Some preliminary thoughts on the new KU rules

We are now approximately half a month into the new KU/KOLL payout program and I thought I would spend some time this morning going through my numbers so far this month and compare them with last month’s borrows. So, before we go any further, please quit laughing. I know anything to do with math is far from my strong suit. Besides, I haven’t had nearly enough coffee to tell me not to do something like this so early in the morning. But, after reading yet another article about a group of authors whining because the new program will put them out of business — and without them waiting around to see how the program pays out at the end of the month — I decided to see if the preliminary figures support my initial thoughts on the program.

I’ll admit, when I started hearing about the change to the rules for how much an author would be paid for every borrow under the KU/KOLL programs, my reaction was mixed. I loved the fact that no longer would every borrow be paid a flat fee. I never understood the reasoning behind paying someone who puts out a five page short story the same thing a 500 page fantasy novel received. On the other hand, I wondered how in the world they were going to pay out per page. The answer to that is to pay out per “normalized” page. The reasoning behind this, according to Amazon, is to prevent authors from using very large fonts or only putting a few words per page.

Still, the cries of “foul” continued, including this latest one. I get that folks are worried about how much they might make under the new program. However, instead of instantly jumping ship, perhaps they ought to wait to see what happens this month. Or, if they don’t want to do that, suggest an alternative to Amazon — with some facts and figures projected from their past earnings and those of other authors. As for me, well, I look at the KU/KOLL earnings as the icing on the cake. No other store, that I’m aware of, allows authors to take part in similar programs. Considering that I make much more out of the KU/KOLL program than I did when I was in those other stores, I’m willing to cut Amazon a little slack as it tweaks the program so it works best for the authors, the readers and Amazon itself. After all, it is important tat we remember that Amazon is in the business of making profits. If it doesn’t, it goes away and so does our major retail outlet.

Anyway, as I said, I thought I would look at my titles and where my KU/KOLL numbers stack up compared to this time last month. So bear with me as I try to do the math, such as it is. I’m not going to take all of my titles, only the last three books I’ve published. Also, I am only using the U. S. Amazon numbers and not any of the other stores taking part in the KU/KOLL programs because, well, more math.  Finally, the numbers for last month are not the final numbers, only those for the first 14 days of the month. Fortunately for my bank account, they took an upswing toward the end of the month.;-)

Title Est. pages

Normalized page count

Downloads last month Pages read this month
Duty from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 2) 232 524 20 4946
Vengeance from Ashes (Honor and Duty Book 1) 299 505 20 5266
Sword of Arelion (Sword of the Gods Book 1) 289 671 106

51799

The first issue I see as I look at these numbers is that I know how many normalized pages have been read but not how many times a book has been downloaded. So I don’t know if everyone is reading the book or if they are stopping part way through. It would help if Amazon let us know the number of downloads as well as number of normalized pages read. So, for the purposes of this experiment, let’s assume that books are being read through.

That means Duty from Ashes has been downloaded and read through 9.4 times. That doesn’t look real good compared to the 20 downloads from last month. However, a download was counted once 10% of the book was read. So, this is a non-goer in my math-challenged mind. It is the same issue with Vengeance from Ashes. But what about Sword of Arelion? It looks a little better compared to the first half of last month, approximately 77 downloads (assuming every download is read all the way through this month) compare to 106 for last month. But, again, not knowing how normalized pages read compares to the number of downloads makes this an interesting mental exercise but really doesn’t answer the question of how many of the borrows are actually being read all the way through.

So let’s look at things a bit differently. Taking an average payout of $1.40 per title “read” last month, I would have made $28 for Duty from Ashes, and the same for Vengeance from Ashes. For Sword of Arelion, I would have made $148.40. Taking the normalized page counts and the $0.006/page a number of sites are quoting as what Amazon will be paying, I get the following potential payouts for this month: $29.68 for Duty from Ashes,  $31.60 for Vengeance from Ashes, and $310.79 for Sword of Arelion.

