The Great KU Flip-Out of 2015

It’ll be fun to tell our kids where we were when KU 1.0 turned into KU 2.0. We’ll tell them how in the aftermath we roasted rats and pigeons over upturned and burning cars. How we tended to the wounded, finishing off those we knew would not make it. How we drank our own urine in order to survive. How the blood-red moon set over a charred and ruined landscape. Yes … it was a long day. Full of complete and utter nonsense.

A few observations from yesterday:

1) It’s too damn early to observe anything. Authors were predicting the effect KU 2.0 would have on their careers and sending requests to Amazon customer service to PULL, PULL, PULL! from KDP Select like Wall Street traders on the floor of a panic. All based on a dashboard graph on Day 1 of reporting.

That anyone trusts a brand new reporting system after eight hours of being live is bizarre enough. But what I can tell you from looking at my report at 7am this morning is that yesterday’s reporting was LOW. I’m at over half of yesterday’s page count at 7am. And Amazon often works off PST. So 4 hours today is already over 60% of what 24 hours yesterday gave me. And I haven’t released anything new.

KU 7am

2) The second thing people are doing is equating their old page count for works to the new KENPC. But many are reporting a nearly doubling of KENPC. A 300 page work can come out to over 600 pages, as measured by the new system. It appears that 40,000 – 50,000 words, fully read, will equal the lowest range of the KU 1.0 borrow rates. This doesn’t mean short story writers today are being screwed; it means novella and novel writers for the past year were being screwed. Amazon fixed this.

3) The only people who should be complaining about KU 2.0 are the ones who think it’s fair for writers to be renumerated based on the number of titles they produce, rather than the hours they spend writing, or the hours readers spend enjoying their works. I keep seeing people say it’s not fair that they no longer get paid the same for a 5,000 word short that everyone else gets paid for a 100,000 novel. Seriously. People are saying this. Because both authors wrote 1 title, right? And 1 = 1. It’s not fair!

I don’t even know how to process this. It doesn’t take as long to write a short story. You shouldn’t get paid as much. End of (short) story.

4) Kindle Unlimited and the Lending Library are not retail systems. They are cloud-based rental systems. When you pay $100 a month for cable or satellite TV, you don’t get to own and keep any of what you watch. You can delay losing the work on your DVR, just as you can keep an unread book for weeks from the library, but you aren’t buying those TV shows. Authors are acting like rentals should equal sales. In what universe does this make sense? And yes, the shows that get watched the most come with the highest price tag from distributors. This is a normal model we’re freaking out over.

5) Getting hung up over the pay-per-page of $0.0057 is silly. Amazon is paying out $11,000,000 in July. That money is being evenly split based on hours of enjoyment provided to their customers. Those hours should correlate more closely to hours invested by the author than in the previous system. The point is, all of that money is being disbursed. The amount of pay going to authors just went UP in absolute terms. Freak out when the pool starts to go down, not when the metric of division gets a fancy new decimal point.

6) KU is voluntary. These changes only apply to KDP Select and those authors who have some works that are exclusive to Amazon. You can take your works out of KDP Select. You can try a few works for 90 days and change your mind. You can do whatever you want. You can even complain and hope that Amazon will change back to the old system, because … shocker … it appears that they listen to the indie community and take our opinions seriously and make changes accordingly.

Compare that with mine and colleagues’ dealings with other online retailers, whose response to frequent criticisms has been, “But, we’re _______” (Insert name of large tech company). Whether or not Kindle Unlimited and subscription services are good for authors is a separate issue from the change to KU 2.0. I think much of the arm-flapping is coming from people who don’t like KU at all and wish all subscription services would go away. If so, they spent their time yesterday talking about the wrong company.

On Monday, another subscription service, Scribd, pulled 80% – 90% of its erotica, because its financials do not make any sense. Scribd’s business plan has been to beg for venture capital and distribute it to publishers and indies, without any model for turning a profit. When their system collapses, everyone will be out of a steady market for reaching readers and earning pay. They’ll have been greedily bled dry and bankrupted. They provided no warning that this would happen, just yanked works right off their shelves.

What do I think about subscription services, now that we’ve had one for over a year? I’m glad I asked.

I see KU as being far better than a used bookstore, which leaves authors out of the money altogether. I see them as being better than libraries, because they pay more, and they funnel more readers into purchases by mixing rental and retail in one location. I see KU as better than permafree. And these are all things I support and love. I love used bookstores and want my books in them. I love libraries and want my books in them. I love and employ permafree. KU is better than all of them.

The change to KU 2.0 has me revisiting whether or not to move my novels back into KDP Select. But you know what? I might take an entire day to make that decision. Hell, I might take a week. Or even a month! And I might try to take a deep breath somewhere in there, and think about this program for what it is, and not what it used to be, or what I wish it were, or equate it with retail, or pine for a program that can be gamed and provides a worse experience for readers.

ETA: Holy heck, I haven’t seen this much vitriol over an Amazon move since … the last time Amazon made a move. I’ve got people on Twitter telling me to go *&#@ myself, you entitled piece of &@$%, and things normally reserved for authors doing Twitter PR.

I would say that I’m sorry that people are losing income over this, but I’m not. I don’t say that with spite or with warm fuzzies. I’m not happy people’s income went down. I’m also not upset for them. The system wasn’t fair before, and it’s more fair now. I’m happy that the system has been improved.

For people making a livelihood off a subscription service that didn’t exist 14 months ago, I don’t know what to say. I’ve never banked on earning a living from a rental system. KU has always felt like a bonus, but it appears that for some authors, the borrows were more important than the sales. I’ve never considered this might be the case for writers. All I can suggest is no one quit their day job over these brand new and untested systems. This isn’t book retail. This is the exploration of something new. And it might suck for all of us in the long run. For me, it’s too early to tell.

I’ve been accused in multiple places for having a sweetheart deal with Amazon that gives me KU status without the exclusivity. This isn’t true. Probably won’t stop the claims. Just putting the truth out there to see what people choose to do with it.

I’m sorry I’ve offended anyone. But I’m not sorry for these changes to KU. I think they were needed from the start. I don’t think Amazon could’ve predicted the outcome of an even split based on a 10% read. They are correcting, and they’ll correct again. So compile your ideas, your wishes, what you think would be fair for children’s book authors and authors of non-fiction, and make your voices heard. I wish you all the best of luck. Write good shit and be kind to one another.

ETA: Comments closed. It only takes a small number of abusers to make it so we can’t all have nice things. :)




I saw the same thing, but closer to yesterday’s total page count. 85% when I checked at 6AM. I expect today to be starkly different…not that I was complaining about DAY ONE.

It might make sense to complain. But maybe after the results are in, right? :)

I think a majority of the decisions were made long before the first day’s figures rolled in. I’m no exception. I decided years ago to follow the one “no shit” strategy that has never failed me. Steady on the helm, eye on the horizon…and keep writing the way I want to write.

Words to live by.

No, sometimes it makes sense to complain before you see the results. We are being told based on pages read last month and the pot amount that this month will be $.005 for a page read. Based on this, many who were in KDP Select will be receiving huge pay cuts. Some of us don’t have millions to sit on, we have bills to pay and kids to feed…we would like to know what we are being paid for our work. It’s clear that Amazon will inflate the pot to whatever amount they like, based on the prior months KU pots being inflated. If they have a rate they would like to pay out, and know how many pages are read each month, why wont they just tell us the number?

No one will know their pay cuts until after this month is over. Because no one knows how many pages of their works were read, compared to how many pages of all other works were read.

The total share of the funds is still getting paid out. Only now, it’s based on reader satisfaction, rather than people being able to game the system. If your income goes down, someone more deserving is seeing their income go up.

I sympathize Roke because I have three kids and a roof too. But your patience will be rewarded. Keep the faith brother!

“If your income goes down, someone more deserving is seeing their income go up.”

Did you really just say that? I used to have respect for you… that’s gone now. How dare you say that authors who have been busting their balls to make a living at this career that they are not deserving!

I write romance, have been making a decent income since 2014, not spectacular by any means but my readers love what I write and yet because my income is set to go down in KU 2.0 I am not worth shit?

I set Book Report to $.005 and I earned almost exactly the same on July 1st as I did on June 30th. I don’t know if it amounts to the same amount of downloads since now it’s # of pages read versus 10% read.

‘If your income goes down, someone more deserving is seeing their income go up.’

By that logic, ‘La Jetee’ is of less value than ‘Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2’, just because it’s shorter. We might only be erotica writers, but we take pride in our work. To be told that we’re ‘less deserving’ is outright insulting.

You laugh at the idea that a 1 book:1 book ratio might be seen as accurate, but then you make the ridiculous assumption that 1 page:1 page when it comes to enjoyment, which is patently ridiculous. There’s a middle ground to be found here, but this isn’t it.

Roke, do you seriously think you’re the only author with bills to pay and kids to feed? Most everyone is in that position. KU’s new policy rewards the authors who write the best prose, and who keep the reader hooked on their writing. If that means you don’t make as much money, there’s an easy solution: write better books.

Also, calculating your income at 0.5 cents per page won’t give you the correct calculation if the pages are calculated differently. Since the new page counts are about twice the old ones, it’s closer to a penny per page by the old count. So you might want to check that out before freaking out about not being able to feed your kids.

I disagree that it rewards those with the best prose. It just rewards longer books. My longest work is seeing the best page read rate. That longer work isn’t my best quality, it’s just longer! You’re going to be seeing a lot of padded novels filled with fluff once authors learn this. Is this really going to help Select?

Most novelists will probably be seeing a pay cut. The top 5% who have the marketing behind them will see a huge pay increase. This has shut the doors on self publishing. Maybe if you’ve already got a publishing contract you’ll be fine though. Those new self publishers? It just got x10 harder for them.

That is, if the rate is correct. Why don’t they give us an estimated rate? They inflate the pot every month. Let us know now. They have been tracking this for a long time. They can make a close estimate.

I don’t have any children I was just using that as an example. I’m sure there’s plenty with families who are feeling shocked right now that they were given a few weeks notice. People have bills to pay. Lots of authors aren’t bringing in huge amounts of money where they can simply sit and wait for a month while not knowing what they’ll be paid. What other profession does this?

Sensible, as always, Hugh. And the panicking in some quarters is out of hand. The people not panicking are the ones who will be around a year (or five) from now – because they’re in this for the long haul, adjusting to the tides as they change.

You make an excellent point about Scribd – what business (that’s stable) axes a huge part of their business overnight with no warning? That decision still strikes me as bizarre.

Re: borrows not being worth the same as sales – also spot on. Last year, most reasonable people quickly figured out the per-borrow method of reimbursement in KU wasn’t sustainable. It was just a matter of time before Amazon figured out a better way to do it (not driving off a cliff like Scribd, but actually taking a breath and taking the time to figure out how to do it right). A year later, they have – the page-read system is intrinsically more fair (I say this as both a serial, short story, and novel writer). But I think there will still be more tweaks ahead, because borrows are intrinsically not as valuable as sales. Maybe Amazon has the data and they know the read-through is much smaller than we all think (I’m guessing an average of 85%)… maybe that will make the system make sense in terms of reimbursement. We’ll see.

Either way, I’ll make some minor adjustments and move forward. As most career-indies are likely doing at the moment.

Thanks for always trying to help indie authors navigate the ever-changing marketplace!

Agreed, people are panicking way too early in the game. But that’s the nature of the beast in the indie author community. One little change, and the sky is falling. Rather than panic, authors need to find a way to adapt to the new change. And bottom line is, if people don’t like the new KU (or subscription services in general), then don’t use it. I, personally, am content with my books being where they are for the time being — out of KU/Select and distributed widely at other retailers besides Amazon.

The news of Scribd was both a shock and not a shock. After reading further into the details of why they had to do the unfortunate thing they did, I guess it was only a matter of time before their losses would catch up to them. I guess this is one way to NOT run a subscription service. That explains why Amazon uses a pool of money with their subscription service.

Whether or not KU will come out on top in the long run has yet to be seen. We probably won’t see some real, concrete data until August.

I hope there will be a new segment in the next Author Earnings Report that will highlight the effectiveness of KU 2.0.

Just to provide another data point, I only have one novel and my page count is already 1/3 of what it was yesterday.

Thanks for weighing in. Quite a few authors over on KBoards are reporting a similar observation. The wait-and-see crowd are doing this right.

My page read count is 10x what it was yesterday. Just another indication that early data is utterly unreliable, as it often is. Yesterday’s was, and so is today’s. It’s not even worth looking at for a couple of weeks, and even then, we can’t really make sense of the financial impact until we have a full paid month.

You’re telling everyone how amazon KU is….but you aren’t even in KU? Well, that completely seems legit then.

On the contrary, Hugh currently has many of his short stories in KU.

Robert Soldado

That’s cute. And completely meaningless.

A guy that makes millions of dollars on his novels by selling wide becomes a KU expert/sage/guru because he has a couple of shorts in the program?

A guy who makes shiploads more from having other people write stories using his characters through a (convenient) Amazon program (Kindle Worlds)?

And we’re expected to believe he has absolutely no pro-Amazon agenda and that everything he says about KU is the gospel truth?


You have a brain use it.

Uh, I quit my day job writing shorts, not novels. And shorts that were in KDP Select and exclusive to Amazon.

You obviously have an opinion of me that facts won’t shake. It says everything about you and nothing about me or my publishing history. If I’m wrong, point out where. Attacking me personally reveals a weakness in your argument (and character), not mine.

“Uh, I quit my day job writing shorts, not novels. And shorts that were in KDP Select and exclusive to Amazon.”

Do you think you would be able to do the same thing under the new payment system?

Uh… your argument is that Hugh is really outlandishly successful…and this means he DOESN’T know what he’s talking about?

Oookay then.

If you’re basing your guess on his comment that he’s thinking of putting his novels back into KU, you’re using incomplete info. First, he used his own KU page count read as an indicator of how unreliable Day 1 info was. Second, Hugh has short stories that ARE in KU. He’s not basing his posting on pure guesswork.

Remember, authors like Hugh are successful for a reason. One of those reasons is they don’t go making assumptions based on single datum points.

And my data backs up Hugh’s. I’ve seen almost as much in the way of page count today by noon central time as I did at end of day yesterday. I’m very much in the wait and see camp. Because that half-cent a page estimate…that’s JUST an estimate. A lot of authors are pulling their work based on said estimate, and thus skewing that number in favor of those who stick with the program and roll the dice on whether or not they’re going to come out ahead instead of making CERTAIN they lose money by pulling books from KU in a half-crazed panic.

I’m not seeing any change. I had zero pages read yesterday and, so far, zero pages read today.

Yeah, let’s just wait and see, roll over and play dead…


We need more information – NOW. Waiting around for 45days, letting our income plummet in the meantime, is not a viable option for our businesses or a logical in a proactive environment and to suggest we wait and see is harmful to every indie author who need their royalties to survive.

