Ebook Lending

Why erotica writers are upset with Amazon

13 July 2015

From CBCRadio:

Amazon has announced changes to how it pays self-publishing authors. The changes apply to books that users borrow through Kindle Unlimited and Kindle’s Lending Library. Instead of paying authors a flat rate when someone borrows one of their books, it will now only pay authors based on the number of pages actually read — a rate as little as $0.006 per page.

This has some authors up in arms — especially those who write short stories, cookbooks, children’s books, and erotica. They say the change disproportionately affects their shorter-length works and that they can no longer make a living wage with the new pay structure. We talk to erotica writer Lexie Syrah, who has pulled all eight of her titles off of Kindle Unlimited and is calling on other authors to do the same.

. . . .

Your books are quite short. Why is that?

I went into writing shorts because that’s what the people are asking for. People read erotica for a variety of reasons, but most people read erotica because they want to feel excited. They want to have a fantasy. And so they don’t want to read 200 pages about the colour of a bed or the setting of a bedroom. They want the down and dirty. And they want it right now.

. . . .

So you’ve taken all of your publications then off of Kindle Unlimited. Where do you go from here, what are your other options for making a living?

Well, I still sell my books on Amazon. That is in no way associated with Kindle Unlimited. But I am really starting to utilize a site that I found called Smashwords. Honestly, I wish I would have found Smashwords far before I ever found Kindle Unlimited. They make it very easy as somebody trying to self-publish. They have a How-To manual that really does just state everything you need to know to be able to format your book.

. . . .

Could you not argue that the new system that Amazon is implementing when it comes to the Kindle Unlimited might actually be more fair? Because it rewards those writers who keep readers reading and gives them more of an incentive?

I’m not saying that people with very large books that are good, that keep them reading.. I mean that’s a great thing, that’s awesome for them.

But it’s not that I can’t keep my readers reading or that any of the other short story erotica writers aren’t keeping their readers reading. It’s the fact that their books are only supposed to be so many words long. I currently have 17 books. It doesn’t take that long for any individual person to get through that many erotica stories.

Link to the rest at CBCRadio and thanks to Cora for the tip.

Writers Are Going Cuckoo For KU

6 July 2015

From TechCrunch:

If you haven’t been following the Indie writing market I don’t blame you. It’s pretty crazy right now. After Amazon decided to tweak the royalties payouts to reflect how much readers actually read the books they downloaded as part of the Kindle Unlimited service writers have gone into an absolute tizzy over what’s fair and not fair and what it means to get paid for writing.

First, a bit of background. Kindle Unlimited, as you know, is essentially Amazon’s all-you-can eat digital service. If you subscribe to it you get access to thousands of ebooks for free as long as they are part of KDP Select, a service that Amazon offers authors. KDP Select isn’t amazingly valuable but it does allow you to “give away” your book for a brief period – a trick that used to get Indie fiction to the top of Amazon’s bestseller lists (but no longer) – and set up pre-orders. I’ve gone back and forth about the service but now my books are part of it.

KU also has a pool of cash that it pays out to writers. Right now that pool is about $11 million. This means that popular authors get a lot of that money and everyone else gets a little – a long as someone reads you. But the news that is leading is that Amazon is paying Indie authors $0.006 per page read on the Kindle which sounds far worse.

This means many Indie authors are losing money now but a few aren’t. That’s the bottom line. There are two ways to make money in Indie publishing and neither of them are lucrative for the long tail. First you can write one or two amazing, long books and hope people buy them. Let’s call this the Wool model. Then there is the equally enticing Write, Publish, Repeat model that encourages writers to upload lots of small chapters and give them out for free via KU. As I’ve noted before, both of these models are potentially lucrative as long as the quality is there. However, if you subscribe to the W,P,R model, the fact that your “books” are 10 pages long will hurt you in the new KU market.

. . . .

Ultimately, writers need to face the sad (or, for some, happy) fact that Amazon is changing the way books are sold. Whereas the old method of proposal, advance, distribution, and substandard PR push has worked for most of this century, it was always inefficient. Publishers never knew what would sell, distributors didn’t care what sold, and PR people didn’t know how to sell more. Now that all of this work is in our hands I find it empowering and a bit frightening.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to JR for the tip

Yes, once more Amazon is “screwing” authors: Set to pay them .006 per page

4 July 2015

From author Bob Mayer:

The amount of misinformation and disingenuous commentary on the Internet is exceeded only by the self-interest.

