Amazon’s New Royalty Calculation Method for Kindle Direct Publishing Authors: A Comprehensive Analysis
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform has revolutionized the publishing landscape, providing authors with the opportunity to self-publish their works and reach a global audience. As part of its KDP Select program, Amazon offers authors the chance to earn royalties from their e-books through the Kindle Unlimited all-you-can-read subscription service and the Kindle Owners Lending Library (KOLL). However, Amazon’s current royalty calculation method has drawn criticism from authors, leading to a recent change in the payment structure. This analysis delves into the details of Amazon’s new royalty calculation method, exploring its potential implications for indie authors and the broader creative content landscape.
The Shift from “Qualified Borrows” to “Pages Read”:
Previously, Amazon calculated KDP royalties based on “qualified borrows.” This method involved paying authors a share of a monthly global fund based on the number of times their e-books were borrowed or read for free through Kindle Unlimited. However, authors expressed concerns that this system favored shorter e-books, as readers could quickly reach the 10% threshold required for a “qualified borrow.”
In response to this feedback, Amazon has announced a switch to a “pages read” model, effective July 1, 2024. Under this new system, authors will be paid for each page individual customers read of their book, the first time they read it. This change aims to align payouts more closely with the length of books and the amount of content consumed by readers.
Determining Read Pages: The Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC):
To ensure consistency in measuring read pages, Amazon has developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). This standardized approach calculates the number of ‘pages’ read in a KDP e-book each month. It considers factors such as font, line height, line spacing, and the device used for reading. Charts and images within a book’s text also contribute to the KENPC, making it a comprehensive measure of in-book content.
Start Reading Location (SRL) and Excluded Content:
Amazon determines the start of a book based on the Start Reading Location (SRL), typically set at Chapter 1. This ensures that readers can begin reading the core content of the book immediately. As a result, long lists of acknowledgments or introductions before Chapter 1 will not count towards KENPC and, consequently, royalties. Amazon encourages authors to avoid blocking the start of their stories and focus on compelling narratives to engage readers from the outset.
The KDP Select Royalties Fund: A Variable Monthly Pool:
Amazon sets a monthly global fund to incentivize authors to participate in the KDP Select program. This fund is divided among authors based on the number of pages read of their e-books. The fund’s size varies, with the current month’s allocation set at $3 million. This variability introduces an element of uncertainty for authors, as their earnings may fluctuate from month to month.
Implications for Indie Authors and Creative Content:
Amazon’s new royalty calculation method has several potential implications for indie authors and the broader creative content landscape:
1. **Encouraging Longer E-books:** The shift to a “pages read” model may incentivize authors to write longer e-books, as they can now earn royalties for every page consumed by readers. This could lead to a decline in the production of shorter, more concise e-books.
2. **Promoting Reader Engagement:** The new payment mechanism rewards authors for reader engagement, encouraging them to create content that keeps readers turning the pages. This may lead to a rise in fast-paced, cliffhanger-driven narratives designed to maximize page views.
3. **Impact on Creative Diversity:** The focus on reader engagement and page-turning formulas may potentially limit the diversity of creative content on Amazon’s platform. Literary works that require a slower pace or more contemplative reading may receive less visibility and financial support.
4. **Economic Influence on Creative Output:** Amazon’s economic levers, such as the royalty calculation method, can shape creative content to align with its business objectives. This raises questions about the potential homogenization of content and the influence of commercial considerations on artistic expression.
Amazon’s new royalty calculation method for KDP authors is a significant change that has the potential to reshape the creative landscape on its platform. While the shift to a “pages read” model addresses some concerns raised by authors, it also introduces new challenges and uncertainties. It remains to be seen how indie authors will adapt to this new system and whether it will ultimately lead to a more diverse and vibrant creative ecosystem on Amazon’s platform. As the industry continues to evolve, authors, readers, and stakeholders must engage in thoughtful discussions about the role of economic incentives in shaping creative content and the balance between commercial success and artistic integrity.