If I use the half a cent a page they provided for June, I’ve lost 75-80% of my income – and you expect me to sit around and do nothing? What a joke.

If your income is going down, it’s because some other author, who is providing a better reading experience, is seeing their income go up.

I can feel bad for you while also feeling twice as good for them. Because feeling good for them is also feeling good for readers and for fairness. It doesn’t mean I don’t feel your pain, only that your pain is not my only concern.

What if I was a children’s book author? Then is it still OK to be shit on by you and Amazon?

“If your income is going down, it’s because some other author, who is providing a better reading experience, is seeing their income go up.”

No, it just means they are writing longer works that are worth more per page in this new scheme. Read some of Dannidee’s comments from your other post if you fail to understand the maths.

No, people who write longer works aren’t being paid more per page. They get paid the same per page as you do. They are just having more of their pages read, so they get paid proportionately more.

Do you really think you deserve to get paid more per page than other authors, just because you write shorter works? Why?

And there’s a simple solution: write more pages that readers want to read. Either more shorter works, or more longer works. But expecting to get paid more per page than other writers only makes sense if you are writing better works that people want to read more of. In which case, your income wouldn’t be going down, but up.

Same goes for children’s books.

Where on earth did I say I deserved to be paid more for writing shorts? You are just putting words into my mouth.

I said to go read some of Danidee’s comments that relate the pure maths of the situation. Novels are being weighted more heavily than shorts… Do the math.

Lets say an author writes a novel – 100,000 words – lets just say that equates to 200 pages.

Now lets also say that novel gets borrowed 100 times = 20000 pages read. If we use the estimated new pay rate of 0.006 (rounded up) that’s $120 for one novel.

Lets flip it the other way. An author of short fiction writes 5 x 20,000 (100,000 words same as the novelist). Put they are 5 novellas. Lets say each 20k book is 40pages (going on the previous total for a novel). Lets also say these 5 novellas get borrowed 100 too.

40pages x 100 = 4000pages. 4000 x 0.006 = $24

So for the same amount of words (100,000) – the novel comes out the winner in terms of payment.

$120 compared to $24

Does it make sense now?!

David Gatewood

Emilia, you wrote: “Put they are 5 novellas. Lets say each 20k book is 40pages (going on the previous total for a novel). Lets also say these 5 novellas get borrowed 100 too.
40pages x 100 = 4000pages. 4000 x 0.006 = $24”

Since there are 5 novellas that are each being borrowed 100 times, shouldn’t that be

5 * 40 pages * 100 = 20000pages. 20000 * 0.006 = $120


David’s math is correct here. You forgot to add all of the novella pages together.

So, as you can see, they earn the same amount as the novel. But wait! Since there are FIVE of them they are actually benefiting you more than the novel! Because they are giving you five times the visibility in the KU listings. :D Hence, short fiction has some very good things going for it in KU!

No, I didn’t forget – 100 borrows spread over (5) 40 page books. NOT EACH. If that was the case I would’ve said 500 borrows.

If a reader borrows one of the 40 page books the MAX they can read is, guess what? FORTY PAGES!

100 borrows over ONE 40 page book = 4000 pages
100 borrows over TWO 40 page books = 4000 pages
100 borrows over THREE 40 page books = 4000 pages

…see what I’m getting at?

No, Emilia B, what you’re doing now is skewing the numbers to work with your math to get the answer you want. If you’re going to calculate it based on a single book getting 100 borrows, you can’t suddenly decide to calculate the other books as only getting 20 reads each. They’re still individual books.

THIS! All of this! Thank you for being the voice of reason, I agree with every single word.

I see a huge sense of entitlement coming form the writers of shorts here. We all know that everything Amazon does is built on sand. Make hay while the sun shines, and all that- Amazon owes us nothing. It’s all experiment for the time being. You can be outraged as much as you like — but still, nobody OWES you a living, and nobody ever owed you thoe thousands you wer emaking from your shorts.

Well so far today my page reads are up on yesterday, but I’m not getting too excited because the base-line was nothing spectacular to start with.

Other than that, great analysis as usual, Hugh. When I first started writing back in the ’70’s I used to get pad per word in the pulp mags and everyone else was the same. This is no different to that model – and yes, I got paid 3c a word, but that was for a one off, all rights sale, not the KU model where a thousand, or ten thousand, people can read my book and I get 1/2c a page for each read.

Personally I think the new changes are positive for sensible writers and for writing as a whole, and I’m moving much of my work back into KU because I see it making more income for me.

It’s hard being a beacon of logic and common sense in a storm of flailing arms and screams. I tried to interject some rationality in a couple of threads over on the Kboards the past few days, but people just seem to want to panic.

I did have some sales yesterday, but I haven’t seen any borrows yet, though mine have tended to come in bunches previously. Mid August will be the real fun time to watch all the Chicken Littles once we see where Amazon decides to set the payout, at least for the first month or two. I expect it will be higher than the half cent area, simply because I think they’d like to lure folks like you back in with your longer works, Hugh. Time will tell.

Joe Konrath once told me that the price of advocacy is derision, and then more advocacy.

Wise words from the bearded one. :-)

Always listen to Konrath the guy knows his stuff!!

I write romance and romantic erotica, and most of my books are in KU. They vary in size – the series books are 10k each, the more regular novel/novellas are 25k-45k, which is not atypical in my genre.

From the KNEP calculation on my books, 40k will make me the old payout of $1.30.

I’m not really going to enter the debate about whether this is fair or not – because it’s a pointless one. I will make the point that 40k in the romance category isn’t unusual for the genre. Genre word count norms are important, and certain genres are going to be hurt by this.

Rather than dropping romance books by the boatload, as Scribd has done, Amazon’s being more subtle, in my opinion. They are making it so that romance authors are dropping out of the market, which in turn will cause the KU subscribers that read romance to unsubscribe. For KU’s profitability, that’s a good move, since romance readers are disproportionately heavy consumers of a subscription service.

For me, if I’m going to make $1.30 for my 40k novel, I’m much more willing to explore going wide. If my income has dropped by 75%, it just means that the opportunity cost for going wide is suddenly lower. If Amazon dropped the exclusivity requirement for KU, I might be willing to tolerate the lower payout, but it seems *insane* to put all your eggs in a basket and hope for the best.

I’m planning to keep some books in KU and pull some books out. Panicking isn’t useful, but today’s definitely the day to be thinking about strategy.

” If Amazon dropped the exclusivity requirement for KU, I might be willing to tolerate the lower payout, but it seems *insane* to put all your eggs in a basket and hope for the best. ”

Exactly this, and why I never put anything into KU. If you’re going to ask people to be exclusive with you, you need to give them something in return. An unstable, ever-changing-with-short-notice and unknown payout system is not worth the risk of pulling your titles off all other platforms (including your own blog!). Putting a book in KU is like playing a few hands of five-card stud. The only people who should be doing it are those who don’t need the money they might make from it.

” If you’re going to ask people to be exclusive with you, you need to give them something in return.”

I agree. Something like increased visibility, free days, countdown specials…

I don’t really want to get into the Amazon is good/evil discussion. They are a business, and I’m one as well, but the power balance isn’t equal, and it’s my job as a small business to look at the best options for me.

I tend to think that being paid per page read is probably the right way to go, but equating fantasy with erotic romance isn’t – pages read mean different things in different genres.

Keeping all my eggs in the Amazon basket was a good short-term strategy. KU 2.0 serves to remind me that it was just a short-term strategy though. In the long term, going wide will insulate my business from the kind of income shock I’m assuming I’ll see this month.

Tara, I couldn’t agree more. Everything you said is spot on and being a business owner means that we have to make the decisions that will be best for our own businesses. No panic, Just strategic planning. And for each author that planning process will be different.

How about the fact that Amazon set up the whole KU system a certain way and authors put their trust in them when they signed on. They set up the rules, most authors changed their strategy to fit into the system, a strategy that took a year to implement.

Then they flipped the program on its head with only two weeks notice to the authors that put their trust in the partnership leaving these people (a lot of them that rely on the income for luxuries like groceries, diapers and shelter) and give them totally false, way out there numbers. Then on the day that it is launched Amazon gives the authors a glimpes of what they’ll really be getting. Half a cent.

Why not provide this information to its partners months in advance? Why pull the rug from under our feet the day of the lauch. This was completely unfair.

I have a series of 20K novels. I have all good reviews and great feedback from readers that love my novellas. Readers that are in KU for books like mine. I just got my income cut overnight by about 60-70% for partnering with Amazon. And saying ‘wait and see, you don’t know,’ is false. I have calculator. I know a full read through at half a cent will get me 50% of that it did before.

In my opinion Amazon showed what they think of authors and it’s not good. I’ll be pulling my books from KU and never putting myself in a position where I have to put my trust in Amazon again. They have the numbers but refuse to let the authors in on them. I thought we were in this together.

You may have a point that the pay per page is a fairer business model but the way that Amazon handled it was not cool. They switched off a lot of authors’ income, authors that put their trust in them, over night.

And btw your first paragraph is really condescending when a lot of authors will genuinely have their incomes cut 60-80% and are wondering where the money for food will come from.

See my reply above. If your income goes down, it’s because someone who is providing a better reading experience saw their income go up.

This system is more fair. Amazon didn’t give you enough warning? Many of us have been saying for six months that this was coming. Some of us have decent track records for predicting Amazon’s moves. Despite knowing this was coming, I’ve been focusing on short stories and putting MORE works into KU. But hey, what do I know? :)

Speculating and having to predict Amazons moves is a whole different thing then them giving us a clear heads up of upcoming changes. It is a partnership the way I see it.

And saying that a book is a better reading experience because it is longer is just ridiculous. Is every 200 page book a better reading experience than a 170 page book?

You’ve done a lot for the indie movement Hugh and for that I’m grateful but we need the big names like you to help stand up against Amazon when they pull this kind of thing. We need reliable info and data. We shouldn’t have to try and predict their next move with the table scraps of info they throw to us.

That’s not what I said. Maybe twenty 10-page stories are just as entertaining. So write those, and enjoy the same pay. That’s what I’m doing (and what my last blog post was about).

Asking me to complain about a change that I fully support is strange. I’m not going to fight for unfairness. I love this new payment model. I love it like chocolate ice cream.

Longtime fan. Met you once at an event. You were very down to earth, and you inspired me to start writing. Nothing published yet.

I’m shocked at your behavior. Just shocked. I truly believed the persona you project was genuine. I don’t know if I was wrong, or if you have changed.

You were so passionate about respecting the feelings of multimillionaire author EL James, pointing out it’s one thing to snark on the work of a public figure and another thing to insult her to her face. I agreed with that.

I read your thread on kboards. You have been the furthest thing from respectful. Chicken littles. ADS. Cheaters. Scammers. You’re saying this to people’s faces. And when they object, your replies have a defensive and, I’m sorry, petulant tone.

Do you really think the very day someone sees their income drop by three-quarters is the day to call them names? Is that likely to have a constructive outcome?

Of course KU1 was unsustainable. Under the old scheme, KU would’ve turned into a huge pile of shorts and debut novels, and nothing else. It had to change. I don’t disagree with that for a second.

But some of the people you are addressing are literally worried about next month’s rent or mortgage payment. No, they may not be the savviest business people. Most writers aren’t. Most small businesspeople aren’t. But I’m not the kind of person who watches a trapdoor open underneath a middle-class family and just says, “Tough.” I understand why they feel they have to make a decision now, because in August they may not have enough in the checking account to pay the landlord.

The killer here is the two-week notice. Nobody can retool a business model in two weeks.

I’ve been in business for myself for twenty years. I’ve been reasonably successful, knock on wood. I’ve won clients, I’ve lost clients. But back when business ethics were considered important, clients would give me as much notice as they could before dropping me. Hey, budgets got cut. We re-orged. We’re getting bought. Cool, thanks for letting me know. They did this because it’s important to keep your supplier network healthy. The guy you sack today may be the guy you desperately need help from next year.

Today, it’s become a point of pride to surprise people, like Amazon did. Makes people feel tough. I’ve had enough of “tough.” I’ve read every tough-guy comment on the Internet already, a hundred times. They’re cliches at this point.

What small businesspeople need when their businesses fall through a trapdoor is hope. They need to be reminded that if they did it once, they can do it again. I really would’ve expected you to be the voice of that hope, as you were for me when I saw you several years ago.

I didn’t expect this.

Today I’m taking the day off to work on a book you inspired me to start writing. But I’m doing it with a heavy heart.

Sorry to hear that. I’m human. I’m getting attacked from all sides, including in private FB groups. People are freaking out before they even see if their income is going to be affected. And people are spreading FUD that may harm careers if listened to. I don’t see a lot of people countering the FUD with reason. And yeah, I’m worn out from it all. It gets to me. I’m just a person, after all.

So that’s two heavy hearts. Hope yours feels lighter soon.

Sarcasm warning!!

So, Hugh, didn’t know you were the official Amazon official spokes person. Gratz!

Also good to know, what many have feared… Size does matter. Long and thick is the bestest. The only other modern content that pays by the minute is… well porn.

I wasn’t aware that people were going out and buying single short stories for the same price as novels except in the most anecdotal of circumstances. Please show me this magical wonderland where a short is the equal of a motion picture and a short story is the equal of a novel. While you’re at it, I want a half pound burger for the same price as McDonald’s 1/10th pound single. This sounds perfectly reasonable to me. It doesn’t take more effort to deliver the extra 0.4 pounds of beef or the larger bun. They’re both hamburgers, they should cost the same. I demand hamburger equality, darn it! It isn’t fair that people are paying more for those big fat burgers while the wimpy little ones get a pittance for their equal sacrifice.

First, hugs. Second, breath. While I think that someone has to be the “glass half full guy” AKA Mr. HH. in this instance the glasses are a little too rose colored (with little Zon smileys).

Regarding the Magical Wonderland.. Before KU most shorts were in the 2.99 price range, same as most indie novels. Most other media is paid for by total unit rather than by some arbitrary subunit. What if nextflix started paying by the NETSEC rather than view or Spotify by SPOTMIN rather than listen? Would that change how indie movie or songs are created? Would current artist worry when those metics change?

Christian, somehow my post ended up replying to you when you weren’t the person I was intending. Maybe I hit the wrong button. Maybe the software isn’t 100%. I will still respond to your response as best as possible.

Netflix pays content owners based upon a licensing process that doesn’t explicitly count views, but expected views and some premium based upon the desirability of the content. Amazon’s library is way too big and way too varied in popularity to make these kinds of deals.

Music is a lot different than literature and books in general. Songs are consumed multiple times, maybe in albums, maybe not. What they have done is look for a size that is relatively standardized. The standard deviation of song length is relatively low, comparable to the difference between different novels. On the contrary, comparing a short story to a novel is like comparing a song to an entire album. Maybe Spotify should emulate KU 1.0 and only pay artists who bundle their songs in albums once for the playing of a whole or part of an album. I imagine some would break their albums up into parts corresponding to the individual songs. Somehow, this sounds familiar to me. I wonder where from?