I don’t know about you, but as someone who writes novels and not short fiction, I like what the preliminary numbers are showing. Of course, there is a lot of guesswork involved in this because we don’t know for sure what the per page payouts will be this month. But I am willing to give it a try and wait to see what happens over the next couple of months. After all, I remember the twists and turns that happened when Amazon first introduced the KOLL. You would have thought they were determined to kill off the indie market to have heard some of the naysayers. It is going to be interesting to see what happens when we can compare income from the KU/KOLL program for the last few months against the first few months under the new rules.

For now, all I wish is that we had a bit more information from Amazon, specifically how many times a title is downloaded. It would also be nice if Amazon gave us an indication of where in a book someone stopped reading. But, to be honest, I’m not sure my ego could take that. (VBG) Anyway, don’t know if this helps anyone but it helped me put it all into context, at least with regard to my own work and determining if I am going to stay in the program for the near future or not.

 

42 Comments

Filed under AMANDA, WRITING: PUBLISHING

42 responses to “Some preliminary thoughts on the new KU rules

  1. Amanda, do you have any data yet as to whether or not the new payout is also impacting where your book is ranked? I’m operating under the assumption that book ranking is affected by the number of copies sold; is ‘normalized pages read’ going to replace or supplement the book ranking?
    As a KU reader, this is an important issue, because appropriately reimbursed authors write more books, giving me more to read. I know there is an economic formula that shows that at some point, book production goes DOWN with increasing reimbursement, but I think that’s not gonna happen in real life. Sure, if you made 10 million per book, you’ve got yer mortgage payment and utilities covered, but you probably bought a vacation home and a yacht, too. So, you write another book. At any rate, those royalties are way off the charts for what any of us will ever see. I did see something the other day that said the woman who wrote 50 Grades of Hay made $75,000,000. Of course she lives in Great Britain, so she probably realizes $1,000 and a priority in her National Health visits.
    When I was researching the changes in how reviews were tabulated , I discovered that the factors affecting a book’s ranking were :1) freshness of review; 2) reviewer’s helpfulness, determined by the number of ‘helpful’ votes given; 3) Whether the book was a Verified Purchase. The KU books are NOT verified purchase; they still count, but not as much as a VP review counts. Following your suggestion, I am now including a KU statement at the head of all my reviews. I also wailed loud and long, requesting my dear sweet authors to look at my damn reviews and if they were helpful, give ’em a vote.
    IT WORKED! From July 6 to July 14, I got 35 ‘helpful’ votes (134 total), which moved my ranking from 45, 344 to 31,642. I don’t know if that’s enough muscle, yet, to have much of an impact on your ratings, but it’s definitely a move in the right direction. I’m suspending the run-up to the Hugo Awards review for a bit, and am going back through the MGC & friends’ books. Ive got a review pending for Dave Freer and a couple for Sarah (and I did 5 for Dave Pascoe & 1 for Cedar last week).
    Finally, would you ALL please read the last blog post I did, dated 7/11, and titled “S & W .45, by Gina Marie Wylie plus a Leslie Fish plug. ” The link is http://habakkuk21.blogspot.com/2015/07/s-w-45-by-gina-marie-wylie-plus-leslie.html, and the reason I’m asking for it is because in addition to the book review, I rant about author & artist reimbursements being the pits, including an Isaaac Asimov reference. I also toss in the fact that two of the most talented women I know, one writer and the premier filk singer of our time, are both engaged in crushing physical labor, because they can’t afford to pay someone else to do it for them. NOTE: I am not under laboring under the delusion that everybody who reads this is rich. HOWEVER, you don’t have to wait to buy a book or a CD in order to support Sarah ‘Scraper’ Hoyt or Leslie ‘Dehydrated Gardener’ Fish. You can send them money directly. I’ve got the link for Leslie in my blog and you can go to According To Hoyt and hit the donate button. Frak, I should have been advocating this six months ago.
    I

    • Pat, I have no idea if they are counting KU/KOLL downloads per download or per page read when it comes to author ranking or book ranking. They have such an odd algorithm as is, that I can’t really see much of a difference — if any — right now. As for payouts overall, Amazon is still one of the best, and certainly pays more than if you went through a publisher. But writing is still one of those professions where you aren’t going to get rich quick unless you are very lucky. Because of that, most of us do have other jobs or commitments that cut into our writing time. I’m glad you mentioned the donate possibility because most authors, at least indies, do have a donate button on their homepage or blog — I know I do.

