Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Kindle Unlimited Thoughts

Like everyone else in KDP Select, I've been paying attention to my Kindle Unlimited page reads.

When the new accounting began at the beginning of this month, I had 33,000 daily page reads. I had no idea if this was good, or bad. It was what it was.

But I was intrigued to see my Amazon Author Rank go up. My best rank was #1, but for the past two years I've been hovering around #1000. On June 30 I was #854.

Now I hover around #400. I got to #267 last week, and now I'm at #441.

Since I haven't released any new solo novels in two years (I have three coming out by fall, two Jack Daniels thrillers and a Jack Kilborn horror), the only explanation I have for this jump up was the new KU rules.

By the end of the first week, my daily reads were up to 60,000. By the end of this month, they're at 85,000.

Now, this all could mean absolutely nothing. Maybe my page reads have remained static, and Amazon's new accounting system is simply finding its groove.

Maybe people are finishing my books, and the more they read the more they want to read. Or maybe a lot of people are starting them and not finishing them. The likeliest answer is some readers finish, some don't. Page reads, by themselves, don't give us enough information.

Amazon has the tech to pinpoint how much a reader has read of your work, and where they stopped reading. I've pleaded with Amazon to allow authors access to this information. It would be invaluable. As writers, we've never been privy to how quickly readers read our work, if they finish it, or when they choose to put the book down. I'd love to look at trends. Do I have any books where readers tend to quit before finishing? Where do they quit? I know I could use this information to fix books, make them more reader-friendly, and get a higher page read.

Our books are on the verge of being crowdsourced. To wit:

Crowdsourcing, a modern business term coined in 2005, is defined by Merriam-Webster as the process of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.

Now, I became a writer via the legacy publishing industry. I collected 500 rejections before I sold a word. For roughly a decade I worked and worked and worked to improve my craft, and when I finally got a pub deal I worked even harder. My publishers gave me feedback. I got better. I attended conferences, and made friends with peers, and we traded WIPs. I got better. By the time this Kindle thing happened, I had a pretty good idea of how to tell an engaging story.

But I never had the opportunity crowdsourcing presents.

While I've worked with professional editors and writers, the only true reader feedback I got was from friends and family, and they're biased. Reviews are feedback after publication, but rarely are they specific enough to help authors (unless the author has really screwed up.)

But if I knew 1000 readers stopped on page 156 of one of my books, and never returned to it, that information would be worth a lot to me.

One of the big advantages to ebooks, which doesn't get mentioned often, is their fluidity. A paper book pubbed by the Big 5 is static. Once it's released, that is pretty much the version that exists forever. But ebooks have the ability to update. Change. Improve. Evolve.

We're on the cusp of an unprecedented level of feedback. These are exciting times. What other medium can tailor its IP to its audience to this degree? Readers don't like it? Fix it!

Since 2009, I've been open about sharing data. I think it's good for the writing community.

Now, I invite you to share your KU data. Post anonymously if you feel uncomfortable going public with your numbers. But I'd like to know what your daily page read count was on July 1, and on July 28, and if you notice any upward/downward movement. Also, share your author ranks from those dates, and mention if you've released anything new this month.

Though its still too soon to know if our books are being read to completion, I think getting an idea of how other writers are doing will be beneficial. At the very least, we won't feel isolated with out own subjective data points.

Spread the word.

231 comments:

1 – 200 of 231   Newer›   Newest»
Nick Collins said...

I'm not 100% certain on how to find my page count for July (directly from KU), but I do know that since May 24th I've read every Jack Daniels book (completing Stirred 2 nights ago), as well as the Andrew Z. Thomas / Luther Kite Trilogy. Shaken, Stirred and the AZT/LK trilogy were all in July, that I know. All read through KU in July. (on my free one month trial) So, by the #'s on Goodreads, July so far is 1,485. (766 that would be credited to you for Shaken & Stirred) I hope this helps.

Rosa Lee Jude said...

Very informative post, Joe. As always, thanks for being willing to share this data with us. One question: How many books do you have in KU that are generating this 85,000 daily page reads? Thanks.

Phronk said...

In early July I was at about 50 pages read per day, author rank around 197,000. It's gone up and down throughout the month, peaking at 132,000, and is now down in the 300,000s with about 30 pages per day. So a slight downward trend throughout July, though with such small numbers, that doesn't mean much.

I mostly have short stories in KU. I'm thinking of pulling those out, though now I'm tempted to put full-length novels in, at least for one 90-day cycle.

timctaylor said...

I haven't been recording author rank, so can't help here, but I did notice my page reads double between July 1st and July 2nd for no apparent reason other than Amazon introducing their new system. I suspect that for the purpose of calculating page reads, July 1st lasted for a variable duration depending on your time zone. I think asking for data from July 2nd would make more sense. Love your blog, BTW.

Suz Korb said...

I feel so stupid because KU didn't work for me at all. I've been seeing reports from indie authors saying how they like to look at their pages read info, and I'm just over here like: what does that even look like on the graph? And what does it feel like to know you're being read? I bet it feels ace!

Anyway, I blogged about my KU fail here:

http://suzkorb40.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/kdp-select-unlimited-is-fail-for-me.html?m=1

Cheryl Gorman said...

I haven't recorded my author rank for those specific days but it really doesn't matter because my page reads for July 1 and July 28 were a solid flat line. My author rank for the month has been 290 to 300 thousand. Big Woop. I haven't published a new book since 2013 but will have two new ones published this year.

AnonymousWriter said...

JAK

Wouldn't it also be interesting to see if readers stop reading on page 156 if they are also less likely to ever read another Konrath book.

Richard

Cheryl Gorman said...

My total page reads for the month are 1464.

AnonymousWriter said...

JAK

Great and interesting post by the way.

Also thanks for sharing your data, as you always do.

Richard

Kessie said...

I haven't been tracking my author rank (I'm very small fry and those numbers depress me), but my KU reads resemble the Alps. Up down up down. I've been running promotions every two weeks, and each promo leads to a nice tail of reads for two or three weeks. The more you get read, the more people read you. So I know something is going on in the rankings--I just don't know where. I'd have to sit on the actual KU catalog and stare at stuff.

Joe Konrath said...

You don't need to track Author Rank, folks. Just log into your Author Central account and look back 30 days.

I hope you're all using Author Central...

Joe Konrath said...

Wouldn't it also be interesting to see if readers stop reading on page 156 if they are also less likely to ever read another Konrath book.

It would be very interesting. But I don't anticipate a way to track that. Amazon isn't ever going to give out the data of who is reading what; it violates privacy. So there will never be a way to know if John Smith stopped reading Whiskey Sour on page 156, and never went on to Bloody Mary.

But I think that could be assumed.

Rob Blackwell said...

Joe,

Hope this is helpful.

On July 3, my daily pages read was 12,178. My author rank was #1,484. Please note, however, that my overall rank was helped because I have a book with Kindle Press/Kindle Scout, and Amazon had just finished a promotion of it. (My page counts do NOT include this book, however. Those are just my self-pubbed work. Still, they likely had more readers as a result of the promotion.)

On July 28, my daily pagecount was 22,697. My author rank fell, however to #3,294.
Again, however, I think my results are skewed by the Kindle Press novel (the sales of which I can't see immediately). Its rank fell off markedly in the last few days, resulting in an overall lower author ranking.

I will have around 500,000 pages read in July. Like you, I have no idea if that's good, bad or just ok. It is what it is.

I do believe, however, that pages read is affecting sales rank. For the book that has the most pages read (A Soul to Steal), its sales rank consistently went up when pages read went up. So it reached a sales rank of 4,663 on July 8, its high point for the month. On July 6, the number of pages read were 12,168 (plus only around 3 actual sales) and near that mark again the next day.
Overall, the book's ranking has been consistently higher since the new system went into effect on July 1.
Don't know how much this helps. Happy to provide more data if it's valuable.

Rob Blackwell said...

Oh, and I have no new work published this month. Last book was published in late March.

Anonymous said...

Mine was zero at the start of the month, and remained steady. I haven't lost a single page!

David Lang said...

how do you define "never finished the book" or "stopped reading" when the person may start again at any time.

I guess you could report on what page they were on when they deleted the book from their device (assuming they don't come back to it after reading whatever they replaced it with)

providing a histogram of # people on page X (or to compress the graph, # people on pages 1-10, 11-20, etc)

Tim Tresslar said...

I have one short novel (about 25,000 words) in Kindle Unlimited. I had 260 page views, presumably from two different readers. It’s not huge, but the book (written under the Jack Tunney pseudonym) doesn’t move a ton of copies.

Jill James said...

I'm not in KU at the moment. But it is great to get info in case I put something back in later.

May Burnett said...

Thanks for that link to Author Central, I had not looked at author rank for a good year and had no idea of that new graph. I last published a new book in mid-June, and on June 15th (as I now discover) attained my so-far best ever author rank of 5808. In July that rank fell and rose between 17 838 and 8804, right now it stands at a bit over 14 000. - My page count has begun at a bit over 7000 the first day, then 12000 the next, and since has veered between my worst day of 6950 and my best of 15 037, with ups and downs; so far I have a total of over 277 000 pages read, the average is just under 10 000. Note that I publish a romance series of about 220 print pages each, which are counted as 322 or so KENP. So far I have 10 romances in print. My non-romance books including fantasy and non-fiction do poorly in KU.

Tim Tresslar said...

Also in July, I had a 99 cent Kindle Countdown sale with some advertising for the same book, along with a couple of interviews, and my total sales increased. I also moved more copies of the Codename: Chandler KW book I wrote.
I found it interesting only because I expected some KU subscribers to encounter my short novel via advertising and download it through KU. If they did download it, they didn’t read it or even open it.

Joe Flynn said...

Hello, Joe. On 7/1/15, my pages read number was 3,353. On 7/28/15, the number was a new high of 67,702. Yesterday was also the point at which I crossed a million pages for the month. The last nine days have been very steady in a range from 59K to 67K. In terms of author rank overall on 7/1/15, I was #817. On 7/10/15 (the day after a BookBub promo), I was #58. On 7/29/15, I'm #219. In my specialty category, mystery, the numbers for the above dates were/are: 498, 25, and 143.

Things took off for me after the BB promo which resulted in my novel "The President's Henchman," reaching #1 in three mystery categories: political, private investigators and books private investigators.

The new KU format has been a big improvement for me both in terms of readers and revenue. TPH has held strong in its respective categories with current ranking numbers of 16, 20 & 25.

If you don't mind my asking a question: What does a guy have to do to get invited into Amazon Follow?

allynh said...

Sorry, Joe, but knowing what page they stop reading on will not help you.

- You will never have a book where everyone abandons it by page 156, so statistics of a thousand readers will not help you.

When I get a bad book, I find that I will read the first few chapters, wonder what is wrong, then jump to the last chapter and read that. Then I go back to the earlier chapters to see if the story is going anywhere, then jump to the second to the last chapter when it's clear that nothing actually happens in the book. Then abandon the book.

Each of these books shares the same flaw. The whole story is contained in the final few chapters. 90% of the book is pointless, filler, padding, not worth reading.

There was a whole five book series by an author I love. SFBC put them out as great hardbacks. Because he was T______ Z___ I bought the books as they can out, and put them on the shelf until I had all five. When I had all five books, I sat down on a Friday to read all weekend.

I read the first three chapters of book one, asked WTF? and jumped to the last chapter where the entire story was summarized. Total shock. I pulled out the next book, read the first chapter, then the last and the entire story was right there. I went through all five books in an evening, reading first and last chapters, rather than a great weekend of reading five awesome books. The entire five book arc could have been in a single book, and even then there was no actual story to tell.

Those books are sitting on my shelf, never to be read again. Yet, this is an author I read over and over, until the books fall apart.

Nat Russo said...

My pages read (daily) began around 500 on July 1st and are now averaging close to 2500 (a steady trend upward). My author rank has fluctuated (no trend as far as I can see).

But my concern is over my book's individual rank on the bestseller list. I've noticed something disturbing: as sales convert to "pages read" through KU, my book's rank average has dropped.

Are they not taking into account the new "pages read" metric for a book's sales rank? As a new writer, I need the visibility of the bestseller list (I think...please correct me if I'm thinking about this the wrong way).

Anonymous said...

On July 1 my author rank was 3469 and now I'm hovering about 6000. That's normal as I published a new book in May and after 45 days or so things taper off. (I was at a high of 1250 a few days after the book came out). I have three books out in a series. On July 1 my pages read was 10,347 and on the 28th, it was 4237. That was low as it's been running daily between 5k and 7.5k with an average of 6K with some highs above 10k and lows in the 3k totals. It's close to yesterday's high as I write this at 11:30 am. My total pages read is 186,000 +/-.

I agree with you on wanting to know more. I had one book in a foreign market that was only read to 81 KENP pages and I'd love to know why. Has it not updated yet or did they just not like what they read. Based on the low foreign KU numbers, other than the UK, I can tell that folks read the entire book(s) by the page count. But that 81 pages has me stumped.

I'd also like to know the number of borrows as that affects sales rank. With the current info all I can do is guess.

Anonymous said...

I should also note that re the post above, only two of my books are in Select...

Anonymous said...

I should also note that re the post above, only two of my books are in Select...

Cheryl Gorman said...

Hey thanks, Joe for the info on author ranking. I had no idea. Wow, I'm doing pretty good!:)

gniz said...

Of course pages read is affecting ranking--the more pages read means more borrows.

Because Amazon is now only showing page reads, you have to infer what that means as far as borrows. But it's the borrows that are affecting rank, there's nothing to show that Amazon is factoring how much someone completes per borrow into any rankings whatsoever.

It might look that way, simply because more pages=more borrows.

Nat Russo said...

That's not what I'm seeing, gniz. I'm seeing more pages read (more borrows), but lower individual book rank (not author rank...I'm talking bestseller list Amazon store rank).

Z Zirconia said...

But if I knew 1000 readers stopped on page 156 of one of my books, and never returned to it, that information would be worth a lot to me.

So how do you feel about the fact that you don't have that information? Because this is information that Amazon has and won't give to us. I don't even need it to be that granular, but the total amount of unique consumers of at least one page would be useful data that has been withheld from us for no reason. If Amazon accurately provided us with the number of customers who got to 10% previously, there's no reason they can't provide similar data to us now. This is a giant step backwards and it would be nice if one of the big names could acknowledge that.

To provide data to the question you asked, I'm looking at 6 million page reads in US and 1 million in UK, up and down all month.

Gary Ponzo said...

I'm not really a stat geek so I don't follow my author ranking, however, I did find other trends on that author central portal that could prove useful. Thanks, Joe.

Joe Konrath said...

Because this is information that Amazon has and won't give to us.

The amount of info Amazon gives authors is staggering. I was with several major publishers. Their royalty statements were indecipherable. I couldn't even get an accurate sales count until more than two years after publication.

Amazon's data is Amazon's. That's one of the perks of being the retailer, and retailers tend to guard their data.

That said, Amazon has been giving authors more and better information since the DTP rollout, and I'm hoping we get to see this eventually.

Brian said...

"I have three coming out by fall, two Jack Daniels thrillers and a Jack Kilborn horror"

Awesome! Looking forward to them.

On the crowdsourcing feedback angle, it sounds similar to what I've heard is happening in China. A buddy of mine travels there with his Chinese wife a lot. He's even tried his hand at game publishing.

In the Chinese self-pub market, most authors distribute serialized works through subscription services. The fans have zero inhibitions about giving feedback between installments, to the point that ignoring them can sink a writer's career. Some of the more popular series come out monthly, or even weekly, and are basically dictated by the fans.

I don't really see a situation like that emerging here. Then again, if you can write to form, on demand, and most of all fast, there's considerable money to be made on that model.

Anonymous said...

My author rank was 2623 on July 1, peaked at 1690 on July 4, and was at 1712 on July 28.

My pages read started at 532 on July 5 (when I opted into KDP Selected), peaked at 7298 on July 28, but have been up and down the entire month. I have about 91,000 total page reads for July, with 2 book in KDP Select. No new releases since February.

Hope that helps!

Z Zirconia said...

"The amount of info Amazon gives authors is staggering... Amazon's data is Amazon's."

So that's it, then? Amazon is pretty good so we should give them a pass for walking back on a pretty crucial piece of information? We have no room to be critical of an obvious withholding of data that we used to get? You're correct that they've been giving more information as the years have gone on, but I think it's safe to say that they wouldn't have stopped giving us this information if they intended to give it right back to us.

gniz said...

Hey Nat,

Just re-reading your posts here, I do think you're a little confused.

There are sales which effect book ranking, and there are borrows which effect book ranking. Before KU2, we were able to see (roughly) how many borrows each book was getting. And this corresponded roughly with book ranking, in as far as there was a basic correlation between the sales/borrows you'd see on your dashboard and your book's rank at any given time.