Amazon definitely needs to look at how their pricing restrictions affect shorter works. Short works should have completely different pricing and royalty rules than novels in order to allow them to be priced according to their reduced size and value.

You can’t seriously be saying that changing pay schemes with two weeks notice and only releasing information that could provide any kind of estimate on what the payout per page would be on DAY 1 of the new agreement is cool, because you and other people could “predict” something like could happen are you? I know Amazon can do it (because they just did), but it isn’t really a great way to do business with people. WTF?

I find the comment “providing a better reading experience” extremely condescending and downright insulting. You do realize that some people seek out shorter work because they like reading it, right? Just because a novel is 400 pages long does not mean it’s a “better reading experience” than one that is 200 pages long or even 50 pages long. You’re effectively saying that everyone who writes short isn’t serving their reader. Which is quite surprising since we all know your career took off from one short story.

You’re free to love the new system as much as you want. In fact, I don’t necessarily disagree with it myself. But I’m sure as heck not going to insult my fellow writers by claiming their work isn’t as enjoyable as my 80K novels. That’s pretty rude.

I can certainly see how a short story could be a better reading experience than a 400 page novel. There’s plenty of great short stories and crappy novels. But the only way to quantify that is find out how many people are reading how much of each work. If your short story is only 50 pages, you should have no trouble getting more people to not only try reading it, but reading it all the way through. Whereas the crappy 400 page novel might only get the first chapter read, if that. In the end, the total number of pages read equals a rough count of the total enjoyment each work offers to its readers. Nothing is ever exact, of course, but for purposes of paying a subscriber it seems like the best way to divy up the pie.

How do you think it ought to be done? Do you really think the average 50 page short story ought to be paid the same amount as the average 400 page novel? I’d like to hear the arguments for that viewpoint. Seriously.

I think Marc makes a very valid point about the notification of the change from Amazon. Since they require enrollment for 90 days, it would’ve been nice if they had given notice to authors of this change 90 days prior to its implementation, so those who didn’t like it could get out of KU before the new policy was implemented. Another option would be to give an immediate opt out option for some period of time.

But I do believe that payment based on the number of pages read is more equitable and levels the playing field for authors of all lengths. I appreciate that and support that change.

And, as many have said, KU enrollment is voluntary. It’s not the only game in town and you have other options. But it would be nice if Amazon offered an “escape clause” when they make changes to KU that are this significant.

Amazon *has* offered an escape clause – for the entire first 90 days of the system. More notice would have been nice, sure, but people can leave anytime they like, now that terms have changed.

Thanks for the clarification. I haven’t paid that much attention to it because I intend to stay in KU for a while to see how it all shakes out.

They did give an opt-out option, Read the email they sent you and follow the link.

When KU 1.0 was implemented, we received only 2 weeks notice, so why would you expect otherwise? Show me an ebook vendor who implemented a major change and gave it’s suppliers notice months in advance? By industry standards, 2 weeks is pretty much the norm, and KDPs terms give them the right to make changes as they see fit, and without notice.

While I feel for those who bet the farm on the unfair, unsustainable business model that was KU 1.0, a little forethought would have revealed that it was a risky proposition at best. High stakes generally mean high risk. Establishing a living budget on such a risky platform can only be considered foolish, and depending on the situation, possibly even irresponsible.

KU 1.0 created an environment where writers did not have to engage readers beyond the 11% mark in order to make a living, nor were they required to offer anything more than the absolute minimum required length to get in the game. The result was a KU library that was 80% crap, and members were not going to continue to pay $10/month to wade through that crap looking for the good 20%.

The change was inevitable. If people had been paying attention, instead of churning out shorts to play the system and generate an income, they would have seen it coming. KU 2.0 forces everyone to up their game, and it will force those who are unable or unwilling to create content that meets the needs of the readers to drop out. KU 2.0 is the penicillin that will cure the diseased KU library.

I think what has me most surprised is people saying, “yeah, but only people who can get people to read the entire book will make more money.” I read sentences like that and I can’t help but go, “you’re intentionally releasing crap and you know it.”

There’s no doubt in my mind that some authors will wind up losing money and others authors are going to wind up making money. But shouldn’t the author that is able to provide more entertainment to their customer make more money than the author that loses their reader after a while? As authors, we’re not entitled to anything. We have to bust our asses to ensure that the work we put out is a worthwhile experience to the customer.

If you are a great writer that can keep people going from page to page to page, you’re going to make more money with borrows. If you are not a great writer or, worse, you are intentionally releasing crap because you think writing is a get rich scheme, you’re going to wind up losing money when compared to previous rates. The moral is: you’re getting paid by the page, not by the finished product. You’re getting paid for how long you keep your customer entertained.

Thanks for your article, Hugh!

I really don’t want to get too caught up in this debate. I just want to say, do not conflate read-through with any measure of quality or reader enjoyment.

I’ve been in corporate America for, ahem, decades. One thing you learn is that when you set a benchmark for a supplier, that’s what they focus on. Nothing else. In jargon, these benchmarks are called SLAs–service level agreements. Your availability will be X%. Exception resolution within X days/hours. etc. After you sign on, you soon found out that meeting the SLAs is everything. Unless you’re a genius and managed to include every conceivable issue in your SLAs, you’re probably going to be unhappy with the eventual result. Law of unintended consequences.

If read-through is all that’s rewarded, that’s what authors will produce. But read-through is NOT the same as reader enjoyment. Want to increase read-through? It can be gamed. I used to be responsible for producing a lot of junk mail, and I know how to create things you read without even wanting to. Write at a lower grade level so people can read faster. Use short paragraphs. Short chapters. End every chapter with a cliffhanger. Start every chapter with a hook. Keep making promises about what you’re going to reveal next, pages ahead of time (this is called a “transaction proposition” in marketing). Repeatedly interrupt the narrative. Make your characters bicker like teenagers. And so on.

This stuff works. It’s been empirically tested. And as read-through becomes the new SLA, this is what authors will aim for. Eventually everything will read like a thriller, or whatever the appropriate airport read model is for each genre.

Read-through may be good or bad as a metric. Just don’t confuse it for something else.


The prior rules for KU were creating unintended consequences. There was a gold rush to short works because they were getting paid the exact same as longer works. Pages read might also be flawed and Amazon will almost certainly end up changing their policy down the road because pages read is not equitable across all kinds of books. Your complaint seems ingenuous if you’re only now complaining about the pages read metric but didn’t complain about the way worse length-independent borrows metric. I don’t know what your position was in the past, but if this is your first call of injustice in KU, then it seems obvious that you’re biased toward the welfare of shorter length work authors and are creating arguments to fit that mindset.

(Hopefully, this comment gets placed properly. My last one didn’t)

Really, enabity? You actually put this out there as a contribution to the world? Something worth other people’s time to read?


The point you seemed to have missed is that KU 2.0 is an adjustment to a metric that had already been established and was already being exploited to negative consequence. The assertion has been that this metric improves the situation, not that it is the ultimate solution. The chances the metric will stay this way forever is very near zero. Further, I would assert that your concerns already are playing out in literature (and other media) as it is. However, rewarding authors for getting readers to sample 10% of their work is not a better solution than attempting to measure how much content was delivered to the customer. Rewarding downloads with minimal consumption attached ends up putting more of a premium on salesmanship and marketing, which has even less to do with delivering a desirable product.

I thought Enabity’s comment was worth reading…

Your earlier comment, Steve, was also interesting, (the one slamming Enabity, not so much) although I disagree with your apparent opinion that read-through has nothing to do with enjoyment. If I’m not enjoying, I stop reading. If I happen to get all the way to the end and find myself disappointed, I add that author’s name to my “ew, never reading anything by them again!” list.

Enability, I really marvel at how many people on the Internet live inside their own heads and think other living people are just there as non-human players in an RPG game to give them an opportunity to grind their axes. “You must” “you clearly” “it’s obvious that you”. All projections of your own mind. In fact, not only are you not able to read my mind, you are unable to read my post, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the fairness of read-through page counts. My actual thoughts on the matter appear elsewhere on this very same page.

Athea, you might want to reread my post.


The sequences of words “you must” and “you clearly” only exist in your post. I didn’t even use the word “clearly” or “must” in any response to you. Do a search of this page and see for yourself. I use “you seem” quite a few times though, because I can’t read your mind or even know for certain what you meant to communicate.

Steve, I find this post interesting and right on point. I heard someone in one of my FB groups talk about changing the structure of their books to make every page a cliffhanger and to shorten paragraphs and sentences. You are spot on! This will become the new tactic in order to survive the new KU business model.

April, thank you for actually reading my comment. I’m not at all surprised to learn about your experience in writers’ groups. It’s an inevitable reaction.

I just read an indie book that followed this model. I give the guy credit. A great hook–I had to pick up the book just out of curiosity. Tons of cliffhangers. Constant twists. Speedboat pacing.

I finished to the end. But I can’t say I really enjoyed it. It was like overeating peanuts, and then feeling sick afterwards. Characters were thin. Believability was stretched past breaking. It certainly wasn’t a smart or deep read.

What’s going to happen when every book looks like this?

Every book won’t look like that because not ever writer will be willing to sacrifice a long term career to try to make extra bucks gaming a system (that could change again overnight). Moreover, not every writer is primarily concerned about making money, long or short term, and actually is more motivated by engaging and entertaining readers and expressing themselves.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with gaming a system, or not giving a damn about readers once you’ve gotten your money from them. But I don’t think most writers are like that. And I know not all writers are like that.

I would also argue that from the standpoint of a clever business person, focusing more on building a base of happy readers who love your work will make you more money in the long run.

In managing KU, Amazon has to consider both the short and long term economics of it, as well as how it reflects on their larger business. Short term, they want to lure as many subscribers in as possible. Long term, those subscribers need to be happy with the program, or they will drop out. Also, there has to be a concern about how the program reflects on the company’s brand, if it feels scammy, that’s not a good thing.
Keeping writers reasonably happy is also important to Amazon, so people stay in KU. And to do that they also have to consider the writers short term and long term interests.
Every system can be gamed. The old KU program was obviously too easy to game with short works and discouraged writers from including longer works. The new system seems much more fair, but likely it will also be tweaked with in the future.

Despite all the uproar, I suspect the best (whatever that means) writers who made money under the old KU, will be able to quickly retool and make lots of money under the new KU. It seems as me that the people who are upset are not confident in their ability to adapt and that would seem to indicate that they are exactly the problem that Amazon knew it had to solve, people gaming the system so much that the system would have eventually collapsed with poorly written short works and no longer works.

Many very successful and experienced writers, like Hugh, Kornath, Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Rusch and others have been warning new writers for years not to focus on gaming the systems and to focus on building a fan base of readers and a long term career.
It seems to me, if you gamed KU with short works that didn’t help you build a real reader base, and now fear losing all your money since that the rules have changed, this should be a wake up call. And the answer is not to try to regame the system by writing long novels that readers finish but don’t like.

Some people will likely ignore this wake up call and do what you suggest, write disposable works that just keep writers flipping pages. But hopefully more writers will take advantage of the changes to redouble their efforts to write compelling works, both long and short, what will make them money short term, but also build a base of fans long term.

Smart Debut Author

I just read an indie book that followed this model. I give the guy credit. A great hook–I had to pick up the book just out of curiosity. Tons of cliffhangers. Constant twists. Speedboat pacing. I finished to the end.
What’s going to happen when every book looks like this?

Then more people are going to start reading, Steve. And telling their friends. Because they enjoyed every page of it. The way you quite obviously did, although you aren’t honest enough with yourself to admit it.

But hey, don’t worry, I’m sure there’s a used copy of “The Goldfinch” somewhere you can get your hands on cheap. It’ll be as good as new.

Because you can be damn sure no one actually read it.


As just a reader, not an author, I’m trying to wrap my head around this how authors get paid thing. Getting a bit freaked out that Amazon tracks the number of pages I read? I know “they” track everything but it’s a bit to much for me to handle at 8 am. Someone, albeit a computer, is judging what I read? I know it happens in all aspects of my life but I like to try to bury my head in the sand and be blissfully ignorant of the state of the world. “Big Brother Cookies” there’s a book title for someone, not me, the research results would scare me to death.

This is a technology company. Every website you go to does this, unless you take precautions. You can do the same with your reading by not using KU but purchasing the works via Amazon or elsewhere, converting them to .epub or a different format, or reading them on a non-connected device.

I’m not sure why anyone would do this. I WANT Amazon knowing everything about my reading habits. Just like I walk into a bookstore and tell a stranger what I’ve read recently, what I read in a single sitting, what I couldn’t finish, what took me forever to read, all in the hopes of a good recommendation.

My biggest beef with all that is that at least used bookshops and libraries don’t demand exclusivity. I wouldn’t mind so much if I was allowed to continue to sell my work elsewhere. And networks/television shows still get paid fully even if subscribers don’t watch an entire movie or episode.

If cable companies are looking at their viewer data, and are paying the same for a film that people start but turn off after 5 minutes that they are paying for films that people watch to conclusion, then they are fools.

The exclusivity requirement is a pain, and that’s a valid complaint. I wish people spent the same amount of energy on that as they do on defending the right of others to game a system and take money out of the pockets of other authors while providing a poor reading experience.

Actually, they don’t. It’s called ratings. It’s what dictates how much the networks can charge for advertising during the airing of that program. So, if the viewers aren’t watching the entire episode, or they aren’t staying with the series to it’s eventual conclusion, ratings drop, and so do earnings. (And the show gets cancelled.)

One thing everyone seems to be skipping over in there math is the phrase “at least.” As in, the pool will be AT LEAST 11 million. I’m giving it until we know the real numbers before pulling my work. That’s how I feel right now. It could change.

Stop being reasonable. I’ve never banned anyone from my site before, but that doesn’t mean I won’t.

Sorry, Hugh, What I meant to say was *flail* ;-) I think I’ll go back to writing now. Numbers always did give me a headache.

Well shit. There goes the blog post I was going to write this weekend.



I won’t say shit.

Dear Hugh,

I see that you are also a children’s book author. I would like to hear your opinion on how you feel about KU for children’s books. Many children’s books are priced at 2.99 or higher. I see yours is priced at 3.99 and is enrolled in KU. Do you feel the amount of work that goes into children’s books, is fair to have royalties potentially slashed so heavily? How does your illustrator feel about it? Does she not share 50:50 in royalties as most illustrators do?

I have written and illustrated several children’s books. I’ve also written novels, and shorts, so I know the work involved in each. I do not believe that all pages are created equal when it comes to children’s picture books. To be lumped in the same category as a 28-page short story, is insulting to say the least, in my opinion. And if the book is in fixed format, like one of mine is, than the pages count for half of the actual total. I’ve written to KDP, so far they have only responded with a repeat of their KU policy.