A group of authors who write shorter works are claiming they’re being discriminated against because Amazon has shifted payment in Kindle Unlimited from titles borrowed to pages read. Imagine? I don’t seem to recall a single one of those authors crying out about getting paid the same amount for a fifty-page book as the author who has published a four hundred page book. If I missed your blog about this, please let me know in the comments section.

And apparently, according to this article in theGuardian, the authors who wrote these shorter works are: “A lot of self-published romance authors are disabled, stay-at-home mums, or even a few returned veterans who work in the field because a regular job just isn’t something they can handle,” she says. “People are shedding a lot of tears over this.”

So writing is not a regular job? (And don’t get Jen going on the ‘stay at home mum’ thing.) I have no doubt that quite a few authors relying on this have issues. And that the change is hurting many. But last I checked Amazon, and almost every other company I can think of, isn’t in the business of developing their business model to do anything other than succeed. And for those who think I’m an Amazon apologist, please read my other blogs. I always recommend anyone doing business, even as a customer, with Amazon, read The Everything Store. My takeaway from that was that Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos isn’t in it to make a lot of money; he’s in it to win. And that indeed is dangerous to any who do business with Amazon. But that’s the reality.

. . . .

In Special Forces we were taught winning was everything, so I understand that mindset to an extent. Because losing in that line of work had far deeper repercussions.

Here’s more reality: Kindle Unlimited is voluntary. Let’s accept one fact: a lot of people jumped on board with this because they were gaming the system. Knocking out a lot of short works to gain an inordinate payment under the old system.

But overall, authors who wrote full length novels were actually getting screwed. If I’d wanted to game the system, I should have focused on writing five 20,000 words stories (earning $6.60 if all are borrowed) rather than one 100,000 page book (earning only $1.32 if borrowed). Under Kindle Unlimited my income would have been five times what it is. Under the new system, my income is more, as long as those pages get read. Yes, the caveat of quality.

Link to the rest at Write on the River

Here’s a link to Bob Mayer’s books

Are Authors Leaving Kindle Unlimited?

4 July 2015

From author Chris McMullen:

With the July 1, 2015 changes to Kindle Unlimited comes much anxiety among KDP Select authors.

But before you press your PANIC button, maybe you should consider this novel idea: Check the numbers.

That’s exactly what I did, and you can, too:

  • Visit Amazon’s homepage.
  • Hover your mouse over Shop by Department, then hover over Books, and select Kindle Books.
  • See the number listed with the Kindle Unlimited filter.
  • Click the Kindle Unlimited filter. Now check the numbers in the categories.
  • Copy/paste the numbers of interest into Microsoft Word, for example.

I did that on July 1, and I’ve done that periodically for several months so that I can compare the numbers.

There is a lot of talk about authors possibly leaving Kindle Unlimited, but you don’t have to guess. The data is in plain sight.

. . . .

There were about a million books in Kindle Unlimited heading into July, and there are approximately 1,015,000 today (July 3). Of course, this figure is constantly changing.

It’s gone down by about 4,000 (out of over 1,000,000) since July 1. That’s 0.4%. A few authors are taking advantage of the early opt-out opportunity, but 0.4% doesn’t constitute a mass exodus.

In comparison, over 40,000 books were added to Kindle Unlimited in the past 30 days, and the overall number of 1,000,000 is way up from 600,000 when Kindle Unlimited made its debut one year ago. Throughout the program, KDP Select books have had a 95% (or greater) renewal rate, and overall number of participating books has steadily grown every month.

. . . .

With the Kindle Unlimited policy change comes concern:

  • What if a huge number of books pull out of KDP Select?
  • What if a huge number of books pull out of the children’s, erotica, or other categories?
  • What if subscribers cancel their Kindle Unlimited subscriptions because they can’t find the books they want?

These are valid concerns. But it hasn’t happened yet.

You should keep an eye on the numbers. Then you won’t have to guess or worry. You’ll know.

If any of those things happen, you can be aware of it, plan for it, react to it.

So far, they haven’t happened, so you don’t need to pull the plug prematurely on your own books.