      As for the rest of it, I think you’ve reviewed all my books but, if not, please do. 😉 Yes, I’m mercenary but I also vote up reviews that are well done, whether they like what I wrote or not.

    • I can answer that first question. For me it’s really easy to tell when a sale happens, since they’re so rare. And I suddenly over the weekend had some of those page read things show up on my otherwise flatline report, and my Amazon ranking jumped to the usual point that it does with a sale. (Somewhere around the 100,000 mark). So yes, KU borrows do still count towards sales rank. I can’t tell if THAT is broken down by pages read, probably not. That may still be under the read 10% to count rule.

  2. amiegibbons15

    I don’t get what the big fuss is about. Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Amazon still have the same “pool” on money that gets divied up every month between their authors? The only thing that’s changed is how they decide who gets what, right? Per page sounds a hell of a lot more fair than you get $1.40 per downloaded and read 10%. But to read about it online, you’d think Amazon was slashing the total pool of money they have to split up.

  3. I just sell, not loan in any form, because I am not exclusive to Amazon. Perhaps I’d feel differently if I did – perhaps you will say I should mind my own business. However when I consider how well I am doing with Amazon – and how little opportunity there was for me before them. I have to conclude that any serious bitching about the payout is rather like a Somalian refugee snatched from the desert barefoot with a half jar of murky water – who a year later in civilization complains that he doesn’t think the shrimp on the buffet are fresh enough.

  4. I’m doing pretty well with the new system. As you would expect, more of my short works get picked up by KU readers than my novels BUT I also have more short works in KSelect. That may change in the future. Another 0 sales month at Kobo and B&N and I may pull my lists from there.

    I really like the page counts, and that you can track how far people go and then stop. As someone else put it (and it may have been you, or someone in the comments here or at PG’s place), if everyone gets to page 50 and quits, well, time to see what’s wrong (bad writing or a sudden clash of expectations – people were reading for hard sci fi and discovered the rest of the book is romance, or some other problem.)

  5. Jim Bender

    If the pay rate now is $0.006 per page, I did better at $2 per book, because I had 60 to 100 books borrowed per month, plus sales. Borrowing has necessarily caused sales to plummet.

  6. I’m one of the people tossing those numbers around. The actual estimated borrow numbers per Kindle page is 0.0057894. And yes, I don’t need to round it lower than that, because those are MY numbers based on what Amazon reported for last month.
    The pot this month and next month will be at least $11m. Amazon said that. It was $11m last month too. Amazon reported that last month people read 1.9b pages. That converts to 1,900m. That’s a LOT of pages read. So, assumption, it’s probably not going up very much. Big numbers have that quality, it’s hard to make a big number bigger if it represents a real thing. The number of pages could theoretically double, but if that happens Amazon will almost certainly add to the pot. Anyway, it’s a place to start.
    The question was, if the borrows last month had been paid in dollars per page, how much would a page have been worth? My little desk calculator doesn’t like big numbers, so I rounded off by dropping six zeroes from each number. That gave me $11, which I divided by 1,900. Do it yourself, you should get that value in the first paragraph.
    Amanda, I don’t have that killer novel you reported. Still, my seven lesser-known novels are doing all right. I’ve only been publishing now for 16 months, all independently published by me, have resulted in more than 50k pages read so far. And the month’s not half over. Plus the numbers seem to be rising. Probability, I’ll see well over 100,000 pages read by the end of July.
    It looks like the summer slump in sales is here, my foreign sales are in the cellar, and my best foreign market doesn’t have access to KU. So Australia is likely to make me $10 this month instead of $70.
    But instead of looking for a cheaper brand of cat food for my wife and me, those KU borrows might just result in an increase in monthly income.
    But wait, there’s MORE! Borrowed pages read now count in your Author’s Rank, and presumably they’re also affecting Amazon’s sales algorithm. I’ve averaged 5 US sales a day for the last few days (no promotions happening), so my author rank should be some where at the bottom looking up. Instead, I’m poking along in the 24,400 range. Not bestseller…but not drowning either. So I can expect some of those free ‘also bought…’ mentions.