Now, you only can see sales and pages read. So you're missing a rough estimate of how many borrows your book is getting, although you can attempt to infer--but it's even less accurate than it was in KU1. It's much more difficult to know how many borrows you're getting now.

However, you seem to think that Amazon should be letting PAGES READ influence book ranking. It does not. What influences your book's rank is the BORROWS, not the sheer number of pages read. In other words, if you get 2 borrows but they only read 50% each time, it will still count just as much towards your book's rank as if the borrows were read to 100%.

However, your page reads in both cases could be wildly different. That's why it's getting so much tougher to know what's happening...

If Amazon has changed their algo's to factor in completion percentage, I'm unaware of that...

gniz said...

Joe, are you saying that you've been all-in on KU this whole time and yet now, with the new system, your author rank's gone up that much?

That is very strange to me.

I don't see how Amazon would be using page reads to influence the algo's of either individual book ranks or author book ranks.

When my author rank goes up to a better number, it's always because my individual books are doing better, thus contributing to my better author rank.

If this has changed because of page reads, if that's what you're inferring--that would be an enormous change on Amazon's part. probably the biggest change ever.

Joe Konrath said...

So that's it, then? Amazon is pretty good so we should give them a pass for walking back on a pretty crucial piece of information? We have no room to be critical of an obvious withholding of data that we used to get? You're correct that they've been giving more information as the years have gone on, but I think it's safe to say that they wouldn't have stopped giving us this information if they intended to give it right back to us.

Can I assume you've never had a legacy contract? I don't want to be rude, but I'm seeing a sense of entitlement in your words that tells me you haven't had much experience with the publishing industry.

We got no real data from publishers in years past. Never got honest answers about print runs, sales, returns, coop, promo dollars. We got paid twice a year, 18 months after the sale of the book, and we still had no idea what our actual sales were.

I'm guessing you first published in the current ebook world, which meant you not only had access to data that had been withheld from publishers for decades, but you also had access to author's numbers--something that I'm pretty sure I started when I began to share sales data in 2009.

Personal data is exactly that; personal data, whether it is coming from a company or an author. That Amazon shares as much as it does, as quickly as it does, is revolutionary. We actually get daily sales info. That blows my mind. Imagine waiting six months just to have a ballpark idea of how many of your books shipped to retailers.

For you to call the aforementioned data "crucial" when Big 6 publishers didn't even consider accurate sales data "crucial" is pretty amusing.

Amazon didn't stop giving us data. When they changed the KDP payout, they substituted individual borrows read to 10% for actual read pages--which is actually giving us more data than before. Page counts give us a better idea of what's being read than 10% downloads.

Now let's say Amazon starts giving us number of downloads along with page reads. They aren't required to, but let's say they do. What extra info does that give us?

Not much more than we already had. Sure, we could take averages (10 books downloaded and 2000 pages read means each book was read for 200 pages, on average) but that still doesn't match with what I'm suggesting.

I want to know where readers stopped reading. Individual readers with individual titles. Not sums or averages.

Amazon is under no obligation, fiscally or morally, to supply authors with that data. This data belongs to Amazon.

I'd love access to it. I'd pay for access to it. But in no way do I think they're required to give it up. That's like buying a guy a milkshake and demanding he blow you.

Amazon doesn't owe authors that data. To suggest that they do reveals a basic misunderstanding of this industry.

Unless I'm the one misunderstanding you...

Joe Konrath said...

Now, you only can see sales and pages read. So you're missing a rough estimate of how many borrows your book is getting, although you can attempt to infer--but it's even less accurate than it was in KU1.

You need to rethink it.

Before, we knew how many borrows we got, but not how much of our work was actually read. This allowed for scamming. And this wasn't a good indicator of which authors were actually the most popular.

Consider a restaurant where a million people ordered a burger. Got to be a great burger, right? Perhaps not, if 90% of those million took one bite and pushed it away.

Now we know how many bites are being taken. That's a better indicator of how much the consumer is enjoying the burgers. And it's more info than we had before.

It still doesn't give us the honeypot of info I referred to in my blog post. But it's a step in the right direction.

gniz said...

Joe, I understand what you're saying but we're talking about two totally different things.

I'm taking about units moved as they corollate to book ranking in the store. Book rank is important for visibility--it's how I make my money.

I know my read through is good because i write in series. So I already had a rough idea of read-through percentage, but that's neither here nor there.

Yes, the page reads data gives us an element we didn't have before--but we're still missing crucial info to make sense of it. And it takes away the data that helped me to understand my book ranking as it related to total units moved (sales/borrows).

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, are you saying that you've been all-in on KU this whole time and yet now, with the new system, your author rank's gone up that much?

Yep.

I've done a lot of novels. And I'd like to think that when people start one of my novels, they finish it.

In KU1, I was being paid the same for a novel as someone was for a 10 page short story, and they only needed 1 page read while I needed 30 to make the same amount.

Now, everyone gets paid per page read. Longer works that readers like will make more than shorter works, or works readers don't finish.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm taking about units moved as they corollate to book ranking in the store. Book rank is important for visibility--it's how I make my money.

Amazon hasn't changed the metric of book ranking. They only changed how they're calculating it.

Before, the more titles you had read to 10% contributed to your ranking. Now each individual page contributes to your ranking. This is a better representation of how much time a reader is spending on your work, and IMO a more accurate way to share the KU pot and a more accurate way to rank.

gniz said...

I think you need to look book by book at your ranks and see what the movement has been on an individual level this last month.

Because my take is that one or two of your books has spiked in total units moved (sales/borrows) and that is responsible for the author rank.

If Amazon is making author rank move based on purely page reads, it would change the entire way the system works, Joe. Because previously the overall author rank was directly tied to individual book ranks sort of averaged together.

I saw this quite clearly as I watch that data closely and I have multiple high ranking pen names in the system.

Joe Konrath said...

What influences your book's rank is the BORROWS, not the sheer number of pages read.

Ah, this.

I'm pretty sure that ranking isn't according to borrows anymore. It's according to pages read.

gniz said...

"Amazon hasn't changed the metric of book ranking. They only changed how they're calculating it.

Before, the more titles you had read to 10% contributed to your ranking. Now each individual page contributes to your ranking. This is a better representation of how much time a reader is spending on your work, and IMO a more accurate way to share the KU pot and a more accurate way to rank."

Be careful, I think you're making a BIG assumption. I think the difference is not that at all. Each borrow still counts like a sale.
If they were to change ranking based on page reads, then what about books not in KU? Are they also moving now based on page reads?

gniz said...

"I'm pretty sure that ranking isn't according to borrows anymore. It's according to pages read."

And you think the entire store now--all books--have moved over to this new measurement? Because they couldn't only shift KU book rankings based on that info, they'd have to do it with every book, including those not in KU...correct?

That would be an enormous, earth shaking change for Amazon to make..I don't see anything to validate that assumption, though.

gniz said...

Just to take your point to its logical conclusion, Joe.

For the system to now function on page reads rather than borrows, I could only see it working if they did that for every unit moved--that means sales and borrows too.

So now all book ranking is being determined by how many pages were read???? Thus longer books with better read through would be at the top and books with poor read-through, or shorter books--would all be falling in the rankings.

That doesn't add up from what I'm seeing. Otherwise, Amazon would have to be doing some weird "weighting" with completion percentage somehow factoring into a book's rank. That seems much more complicated.

I just can't see the evidence of the change. If your notion is correct, than someone like Data Guy should be able to quickly comb through the top hundred books by length and see that there is a much higher distribution of longer books all occupying higher spots on the list. And each day that goes by, that will increase as shorter books must fall.

Z Zirconia said...

Can I assume you've never had a legacy contract? I don't want to be rude, but I'm seeing a sense of entitlement in your words that tells me you haven't had much experience with the publishing industry.

I did and still do contract work for publishing houses, but not in an authorial capacity.

We got no real data from publishers in years past. Never got honest answers about print runs, sales, returns, coop, promo dollars. We got paid twice a year, 18 months after the sale of the book, and we still had no idea what our actual sales were.

Let me use a different example here, one that is roughly analogous. The United States is such a better country than Afghanistan that we really have no room to complain about things here. In fact, your previous use of the word "entitlement" is the same word used to describe this attitude here, where "entitled" people think they're due some basic human rights that they're not getting.

For you to call the aforementioned data "crucial" when Big 6 publishers didn't even consider accurate sales data "crucial" is pretty amusing.

It is absolutely crucial. For instance, when you buy a stock image for a cover, you usually buy the standard license, right? Unfortunately, the standard stock image license only covers 250,000 purchases before you have to buy the extended stock image license. If I have one million page reads on a novel this month, how am I supposed to know how many purchases that constitutes? This is only one of many MANY ways that these numbers are crucial in both a legal sense and an analysis sense.

Amazon didn't stop giving us data. When they changed the KDP payout, they substituted individual borrows read to 10% for actual read pages--which is actually giving us more data than before. Page counts give us a better idea of what's being read than 10% downloads.

Now let's say Amazon starts giving us number of downloads along with page reads. They aren't required to, but let's say they do. What extra info does that give us?

Not much more than we already had. Sure, we could take averages (10 books downloaded and 2000 pages read means each book was read for 200 pages, on average) but that still doesn't match with what I'm suggesting.

I want to know where readers stopped reading. Individual readers with individual titles. Not sums or averages.


It's better... why? It would certainly be better if we could compare it against old data, but we can't. If I had 10,000 borrows on a book last month and 1 million page reads on the book this month, but my sales rank is 1000 ranks higher than it was last month, where do I stand? There's a crucial piece of information missing, and there's really no way to compare these two sets of data. I have lost a great deal of power of analysis, and it appears that that was Amazon's goal all along.

Amazon is under no obligation, fiscally or morally, to supply authors with that data. This data belongs to Amazon... Amazon doesn't owe authors that data.

It's a withholding of data and it's data that they used to share freely. To be completely uncritical of that fact is very dangerous.

Z Zirconia said...

Also I meant to comment separately on this one, sorry I lumped it in with the quote before:

I want to know where readers stopped reading. Individual readers with individual titles. Not sums or averages.

You still have no idea where readers stopped reading without the number of copies that customers started reading.

gniz said...

I agree with you, Z.

It's not entitlement. If a system used to be awful and now it's changed for the better, that doesn't mean we should now blindly accept anything the new system feeds us.

To the contrary, now that we're more aware of how good things can be, it's incumbent on us to keep trying to advocate for ourselves that the positive growth continues.

And your example of different social/political systems is apt. Just because the old system was terrible does not make the new system therefore okay.

C.J. Carella said...

My page counts have been all over the place. July 1st I had a whole 95 pages read. July 4 it was 2,195. It's kept seesawing (as low as 15 pages on a couple of days) until around the 10th, when I changed the covers of my superhero trilogy with professional designs, and the page counts have been in the 1-3K range ever since (to everyone who said you need pro - or at least pro-looking - covers to make it: you were right.

My author ranking has been seesawing all month long, from a low of 59,311 on July 23 to a high of 7,635 on July 25 (on the second day of a $0.99 Kindle Countdown for the first book of my series). If the half a penny per page payout most people seem to be expecting holds up, this month I'll be making almost twice as much as I did in June; not bad considering I haven't released a new book since February. Very much looking forward to what happens when my next novel comes out in mid-August.

I think my book rankings by pages read. A couple of books who had no sales but a thousand or so pages read climbed the charts quite nicely. Not sure exactly what metrics Amazon is using, though.

Joe Konrath said...

That would be an enormous, earth shaking change for Amazon to make..I don't see anything to validate that assumption, though.

Yep.

They worked on this for six months before launching.

gniz said...

Okay, Joe. I'm going to ask you again.

So now EVERY book in the system (whether in KU or out of it) is being ranked based on PAGES READ only?

So sales and borrows no longer factor in, as far as you're concerned. Amazon's just countin' pages read and ranking books based on that data now...

Is this your theory?

Joe Konrath said...

So now all book ranking is being determined by how many pages were read????

That I don't know. But it seems to make sense. It's what I'd do if I were Amazon.

Keep in mind that Amazon never revealed how it ranked books. There has been plenty of ballpark speculation, and the speculation was good enough for AuthorEarnings.com to make some good predictions.

But remember that Amazon already figured out how to weight borrows against sales. Maybe sales rank stayed the same, and they just implemented the new borrow tracking.

gniz said...

"That I don't know"

If you can't make sense of the whole then I really don't see how you've come to this conclusion. It needs a deep data dive to figure it out.

And I believe if your theory was correct, there would have been absolute pandemonium and upheaval in the book rankings, which i haven't seen. Ranks have stayed stable for the most part.

I had a huge drop when I took books OUT of KU, which makes sense, because you then can't get any borrow ranking love. But it didn't seem to be about page reads. I just don't see any evidence of your assumptions here.

If you had a spike in author ranking, dig into the data and see which books caused it...then get back to us.

Joe Konrath said...

In fact, your previous use of the word "entitlement" is the same word used to describe this attitude here, where "entitled" people think they're due some basic human rights that they're not getting.

Actually, no. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic human rights. A Porsche is not. The data your asking for is a Porsche.

It would certainly be better if we could compare it against old data, but we can't.

Read my hamburger analogy in a few posts above.

As for stock photos, shoot me an email when iStock demands you pay extra for your ebook image because they somehow know you sold 250,001 copies. :)

It's a withholding of data and it's data that they used to share freely.

They aren't withholding data. They changed how they pay, and as such the data they share.

Joe Konrath said...

Interesting comments so far. Much respect to those debating right now. And if I sound like I'm being snarky or too personal, that isn't my intent. I'm just trying to keep up. :)

Joe Konrath said...

I had a huge drop when I took books OUT of KU,

You understand that would directly correspond whether Amazon tallied page reads, or borrows, right?

gniz said...

Joe, first off, you're the reason I have a goddamn career. You could come and burn my house down and I'd still have love for you...don't do that, by the way.

But I really disagree with some of your recent sentiments. I'm making A LOT of money at this business and have been for years now. Been doing this since 2011.

I'm only saying that because if it seems like I'm whining about shit I don't understand, that aint it. I look at data, lots of data, every day. I have hundreds of titles, I've been in the top 100 many times--I have author pen names that have been in the top 100. More than one of them.

I'm saying that there's no evidence at all that page reads are counting for rank. I'm not saying it's impossible, but that's not evidence it's happening.

I would expect my books to fall in rank when being pulled from KU. Those borrows were another fifty to seventy-five percent units added onto my sales every day!

Nothing to do with pages read...

Joe Konrath said...

So sales and borrows no longer factor in, as far as you're concerned. Amazon's just countin' pages read and ranking books based on that data now...

Is this your theory?


That's a theory. Or actually, a hypothesis.

Amazon doesn't share how it ranks. But I believe they now rank KU according to pages read.

Do they also rank sales according to pages read? I have no idea. Maybe they do. Maybe they don't. Remember we never knew how ranking, and drop off, worked in the first place. We just guessed.

If I had to guess, I'd say sales stayed the same, borrows changed to page reads. But it's intriguing to think that sales rank is now dictated by pages read. I would have no way to observe this effect, because my books that aren't self pubbed are pubbed by Amazon, which means they're already in KU.

I wonder if any legacy authors lost rank since KU2 rolled out...

gniz said...

This really is a question for data guy. But Phoenix Sullivan, who knows WAY more about data than any of us (other than Data Guy) has not floated that theory yet that I've seen.

I doubt she would float that theory, but maybe she'll swing by and answer...

Joe Konrath said...

I'm saying that there's no evidence at all that page reads are counting for rank.

Remember that there's no real evidence to tie sales or borrows into ranking. Only guesses.

My author rank, and book ranks, have been on a slow downward trend for months. Part of this is the annual summer slump. But mostly I attribute it to me not feeding the machine with new titles. I've been doing other stuff, not writing new novels.

And now, without promos or new titles, my rankings are up, coinciding perfectly with KU2. I'm also making more money, assuming .00575 per page payouts, than I was in KU1.

I'm assuming that this isn't a whole rush of new Konrath fans. I'm assuming the same slow downward trend. Except now I get paid more or doing the same as before, and get a higher ranking for doing the same as before.

Ergo, ranking has changed to page reads over borrows. Doesn't it stand to reason that getting paid more corresponds with better ranking?

Joe Konrath said...

This really is a question for data guy.

Then I'll ask him right now. :)

Z Zirconia said...

Actually, no. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are basic human rights. A Porsche is not. The data your asking for is a Porsche.

So you're saying that that as long as the United States is better than Afghanistan, we have no reason to complain. You're saying that as long as KDP is better than Legacy Publishers, we have no reason to complain. Good to know.

