First, I know those of you who follow here aren’t interested in how things work from the publishing side—except as it affects you as a reader. Recent changes in Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited program do affect readers, though, if only in an indirect way.
You see, the original KU program paid an author the same for a 10-page short story as for a 400-page novel. And the payment was high—very high—for the short story and low—very low—for the full length novel. Needless to say the system encouraged authors to put short stories into the program and discouraged them from putting in novels.
Some authors turned to writing shorts specifically to take advantage of the program. Unfortunately some scammed the program, scraping bits of articles here and there on the web and putting them up as shorts, and some broke novels into segments, called them serials, and put them up in parts.
Enter KU2. Amazon is now going to pay on borrows based on pages read. Yes, they have the technology to tell how much of a borrowed KU book is read. No one yet knows how much the per-page-read payment will be, but no matter how much it is, obviously a short story will pay a lot less than a novel. Amid howls of unhappiness and what one KBoards’ member, to my delight, called “speculation outrage,” it’s pretty clear the intention is to encourage novel writers to put their work into the program. A lot of indies pulled their novels out last year when they realized how badly a borrow paid compared to a sale.
With Rachel’s Eyes, of course, I was one of those who made out on a short story. The payment to me on a borrow was close to 4 times what I made on a sale. Now, if the KBoards’ math wizards are close to correct about the per-page-read payment, the story will earn half as much on a borrow as on a sale.
For Without Words, which has been in KU since its inception, I had every intention of leaving it in the program in spite of the low payment for borrows because I had a strong impression that most readers who borrowed it were different from those who usually buy my books. One of the things I like about KU as a subscriber myself is the ability to try new authors without ever getting stung when a book with a good sample turns to something I don’t want to finish about 2 pages after I bought it.
Sing My Name, which I put in KU to see how one of the older books would do, was working out very differently. Sing obviously was losing sales to borrows because the total of sales and borrows for its first month was about what I would have expected from sales alone before.
So before KU2 was announced, my plan was to yank Sing out of KU as soon as the required 90-day commitment ended and not put any of the other older books in the program. If my impression of where Without Words’ borrows were coming from ever changed, I planned to yank it too.
KU2 changes everything. A book has to be read 100% to pay maximum borrow, the author only gets paid the first time a page is read, and I’ve seen figures that say most books only average maybe 60% pages read overall. Don’t believe such a low average? Consider what someone like me who will abandon a book anywhere from the first page to the next-to-last page does to the average.
Even so, with the prices on my books, unless those KBoards’ math wizards are very wrong in their estimates of what the per-page-read payment on borrows will be, there will be little reason to distinguish between payment for a borrow or a sale on my novels.
So all this is a long-winded way to say I’ve already put Eyes of Silver, Eyes of Gold into KU, and as soon as I’m sure they’re down from other vendors’ sites (KU requires exclusivity with Amazon), I’m putting all my other books in the program. If the per-page-read payout rate is lower than speculated and changes the economics, I’ll be backpedaling as fast as I can, but I don’t think the risk is high. No one will know for sure until August 15th.
To those who avoid Amazon and only read on Nook or Kobo, I’m really sorry, but as I’ve said before, my sales through those venues are very low. Without Words earned more in KU in its first two months than all the other books did through non-Amazon vendors in all of 2014. I hope those who like my stories and don’t have a Kindle like them enough to put a Kindle app on their phone or tablet.
And while I’m discussing changes…. In the past I’ve vowed not to publish anything shorter than a novel again until I had enough of them accumulated for a collection. A lot of that was because of all the “too short” reviews for Rachel’s Eyes. As my cousin Peter pointed out, though, I need to change that attitude. “Too short” is a lot better in a review than “too long.”
Some of the problem, however, is also price. If the novel Eyes is 116,000 words and is $3.99, what kind of price is reasonable for a 6,000-word short story like Rachel’s Eyes? Amazon won’t let me set a price lower than $.99. The way people get those free books up there involves more manipulation than I’m willing to go through, and that’s why RE was free on my website until I put it in KU and couldn’t do that any more because of the exclusivity requirement. What kind of price is reasonable for a novella like Luke’s Eyes at 32,000 words? Amazon wants things priced between $2.99 and $9.99 and provides a considerable financial incentive to do that.
KU solves that dilemma for me. I’m going to go ahead and publish Luke’s Eyes (probably sometime next month) and put it in KU. Those who would rather own it can buy, and those who would rather borrow it through KU as part of their $10 a month subscription can do that. And those of you who received it when you joined my mailing list and found it disappeared when deleted from your Kindle because Amazon doesn’t save to the Cloud anything not purchased from them won’t have to send me sad emails. 🙂