Should Amazon Self-Publishers Write Longer Books?

By on September 1, 2015

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Authors who use Amazon’s KDP Select program, which includes the Kindle Lending Library and Kindle Unlimited, will be compensated in a new way as of July 1, 2015.

Previously, ebook authors earned money each time a customer downloaded their book through Lending Library or Unlimited. KDP Select authors will now be paid based on how many pages readers view, instead of the previous system that paid based on “total qualified borrows.”

What do these new changes mean for you?

If you publish a 200-page book that’s read in its entirety 100 times during a given month, you will earn twice as much (from the KDP Select Global Fund) as an author whose 100-page book was read in its entirety 100 times during the same month. Only first read-throughs count; you don’t earn extra when people re-read your book.

Of course, if your 200-page book was read halfway through 100 times, you would earn the same as the 100-page author whose book was read in its entirety 100 times that month.

The new Amazon KDP Select system

Amazon says the new system is a result of feedback it received from authors who requested changes to the old “pay per download” payment method, pointing out “great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read.” It’s similar to Spotify’s “pay per track” model, which the music streaming service uses to pay artists.

What does this mean for authors?

Some writers believe this new system will reduce the advantage that short book authors used to enjoy. Many authors use a strategy of publishing lots of short books, then rely on Amazon’s recommendation engine to suggest new titles to readers who have purchased their other work. But the new system also incentivizes writers to make sure their content is something people will read through to the end.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, writes on his blog that he believes the platform will provide all authors with more equal footing, saying, “What Amazon has really done is remove the advantage that some short books used to have.”

With the old system, many authors worked to create a number of different titles in their series in order to increase their profit, as they were paid for every sale. The pay-per-download system, regardless of book length, led to some authors breaking down what could have easily been one regular-length novel into a series of short stories (which would each count as an individual download) to increase their profit. The new system will let these authors simply release one book (with the same number of pages as the combined series) and make the same profit.

How does Amazon count pages?

So what counts as a page under this new system?

The company has instituted a standard page-counting measure to ensure that authors don’t game the system by placing five words on each page or using 20-point font. This new scale is called the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count(KENPC) and standardizes each book for page count purposes by using a common font, line spacing, line height, etc.

Readers can still customize their reading experience and adjust font size and other factors through their devices, but this measure helps standardize the page count for fairness. Images, illustrations, photographs and graphs will also count towards the total page count, though Amazon has not disclosed how many words each image will count for.

If you’re an Amazon author, you can find Amazon’s KENPC calculation for your ebooks by looking at your Bookshelf, then clicking “Promote and Advertise.”

But don’t count on people rapidly flipping through your book to boost your earnings. “Readers will also have to linger on a page long enough to read it before it’ll count for a royalty check,” The Verge warns.

And what about super-slow readers? Those won’t hurt your total sales. If someone reads your book over several months, you’ll be paid for the pages they read each month.

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How do authors feel about these changes

A.J. Cosmo is one author who will likely be affected by this change. He writes short children’s books, including “My Babysitter is a Monster” and “The Monster That Ate Our Keys.” He predicts the overall quality and artistry of books will decline as authors focus on sales and figure out how to earn the most from the system.

“The ebook market is flooded, dominated by search keywords and highly competitive,” Cosmos says. “Gone are the days of writing from the heart. Now you research what to write and do A/B split test the results until you get a salable product. This is wonderful for making money but something artistic dies in the process.”

While some authors fear declining profits and may pull their short books out of the running, that could leave a larger share of the KDP Select Global Fund for authors who stick around.

Regardless, this change will incentivize authors to create content that people want to read cover to cover — and that’s always a good move as far as readers are concerned.'

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This post by Kristen Pope was published with the title Into Kindle Publishing? Under New Payment Rules, You Should Write Longer Books at

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