What if the number of books in Kindle Unlimited stays roughly the same? What if the number of subscribers remains roughly the same?

What if you earn more money with the policy change than you had been?

You should plan for these cases, too.

Link to the rest at Chris McMullen and thanks to Bill for the tip.

Here’s a link to Chris McMullen’s books

Amazon set to pay self-published authors as little as $0.006 per page read

2 July 2015

From The Guardian:

Self-published authors could be paid as little as $0.006 per page read under new rules planned by Amazon.

Writers who make their works available through Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library, and a similar service called Kindle Unlimited, will no longer be paid per copy downloaded following a move announced last week.

Instead, they would receive a payment based on how many pages had actually been read, with longer books receiving a higher potential payment than shorter works.

In an email to authors, sent on Wednesday, Amazon revealed exactly how little that payment would be.

The company said that customers of its two services read nearly 1.9bn pages in June, while it expected to pay at least $11m a month for June, July and August.

That means the payment per page read could be as low as $0.006, meaning that an author will have to write a 220-page book – and have every page read by every person downloading it – to make the same $1.30 they currently get from a book being downloaded.

Casey Lucas, a literary editor who works with self-publishing authors, says she has lost six clients already. They have decided to stop writing after “estimating a 60–80% reduction in royalties”.

“A lot of self-published romance authors are disabled, stay-at-home mums, or even a few returned veterans who work in the field because a regular job just isn’t something they can handle,” she says. “People are shedding a lot of tears over this.”

. . . .

Not every author will lose out, however. Since the overall amount paid out to writers is intended to remain the same, there will be winners – mainly those who write longer books that are read in full.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Dave and several others for the tip.

PG thinks a lot of the Amazon alarmists getting all caught up about the $.006 per-page headline and are not thinking through the numbers.

Here’s what an author receives for a 300 page book borrowed and read at $.006 per page:

$0.006   per page
300         pages
$1.80     received by author

Let’s compare this to the amount received by a traditionally-published author for a 300 page book sold by Amazon:
$9.99    e-book sales price on Amazon
70%      royalty rate to publisher
$6.99    received by publisher
25%      royalty rate to author
$1.75    paid to author’s agent
85%     received by author after agent deducts 15% fee
$1.49   amount received by author
$0.005 per page

Of course, the per-page payment to a traditionally-published author drops even further as the publisher-set sales price drops.

PG understands the concerns about pages read, but if a reader who borrows a KU book reads any pages, the author will receive a little something.

Additionally, PG suspects that borrows are much more of an impulse action than purchasing a book. If PG is correct, authors who would not have received any income from ebook sales to a reader or group of readers will earn something from the non-buying readers who borrow. At a minimum, if the borrowers read no pages, the author is in the same situation as if the borrower had never purchased the ebook.

If a reader buys an ebook from Amazon, either indie or traditionally-published, reads the entire book, then returns it within 7 days, the author receives no compensation at all. If the reader does this habitually, Amazon will eventually close the account, but a lot of zero-royalty reads will have taken place by that time.

Erotica Authors Pull-Out on Amazon KU

2 July 2015

From author Selena Kitt:

Erotica authors were impatiently waiting for July 1, for a look at the new dashboard and the opportunity for a glimpse into the Bezos crystal ball at what they might be paid for the month of July, when the Kindle Unlimited changes took place.

Looks like the numbers are (kind of) in… and the outlook is rather dismal. Erotica shorts authors knew it was going to be bad. I just don’t think most of them thought it was going to be quite *this* bad. Because it looks as if authors will be making about $0.0057 per page. That’s slightly less than half a penny a page, folks.

. . . .

But we’re erotica authors. We are the most versatile, adaptive and scrappy bunch of people I have ever known. And if Amazon thought we were going to take this lying down?

Bwahahahahahahahahahaha. Then they don’t know us very well!

Introducing the #releasetherate campaign

The objective is twofold:

1. Get Amazon to tell us how many people are borrowing our books, without which our page counts are utterly useless

2. Get Amazon to tell us how much they mean to pay us – NOW. IN ADVANCE. No more of this, “Enroll your books, choose to go exclusively with Amazon, and we’ll tell you later how much you’ll make” crap!

Link to the rest at Selena Kitt and thanks to Toni for the tip.

