If you haven’t heard the news yet, Amazon is making changes to Kindle Unlimited beginning July 1, 2015. They are going to be paying by page read for books that are in the Kindle Unlimited service. If you aren’t familiar with Kindle Unlimited this is Amazon’s “Netflix” service for books: you can rent books for a set fee per month.
If you’ve self-published and your book is in their KDP Select program you are automatically in the Kindle Unlimited system.
So let’s look at what Amazon is changing. Here is the information from their website:
“The author of a 100 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed and read completely 100 times would earn $2,000 ($10 million multiplied by 20,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).
The author of a 200 page book that was borrowed 100 times but only read halfway through on average would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).”
A lot has been said about this, most of it not great. I do, however, think that for most of us in Kindle Unlimited, we should wait and see what happens before we dismiss the whole idea of having our books in a subscription service.
Why? Because if Amazon works the way that I suspect it will, the changes in the way they pay will also affect their Kindle Unlimited algorithms, pushing titles that are earning more to the forefront and those that aren’t, could potentially be lower on the list. This algorithm change could also affect their regular bookstore, too.
Let me explain my thought process here. First off, if you’re being paid by pages read then you need to have a good book, right? If your book isn’t good (and we know a lot of them aren’t) then you won’t make much. This is particularly interesting when you consider how many writers post poorly written books, or books so bloated with useless content, that the reader simply can’t get through it. Why do they do this? Well to game the royalty system, which never works by the way but ends up cluttering the Amazon site.
So what is prompting this change?
The problem Amazon faces is one we all face: there are many, many books and not all of them merit a sale. At one time or another we’ve probably all picked up a book, started reading and thought: Wow, this is not what I expected. And I’m not just talking about self-published books here. I’ve had the same thing happen with traditionally published titles. At the same time, it’s a trend we’re seeing more of. Let’s face it, competition is fierce and if you’re going to compete, you need to write a great book. This new way of pricing, in my view, helps to raise a bar that hasn’t been terribly high across the board.
Now this won’t affect your book if you aren’t in the Select or Kindle Unlimited system, but I suspect that if this works, Amazon could change this across the board. Meaning change this pricing structure for all of their books. Though I suspect that could be met with rioting Problem: one thing that I keep seeing over and over is that this model of payment encourages writers to write longer books. Many of you probably know the trend of “short is the new long” and while long books will never go away, episodic and serialization of books is a strong trend and one that isn’t going away anytime soon. So keep in mind that you shouldn’t write a long book unless the topic or story merits it. I plan on keeping my short books short. I personally won’t be making any changes to the content I produce. Why?
While these Amazon changes affect everyone in the Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited system, you won’t want to become a slave to this. You still want to produce content your reader wants, not just content that you think will bring you huge sales. Ideally, they are one and the same.
Keep in mind that many authors may be removing their titles which could be a great win for those of us who continue to keep our titles in the Kindle Unlimited system. Your exposure may increase significantly due to the drastic reduction in books.
Is there more that Amazon can do to fix the Kindle Unlimited system? Sure. I think making it non-exclusive is a great idea – mostly for self-published authors who are in their Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. Though Amazon is the biggest e-tailer, exclusivity scares off a lot of people who might otherwise list their books and the goal for Kindle Unlimited is to grow the library.
The other thing that I think Amazon needs to focus on is putting more Audible titles in there because right now the library of audio titles is narrow. Yes, this will certainly ding Audible memberships, but other bonuses can be given to Audible only members to retain that subscriber baseThe bottom line? If your book is in the Select program and the idea of being paid by number of pages read scares you, get in touch with Amazon immediately and ask them to remove the Select feature which will pull your book out of Kindle Unlimited.
As a final tip: you should do this anyway if you have more than one book in that system. Why? Having all of your books in Kindle Unlimited is not a good idea – regardless of how their pricing works. Why? Because you’ll generally get paid less for your book when it’s being loaned out to a reader so having all of your books in there could drastically reduce your revenue.
So that’s my take, I’d appreciate your feedback and insights.