I’m re-assessing how I run my publishing business for 2017 and wanted to share some of my frustrations as an Author.
Recently, many authors have noticed that over the last few months, the pages-read numbers for our eBooks that are borrowed at Amazon and read, have decreased dramatically. Some say it is just a slump resulting from an Election Year. Others say that something is amuck with Amazon’s pages-read reporting system that lets us know how many pages were read for stories that we have enrolled in the KINDLE UNIMITED (KU) program.
Most of my newer titles are enrolled in KU. I like the program, both as a reader and author. I’ve always enjoyed reading for pleasure and I also read for my job as a writer and novelist. I gain inspiration from my fellow authors and love to track my reading via GOODREADS. I like knowing that my readers can opt to borrow a book if they want. It’s a win-win.
One of the things that has always helped me with my writing business is that I study my own reading behavior and habits. For me, spending $9.99 a month on a subscription plan actually saves me money. That is part of why it was easy for me to be willing, as an author, to put my eBooks into the KU program so that other readers who are members can borrow, read and return.
Up until Oct, Nov, & Dec – I was pleased. But something has shifted and many authors have been left scratching our heads. Our pages-read numbers (how we earn money from the KU program) are seriously decreased. Many of us have been in the indie publishing business for a while now and we are savvy about using reporting and tracking programs to understand the trends. We know when book-buying or borrow-reading tends to be at its best and worst. We plan ahead with publishing dates, marketing & advertising campaigns. Like any business, some times are better than others.
I review trends from a quarterly approach and the depreciation is significant from the first three quarters of the year. I’m usually able to depend on a certain number of sales and pages-read for a new release. The irony is that I’d rather a reader borrow and read my stories than by them as many are priced at $0.99 initially (I increase prices one month after publication) and I only earn $0.35 from a SALE.
My last two (Her Baller & SHIFTER: Polar Bear, Part 1) have both done poorly despite great reviews averaging 4.5 and higher from about 100 reviewers. Her Baller was published on October 8th and SHIFTER: Polar Bear, Part 1 was published on Nov 1st. They’ve earned about 30% of what I was anticipating. That’s a pretty big decline. For the first time, I didn’t get an ROI (Return on Investment) for the hundreds of dollars that I put into advertising and marketing. This has never happened before.
I have several stories I’m writing currently, to be published in January and February. I’d intended to include them in KINDLE UNLIMITED (KU), but now I’m not so sure… I’ve gone ahead and cancelled re-enrollment for my eBooks that are currently in KU. Most of those will fall out of the program by the end of January.
Part of the issue is that despite many of us reaching out to customer support at Amazon about this concern, we’re getting pretty-much a cookie-cutter response that everything is just peachy! No problems here…
Thanks for your inquiry. We regularly audit and monitor pages read systems for accuracy. We particularly focus on making sure we have correctly filtered out fraudulent reading activity, while including all legitimate customer behavior. The KDP business team has not found any systematic issues impacting your results.
Please note that, as always, individual title performance can vary and be impacted by a number of different factors such as seasonality, genre trends, series age, etc. We always appreciate the feedback we get from content providers.
~ KDP Executive Customer Relations
So, I have a favor to ask…
Amazon listens to their customers. They don’t quite seem to value their content providers (writers & authors) as much as they do their customers. Would you be willing to send an email and express your concern as a reader? Here, I’ll make it easy. Here is a cut & paste letter you can copy and amend:
Dear Jeff & Amazon,
I’m a customer of yours who likes to read and buy and/or borrow eBooks from your website. Over the last couple of months, I’ve heard concerns from authors whose books I read, that they are experiencing an atypical decline, overall, in the pages-read numbers for their stories that are in KINDLE UNLIMITED (KU).
They’ve shared that they have contacted KDP support and are being provided unsatisfactory responses or cookie-cutter type replies.
It’s important to me that authors are fairly compensated for the work and content they provide. As entertainers, they are important to society and deserve to regarded with respect. I enjoy the books they enroll in KINDLE UNLIMITED and I’m concerned that they will start to pull them out of the KU program.
Can you please look further into this matter and research it?
EMAIL to send to:
Thank you Dear Readers! I, for one, am glad that 2016 is almost over. I appreciate each and every one of you.
Ruby / Emerald / Maddy / Amber
>>> A follow-up to this BLOG. A reader reached out and asked some good questions <<<
Hi! Read your email about the KU Conundrum and have a thought for you. The drop in readership might be due to the election and holidays right afterwards- I know that I’m enrolled in KU and haven’t had a spare minute to read since the beginning of October.
I’d like to know 2 things- first, do you make more money actually selling a book for .99 or for people reading it on KU? And second- how does Amazon figure out how many pages a person reads? If I buy a book, read the first page, then zip through to the last page, will the author get paid for 2 pages or the whole book?
Great questions… That was one of my guesses – that the election caused a dip in overall reading habits both to sales and borrows. However, we’ve collectively observed some other issues and want Amazon to address them. To your questions, most authors earn more from a ‘borrow‘ than a $0.99 ‘sale‘. Amazon has a tier system for indie authors/publishers when it comes to royalties earned for eBooks.
$0.99 – $2.98 = 35% profit for the author/publisher
$2.99 – $9.99 – 70% profit for the author/publisher
Per Amazon, they have a way of monitoring how many pages a reader reads via their kindles and we get ‘paid per page‘ (ppp) read. The rate paid out each month is a variable. That means, the rate changes. Here are the rates for 2016 so far:
We don’t know November’s rate yet but will know on the 15th. Each month, on the 15th, Amazon lets us know how many collective pages are read and what the $ amount of the pool of money they set aside for the KU program. It’s around $12 million currently. This is how they come up with the rate to pay the authors who have eBooks in the KU program.
Total # of pages read / $12 millon = ppp
This answer is probably more detailed than you anticipated, but I figure that other people (readers) will be curious and this way, it’s all spelled out.
As to your last question, we’re not sure. We’ve been told different things. Initially, we were told that yes – they had a way of knowing if the reader actually read each page of an eBook. Then there was a lot of scamming that occurred and in the process of Amazon having to put a stop to the scammers, it came out that the system could be tricked into reporting that all the pages were read, but in reality the readers had skipped from the front of the ebook to the end of the ebook. So, honestly – who knows? All we know is something seems wrong about it overall…
Thank you for your questions and let me know if that helped?
Happy Holidays to you!