Amazon Might Pay Self-Published Authors Less Than A Cent Per Page Read

Amazon Might Pay Self-Published Authors Less Than a Cent Per Page Read

So, remember that new Amazon payment scheme that's going to revolutionise self-publishing by dolling out royalties based on pages read rather than copies sold? Remember how that was going to reward authors who can keep readers hooked rather than folks who can crank out 500 page-tomes that nobody has the gusto to finish?

There's one teensy problem. Amazon's self-published authors could be paid as little as $US0.006 per page, or in other words, diddly squat.

Until yesterday, authors who self-published through Amazon's KDP Select Program received royalties each month based on the number of times their e-Books were borrowed through Kindle Unlimited, a $US9.99 per month library-esque subscription service, and the Kindle Lending Library, an Amazon Prime membership perk. But as Amazon announced several weeks back, that would all be changing in July. In the new world, KDP select authors would be paid for each page of their work that remains on an e-reader screen long enough to be parsed, the first time the borrower reads the book.

In theory, certain writers could stand to benefit quite handily from such a payment scheme, as The Atlantic explained in an excellent article on e-publishing last month. Some authors of longer books had voiced their frustration to Amazon that they were being shortchanged by the pay-per-borrow scheme, and that they in fact deserved a slightly higher rate to align with their beefier book. Nobody really expected Amazon to take things one step further, and announce that it would pay start paying its authors per page read. That's a system that — again, in theory — stands to benefit authors based on something ostensibly more important than book length: How engaged the readers are. If you write a 20,000 word page-turner, you could make out better than the author of a 100,000 word snoozer. On the other hand, if you can write the next Harry Potter — a book that's both long and highly addictive — you win the jackpot.

That is, if Amazon decides to pay you a per-page rate that's economically viable. As the The Guardian reported, in an email Amazon sent to its authors Wednesday, the company revealed exactly how little that per-page royalty might end up being:

The company said that customers of its two services read nearly 1.9bn pages in June, while it expected to pay at least $US11m a month for June, July and August.

That means the payment per page read could be as low as $US0.006, 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 $US1.30 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 tostop 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 everyone will lose out, as Amazon intends to still pay out the same amount of money to its writers overall. But the ridiculously low per-pay royalty virtually guarantees that the only real winners here are likely to be those who write long books that are read in full. According to The Guardian, this has led to some speculation that Amazon is trying to alter the composition of its library by forcing out certain types of work — for instance, nonfiction books and children's books.

Who, for instance, is going to read a cookbook cover to cover?

Whatever Amazon's end game is here, creating a more free publishing market where any author with an appealing product has a shot at supporting himself doesn't seem to be it.

[The Guardian]

Picture: Zhao / Flickr

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Comments

    It's an interesting problem. People aren't willing to pay more than $9.99 per month for a subscription service like this. That seems to be the sweet spot for online subscriptions. Under this system that's about 1,600 page reads per month, but only if you assume it costs nothing to build the system, maintain it, run/staff the office, support the customers and make enough of a profit to justify the hassle (the authors shouldn't be expected to do this to break even and neither should Amazon).
    The flaw here isn't that Amazon are cheapskates it's that the simple payment models aren't really sustainable at these prices. If they pay $1.30 per download, and someone downloads and reads the first chapter of half a eight books Amazon starts losing money (with operating costs that's point is probably closer to four). They could switch to paying based on how much of the book was read, but then you're sort of forced to write 30 page long books to ensure high completion percentages (which works out terrible for Amazon since people start reading 20 'full' books per month).
    $0.006 per page might be an absolute joke, nobody should be producing quality content on that rate, but I'd wager Amazon did quite a lot of research to come to that number. They'd probably be able to squeeze it to $0.007 if they were generous, and $0.008 if they had no alternative, but at $0.009 they'd be losing money.

    The real problem for authors is that Amazon are probably going to stick with this even though it's not profitable for anybody involved, and with a $9.99 all you can read service out there it's going to be hard to sell a book at anything higher than $0.99 using any of the other distribution models.

      the research probably went along the lines amazon figuring out the authors would have to release 10 1000 page books per month and the readers would have to read every page before they started to lose money

    The whole problem they are trying to address is shitty self-published vampire porn split into 20x 1 chapter 'books' to game the pay-per-download system which gave them a flat rate after 30% (IIRC) was read - ie, a couple of pages. The changes are good for everyone except those shitlords.

      No, these changes benefit no-one other than the most popular authors. Once again big tech are making moves to screw over artists and creators, exactly how streaming radio has screwed over music creators, where tens of thousands of listens may barely reap a dollar in royalties.
      An airhead celeb could ghost-write some pile of shit and sell millions to idiot fans, whilst a genuine author can write something truly worthwhile, and effectively get nothing for it. That benefits our world exactly f*** all.

        Yes, the fact that Paris Hilton sells more books than Rajaniemi is entirely due to these new Amazon changes. It was definitely not a preexisting phenomenon.

        Furthermore, by giving these hidden gems a publishing platform that circumvents the old model of agent->publishing house->bookshop and allows indie authors to sell direct to readers, they have clearly something something Apple Spotify Taytay.

        You sound like someone bitter that amazon has stopped you gaming the system with your shitty teen paranormal romance novellas.

        Even then the most popular authors don't benefit from this. They were getting paid for people who download their book and never finish it, which I'm guessing is how a lot of those celebrity biographies go.
        This is something Amazon feel they have to do to stop the people @jjcf talks about, people exploiting the system for maximum payouts and minimum input, but unfortunately it only serves to harm content quality and legitimate authors by pushing them into butching their works to be more financially agreeable with the system. The authors who were releasing 20x terrible single chapter books to get $26 instead of $1.30 like everyone else just switch to padding their single chapters out to cover more pages. Meanwhile someone who writes brilliant short stories has to effectively sell out and write more pages or quit and go back to doing it as a hobby.

          The short story writer can release a book of stories. I agree with jjcf, having read a decent book then bought the next one only to finish it in a couple of hours then buy another etc. really sucks. Happy to pay authors for their work but not happy with a serial rip off scheme.

      Seems to me the problem is having such a low flat rate subscription. I guess that problem is not going to go away though - raise the sub price so you can pay the authors more and less people sign up, meaning less money for Amazon and the authors.

      On a related note, I assume you can still buy these ebooks outright? So surely if an author is good enough readers will buy their books permanently rather than always relying on a sub to read them.

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