Now that it’s July, the new chapter of Kindle Unlimited has begun. No longer paying per book (of which at least 10% was read), it’s now paying per page. According to one estimate, a bit over half a cent per page, though it remains to be seen how close to accurate this guess is.

Is this good? If you listen to Hugh Howey, it is. Howey holds that the overall effect of the change is really not as bad as people think. It might have been that KU under the old system was weighted in favor of short story writers and now the playing field is level—but Howey believes that even a level playing field is an advantage for short story writers.

Short story writers do the same amount of work, word for word, as someone who writes a novel. One person might write a 60,000-word novel; someone else might write ten 6,000-word stories. But the person who wrote the stories will have ten titles out there for people to download, potentially finish, get rated, and have recommended to other people. People who think that all this means they need to pad their novels so people will have more pages to read are taking exactly the wrong message away from this, says Howey. They don’t need to make their books longer, they need to make them more compelling.

Meanwhile, erotica writer Selena Kitt has the same level of certainty that these changes are an unmitigated disaster for many story writers. Kitt writes:

I predict that mystery, thriller/suspense and horror writers will make a killing. People read those books to the end to find what happens! I predict short chapters with “cliffhanger” endings. I know people have been complaining about serials and cliffhangers – but I think we’ll see more of them. Because cliffhangers! I predict the sweet spot will be 25-35K. 50K at most. I predict pages of short, snappy, untagged dialogue! Winking smile Oh the places authors will go…

Among other things, Amazon will no longer tell the total number of borrows a book gets, but only tell how many pages in it are read—and they claim not to have any information on average number of pages per read available. Only the pages that are actually read will count—read the first page and then skip to the end of the book, and you only read two pages.

Kitt is asking for erotica authors to “pull-out on KU” and remove their erotica stories from the service. Kitt wants Amazon to pledge to make both number of pages read and number of borrows available, and also to pledge to tell authors now exactly what they will be earning per page instead of asking them to sign up now and promising to tell them later.

Between this and the recent Scribd culling of erotica titles, this appears to be a confusing time for subscription service erotica fans and writers alike. This is probably to be expected, given that they’re the most active users of such services. It’s probably going to be a while until we see exactly how things are going to shake out for writers and readers alike.

Update: In another post I somehow missed in the process of writing this one, Hugh Howey expresses sheer befuddlement at the amazing amount of gun-jumping that’s going on on the very first day of the new Kindle rates even being available.

The change to KU 2.0 has me revisiting whether or not to move my novels back into KDP Select. But you know what? I might take an entire day to make that decision. Hell, I might take a week. Or even a month! And I might try to take a deep breath somewhere in there, and think about this program for what it is, and not what it used to be, or what I wish it were, or equate it with retail, or pine for a program that can be gamed and provides a worse experience for readers.

Words of wisdom there…


  1. Kitt’s one-day-after-KU2 Kermit flail seems more than a bit deluded to me. So cliffhangers are what’s kept readers reading books all this time? It’s a day in and she’s demanding Amazon do things her way or…what? It’s too damn hot to try to make sense out of it, but I suspect it wouldn’t read any better in December.

  2. In Amazon’s head, they’ve got a pool of money that they want to spend for the month. The dollar amount per page is going to be based on the number of pages read.

    Assuming Amazon is going to stick to that dollar amount, if authors want to know what they’ll make per page IN ADVANCE, isn’t Amazon going to make that specified dollar amount (per page) significantly smaller than what they could make (if the a just got the pool divided up) so that Amazon doesn’t exceed the pool?

    Sure once in a while Amazon might lose out on the estimate, but most times they’re going to come out ahead (this assumes the same books stay in both scenarios, which we know it won’t, but the math has to bed based on some thing) and authors are generally going to come out behind. And the more people who pull out, the more money for the people who stay in, right?

    The other way I see it, is that the customers (the readers) in Kindle Unlimited aren’t going to be buying many unknown authors outside of Kindle Unlimited. Why? Because they have unlimited books to read that they’re already paying for, they’re looking through the books they already have “free” access to. Unless they get a recommendation, they aren’t going to read that book.

    I’m not someone to buy a book unless I have a pretty good idea that I’m going to like it. Unless I read a really good review from someone I trust: I’m going to borrow it from someone, get it from the library, read the first 10% for free (Amazon free sample) all of which cost me nothing and make the author nothing (actually, I’m not sure if author’s get nothing for the free samples).

    Back to where I was going, if they weren’t going to buy the book anyways, isn’t anything extra money you get from KU going to get anyways? Doesn’t this help with the rankings in Amazon “sales”? Isn’t making a little better than giving free copies of your book from Amazon? (or the authors web site which counts for no rankings)? They might like the author and come buy other books at the regular price.

    I would want good data from Amazon though. How many loans and pages read at the very minimum. Personally I’d like “real data”, how many “borrows”, date/time of start, how many pages read and date/time of last read (and if they’ve switched to another book yet). If you could find consistencies as to when people gave up on your book, wouldn’t that be helpful?

    Many of the concerns seem to be that people are going to read only a few pages (that’s where the data is more helpful), if they read the whole book then the data isn’t so useful (as long as you know they read the whole book).

  3. I just got what I think is my first KU borrow today, and as it’s the only book I have listed in KU, and it is showing 198 ‘Kindle Edition Normalized Pages Read’ on my dashboard, I am assuming that’s one borrow, and they read the whole thing. On the other hand, it could be two borrows who each read only half…

  4. It seems a little weird to me. I like longer stories myself, and tend to read writers like Eric Flint, David Weber, Stephen King, … all people who would have been discriminated against by the old payout system. I’ve never tried KU because I like novels more than short stories, and many novel writers pulled out of KU because the old setup was biased in favor of short works.

    If these “authors” claim that they can’t make money unless a 10 page short pays out the same as a 400 page novel, they need to give up.

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