As for stock photos, shoot me an email when iStock demands you pay extra for your ebook image because they somehow know you sold 250,001 copies. :)

Good so in this particular case, because the law is not being enforced, then there's no reason to be worried about the future. This isn't the only issue with lack of reporting and if you don't see how this can cause legal issues, then I don't know what to tell you.

I'd also like to point out that I don't believe there is a single other self publishing portal that will not tell you the number of units that has moved. Amazon, the biggest game in town and what has been the best up until now, is the only exception. Even these legacy publishers that we rail against will usually eventually tell you the number of copies moved (and in the case that that number isn't accurate, that's fraud and shouldn't really be brought up). That's not a good thing to be the odd man out on.

gniz said...

"Ergo, ranking has changed to page reads over borrows. Doesn't it stand to reason that getting paid more corresponds with better ranking?"

That's one possible explanation. Another, is to go and look at your individual book trend-lines for sales this month. Have one or two spiked? Maybe got picked up somewhere and promoted without you knowing?

One book doing really well can elevate an entire author rank. The author rank is just composed of all your various book rankings...

Z Zirconia said...

Let me ask you real quick, and you can be as specific or as general as you want. Hell, if you don't want to answer at all, just keep it in the back of your mind as something that should be paid attention to. You are a high-volume author of novels, supposedly exactly who KU 2.0 is supposed to benefit. At 0.57 cents per page read, what kind of income change are you seeing? Is it in the same range as it was before? Lower? Specifically, if your author rank has gone from 800-ish to 400-ish, have your estimated royalties doubled? Why do you think that is?

Nat Russo said...

I don't know if this will shed light or muddle the issue. But for perspective, my daily average sales haven't changed. But since they switched KU borrows to pages read, my book's bestseller rank has decreased.

The strange thing is that even though this is the case, I'm making MUCH more money now under the "pages read" system. As in, not even a comparison. I was making about $10 per month on borrows up until June, and this month I'm looking at $130 so far.

Joe Konrath said...

Another, is to go and look at your individual book trend-lines for sales this month. Have one or two spiked?

Good call.

I should have mentioned in my blog post that I already did that. No spikes. But my novels have the same upward trend as my overall pages reads. Without any ads or Bookbub or promo, at a time when last year my sales were doing the same summer slump they've done so far this year--at last until KU2.

Maybe you should put everything back into KU for a month and check how that goes, comparing July with August?

gniz said...

I still have a small subset of books in KU. They're performing very well.

But I was making so much more in KU1 that this change hit me hard. I was happier to go wide and feel a bit more overall stability. I think its going to be a wash as far as income, but more stability and less reliance on Amazon and KU in particular feels good after that rollercoaster ride.

They hit me for about 50% of my income with that change. Over time, certainly hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in revenue based on what I was hitting with my monthly results and projections.

They have every right to make the change and I have every right to say that it wasn't good for my business. And it showed how hard you could get hit if you're too heavily leveraged on any one strategy, program or platform.

gniz said...

I'm anxious to hear opinions from Data Guy and Phoenix Sullivan on this, because if you're correct--this would be a bigger game changer than KU itself or any of that other stuff.

Joe Konrath said...

But since they switched KU borrows to pages read, my book's bestseller rank has decreased.

Now that's interesting. More money with a poorer ranking. That's what you mean by decreased, right? A higher ranking number?

$10 in borrows at $1.31 per is about 7 borrows per month.

You've got two titles. One is 60 pages, the other is 447. If you got 7 borrows of the 447 page book, read completely, at $0.00575 per page, that's $18.

Did you get your multiplication right, Nat? You've had 22,608 page reads this month?

If so, you went from 7 a month to 50.




Joe Konrath said...

But I was making so much more in KU1 that this change hit me hard.

If you pulled out the majority of your titles, are you sure you would have come out behind? Were they shorter works?

Over time, certainly hundreds of thousands of dollars lost in revenue based on what I was hitting with my monthly results and projections.

Ah. We've all been there. I was once making $70k to $100k a month. Now it's closer to $30k-$50k.

Remember it isn't lost revenue. No one took it. It's just money we were hoping to earn, but didn't.

The longer I'm in this biz, the more it seems like the stock market. There's no guarantee of anything, and no such thing as steady income.

Nat Russo said...

That's correct, Joe. More than 20k page reads this month. I was blown away by that number (and there's still a couple days left in the month!)

And yes, my book's bestseller rank decreased, but because of the increased page reads my income increased (sales remain steady).

Joe Konrath said...

What was your rank before and now, Nat?

And congrats.

Annie B said...

Actually, some of us tested borrows and ranking post KU 2.0 and ghost borrows are still the boost to ranking. Pages read had no effect on ranking. Only effect on ranking was the initial borrow.

So, for example (and we did this with multiple books to check), take a book that hasn't sold or had a borrow in a while. Have someone borrow it but not open it. Wait and watch the ranking. It will jump the same as a sale makes it jump.

Then, after the rank has moved from the sale and waiting a bit after for it to start to fall again, have the person who borrowed the book open it and read through. Book owner can verify that all pages were counted as read by checking the dashboard for that book.

There will be zero change in ranking (actually, it'll continue to get worse) from pages read.

It's still counted as a borrow at time of borrow, just like a sale. Pages read has no effect that we could see, and we tested multiple books this way. So I'm guessing your author rank changes you are seeing are because you are getting a lot of borrows, and those borrows are obviously being read as well, which is why it looks like pages read when it is the initial act of borrowing that jumps sales rank and subsequently author rank, since far as I can tell, author rank is still based on sales totals over a shortish period of time and sales velocity. :)

So as far as I can tell, book ranking and subsequent author ranking are still decided on sales and ghost-borrows (there are only ghost-borrows now, obviously), not on pages read.

Z Zirconia said...

Joe I appreciate you debating me up until this point but your argument of "But but but legacy publishers!" hasn't convinced me. If you'd prefer to follow up with a phone call, I'd love to get a chance to convince another person that this change isn't for the better. I'm pretty easy to reach.

Anonymous said...

Z Zirconia's attitude is hilarious. If Amazon cured cancer tomorrow, this guy would be running around demanding to know why they didn't cure cancer yesterday. You can't win with this type of people.

Z Zirconia said...

Z Zirconia's attitude is hilarious. If Amazon cured cancer tomorrow, this guy would be running around demanding to know why they didn't cure cancer yesterday. You can't win with this type of people.

I carried water for Amazon for a long time, and I'll continue to go exclusive with them as long as it makes sense for me to do so, but it's not ADS to call out a business partner for bizarre choices.

MP McDonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Konrath said...

@Anon, be nice.

@Z, Amazon data is not a truth that should be self evident and freely available to anyone who wants it. It's their data. They invented the store that allows it and the tech that mines it. All they're obligated to do is give their suppliers the minimum amount of data required to pay them.

Right now, we're getting more data than before. I knew how many borrows I had, but that isn't as compelling and valuable as how many pages readers are reading. As I said above, consider a restaurant where a million people ordered a burger. Got to be a great burger, right? Perhaps not, if 90% of those million took one bite and pushed it away.

Now we know how many bites are being taken. That's a better indicator of how much the consumer is enjoying the burgers. And it's more info than we had before.

Even if we had page read counts and download counts, it still doesn't tell us which reader stopped reading, and where.

I'd like the data of where they stopped reading. Amazon could charge me for this data, and I'd pay.

My comparing the legacy ways to Amazon is just to show how far we've come. But Amazon doesn't owe us any more than they're already giving. And they already give a lot.

gniz said...

"Z Zirconia's attitude is hilarious. If Amazon cured cancer tomorrow, this guy would be running around demanding to know why they didn't cure cancer yesterday. You can't win with this type of people."

That's harsh. I think Z makes valid, cogent, non-hysterical points.

Amazon has been amazing for us indies. They've moved the ball way upfield, helped authors progress way beyond what any other single entity has done in the last decade...

But still, some of their moves can be, and should be, questioned. I don't like the way data is getting LESS transparent, and that their own internal programs are beginning to take up more and more space within their store. It effectively puts the squeeze on me to go exclusive with them...

Do they have every right to put the squeeze on me? Hell yeah. I don't have to smile and like it, though!

Anonymous said...

I am not in Select /KU anymore, having pulled all my books out in January, but I am still getting page reads from the books that were in KU last year. Some of them have been on people's Kindle's for a while -- 5 months now -- and are only now being read.

*shrugs*

I'll wait and see how the first few months of KU 2.0 work for people and make a decision at that time whether to put any of my books in. Right now, I can't be sure that I would do as well as I am doing in wide distribution. I'd have to have around 80,000 page reads a day @ $.0056 to equal my income from other retailers.

Anon Author

Joe Konrath said...

I carried water for Amazon for a long time, and I'll continue to go exclusive with them as long as it makes sense for me to do so, but it's not ADS to call out a business partner for bizarre choices.

I'm accused of being an Amazon shill a lot. It's untrue. I criticize Amazon, both in public, and to Amazon directly, when they do something I don't like. And I'm lucky that Amazon seems to value my opinion enough to ask for it, and I've seen them act on the opinions of authors.

I simply don't agree that KU2 provides less data than KU1. I think it provides more.

Joe Konrath said...

Actually, some of us tested borrows and ranking post KU 2.0 and ghost borrows are still the boost to ranking. Pages read had no effect on ranking. Only effect on ranking was the initial borrow.

Do you have a link to that data? I'd love to read it. Sounds like a smart experiment, but how could you be sure you were attributing the borrow and read to the person who borrowed/read and not someone else reading the same book?

gniz said...

But Joe, how can you say Amazon is providing MORE data now than before?

I'd argue that your confusion about why your books are doing better is a clear argument for precisely the opposite.

You're confused because the data is now obscuring what is at work in regards to your rankings and your books' success...as well as any failure that might be occurring.

For this new data to be meaningful, it needs to be paired with more data about how many borrows are happening and when people are stopping (or at least a general percent completed stat).

If that happens, we'll be in agreement. But it hasn't happened yet, and the new data is not better than the old--just different. And I'd argue, more confusing...

Z Zirconia said...

Amazon data is not a truth that should be self evident and freely available to anyone who wants it. It's their data. They invented the store that allows it and the tech that mines it. All they're obligated to do is give their suppliers the minimum amount of data required to pay them.

If your argument is "Well contractually and legally they are not required to do any more than they are doing," then I'll agree to that. Your article is titled "Kindle Unlimited thoughts" and the thesis statement is basically that recent changes have been good for Amazon and good for authors. I would rather debate that, I think that's a more useful debate to have than whether they're contractually out-of-compliance.

I'll also point that when I pointed out above that we could be legally out-of-compliance with stock photo companies, that that complaint was brushed away as if it was nothing.

Right now, we're getting more data than before.

Unless you count the fact that Amazon is currently the only retailer that does not tell us how many sales we're getting.

I knew how many borrows I had, but that isn't as compelling and valuable as how many pages readers are reading. As I said above, consider a restaurant where a million people ordered a burger. Got to be a great burger, right? Perhaps not, if 90% of those million took one bite and pushed it away.

Now we know how many bites are being taken. That's a better indicator of how much the consumer is enjoying the burgers. And it's more info than we had before.


At the current time, you do not know how many customers are taking a bite of the hamburger and then pushing it away. You can extrapolate some data if you're willing to make some guesses.

Here's a hamburger math problem: You sold 500 hamburgers last month (I'm using hamburger sales as borrows here, I'm not confused as to the difference between book sales and book borrows) and you know that every hamburger takes ten bites to eat. This month, you have 1500 burger bites consumed. What percentage of the burger did customers eat last month? How many people took one bite of your burger and threw the rest away this month? We're starting over as far as data goes.

Even if we had page read counts and download counts, it still doesn't tell us which reader stopped reading, and where.

So, because the extra data isn't perfect, it doesn't matter that we're not getting it?

Amazon could charge me for this data, and I'd pay.

I'd definitely agree with this.

My comparing the legacy ways to Amazon is just to show how far we've come. But Amazon doesn't owe us any more than they're already giving. And they already give a lot.

There's a lot of room between "what legacy publishers give" and "what Amazon gives us", you'll hear no argument out of me about that. However, if we got nothing but quarterly sales reports (more than the ones sent out every six months by legacy), would that be enough? If we got nothing but a dollar figure every day (way more than you can expect from legacy), would that be enough? Just like with my previous example of United States vs Afghanistan, it is insufficient to say "Well at least we're not those guys," and that's especially true when they walk back on something as basic as giving us "units sold", something given to us by every other retailer.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z Zirconia said...

I'm accused of being an Amazon shill a lot. It's untrue. I criticize Amazon, both in public, and to Amazon directly, when they do something I don't like. And I'm lucky that Amazon seems to value my opinion enough to ask for it, and I've seen them act on the opinions of authors.

I would not accuse you of being an Amazon shill, that's absurd. I simply believe you are incorrect in this case, for reasons that are unclear.

I hope that I can try and convince you otherwise, our own concerns seem to have fallen on deaf ears over at Amazon.

gniz said...

Z's points line up exactly with my own. I think his logic is spot-on.

We're not getting better data, just DIFFERENT data. I would argue its clearly worse data, and Joe's confusion (as well as others in this thread) is proof of that.

You haven't a clue why ranking is increasing, and ranking is how we sell books 'round here.

RobertFrost said...

I disagree with the assessment that pages read = rank.

I've got a novel that has been hitting 60,000-80,000 pages read per day that is sitting just shy of #800 in the store. If pages read = rank, I'd expect that book to be sitting significantly higher. I know people with books in the top 200 in the store who have less pages-read on a daily basis.

My experiments with this seem to indicate borrows still work exactly the same way they used to in terms of rank. Pages-read have nothing to do with it.

I have relatively high ranking novels with low pages-read (obviously books people are dropping out of and disinterested with), short stories that sit high on the ranks but obviously don't make any more and have dismal pages-read, and a few outliers that have massive read-through rates but are sitting at relatively poor ranks.

I have a rank 4,200 book in the store right now that will earn over $200 today thanks to pages-read. If pages were really giving a boost to rank, that book should be significantly higher in the store.

Maybe author rank is pulling pages-read into the mix, but the ranks of the individual books, and the visibility of those individual books, definitely doesn't seem to be utilizing pages-read as a factor.

Anonymous said...

Was the drop in income due to KU2?

RobertFrost said...

And I'm with you Zircon. I've lobbied hard for borrow numbers to continue to be given to us. I've even investigated whether or not it'd be possible to pull the borrow numbers out of KDP itself (unfortunately, it only returns zeros now on everything after July 1st even if you manually request).

I've made phone calls, talked repeatedly to people at Amazon, and organized a reasonably large campaign of emails from authors to attempt to get them to show us borrow figures. There's no negative that I can see to Amazon withholding them. If I knew my borrow numbers, I could quickly identify the books in my catalog that are getting the best read-through and providing the best customer experience. I could focus on work that is most efficient and appreciated in the current market.

As it sits, I'm working blindfolded. I've got books earning high amounts of money, but if I knew what percentage of that book was being read, on average, I'm dead certain I could work to improve that percentage over time. I could become a better author for my loyal readers, and the level of quality on Amazon would rise.

I know it's perfectly within Amazon's rights to withhold that information, but it seems silly to do so.

As far as income goes, I had a small drop from June to July. It was a huge drop initially, but I've shifted my efforts and launched novels since July 1st and things are coming back around. I'm rapidly approaching 4 million pages-read for the month. I expect next month my income will rise as I continue to shift into novels and away from serials, novellas, and shorts.

Annie B said...

Konrath- no I don't have the data (we did it in a private FB group, sorry), but we are absolutely certain that it wasn't attributed to another read. That's why we chose to use non-selling, non-borrowed books to test, so the data could be seen on a 1 for 1 basis. I offered up a pen name book of my own, for example, which was ranked at almost 1 million in the store. Upon being borrowed, but not read, the rank jumped to 120k. Exactly the same kind of jump you'd see with a sale.

After the rank had decayed for a day, I had the person who borrowed the book read it all the way through. I was able to track all 525 pages read on my dashboard within a couple hours of it happening. It was easy to watch the person helping with the experiment read through the book because there were zero pages read for this book, that's one reason it was chosen to test things. Pages read had zero effect on ranking. Even with the whole book being read and counted in a short period of time, ranking continued to decay exactly as it does normally.

This was repeated with other books like mine in the same group, and every time had the same result. A borrow, (or really, ghost-borrow since we can't see them anymore), changed the ranking the exact same level a sale would. Pages read had no effect on sales ranking.

Hope that helps. If you want, email Phoenix Sullivan maybe? She was part of this and might have collected the data into one place and I imagine would be willing to share with you if you email her?

gniz said...

