, the writer only gets part of what they normally would have gotten otherwise if the reader doesn’t finish?

    1. No. As has been stated here before, this applies *only* to books *borrowed* through Kindle Unlimited. Not for book *sales*… which are final. 🙂 🙂

      1. It’s difficult for me to refrain from adding another comment as I continue to mull this over in my head.

        Based on this premise, why shouldn’t makers of orange juice get paid for the number of glasses the consumer drinks rather than the entire carton (sometimes it sits at the back of the refrigerator and gets tossed when the expiration date passes after only two glasses are poured). Why shouldn’t the makers of hot dogs get paid only for the four consumed out of a package of eight?

        I could go on, but you get the picture. Everything we purchase has a price associated with it, and the manufacturer gets paid in full, not based on what percentage the consumer uses. Why should it be any different for writers?

        1. Hear hear. I was thinking about food too. I do my best not to waste food, but it happens, of course it does. The last grapes go bad and go in the compost, the heel of the bread goes stale or grows mould in summer when the kitchen is warmer. So should the retailer wait until after consumption before paying the manufacturer? How is that fair? The produce was made, expenses were incurred. I know books are a different commodity but the principle remains.

          I have bought rather a lot of books by fellow indie authors to show my support for them, but I have limited time and highly doubt my ability to read all of the books on my kindle. I would hate to think of this scheme being rolled out to all paid purchases and that support no longer meaning as much.

          Of course I want people to actually read (and preferably enjoy) my books, and leave an honest review, but I equally appreciate the small measure of support that my friends and family may wish to show by buying my books even if they don’t normally read my genre but want to encourage me.

          One possible side effect of this sort of measure, if it were rolled out, might be the resurgence of print. Amazon can’t track how many pages have been read of a print book, so perhaps we can free ourselves of some of the negatives of this new development by restoring the print side of the industry, both as readers (in the format we choose to buy) and writers (in the format we promote most heavily).

  43. Your article AND the discussion here are wonderful. Some reactions to topics introduced: Completion rates could be a quality indicator. Chopping one novel into 3-4 ‘novellas’ might help make more money on KU than one title and if so, shouldn’t an author consider doing that? In the same way that Amazon is focused on increasing its revenue, shouldn’t writers be expected to do the same and not be viewed as ruining the lending payment system by gaming it? These behaviors are rewarded by our markets. If it’s up to me, I veto being paid by pages read by buyer when they get around to it. Maybe we should go back to Dickens’ time and get paid by the word. 🙂

  44. As Linda pointed out way up in #2, the pages-read factor applies ONLY to KU and Lending Library — BORROWED books — not to SALES of any kind. While it is certainly possible (because pretty much anything is possible) that a similar factor may some day apply to book sales, it’s highly unlikely. KU/KLL is a limited pot of money paid out each month, divided in SOME way among the authors whose works qualify. Sales, on the other hand, are the publisher’s (your) cut of goods sold in the marketplace (they are not royalties paid to authors).

    There is absolutely no reason for Amazon to be concerned about whether a sold product has actually been used. They make a sale, they keep their cut, they send you yours, and that’s it. But for borrowed items, they certainly have an interest in determining equitable distribution of the limited pot of money they set aside each month to compensate author-publishers for allowing their works to be borrowed. Unfair distribution discourages participation. This new system is simply an attempt to re-level the playing field and encourage participation.

    Bottom line is, if I, as an author/publisher, feel that participation in KDP Select is worth the cost of Amazon exclusivity, then it can only be in my interest to see a fair distribution of the royalty fund. If I feel that the return for exclusivity is not commensurate with the cost, or I dislike some other aspect of the KDP Select program, then I don’t have to participate. Either way, my cut from SALES is not affected.

    For another perspective, people might have a look at Hugh Howey’s take on the subject:

  45. Lots of food for thought here. As one of the little guys, I think it’s important to be aware, even if there’s not a whole lot I can do about it, I need to know my options. Thank you for doing all the research and sharing your findings.

  46. First I have to say in no way have I found any link to Lord Acton in my family tree, I did wonder though if this is an attempt to curb some people publishing short stories where they hit the ten percent before the story even began with title pages, copyright etc, I have not published myself yet but do the borrows count towards rankings for ebooks? I wonder if it is a way to try to push content over cover art up the best seller rankings, I have personally bought books where the cover has looked brilliant but after one page of typos and spelling mistakes I know I am not going back to finish it.