What I would like to hear from you is your honest opinion, knowing the work involved first hand; do you really think KU is fair to children’s authors and illustrators?

I might add that I have already pulled some of my books out from KU a while ago, to try other avenues. But to pull them all out, means I will no longer be able to use the marketing tools such as free days and countdowns. It will be much harder to gain any visibility without those tools.

Thank you.

I think subscription services make no sense for children’s books, and I wouldn’t put my works into subscription services unless I was paid by the hour spent with the book open, or the number of times the kid touches the screen, or by giggles, or by repeat reads.

This isn’t a retail system. It’s a rental system. The same rules won’t work for everything. Come up with some ideas, formulate a plan, gather some children’s book authors, and approach Amazon with ideas. They’ve just proven that they are amenable to change.

Thank you for your reply regarding children’s books. You stated that subscription services do not make sense for children’s books, yet your book, Misty, seems to be included in KU. I could be wrong, but when I look at the product page it clearly says Kindle Unlimited. I’m guessing that maybe you receive a different pay structure than other children’s authors that is more beneficial to you.

I do not count on my ebook sales for my main income from children’s books, My paperbacks and hardcover do better. But it’s the point of the thing, that Amazon has tools, Kindle Kids Creator, to help put an illustrated book into fixed format, and now that same book is worth only half the page count due to the double page spreads. How is that fair? If I have to reformat my book back to single pages to make every page count so be it. Yes, we all have the option to opt out, and I’m sure Amazon knew this would not sit well with many children’s authors. However, ebooks are becoming increasingly popular with children, at home and school. My school district has it set up for every classroom from Pre-K to second grade to receive 10 ipads each for next year. And all students, 3rd grade and up to be assigned Chromebooks, (every child). So this technology is not going anywhere soon. It’s just sad that the children’s book authors and illustrators are getting overlooked.

I knew when I created my ebook that I’d never make a penny. It was for the learning experience. I’m pretty sure I said this on most of my posts about creating Misty.

Once upon a time, when men were men and the sheep ran scared, it took at least six months to find out how a new titles was performing. Now people want instant gratification. The key point made here is that KU is voluntary. It’s only being “imposed” on those who choose to participate.

Don’t like it? Opt out as soon as you can.

The over-reaction and attempts to ‘game’ the system are reaching epic proportions. After 25 years in publishing, I prefer the long game.

And I try to learn from and follow people like you.

This is all seeming a lot like the furor when Amazon changed the ranking system to not include free downloads as “sales”. They eliminated a gravy train and people cry, “Foul!”


Good deal Bob! BTW I mentioned Cool Gus in Joe Konrath’s current blog!

What Bob Mayer said ;-)

You, sir, are a gentleman and a scholar. Finally, someone applies some common sense to the angst over KU! I think that by identifying the fact that KU is a lending service not a retail service shuts down 99% of the angry mobs. So many authors are acting as if KU has stolen sales at full retail. I wouldn’t be so sure. Many KU customers (like myself) will be much more willing to give a book a try on KU than they would if they had to pay full price. This is especially true of indie authors.

Wow, I didn’t realize people were freaking out. I was out of the house for much of the day so I was only popping onto a few boards for a minute or two. However, I was happy with my pages read. If we get in the neighborhood of a penny/page (and who knows if I’m even close, but how I’m going to judge it this month.), my earnings were up on borrows yesterday. (sales were down though. Boo!)

This morning, my PagesReadCount (PRC) was a bit higher than yesterday, but not by a ton. It’s also been moving very slowly, which may just be a result of Amazon working on whatever glitches they discovered yesterday.

The biggest thing that’s confusing me is the large amount of people yelling about this being their form of income. If you’ve made your income based off of a subscription-based service, you’re either a very prolific author (well able to make it without using this service), or you’ve found some way to jury-rig the system into your favor.
The only way I could create an analogy is by coming up with a consignment store that charged customers a fee for every time they walked into your section and stood there looking at your items for a specific amount of time. Then, they looked at their policy and figured out that now they’re only going to charge the customer for the things they actually want.
If your section is filled with flashy things that make a lot of noise but are pretty much insubstantial… of course, you’re going to make money from the previous setup. But now you need things of substance and value.
If your section was actually full of the latter items, and you find your income going down… get the hell out of the consignment store. Nobody is forcing you to use the exclusivity setup. Put your stuff out there, spread out… if it’s good enough, you’ll be making much more than you did at the consignment store.
Me? I’ll use my consignment space until I can get the word out there that I have stuff of substance, and it’ll help me earn a few shekels in the meantime.

This. Suddenly, every author is earning a living off a system that’s only a year old and everyone has talked about being broken for 12 months of that year.

I think it’s premature to rule on KU 2.0. I fully expect that like any other new tech, they’re still working out the kinks in what they’re doing. I’m giving it at least a month and running the pre-KU vs KU 1.0 vs KU 2.0 numbers to make an educated decision.

I know initially I was concerned that my KU related income was going to drop but once I ran the tentative numbers based on their KENPC metric, it’s projected to more than double the payout per book for me.

I was talking with a family member today about the new KU 2.0. She’s a short story author. She’s understandably concerned about KU2.0 but one way she’s going to adjust is to bundle her short stories into box sets. The box sets can be offered at a premium price and also deliver a longer (combined) page count through KU than each short story on its own can do. She may opt to move the short stories out of KU and either go wide with them or look at Kindle Singles program for them.

I think KU 2.0 is going to force some of the junk providers (i.e. 2-3 page “books” that just list a famous author’s published works) out of KU. As the junk leaves, then it will make more of the collective pie available for the quality authors who opt to stay in KU.

If I were her, I’d do the box set in addition to the shorts, not in replacement of them.

Oh, absolutely in addition. She’s focusing on making all of her published works, boxed or unboxed, to serve as multiple passive income streams.

Thank you! For the love of all that is holy, calm your tits people!!

The fact is that NO ONE knows what is going to happen on pay out. Nobody knew what would happen on pay out for the original KU. Amazon has always and will always be slightly vague because in a business that fluctuates based on someone else’s product it’s hard to say you’re going to $20938402934830.00 because your book could potentially suck and no one will finish it. Or your book could rock and everyone will borrow it and read every page and BAM you get paid big!

What does this mean? Publish a quality product. Or you know, don’t use KU since it’s optional.

I got a very disturbing email from an author. A newsletter I have no clue how I got on, but that’s beside the point, it was alerting me that because of these changes if I didn’t page through to the end (regardless of if I was liking the book) that they wouldn’t be able to afford to continue to write books for me to “read” — say what?

In theory, paging through could show better numbers on your pretty little KU spreadsheet, but the pot is only so big. So, if you encourage your readers to keep paging to the end? Wouldn’t it be safe to assume that because you want more pages read the money per page would be spread thinner? Would that also mean that instead of getting a higher number for the REAL pages read you’d get less for the pages your readers didn’t enjoy?

Cheating the system encouraged this change. Finding another cheat will only create more issues later down the road.

This. So very THIS^^

Wanted to chime in simply to note that “calm your tits” is a lovely turn of phrase I’d like to see many more people use on a regular basis. President Obama, I’m looking at you.

Carry on.

Any time a reward system is changed (without expanding the aggregate reward amount), some people will be better off and some people will be worse off. That’s always true. It’s necessarily true.

This is true even when the new system is more fair to everyone! Because by correcting an existing unfairness, some people will be made worse off (those who were benefiting from the prior unfairness), and some will be made better off (those who were being hurt by the prior unfairness).

It sucks when you’re worse off. It does. But that doesn’t in any way imply that the new system is worse than the old one. In this case, I would argue that the new system is clearly, dramatically better for authors and readers, and vastly more fair to authors. Many authors were advocating for this very change. And yes, people are still hurt by it, and I sympathize.

From what I’ve read, the old model was unfair to authors because it paid out based on percents. So if a reader read 10% of a 200 page book (20 pages) the author got paid. But if a reader read 20 pages of a 600 page book, then the author didn’t get paid, even though the reader read 20 pages. So I never signed up to go exclusive with Amazon because of that.

I write long. I write historical romance long, even though I’ve heard in the romance community that the average romance book is 90K. I can’t tell a story that way, that quickly. Maybe some can, but that’s a talent I don’t have. So I write long, and I’m writing a series. So with my next book, which will be about 150K, I’m going to seriously consider going exclusive, for 90 days, just to see what happens.

If authors tried to game the previous KU by writing short stories and novellas, not because that was their natural style, but because that would earn them the most money, then of course the changes are going to affect them badly.

From what I can tell, the change in the KU model is going to discourage people from gaming the system by writing short just to write short, and is going to encourage people to write good stories, plain and simple. Not stories of a certain length, but good stories.

How can that be a bad thing?

This all just divides writers into two groups; those who look for a way to market what they love to write, and those who write what they think they can market. If you’re among the latter, you will always have a life of frustration chasing algorithms and you will never win anyway in the long run.

Well said BP.

With this new system, won’t children’s book authors see a major decline in earnings? An illustrated children’s book about twenty pages will make 10cents for each borrow vs.the roughly $1.33 of the previous payout. I understand the argument about an author who writes a 500 page book should make more than an author or writes a 50 page book because of the time invested, but the illustrations of many children’s books are just as time consuming as the written word. Any thoughts?

The same can be said for selling a children’s book at $5.99 while a novel sells for $25.00. It’s a tough market. Where children’s book authors making out with KU 1.0? Do subscription models make sense for illustrated books? These are great questions. I’ll have to think about it before I give a solid answer.

I’m not sure how well the children’s book authors were doing with KU 1.0, but a lot of illustrated kids books and short kid books were fairly high in the amazon rankings. I’m assuming a lot of downloads were borrows as well as regular sales. From personal experience, I have several nieces and nephews and their parents use KU often to get new kids books to occupy them on their tablets/ iPads. Every few days they would borrow a new one until attention waned and then on to the next one. To reiterate my previous post, the new KU will not be profitable for those kids books unless the borrows are top end. The middling borrows will not support these authors unless they can get actual sales instead of borrows. From what I’ve seen, the KU program has been very popular with customers, so why switch to buying?

Jennifer Daydreamer

I like subscription services. I want there to be a seperation between commerce and the work (the book). When you say to write more gripping pages, I cringe a bit, because I think some authors, like John Crowley, are too sophisticated for the mainstream and therefore, won’t get as many page turns. A reader may drop a poetic book because the tent pole type of storyline is more appealing. I want the judging of the writing to be separate from the commerce. Someone on this post pointed out that dvd’s, even subscription based, is not sold based on how far along the viewer gets into the movie. That business model is appealing to me. I think it is sound and fair.

Come on, Hugh.

This is absurd. You’re not giving a balanced perspective as you claim.

How is it a good thing that we can no longer even see how many borrows we have in KU? You can see pages read but not borrows. Without the borrows metric, it becomes almost impossible to make good business decisions around this stuff. Yes Amazon is intentionally withholding that information.

They are not telling us how much they intend to pay per page. We have to guess. How can I build a reliable income stream without data?

They change the system on a dime and give almost no notice.

How is this good?

They punish the content providers who were doing what they asked them to do.

People who published shorter work, did so because it paid. They did it because it was encouraged by the way Amazon rewards frequent releases and the way they structured borrows.

Amazon has changed the system, which you consider a positive move. But the fact remains, they could just as easily change back and you’ll be in a less equitable situation in the very near future.

They have not shown themselves to be a stable, reliable partner. Whether the upshot of this is truly more fair for more authors (which remains to be seen, imo), the opaque manner in which it’s being handled is awful.

But you don’t speak to any of those points, choosing instead to gloss over the numerous missteps they’ve made and only crowing about the positives.

Why be exclusive with a platform that shows it has no use for you, whether you provide the kind of content its readers want or not? I provided lots of good content. I have some of the highest borrow rates around, and I was consistently an All Star in the KU program.

I am making a fraction of what I made before under the new system. Is it my fault that I paid attention to what Amazon was incentivizing for content creation? Am I supposed to feel bad about that?

No. Rather, I’d say that Amazon has shown themselves to be rather arbitrary in their handling of KU, and that they are going for less and less transparency in a system that already struggled with those issues.

That’s not a good thing, Hugh. And I think you know that. Don’t you?

I think you missed the part where KU is an optional feature. If you don’t like it, don’t use it. Amazon isn’t out to get you. They are attempting to fix a flawed system. The bottom line is that you can choose to not use KU if it isn’t to your liking.

This kind of snotty, childish comment is exactly what happens when the original post sets the wrong tone.


Why should Amazon wait to change a system when it is clearly broken? As much as you might be hurt by this change, other people were being hurt by the old system and would like relief as soon as possible. KU is an approximation of a zero sum game and what you got in the past was taking away from someone else. You can think that a short story being equal to a novel is somehow a balanced perspective, but it isn’t.

I agree the system is broken. The new changes aren’t helping much.

They’ve removed our ability to even know how many units are being moved. Pages is meaningless without knowing how many borrows we got. Especially as numbers of pages read grows, it becomes almost impossible to judge what it means in terms of basic units.

And in terms of payout, they gave novelists a bump, but not a big enough bump to make exclusivity worthwhile. Not when they can change their numbers on a whim and you’ll never know what hit you.

It’s a pretty bad solution to an acknowledged problem that Amazon created in the first place.


How is pages read a less illuminating statistic than books downloaded and read to 10%? Information has been taken away, but it has been replaced by different information. It seems to me that this is a reasonably equitable tradeoff. Amazon probably doesn’t provide both because the data would end up on the internet and their competitors would have potentially useful information. Since they have to tell authors how many pages were read for the purpose of payout, they can’t share how many books were checked out.

This change should bring more novelists into KDP Select, it’s just hard to tell how effective it will be. Maybe this system will better incentivize Amazon to increase the pool in their pursuit of more novel length works.

Perhaps it is flawed, but that doesn’t mean it can be fixed by swinging the pendulum in the absolute opposite direction.

A more fair and balanced way to have this done would’ve been a guaranteed amount, like .80 to a 1.00 for every book borrowed and then an added bonus for amount of pages read past like page 200 or whatever.

The current fix is like a kid taking a golden apple from someone and giving it to someone else. Of course longer novelists are going to be happy as punch and short story advocates and novellaists are going to cry (just as it’s been the opposite case for the last year). The best solution is cutting the damn apple in half.


Why do you think longer novels shouldn’t get paid more? Do the words start magically appearing on the page after a certain point? Are shorter works somehow inherently better and should get a boost in payout per quantity as a result? I don’t get it.

What makes you think shorter works are inherently worth less?