Annie B,

Great experiment, great data, thanks for sharing all of that!

Phoenix said...

A couple of the big tells as to how well a hypothesis aligns to reality is through independent testing/verification and how replicable it is. Way too many folk have plotted sales/borrows to rank charts for books both in and out of KU. Any HUGE change such as counting pages read instead of when a book is borrowed would already be freaking out every stat watcher stalking ranks. I'd be one of the first to freak, but I'm not.

We've tested the borrow idea (which is how rank has been determined for the past year) without reading pages and rank bettered from the ghost borrow effect as predicted.

We've tested not reading pages and rank didn't budge. We've tested reading pages and rank didn't budge.

And Annie B has obviously done her independent tests as well, which corroborate our findings.

That's not to say the model won't change in 5 minutes, but right now, this is the model that's testable and replicable.

Do we know for 100% certain how Amazon weights sales and borrows and velocity and history? No. But what we do have is a pretty solid hypothesis that is repeatable and that has been independently tested and validated umpteen times.

I'm always happy to look at evidence and do my own independent analysis (often with the aid of some pretty savvy cohorts) and help refute or validate any claim that comes with some sort of baseline analysis. Provide that baseline -- anything will do beyond a statement that someone *thinks* things may have changed -- and I'll get to testing...

As for author rank, I haven't done a whole lot of analysis there. For this situation, I would have to know overall sales and ranks for each book, including co-written books and box sets, by day for the 30 day period before July 1 and for July 1-now. I would have to know how many books were in KU1 and if any new books were added into KU2. And knowing if (and when) there was any promoting of the KU books to the KU audience by Amazon during July that didn't happen in June would be helpful as well.

There's simply not enough info to go on in the OP to make any suppositions much less conclusions. And folk who simply pop in numbers in this comment thread without full context won't help the cause, either. That's not how data analysis is done.

RobertFrost said...

I was popping in numbers because even without doing a careful test, my numbers were telling me that pages-read wasn't effecting the sales rank of a book in any real measurable way.

If they were, it would have been glaringly apparent on my entire catalog. All of my old novels which went from obscurity to suddenly making a decent amount of daily income would have become significantly higher-ranked, and my little hits would have been sitting near the very top of the store.

In short, I didn't need to run a data analysis test on gravity to know it exists. I'm still standing on the floor and in my moving about, I still appear to be attracted to the earth, so I can imply that gravity hasn't changed in any significant way.

At any rate, thank you for doing things the right way with a repeatable experiment, because that definitely confirms everything I'm seeing here on the ground.

Phoenix said...

Amended to say Annie's citing data from one private group that I was involved in with her (sorry, didn't see her further comments soon enough). Other private groups I'm in also conducted other tests. And yes, there is 100% certainty the data we collected is untainted by other borrows/reads.

Anonymous said...

Interesting post and comments. I agree that just as KU1 had borrows impacting book and author rank harder than sales, the same is true for page reads in KU2.

I currently have 3 short stories in KU. At the beginning of the month I averaged about 50 pages read per day (the stories average 40 KENPC apiece). Since July 21, that has jumped to an average of 100 pages per day. I ran a Countdown special on one story last week, so this isn't much of a surprise--a rise in ranks brought sales as well as borrows.

I had a weird lapse in sales at the end of June--June 28 my author rank was 58,000, then by July it had dropped to 141,000, but it soon rose back up again, and has remained fairly steady at about 60,000. I had a release on July 3 but it was not in KU, and is a permafree.

For August I'm going to pull in an old novel into KU and try to promote it, but mostly I'm working on longer projects at the moment. I only have two novels currently out, and several short stories and novellas.

gniz said...

Phoenix, as usual, brings in the actual analysis, makes us all look like the amateurs we are...lol.

Thanks, Phoenix. People like you and Data Guy are really shining lights in the darkness that we've all benefited hugely from. Appreciated that you don't keep it to yourself.

Phoenix said...

@RobertFrost: Apologies if you thought I was directing my comment to you.

I was actually speaking more to the Author Rank claim with the numbers verification. I don't see anything being cited here that is actually useful for analyzing any change in the way Author Rank may or may not be affected by page reads. There's simply too little to go on.

gniz said...

Phoenix, everything I've ever seen indicates that Author Rank is just a composite made up of your books under that name...not seeing anything having changed there, either.

Why Joe is seeing that change with old work that has been in KU the whole time (that's how he described it) is another question that I'd be curious to have answered. Maybe Amazon is tweaking their internal recommendations.

Things are getting awful wonky with alsoboughts again and servers being down etc which usually indicates back-end changes...

Tim said...

I was wondering the same thing.

Phoenix said...

gniz: Freebies also weight in Author Rank, I believe. I'm not unfamiliar with AR and I have some speculation as to how it works, but I haven't done enough analysis around it to be comfortable. For instance, does AR follow the poplist algorithms, and weight a freeload at 0.1 of a sale? Are BookBub sales/freebies counted in AR (they aren't in the poplists)? Are borrows counted (they aren't in the poplists - or weren't the last time I played with the algos, which, admittedly, has been a while)? Sales are easy - they're simply aggregated, which is easy to tell for authors with books that neither go free, get BookBub ads, or are borrowed. It's the question marks that I'm not clear on.

gniz said...

Be curious to see what Joe says when he reappears. Probably diving with Data Guy...

Especially because I think this indicates that the data is becoming more obscure to the average author, although perhaps the more sophisticated analysts like Phoenix can parse it all out just the same...

Nat Russo said...

Thanks, Joe.

To answer your question about my rank, this month it has fluctuated from a low of #119k to a high of 30k. It's sitting somewhere around 75k right now. (This time last year it was around #1100 after the release of my first book. Sales were actually making my house payment for nearly 5 months, then started tapering off. I'm in long tail now, I believe, but will be publishing book 2 in about 2 months.)

I've taken a look at "all available data" on author rank, which for me goes back only to April of last year. I've noticed an interesting trend. After the initial peak, and then taper off to long tail phase, both my peaks and valleys are slowly trending upward, which is a cool thing to see.

Nat Russo said...

Wait! Hold the phone! I just realized I could filter by genre. It appears that in fantasy, I'm ranked #3067. But just a few days ago, I was 1600. So no real info there.

Lisa Grace said...

July 1st: author rank 47,556
July 28th author rank 34,412

I did add two works to KU though, one on the 25th and the other on the 27th so I could run the five *free* days. Page reads are going up. Today is the last day of one being free, and the other still has two days to go. I do think the *free* visibility has influenced who sees my books in the lending library, so I do think being in KOLL has inadvertently influenced my rise in rank.

Broken Yogi said...

This would take some calculating and estimating, but I'm curious what "85,000" Kindle pages means in terms of "units read", by which I roughly mean "books read". And then figure out how much you're making per "borrow".

I suppose you would have to average the total Kindle pages of each of your books, and divide that into 85,000, to get the number of "books" borrowed per day. I don't know if they tell you how many "Kindle pages read" you have for each book, but if you did, that would make it easier to get an exact number (but more work). Then divide total income for the month by the number of books, and you get the price per borrow. Also curious what the price per page read is.

Z Zirconia said...

Broken Yogi, part of the debate is that Amazon doesn't give you near enough data to figure this out accurately. If your book is 200 pages long, you'll never know if you that 85k pages read is equal to 425 reads of the entire length or 8500 reads that gave up at an average length of ten pages. The debate is simply whether it is better to know how many pages are being read or how many people are clicking the "Read this book" button. The old system wasn't perfect (it only let you know when someone hit 10% in your book, not when the read button was clicked, which created what was called the "ghost borrow" effect) but I would claim that it's better than this new system where you have no idea how many people clicked the button to start reading your book.

It's possible that a perfect system doesn't exist or contains too much data for Amazon to realistically serve to all publishers every day but this was a big step backwards.

Phoenix said...

I would claim that it's better than this new system where you have no idea how many people clicked the button to start reading your book.

Well, if you're comparing sales to an update-to-date sales-to-rank chart, you actually can have *some* idea of how many borrows you're getting. Say you've been at a rank around #1400 (drifting between #1000 and #2000) for 3 or 4 weeks. Since it takes about 80 sales-equivalents to maintain that rank, if you have 50 sales recorded, then you can assume about 30 borrows for that day.

which created what was called the "ghost borrow" effect

The ghost borrow effect has not gone away. Which is why you can still get a rough estimate of the number of borrows you're getting. :o)

Patricia Lynne said...

I don't mind sharing because I think I have a bit of a unique situation. I have a novella series in KU. Each story is about 20K so that makes it around 127 pages. A fast reader can finish it in a couple hours. So far, book one has the most borrows and reads, but it's only been released for a few months and book four was just released this past Monday, so my numbers are small. That said, people are reading book 1 to the end. Some reads are 105 pages (approximately) and others the full 127. I'm certain it's to the end too on the 105 because there is a bonus chapter to the next book and that could explain the range of 105-127.

I guess I can say I'm lucky that the books being short makes it easy for a reader to finish (and no this isn't an avocation to cut your book up) and I can easily see where a reader is stalling on the series via the fact if book 2 starts getting reads or not and so on. Hope this can help add to your data. I would love to see Amazon give more details so if I decide to pull a full length novel in it I could get an idea on if the story falls flat in one spot or not.

Z Zirconia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Z Zirconia said...

Well, if you're comparing sales to an update-to-date sales-to-rank chart, you actually can have *some* idea of how many borrows you're getting. Say you've been at a rank around #1400 (drifting between #1000 and #2000) for 3 or 4 weeks. Since it takes about 80 sales-equivalents to maintain that rank, if you have 50 sales recorded, then you can assume about 30 borrows for that day.

That's a lot of guesswork and daily tracking that could be avoided if Amazon simply decided to continue giving us the data that they were already giving us.

The deleted comment above was me using bbcode instead of HTML.

Data Guy said...

Thanks for the heads-up, Joe.

Like most of us, I'm watching KU 2.0 closely. To the best of my ability to discern, Amazon hasn’t changed the ranking algorithms. They still ascribe a sale-equivalent rank boost to a borrow, at the time it occurs, whether or not the book is actually read. The actual number of pages read doesn’t affect rank. From a ranking perspective, KU borrows under 1.0 and 2.0 are just like regular sales in that respect.

It's a bummer that Amazon stopped providing the number of "KU borrows” at the same time that they launched the new pages-read metric. But in retrospect it's not really surprising. After all, it was never actually the number of KU borrows that Amazon was sharing with us authors under KU 1.0 — it was the # of payout-earning 10%-reads (as the "ghost borrow” phenomenon so clearly demonstrated). Which makes it logical that Amazon would stop reporting that metric under KU 2.0, as 10% reads are now irrelevant to calculating author payouts.

10%-reads were a very decent proxy for the actual number of borrows, however -- ghost borrows notwithstanding. And as such, knowing the # of 10% reads (or actual borrows) would be pretty useful for calculating average pages read per borrow, or average read-through rate. But as Phoenix points out, if one has a good feel (or graph) for rank to sales conversion, one can triangulate by comparing your actual sales against what your ranking predicts for that day. The difference is the number of KU borrows.

Z Zirconia said...

Data Guy I am literally flabbergasted that you think that this is a logical change. I suppose you stop short of saying that this is a good change so I'll stop short of saying that I'm disappointed, but I'm sure it makes your job more difficult.

I can't wait to see the Author Earnings report on average KDP Select author earnings before and after July 1, which should definitely be a goal of Author Earnings since you've got a good feel for rank to sales conversion. I know that's not possible until August 15 at the earliest, but thanks for putting the debate to rest as soon as you can.

Anonymous said...

July 01 - pages read: 14,751 author rank in kindle books: 803

July 10 - pages read: 106,141 author rank: 199 (best day of month)
**was able to keep ranking around 200 for 4 days with pages read of 82k to 106k

July 21 - 29 - pages read range from 55k to 60k keeping author ranking in mid 400's

Data Guy said...

Hi, Z,

No longer reporting 10%-reads under KU 2.0 is logical for Amazon... but yeah, it's pretty frustrating for us authors -- especially data geeks like me -- not to have that information any more, because it made a great proxy for the # of actual borrows of our titles.

And yeah, it certainly does make Author Earnings' job harder... but that won't stop us. :)

Robert Forrester said...

Joe, I'm pretty certain ranking is on borrows not page reads. While it's impossible to tell with books that have high page reads, I've a couple of short stories (33-44 pages) that have only ever gotten a handful of borrows a month. I've seen the ranking for one of these go from the 300k to below 100 in a day, with nothing to indicate why on my dashboard, and then a couple of days later I see a 33 page read next to it. With the other short I've seen a spike indicating a borrow that has not had a sale or a borrow all month but the ranking went up, suggesting it was borrowed but not read at all. This tells me that not only do shorts increase just as much in ranking as longer works (so page length doesn't matter) but also that ranking goes up per borrow, regardless of whether it is read or not - which was the way it was before.

Of course, Amazon may change this.

Broken Yogi said...

Z Zirconia,

Yes, I understand that we'll never know the actual number of pages read per book. A general industry average seems to be somewhere in the 50-80% range when it comes to purchases. It might be different with borrows. I'm just trying to get a general feel for how much KU 2.0 is paying per "book". Now, that's going to vary, because not all "books" are the same length. Joe's "Stirred" is 504 pages, his "Shaken" is 262 pages. Not sure what the Kindle page count comes to for each, but I think that info is available to authors also.

If Amazon is breaking down how many pages of each title are being read, total, you can at least come up with a total number of "books" read, by dividing that by their Kindle page counts. That's not a true number of books borrowed, but it's a solid and meaningful metric at the very least. And then an author can see what they are getting paid per "book" in KU 2.0. And also see if that changes month to month. That number could also be adjusted according to an estimate of the average percentage of a book being read by readers. I'm just not sure where we'd get that number.

Broken Yogi said...

I can understand why Amazon might not base author rank on KU pages read, but instead on KU borrows. For one, pages read can't be easily combined sales to create a combined sales/borrow ranking algorithm. Much easier to count sales and borrows together, and forget about pages read. Also, borrows are a straight function of author appeal, whereas pages read varies based on the length of their books and other factors not directly related to author appeal. Not that pages read isn't important, but the only way in which it relates to author appeal is if it leads to another borrow/sale of that author's works. So it makes more sense to simple count sales/borrows rather than pages read.

Robert Forrester said...

That's true Broken Yogi. Another thing to consider is that if a short story or novella out sells/borrows a longer novel by a considerable factor, it is only logical that it appears higher in the rankings and bestseller charts than a longer book with far less appeal, yet if they measured rank by page count a short story with a 10 sales/borrows a day would be below a novel with only 1 sale/borrow, but that is not what happens - certainly not in my experience. Another thing to factor in is that Amazon say that KDP and Author Central are completely separate systems, which is why ranks and sales data can often be days apart, and why returns never lower your rankings, suggesting it is a one way flow - Amazon/Author Central to KDP, but not the other way.

Robert Forrester said...

Data Guy,

Do you have an estimate of 'Ghost borrows' percentages under KU.1 would be very interested to hear?

Ian Pattinson said...

I've averaged 56 page reads a day, across four books (sort of, one left KU mid month) and two pen names. All short books- 30, 46, 52 and 71 KENP. One of them was only released in the middle of the month, part two of a serial.

The author rank of the pen name the serial was released under jumped from 618,877 on July 4th to 56,371 on the 5th and peaked at 37,815 on the 6th. It's seen a slow, bumpy decline since then to 253,245 today.

The other pen name, now with only one book in KU, has seen a slow decline in author rank after a sudden jump up in April. KU has made no difference to the slope.

I have many more books out of KU than in, because I want to go wide with my sales. However, I like having stuff in KU for the promotional opportunities. If it turns out that it helps author rank, I may start putting more books in for the first 90 days of their release.

Cynthia Luhrs said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cynthia Luhrs said...

only have 2 boxed sets (1-3 and books 4-6 of my series) in KU. nothing new since december 2014. I'll have a new book out in October.
author rank on the first was 137,438 and the 28th up to 65,171
page counts - on the first - 79 pages and on the 28th up to 1,004

Edward G. Talbot said...

I did a promo right in the middle of this month as well as some Fb ads for a week, so my author rank has bounced around a lot and I can't share any correlation with pages read.

I do think Data Guy and Phoenix nailed it was far as an analysis of book rankings. It appears that nothing has changed about how they rank books. They didn't count 10% borrows for rankings previously and they don't now. They still use "ghost borrows", which is having in impact the ranking right when the reader chooses to Read for Free on Kindle Unlimited.

As for data, I tend to agree that pages read is a DIFFERENT piece of data, not a better or worse piece than 10% borrows. At first I liked it more, because I could more easily picture people reading my books as it went up. But I really have no idea how many readers it represents. With the 10% borrows, I had a better sense of how many folks were getting into the books. I could consider that against reviews, mailing list signups, etc.