Here’s a link to Selena Kitt’s books

Analyzing Kindle Unlimited’s New Page Read System

2 July 2015

From author Susan Kaye Quinn:

Amazon gave indie authors an unexpected data-gift by releasing the number of page-reads in June along with the payout for the KDP Select program ($11M for the pot divided by 1.9 billion page reads = 0.6 pennies per page). Here’s my breakdown on the numbers you want to know in the newly launched (today) page-read system in KDP Select program.

. . . .

OLD MODEL – per-borrow
98k novel = 414 pages* = $1.34 per borrow = 1/3rd of penny-per-pg
15k novella = 51 pages* = $1.34 per borrow = 2.6 pennies-per-pg

*the number on the product description pg

NEW MODEL – per-page-read (assuming 100% read)
98k novel = 553 pages** = 0.6 pennies-per-pg*** = $3.32 per 100% read
15k novella = 85 pages** = 0.6 pennies-per-pg*** = $0.51 per 100% read

**KENPC page count
***estimate from June moneyz

. . . .

1) The per-borrow model favored short reads, to the cheers of short story and serial writers and boos of novel writers. The per-page-read doesn’t play favorites – pages read are pages read, no matter if they’re in short stories or novels. The NEW MODEL is blind to the length of story.*

*even though I write both serials and novels, I think this is a good thing.

2) The 0.6 penny payout per page in the NEW MODEL is roughly equivalent to 1 penny per page under the OLD MODEL. Why? Because the pagecount is higher with the NEW MODEL. A penny a page is about halfway between what serials and novels were getting under the OLD MODEL. In other words, Amazon leveled the playing field, bringing the payout for novels up and the payout for shorts down… but the overall money in the system about the same.

3) The system hasn’t changed for readers, so borrow rates, at least for now, should be similar to before.

My Major Conclusions

1) Serials still make money with borrows, just not outrageous amounts like before – my 15k novella is making 51cents per borrow vs. 35 cents per sale (assuming 100% reads). This means KU for serials and shorts still makes sense.

2) I’m putting my serial boxsets in KU, as long as they don’t have a permafree first episode – because I suspect read-through will be better, plus putting borrows on the box set increases visibility.

3) Otherwise, I’m holding tight (keeping most properties where they are right now) to see if the payout rate really is 0.6 pennies per page in August.

4) Borrow payouts are more comparable to sales earnings now… depending on your pricing, page-length, page through-read, etc. My 98k novel lists for $3.99, which is $2.79 for a sale, but $3.32 for a borrow. My 15k novella lists for $0.99, which is $0.35 for a sale, but $0.51 for a borrow. All of that is assuming 100% read-though rates, which is overly optimistic, and that the 0.6 pennies per page rate holds.The payout for borrows is comparable to sales at approximately 70-85% read-through rate.

Link to the rest at Susan Kaye Quinn and thanks to Terah for the tip.

Here’s a link to Susan Kaye Quinn’s books

Does Amazon’s New Payment Scheme Require Literary Surveillance?

28 June 2015

From Flavorwire:

Let’s say you go to dinner tonight, but the cook who makes your meal is paid only for the bites you take. How would the restaurant manager know? He’d have to watch you closely, counting the number of times you bring the fork to your mouth.

This week we learned that Amazon will launch a pay-per-page service that aims to replace its policy of paying full royalties to authors whose readers accessed at least 10% of their e-book. Now authors will be paid for the number of “pages” accessed by readers. To help enforce this policy — so that self-published authors can’t just ramp up the size of the text, for example — Amazon has simultaneously launched the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).

. . . .

According to Amazon, the change comes on the heels of a realization that the 10% marker was unfair to authors of longer books: it takes less effort — that is to say, less time — for a reader to reach the 10% threshold of a shorter book. Given that the total amount of earnable funds is limited by Amazon, this has meant a strained ecosystem of relatively short, mostly terrible books. And it has meant a market populated by bizarre quasi-literary themes — stepbrother sex novels are huge right now — meant to titillate the reader right up to the 10% threshold.

As usual, though, a shrewd business tactic lurks behind a self-professed act of charity. It’s not as if Amazon cares whether its self-published market is flooded with bad boy romances or dinosaur sex. They’ve known for yearsthat readers (consumers) prefer to read (buy) longer e-books. And that’s precisely why they will export this approach, whenever possible, beyond the limited domain of their lending library.

