Amazon’s Pay by the Page on KU: I do the math so you don’t have to

Day 2 of The Odyssey of Falling Royalties

scribdpxThe pogrom at Scribd commences with about 30K romance titles slashed from their catalog because romance readers actually *gasp* read. A lot. Any analyst worth his salt could have explained that the gym membership model wouldn’t translate to an all-you-can-eat buffet of steamy/heart-throbbing/heart-warming boy-meets-girl or boy-meets-boy titles.

We ALL knew it was unsustainable. Now Scribd knows it too. Yay, them. Boo for romance readers and romance authors. Wanna read more? Go here, here and here.

But more compelling is the way Amazon adjusted how they compensate authors for borrows via their Kindle Unlimited program. To recap: $9.99/month nets you the option of borrowing and having on your Kindle 10 KU titles at a time. For a fast reader, you can blow through that number faster than a speeding bullet.

Looks up at the Scribd model…

For authors, that meant getting a share of a pot of gold pre-determined by Amazon on a month-by-month basis. The magic mark was 10% of the book read and bingo, $1.33-ish fell into your royalty account. 10 pages. 300 pages. Didn’t make no nevermind.

Authors got clever: write shorties, chop real books into episodes, front load the content with meaningless drivel to hit that 10% magic button before even one word of story is read.

Amazon’s solution to the rabid reader syndrome: compensate based on number of pages read, pages being determined by a fancy algorithm that normalizes text across all their reading devices (KENPC v1.0). FYI, one of my books has the following page counts… print: 328, KDP: 330, KU (KENPC math): 738.

The more the merrier, right? As Tzeitel said, of course right… or wrong.

pot-of-goldThe pot of gold = $11,000,000 for July and August. The estimated average number of pages read, in total, in the KU library—as determined over a 4 month period using KENPC math—is 1,900,000,000 (or in shorthand 1.9B). 11M divided by 1.9B comes out to 0.0055 cents per page read or round up to 0.006 cents.

The Guardian agrees as does Inks, Bits, & Pixels. Note that these are estimates based on current activity.

Now, let’s look at two books (I’ll use page counts verified for my own titles). Assume that the book is being read stem to stern so if you have X number of pages on offer, that’s what is being read. Exclusivity is a whole nother beast, not going there today.

Page Count KDP Estimated

Title KDP Price Net Sale KU (10%) KU (pages) Net KU1/KU2 Net KU/sale
Short 62 0.99 0.35 (35%) $1.33 0.37 -0.96 0.02
Long 330 4.99 3.49 (70%) $1.33 1.98 0.65 -1.51

Page Count Normalized (KENPC)

Title KDP Price Net Sale KU (10%) KU (pages) Net KU1/KU2 Net KU/sale
Short 120 0.99 0.35 (35%) $1.33 0.72 -0.61 0.37
Long 738 4.99 3.49 (70%) $1.33 4.43 3.09 -0.40

If Amazon holds to KENPC mathemagics, then the conclusion is obvious: slap those episodes/chapters together to make a decent/real/honest book, stop flooding KU with 10-page-dinoporn-wonders, and consider putting your 1000 page epic fantasies into KU.

gravy-trainClearly the gravy train for shorts is over as you lose either 96c or 61c in the new system (depending on how the page count is calculated), yet you still do better keeping it in KU than actually selling it at the 35% compensation rate.

Or raise the price to more than 99c.

Of course, none of this is set in stone since the number of pages available to KU will fluctuate wildly depending on new titles coming in, others opting out, the number of pages per book, etc. Talk about a moving target!

Scribd has already called foul over romance readers being greedy little buggers, so how Amazon hopes to sustain this compensation model for the heavy-weights has me scratching my head.

1e85cc79cbb37c610b9e2e0305366931When I started this exercise, I was already convinced it would come down to the total number of pages in the KU pool, not the amount in the pot of gold. I still think that. The page count inflation for my long-winded book was 44%. That held true for all 10 books I had in the KU library. Keeping it in KU, assuming a 100% read rate, now appears to make very little difference between a borrow and a sale—but ONLY if the inflated KENPC page count is applied. For the long/738 title, the royalty on a borrow is 62%.

The downside is that most readers won’t necessarily read the book straight through. They may put it down and come back to it, in which case your page count will accrue over time. Yay, and annoying and really hard to keep track of. Or they might read 20%, find out dinner is burning, set it down and forget about it… what with the fire department and all the fuss over a flambe going out-of-control. Boo, hiss.

Or, because a reader is only allowed 10 titles in the KU library at any one time, the author might find that a reader comes across a launch of an anticipated novel and just has to have it!!! and looks down their KU list and decides to return one in order to qualify for the new one. And that one, through blind bad luck, happens to be yours. Will the reader remember to go back and pick it up again? Zon will remind the reader they already had it, so you can guess the outcome.

Since KENPC is listed as being in v1.0, you can bet the farm that it will change, lowering the page count closer to the original KDP estimates.

I’m not even going to touch the sad fact that a huge percentage of books selected via sale or by subscription don’t have readers making it to The End. It’s the gym membership mentality in literary form, and I suspect the Zon is relying on it to smooth out the payouts over time.

Scribd thought that, Oyster too I’m guessing.

But there’s a fly in the ointment… Wanna take a guess? Anyone?

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ADDENDUM: there’s a movement called #releasetherate campaign. Find out more HERE.

About Nya Rawlyns

Nya Rawlyns doesn’t write typical romance. She writes emotion as a contact sport, rough and often raw. It need not be pleasant, heart-warming or forever after. What she seeks is what lies beneath—a dance of extremes, the intersect of need and desire, and the compromises we make when pain and pleasure become indistinguishable. ***** She has lived in the country and on a sailboat on the Chesapeake Bay, earned more than 1000 miles in competitive trail and endurance racing, taught Political Science to unwilling freshmen, and found an avocation in materials science. ***** When she isn’t tending to her garden or the horses, the cats, or three pervert parakeets, she can be found day dreaming and listening to the voices in her head.
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4 Responses to Amazon’s Pay by the Page on KU: I do the math so you don’t have to

  1. Sessha Batto says:

    Damn . . .that is FAR more math than I would ever want to do. Just one quibble – the pot is divided by pages read, not pages available. We can’t do the math, because Amazon isn’t telling us how many pages are being read. It could be more, it could be less. In any event, it isn’t likely to be an advantage to authors.

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  2. That’s really interesting. I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t get on the Scribd bonanza when it was lush, but more glad for my sake that it’s no longer such a temptation, because I would starve to death.

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  3. Marion Stein says:

    I did the math, and it looks like I’m ahead with KU/KOLL. I don’t have any super-short work, but even my shortish novella at 157 KEMP would yield me about 80 cents, which is more than it gets me at 99 cents a pop. I don’t think Amazon is going to cheat people on page counts although if it’s not profitable enough they may change how they measure a page. My main problem with the system is I don’t get enough borrows. I also don’t get enough sales.

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