Kindle Unlimited New Contracts Force Blood, Sweat and Tears From Authors

Kindle Unlimited

Kindle Unlimited’s new contracts force blood, sweat and tears from authors. Authors have always written first and foremost to share their creativity, knowledge and stories. Although famous and successful authors exist, like famous actors, they are few and far between. In the traditional industry of publishing, authors must pitch their book concept to tens maybe even hundreds of editors who they hope, will take enough interest in their book to have the publishing house pay them an advance and royalties for their creative work.

The grueling process of traditional book publishing has not changed or evolved, but new opportunities for publishing have become available to authors. The first of these is self-publishing on a variety of platforms including When authors publish their work on Amazon, they do so free of any upfront costs  and can have their book ordered and printed, while they receive 80% of royalties and authors can publish ebooks and receive up to 70% of revenues. Additionally, authors have the option to audio record their works and distribute their audiobook recordings through additional affiliates of and receive “high royalties” for these.

Amazon as a publishing platform and as a developer of the Kindle, a hardware device for reading ebooks also owns Kindle Unlimited, a distribution channel which is a subscription based library for which subscribers pay a monthly fee for access to their books. In the past, authors were paid royalties based on how many times their e-books were checked out. Amazon has just released news of a change in the payment system to the detriment of the authors.

Starting July 1, authors will be paid per page read of their title rather than by how many times their title is acquired. Although it may seem similar at first, the goal of this change is to recompense authors with more voluminous titles as well as those that are most popular. This change affects authors whose books are not entirely read, or those who write reference books such as cookbooks, informational books, how-to books that may be used as resources but only for one particular recipe, date or lesson.

The data from the company explains that authors that are published through the Kindle Direct Publishing system which includes Kindle Unlimited, stand to make $60 million in the first half of 2015 alone. This business is booming and this recent policy change has upset many authors who claim that the new contract from Kindle Unlimited is yet another way to force blood, sweat and tears from authors who are barely making significant profits, let alone a luxurious living from publishing on these platforms.

A sample scenario provided by Kindle Direct Publishing, states that if the global fund from which authors are paid is $10 million, then authors whose 100-page book is read 100 times will make $1,000 – a business proposition that continues to show that authors write for the love of writing and not with the end goal of breaking the bank.

The challenge with this change is that people often download books on an impulse. Similar to how bookworms buy books at a bookstore, e-book readers may be pursuing through the Kindle Unlimited platform and downloading books to read in the future, perhaps on a vacation or a business trip. However, many a times, life gets in the way and people’s plans change and they are unable to get to the book. Authors whose books have high ratings and are recommended and previously benefited from word of mouth recommendations for downloads, now see their revenues affected by the customer loyalty of getting through every page of the authors’ book. Kindle Unlimited’s new contracts now force more blood, sweat and tears from authors to not just captivate the audience but force them to read their entire book in order for them to be paid a pittance in the end.

By Olivia Uribe-Mutal
Edited by Ankur Sinha
Sources: – Take Control with Self Publishing
Adweek – Kindle Unlimited Royalty Changes Are Unfavorable for Authors
Amazon – Announcement: KDP Select Global Fund Update

Image Courtesy of Kodomut’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

4 Responses to "Kindle Unlimited New Contracts Force Blood, Sweat and Tears From Authors"

  1. Pingback: Kindle Unlimited New Contracts Force Blood, Sweat and Tears From Authors | Media Ads-Nbsp

  2. davidpforsyth   June 19, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    I should also point out a few big flaws in this article. The author uses an arbitrary example from Amazon and doesn’t even seem to realize how outlandish it is. She wrote:

    “A sample scenario provided by Kindle Direct Publishing, states that if the global fund from which authors are paid is $10 million, then authors whose 100-page book is read 100 times will make $1,000 – a business proposition that continues to show that authors write for the love of writing and not with the end goal of breaking the bank.

    That is a DREAM scenario, since I get dozens of borrows of novel length (200+ page) books per day and would be making well over $30,000 per month on borrows alone at that rate. A more likely scenario, instead of an example using 10 cents a page, is more like ONE PENNY a page (And I agree that KDP should have used a more realistic example, or may have accidentally added or dropped a zero somewhere). In the case of a penny per page, a 35 page novelette would earn the same on a borrow as a sale: $0.35 (not $3.50 as shown in the Amazon example quoted). And a 350 page novel that sells for $4.99 would earn $3.50 on either a purchase or borrow (IF the subscriber reads the whole book).

    The argument at the end of the article that people grab KU books for later, or never read them, is also specious. Already you need to read 10% of a KU borrow to trigger payment to the author. And you can only borrow ten books at a time. You must either read them, return them, or stop borrowing more until you do one of the above.

    As an author who does make a living from Amazon Kindle sales, this is an issue that is near and dear to me. I actually rely on the “pittance” I earn on Amazon for my livelihood. The old KU system was strangling me and forced me to pull my longer books out of the KDP Select system. The new terms look far more promising for novelists who write quality books. I’m pretty sure that is what the majority of readers are looking for.

    I can see I’m going to have to publish my own article on this somewhere. 🙂 Oh well, back to writing… Cheers. Glad to at least see some interest in the topic.

  3. davidpforsyth   June 19, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    As an Amazon author of tiles ranging in length from 44 to 788 pages, I see this change as highly encouraging and necessary. Until now Amazon has paid authors the same flat rate for the borrow of a 10 page pamphlet as an 800 page trilogy. The current payout per borrow is close to $1.40. That means that a 14 page short story is earning the author 10 cents per page while one of my 280 page novels earns half a penny per page (20X less by volume). That is simply unfair and has encouraged a flood of short and often poor quality releases aimed at the Kindle Unlimited market.

    You see, most of the short story fiction and pamphlets earning $1.40 per borrow today have a list price of $0.99. They only earn the author $0.35 per sale, but rake in $1.40 on a borrow (400% what is earned on a sale). Good novels on the other hand sell for $2.99 to $9.99 with 70% royalty, so getting $1.40 for a borrow is considerably less than making a sale. To make matters worse, the current UK borrow payment is not triggered until 10% of the book is read. This mean that payment on that 14 page short is triggered as soon as you turn to page 2, while someone has to read dozens of pages of a novel to trigger the same payment.

    The current system is also being gamed. Just as groups of authors are known to trade reviews (forcing Amazon to limit the number of reviews authors can post), there are now groups that trade Kindle Unlimited borrows. It’s very easy to do on short works that only require turning a page or two in order to trigger payment.

    I and other novelists have been lobbying for reform like this for a year now. I see this as a very positive change, especially paying per page read, and here is why:

    Kindle Unlimited is an “all you can read” program with a fixed monthly subscription. In the USA it is $9.99. An avid reader can read dozens of short stories in period of time it takes to read a full-length novel. So paying the same for borrows of short stories as novels can quickly exhaust turn the math on the subscription fee upside down. This is evident by the fact that Amazon has been forced to add millions of dollars to the “Global KU/KOLL pool” each month ($7.8 million in May alone). This is because of all the short titles being borrowed and Amazon knows that authors like me will pull our titles if we aren’t paid SOMETHING for borrows of our books.

    Paying by page read also rewards quality as much as quantity. There are many self-published (and even traditionally published) books that are either poorly written/edited, or simply not appealing to a particular customer. Just because a subscriber borrows a long novel doesn’t entitle the author to a big payout. They have to actually read it. Under the new system, KU payouts will be determined by the amount of time an author keeps a customer entertained, as measured by the number of pages read. This might be the ONLY fair way to parcel out shares of each subscriber’s flat-rate consumption.


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