Amazon has just announced that they will be changing the rules concerning their KDP select program and Kindle Unlimited (KU) by introducing a new algorithm called Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC).
When Amazon introduced its KU program, a subscription service where you can download and read as many books as you want for only $9.99 a month, many self-published authors got hit hard, especially those who published full length novels, seeing a huge drop in royalties. Under the old KU system, an author / publisher got paid whenever their book was borrowed and read to the 10% mark. This gave authors of short book, and especially children’s books, an unfair advantage. Books that are 30 pages or less often achieved that 10% minimum read soon after the book was opened, whereas those with 100 pages or more rarely did.
When Amazon unrolled its KU program last August, a lot of authors, myself included, took a huge hit and our sales decreased. It wasn’t long until KDP authors started to game the system by producing a lot of 30-40 page books, most of which was crap, and enrolling them in the KDP select program so as to maximize their earnings when those books were borrowed. Some authors would take what amounted to a full length novel and publish each chapter as a separate book and enroll it in KDP select to make it part of the KU library. The problem with this is it gave a lot of sell-published authors and small time publishers a bad reputation as readers started finding a lot of “junk” books. There have always been a lot of “junk” books in Amazon’s KDP library, but those trying to game the KU payout system exacerbated the problem, making it difficult for authors, like myself, who try to produce quality book to get discovered amidst the multitude of garbage produced over and over by the same people.
This method of gaming the system has backfired as many kindle readers, and some authors, complained. Nothing is more annoying than finding a book and enjoying it, only to discover that it was part of a full length novel that had been broken up into 15 or more separate “books”, all of which you have to locate and download, because the author wanted to maximize their earnings through the KU system. Though some readers like short books, many want full length novels.
Think about it. My book Solaris Seethes is the first book in a series, which is one thing; but imagine if I broke up the 27 chapter novel into 27 mini-ebooks. This is what a lot of KDP authors were doing to game the KU system, which made it where their books flooded the KU library and they were the only ones you could find. Well, readers complained and Amazon has responded with KENPC.
Now, a KDP author / publisher will only be paid on the number of pages read if their book is borrowed in the KU system. This seems to be Amazon’s attempt to make things fair for authors of novels as well as short stories and to give their customer base what they want: full length novels that they can read without purchasing. Amazon is attempting to cut down on the amount of “junk” novels produced and to stop people from gaming their KU system. The number of pages will be determined by Amazon’s own secret algorithm and will not be based on the print version of your book, if you have one, and will be made to fit across the different kindle devices. They will probably use the reader’s reading speed to calculate how many pages have actually been read by that individual.
Will there be those who try to game this new system? Of course there will. Once this program is in full effect on July 1, 2015, be prepared for the same authors who tried to game the original KU system to start trying to game this one. Because an author / publisher will be paid for each page read, this means the longer the book, the more money a person earns. Some authors will start producing books with a lot of filler in order to earn a bigger royalty check. However, this will probably be a short term problem that readers will face because I’m sure Amazon has measures in place to prevent this. Most people, like me, will flip through pages they find boring and are obvious filler. When you’re flipping, you’re not spending a lot of time on the page; so I don’t think Amazon will count it as a page read. People’s kindle devices are constantly connected to Amazon’s cloud and I’m sure Amazon will require a person to be on a page for a certain length of time before they count it as a page read; and they won’t tell you what that length of time is and it’s not worth trying to figure it out. So, basically, if you are a KDP author thinking of adding filler to your books so as to earn more from this new KENPC system, don’t bother. People will just flip through those filler pages and they will not be counted as pages read. Also, you will garner a lot of negative reviews from adding filler, which will make it where no one bothers downloading your book.
So what does the new KENPC system mean for you?
If you just like to read books, it means nothing. It won’t impact you at all, other than enabling you to find a ton of new books to read.
If you are an author using the KU system, you may or may not see a difference in your royalty earnings. If you have been producing a lot of short books in the KU library, your earnings will drop with the KENPC system. If you have a bunch of full length novels in KU, you may see an increase in earnings. Keep in mind that people still have to find your book, download it, and read it. Also bear in mind that readers do not care about whether you earn a royalty check or not. They won’t care if the pages they read of your kindle book are counted as pages read or not by Amazon, nor are they going to care that if they download your book and never open it that you earn nothing.
Will you be affected? Hard to say. If you have books enrolled in the KU system and they are already doing well, their length will determine whether you see a drop or increase in income. If you have books in KU and they aren’t doing well, they may start to under this new system; then again, they may not. There’s no way to predict this. If you are not enrolled in the KDP select program at all, then the new KENPC won’t affect you because it is only applied to books that are enrolled in KDP select. But please do not try to game the system. It hurts everyone, including you.
Janet McNulty is the author of Solaris Seethes, the first book in the Solaris Saga, and has been publishing through Amazon KDP since 2011.