George Orwell’s Animal Farm = 29,996
Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol = 28,944
John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men = 29,160
Richard Matheson’s I am Legend = 25,204
Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass = 29,236
Ernest Hemmingway’s A Clean Well Lighted Place = 1553

Let’s repeat that one:
Ernest Hemmingway’s A Clean Well Lighted Place = 1553

And that’s considered one of the best short stories of all time!

Short does not mean low quality. I am suggesting a system that rewards both short story read (base price of .80 to 1.00) and rewards longer work (added cents for books that exceed a given threshold).


I’m presuming that value = quality * quantity, which is perfectly reasonable in the case of entertainment content. Quality is accounted for in terms of # of downloads and the percentage of times the work is consumed to the end. Quantity is accounted for by length. Neither of these measures is particularly good, but at least they aren’t arbitrary like calling all works equal regardless of length. How many people have bought Ernest Hemmingway’s “A Clean Well Lighted Place” for $30 in hardback? I can get all of Hemmingway’s short stories, all 676 pages of them, for less than $17 on Kindle. That sure sounds like both quality and quantity driving price to me. I can get those short stories or I can get a couple of his longer works for the same price. The same should apply to KU. Offer a novel’s length worth of short stories and you will have a novel’s length worth of reading-sales opportunities.

I can’t hit reply to Wilder’s great comment about word counts and quality, but he is so on the money. Under this KU system, 50 Shades of Gray’s 105,000 quality reading experience far surpasses George Orwell’s 29,996-word Animal Farm. Why it’s three times as good! And according to some of what has been written here, if Orwell was alive today and was in KU, he should not at all be sad that his book is worth a third of 50 Shades. His money has gone to a better writer darn it, and that’s that. End of story.

Sometimes it takes LONGER to write shorter, because of editing out extraneous words takes time. This doesn’t necessarily equate to a better reading experience. Editing down a paragraph to a single line (which I’m sure some of you can do with this comment of mine), takes a lot more skill and than just editing it enough not to get your reader to quit.

No, I’m not Orwell or anything like him. But those who think just being “longer” and “readable” equals a higher quality reading experience aren’t considering a bigger picture. I’d edit to be more concise, but if you read all the way to the end of the comment, why save your time? This is just good enough quantity is it’s own reward!

P.S. This is meant to be funny, not rude.

That’s assuming the novelists are getting 100% (or close to) page reads.

Which they won’t. According to Kobo, bestsellers have something like a 60% read average.

On that note, I only ended up reading about 20 pages of Wool.

Amen, Hugh! Finally, a voice of reason in a sea of panic-stricken, sphincter prolapsing, craziness. If I were not already blissfully married to a near perfect man, I’d be sorely tempted to propose to you. I admire your common sensical attitude on this topic. Keep up the most excellent work.

Thanks for that calm voice.

I haven’t had any pages read yet. But I will keep most of my books in KU, simply because I want to make it easy for people to read them. If I could get them into libraries I would.
So thanks, and I’ll lean back, enjoy the summer and watch those pages getting read.

Hey, Hugh-

How much longer would it have taken you to quit your dayjob if you were earning half a penny per page on your shorts?

Boy, you’ve gotten really ridiculous and short sighted these days.

I never expected to quit my day job RENTING books to people. I went into this industry hoping to SELL books to people. When I first enrolled in KDP Select, I was thrilled to be able to GIVE AWAY books to people. I’m amazed that I now make money from the same procedure, but we call them BORROWS.

Did you think you were going to become a full-time author from a rental system? I could’ve talked you out of that notion.

So, which is it? Is KU still viable for short story authors, as you claimed, or are short story authors stupid for thinking it was viable enough to go full time? You can’t seem to decide.

Why is every question drenched in rudeness? My goodness.

I employ permafree. I think it’s good for business. I see KU as an extension of that, with increased visibility, which leads to more fans and more sales. Nowhere in my discussion of the positives of short fiction did I say the income was going to be life-changing. That doesn’t make it a bad move.

I’ve made my career writing short works. I was serializing before it was a common indie thing. I lucked into the system, and I saw how well it worked, and I’ve enjoyed it. But back when KDP Select meant KOLL borrows, no part of my strategy was to quit my day job off that. I was doing it off of retail sales of short fiction, mostly priced in the 35% range. That worked for me. I see KU as a bump in ranking, a promo to win new readers, a way to get more exposure, and a supplement to retail income.

That there were so many people making bank off KU is a surprise to me. I didn’t know people were subsisting solely off this year-old rental system. Now that I do know, it helps explain the violence and vitriol I’m seeing.

You didn’t answer my question.

If short story writers were stupid to expect to go full time while exclusive to Amazon, why should they stay exclusive now?

If short story writers should stay exclusive to Amazon, what is the reason? What we’ll be paid now sure isn’t enticing.

I didn’t ask how you see giving away things, I asked to know if you think we were stupid or if we made the right choice back then.

“Nowhere in my discussion of the positives of short fiction did I say the income was going to be life-changing.” But it was, for a year. And now it’s life changing again, only negatively this time.

I was neither violent nor vitriolic in my reply. I’m simply looking for clarification of contradictions or, at the very least, fairly bad phrasing.

This tone on this post saddens me. It comes across kinda smug and does the opposite of what I thought the author earnings stuff and Hugh seemed to do before, which is unite indie writers (all writers actually). Amazon’s old KU favored shorts. So I wrote shorts. I adjusted to the market place. Now, they’ve changed it, and I’ll adjust again BUT the lack of ample notice is ridiculous. .

With more information from Amazon (which they have but won’t give), and more TIME to absorb changes, people would be in less of a frenzy. This is an actual LIVING for some writers. Any BUSINESS OWNER given a MERE TWO WEEKS to ready for a change in PAYMENT would be nervous if they had no way to calculate what their products would earn.

Maybe this was supposed to be funny. The opening was, but it rubbed me the wrong way, and from the talk around my FB groups and other online hangouts, I’m not alone.

Uncertainty breeds fear. And Amazon made a big change with little notice (as did Scribd), and they’re leaving a lot of people to have to make guesses. Six weeks of not being able to even give a descent estimate of what books you are EXCLUSIVELY offering to Amazon (the only estimate so far is the .0058 per page from the scraps of info we’ve been given) can rattle someone who doesn’t have a lot of reserve cash.

Not everyone gets the sweet deal of being in KDP AND being able to sell elsewhere. Not having enough information to make a real business decision with only two weeks notice is a recipe for panic, and it didn’t have to be like this.

I don’t have that deal either. My KDP Select works are exclusive and in KU. My other works are published wide and are not in KU.

How is my tone anything compared to the tone of this reply or this misinformation?

My apologies for being misinformed. I’d heard that many bestselling author’s didn’t have to be exclusive with KDP, and I can see that they way I wrote it implies that you were one of those authors, which I knew wasn’t true. Thank you for the correction.

These last two posts and your replies just seem to lack empathy for writers who are nervous about some really big changes. Not everyone who figured out a way to make some dough with the old KU was gaming the system, and the short notice is within KDP’s rights, but still a bummer. I don’t know, Hugh. I’m a fan, but these last two posts just feel divisive and off putting. In the interviews I’ve listened to with you on podcasts, you seemed so much friendlier and inclusive. Your work with Data Guy on the Author Earnings report is so informative and such a contribution. So when I’d read in forums and Facebook groups about other writer’s being upset at what you said, I’d rushed over to read for myself and defend you, but I ended up getting miffed and sorta sad. Maybe that got into my comment? Maybe something like that is happening to you? I don’t know. There’s a comment section here, so I commented. I thought maybe you’d read it along with some others and realize that you could be kinder to some of the writer’s who are having a hard time with the quickness of the change and deliver the info in a different way.

Thanks for responding to my comment.

I’m being very kind to the people who are being kind and understanding with me. And I have yet to be as rude back to the people who are being rude to me. So in every way possible, I’m trying to increase the amount of politeness in every interaction.

It’s hard being kicked around for two days, especially when people are defending a busted system, and be nothing but cheerful. People are calling me entitled, a cheat, a shill, to go fuck myself, etc. Maybe everyone thinks I’m immune to feeling hurt? Or they’re coming into this with so much lost-income rage that they’re taking everything I say and making it as offensive in their minds as possible? Or they can’t kick Amazon directly, and they equate me with Amazon, so they are coming home, pissed at their boss, and kicking the dog?

Whatever it is, it hurts. It sucks. I don’t see anything I’ve said that deserves half of the hate I’m getting.

You absolutely don’t deserve any hate, but people are touchy, and I feel like they have cause. A few people have pointed out some of the stuff that you’ve written that is rubbing people the wrong way, and I think you may be too close to see how you’re words are being interpreted. I can see how my initial comment came across as rude, because frankly, I was miffed, and that mood colored what I wrote. Your post and responses came across as judging people I know and even me, and it effected my comment.

It’s not all just misplaced rage at Amazon (although I believe a lot of it is). You have fans here trying to tell you something. Other people have written it better than I have. I’ve been rude or unkind, and I apologize. However, just because you do not SEE how your own unkind or rudeness, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened.

I’m really sorry to see that’s happening to you. Really, truly. It’s disturbing to see that happening to anyone. Chin up! Huggers will prevail…eventually. Ann

You know what I like about this? It provides a clear picture of what my readers like and don’t like. If people aren’t finishing my books then it’s time for me to rethink what I’m doing. And yes, as an historical author with 70K-100K word books, getting paid the same as someone with a 30k book didn’t equate.

But again, knowing how much/little books are actually read, is an invaluable tool. Hope Amazon will break-down these numbers and provide reports on the average percentage of pages read per title.

Harald Johnson

Getting in late but valuable post at top.

As a traditional-published author turning to indie-self-pub, I’ve been studying all this and quickly saw the abuse potential (of KU 1.0). And figured Amazon would catch on and change the rules. And now quite fascinated by all the arm-flapping going on after the pages-read announcement.

Exciting times! Thanks for sharing, Hugh. And to all commentors, too.

I could write an entire novel on this subject, but I’ll keep it brief (for the sake of everyone).

1. If you are relying on one avenue or method as the primary source of your income, you’re in trouble. I don’t care what business you’re in. If this causes your income to drop by 60 – 80%, you need to work on your business model because you won’t last.

2. People agreed to the Terms and Conditions set forth by Amazon when they opted into the program. I’ll rely on Ryk Brown’s assertion that in these Terms and Conditions it states that they can change without notice. This is common, so I’ll believe it.

3. As a business person, you must be willing and able to pivot quickly. If the way you get paid changes (the way it has for so many people these days) or if demand for your product changes, you must adapt by changing your practice. You can do this by changing your production schedule, your distributor, costs, etc.

4. Amazon will change things again. They change things ALL THE TIME. That’s how they operate. That’s how ALL businesses SHOULD operate. In another year, they’ll have constructive/informed feedback from users, readers and enough of their own data that they’ll be able to make other tweaks to the system. Bank on that.

5. If uncertainty causes you to freak out, well. I don’t know where you’ve been living but the entire world lives in uncertainty. The economy could crash (again) tomorrow. An entire industry may go under in a couple months. Your day job may be eliminated tomorrow morning (that happens way more often than you’d think). Get used to that. That’s the “New World”.

On another note, I’ve really loved watched the markets these last few years. Especially the publishing industry. I’m relatively young, got a degree in Applied Econ and Finance, so to see a disruptor in real time and to see how all of these companies now operate… man, it’s amazing. Don’t get me wrong, it can be revoltingly unethical, unfair or downright illegal… but still amazing and world changing.

One of the biggest mistakes higher earners make–whether it be salesmen, sports stars, rock stars, or even writers–is assuming that income will continue or grow forever. When something changes, we think, “If only things had stayed the same for a little bit longer.” That experience is universal, and not just limited to writers.

The amount of pain one is feeling right now in relation to the KU change inversly proportional to quality of your business plan. Is that anybody’s fault? No. Businesses do their best to predict future market conditions, but swing and miss all the time. It can’t come as a complete shock, however, that the terms of a fledgling program would change one year after inception (and will certainly change again in the not too distant future).

At my former company, an employee complained to me, “We’re always changing things.” I would argue that proper risk management, and the ability to identify and adapt to changing business conditions are among the most important and needed skills we have.

You get it! Thank god. I think most people will ignore me. After all, I’m not an author. I’m just a business/numbers guy.

This whole conversation is amusing to me, though. I mean, I sympathize with the authors who are hurt by these changes. It sucks. But this is business. This is how it goes. It’s how it has always gone and will always go.

“I don’t even know how to process this. It doesn’t take as long to write a short story. You shouldn’t get paid as much. End of (short) story.”

Wait a minute. Do you tell others what they should charge for their work? If not, then how can you tell them how much they should earn?

But back to your logic: It doesn’t take as long to write a short story. You shouldn’t get paid as much. (Except in case of children’s books, which can take just as long if the author is also the artist. If the author isn’t the artist, then said author must invest hundreds if not thousands, thus warranting some type of commensurate compensation.) End of (short) story.

There, fixed it for you.

Maybe I’m missing something, since I’ve never done the exclusive approach, but… aren’t books that are available in KU for borrowing also for sale via KDP?

I thought that the bucket divvied out to KU works was a separate income stream from the per-purchase income from sales via KDP… which should be unaffected by the change in KU policy. Can someone correct me if this understanding is wrong?


Sales and borrows are separate revenue streams. The reason the short story writers are unhappy is that they’ve developed an expectation that they will get a novel sized payoff per borrow. This makes borrows a disproportionate part of their revenue because either they don’t get as much per sale as they do per borrow, or their shorter works won’t sell at $2.99. This is going to change when they get paid proportionally to the length of their work.

In fairness, Amazon needs to address the problems of selling shorter works by fixing their pricing rules to be more flexible. The threshold for 70% royalties needs to be lower for shorter works, as does the minimum price. Even $0.99 is a tough price point for a ten minute read.

“The reason the short story writers are unhappy is that they’ve developed an expectation that they will get a novel sized payoff per borrow.”

Excuse me, but I feel pretty strongly that my 15k ‘short’ x 10 installments is worth about as much as YOUR 150k novel. I assume we both write at the same speed, and mine are released monthly.

NOW, I suppose my readers who ‘borrow’ my episodes will still do so as buys, because I see no BUSINESS reason to price them lower than $2.99.

I have also seen NO discussion regarding advertising costs vs income. When you are sitting high on the hill, (or have trad pub backing, say like Mr. King, et al) then your expenses are commensurately less. And, make no mistake, eyes on the product – SALES.

Not just borrows…

I think it’s reprehensible that Amazon did this with two weeks notice, despite predictions by many authors that “It’s COMING!”.

That’s a hell of a way to run a business… and at a half-cent per page (the ONLY reliable number we have, based on Amazon’s carefully chosen wording in their emails) I can’t see that working out to anything but way less than minimum wages, no matter how many ghost writers you have.

