KENP Is In…and the Whiners are Out in Force

manSo here it is…the great reveal…the dreaded month when Amazon unveiled KENP (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages) and actually paid authors for what they are worth. Oh, the unfairness of it all! (sob of despair, hand raised dramatically to the forehead.)

What the hell is the old man talking about? Fair question.

I know that this audience is a mix of readers and writers, so for the non-Kindle Select readers and writers among you, allow me to explain.

 A Personal Choice

For several years, Amazon has had a program called Kindle Select for authors. Some authors, like me, have opted into it. Others have not. It is a personal choice. Amazon does not pressure anyone to join the program. You may publish your books on Amazon whether you are a Kindle Select author or not.

There are several reasons why I have chosen to list my books with Amazon Kindle Select. For one, it simplifies the publishing process, so that I can focus on the core of my business…writing.

Amazon is the biggest marketplace, and I am fine with that. I tried publishing with other markets (Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, Lulu, I-Books, etc.) and sold almost no books. In some of those markets, my total sales were…0…nada…a big goose egg.

So, I made the choice to go with Amazon, the largest market with the best business model. And let’s be honest, Amazon Kindle led the E-book revolution and continues to do so. It has worked out pretty well for me.

 Writing is a Business

Do not forget that writing is a business as well as a creative literary art. You have heard me say it before…authors like to eat, live under a roof, drink an occasional beer, go visit the grandkids…you know the things other people do.

When you publish on Amazon, you have the choice of publishing as a Kindle Direct Publishing author (KDP) or as a KDP Select Author. KDP Select requires you to publish exclusively with Amazon for a ninety-day period. At the end of the ninety days, you can drop out or re-enroll in the program. Your choice.

 Incentives

Amazon offers a number of promotional and income incentives to Select authors in exchange for their exclusivity. These include the option to offer your books at a reduced rate during a “Countdown Deal”, or to offer them free as part of a promotional package. Many of my readers have taken advantage of these promotions, and I am happy they have. Otherwise, they might be asking who the hell is Glenn Trust and why is he pissing off all of the other writers out there?

You may also, opt into the “Matchbook” program, which allows a reader who purchased a print copy of your book also to buy a Kindle version at a reduced price. A Select author can take advantage of these promotional opportunities for any of their enrolled books during the ninety-day period.

Some authors, like me, appreciate and use these programs regularly. Others do not. As I said, no one is coerced into joining the KDP Select program and many prefer to market in their own way through various other marketing channels. I prefer to write and try to become better at writing than spend time working all of the other markets for minimal returns. There is no right or wrong to this. As I said, it’s a personal choice.

 I Like It

Another incentive to enroll books in KDP Select is the opportunity to be compensated for the books that are borrowed through Amazon’s Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU) programs for readers. This is a benefit for readers and authors, and another indicator that Amazon has a great business model that is innovative.

Amazon did not have to pay authors for borrows in the KOLL/KU programs. When someone goes to a library and checks out one of my books that the library has purchased, I receive no compensation for that library lend. I wouldn’t expect to.

But, it was in their business interest, and mine, to implement the program and pay authors for the borrows as an incentive to enroll in KDP Select.

It’s fair and I applaud their business acumen. As I have repeatedly said in this post and others, writing is a business as well as art. Forget that and you will be a very hungry writer.

Amazon could have allowed people to pay their fees for Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited, borrow the books and not pay authors for the borrows/lends. But, they do pay us. Last month they committed $11 million to be distributed to authors who have books borrowed through the KDP Select program. I like it.

Just so you know, I am not a shill for Amazon. I receive no compensation for posting my opinions here or elsewhere. I am a businessperson whose business is writing books. I try to put out a quality product so that my readers come back and want to read more books. My income comes from readers who like my work.

 Suck It Up

In the past, the KOLL/KU program ran in this way – A customer would borrow a book and authors would receive a lump sum for each book borrowed. It didn’t matter what type of book it was, how long it was, or what the quality of the writing was. If your book was listed in Kindle Select, you were paid a standard rate every month based on the total number of books that were borrowed. In other words, you received your proportionate share of the incentive money for books borrowed.

It was always a bit of a thorn in the side of some authors, me included, that all books were rated the same and valued exactly the same. Let’s be honest, if you read a lot, you know there are good books and…uh…not so good books out there.

Having said that, we sucked it up and went on writing…it’s what we do. After all, the KU/KOLL program was a bonus, an incentive, for being a Kindle Select author. The income from the books borrowed was a supplement to our regular royalties. It was never intended to be an author’s primary source of royalty income.

Besides, I need to write and whining takes too much energy away from putting words together into coherent sentences. The program wasn’t entirely fair to writers who spent months working on a novel. They were competing against authors who were cranking out short 100 page (or less sometimes) pieces and enrolling them in KDP Select, but we accepted it in the spirit of goodwill that Amazon offered it.

I suppose it would be asking too much for whiners to work within the new, fairer rules and Suck It Up, as we did in the past.

 They Got It

I have to give Amazon credit. They finally understood the inequity of their program…another sign of their business acumen and fair play.

Not all books are of equal length or of equal quality and value. They got it.

They came up with an extraordinary idea. Pay authors in the Kindle Select program for every page read of the borrowed books. No more paying the writer of a hundred-page short cranked out en masse at the same rate as the writer who spends months fine-tuning a lengthy novel. Instead, pay both of those authors for the actual pages read…a much better indicator of the quality of an author’s work. If readers keep turning the pages, they must like what they are reading.

