Want to celebrate? Here’s a great way. Share a little more of Amazon’s wealth with your Kindle Unlimited writers.
Over at the Foner Books, Morris tells us that “the payment per page read for October was $0.0048 or 0.48 cents per page” for Kindle Direct Publishing writers signed up for Kindle Unlimited. “When the new pay-per-page model launched in July, that payment was $0.0058, or 0.58 cents per page. So in four months, the royalty has dropped by a tenth of a cent per page, which is getting close to twenty percent.”
That’s for the U.S., and the per-page payments in the the UK, Canada, India and Germany are about the same although geo-adjustments are on the way.
What does 0.48 cents per page mean for a 400-page book read all the way? $1.92. Is that good or bad? For comparison’s sake, let’s consider that at an optimal royalty rate of 70 percent for a Kindle Direct-published e-book going for $4, the author would receive $2.80 and $1.40 at a 35 percent rate no matter how many pages were read of this owned book. And that’s the catch—“no matter how many”! Lots of books, nonfiction in particular, are not read all the way. So more realistically, the $1.92 for the 400-page book under Kindle Unlimited might actually end up as $1.50 and in many cases much less per average book for the writer, particularly anyone foolish enough to try literary fiction (sarcasm alert). Even considering that we’re talking about rental vs. buying, the writer should be getting more from the former than he or she does now.
Keep in mind, Jeff, that your Kindle Unlimited members are paying $9.99 a month. Let’s guess that the average member reads 6 books a month, substantially more than the five per year which the average American adult takes in. That’s $1.67 in revenue per book for you within that period, and it in fact might be much more if I’ve overestimated the average number of books the members read.
Simply put, I suspect that you can afford to increase author payments somewhat while still retaining sustainability.
No, I don’t think Amazon should pay a rented book’s entire list price—Kindle Unlimited needs to avoid an Oyster and watch the bottom line—but really, Jeff you can do better even if you feel you cannot get fully back to July’s levels. Why not consider adjusting the kitty ($12.4 million as of October) upward at a somewhat faster rate than you have been doing?
In a related vein, Jeff might check out Amazon Tweaks Its Kindle Unlimited System: It Still Sucks for KDP Select Authors, by John Scalzi, who zeros in on on the kitty-based business model and the fact this this is a zero-sum game pitting writer against writer. Bottom line: “By page, or by percentage, KDP Select authors on Kindle Unlimited still can’t make more than Amazon says they can. That sucks, and that’s the long and short of it.” $12.4 million from October is chickenfeed in the grand scheme of things. Accurately or not—keep in mind the source here—word is that Hillary Clinton’s biography may have gotten her an advance of $14 million from Simon & Schuster. What’s more, Amazon’s revenue was $100.59 billion for the 12 months ended September 30, 2015.
I know Jeff would say, “I’m keeping earning down to grow value for investors in the long run.” Long term, regardless of the need for sustainability for Kindle Unlimited, it also would be wonderful to see him invest more in the careers of Kindle Unlimited writers, especially mid-list ones (an issue about which I of course would feel the same in regard to large publishers). Who knows? Maybe better-paid writers would produce better books and add to that sustainability.
Jeff, none other than your own wife is a novelist. I wonder how she would feel about the current Kindle Unlimited payments.
Detail: Whatever the formula, Amazon is determining how many words are on a typical page.