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Earn by the turn - Amazon cutting book royalties, or are they?

The writing community has been up in arms this week after Amazon announced that from 1st July they will only be paying authors royalties on pages read rather than complete books. However, it would seem that people aren’t reading the full story and getting the wrong end of the stick.

Headlines such as “Amazon's new system will cut the royalties for self-published authors who fail to hold a reader's attention until the final page” and “Amazon enrages authors as it switches to 'pay-per-page' model” haven’t helped the matter as blogs and news outlets encourage clicks with baited titles.

The thing no one is talking about is that this only affects books offered through Kindle Unlimited, Amazon’s all you can eat eBook service, and doesn’t affect book sales at all.

With Kindle Unlimited, customers can read as many books as they like and keep them as long as they want for a monthly subscription fee. Any customer can subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. They don't need to be Amazon Prime members, they simply need to pay the subscription fee.

If you have a book enrolled in KDP Select, it will automatically be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. It will also remain enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is currently available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, and Japan.

Under the current rules Amazon pays out royalties when a reader gets through 10% of your book for the first time. They don’t have to read the rest, just the first 10% and only the first time, and it doesn’t matter how long your book is.

The problem with this system is that it encourages writers to split their work into smaller pieces or simply to produce low-quality short stories. Which is what some of them did. It may take 10% of a book to realise it's no good, but the writer has been paid so there’s no incentive to write well, only to write.

The new system is a lot fairer and encourages better quality work.

Amazon says:

Beginning July 1, 2015, we'll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners' Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read. We're making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you'll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.

This now means that the more people read of a story the more money you earn, which is a good thing for both writers and readers. Now, authors can concentrate on writing great stories that people will read all the way through rather than simply encouraging downloads.

Before everyone starts getting up in arms about authors who double-space lines and publish in 18pt, Amazon has already thought of that. They are introducing a standard to measure the amount of pages in a book, regardless of format or device, called the Kindle Edition Normalised Page Count or KENPC.

We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we'll use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.

So that’s it. Royalties offered for sales of books are unaffected, it’s only books offered through Kindle Unlimited as part of the KDP Select system that will benefit from the change.

Get out there and start writing! Getting your book on a reader’s device is now only part of the battle, getting them to finish it is the goal.

Let us know what you think about the new royalty system below, and be sure to sign up to our newsletter which includes tips and tricks, and special offers for our services, including book formatting and layout.

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