A.E. Williams

“The reason the short story writers are unhappy is that they’ve developed an expectation that they will get a novel sized payoff per borrow”


The problem is that before KU there was a thriving $2.99 short market in Romance and Erotica. Amazon killed it with KU, but it was OK because most were doing the same or better with KU. Now, they changed the rules again, and people are justifiably upset. Will it again work out “OK”? No one knows yet, but it doesn’t look good.

I’m sorry you’ve been getting hammered by negativity, Hugh. I’m glad you shared this info. I think whether people ultimately agree or not it’s important to hear different theories and suggestions. You sound a little “off” today–more like Konrath than Howey, to be honest. I hope your day improves. I think most of us with anything in KU are a little bit freaked and scared. I’m hoping to weather this and keep going strong, but IMO we really won’t know for months yet what’s going to happen, good or bad. Anyway, thank you for sharing this info. :-) *hugs*


And thanks. Yeah, I’ve got non-writing stuff affecting me, but that’s not an excuse. I’m mostly just annoyed at all the negativity and pessimism and trying to counter that with reason. Not seeing the anger in my responses. Maybe I’m getting old and senile.

“Reason” isn’t the term I have in mind when it comes to some of your replies here.

“Snide remarks” is a more fitting one (of course, my reply is one right now, too).

You argue from the standpoint of one who now benefits from the change in a flawed system, while rather brushing off the new flaws (since they don’t affect your work negatively).

Oddly enough this new model clarified my approach to my writing, which is neither to rely solely on either Amazon in general nor Select or KU in particular. I don’t trust Amazon farther than I could throw Jeff Bezos with my left hand. Which isn’t very far, even on a good day.

I do business with it. I won’t let it affect my writing.

I hope it will be a lot more interesting to tell our grandkids where we were for KU 3.0. KU 2.0 is a misconceived disaster.

The people who do well will be the longer-form publishers who were already doing well under KU 1.0. The people who complained they weren’t getting their share because readers weren’t getting past 10% of their stories? Their problem wasn’t KU. Reads <~10% are going to pay out now but what it pays wont last long in Starbucks.

Decent writers of novel-length fiction probably won’t see much difference in income. Meanwhile short fiction, children’s books, cookery and reference work all got shoved off a cliff.

“That people aren’t getting past 10%” was never the complaint from novelists. It was that being paid $1.30 for a $4, $5, or $6 novel was ridiculous and we were being screwed if we left our work in KU. I certain withdrew all of mine except 1 which I left in as a loss leader.

You are right in this, Hugh: for the past year novel authors were being screwed if they left their work in KU. Whether this fixes that, I’m not sure. I am certainly interested in watching to see. It might be that I’ll consider putting a few of my novels back in.

The only people getting a pay cut are those that were exploiting a broken system (whether they knew it or not).

It’s like going up to an ATM that’s spitting out 100s for 8 months and then being upset that the bank fixed it.

P.S. One other thing to note that’s new — how Amazon determines the total page count and what that number is doesn’t matter as long as it’s consistent across all works.

Your split is from a communal pool that’s determined by a percentage of total pages read. That % will be the same regardless of the scalar used (as long as the scalar is the same for everyone).

Simple Example: if it says your book is 100 pages and everyone else’s is 900, you get 10% of the pool.

Let’s say their page count is way off and it’s saying your 100 page book is 400 pages. But everyone else’s is 3600 pages — you make the same 10%.

How many pages it determined doesn’t matter as long as the scalar that determines total page count is consistent for everyone.

100% agree.

There may nevertheless be some confusion among authors right now because it appears (from anecdotal reporting) that KENPC is generally much higher than “traditional” page counts (like the one listed on the book’s product page). As you’ve noted, it doesn’t really matter in the end; they could multiply it by 1000 and it all evens out. But if authors are applying the now-famous “0.57 cents per page” estimate to the OLD page count instead of the KENPC, they could be greatly underestimating the (expected) value of a borrow. And that could be leading to some of the current author distress.

Authors in KU: if you’re going to use the 0.57 estimate (and it’s just an estimate), be sure to use the KENPC, not the page count on your product page. You can find the KENPC on your dashboard, under “Promote and Advertise.”

> The only people getting a pay cut are those that were exploiting a broken system (whether they knew it or not).

Authors of children’s books? Cookery and recipe writers? Dictionary compilers? Are those the exploiters you mean?

Can you tell me what it is particularly they are being appropriately punished for?

I do think there’s a valid argument that “pages read” is not the right metric used to measure the value (to a reader) of a children’s book or a reference book.

If I could design the perfect system from scratch, I think for a children’s book, the metric would be something like # of pages read — INCLUDING RE-READS. Kid’s books get read over and over. On kboards, someone suggested that what we need is a separate KU for Kids. That could work too. It’s really a different sort of rental model. And I would not be surprised if Amazon is already planning something like that — though children’s authors (and the rest of us supporting them) should advocate for that change.

For reference books… I admit I just don’t know. A reader doesn’t “read” it at all — they look things up. How do you compensate that? Perhaps reference books are just not suited to a rental model at all, and should be sales only.

For novels, however, I do think that “pages read” is an excellent metric — and far, far better than the previous unit-based metric. Sure, it could be improved down the line (why not count re-reads here, too? how about a “100% completion bonus”? etc.), but those are marginal tweaks.

Also, I don’t advocate punishing authors. Improving a metric results in some people making less than they were before, but punishment isn’t the objective. And when I applaud the improvement, that doesn’t mean I think anyone needs to be punished for anything.

> I do think that “pages read” is an excellent metric

Valuing words by weight? Sorry but it doesn’t seem very excellent to me. Are the words in Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ inherently less valuable than those in Stephen King’s ‘the Stand’? Are the words in ‘Travels with my Aunt’ in some way less good than those in ‘the Da Vinci Code’? What makes the sum of the phrases and sentences in ‘the Cement Garden’ of lower worth than those in ‘Amsterdam’?

For some fiction, a formula that incorporated how much of a story or piece the reader actually read, proportionally or in percentage, possibly even weighted increasingly towards the end could be defensible but, as you say, it remains iniquitous for recipe and reference publishers,

I’m not arguing for KU 1.0. I didn’t design it and I don’t feel responsible for it. In any case, it’s gone into history.

I’m saying only that KU 2.0 is a wreck and I hope that it’s cleared away soon and replaced with something more intelligent.

I presume that better works will be read by more readers, and thus the authors of better works will receive greater compensation.

@Alice — 1) You are correct. I should have specified that I was talking about narrative fiction, where word count and page count are fairly equal per page regardless of length. My comment wasn’t including Children’s books or cook books.

2) There’s no telling on how Amazon will handle these books yet.

Amazon could easily tag books like Children’s books and give them a massive multiplier in their page count algorithms so that their 35 pages is comparable to a work of similar value. (In fact, that’s likely what will happen).

The issue with the previous KU was that the platform was broken. It couldn’t possibly be an even playing field without a dramatic restructuring. And here we are. Dramatic restructuring.

3) Your arguments about “which authors words are worth more” was equally as true in the previous KU system. Only it was short works that were grossly favored, to the point that it was toxic and destructive to the KU/KOLL environment as a whole. Many authors of longer works were dropping out of Kindle Select completely, which in turn was leaving many customers unable to find works and authors they wanted to read, which was leading to — “Why pay for a sub service that doesn’t have what I want to read in the first place?”

In the long run, that’s bad for everyone. Even short works. As that system cannot sustain itself if no wants to buy the subscription.

If you’re using this argument to try and go back to what KU was prior — I’ll just cite your own words. Because I largely agree with what you’re saying. But I’ll flop the POV.

Why was a KU author able to sell a 99 cent book that was 15 pages of content, 10 pages of front matter (guaranteeing it hit the 10% threshold just by getting to word #1) for the same $1.30 as a 400 page novel?

(Not to mention that 400 page work made 0 after from pages 1-39, but the other work could be completely read in the same duration, that netted a payout. And again truth was the shorter works netted the payout simply by being opened).

And for those that don’t know this — the fact that the borrow system was earning out @4 times of the pay system for short works led to some shady people doing very shady things. Like the aforementioned front matter bloat.

On top of this, because KU pays out from a communal pool of funds, the way people were exploiting KU, was actually taking away from authors who just wanted to be part of the KOLL.

In short, those actively exploiting the system were taking money out of your pocket and the only way to combat it was to become the shady — to take your 400 page novel and cut them up into 50 page chunks. Many authors would rather simply pull their books from KU (and be able to sell through other markets as well, now that you’re now exclusive) than chop up their work. And that’s exactly what was happening.

To reply about a separate service for children’s books, there already is one from Amazon. It’s called, FreeTime Unlimited, here is the link:

This, FreeTime Unlimited, has been in place for quite awhile, but from what I understand it does not include Indie authors. When it first came out, I emailed and asked if Indie author’s books can be included and they said they had no plans to include them at this time. This was months ago, I’m not sure if it’s changed since then I haven’t searched through it again, and I’m not sure who all the Indie authors are. But it seems to me, that Amazon is not favoring Indie children’s authors in any area at this time.

David Gatewood

Thanks for the info! I didn’t even know about this. Maybe this is what children’s books authors should be asking for — access into this, rather than a compensation change within KU. At a minimum, it’s another avenue to pursue.

Hi Hugh,
With all of the comments about how writers of children’s books and cookbooks are being hurt by this, is there any way to search the data on Authorearnings and see what percentage of those kinds of books are even in KU? It would seem that certain genres are more suited to a lending program and others are not. How may people borrow a cookbook on KU? I don’t know but it might be helpful to find out.

A lot of customers rent reference books e.g., if they were available on KU. Usually you don’t read them from A to Z but just pick out those maybe 2 or 3 pages you need or skip whole chapters.

This new model is one custom-tailored for mass market novels. Any other formats (especially those which need more effort per page) are being punished.

Rebecca Hedderly

Hey Hugh

Really sorry to see the vitriol both here (how rude!) and over on kboards. Thanks for attempting to spread reason and for actually bothering to host a debate. You’re a braver man than I! Here’s hoping the pile on ends soon, it’s not nice to witness.

Thanks, Rebecca. Hugs.

People who quit their jobs to write 20-page erotica because they were making hundreds/thousands of dollars a day under the original KU don’t get my pity. They were basically exploiting a “glitch” in the system that, if you had half a brain, you would’ve been able to realize that Amazon was going to correct eventually.

I’m glad the money is gong back to those who deserve it.

I remember being shocked by just how meritocratic this change is. Authors getting paid based on how well they engage the reader is something I can get behind.

I keep seeing folks approaching these borrows as if they’re sales, though, and thus that we should be earning the same amount from them. But a borrow is not a sale, and it makes sense that they would bring in less earnings, no?

Regarding the change itself…erm, Amazon has a reputation for quick response and embracing risk and change. That’s, like, their THING. Seriously, did people get into KU thinking “yep, that Amazon is constant as the North Star! Never changes, never varies course, never acts quickly!”

I don’t understand how this came out of left field for anyone. I mean, If I’m jumping into business bed with a company, you can bet I’m going to have an understanding of what they’re like first!

Oh yeah and big fluffy hugs to you, Hugh! I know you’re catching some shade for stubbornly adhering to calm and optimism here, so just wanted to say thanks for all the help you’re offering surrounding this change. As an amateur writer looking to make this into a full time career, I’m really grateful for the blog posts and advice!

Hi Hugh,

Sorry for all the heat you’re getting about this. I think the indie’s just expected you to be their Taylor Swift, and now that you aren’t arguing their side they’re angry. I get it, and I get what you’re saying. But maybe I can give a different perspective for you. I don’t think it’ll change your mind. I think you’ve been pretty clear about how you feel and that’s fine, but I think there is a point here about the real problem that the short writers face.

I’ve been at this for over 2 years now, doing it full time for over a year. I actually quit a very well paying full time job PRE KU, because my shorts were making me pretty good money part time, and the math said that if I could do them full time I could replace my salary. So I took the plunge even though I support a family. Fine. My choice, and it worked out well for me.

Within 3 months I had replaced my salary, and when KU came around it was an even bigger explosion, propelling me to unimagined heights. Did I think 40-50k a month would last? Of course not. But make hay while the sun is shining, they say, and so I did.

Then they dropped the KU 2.0 bomb and things have collapsed. At half a penny a page, I can still make enough to support my family, so I’m not crying about that. My catalog is big enough now that I have options, unlike some people. That’s fine. But here’s the issue.

One of the points you’ve made is that shorts aren’t worth as much as novels. That’s a pretty bold statement you’re painting with a pretty wide brush. Art is subjective, and writing is art. While I might write a novel and sell it for 0.99 cents and do well, Stephen King might come along and put out a short for 5.99 and sell electronic truckloads. How is that possible? Shorts are worth less than novels? Right. It doesn’t always hold up.

But let’s look at the other side of it. The PRE KU side, because I was doing this for almost a year and making good money then, too. A typical short would sell for 2.99. And I sold thousands of dollars a month at 2.99. That market was there before me, I didn’t create it. Others were selling novels for 2.99. Some even for 0.99 cents. People bought them. It was the author’s choice to market the book at the price point they thought that the market would accept. Some people saw 2.99 worth of value in a short while only seeing 99 cents in a novel. That’s just the way the market works.

But then Amazon came along with their pay 1 price model and changed the game. Sure, you can still price your books at whatever you want, and you don’t have to opt into KU. On paper, that all seems fair. But it isn’t. Because they changed the game.

They built a market where anyone could put their stuff in KU, and people flocked to it. They did the old bait and switch, giving an example at the time of 3.33 a sale but then opening it at 1.81 and walking it down to 1.35. Sort of like their email about 10 cents a page as an example and then probably coming in at less than a penny.. but I digress.

My point is, the SALES market dried up. Everyone that was previously willing to pay for our romance shorts at 2.99 now only had to pay 10 a month. And as we know from the Scribd example, Romance readers are a voracious bunch. They snap up titles left and right, and so for many of them, especially those reading shorts, 10 a month made a lot of sense. But once they’re paying 10 a month, how many are willing to pay 2.99 anymore for something not in KU? Not many, I can tell you. Sales once KU launched virtually dried up. They’re still there of course, but the numbers fell. DRASTICALLY. I was a hold out in the early days. I didn’t push everything into KU until a few weeks into the program as I started to watch my sales fall. I was, in that sense, forced into the voluntary system.

And yes, I benefited greatly because of the way it was structured, as noted. Fine. But now the pendulum has swung the other way, and shorts are decimated. Does that mean we can pull out and go back to the way things were pre KU? No. We can’t. No more than we could avoid joining in the first place, because the sales just aren’t there anymore. KU hasn’t changed for the customer, they see no difference. So they’ll continue to borrow and not go back to sales. But we can’t go back. Not unless we uproot and go wide, as it were, to all of the decimated storefronts that KU was designed to destroy. Kobo is pretty much gone, it takes like 50 sales to make a top list on Nook. Google isn’t great and you always have to be wary of them slashing your price and screwing you on Amazon. I’ve heard Apple isn’t bad… but no where near Amazon.