There's a lot of data I'd like to see and I hope Amazon provides more of it in the future. But they're under no obligation to do so. I'd be really interested to see Apple launch a subscription service that was non-exclusive and provided some of this sort of data - I suspect that sort of competition is the only way Amazon would ever be pushed to share some of this valuable data.

Another thought on this is that I wonder if a megaseller were to approach Amazon and say they want to publish directly with Amazon for 70% regardless of price on ebooks, be part of KS and be non-exclusive AND have access to some of this data - would Amazon go for it? Like a Patterson or a King type.

Anonymous said...

July 1 author rating: 34,080; pages read 0
Today: 109,031; pages read 1200.

I released a short story set and a stand-alone short story this month.

Alma T.C. Boykin

adan said...

I'm embarrassed to say after the third day of July and a dwindling page read count, I've been at zero all month. Much less earned than when paid for borrows under the old system.

However, my sales are up. So go figure.

Plus the three days of reads were to completion, based on the number of titles plus pages read. So for me, that's also very good news.

I have to agree, getting fuller stop point info from Amazon would be a huge boost for me as a writer.

As an aside, my sales via Kindle Worlds are much stronger than my KU work right now and seem to continue to grow.

I'm still firmly convinced the sales feedback between KW, KU, and regular sales will improve as I create more mystery-thriller work. Right now I'm doing a final write-read-through of my second thriller novel (much longer than the first, a novella). Then I start on the next two shorts for Kindle Worlds picking up the thread I have going on there.

My body of work with the same characters is growing, I enjoy creating them, and at my age (65 in Oct), taking time to stay both fit "and" creative, makes my time with wife and kids and grandkids more worth while.

I guess my current take away re Kindle Unlimited is, when someone wants to read one of my books, it's still easier to have them have the choice to buy or borrow via KU, and, I have an ecosystem in place via a potential synergy between KU and KW and regular sales.

And if things don't work out, well, I can always go wide.

Meanwhile, having done my morning chapters, time for some yoga then breakfast :-)

Tom Maddox said...

As a non-author I would like to divert this conversation about KU just long enough to address this statement in the blog post:

"Since I haven't released any new solo novels in two years (I have three coming out by fall, two Jack Daniels thrillers and a Jack Kilborn horror)"

Yay!

:)

Alan Tucker said...

I wish I'd seen this yesterday when you posted it, Joe, but I was busy coordinating and checking ads for a promo I'm doing for my scifi series right now. Fascinating discussion!

I'll add my own anecdotal evidence to support what Phoenix, Annie, and Data Guy have said. The act of borrowing the book is what drives its rank in the store. Pages read do nothing whatsoever. I can confirm the behavior because of my puny number of borrows (1) before yesterday and that the book was read full through over about eight days.

I will add that it's entirely possible Amazon is using more metrics to determine their "Author Rank" than just sales, since that Author Rank doesn't appear to have much meaning on its surface, other than giving us another graph to look at. Perhaps they are incorporating pages read — or even hidden completion rates — into the Author Rank to add a component of "quality" (you're probably a better writer if your books have a higher read-through percentage than others in general). Maybe they will use that info to decide what books go into the daily deals, or what authors to approach for their own imprints? Actually, I suppose they are probably already using the data for those things, and many more we haven't postulated yet.

Edward G. Talbot said...

Alan - I suspect Phoenix may have some thoughts on how Author Rank is used. I am guessing that having a high one does impact visibility and algorithms, but that's just a guess.

Alan Tucker said...

Edward, that's my guess too, but I haven't seen anyone talk about it before. I think we've all assumed it's simply a function of sales, but maybe there's more to it.

Tom Barber said...

As ever, thanks for the honesty in your post Joe. Always a learning experience.

Got 5 thrillers and a novella in KU. Just did some sums and got 128,732 pages read so far this month, with the daily average seeming to be from 3,000 to 7,000. According to Author Central my author rank hovered between 11,000-17,000, but up to 2,000 today (post Bookbub). Not stuff I obsess over, but interesting to observe I guess, especially in a stacked genre and with changes afoot.

Guess we'll know a lot more when Amazon release their payout-per-page for the month, but seems to have worked for me ;)

MikeAngelGumshoe said...

Joe, I'm surprised you'd give Select the time of day! It's a naked attempt to monopolize the ebook market, so I'm not sure why you'd go along with it. You guys can have all the page read nonsense. I'm staying wide.

apm said...

i am much interested in these ebooks.
thanks for this post.i will also start reading.

Alec Peche said...

I've had 2,463 pages read and jumped from rank of 14,000 to 8,000 to as low as 3400. I have just one of my five books in KU. As I understand the new payment scheme, I'll earn like .0065 cents per page or around $16.00 - about the price of just over 7 books ($2.04/book is my royalty). As I understand the equation, KU is paying better than outright sales.

Selena Kitt said...

Joe, I'm surprised you'd give Select the time of day! It's a naked attempt to monopolize the ebook market, so I'm not sure why you'd go along with it. You guys can have all the page read nonsense. I'm staying wide.
---------------

Joe's always been all-in with Select and KDP, since the beginning, haven't you, Joe?

Whether or not Amazon gives us more or less data is irrelevant. What's relevant is that we're all Amazon's bitch. We're all dancing monkeys to their tune. We might not be living under legacy publishing's Draconian control, but a chain is a chain. A nice master is better than a cruel one...?

I'm sure, after dealing with legacy, Amazon feels like freedom. But it isn't.

I know a lot of authors who've been carrying water for Amazon and happily licking up the spills and thanking them for it. Because you're not supposed to bite the hand the feeds you. I see Joe fisk a lot of legacy pubbed authors for not being willing to bite the hands of their publishers, who defend legacy's evil cartel.

But as authors, how have we colluded with Amazon?

I've watched self-pubbed authors defend the "freedom" they have at Amazon - I've heard authors argue over and over for KU 1.0, extolling it for its money-making capacity, as if the faucet was never going to get shut down to a trickle... as if they were the ones in control. Maybe they really thought they were.

But we're not. Even IF we can self-publish our books, the control has shifted from the gatekeepers to Amazon. And we have handed it to them. Just like when authors used to submit queries to agents. That was the way it worked, so that's what authors did. Now, things work differently. Now we "publish" on Amazon - but they still control the market, just like legacy used to.

Make no mistake, Amazon is not our friend. Amazon is a crocodile sitting with their mouth open, and we are birds picking out crumbs.

The time for change has, unfortunately, passed. Perhaps there was a time, back when the Nook was viable, back before Amazon had such a stranglehold on the market, that content creators could have made a difference.

I don't think we can anymore. Like many of Joe's ex-colleagues who are now signing petitions against Amazon, trying to change legacy's future, it's a futile effort now. It's too late.

But don't mistake Amazon for anything other that what they are - a corporation. They will use us if they need us. They will toss us if they don't. They are not the way or the light and they don't represent freedom from oppression. They are just another form of it.

I used to be chastised for being Chicken Little. *shrug* But I've never been under any delusions about the precarious nature of my relationship with Amazon. Some authors have really buddied up, thinking having an Amazon rep or being published with one of their imprints is going to "save" them from any possible repercussions down the line. I think they may get a rude awakening, in the end.

Amazon is, for self-pubbed authors, a means to an end. It's the easiest, fastest and most lucrative way to publish these days. Amazon has made that possible. But they have also asked a high price (exclusivity while they push an expanded "borrowing" program with shrinking royalties) for the privilege of visibility as their stranglehold on the market increases.

The fact remains that, yes, we can have a symbiotic relationship with Amazon, if we want to play by their rules. But that could come to an end at any moment.

Those jaws can and do snap closed. Without warning.

David Lang said...

The barriers to entry for a Amazon competitor are not that high. Amazon is doing a great job right now, so consumers are satisfied (as are a lot of writers), but if Amazon was to "snap the jaws closed" there would be great dissatisfaction and a replacement would arise.

Selena Kitt said...

They don't catch everyone in their jaws all at once. Some escape. The balance of money shifted this time from short works to long. But the overall payout is going to be less to every author, I think, in the end. To Amazon's big advantage.

Self-pubbed authors are being lulled into a false sense of security.

Maybe the better metaphor is the frog in the pot of slowly boiling water.

Two months ago I heard authors squawking that if the payout for KU went under $1.30 they were bailing. Now I hear authors saying, "Well I guess, potentially, half a penny page isn't THAT bad..."

Because the alternatives? They're not available or viable. By the time competitors get a leg up, it won't matter anymore. They'll be crushable. Oyster and Scribed were easily taken care of.

Nat Russo said...

I think you're missing something, Selena. (Or, at the very least, you didn't read my comment where I went into my sales numbers.)

The overall payout IS BETTER. My monthly KU "borrows" pay has increased TENFOLD. For the first time in the life of my novel, the pay I'm receiving from borrows is surpassing sales.

Not only is $0.0057 per page read better than $1.30 per borrow...it's PHENOMENALLY better for authors of long fiction. Prior to this change, I earned $1.30 per borrow. End of story. Now, since my normalized page count (for Necromancer Awakening) is 786, I earn $4.48 if a reader borrows my book and finishes it.

Many authors who are concerned about how they'd distribute ebooks if they were forced to leave Amazon are authors who likely haven't taken the time to build a platform. This is absolutely necessary.

If you're an independent author, you're a business person. You're an entrepreneur. If you approach Amazon the same way you approach traditional publishing, you need to rethink your approach.

gniz said...

Selena, I think you are bang on. And obviously you've been way ahead of the curve with your website and your store.

The only way to have a long-term future in this business is to have some area that you can sell books from and drive traffic to. Even if it's a relatively small space, my feeling is someday in the future (maybe 3 years, maybe 5, maybe 10) authors will not make more than a few pennies per unit moved on any book.

There will be a relatively small revenue stream of sales for authors with a following and good visibility, and those authors best suited to such a time will be those who can charge a premium and also send readers to wherever they like to see books from.

If you can't drive traffic, and if you can't SELL your own books to a core group of readers--you're held hostage by one platform or another. And in the future they will not be paying you much at all...

gniz said...

The last few years I've made a ton of money from these platforms, and Amazon too. Amazon by far has made me the most money and continues to do so.

But you'd have to be a bit blind not to see the direction things are going in. I think most authors who are indie have similar blinders on to their tradpubbed counterparts.

They want so badly to believe the gravy train can last that they won't see what's right in front of their faces. Unlimited production of content always means dropping prices--supply and demand, folks. The supply is ever increasing, demand will never keep up. Digital is cheaper than paper or other tangible goods--and lasts forever and a day. That means over time, prices will drop and drop...

There's no way to fight that change except to protect yourself through building your own quiet infrastructure. And charge a premium for your work, going after the target audience that will pay for stuff they like. Then, in the coming years, you MIGHT just have a chance to survive.

Selena Kitt said...

You haven't been paid yet, Nat. You have no idea what that number will be - this month or next or the month after that.

AND - while your page count may seem huge - do you know how many people read to the end of those 786 pages? (that number Joe's asking for - the one Amazon can deign to give us, or not?) How do you know, based on the number of books actually borrowed, you wouldn't have made more at $1.30 a borrow than you'll make per page? Maybe 100 people borrowed your book - but you only got paid for 786 pages because they all opened it but never read any further. Or maybe one person borrowed it and read all 786 pages. With the new metric, you'll never know.

Authors who write long THINK they're going to make out in this new system. Some may. But... we don't really know, do we?

You can bet Amazon is banking on the fact that many people download books and never read them. Amazon is banking on, even when people DO download a book, maybe they only read them 20 percent or halfway, before abandoning them and moving on to something else.

They don't have to pay for unread pages anymore.

As I said, the shift in money went from short to long this time. THIS time. I can guarantee there will be a next time. You may be lucky next time. You may not.

It all depends on what Amazon decides to do.

But what remains is that you have very little power or choice in the matter. And as Amazon gains marketshare, your choices are narrowing even further.

Nat Russo said...

I suppose it's just my personality type. I definitely hear and understand your arguments. And from a certain point of view they're cause for concern.

But I've never been much of a "sky is falling" sort of person, even when the sky is, in fact, falling. I've seen too many things in my life blow up only to get sorted out again to be much of a worrier.

The bottom line is we are the content producers. In this entire equation, WE are the only ones who are actually needed. That will never change.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I'm sorry I lost all focus on this post after reading you have new Jack Daniels books coming out later this year :) When can we expect them? That just completly made my day!

Broken Yogi said...

Selena, all your arguments about pages read and borrows and payments are essentially pointless. The bottom line is that Amazon is paying out just as much to authors as they would have previously, when it was $1.30 a borrow. Now that payment is based on pages read, obviously some authors will be rewarded, others will be hurt. But overall, nothing changed. For some, it will work out to more money, for others, less. If you write longer fiction, you are probably helped, if you write short books, you are probably hurt.

Even in the scenario you write about, where 100 people read only 786 pages total, assuming it's a long novel that might turn out to be zero payment under KU 1.0, as there you had to have 10% of the book read to be paid anything. If the book was 500 pages that would mean 50 pages read, and that would be impossible to constitute more than 15 borrows total, and likely just a handful at most.

Point is, there's nothing inherently wrong or exploitive with Amazon paying by the page rather than the 10% borrow. It's just a different way of dividing up the pot. And the page payment isn't fixed in any case. It too is entirely dependent on the total pot. Which Amazon is subsidizing with many millions of dollars, btw. So overall, Amazon is losing money and authors are raking in subsidies with each KU payment, regardless of how it gets divvied up. That's probably the best reason for authors to use KU - a lot of that money is "unearned" in the sense that readers are only paying of a fraction of it, and Amazon is paying the rest. You could argue that in the long run it will lead to smaller payments, but when that begins to happen, authors will leave KU and go elsewhere. There's no boiling frog scenario going on, not for authors who read their payment statements and cash their checks. Already those who are being hurt are leaving KU, and if that happens to other writers, they will jump ship also. Because they are not tied down by long-term contracts with Amazon that gives up their rights for their entire lifetime.

gniz said...

Broken Yogi,

Saying Selena's arguments are pointless shows your fundamental lack of understanding of her logic.

What she was saying has a lot of merit to those of us who've made money from KU and Amazon and who've also seen the other side of things when the penny drops.

Amazon is slowly changing the way they pay authors, making data more obscure, and creating a squeeze to make it more and more difficult to work outside of KU. I have hard data and numbers that back up my points, as does Selena.

Do you think we're just saying these things as thought experiments? No, these are real scenarios that have played out over years of publishing and looking at our numbers.

You're making a case for your beliefs based on assumptions not linked to any actual data, whereas we have actual data that we're using to understand how these things are effecting us.

When Amazon makes it harder to sell books outside of KU, that's the boiling frog.

And it is most definitely harder to get visibility and stay sticky in the rankings when your book isn't in KU.

And then Amazon changes the payment model, and for many of us, it's hurting our bottom-line. For those that it just so happens to benefit in the short-term, that only creates the impetus to leverage yourself more into the KU system.

But the more heavily leveraged you become in KU, the more difficult it is to work outside that system. And the more reliant you become on Amazon's constantly shifting payments, which can change and hurt your business on a dime.

Lots of authors were hurt by KU1 and then by KU2. But slowly, slowly, slowly, authors are accepting less knowledge about our business and less freedom in terms of data, pricing and ability to sell and thrive elsewhere.

Maybe you don't see it, but I think Selena has a proven track record, and I know that my hundreds of titles and pen names and the numbers I've seen over nearly five years in this business aren't just made up from thin air.

Tell me if you've ever spent a single day watching the rankings of a book, seeing how many sales or borrows it has on your dashboard, and then doing the math to figure out how much you could make out of KU, going wide, at different price points, etc. etc. Until you've done that actual legwork, it seems to me that you'd have a very difficult time following her points.

gniz said...

BTW, when I hear these confident people talk about, "If authors don't like what Amazon's doing, they'll just go elsewhere" I really have to laugh.

Many of the folks spouting that line have TRIED ALREADY to go and sell on the other platforms and failed. That's why they're back in KU at Amazon, saying how great it is.

Selling on iBooks and Kobo and B&N is difficult. Getting traction and making money is hard and takes time to build. Most authors fail when they try and go wide, and a lot of the one's saying they do well barely make any money on any platform.

Yes, some authors do well in wide distribution, but it aint just that easy to say you'll go elsewhere if Amazon screws with you. Sometimes it could lose you eighty percent of your business to do that. People stay cozy and warm with Amazon and are terrified to go out in the cold with these other platforms...

It really is glib to say that if Amazon does the wrong thing, people will just go somewhere else. They can't. They don't know how.

