Sunday, July 5, 2015

KU changes, or: for the love of the gods, please stop freaking out.

It's been almost three weeks since Kindle Direct Publishing announced it was changing the way it pays authors for borrows of their ebooks, and not quite a week since the new policy went into effect. You would think by now, people would have calmed down about it -- but you would be wrong.

I did a post for Indies Unlimited right after KDP emailed everybody to explain the change. My fellow minion RJ Crayton followed up with an IU post about how authors who don't like the new terms can opt out now, with no penalty. Since then, David Gaughran has weighed in, urging everyone not to panic. Hugh Howey blogged about it on day 2 of the new regime, urging everyone not to panic. I'm sure other author/bloggers have counseled caution and prudence and adoption of a wait-and-see attitude.

And yet, a whole lot of authors are losing their minds.

Here's what's happening: KDP sets aside a fund each month out of which it pays authors for borrows of their ebooks. Borrows happen two ways: Amazon Prime members get one free borrow per month; and people who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited can borrow as many books as they want for a flat $9.99 per month.

Under the old system (which is to say prior to this past Wednesday), KDP would pay on a borrow whenever a reader got to ten percent of the book. Unfortunately, that encouraged folks out to make a quick buck to "write" 10- or 20-page pamphlets, so that they would get paid for a borrow as soon as a reader opened the book. I think we can all agree that's unfair.

Under the new system (which has been in place only since Wednesday), author payments will no longer be based on the percentage of a book read; instead, they will be based on number of pages read. But that's not all:

    • Amazon has developed an arcane formula of calculating ebook pages that results in something called the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count, or KENPC. It is different than the number of pages that would be in a print edition of the same book. A print edition of The Pipe Woman Chronicles Omnibus would be about 840 pages, but its KENPC is 1553. A print edition of The Land Sea Sky Trilogy would be about 500 pages; its KENPC is 951.
    • The per-page payment will be calculated by the amount in the fund divided by all of the pages read during the whole month. And the only entity that can make an educated guess about how many pages of borrowed ebooks are read in an average month is Amazon, because it has heretofore not shared that information with anyone else. Presumably a few months down the road, we will have pages-read-per-month numbers to crunch to arrive at an educated guess about what the per-page payment will be. But even then, it will depend on the size of the fund, and KDP has not been giving out that information until a couple of weeks into the following month.
    • The bottom line is that this penny-per-printed page figure that's been floating around the intertubes is a guesstimate based on fuzzy math. Don't get your heart set on it.
Here's another thing: Just because your book has a KENPC of x, it doesn't mean your payment will be x times whatever the multiplier of the month is. You'll only be paid for the pages your readers have read. So this would be an excellent time to make sure your book's editing is good and the story moves along. Readers can bail on a book for any number of reasons, from real life complications to "it's not my cup of tea" to "this book is unreadable." The only one of those three you can control is the last one. Make sure your book doesn't suck.

If you're one of those authors who enrolled a bunch of short stories into KDP Select, or who released a novel chapter-by-chapter, I'd suggest it's time to rethink your strategy. Put your novel back together. Collect all of those short stories into an anthology.

And for the folks who put Wikipedia articles into ten-page "books" to make a quick killing on Amazon? I got nothin'. Sorry/not sorry.

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My heartfelt thanks to those of you who have already downloaded Firebird's Snare. I'll be bumping the price up to $2.99 tomorrow, so if you haven't bought it yet, now would be an excellent time.

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These moments of clear-eyed blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell
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