    • Jim Bender

      For some more perspective on things from a non-novelist who has non-fiction books of varying lengths. I have 4 books purchased and 18 books borrowed this month, so far. I don’t have 500-page novels. I have books with data that are in the range of 300 to 500 pages, but they don’t get credit for that in the new scheme of things. The problem is that there is no real alternative for me except Amazon, and if they have killed the payoff, I don’t know what to do next.

      • I understand, Jim. But I’m one of those novelists with novels that range from 424 to 742 Kindle pages. I was really getting screwed by people who wrote short stories or broke novels up into short blocks, then put them all on KU. I’m told it happened, but I never read a book like that. Anything that short showed up when I looked at the data for the book and I avoided it.

      • If your books have 300-500 pages of data, and that’s not counted in the normalized page length, then it’s a reference book, right? I don’t think borrowing the book is going to get the job done. You write books about diet and health, right? That’s not something you check out and read for fun; you need a book like that forever. BUT!!!!!!~Consider this: A person might very well check out your book to see if they can follow the precepts, then buy the book when they discover they can. That makes a happy customer. If they don’t have a trial, but buy the book, and find out they are allergic to an ingredient you advocate (just for purposes of the example), then I’m guessing the book will be no good to them, and they will return it.

    • Jack, remember that ONE of the factors in how high your book gets is the helpfulness of the reviewer. I have one helpful vote for the review I did of Darwin’s World. Is it yours? If not, would you please read the review and see if it’s helpful, and then vote?

      • Sure, be glad to.
        I hadn’t, but I just did. Thanks very much for the review!
        I try to read all the reviews and even check ‘helpful’ on the ones with criticism. Why people don’t like my books is very helpful to me. Sooner or later I’ll learn how to write if people keep telling me what’s wrong! 😊

        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2015 17:01:11 +0000
        To: jlknapp505@msn.com

        • That’s one of the implicit agreements that I have with the authors that I review, that I will provide accurate feedback. If the story has a major problem, I won’t review the book, and I will send an email to the author to tell them why. I rarely do a three star review (although I did one yesterday), because that’s the point at which I’m talking to the author. This reviewer found one thing wrong:Lee’s moccasin was mentioned before Lee got into the picture, and it was such a one-off, I didn’t bother.

          • Authors, readers, and implied contracts:
            First, it’s 2:24am, waiting to leave for surgery. No coffee. So if I lack coherence…
            Anyway, readers invest time and sometimes money in my books. My part of the contract is to provide the best entertainment I can for the person investing time in my book. He/she is entering the world of my imagination, an intensely personal experience. It’s my task to make it enjoyable in some way.
            The reader is different; there’s no implied need to ever go beyond looking inside the cover. That said, I’m grateful when a reader takes time to let me know what they think, good or bad. That’s going beyond the minimum, something I also try to do.
            Of the hundreds of thousands of books I’ve read, I rarely tried to contact the author. Most of the reviews back then were author puffing some other author’s work, or the work of a paid reviewer. It’s not the same now. Readers can contact authors directly, and most like it when it happens. Not all can take the time to answer back.
            I try to.

  7. Very interesting information. I’ve been following this quietly it’s quite an interesting study and I am definitely looking forward to more information.

  8. I’m waiting to see what is going to happen also. I’m at about 50K pages read on my three books, so I want to see where it ends up at the end of the month. My author ranks on my three books are in the 78K range for the first, 48K for the second, and 24K for the third. I can’t complain about that at all!

    • I’ve already read and reviewed “Grey Man – Payback,” and I just this minute got “Changes.” “Vignettes” is not showing as a KU book, but somewhere recently, I seem to recall you saying you were placing all your work on KU. Any chance of ‘Vignettes” joining the others?

      • Pat, I wish… Can’t get it disconnected from B&N. Thanks for the reviews also! B&N refuses to delist it, even after I removed it as a project, since I put it up as both a Nook and HC, which they consider to ‘still be available’ via createspace.

        • Hardcover or other paper/ink books aren’t covered. You should be able to delist your digital book from B&N and put it on Select. Amazon only requires that digital books not be sold through another outlet.

  9. Max

    I’ve quite enjoyed the shift. I haven’t been working numbers, just watching the page counts, but since I write larger works, I feel I’m coming out ahead (even if I’m not … again, not that I know, I’m not counting numbers).