I'm in wide distribution but it's a constant struggle because they don't work as efficiently as Zon does. Yes, Amazon is great at what they do. But it gives them power and they can slowly squeeze the life out of you, and no--you might not have anywhere else to go.

By the time you realize just how bad the damage is, it will be far too late to make it work somewhere else. if there is anywhere else left by then...

Silas Payton said...

Thanks for sharing Joe. Reading all the comments gives me hope.
July 1 rank 45k. 500 pages a day.
July 29 rank 145k. 55 pages a day.
I had just come off a 5 day giveaway late June. Before that sales were zero for a while on that book. I only have one book in KU. I also have a short and a novel in KW but they aren't available in KU as far as I know. Any word in this changing? Hope to have two more in KU by year end. I published all three Jan-May this year.

Selena Kitt said...

"Because they are not tied down by long-term contracts with Amazon that gives up their rights for their entire lifetime."
----


Yes, and that's good. Amazon isn't legacy publishing. (And I fully agree and sympathize with Joe and others who have had horrible contracts with legacy - I still know authors who are trying to get out of legacy contracts and it's a living f-ing hell I can't even imagine!)

But just because legacy is worse than Amazon doesn't make Amazon inherently good. It just makes them better than legacy. The lesser evil isn't always so great.

The problem now is that, even when/if we complain, as content creators, we've lost a lot of our leverage. Amazon KNOWS people will go into KU. They're squeezing authors in there bit by bit. They know, even if people TRY to go wide, they'll come back. If they want to get paid, they'll come back.

And eventually, the "If you don't want to play on Amazon's playground, take your bat and ball and go home!" argument will be moot. There won't be anywhere else to sell books. Amazon will have the only playground worth playing on.

They almost have that NOW.

Anonymous said...

What Selena said. It's like Microsoft arguing that Windows wasn't a monopoly because they only controlled 80% of the market, or something like that.

If Amazon was really writer-first they wouldn't demand exclusivity for KU, or maybe just ask for a three month window. Something like that.

I like Joe, but he never seems to find any fault in Amazon simply because they are friendlier than legacy publishing.

Anonymous said...

And let me add that Kobo and Smashwords both seem very writer-friendly, so why not support them as well instead of throwing in 100% with Amazon? Joe, you have so many titles to sell, why not sell a few on other platforms too?

David Lang said...

Simple math

if the total payout stays the same and the total number of authors being paid stays the same, then the average pay per author will remain the same.

Amazon already announced that the pot for July would be at least as large as the pot for June, so unless there is a huge flood of new authors INTO KU (and it needs to be larger than the announced number who say they are fleeing KU), the average paid to authors for July is going to be very similar to what was paid in June.

but the distribution of the money is going to be very different. People who have short works will be paid less, those with long works will be paid more. People who have been gaming the system and tricking people into getting to the 10% mark will suffer drastic reductions in their income. To most people, these changes seem fair.

timctaylor said...

Hi Joe,
Thanks for reminding me about Author Central.
July 1st rank 2568 Pages read 18829
July 29th rank 4521 Pages read 19076

Phoenix said...

Hmmm. And here I've considered myself at least fairly savvy about market conditions. Then again, I'm semi-retired and the Steel Magnolia authors I've been working with are in their late 60s and 70s and aren't trying to create a job. They made good money in trad pub and now are chasing writing trends because they have the leisure to do so. We're all looking to make as much money as we can today and roll with tomorrow's punches since the only thing any of us know about the future -- whether we're talking 1 year or 5 or 10 or 20 -- is that it won't look like today.

We made great money in the early days of Select before Amazon pulled the algos out from under us. We regrouped, caught the BookBub Express and rode out 2013. We were wide during KU1 and buddying up to the reps at Kobo and BN and iBooks. A few good promos later and we still weren't making bank outside of Amazon unless it was during a BookBub promo or an instore promo. I jumped into the arena putting together and managing multi-author boxes until I decided I wanted to turn semi-retirement into retirement. And, at the opportune moment for me, KU2 came along. Our previously trad-pubbed authors now have a cushion to buoy them as Steel Magnolia reverts their rights to them and they strike out on their own. An easy way to publish, to promote, to set-and-forget if they want.

Out of the balance of books we have left right now, I pulled 43 titles into Select at the beginning of July. That brings our total in to 66, mostly novels, long novellas and box sets. I don't consider the decision spurious or ill-informed. No one's ever accused me of not watching the data closely enough ;o).

We lost money after the big algo changes of April 2012, June 2013 and May 2014 at Amazon. We recouped it in the months intervening because this frog jumped out of the pot and into something new each time the heat rose. And now KU2 looks to be some fat months yet again for an aging inventory.

My only criterion is whether we're at least making the same in the current month as we were the last month, adjusting for months with bigger promos and releases. In a couple of weeks the rubber meets the road when Amazon announces the payouts. The gamble will either pay off or it won't. My bet based on stuff like data and forecasting is that it will.

Why anyone thinks as long as Amazon doesn't squeeze us that the market will remain status quo is beyond me. We've recently seen what Apple was willing to try to do to the music content providers, and the apps developers aren't overly happy either.

But really, where's the evidence that Amazon is squeezing? It onboarded the Canada store and the Australian store at the 70% royalty rate. When those regions were tied up in the .com store, they were 35% countries. Amazon raised Ireland's 35% rate to 70% last year. Sure, prime borrows were paying better but the quantity was a lot more limited. Most authors made more in total from subscription borrows than they did from Prime ones. Two totally different models and yet authors insisted on making them comparable and were apparently disappointed that a large quantity at a lower payout equaled more money than a smaller quantity at a higher payout.

Next year, it'll be something else. Pop-up ads for brand-name merchandise and services mentioned in your book. Tiered subscriptions where the more money a customer spends on a sub each month the more content they can enjoy, in any combo of books, music and video. Or maybe book soundtracks chosen from a catalog of music where the artists share in every sale or borrow.

The only constant is change. The smart frogs might get a bit of heatburn, but they certainly aren't going to be complacent. Because smart frogs have one redeeming quality. They aren't stupid...

gniz said...

"Then again, I'm semi-retired and the Steel Magnolia authors I've been working with are in their late 60s and 70s and aren't trying to create a job. "

I think this basically is the answer to why you're not seeing it.

If all I cared about was this month or even this year, I would be fine with how things are, because basically I'm making a ton of money right now and have been for years.

But for those of us who do look out at the next 2-10 years (I hope to be doing this exact same activity even 20 years from now), there are troubling signs in the market at large--especially with Amazon's current dominance and the direction they appear to be taking.

You might not care about that. I do.

You might be fine with just making money in the now. It's not only that for me....

You work with a stable of authors. Some of us are a one or two person operation.

That changes things. It's like the difference between an agent not being able to sell an author's book. For the agent, that just one novel didn't sell, a slight disappointment, but that agent might be peddling dozens of other novels. For that author, it's an entire year or two of work and now back to the drawing board.

So my point is, in your situation I could probably afford to be somewhat relaxed about these things as well. Would you feel the same if you were intending to be making a career of this, supporting a family and yourself--all for the next 20-30 years? Maybe. But I'd guess you might be looking forward with a bit more apprehension.

The market is going to change no matter what. Agreed. Nobody said otherwise.

We're talking about whether Amazon's particular position in the market creates an ability to squeeze authors and take control of the market in ways that make our business more difficult. I'm making plenty of money, too. But I see that they're doing this quite clearly. And it's only going to get tougher.

gniz said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...

I actually like the new KU policy. My books tend to be full length novels and it takes me months (if not a year) to write each one and get it properly edited, etc. And for the first time, I feel like all that effort is working for me. Oh, I'm not in Joe's league by any means, but my one KU book is making me wonder if I shouldn't pull out all my others from the other markets and just make everything KU. :) My rank has gone up in July and is now ~7,700 which is the best it has been in over a year.

Joe has a good idea, as well, about getting data about if/where a reader stops reading. I would love to have that data, but I guess there is a limit to how much data Amazon can make available to all the authors and still have a responsive system :). And at some point, having too much data is the same as having no data at all. But I'd still like a kind of "overview" of reader averages for my books, to know if they stop reading at some point.

Although...I haven't heard anyone mention this so maybe it's just me, but I often stop reading a book and then slide the pages read to 99/100% to make it look "completed" to me. As a reader, I'm always torn between doing that (for the sense of completion it gives me) versus leaving it at whatever percentage as a way to "remind myself" that I didn't like the book enough to finish it.

If readers do that, i.e. just go on and slide to the end when they've actually stopped reading around page 10, wouldn't that mark the book as 100% completed? So maybe getting info on where readers stopped reading wouldn't necessarily give us what we might hope it would give us (if any other readers are as "anal" as I am about getting that 100% sense of completion).

Phoenix said...

We're talking about whether Amazon's particular position in the market creates an ability to squeeze authors and take control of the market in ways that make our business more difficult. I'm making plenty of money, too. But I see that they're doing this quite clearly. And it's only going to get tougher.

Of course Amazon has the ability to squeeze. I'm asking for indicators that they are squeezing. The only evidence I keep hearing is around 'exclusivity'. That Amazon keeps trying to funnel all work into its store on an exclusive basis and offers perks to be there. Perks, which in some cases make it more lucrative to be exclusive than not.

That's Amazon playing the competitive card. As an author if you can't afford to not accept Amazon's invitation because you make more in Amazon than out, then either you aren't doing enough to chase a non-Amazon audience or the non-Amazon venues aren't doing enough to chase you. Somebody in the equation doesn't want it bad enough. If the someone is you, and you've exhausted all possibilities for stepping up your game and fall short, then how is that Amazon's fault? If the non-Amazon retailers can't bring enough to the table to make up for what Amazon is dishing out, how is that Amazon's fault?

Amazon offered protections for authors during some of its trad pub contractual disputes. Is it Amazon's fault that the publishers refused those protections?

I've heard authors outside of KU decrying the perks that exclusivity gets you. Perks that award more visibility to exclusive authors. That it's unfair pressure to be exerting because everyone basically HAS to play on Amazon's field so that should mean everyone should be playing on the same level field.

So what have we seen with exclusivity models? Harlequin entered an exclusive deal with Scribd. Where are HQN's exclusive books now?

You can't have it both ways. How can exclusivity be evil because what if you have all your eggs in one basket and the basket implodes AND be evil because it recognizes the danger of being exclusive and perks the folk who take the gamble? Everyone wants the perks without the gamble. But that isn't the way competition works.

Why should Amazon step down to the level of their current competition rather than insisting the competition get game or get gone? Alibaba is looking over Amazon's shoulder now, and they are, most likely, a sleeping cheetah dreaming of the gazelle that is Amazon. In fact, they just ( a couple of days ago) infused $1B in funds to compete with Amazon's dominance in cloud computing. Amazon is in this too for the long haul. They too have to remain competitive 10 or 20 or, as Jack Ma says, 102 years down the road.

Market participants -- from indie authors to the Big 5 -- are finally figuring out how to compete in this no-longer-so-new market. The comparison of indies to little speedboats able to zip off in new directions when required and the Big 5 as huge cruisers too big and bulky to maneuver quickly is now seeing that eventually the big boats do turn and the number of zippy little speeders who've gained market savvy is increasing. Indies set ourselves up to take on a multi-billion dollar trad industry. We're face-to-face now with the real competition -- both trads and ourselves -- and, yes, of course it's just gonna get tougher from here on out.

gniz said...

Hey Phoenix, I don't really disagree with anything you wrote.

The question for me, is, in a year--will it even be possible to make money staying out of KU or going wide release? What about two?

If it's not possible, what will payment from Amazon look like when they know with almost one hundred percent certainty that authors have no where else to go if they're unhappy with Amazon's terms?

For me, the direction is not looking good overall. yes, Amazon is head and shoulders above the competition. No, they shouldn't play down to the competition, either.

But just because they've earned the ability to throw their weight around doesn't meant I need to pretend it isn't happening. All I'm saying is, this is happening. Whether or not it can be changed is a totally different story.

Some people are eating crap and pretending its ice cream, essentially. Just stop pretending. We might need to do it--but that doesn't mean we need to act like trad publishers and pretend everything's just fine and nothing has changed, either.

gniz said...

And when I say, authors are eating crap and pretending it's ice cream, I mean this:

KU is an exclusive program. The more of your content is selling only through KU, the more exposed and at risk you are to being blindsided and hurt by a change in payment or structure of that program. The more content you sell through KU, the less of a footprint you're establishing elsewhere.

And for authors like myself--I've seen clearly how much my rankings dropped when I pulled books out of KU. I saw how much my best performing books sank when KU 1 emerged a year ago.

That's the squeeze. That's the shit--it aint ice cream.

The trajectory seems quite obvious to me. The visibility gain and extra money you make for being in KU is the carrot. The loss of visibility and uncertainty of making the difference up in wide release is the stick.

Most authors will keep choosing carrot.

Smart move on Amazon's part?

Heck yes.

Good for authors? Good for long-term stability of your business? Good for marketplace competition and health of other platforms?

No. No. No.

Now don't get me wrong. I never said it was Amazon's job to take it easy on everyone. If I worked for Amazon I'd be doing the same thing and more.

But I don't work for Amazon. I'm an author who has made a lot of money with Amazon and KU, and I still can recognize that the long-term outlook for me is not good if these trends continue and progress...

Phoenix said...

What remedy are you looking for?

KU2 will be better for some than KU1 was, so not all authors are being squeezed equally if that's how you want to look at it. Just like KU1 was better for some than KU2. Just like KU3 will be something different too.

What will be fair and non-squeezing? Especially considering the only way Amazon has of squeezing at this point as I understand it is by you voluntarily placing yourself in the vise.

What will encourage non-Amazon venues to become viable retailers for your books so any squeeze put on by Amazon doesn't affect you negatively?

Is this just a "something's broken; fix it" rant, or do you have something in mind that would stop the squeeze that would help you and Amazon mutually long term? And is it on you or Amazon to implement the change?

(It's a good discussion. Please don't take any of it personally!)

gniz said...

"Is this just a "something's broken; fix it" rant, or do you have something in mind that would stop the squeeze that would help you and Amazon mutually long term? And is it on you or Amazon to implement the change?"

No, I don't see it as a rant intended to bring about some change. A bit of whining, perhaps. And a bit of just telling it like it is.

Often, when I bring up something along these lines--people say, well what's the solution? I don't always think a solution exists or needs to be possible for the discussion to be fruitful. Sometimes the solution appears down the road.

But just because a solution doesn't yet exist, or isn't obvious, does not make the discussion useless for me...

My temporary solution is to stay mostly diversified (before I was focusing too much on KU and losing my foothold elsewhere). I jacked up my prices so now I'm targeting "premium pricing" for the kind of customer who doesn't mind paying for content they enjoy.

I'm still in KU and continuing to look for opportunities there.

Long-term, I'd like to have a small web presence and a store for my hardcore fans where eventually I could retreat to selling from, if things get really dire...

I'm also generating tons of content and always have been, because I feel eventually only those with an enormous backlist will be able to make decent money at this.

So those are my takeaways. I don't think the squeeze from Amazon is something we can necessarily change right now. But admitting there's a problem is always the first step in getting better :)

Thanks for the lively debate and informed counterpoints to my bloviating!

Ella J. Quince said...

Here is my break down. I write Regency Historical Romance. My biggest earners in the new KU model are my Fated for Love Series, which is four books. I have two novellas, and two other books part of my new series that have since timed out of Kindle select and I haven't decided if I will re-enroll or go back to wider distribution.

7/1 I started with 19,721 pages read.
7/31 I'm at 479,770
In the first 15 days I averaged 22,000 pages per day. I recorded about 9am every morning. After the 15th that number fluctuated between 12,000 and 6,000.
The best day for rank and pages read was 7/4 with 40,451 pages read and a author ranking of 2,373.

My author rank on 7/1 was 3,235 and is now 13,695 today. I did have a Bookbub ad run on June 26th but that shouldn't affect my KU numbers given that those are free anyway, but may account for my better author rank in the beginning of the month vs now?

The series that is doing well in KU will time out of select on 8/11 unless I decide between now and then to put them back on ibooks, nook, and kobo.

Ella J. Quince said...

Forgot to add I had a new release June 19th.

Selena Kitt said...

Interesting that in the Apple ebook price-fixing lawsuit decision recently (which was just upheld) one of the circuit supreme court judges called Amazon a monopolist. "Technically" - they're not.

But I don't think any of us are going to care about technicalities by the time we have nowhere else to sell books except out of the trunks of our cars. Which, in Internet terms, means from our own websites. ;)

Data Guy said...

Robert Forrester said...
"Data Guy,

Do you have an estimate of 'Ghost borrows' percentages under KU.1 would be very interested to hear?"