. . . .

You can see the refined efficiency of this factory approach, which chops up language into ever tinier bits of senseless trash, in Big Publishing’s renewed lust for the division of labor. Take, for example, Zoe Sugg’s Girl Online(2014), now the fast selling debut fiction of all time. Sugg, known widely in the UK as a Youtube megastar, did not, of course, write the book. It was ghostwritten. But Sugg is the book’s author, if you now understand authorship to mean “personality.” So the author isn’t dead so much as split in twain: now we have an author and a writer.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Dear J.K. Rowling, We Need a Hero

25 June 2015

From Many Kind Regards:

Dear J.K. Rowling,

We need a hero.

I’m sure you’ve seen by now the announcement from Amazon regarding its royalty payments to authors who take part in their Kindle Direct Program. But, just in case you haven’t, allow me to briefly fill you in.

The Kindle Direct Program, or KDP, is a self-publishing service offered by Amazon. Independent writers who are still in the process of finding an agent utilize it to publish their writings as a means of getting more eyes on their work. Amazon has recently announced that it will stop paying these writers for their work. Rather, writers who have opted in to a program that Amazon promises will “earn higher royalties,” “maximize your book’s sales potential,” and “reach a new audience” will actually only be paid for what Amazon determines the reader has read, despite Amazon’s own promise on their KDP FAQ that “you’ll continue to earn royalties from those sales like you do today.”

This move appears to affect only authors who opt in to the lending library (who wouldn’t, at the promise of higher royalties, and the opportunity to get their novels in front of a larger audience?), but according to the Telegraph, this change is “initially” going to affect those in the lending program. So, eventually, this will affect all independent authors who choose to publish with Amazon.

I have a problem with this, and so does every independent author I know. Authors work hard, and anyone who doesn’t believe that doesn’t know an author. We spend countless hours over our work, stretching our minds, and sometimes breaking our own hearts, creating these lives and these intertwining stories that weave in and out of our own lives. Our families watch us crouched over our keyboards, lost in the work, and they sacrifice their time with us so that we might be able to put everything we have into the story that occupies our minds. You know just as well as the rest of us the labor of love that is a novel. You know the hard work, the re-writes, the stress and the tears that are part of the creation of a story. And that doesn’t even include the research, the agent search, the time spent crafting the perfect agent query…

Our very existence as authors depends on our ability to thrive, and this most recent move by Amazon threatens that existence.

Link to the rest at Many Kind Regards and thanks to W. for the tip.

Is PG the only one who perceives reactions to changes in Amazon’s lending programs by some authors as a new variety of ADS?

Amazon’s Plan to Pay Some Authors by Pages Read Is Smarter Than It Sounds

23 June 2015

From Slate:

Amazon has come up with a new way to pay authors for the e-books they self-publish, and almost everyone agrees it’s a dumb idea.

Almost everyone is wrong.

. . . .

The change has no effect on how authors will be paid for books sold in the Kindle Store, or on Amazon.com, or anywhere else. Nor does it affect how authors will be paid for books published through more traditional channels.

Why would Amazon make a change to the royalty formula for this specific group of authors? Because the old one was broken, as I’ll explain.

. . . .

When you charge readers to download an e-book, as Amazon does in the Kindle Store, it makes sense to pay publishers and their authors for each purchase. They’ve earned it.

But when e-book downloads come at zero marginal cost, as they do on Kindle Unlimited, there is no such thing as a “purchase.” A reader can download 10 titles as easily as she downloads one. If authors are paid by the download, then, they have an incentive to spread their work across as many titles as possible. A 10-part series, each 20 pages in length, would cost the reader no more than a single 200-page work—and yet the author of the 10-part series would earn 10 times the royalties. No wonder Amazon said it’s making the change in response to “feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.”

. . . .

On a more basic level, tying author payments to pages read makes sense for Kindle Unlimited titles from an economic perspective. Because while downloads are free and instantaneous once you’ve paid for your subscription, reading a page implies an additional investment on the reader’s part—not of money, but of time and attention. That makes page read a better proxy than downloads for the amount of value readers are deriving from a given author’s work. It isn’t a perfect proxy, of course, but then, no single metric ever will be.

Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

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