I spent most of June on vacation in the mountains of North Carolina. Little to no cell phone coverage. No internet. If we went down the mountain and into town all of our phones would light up like Christmas trees after a certain turn in the road. “You have 345 unread emails.” Oh, joy. The nearest Starbucks was fifteen miles away. I wrote very little and was surprisingly quite happy. I instead read three novels, worked on a giant puzzle with the kids, slept in, ignored my razor, and did all of the activities one can do when surrounded by some of the best nature we have here in the USA.
Then I came home and plugged back in. I discovered a few things. If I were gay I could now get married. Cool! My health insurance was not being yanked out from under me. Also cool. Donald Trump had joined the clown car of republican candidates for president. Okay? No chance in hell, but fun to watch. The women’s soccer team won the world cup for the first time. Very cool.
Oh, yeah. One other thing. The self publishing world went INSANE with the release of Kindle Unlimited Version TWO.
INSANE. YES, AS IN ALL CAPS INSANE.
I read a few threads on Kboards. I read Hugh Howey‘s piece on the subject. I read the article and comments on The Passive Voice. I read Amazons “announcement”, if you can even call it that, a few times. I would describe it as an exercise in of the word “vague”. When I was done reading I thought about it for about five minutes and came to this conclusion:
Nobody knows anything.
Like KUv1 there are no solid numbers with which to make even a slightly informed decision. If anything we are even more in the dark. Yet I see plenty of speculation about…..well, everything.
Let’s review for a moment.
Amazon claims to have a pot of gold from which they will pay every KU author a share. Before this was done by title borrowed, now it will be determined by page count read. The pot is stated at 11 million dollars, but it has never stayed at the declared number for any month since its inception. So the 11 million number is really an unknown.
With KUv1 authors were paid by title and Amazon informed us of how many titles were borrowed via the dashboard. Now we are paid by pages read, but the number of books borrowed in relation to that number is now absent. So this number is really an unknown quantity as well. Without the number of books borrowed to compare to the number of pages read you have no idea what is happening. Even if you had them you would still be in the dark as you would not know the number of pages to apply to each book borrowed. Did people borrow ten books and read ten pages of each or did they borrow one book and read all 100 pages? It’s another piece of information Amazon evidently does not wish us to have.
Amazon has implemented what they are calling a “normalized page count”. How they determine this is not shared either. I imagine it has to do with keystrokes but what do I know. A James Patterson page is 177 words. A page for me is around 250 words. If you’re James Michener a page is over 400 words.
Either way, Amazon is not telling. Therefore you have no idea either. If you start thinking that you do remember that Amazon can change it at any time.
The payout per page is a hot debate. I’ve seen estimates ranging from 1 cent per page to as low as .0057 per page. It’s all a guess. Only Amazon knows and even then it’s a wait and see.
To top all of this off Amazon still demands that you be exclusive to them and give up all other platforms if you wish to participate in KUv2.
The short story writers, erotica writers, and serial writers are fuming as they believe this cuts their pay quite a bit. I imagine it will, but most writers will agree that KUv1 was grossly overpaying them. I have no dog in that hunt so I’ll take a pass.
It’ll take three months before anyone has barely enough numbers to crunch let alone predict the future. So I won’t be making any predictions myself.
That’s not true. I can guess as well as the next guy and I’m not exactly shy about it either. Here goes:
My prediction is that in the end not much will change. If you look at KU and view it as a discovery tool first and a revenue generator second it may have its uses. From a purely business point-of-view though?
You’re being paid per page yet you don’t know what the words per page calculation is.
Even if you knew the words per page calculation you still don’t know the pay rate per page.
You’re being paid a share of a pot whose sum is constantly changing.
The number of books enrolled in the program is also constantly changing.
You’re told how many pages are being read but not how many books those pages were read from.
That’s five unknown metrics. Four of which can be changed by Amazon to fit whatever desired outcome they wish. This is why I think things will change very little. With KUv1 this was true and with KUv2 it will still be true. The short answer is that Amazon will pay whatever Amazon wish’s to pay. All this talk about the amount in the pot and the page-count formula and the new dashboard is futile. It’s a smoke screen. A distraction. It’s a puzzle for the indie author to scratch their head over until Amazon has enough data to figure out the sweet spot.
What sweet spot you ask?
The sweet spot = The payout needed to keep authors in the system and away from the other platforms.
Which was and still is the end goal of KU from the beginning. Under KUv1 it was $1.30ish per title. What will it be under KUv2? Who knows? Nobody does right now, not even Amazon. We’ll find out in about eight to ten months is my prediction.
Until then its anybody’s guess, and I’m sure there will be plenty of them.
It might seem like I’m knocking the program and maybe I am a little. No businessman (selling anything else) in his right mind would enter into a deal like I just described, it’s just too one-sided and that’s being kind. But in the quest for discovery indie authors will do some crazy things. On the Amazon side it’s a brilliant business move. I hope whoever came up with it got a corner office, a hefty raise, and drinks with Bezos himself as they definitely deserve it. I may even throw something into KU too, just to see what happens.
But then I’ve always been a bit of an explorer.
So, don’t expect me to join a lot of KUv2 apocalyptic conversations. I think this is a good time to focus on the next book instead.
That’s what I’m going to do.