    I must agree that it would still be nice to know how many rentals there are in that same time period, strictly for information’s sake. But at the same time, I’m much preferring the new system.

    As for those that are crying foul and leaving, I have to agree with what others have said: they were the ones most likely trying to abuse the system.

    For me, it’s about two things: making a living and getting my work into as many hands as possible at a fair exchange rate. KU works pretty well for that.

    • Jim Bender

      Under the old deal for borrowed books, I thought that the deal was helpful. I am in a group of writers who have more, shorter Kindle books, all non-fiction. Unless I learn something that changes my mind, I am ready to switch books to all sales, no borrowing. I liked seeing the pages read information, but didn’t like finding out that the royalties would be 0.6 cents per page read. 500 pages pays only three dollars. I could deal with two dollars per book borrowed, although I can understand why authors with 500 or 600 page novels would not like that system. The new system is good for them. I have one substantial hardback book where I have a royalty agreement with the publisher based on sales since the book was published on December 8, 2014. My Amazon royalties will be perhaps one quarter of what last month’s deposit, under the new system. I guess that the next two payments will still be under the old system.

      • Max

        I must admit, I’m not as familiar with the non-fiction side of things (writing science-fiction and fantasy myself, which is squarely fiction), but I think when it comes to shorter works, that’s where the controversy over this move lies. See, under the old system, as you pointed out, things were better for those that released short books—and the shorter the work, the better the deal. Amazon was effectively giving short works a much higher content value—a book that was fifteen pages would be worth (for the sake of example) $1 per KU reader … but so would a massive work of 450 pages. What was happening was that those who had shorter works on KU were making far more money off of far smaller works (good or bad), and so the value of the books was out of balance.

        Comparatively, it was as if two individuals were being hired to paint a fence, only one of the fences was ten feet long and the other a hundred, and both were being paid the same amount of work. The one who paints the hundred-foot fence is still proud of their work … but it would be hard not to feel like the one painting the ten-foot fence is getting the sweeter deal.

        The old model here was similar (and also prone to often being taken advantage of. though that’s another topic). As pointed out, you liked the old model. But you also wrote shorter works, which meant you were being compensated far more for the “value” of your books than a lot of other authors. Subject matter aside, this was a problem for Amazon. They were actively encouraging people to not write large books or the works they wanted, but the works that would make money. Short books, even bad ones, would often make it past the 10% mark before a reader put them down (after all, it’s just a page or two), while authors with larger works just got shafted, good or bad.

        While the new system may pay less to a lot of people, I personally think it’s a lot more fair than the old one. It’s now worthwhile for authors to be writing larger, more complex stories once again, without dividing them up into 30 page segments and releasing them as full “books” in order to make money.

        • Jim Bender

          I agree that the new system is fairer to authors of 500 to 600 page novels.
          The change seems to have targeted them as a group.
          I am one of a group of authors writing books about systems for playing lottery games.
          I am not trying to game the system by writing short books. I write them to be as long as necessary.
          Testing The Pick 4 Mystery System, for example, is 167 normalized pages.
          Calendar-Based Play With Hot Number 135 has a normalized page count of 33 pages.
          I also write about Dutch naval history. Noorderkwartier Warships 26 February 1674 is a short book
          that describes a document from the National Archive in The Hague. The normalized page count is 7.
          Yes, they have fixed the problem of borrowed books for long novels, but they have now broken the system
          and have taken away the incentives for shorter works to be borrowed.
          I am ready to change everything over to not allow borrowing, although I don’t like the idea.
          If the system works the way that I understand, there is no incentive for authors of shorter works to allow borrowing.

          • Max

            Sure there is. It’s just that now it’s the same incentive as everyone else, not the extra-value incentive it was before. It’s not that you’re “losing” incentive, it’s that before you were given a far bigger share of the pie for loaning out short books, whether you were gaming the system or not. What’s happened here is that the system has been equalized, and as a result, those who write short books are finding their value cut down by a severe amount.

            I realize that you’re not a fan of it, and that your books are only as long as they need be, but before, whether or not you were conscious of it, your shorter works were being given a much higher “value” than others. Now the system is in balance, and you’re in the same boat as everyone else.

