Amazon’s New Kindle Unlimited Payment Plan Explained Rationally

2012-12-23 14.51.38 (Shadeauxland's conflicted copy 2013-01-02)

NOW THAT THE BIRD HAS YOUR ATTENTION… Listen up.

First off – I wish theoretically honest, up-front bloggers and journalists who don’t use Amazon as a publishing platform or – in most cases – even write books – would quit splashing alarmist headlines all over the net ‘explaining’ how Amazon is now going to give your work away for free and it’s the end of books.  I’m going to use bullet points and make this as quick and clear as I can.

1) The new payment plan Amazon just unveiled does not affect your books that are available for “sale” on Amazon at all.  It only affects books that have been published exclusively on Amazon as part of their Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited Plans, and of those books, only the Kindle Unlimited books.  Any book that is just “bought” on Amazon is being paid exactly as it always was.

2) An upfront note.  It is a bad idea for most books to publish them exclusively on Amazon, and the Kindle Select program is only a good idea if you have a title that has proven itself to sell very well on Amazon and not so well anywhere else.  Out of the 1200 titles we currently have at Crossroad Press – we have maybe 8 in those programs.  Even those that ARE part of the program still generate a lot of sales each month, and those sales are paid at the same royalty rate they have always been.  Only when someone who has paid for a Kindle Unlimited Subscription “borrows” the book does the new plan come into affect.

3) The plan itself: If someone borrows your book, they have a particular amount of time to read it.  Amazon will monitor whether they actually read all of it, or part of it, and pay you for the number of pages (determined by a pretty generous algorithm, I can add, because I know that a book we published that was 500 pages in print has figured to 815 pages in their formula) that are read.  There is a pot of money – just like there has always been for Kindle Unlimited – but instead of paying you each time someone borrows your book, they are paying you for the number of pages read each time someone borrows your book.

4) The purpose is to stop scammers who have been gaming this system.  Everyone is upset that they think their share will drop, but honestly, a huge number of the borrows up to now have been people cheating you out of your money.  They upload a ten page pamphlet – or ten of them – and then have 100 friends borrow it – while they do the same for those 100 friends.  Every time that ten page pamphlet is borrowed, it gets the same share as a 500 page book by a talented author.  Also, there are tons of very short stories of questionable quality being uploaded just because numbers count in this game.  If you – instead of an 80-100k word book – write ten 1500 word stories – you can get an equal share every time one of those stories is borrowed – or you could. Now, you can still write them, but your share will be proportionate to the words and effort invested.

5) Quality of the offerings being borrowed is going to improve.  Good writers aren’t worried about people borrowing their books and quitting on page five.  People paying a subscription price are going to READ the books they borrow to get their money’s worth.  This system is better in every way than the previous system. It is not Amazon trying to cheat authors, it’s Amazon protecting authors from people trying to cheat the system.  Don’t get me wrong, I think Amazon is out for Amazon, but they aren’t – in this case anyway – doing it at your expense.

6) Most important thing.  The Kindle Select and Kindle Unlimited programs are not right for most books.  As I stated above, only about 8 of our 1200 titles are in these programs.  They are there because they have consistently sold above average numbers on Amazon, whlie selling next to nothing anywhere else.  MOST books do not benefit from losing Barnes & Noble, Apple, Google, Kobo and all the other possible outlets.  IF YOUR BOOK IS NOT REGISTERED IN THE PROGRAMS THIS CHANGE MEANS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO YOU.  NOTHING.  ZILCH.  That is the most important thing.  I’ve seen articles all over the net in theoretically trusted outlets and found that – without really checking their sources, they’ve cut a few lines from Amazons announcement and not applied them to the bigger picture – then splashed click-bait headlines all over about how Amazon is now only going to pay you a tiny amount per page – as if that was all of Amazon and not a single, exclusive program that you have to opt into to even be involved in.

I hope this helps clear some of the clouds from this issue… and I hope that – if you read this – you will think twice before sharing or retweeting one of the misleading and misinformed articles prophesizing the end of books because of this policy.  No one has even been paid under the new policy and already everyone is depressed, giving up writing, etc… I suggest you spend less time on blogs and FB and more time writing – it’s easier on your heart and mind.

-DNW