  47. I’m sorry, but I’m failing to see how the word count pay rate is a benefit. Just because a 75k word novel isn’t as long as a 150k word novel, doesn’t mean that the 75k author didn’t work as hard. It doesn’t mean that they didn’t put any blood, sweat, and tears into their work, or took time away from their family. Their story just wasn’t meant to be a 150k word story. So why are they treated as a lower caste of writer by being paid less? If it was an amazing story and the reader thoroughly enjoyed it, then why should it matter? That’s like if a company has two receptionists that they pay based on how many number of calls they answer. Maybe the one that answers less does so because she’s delivering mail or typing up a letter for the boss. It doesn’t mean she’s being lazy and not working, she’s just doing other things. I’ve been toying with the idea of pulling my books out of the program. This has sealed the deal. I’m emailing my publisher today. Thanks for your helpful insight!!! 🙂

  48. Thoughtful and compelling commentary.
    Haven’t had time to read most of your recent posts but I have saved them! The road the hell, yes?

    • Harald on June 23, 2015 at 11:13 am
    • Reply

    I’m betting they did it to stop people from gaming their KU system, which was getting scammed left and right. Now, authors will be rewarded (for KU Borrows only) in proportion to how many pages readers actually read. What a concept! Sounds totally logical to me.

  49. Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss…

  50. Reblogged this on Kentucky Mountain Girl News and commented:
    What do you think about this experiment?

  51. I think that would be a very different beast if applied to sold books rather than borrowed ones. It seems fair enough for borrowed writing, but if I bought a book and only read half, if the author then only got half, I would want to only pay half! I would be annoyed to pay the full price for a book regardless of whether I read it or not, but then the author only got paid if I read it – then it would be in Amazon’s financial interests for me not to read it! So it can’t work as a paid paradigm as it is, it would need reworking somehow (unless they just lied to all the readers, which I suppose is possible). If the reader only had to pay for the percentage they read, plus perhaps a download fee, it could work perhaps.

  52. A lot to take in for a first-timer, but I’ll come back again to get all in as I find the idea fascinating as well as your blog that I’ve just read now 🙂

  53. Reblogged this on C.C. WILEY and commented:
    “The Writing Matters No Matter What”

  54. Reblogged this on Mystery and Romance and commented:
    Another new elephant has stepped into the room… Here’s Kristen Lamb’s impression about the new Kindle Unlimited ‘pay by the page’ idea.

    • Tamara LeBlanc on June 24, 2015 at 1:45 pm
    • Reply

    Just wanted to add that, ummm, you DID make it very clear (in reference to one of your commentors) I understood your angle perfectly. And I think topic is HUGE.
    I’m not sure what I think about this. I’m scared on one hand and intrigued on another.
    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I had noooooo clue this was happening.

    And thank you for your imput…I trust you implicitly!

    Have a wonderful afternoon 🙂


  55. Thanks so much for talking about this. I love how you are always updating writers about all aspects of craft and the publishing industry.

  56. Reblogged this on Tethered Together and commented:
    Hey, author friends! This seems like pertinent info to get on your radar–and my mind isn’t able to wrap around it yet to explain it intelligibly. Besides, why reinvent the wheel? There’s no way I could improve on the information that Kristen Lamb shares in this post!

  57. Wow. Not even sure what to make of this! Could be a big game changer. Seems important enough to pass on, so I did!

    • Sarah on July 4, 2015 at 3:04 am
    • Reply

    I admit, I’m very very new to this whole thing. But I don’t like the sound of this. Because yes, it really isn’t fair that Big Fantasy Epic costs the same as Overdone Highschool Romance. It doesn’t seem fair. But with this new Amazon plan, I’m thinking about the really incredible small books. If a book is absolutely amazing but is rather small, it won’t make as much money? That is what this sounds like to me, although I could be completely off.
    Honestly, I just don’t like when things are converted into data. There’s no life in data. I want my book to be #1, not #1 but with only 87% completion. Books can’t be put down to numbers.

  58. I finally had time in my busy life to read this. Thanks so much for the time you take to inform of about things like this.

  1. […] Kristen Lamb shares some intriguing news from Amazon about author royalties: Getting Paid by the Page.  See for […]

  2. […] Kristen Lamb shares some intriguing news from Amazon KDP about author royalties: Getting Paid by the Page. See for […]

  3. […] Brave New Publishing– Amazon Testing Paying Authors By The Page […]

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