Hi, Robert,

Based on my own data, lower than 10% -- and most likely around 5% -- would be my best estimate. As a measurable phenomenon, ghost borrows are the most obvious on books that sell the fewest copies. But on books that move more than a few daily units, adding up their reported sales + KU/KOLL "borrows" (10% reads, really) tends to match fairly closely with the number of units predicted by that book's overall Amazon sales ranking.

Alan Tucker said...

Ultimately, the sales platform isn't the most important thing. It's your content.

The characters and the universes we create are ours and can't be taken away (unless we sign a silly contract with a publisher). Those that come up with something popular are going to do well, no matter if Amazon is an overly dominant force in the market or not. Why do you think they've instituted the "follow" buttons on our author pages? It's another way for us to be beholden to them if we don't work to create our own mailing lists, our own following.

Only when we fashion a compelling product will we be able to have leverage if/when Amazon or anyone else wants to throw their weight around and treat us poorly. For me, that's the thing I plan to concentrate on in the foreseeable future.

Joe Konrath said...

Been busy, haven't had a chance to catch up on this thread yet. But I will. Gimme a day or two.

Unfortunately, right now I need to fisk the Authors Guild again...

Robert Forrester said...

Data Guy, thank you.

That's answered one of the nagging questions I've had with KU, whether people were downloading a bundle of books, browsing through them a few pages, and then deciding what to read (the way I do with trad library books- I take home eight or ten but only read a couple), but it appears, according to your data, this is not the case.

Many thanks again.

Arul said...

Very nice blog. Greetings from Indonesia.

David Lang said...

@Robert, remember that with Amazon there is the 'look inside' feature (if you are using a browser), so people have probably already done that by the time they decide to download the book and fill one of their 10 slots.

Broken Yogi said...

gniz,

If you want to make the general point that subscription services change the way authors are getting paid, that's certainly true. If you want to blame Amazon for introducing the subscription service model, then you are simply wrong. They didn't. Oyster and Scribd did that first, and Amazon merely felt obligated to compete with them by introducing KU as competition, because they are not about to let the publishing market get taken away from them by a new model.

So that's the bigger point - this is a technological change, not some "Amazon is taking over the world" gambit. Amazon wasn't even the leader with it.

That's a major reason why Selena, and your own arguments, are pointless. Sure, subscription services reduce author payments, and they hurt or help some people more than others. But you're not addressing the realities that these subscription services are, for now and as far as I can see into the future, money losers. All three of them are losing money big time. It turns out the publishing world isn't like the music world. But that's a whole other discussion.

Amazon is slowly changing the way they pay authors, making data more obscure, and creating a squeeze to make it more and more difficult to work outside of KU. I have hard data and numbers that back up my points, as does Selena.

Excuse me, but KU requires you be exclusive to Amazon, but not exclusive to KU. You still sell your books as usual on Amazon, and non-KU subscribers still buy them. KU subscribers are a pretty small subset of Amazon customers. And they are its most prolific spenders. Even though they get all the free books they want on KU, they still spend more per month on books on Amazon than Prime members.

If it is more difficult for newbies and unknowns to sell outside of KU, it's because KU makes it easier for them, and thus more attractive. I don't think selling outside KU is actually much harder than it was before KU. Overall, the benefits seem worth it, precisely because of Amazon's huge subsidies. If Amazon were paying strictly based on subscriber fees, it wouldn't be attractive at all, and KU would probably collapse. Which it very well might some day if Amazon ever decides to drop those subsidies.

Now I would agree that if the Amazon's publishing model were going to result in all authors being forced into subscription services at low payments with no subsidy, that would suck. But I can't see that as being Amazon's end game, because they want to make a profit as much as authors do. As far as I can tell, the only reason KU exists is to stave off competition and for ancilliary benefits.

Broken Yogi said...

gniz cont.

When Amazon makes it harder to sell books outside of KU, that's the boiling frog.

This is a bizarre statement. How is Amazon making it harder to sell books outside of KU? They aren't. The problem is they are making it easier to sell books inside KU, and at Amazon altogether, than at other places. They are not actually blockading other retailers. The problem is that other retailers are doing a bad job of selling books. I sincerely wish they would do a better job, because I think competition is healthy. I wish they would take pointers from Amazon and try to do a better job.

And it is most definitely harder to get visibility and stay sticky in the rankings when your book isn't in KU.

That's definitely true if one hasn't built up a name or a reputation. But what is the complaint here? That amazon now has a place, KU, that allows authors to get visibility and stay sticky better than their own retailing wing alone? That's something to complain about? Sorry, I really don't get the logic here. I understand that to take advantage of KU you have to go exclusive with Amazon, but if that's not worth it, then don't do it. If it is, be happy it's there to take advantage of.

And then Amazon changes the payment model, and for many of us, it's hurting our bottom-line. For those that it just so happens to benefit in the short-term, that only creates the impetus to leverage yourself more into the KU system.

But the more heavily leveraged you become in KU, the more difficult it is to work outside that system. And the more reliant you become on Amazon's constantly shifting payments, which can change and hurt your business on a dime.

You seriously have to be kidding. KU was in existence for all of one year before it changed its payment plan. And then did it to improve KU for the readers, not to reward or punish authors. You really need to grasp that Amazon's business practices are geared towards the readers, their customers, not their authors, who are their suppliers. And their readers wanted more long fiction in KU, not all these short works you and others were making mint off of for the last year. So, adapt. Write better, longer works that people actually read. If you can't do that, don't blame Amazon.

Maybe you don't see it, but I think Selena has a proven track record, and I know that my hundreds of titles and pen names and the numbers I've seen over nearly five years in this business aren't just made up from thin air.

I don't know Selena. I know you only from Brad Warner's blog. I'm sure your own experience is far more important to you than anything else, and I don't blame you for being angry if these changes have hurt you. Surely you are aware that this is a fast evolving market driven by a changing technological environment, and if you want to prosper in it, you have to evolve just as fast. If you wanted stability, you should have become a dentist. If you choose to write ebooks, follow the market and write what will work. If you've been successful in the past, you will probably find a way to succeed in the future. Unless you can't adapt. Which would suck for you, but not for those who are better able to adapt.

Tell me if you've ever spent a single day watching the rankings of a book, seeing how many sales or borrows it has on your dashboard, and then doing the math to figure out how much you could make out of KU, going wide, at different price points, etc. etc. Until you've done that actual legwork, it seems to me that you'd have a very difficult time following her points.

That sounds like a good description of hell, and a terrific way to waste time and energy on something you have virtually no control over. Here's a better way to spend your day: write really good books.

gniz said...
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gniz said...
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Joe Konrath said...

And Barry and I fisked the new Authors Guild nonsense. It's about 7000 words and will be up tomorrow.

I haven't started reading the comments yet; I'm going to pour eighteen fingers of Macallan Rare and start right now. But before I do, I want to give a shout out to Annie B for posting about her experiment. I was intrigued enough to try it myself, and she was right, I was wrong. I'd confused causation and causality, assuming that my author rank got better because Amazon was ranking according to pages read. But after trying Annie's experiment, I replicated her results. The borrow counts, not the pages read.

I like being proven wrong. It gives me the chance to learn and to grow. So thanks, Annie! :)

Joe Konrath said...

Joe, I'm surprised you'd give Select the time of day! It's a naked attempt to monopolize the ebook market, so I'm not sure why you'd go along with it.

The money. I'm a whore.

By the way, since I brought it up, I fully believe that prostitution should be legalized. Pimps, however, should remain against the law.

Joe Konrath said...

What's relevant is that we're all Amazon's bitch. We're all dancing monkeys to their tune. We might not be living under legacy publishing's Draconian control, but a chain is a chain. A nice master is better than a cruel one...?

Hi, Selena!

You know I don't agree with Amazon's erotica policy. I think they should allow more than they do. I think restricting or banning certain erotica hurts readers and authors.

At the same time, I don't think all erotic should be allowed, specifically pedo stuff. And I think Amazon has the right to sell whatever it wants to.

As for being Amazon's bitch... well, there hasn't been a time when I haven't been someone's bitch. When I was 16 and 17, I was Burger King's bitch, then Little Caeser's bitch.

I worked in factories (I was an English muffin company's bitch) and construction (I was a road paver's bitch) and in a temp agency (I guess I was only someone's bitch temportarily) and for local government (I was Bensenville's bitch).

I can go on through every single job I've ever had, including some non fiction writing (I actually wrote instruction manuals for VCRs, and was Zenith's bitch.)

At every job I've ever had, I was at the whim of someone more powerful. In some cases, they exerted that power to make me unhappy. In some cases, they fired me.

That's life. I never liked it.

Saying all that, Amazon has allowed me freedom I didn't think was possible. And KDP Select makes me more than I was making on all the other retailers combined.

So, for the moment, I'm fine with being Amazon's bitch.

But, like you, I'm also thinking of the future, and fending for myself. Cont...

Joe Konrath said...

Even IF we can self-publish our books, the control has shifted from the gatekeepers to Amazon. And we have handed it to them.

I'd argue that Amazon earned it from me. By giving me more than I ever had before.

When I began blogging about self-publishing, I blacklisted myself. That was scary. But Amazon made it possible. Without Amazon, I'd still be getting abused by the Big 6.

Worrying that Amazon might someday abuse me--so far it hasn't--isn't a compelling reason to jump on the anti-Amazon bandwagon. At the same time, when Amazon does do something I don't approve of, I am vocal about it.

Make no mistake, Amazon is not our friend. Amazon is a crocodile sitting with their mouth open, and we are birds picking out crumbs.

I like that analogy. Because the croc doesn't eat those birds. It's a mutually beneficial relationship.

Maybe someday it won't be. And maybe someday a meteor will destroy the earth.

I don't want to dedicate my life to preparing for the meteor strike, especially since it may never happen. But I also will spend some time building a shelter.

Pretty much no other author gets that. Everyone is waiting around to follow the next big thing.

The only tru way to win is to be the next big thing. But you already know that. :)

Joe Konrath said...

Authors who write long THINK they're going to make out in this new system. Some may. But... we don't really know, do we?

That's empiricism.

I'm an empiricist, so I agree. But I also have been privy to Amazon unrolling this program for many months, and I've had the opportunity to ask them a lot of questions. If you can assume I'm smart enough to ask the right questions, and smart enough to judge a situation without being duped, I'm happy to report that I do believe this will make more money for those who write long. That was one of Amazon's intentions.

And as Amazon gains marketshare, your choices are narrowing even further.

First, we have 20 years of Amazon behavior as indications of what they might do in the future. So far, they haven't screwed me.

Second, if they did screw me, or a large number of authors, it would do two things. There would be backlash. Authors would leave. Or plot to leave. And competition would fill the vacuum.

It doesn't make sense for Amazon to mess with its biggest supporters and a growing source of income. But if Amazon did, would wouldn't have to bend over and take it. My retaliatory response would not be as lame as Authors United. I'd leave, and compete. Hard.

Joe Konrath said...

I'm sorry I lost all focus on this post after reading you have new Jack Daniels books coming out later this year :) When can we expect them? That just completly made my day!

Two by the end of summer, one in early fall. Thanks!

Joe Konrath said...

When Amazon makes it harder to sell books outside of KU, that's the boiling frog.

Well, not really. Amazon is making it harder to sell books outside of KU with incentives. Not with trickery or threats. It's like saying that partner who give you great sex is doing it someday to divorce you and take all your money. Maybe they are. But maybe they're enjoying the sex as much as you are, and want it to continue forever.

Joe Konrath said...

I like Joe, but he never seems to find any fault in Amazon simply because they are friendlier than legacy publishing.

Earlier this month I bitched at Amazon for removing reviews. I've also bitched at Amazon privately. They have faults.

But I don't like Amazon because they're friendly. I like Amazon because they've allowed me to have more control, and make more money.

If they stop doing that, I'll like them less. And if legacy publishing started treating authors better, I'd like them more.

Joe Konrath said...

And for authors like myself--I've seen clearly how much my rankings dropped when I pulled books out of KU.

Are you really blaming Amazon for following tech trends and anticipating consumer need by offering a subscription service?

I'm pretty convinced subscription services are the future.

How would you run a better subscription service than Amazon is doing? Seriously, let's have this discussion. If you don't like KU, brainstorm a better subscription model.

Joe Konrath said...

But you're not addressing the realities that these subscription services are, for now and as far as I can see into the future, money losers.

I don't see a way Scribd of Oyster can sustain their business models. But Amazon can, as a loss lead. Authors in KU are paid by other parts of Amazon's business.

What no one is asking is how we'll make a living when subscription becomes the norm and compensation drops. But I foresee multiple solutions to that.

DABoulter said...

Broken Yogi, you said: "You really need to grasp that Amazon's business practices are geared towards the readers, their customers, not their authors, who are their suppliers. And their readers wanted more long fiction in KU, not all these short works you and others were making mint off of for the last year. So, adapt. Write better, longer works that people actually read. If you can't do that, don't blame Amazon."

I believe this is an error. Amazon's business practices are geared towards Amazon and furtherance of their goals. They can't sell to readers without content providers, and thus they have to keep a sufficient number of content providers happy enough to stay in KU. But they must balance keeping content providers happy with keeping readers happy. But all of that gets subordinated to keeping Amazon happy.

Why you would think that KU subscribers want more longer reads made Amazon decide to change its payment structure is beyond me. The truth is probably closer to "Amazon wants its subscribers to read long rather than short," than "Amazon subscribers want more long fiction in KU". But even more accurate than that is probably: "Amazon wants to pay out less for its subscription service."

Consider last year's KU-1. A specific reader may have read one novel a week. That's four payouts per month. A reader who reads the same number of pages, but in short fiction, read 7-15 shorts in the same time, meaning Amazon had to pay out for up to 60 borrows in the month.

At $1.40 per borrow (the average payout last year), that's a difference between making $4.60 profit on the first reader and losing up to $74 on the second reader. Paying out by the page only makes sense from a business perspective.

Now, Amazon's figures give us the $0.0057 per KENP estimate. Assume it's correct, and Amazon will pay out that for July's reads. The novelists (who keep their readers interested to the last page) will get a big raise, and the writers of shorts will see their pay decrease. But the total payout will be the same (assuming the same number of pages read in July as in June).

Will it stay that way? Amazon began by paying over $1.80 per borrow, but decreased it to $1.35 over the year. At $1.80, authors with books selling for $2.99 saw little disadvantage to being in KU. A borrow almost equalled a sale. At $1.35, a lot of them were wondering about pulling out.

Now, my $2.99 list price, 95k novel has 551 KENP and as such will get me (under above assumption) $3.14 for a full read. I'm very happy. Amazon is paying me more for a read than my book is selling for. Do I expect this to continue? Not a chance. That payout per page will go down, just like the borrow rate went down, until Amazon finds it has reached the lowest payout possible while still maintaining enough content providers, and not disappointing their subscribers to the point they will cancel their subscriptions.

In doing so, Amazon has also taken care of the scammers -- and by this I DO NOT mean short story writers of ANY genre. These people put up any old garbage, but made it so short that even opening the book guaranteed them a 'borrow'. All you needed was an attractive cover and interesting blurb. By the time the reader discovered that the content was worthless, it was too late. Amazon had to make the payout. They've fixed that bug -- and screwed the short story writers in the process.

And that's the more likely reality of the change. Not that readers were demanding more long stories, but that Amazon wants to make more money and to not pay scammers.

If the growth rate of pages read this year equals last year's growth rate of 'borrows', even keeping the 'pot' at $11 million (as they've promised for the next couple of months) will see a 5-10% reduction per month in payout per page.

Amazon found it could keep authors in KU-1 at $1.35 per borrow. They'll likely aim for something close to that again. The $3.14 payout for my novel won't last long.

Michael Ryder said...

Total newb here with three titles (a big fat thriller and two short stories) published in July in KU. Even though I'm new to this, I might be able to contribute something to this discussion, thanks to the pristine (i.e., practically nonexistent) nature of my sales data and my obsessive (i.e., typically newbalicious) several-times-a-day tracking of that pristine sales data.

The thriller has two sales. The sales took place a week apart. About eight hours after the first sale, the book's rank appeared (about 125,000) and then began to drop. After the second sale, the book's rank rose to about 125,000 (about eight hours after the sale) and then began to drop.

A week ago, the thriller started showing KU page reads. Soon after the first page reads showed up, the book's rank rose to about 125,000 and then began to drop. The page reads have continued all week (thank you, dear reader!), even as the book's rank has continued to drop.

My take on this is that a borrow and a sale do the same thing to a book's sales rank. Am I thinking about this the right way?