            You can pull your books from KU, sure, but the reasoning is that “Shorter books should be worth more than long books.”

            I don’t think the system is broken. Now it’s more balanced then ever. For once, authors on both sides are getting a far shake out of their their works. The outcry is the result of those authors who were on the high end of the spectrum suddenly finding that they’d been issued and inflated dollar value for their work for some time.

  10. Oh, POOT! I forgot to put the ‘PAID FOR THROUGH KU’ notice at the beginning of my review, so I had to go back and add it.
    Five stars, “The Genie Out Of The Vat,” by Dave Freer and Eric Flint. Title line :
    “I bite my thumb at thee, sirrah!” Nice line for a human, but far better for a bat.
    Go read it and vote if you found it helpful. I’m not gonna blog about this one, I don’t think.

  11. This time, I remembered to start off with the statement: “I paid to access this story through KU.”
    Dave Freer and Eric Flint, “The Witch’s Murder,” reviewed on Amazon, but not blogged.
    I DO so hope you don’t find the multiple posts about Amazon reviews tiresome. However, it is required. These are short stories on Kindle, and each one has to be reviewed individually. Remember, it’s for the children. And mom. And the authors.
    So, once again, read the review, and if you find it helpful, cast yer ballot.
    It’s for the cats.

  12. Max

    Reblogged this on Unusual Things and commented:
    More thoughts on a the Kindle Unlimited switch.

  13. If the .006 number is correct, YAY! Like you, I write full-length novels and not shorts. The one book I have in KU showing as 520 KENP. I was guessimating on the cautious side of a $1.40 per whole book. I like your numbers better. Either way, I’m still liking how KU is playing out with the pages read so far. If only for the fact that the graph is like watching people read my book in real time. “Hey, look, someone’s already read 250 pages today and I haven’t even had my coffee!” I’ll wait to see what the reality of payment is before making any further judgments.

  14. Good news. I assume they count only the first download. Does anyone know for sure. I keep downloading some kids books to read to the grandkids, but there is not enough room with only 19 borrows so I’ve been shuffling them in and out.

    What about multiple reads? They want some of them over and over.

    Just wondering.

  15. Reality Observer

    As an aspiring author (and someone who’s been doing business analysis for most of my life) – here is the data I would like to see from the program, for each title:

    Total number of pages read, payment per page (for each payment period).

    Total number of borrows – no matter how much is read.

    Some kind of breakdown of pages read vs. borrow – that could just be a simple rough binning of the numbers. I.e., a% read 0-10% of the book, b% read 10-20%, c% read 20-30%, etc.

    That kind of thing – and it is perfectly possible with the data that Amazon is collecting – would vastly improve the entire process. Both in allowing authors to optimize their income stream, and in seeing where they are typically “losing” people.

    Especially the last. Probably just about everyone would see at least a mild peak in the 0-10% read – that is going to happen with people who borrow it and then for some reason forget they did, or hit it by accident. A large peak there would tell you that your placement is fubar – your title, your blurb, your cover, your category, something is off such that the “wrong” (meaning not your market) people are discovering your title. (If there is no peak elsewhere, at least after a while – well, that tells you that perhaps some other profession needs to be explored…). Then of course wherever your next peak is – that is where you lost the reader, and need to investigate why before you release the next title (unless, of course, that peak is in the 90-100% bin – in which case you treat yourself to whatever little reward makes you happy).

    Amazon SHOULD be willing to do this – it is obviously a measure that would enhance the quality of their service to the real customers (who are the readers, not the authors).

  16. Gina Marie

    I have looked through all my sales report and I just don’t see where the total KENP count for a book is. It’s probably something simple, which is why I’ll never find it on my own. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    • Jim Bender

      From your bookshelf, click Promote and Advertise. Go to Earn royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund.
      Then slide down to the book title and the normalized page count.
      “Playing Five Number Patterns By Date”
      Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) v1.0: 29
      The Start Reading Location for your book has not been set yet.
      It is typically set within 72 hours from the time you publish your book, or enroll in KDP Select.
      When it is set your book’s KENPC v1.0 may change.

      • Gina Marie

        Thank you, Jim! I would never have thought to look for page count under promotion… 😀

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