What authors actually think of Amazon’s Pay-Per-Page Model

Posted in: Understanding Publishing on July 21, 2015 2 Comments 💬

Amazon 'Pay-Per-Page' Model

This past month's buzz about Amazon’s announcement of a Pay-Per-Page model for Kindle Unlimited authors has received a myriad of responses. Much of it has consisted of information being blown completely out of proportion on various media pages. Vocal journalists have expressed their fear of Amazon promoting length over quality, or of Amazon total dominance of the publishing industry. It all made us think: “what do authors actually think about it?” So we went ahead and asked a few “indie” and hybrid authors — the ones affected most by the changes.

Amazon’s “Pay-per-page” responds to author feedback

It turns out that the main thing that the media have been forgetting to say is that Amazon’s change is actually prompted by authors requesting it. When Kindle Unlimited was launched, Amazon paid authors for a full “borrow” as soon as the reader read more than 10% of the book. This means that authors who were writing longer novels were being undercut, but the ones writing shorter books were sliding under the radar and collecting their checks every time a reader made it 10% of the way through a book. If you are reading a short novel, 10% may not be many pages at all.

This is what indie author Lindsay Buroker and hybrid author Bob Mayer point out:

“The changes seem to be more a response to author feedback, and perhaps reader feedback as well. I know many novelists who were frustrated that short stories and installments of serialized fiction made as much as their full-length novels. Were readers also frustrated with all of the short fiction and chopped up books?” — Lindsay Buroker, author of The Emperor's Edge

“Overall, authors who wrote full length novels were actually getting screwed. If I’d wanted to game the system, I should have focused on writing five 20,000 words stories (earning $6.60 if all are borrowed) rather than one 100,000 page book (earning only $1.32 if borrowed). Under Kindle Unlimited my income would have been five times what it is. Under the new system, my income is more, as long as those pages get read.” — Bob Mayer, author of the Area 51 series

Amazon pay-per-page Bob Mayer

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Anne R. Allen — who we previously interviewed about blogging for authors — gives some real-world insight on how pay-per-page is going to impact her income:

"The introduction of KU in 2014 cut my income by over 60%--for my books in Select and on all platforms. But I don't think the recent pay-per-page change will make a huge difference like that. I write normal-sized books (about 80K words) and people generally read them to the end." — Anne R. Allen, author of The Camilla Randall Mysteries

On the other hand, indie-success Mark Dawson upholds an optimistic perspective on the matter because Amazon knows that in order to succeed, they need to keep their authors (and readers) happy:

“I changed tack and wrote three 20k novellas earlier this year to put into Kindle Unlimited. I hoped it would bolster the All Star bonus I was getting in the UK and US. I’m potentially affected by the change - those books will pay me less - but I still think it is a good move. Amazon knows what they are doing.” — Mark Dawson, author of the John Milton series

This is business: authors need to adapt

Dawson’s attitude is one that many independent authors have embraced: Amazon is a business, and as such, is constantly changing its methods and models. In order to stay in the game, authors need to accept that, and adapt.

“As we know, Amazon uses their books business, in part, as a way to get readers (and customers) hooked on their great service - and books are a great gateway to the hundreds of thousands of other products available on their store. This leads to a higher average order value (AOV), more frequent purchasing, and more new customers coming through the door every day.” Bob Mayer

Amazon pay-per-page Elizabeth Craig

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“Instead of focusing on whether or not Amazon's changes will hurt or help authors, we should be thinking about how we can emulate their success in our own way. And that all starts with building up your own audience, so you stay in control. If there was ever a time to start investing in building your own platform outside of the major retailers, that time is most definitely now.” Nick Stephenson, author of the Leopold Blake series

So, why all this media hysteria around Amazon’s pay-per-page? Bestselling techno-thriller author Eliot Peper has an interesting theory:

Amazon pay-per-page Eliot Peper

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Questioning the subscription models

Yes, authors are far less preoccupied by this change than the media would have us believe. However, it has incited many of them to reflect on the future of subscription models, and whether Amazon is building a future for publishing that is sustainable in the long term for indie authors. Orna Ross, founder and president of the Alliance of Independent Authors, is one of them:

“The real question is how many readers are going to move to and stay with Kindle Unlimited and other subscription services. And then, whether the model can be made cost effective. We've seen with the Scribd story this week that it's very easy to get it wrong.” — Orna Ross, author of The Irish Trilogy

“The subscription models have proven a great way to go for large corporations, but as far as it looks right now the cut might be too small for indie authors to be interesting or worth it. It’s hard enough already for indie authors to generate income and making it more difficult isn’t something most of us are going to happily jump into.” — Bryan Hutchinson, author of Writer's Doubt: The #1 Enemy of Writing

“If we look at other subscription models - Netflix, Spotify, and others, paying per month for unlimited content only serves to devalue the content itself. For instance, if you pay £4.99 a month for access to hundreds of movies, then why should a consumer pay £4.99 for just one movie? It’s the same with books.” — Ben Galley, author of the Emmaneska series

Amazon pay-per-page Ben Galley

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Afterword

The bottom line is that technology is going to continue to grow and change the publishing world. Although there is a lot more change to come, the art and craft of writing a novel is timeless. Passion and talent for books won’t fade in the reconstruction: it will drive it. Again, Eliot Peper leaves us with a nice quote to end this piece:

“Authors who invest in real connections with their audience will redefine the business of storytelling. Start from first principles. Craft amazing stories. Delight readers. Build an audience. Stay curious. Keep an open mind. Stories shape who we are and how we see the world. They will always matter to us. Technology changes at astounding rates but our humanity remains terrifyingly, beautifully constant.” — Eliot Peper

Amazon pay-per-page E Peper

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What is your opinion on the Amazon pay-per-page change? Are subscription services a threat to authors in the long term? Leave us your thoughts in the comments below!

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Devlin Blake

I write 30k novels, and I have no intention of writing longer ones. I also write anthologies, but I don't sell the stories singularly. That being said, I still applaud this move. I read several books on Kindle unlimited that were too short to be a story. It was more like a chapter. And they had 13 more such 'books.' to continue the story. What story? A story has a beginning, middle and end. And something interesting happens in the middle. Not so with these. These were nothing but serials pretending not to be so. There's nothing wrong with a… Read more »

Ricardo Fayet

I totally agree with you, Devlin. I've seen many authors "serialize" some of their books just for KU, by breaking them into 10+ chapters… I guess Amazon saw that and corrected the model accordingly.
And you're right, authors — the content creators — have more power than it may seem. If KU turns out to be a bad deal for most of them, they'll just pull their book out of it, leaving Amazon no other choice but to change it/make it more generous.

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