Anyway… my point in all this is, short story writers did have a boon time, yes. But there are a lot of us that were fine pre KU and would be happy to go back to that time, but Amazon changed the game and took that away from us. They took away sales that customers were fine making in an effort to kill their own competition and devalue our work. In so doing, they killed the market for our work, and just staying out of KU and going wide no longer solves that problem. Only KU being disbanded would (likely) make things go largely back to the way they were. And I, for one, would be ecstatic if that were to happen.

And THAT, Hugh, is why a lot of us are angry.

this! this! a thousand times this!

we played their game and now we’re being shunted. and for all you nose-in-the-air novelists who are happy us undeserving “writers” are getting shafted, you’ll be waving your pitchforks soon enough.

> > >

Here’s another nice comparison that was on the KDP boards by a JP Brigden:

The average middish book is going to get a KENPC of around 250-300. At 300 we are looking at close to 1.75 per a completed book. This is hardly a major increase from the 1.34.

On the other end of the spectrum shorter work is going down from $1.30 to less than $0.30 Uh yes, that’s a big difference. No matter which way you look at it, short work gets punished. Longer work gets pretty much the same, unless you’re writing a full novel, in that case the lower end of the 2 spectrum isn’t going to get you rich. UNLESS… You’re pushing hundreds of copies a day.

This system is made to benefit BIG publishers and big indie authors that are already making a killing. It really doesn’t benefit an indie author that is just making some side money.

So let’s say you get 5 borrows a day at 1.50. That’s $225 a month, right? Before, under the old system making the same borrows, it was $202. So the average user won’t make a big increase in profit.

Let’s say at 1.35 before, a shorter author was making $202 as well, under the old system.
Making the same burrows, they just went down to $30.

So the difference here is a longer book may increase by 23 bucks,
the shorter authors book decreases by 168.

How the HELL is that variation FAIR?

David Gatewood

I’m a little late with this, but I would encourage us all to engage the arguments, and not turn this into a discussion about the messenger. Even if Hugh were the devil himself (or Jeff Bezos in disguise!), we could still debate the arguments. (Which, thankfully, most people here are.) I’ve always found the indie community to be one where people help each other out — sharing data, strategies, insights, and cheer. The game is changing, as it has before, and as it will continue to (a lot). And it’s at these upheaval moments that it’s most important that we strive to act cooperatively to figure things out.

@wilder — “On the other end of the spectrum shorter work is going down from $1.30 to less than $0.30”

You should really stop gaping at gift horses.

A work that was 99 cents was making $1.30.

Chew on that for awhile. Think about it. Think about how broken that system is that allows that to happen. A work that was 3.99 was making the same $1.30.

(Truth is it was actually less than 1.30, as you have to average in how many didn’t hit the 10% threshold. With shorter works and bloated front matter, you could hit 10% threshold before you even started reading virtually guaranteeing the payout).

Then realize, that those who are now “losing money” aren’t. They’re being paid at values they should have been from the beginning.

And you seem to like to misrepresent that interview I linked. It was dated September 5th of last year. If Amazong had corrected this problem THEN — you wouldn’t even be able to complain about any loss of income because what you have been making in those 10 months off a seriously broken system, wouldn’t have been possible.

Take your money and run. You should be happy.

I have choice words for people who were profiting from a broken system to the detriment of others — especially when they don’t realize how lucky they were in the first place to have made what they made.

You made out like a bandit on a system that should have been fixed months ago.

What the hell is there to complain about?

This is a well-worded argument, and I agree. My point has always been in a system where some win and some lose, I’m not going to be callous to those who are losing, but I had this sense that somehow something bigger was lost. Like, weren’t we all better off before any of this subscription stuff? Isn’t the whole subscription thing killing music? But this argument really clarified some things that have been sticking in my gut about what’s happening. Judging from some of the responses here, I’m not sure, how many people (including Hugh) will be swayed by your argument and feel like most will just dig their heels in and double down with their arguments, but I wanted to let you know that this was a really great comment. I hope I can walk away from all this drama, point to your comment and say, “this says it all for me.”

P.S. My comment above was in response to Tubby’s comment. Although I do believe what Wilder saying.

Thank you, Hugh, for being the voice of reason in this sh*t-storm. I write longer fiction, and KU posed a real problem for me. It was a real blow to see my 350-page novel earn the same per borrow as a 35-page short story, even though I was providing 10 times the quantity of entertainment. (Note: I am not making an observation one way or another about quality, but rather the hours of reading-enjoyment provided to KU customers.)

For me as a novel-writer, KU was a lose-lose. If I enrolled my books, I earned a pittance of their worth. If I didn’t enroll my books, I lost visibility.

Personally, I’m excited about the challenge of keeping readers engaged and being paid for their engagement, along with the quantity of reading hours I provide. This system is a lot more equitable, and quite frankly, I’m surprised it took Amazon so long to make this adjustment.

Of course, those who made a killing with short works over the last year are disappointed, but only because their earnings were greatly inflated under a system that greatly favored them at the expense of longer works.

On KBoards, I saw one author whining that it was unfair, unfair, unfair!!! Because short works should pay the same. I went to her author page, and guess what? She charged twice the price on a long book as on a short one. If it’s good enough for her, why not for Amazon?

I’m feeling the same way. When KU reimbursed the same for a short story as they did for a full-length work, I pulled all my full-length works. Wasn’t enough money for me to remain exclusive to Amazon. But… if there’s one thing I know it’s this– readers read my books from start to finish. Very few readers DNF any of my books, especially my full-length work. Therefore the changes might very well benefit me. I can always sign up for 90 days and then walk away if the results aren’t to my liking.
The hard thing is that my sales are increasing on other outlets. It feels a little like borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. Hmmmm. It is a conundrum.

I know the money aspect of all this is important, but I’ve got a completely different thing to throw out there. I really wish Amazon would add the KU/KROLL units downloaded blue line back into the top graph on the dashboard, even though they don’t have a bearing on payments anymore. Seeing how many pages are read feels more nebulous and impersonal than the satisfaction of seeing a unit borrowed. That’s a person! Who downloaded my book today! I see the pages read so far this month, and it could be 20 people who finished all my books, or maybe it’s 100 people who are in the first chapter. Or maybe it’s one guy who blew through all three of my books in one day. I’ll never know, and that’s okay, but I did like the story the units downloaded told me, and I found it interesting to see how that line related to the sales line, sometimes shooting way above it, sometimes coasting along the bottom. The more data the better, I figure. Interested in your perspective on that, Hugh.

Yes, Kathryne, that’s something everyone has been asking Amazon for. I’ve had talks with their exec team about it, as have others. It’s ludicrous to on one hand make the argument that these changes are to improve quality, but then take away the one metric that would allow us to judge the quality of a book and perhaps improve it. And it’s not like that number has gone away. They still know what it is. Why they’ve decided to not display it anymore is beyond anyone’s guess, but we’re still pushing for it and they claim they are considering adding it back. I urge you to add your voice to others and email to ask for it back.

Thanks! I will definitely write to him, but it’s great to hear it’s already on the radar screen for those of you with more immediate access to the decision makers!

You are absolutely correct, Hugh.
I have 37 books published and of that 33 are full length and there is no way those 4 novellas or short stories should be worth the same as my 85-90 thousand word works. It was bananas when this started and as a result the market has flooded with short stories and serials. Well sorry for your luck if you only write short stories or serials, but I agree with pay per page. Write a good story that is engaging and well thought out and people will read your book all the way through. If you only want to put in half the time to get half the story then you should get half the pay. Plain and simple. I don’t understand the new system, I won’t even pretend I do. My books are in KU and at the end of the month I will know where I stand with payment and that will determine if I stay or go.
Thanks so much for keeping us all in the loop and always having an eye on the prize and the changing markets. I appreciate it and trust your opinions.


I was struck by a comment over on The Passive Voice by someone with a background in programming that suggested that it is quite possible, and even likely, that Amazon meant for KU to a be pay-per-page program from the start, but that it has taken them a year to write the code needed for every Kindle device and app to be equipped to store this data and be able to upload it to Amazon as needed. The pay-per-borrow on 10% read was possibly just a stopgap measure that was easier for them to implement at the start of KU.

That put things in a different perspective for me, although I am not that concerned about this change, as my wife and I write non-fiction, and so far KU has not been a big factor for us.

Posted on kboards for my man Hugh:


I just wanna say, although I’m the last person to ever want to sing kumbaya, let’s seriously have a group hug moment.

It’s been a stressful couple days (few weeks, more like it). A lot of us have taken HUGE financial hits. Others are still unsure, and still others are confused about whether they can celebrate a turn of fortunes when others got hurt.

I feel bad for Hugh, because despite STRONGLY disagreeing with his take on things, the guy has championed self-publishing, he’s helped tons of authors, and he seems to really care. The guy has been getting hammered. Hugh, I’m sorry dude. You don’t deserve that.

This is a tough moment and people are kicking the crap out of one another, myself included. Let’s all chill and give the punching each other upside the head a rest. I’ll start. Much love to everyone, including those authors I don’t see eye to eye with. No bad blood, no hard feelings.

Hey man, I hope I didn’t get banned but my last comment didn’t go through. And it was a pretty nice comment, too! Jeez, I seem to get banned everywhere lately. Hope that isn’t the case and apologies if I added to the misery with negativity.

Personally I’ve taken a magnificent financial hit and so my hackles have been up. Again, apologies if you see this :)

I’m also really sorry for people who have lost their incomes, but totally agree that Amazon has done an extraordinary thing by paying authors for borrowed copies of their work. And I say this even though my sales went from steady to zip/nada/zero after the first version of KU came out. Flash forward to the present time and I realize I may have once again missed the boat with Amazon’s algorithms. I’ve spent months writing a series of apocalyptic science fiction novelettes and novellas that I planned to begin publishing in September, in order to try to succeed with what was the hottest new way to sell books: series! Perhaps series are no longer the best way to sell books now and, once again, I may have missed the boat. But I realize that Amazon…or the publishing industry in general, for that matter…never promised me an income. Amazon simply offers me a place to publish and the chance to make some money in a world in which delivery of entertainment is constantly changing.

Jennifer Daydreamer

I just love series books. I come from a comic book background and the series experience with those is so much fun. Maybe you can do your series and then collect it in a longer book to sell? Maybe, short stories can be uploaded to KU and then collected into one book later. I wonder if that would help the short story authors to earn the income they seek.

I’m curious why people are not understanding the New Math of KU 2.0 here:
e.g, 20,000 borrowed-pages-read (“BPR”) @ .006 = $120
No matter whether Novel, Novellette, Novella, Short Story, flash fiction, Haiku, string of emails…
The pay-out rate is the same.
The publishing strategy, on the other hand…

the difference is the short story/novellaist has to entice 25 people to the novel’s 1 person. So despite me having potentially better quality and more engaging writing/subject matter, it’s more work and less chance for me to find the greater amount of buyers to up me to where we match. I went from $1.30 to .30 for a read where a novelist went maybe from $1.30 to $1.70 a read.

And that is one of the reasons why in the real world marketplace, most short story writers make very little money compared to novelists. The fact that KU is now reflecting that real world is a point in its favor. The marketplace in general does not reward literary quality (for either short stories or novels), but sales and readability.

You’re upset that you were once making $1.30 on content priced at 99 cents?

I’m very curious how you don’t see that system as fundamentally broken. You were making more per BORROW than what you would make actively charging people for your work. In fact, you were making more per borrow than what you valued the price of your product at in the first place.

And not because of quality. Simply because the system mathematically favored short works.

I really can’t believe people are this… I guess, naive is the nicest way to put it.

I also won’t begin to talk about the communal pool aspect of the funds — how exploiting the old system was reducing the payouts of longer works (taking money from people who didn’t divvy up their stuff into smaller works — that had nothing to do with quality, rather how lopsided and broken the system was.

I also won’t point out that regardless of what Amazon choose to do, the result would have been the same for you guys riding high on the short story frontal wave. The KU marketplace wasn’t a place for longer works. It would become a place for all short stories, and your slices of the pie could no longer be tipped artificially in your favor, because everyone’s work now looks like those that were exploiting the KU environment in the first place. It would have fixed itself by itself (in a rather disastrous way).

It’s obvious Amazon wants KU to be a pie that has big slices and little slices. Not a bajillion tiny crumbs.

This step is toward fixing that.

P.S. I’ve been running the math — and KU still favors short works over longer ones (Just not in such as a detrimental way as before).

Given the 11m against 19bil pages read —

The average payout of my shorter work is ~51 cents in KU 2.0. (vs 33 cents for actually paying for it).

While the average payout for my longer work is ~2.32. (vs 2.75 for actually paying for it).

You’re still making more than you would be in KU than you would be selling it and getting royalties. You’re just not making 4 times your royalty while novels are earning 50% or less.

That’s much closer to balance.

No, I wouldn’t.

Before KU, shorts/novellas sold just fine at 2.99 (and even during KU about 30 to 40 percent of my income is from straight out buys).

Read up to @Tubby’s much more eloquent explanation of this.

I went from a comfortable $2.07 to a less, but busy $1.34 and now to $.30

But whatever, if y’all want to sit on your high horse and think that it’s okay to do a big old bait and switch, fine. But when short fiction authors pull out of the program, and believe me romance, erotica, children’s, and those kindle short reads are a HUGE part of why KU works in the first place, and they WILL pull out if the rates are as low as .30 a pop, soon enough longer works are going to go down.

Dude — KU 1.0 mathematically favored shorter works.


It was a toxic environment because of this.

Whether or not you made a killing because of it is completely irrelevant. Your losses aren’t losses. They’re gains. You’re comparing a time of making 400% royalty to making 150% of royalty and telling people how screwed you are now.

And the people you are crying foul to were the people that were making 25% royalty because there were so many people exploiting how good it was for shorter works, exactly all the reasons you were making 400% in the first place.

You want a pity party? From my POV, you deserve a punch in the mouth.

P.S. The system you want to go back to WAS DOOMED TO FAIL. As more people capitalize on the massive over payouts of short works, you’d get paid less and less regardless if Amazon did anything at all. KU would also basically be just a subscription for service for short works. (Hell, it was almost there).

This change is a change for the health of KU.

@JE Mac,

because I can’t reply to your last comment.

First off, I was in NO WHERE NEAR making a killing. Maybe 1200-1800 a month depending on the season. BARELY scrapping by as a single adult. That whole ‘exclusivity’ bit kinda fucks you in the ass with KU. But I was able to experiment and work with stuff, as a writer should be able to. And I’m really looking forward to some new projects. BUT, this sudden having to rethink the whole game with a two weeks notice is quite problematic.