My other take is that this new "pages-read" reporting is dangerously addictive, because I'm now obsessing over my lovely reader and wondering if he/she's going to finish the book. He/she's a third of the way in right now, with 52 pages read yesterday. Will he/she keep reading? Will my writerly ego suffer a confidence-shattering blow if he/she dumps me cold?

Ah, the tension. I almost -- almost -- want no one else to borrow a copy until I find out whether the story holds my lovely reader to the very end....

Broken Yogi said...

DABoulter,
Amazon's business practices are geared towards Amazon and furtherance of their goals. They can't sell to readers without content providers, and thus they have to keep a sufficient number of content providers happy enough to stay in KU.

Of course. But keep in mind that Amazon has an actual business model whose primary method for achieving success is customer satisfaction. That's why they have the highest customer satisfaction rating in the industry. They know what they are doing, and they do it well.

And they know that to achieve customer satisfaction, they have to have the products their customers want at the prices they want. So they need the books in KU that their readers want.

The truth is probably closer to "Amazon wants its subscribers to read long rather than short," than "Amazon subscribers want more long fiction in KU".

Why on earth would Amazon care whether their readers like short or long works? The pot is still the same regardless. They only care about this to the degree that it leads to more or less paying subscribers. If people signed up for KU because there was all these great free short books on it, Amazon would be more than happy to structure their payment plan towards that end. But after a year of doing it that way, their customer research studies seem to have shown that this isn't the case, that their KU readers want longer works of higher quality - the very kinds of works you quite eloquently showed were being pulled out of KU by those authors become of shrinking payouts for longer works. So Amazon restructured the payout plan so that it would reward those kinds of books, to bring more of that kind of author into KU. Sounds like its driven by customer satisfaction goals to me.

But even more accurate than that is probably: "Amazon wants to pay out less for its subscription service."

I'm sure they do, but I'm also sure they realize that won't work. That's why instead of paying out less, they are continually increase the size of the KU pot with enormous subsidies for authors.

Amazon began by paying over $1.80 per borrow, but decreased it to $1.35 over the year.

Amazon did not decrease the rate of a borrow over this period. Authors did, by flooding KU with so many shorts. And readers did, by borrowing so many short works. Amazon kept increasing the size of the pot, but borrow payments went down because the number of borrows outstripped that increase, because not enough new subscribers signed up to keep the rate the same. And it got even worse because, as you show, authors of longer works started pulling their books out of KU because it was no longer a good enough deal for them. Amazon is hoping to lure them back with this new payout plan.

Broken Yogi said...

cont.

Not that readers were demanding more long stories, but that Amazon wants to make more money and to not pay scammers.

According to Amazon, they were getting the feedback that readers wanted more long stories, rather than so many shorts. And yes, they also wanted to cut off the scammers. And that hurt legitimate short story writers also, but seriously, when have short story writers ever been able to make a decent living in the publishing world? Like never? Okay, maybe in pre-television days. But it's hardly Amazon's obligation to subsidize short story writers when the general publishing marketplace is almost exclusively geared towards longer works. If people were out there demanding more short stories, they would be selling big outside of KU also. They aren't. Maybe a few big names can sell them, but not the relative unknowns.

Amazon found it could keep authors in KU-1 at $1.35 per borrow. They'll likely aim for something close to that again. The $3.14 payout for my novel won't last long.

You just showed above that Amazon couldn't keep authors of long works in KU when it fell to 1.35 a borrow. Now you're saying they can? Keep your story straight, please.

Payout rates will probably vary again. Keep in mind that they are only as high as they are, whether paid by borrow or by page, because of Amazon's huge subsidies. If authors were payed purely out of subscription fees, they'd probably be half or even only a third of that. So I'm not sure if the subscription model will ever work out as a profitable venture for anyone, including Amazon. They may feel fine about that if it brings in more customers overall. And authors ought to feel fine sucking down those fat subsidies for as long as it lasts. But the idea that this is the future of publishing needs serious scrutiny, and I don't see how the numbers add up.

Z Zirconia said...

How would you run a better subscription service than Amazon is doing? Seriously, let's have this discussion. If you don't like KU, brainstorm a better subscription model.

For one, I wouldn't stop telling authors how many unique customers they've had. I would be curious to see if Netflix, Spotify, iTunes or any other subscriptions services only tell their suppliers how many seconds were consumed as part of that subscription rather than other metrics.

Second of all, I wouldn't make participation in the subscription service also require exclusivity, and at the same time I would marry other exclusive features to that same subscription service. I was a big fan of KDP Select and the advantages it gave me before Kindle Unlimited, and I would love to retain those without being forced into their subscription service. Likewise, I would love if all authors weren't feeling like they had to give up their income on other retailers if they, too, felt that subscription services were the future and wanted in on Kindle Unlimited.

Lastly, I do not believe that the system of paying based on the length of the book is a good one. For sale, baby shoes, never worn. If the customer wants full-length novels and is not getting them, Amazon should provide incentives for those works without completely taking away all incentives for shorter works, which have also proved popular to their customers. If shorter works are removed, the people that consume shorter works will stop their subscriptions, which will cause the total pot of money to decrease. This means the payment-per-page will go down, and again the payout will become too low to provide incentives to novelists, and the program will die. In the insurance industry, they call this a "death spiral". This is all in a vacuum of course, Amazon has shown in the past that they're willing to prop up the fund as much as it takes, but your plan for the future can't include "Amazon's future generosity".

Again, I'd be willing to debate this over the phone and would be willing to have it recorded for your blog if you'd prefer.

Drew Gideon said...

I'm really curious to know how hopping around in the book affects the page read counts.
For instance, if I've read up to page 156, then hop back to page 64 to check something, does the page count revert from 156 pages read to 64?
If I then hop back forward to 156, does it reset the count to 156 pages read, or does it think I "cheated" and skipped?

For non-fiction books, say I browse the TOC and decide to go to Chapter 4 and read all 20 pages of that, ending at page 100. Then I hop back to the TOC and look for the next thing I'm interested in, which is on page 189. I hop straight to 189 and read for ten pages.
How does KU count that? Does it count it as 30 pages read, which it is? Does it count it at 199 pages read, since page 199 is where I ultimately end up? Does it count it as 20 pages read, then erase that since I went back past them, then count ten pages (to end with a total of ten pages read)?

When I read a book, tell my son about it, he grabs it from my KL on his own device and reads it - does that count as one read (due to same account), or two (due to separate devices)?
If my husband hears me telling my son about this great book, borrows MY device, backs up to the TOC, and reads it fully himself, does that count as an additional read? Or does KU ignore the second read-through since it was on the same device?

Also, for those of us who read with our wireless turned off to save battery, I'm curious about correct data being transmitted. My mother, for example, will download a book, turn off wireless, read the book, delete it - and won't turn wireless back on until she's ordered another book to download.
Do her reads count as zero, zero, zero...? They might, since she deletes the book (and presumably, its associated data) before data can be transmitted to Zon.

So many questions. If we could get answers to some of them, that would be boss - but I doubt we will, since that information could allow scammers to increase their reported page reads.

Z Zirconia said...

I believe the answers to at least questions two and three are "one account, one read".

Broken Yogi said...

Z,

If the customer wants full-length novels and is not getting them, Amazon should provide incentives for those works without completely taking away all incentives for shorter works, which have also proved popular to their customers.

I don't get the logic here. You realize we are talking about a subscription service, with a limited pot size dependent on the subscriber base? Thus, any incentives Amazon gives to longer works have to come from somewhere, meaning shorts. You can't have your cake and eat it. Not everyone can have their pony. There have to be compromises. So the question remains, what's your compromise system?

If shorter works are removed, the people that consume shorter works will stop their subscriptions, which will cause the total pot of money to decrease.

Probably, but how many people subscribe to KU in order to read shorts? Not many, I bet. Not as many people who want long works. At least that's what Amazon's market research showed them. They probably browse through shorts just for fun, because they're free. But I bet they're not willing to pay extra for them. The general market for shorts is very small, and dwarfed by the market for full-length books. I'm not sure why KU should be any different.

One proposal I can think off the top of my head this very second is to have multiple KUs. One for longs, one for shorts. And maybe one for erotica, another for kids books, another for romance, and so on down the line. Perhaps a tiered pricing system, where you choose which categories you want to include, and pay for each category in a total price. And one all-inclusive price for everything. It could get very complicated I know, and I'm not sure Amazon wants that kind of headache managing it all.

This means the payment-per-page will go down, and again the payout will become too low to provide incentives to novelists, and the program will die. In the insurance industry, they call this a "death spiral".

KU can't please everyone as a general, all-purpose package. That's why insurance companies have group plans, and categories of insurance, rather than just one general "insurance" package. If you just want auto insurance, you don't want to have to pay for property insurance also. You want a deal suited to your needs. But KU doesn't do that, it treats all readers as one pool. That's the source of this conflict. It's trying to pay all authors by a single metric. Whether that is borrows or pages, it's going to bias things in a directions that rewards some and hinders others. So maybe a tiered system is the only way to provide a fair KU program.

For now, Amazon is deciding that the pay-per-page system comes closer to what they think their readers want. They may lose some readers of shorts, but gain enough in longs to more than make up for it. I'm sure their reader feedback will tell them which is better. And then we may see them change this again.

Z Zirconia said...

If, as you said, people weren't joining Kindle Unlimited to read shorts, then it obviously would not have been a problem to keep the payout system the way it was. Shorts were too popular, serials were too popular, and when readers had an all-you-can-eat opportunity to read them for a fixed price per month, they read them more than novels. You are correct that novels have the bigger market, but Amazon is betting that enough novelists decide to join to lure new customers in to offset the customers that will leave when there's no longer an excess of shorts and serials. Just like Scribd betting that removing romance books won't lead to a death spiral, this is a pretty big bet for Amazon to make.

Broken Yogi said...

But Z, in the first place, Amazon has to make some sort of bet here. They already made a bet on paying by the borrow, and after a year of analyzing the data and researching their customers, they've decided to change it, because they think it will work best for KU. So now they are making a different bet. They really don't care what works best for authors individually, except that they want to attract the authors their readers want. And they've concluded their readers want more long books. If everything had been just great with the old system, they wouldn't have changed it. So obviously they felt something needed to be changed, and they are trying this out to see if it works. Within a year we'll probably see if it does.

I don't actually think many authors of shorts will pull their books out of KU. Why would they? Are KU borrows subtracting from the big money they would otherwise be making? Who is paying this kind of money for shorts anywhere? So if they keep them in, and more long books come into KU, Amazon really does get most of the best of both. If not, they'll adjust once more.

DABoulter said...

Broken Yogi, my story is straight. What comes into question is your ability to comprehend what you read.

You just showed above that Amazon couldn't keep authors of long works in KU when it fell to 1.35 a borrow. Now you're saying they can? Keep your story straight, please.

No, I didn't show that. Read again what I wrote.

Secondly, your comment that 'the pot is the same regardless', shows an inability to understand what actually happened.

The pot is (well, was) $3 Million. That was the pot that stayed the same, regardless. But that wasn't the payout, was it? Had they kept the pot fixed at that $3 Million the share per borrow would have decreased month by month until it would have reached $0.35 in July. At that rate, it's unlikely that many people would have kept their works in KU. Thus, Amazon added money to the pot -- not announced until they gave out the final figures on the 15th of the following month, in other words after they worked out what the payout would be. And each month that $3 Million pot was increased further and further. It doesn't take a genius to realize that Amazon added the amount of money to the pot to put the price per borrow where they wanted it.

So, though Amazon says -- and you seem to believe -- that each borrow would receive a share of the pot, the number of borrows thus determining the payout for the borrow, the actual process appears to be that they decided upon the payout for the borrow and then multiplied the number of borrows by that amount to figure out what they needed the pot to be.

Your further statement Amazon did not decrease the rate of a borrow over this period. Authors did, by flooding KU with so many shorts. is nonsensical.

It doesn't matter how many shorts or novels or children's books flooded into KU. Even if we agree to your assumption that the pot was fixed, this wouldn't be true. What would matter, in that case, is the amount of borrows. If there were 1 Billion shorts in KU and nobody borrowed any of them, they would have no effect at all on the share of the pot generated by a borrow. Size of the catalogue doesn't have any effect on the payout of a borrow. That, at least should be easy for any to understand.

Thus, again allowing your assumption to stand, the true statement would be: KU subscribers' love for shorts caused the borrow rate to decrease. But that true rendering of your statement flies against what you claim: KU subscribers wanted more novels. Thus you conveniently threw out that nonsensical statement -- to, what, divert attention?

And, going on into the future: THERE IS NO FIXED POT. Amazon has the right -- and stated it outright for all to see -- that they can add to it at any time. They can subtract from it, too, (except for July and August if they keep their word). The reason it attained $11 million in June rather than the fixed $3 million, was to stop authors from abandoning KU wholesale and thus collapsing the KU program. Amazon will continue to fix the price per page by altering the payout as they see fit.

Anna Erishkigal said...

Hi Joe - I'm going to skip right over all the short-v-long strife and get to the REAL point of your article, which is how valuable it would be to know what page your reader left off on.

WattPad and FictionPress already have this capability. You upload your story, the most vocal and sociable readers will upvote certain chapters and leave comments. What stories get visible depend upon the most reads. But they have a SECOND metric most 13-year-old girls writing about Twilight romances don't realize ... a chapter by chapter graph of how many people read, re-read, upvoted and commented on each chapter.

This is the silent majority who never comment on a story or review it. You can see, in a bar graph, where your readership suddenly falls off a cliff. Most stories are shaped like a ski-slope, with a sharp drop-off after the first chapter, still shooting downwards through chapter 3, and then at some point your story stabilizes and should remain pretty even. If you see a big dropoff, it means somewhere in the last few chapters your story began to drag or did something that offended people.

Now Wattpad takes it a further step by showing you the demographics of your reader (age / gender) while Fanfiction.net/Fictionpress.net tell you what country they are from. I highly doubt Amazon would ever give us THAT information!

But really, this technology already exists. I'm not saying we should all go write fanfiction (the audience tends to be 13-17 year old girls from southeast Asia), but it -DOES- improve help your writing if you know where your readers are bailing out, which is why these crowdsource sites tell you that data.

Broken Yogi said...

DABoulter,

I guess I really can't comprehend what you mean here then:

Amazon began by paying over $1.80 per borrow, but decreased it to $1.35 over the year. At $1.80, authors with books selling for $2.99 saw little disadvantage to being in KU. A borrow almost equalled a sale. At $1.35, a lot of them were wondering about pulling out.

Sounds like you're saying that at $1.35, authors of long works were pulling out. That certainly matches what Amazon says. And what Hugh Howey did, pulling out his own works because they weren't getting paid enough. And loudly complaining to Amazon about it. And then celebrating when they changed the forumla, and then put his long works back into KU.

And yes, of course Amazon subsidizes the KU pot. That's what I've been pointing out. They increased it from $3 million to $11 million recently using their own money, to make it worthwhile to authors. But they're tired of subsidizing short works the same as long works, because they don't think they're what KU readers want. Or are you somehow expecting them to keep doing that forever, because it's some sort of government entitlement program? Obviously they are trying to mitigate their losses and get the most bang for their subsidy buck. They would prefer to subsidize longer works that they think will get them more KU subscribers over time. Are you suggesting they have no right to do that?

And no, there's no reason to believe that Amazon decided on the payment for each borrow, and then adjusted the subsidy accordingly. After all, they announced the size of the subsidy months in advance, without knowing how many borrows or pages read there would be. What they noticed was that no matter how much money they put into the pot, the size of the payment per borrow kept going down, because of all the short works that were flooding into KU to take advantage of the payment system. So they decided to change the payment system so that long works would get paid more. As it is now, long works that get read through will be paid $2-5 per borrow, rather than $1.35. So that's definitely an increase. And there's no way that Amazon can now adjust the payment "per borrow" since it's by the page.

But you're right that Amazon will continue to subsidize KU with millions of dollars a month in free money to authors. And you're complaining about this?

As for the short works bringing the price paid per borrow down, of course that's so. And certainly that indicates that in a subscription system, people will at least glance at almost anything, because it's all free. But many of those short works got paid merely by being borrowed on curiosity, and were then dropped when the borrower found out how uninteresting they were. The larger point is that by paying the same rate for all those short books as for long ones, the quality long fiction began to dry up. And KU subscribers seem to have complained about that. So Amazon made this change, to re-balance the payments in favor of long works. Again, that's their call based on what they think will make their subscribers happiest. They could be wrong, and over time we will see if they try something else. It's all a very new experiment, and the final system is most likely not yet here. Amazon is certainly losing lots of money regardless of the payout system, because without subsidies authors, long or short, would bolt from KU. So it seems like a good deal for quality authors either way. Just not as good a deal for writers of low-quality shorts as it was before, but better for better skilled writers of long works that hold the reader's attention.

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