The playing field is now equal. It is a free and open marketplace, and I, for one, am grateful for it.

 Seems Fair to Me

But, it has become the source of considerable controversy…and Whining.

Many are not happy. Amazon is unfair, they cry. Amazon is a bully. Mean old Amazon, “I’d like to put a flaming sack of shit on their doorstep.” (Yes, I actually saw one comment that said exactly that.)

Many are throwing public tantrums, posting long diatribes in social media and blogs wailing against Amazon, and those of us who happen to support the new program. Their verbal weeping and gnashing of teeth reads as if their heads were about to spin off their shoulders.

Why are they so unhappy?

Because those authors who were cranking out small little pieces and flooding the market on Kindle Select and KU/KOLL are no longer able to dominate and receive the lion’s share of that revenue. Now, they are paid, as am I, by the number of pages of their borrowed books that are actually read.

Seems fair to me. Write a god book and people read it. Put out a book that is poorly written and readers move on to something else.

 Gaming the System

See what has been happening? Some writers have been gaming Amazon’s system, a practice that is no longer possible.

In the past, they could throw out anything, enroll it in Kindle Select, where the minimum price of the book must be $2.99 if you are on the 70% royalty plan. To put that in perspective, many fine and lengthy novels are priced at 2.99 on Amazon. Admittedly many are by newer authors who are trying to develop their audience, but that does not diminish the quality of their work.

But the whiners were deliberately pricing a short piece that may have taken an afternoon to write at the same price as a full-length novel. (Okay maybe that’s a little harsh, let’s say it took them a week in some cases, even two weeks) The abbreviated length of the book drove readers to borrow the book and not waste money on a purchase. They were then paid for every lend/borrow of the book…just like me and everyone else.

Apparently, some of these authors were making their livelihood in this way, inundating the Amazon KOLL/KU marketplace with cheap, often poorly written bunkum. And apparently that is why the quality of some of the books you buy or borrow on Amazon is so poor. I know; I’m a reader too.

 Don’t Like It? Drop Out.

For those writers who are unhappy with the new Amazon method, I will point out, once again, that the KU/KOLL was never intended to be the primary source of a writer’s income. It was meant to be a benefit, bonus, an incentive to writers for enrolling in the Kindle Select Author program. Don’t like it? Drop out.

I won’t mince words here, as I suspect I have already pissed off any of those writing whiners that have read this far. If KOLL/KU has been your primary source of royalties, then you have been gaming the system, and I am extraordinarily happy that Amazon caught on and changed it.

By the way, I am not criticizing shorter works. I have even read a couple of the shorter work writers who also happen to be among the complainers. They are good enough to make a living through sales. They don’t need to game the system. But it may take a little more effort and time spent in writing. Isn’t that what we got into this business for, anyway?

I also have a couple of favorite authors specializing in shorter books and whose books I read avidly. I won’t mention their names here because I don’t want this post to negatively impact them or their book sales.

If you write good books that happen to be short in length and want more pages read, write more books. You might also consider selling your books at a reasonable price to drive up actual sales. In the time it takes me to write one of The Hunters Series novels, you could complete two, three, maybe four shorter works, depending on their quality and length.

If you write longer books and want more pages read, write better books. It’s that simple. It’s fair.

 Do It Downwind

Amazon has no obligation to guarantee you an audience or any certain level of income. They are not the bad guys. They are a business. Writing is a business. If you don’t get that, then you might consider doing something else. Part of business is fair competition.

The new pages read method simply means that if you write an excellent book, one that people will want to read, you will be paid. If you do not, you will not be paid. It’s all about customer/reader satisfaction and competition in the free marketplace.

I’m okay with that. I am happy to compete on the playing field that has been leveled…finally.

In addition to fairly compensating all Select authors, the new KENP program solves another problem. It will increase the quality of the books that are available to KOLL/KU readers. Want your pages read…Write A Good Book!

Amazon wants to satisfy their customers. As authors, why wouldn’t we wish to do the same? The only reason I can think of is that some have become committed to perpetuating the scam and the easy way out instead of to writing.

Thank you again, Amazon for leveling the field. As for the whiners…please do it downwind. I’m working.

Comments

  1. Bravo – I like your attitude!

    I would never have found your books if not for amazon and special deals. Now I’ve read them all and am (impatiently) awaiting a new one …

    Some people would whine if you hung ’em with a new rope. If they don’t like the new rules, they can always go elsewhere…..

    • New rope!…I like that…yeah, there are always complainers. They would get so much more accomplished if they focused on the positive. Never happen though. The only reason I posted on this was because of the absolutely ridiculous and disgusting things I saw being posted by authors out on the web and in social media. They were taking advantage of the system for years and now they act like children caught with their hands in the cookie jar, told they can’t have any more cookies. Oh well…

      • I just happened across this post in the KDP forums, and decided to come to your blog to read it here instead. Thank you for writing this! You’ve said exactly what I’ve been saying ever since the big change. KU v. 2.0 is not punishing people who write short stories. It’s rewarding people who write stuff that somebody actually wants to read. In the same amount of time it takes me to write a 400-page novel, Writer X can write 400 pages of short stories. Same number of published pages available on Amazon for customers to read=a level playing field. The math seems pretty simple to me. If those shorts are any good, the reader will look for more by Writer X. And we will both go home with the same amount of money for a job well done.

        Bravo.

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