SECOND, I’ve already offered a more sustainable alternative. No where did I say let’s go completely back to 1.0. I proposed a flat rate of .80 to 1.00 for every book read past the ten percent and then an extra in-cent-ive for longer works read. OR drop the exclusivity and let authors peddle their wares elsewhere as Scribd and Oyster does.

I really don’t get where all this vitrol is coming for those of shorter works? We’re writers here, should we be supporting each other? Many of us either refused or were refused by traditional publishing, yet we had this desire to write and to be read. And the Internet became this amazing platform to do that on. Only, the squeeze comes, as it always does, by the few at the top who would like to eat all those big slices you mentioned before. All I’m saying is that I want to eat too. I like to write too. Please, sir, can I have some more?

Harald Johnson

not sure “REPLY” is working on a reply, so…
@ wilder: “the difference is the short story/novellaist has to entice 25 people to the novel’s 1 person. So despite me having potentially better quality and more engaging writing/subject matter, it’s more work and less chance for me to find the greater amount of buyers to up me to where we match. I went from $1.30 to .30 for a read where a novelist went maybe from $1.30 to $1.70 a read.”

I see your point. But you’re talking about stand-alone shorts, aren’t you? What about series of shorts or novellas (which is what I’m doing)? If they’re done right, it’s x1 reader acquisition for, say, 100k words (25k x4 in the series). vs. x1 100k novel. Same reader number, and maybe equal or even high BPR for the series if written well. My opinion anyway. Still have to finish them! :)))

Hugh Howey – “It doesn’t take as long to write a short story. You shouldn’t get paid as much. End of (short) story.”

It is clear by this comment that Howey has not taken into consideration how much work goes into creating a comic book or children’s book, which can average 24-32 pages, not including covers. Unlike Howey, who can only write, there are creators who are multi-skilled and can both write and also illustrate stories and the time and work invested in creating a page of art for such publications is considerably greater than the effort required to pen a page of a short story or even a novella and novel. While the prior Amazon KU borrow rate was acceptable for illustrated works, the anticipated page rate for KU 2.0 is clearly not acceptable if you measure by the process of time invested as Howey does, which illustrates (pun intended) the lack of rational forethought Howey has applied in this recent flawed analysis of the new change to Amazon KU.

Additionally, I also found it curious that in another recent post by Howey regarding a new short story he published for 99 cents, he expressed so much guilt concerning the size of the work versus the price point that he advised stealing the story somewhere if the reader, or potential thief, felt the story was not worth 99 cents. It became apparent to me at that point that Howey’s perspective concerning the world of writing and earning money for your efforts has become greatly distorted due to his own well-documented success. No author in his right mind would advocate stealing ebook titles except one who is already established and wealthy and could clearly care less about his work being stolen at this stage in his career… and no clear-thinking person could believe that the field has been leveled for creators of short fiction versus longer fiction ebooks by the “pay per page” standard when you include short illustrated works.

That is the truth, folks.

A 24-page comic book now results in a payment of 12 cents, yup.
One comic book page equals one KENPC.
It takes me 15 minutes to write one KENPC but one day to draw a page (coloring not included).

But as we heard, KU 2.0 is fair. So no reason to complain. Just adapt. Give up drawing and write instead.

Thank you for your calmness, Hugh. I’m sorry for all of the negativity you’re receiving. I would say more, but I’m afraid of being attacked. But go ahead and watch the video of the hamster eating a tiny burrito. It might make you smile. ;)

Phyllis Humphrey

Hugh: I read almost everything here today. (I confess skipping some vitriol I sensed coming). As usual, you made perfect sense and explained KU-2 correctly. Why some writers can’t see it is mind-boggling. But obviously some don’t even read instructions. Kudos for you for putting up with all the hate. You are one gentleman in a million. I read all your blogs and have benefitted from your wisdom. Hugs from here too.

Now, I’m not an author. I have no skin in this game. So this argument is merely amusing to me, which is why I’ve continued to follow and will comment for the second time. Like I said before, I’m only interested in this from a business perspective (call it a case study, if you will). This one will focus on two particular points and then a final conclusion.

1. Quality matters only insofar as it can sustain readership for an author. But Amazon cannot and should not reward “quality” books. Why? Because that is a subjective measure. And, ultimately, doesn’t matter to Amazon. What does matter to Amazon? That their subscription model is attractive to consumers. My guess is that an increased use of this service will lead to more book sales.

2. I keep seeing this one: what about Children’s books? Reference books? [insert super niche genre of your choice]?

… Maybe putting your book into this program isn’t right for that type of book. And that’s fine. Not every program can work for all types of books. But the old way was hurting Amazon’s most profitable type of book: the novel. Let me repeat that again, because it tends to get lost: the old way was hurting Amazon’s most profitable type of book; the one that consumers are most attracted to.


Like I said previously, this isn’t Amazon’s final solution. They’ll tweak it again and again and again. And will not stop. Each tweak will benefit some authors and hurt others. People will try to game every type of system, no matter what. (That happens in EVERY industry). If that bothers you, if you can’t deal with that, you probably shouldn’t bother being in the business of publishing.

Jason Lockwood

I don’t know if KU will benefit me as a first time author of a non-fiction work, but I will surely give it a go to see how I fare. Like you, Hugh, I don’t expect to make a lot of money on rentals, but what I’m happy about is people discovering my work and enjoying the story I have to tell. If people read my entire book because I’ve written it compellingly, then that’s a signal to me that I’ve done my work. If they don’t, it’s a signal I need to improve as a writer. How can that ever be a bad thing?

As for all the vitriol, it’s distressing to me. You have always been the model of gracious and the best kind of writer I’ve ever met. I recall with such fondness your appearance in Sydney a few years ago that you answered every question in depth and maintained eye contact with the questioners whilst giving your answers. A class act you are, Hugh, and don’t ever let the negative Nancies get you down.

I have mixed feelings about this whole thing. While I agree it’s not fair that writers who just dump 500-word short stories should be paid the same as 100,000-word novels, I also feel like many authors in KU are in for a rude awakening. People who smugly think, “I have five full-length novels in KU, it’ll be fine” will be horrified to discover most of their readers only read 15% of their work, so their income will drop. On the other side, authors with short stories will be pleased to discover readers reading every page and their income goes up.

Personally, I don’t sell too many books to begin with, so I don’t think it’ll affect me either way. But I think it’s a bold experiment. And I appreciate your putting a positive spin on this, Hugh. I’m hoping for the best.

Hugh, I’m sorry you’ve been dragged through the mud on this issue. As far as I’m concerned, you’ve been an inspiration to me for years, and you continue to be (not least because you’re buying a yacht from a part of the world I know and love!)

I’m staying in KU for the foreseeable future. I don’t have shorts in the program, only plus-or-minus-100,000-word novels; and over the first couple of days of the new system, I can’t see much difference in earnings from what I was getting before the change. I suspect I’ll end up either at the same level, or slightly higher, once a month is up. Time will tell.

I think the most important thing to remember is that we’re playing in Amazon’s game, on Amazon’s turf, by invitation. If we don’t like it, we’re free to leave – but we don’t own the game, and we don’t dictate its rules. That’s the nature of the beast. Amazon offers us all a chance to share in its success, using the same rules it’s always applied – putting Amazon customers first. Note, they’re not our customers – they’re Amazon’s customers. That’s the way it is. Amazon is going to do its best to have all its programs – including KU – serve the desires of its customers. If some authors ‘gamed the system’ on KU to their benefit, but not to the benefit of Amazon’s customers, it’s no wonder Amazon changed the rules to get back to its primary objective. That works for me.

I’ve been out of the loop for a while, and just got back from vacation so I missed all the drama. Tomorrow I’m going to fisk Scalzi’s post on the subject, because he says some silly things.

Hugh is correct on a lot. Let’s wait and see what happens before we take up arms. But there is more to the issue. Blaming Amazon for a subscription service, no matter how they run it, is silly. Amazon is not holding a gun to any reader’s head and demanding they join Prime. Amazon is making Prime attractive, because it suits Amazon’s bottom line. As more customers join Prime, more readers will borrow ebooks rather than buy them. This is where the tech is headed. Physical ownership of digital media just isn’t en vogue anymore. It’s what readers want (whether they knew they wanted it or not.)

Writers will NEVER win by going against what readers want. Ask the Big 5 how that worked out for them.

No one is owed a living. And lamenting the situation doesn’t facilitate change. If you want to survive, adapt and innovate.

This is just my personal experience, but I’m pretty much exactly what you described. I don’t buy music anymore, I have Spotify. I rarely buy movies and TV shows, I have Netflix.

Am I part of a broader change in the way people consume media? I obviously can’t speak to that with a hundred percent certainty, but I’d guess so.

Oh, but I am adapting and changing, Joe! There’s just a lot of downtime when you’re uploading 540 titles to 4 different sites, you know? There’s time to talk about Hugh being wrong, too.

I find it curious that you don’t mention in your blog that ten months ago, you were on a blogtalkradio show hoping that the KU pay rate go down to “fractions of a penny per page” (

I’d forgotten I’d said it in that venue, but I’ve said several times in the past few days that many of us talked about this being broken practically since the day KU launched. And we assumed it would be tweaked in the future. I’m shocked they waited this long.

You’re a gentleman, Hugh, and I know many of us value your very informed opinion. We value the work that you and Data Guy do to shed light on indie publishing. Here’s hoping I’m the last comment of the day, so you can hear me say–Thank you!

Thank you for a welcome dose of sanity, Hugh! I knew I couldn’t be the only person not looting the supermarket and stockpiling weapons in preparation for the Amazon apocalypse.

Very sad to see such vitriol. I agree with most of the points made in Hugh’s post. I also sympathize with writers who came to rely on KU-1.0 payoffs on short titles. My Kindle sales royalties have always exceeded KU payments, but I was one of those calling for major reforms to KU. I had pulled my longest title out of the program because it was only paying about a tenth of a penny per page (if measured by its new KENPC of 1,199 pages). So I admit to feeling cheated from my fair share of the KU/KOLL pool over the past year by 14 page titles earning 10 cents or more per page. That had to stop.

Perhaps the change came too abruptly, but that is often how change comes. Instead of infighting, I would hope that we strive to come up with solutions. For example, authors of numerous shorts should consider compiling them into collections where the pages add up to longer works. Yes, I know you would rather be paid a dozen times but, if that were feasible, those titles should actually be making more sales and royalties in the Kindle Store. Another option is to follow the traditional route for short fiction and submit it to magazines, or join together to compile anthologies.

Unfortunately, writers of short fiction (and fiction in general) have rarely been able to make a living at it. KU-1.0 was an aberration. Remember that the median income for traditionally published full-time authors in the USA is only $17,500. When you include part-time authors the average income is only $8,000 per year (down 30% in the past 5 years – largely due to the indie revolution). Those stats average in the Big Five All-Star authors too (including Hugh’s print edition of Wool). So you can see how low the pay is for most writers. And that doesn’t even count the 95%+ whose submissions are rejected by traditional publishers. Any of us who have been able to profit from income generated through Kindle sales and borrows are quite fortunate. Just trying to keep it in perspective.

“Modern poets talk against business, poor things, but all of us write for money. Beginners are subjected to trial by market.”
Robert Frost

Smart Debut Author

When something seems too good to be true, it usually is.

And for short fiction writers, that was definitely the case under KU 1.0’s broken-ass rules.

Because when you can write ten short stories in far less time than it takes to write a 750-page epic novel, while getting paid 10X as much for your efforts, there’s a word for that.

It’s called an arbitrage opportunity.

When arbitrage opportunities arise, if you’re nimble you can exploit them for short term gains. But never, ever bank your livelihood on them, because by definition, they are temporary — brief bubbles that never last.

Market forces will iron any arbitrage opportunity out, sooner or later. So you make hay while the sun shines, and prepare for rainy day.

I’m genuinely sorry for the writers whose livelihoods were impacted by this change. Having your income drop suddenly sucks, and I sympathize. But if you look on the bright side, the folks who you were effectively taking money away from — writers of longer fiction — are finally getting their fair share of the KU “pot.”

For a brief time you made far more money as a writer than you would have under an equitable system, while we made far less. We don’t begrudge you that.

So don’t begrudge us writers of longer fiction our fair share, either, now that your arbitrage bubble has burst.

One more observation. I think Hugh may have misspoken when he said “better reading experience” above. It’s not that short works don’t provide an equally good reading experience as longer books. It’s that they don’t entertain the reader as long. KU is a monthly subscription, so the reader is paying by the day/hour/minute that they read a borrowed title. They can read ten short titles in the same time it takes to read one novel. Even if they only consumed one short per day under KU-1.0, their subscription fee was upside down within a week. In essence Amazon was paying authors of shorts many times more than what the subscriber was paying into the system. It was unsustainable.

KU-2.0 will pay authors according to how LONG they entertain a reader, as measured in pages read. It’s probably the only way to make the system self-sustaining. That length of time also equates to enjoyment of course, because if they are not enjoying a long book they will stop reading it and payment to the author ceases at that point too. It might be a matter of semantics, but the key to KU-2.0 is paying authors by length of time they entertain subscribers. The ratio becomes subscription fees divided by how long each author engages subscribers. If that doesn’t work for your titles, then KU is probably not the right place to peddle them anymore.

That’s not an insult or attack on anyone. It’s the simple reality of what Amazon needs to do in order to make KU sustainable. What did you think it meant when they kept announcing that they were adding millions of dollars to the pool each month? It meant that was how far they were upside down between subscription fees and payouts. I figure they lost at least $50 million on KU-1.0 this year. If KU-2.0 doesn’t solve the problem, there may not be a KU-3.0.

You’ve probably given up on reading comments and I wouldn’t blame you a bit. The panic has people’s emotions pretty high. I get it.

Not everyone’s found a sweet spot in the business where they can weather this storm without worrying about the roof of the little shanty they built flying off, or their walls collapsing.

The folks who truly built a sustainable catalog will be just fine, I think. The ones just now discovering that what they built isn’t quite so weather-proof after all are going to have some hard lessons going forward.

Is this Amazon’s fault? I don’t think so, but they made it too easy to believe the weather would never change because they’re so great & powerful. I think it’s good for folks to be a bit jaded as a result, to learn that they probably shouldn’t have placed so much blind faith into a system that was bound to shift eventually. I, personally, didn’t even give it much thought. I wasn’t writing to take advantage of the existing system to start with… I was writing to tell stories I wanted to tell. I suppose I got lucky and chose a genre and format that my readers seem to love (paranormal erotica novellas and novels).

I’ll be fine. I’m confident of this. I think everyone else needs to take a deep breath, though. It’s only day two and our hands are tied until we know enough in mid-August to make informed decisions about how the new changes will REALLY affect us.

Hugh, I just want you to know that there are people out there who would with pride wear robes with embroidered HH initials, sacrifice Patterson hardcovers in your honor and give you big group hugs. I’m one of them. Hang in there.