The New Kindle Unlimited – What It Means for Authors & Readers

Well, authors and readers, the heyday of erotica shorts filling Kink Kindle Unlimited may be coming to an end. I hope you made hay while the sun was shining, authors. And readers, I hope you got your fill of the all-you-can-eat buffet that was Kink Kindle Unlimited while it lasted, because many of the erotic shorts that glutted the program may be going back to sales-only and being distributed wide, if the rumblings of authors about this new “pay-per-page” system is any indication. I know some (non-erotica) authors who think this is a great thing!

It’s not.

For erotic or non-erotic authors, this is a slide toward being paid by the word. And not words SOLD, like our old friend Charles Dickens, but words READ. If I go into a restaurant and order a steak, but I fill up on drinks and chips and salsa, do I get to send the steak back because I’m no longer hungry? No. If I buy a DVD but never open it (I have Keanu Reeves in “The Day the World Stood Still” AND “Pumpkinhead” on my shelf still in shrinkwrap… sad…) do people not get paid for it? Uhhh no. If I get sick in the middle of a movie and spend 3/4 of it in the bathroom, do I get my money for admission back? No. If I pay for concert tickets and my car breaks down on the way, do I get my money back? No.

So why in the world would an author not get paid for a sale/borrow, based on the initial interest of the consumer to buy/borrow it? Why are authors opting into Kindle Unlimited (the best place for a self-published author to make the most money with the vendor who happens to have the largest share of the ebook market) now going to be paid by “pages read?”

Because Amazon’s been losing money on Kindle Unlimited. And this is a way to “spin” it to make it look as if Amazon is actually listening to authors, while screwing both short and long writers. Yay! Oh wait…

Amazon said:

One particular piece of feedback we’ve heard consistently from authors is that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers. We agree. With this in mind, we’re pleased to announce that beginning on July 1, the KDP Select Global Fund will be paid out based on the number of pages KU and KOLL customers read.

So those of you who were complaining that “short erotic dino porn” was glutting up the Kink Kindle Unlimited program and eating up all your precious borrows in the global fund pot?  Be careful what you wish for. You got it now. I guess we’ll see how many people are actually reading to the end of your 500 page epic fantasy tome. 😉

I predict that many “shorts” authors will opt out. (Poor Chuck Tingle – from $1.30 a borrow to… probably less than a $0.99 buy would net. But I guess we’ll see! Not that I’m dissing Chuck Tingle – if there’s an audience for Sharknado, there’s an audience for anything!) Not that you should, but many may, just out of fear. But shorts are, in our attention deficit world, not necessarily a bad thing. Erotica writers have always written short – and we’ve generally been paid more for it, too. (Much to the chagrin of authors in other genres!) But for those, like this guy, who say that anything under 30 pages is a “scam?” Dude, go tell O’Henry that, eh?

I know there are scammers out there who have been taking advantage of the Kink Kindle Unlimited program – writing (literally) 500 words, throwing it up there with provocative covers and blurbs to make people one-click, and boom! Just opening it is 10%, so they now collect $1.30ish per borrow. And that sucks. There are always a few bad apples, right? But let’s not lump shorts writers in with scammers, okay? To each their own. If my readers want to read a hot little short about an illicit relationship between stepsiblings, why not? That’s not a scam. Nor is it or should it be penalized, simply because it’s short.

The SkyJump in Vegas costs you $119 and lasts a few minutes. I rest my case. 😛

I predict that mystery, thriller/suspense and horror writers will make a killing. People read those books to the end to find what happens! I predict short chapters with “cliffhanger” endings. I know people have been complaining about serials and cliffhangers – but I think we’ll see more of them. Because cliffhangers! I predict the sweet spot will be 25-35K. 50K at most. I predict pages of short, snappy, untagged dialogue! 😉 Oh the places authors will go…

As a publisher (and self-published author) I had some questions for Amazon about the new system. Below is a summary of what I was told. I’m providing it to you as information. Do with it what you will!

  • **Borrows will be displayed as PAGES now instead of BORROWS. So TOTAL number of PAGES (not broken down by number of borrowers) will appear on the report where the “borrow” appears now. We’ll be getting no other information besides this. We won’t know the number of people who borrowed each book – will will JUST know the TOTAL number of pages read in each book.
  • Pages will display and count in the report as they’re read by the reader. This will be when a user syncs up. Whether that’s hourly or monthly. Pages will appear as they’re read/synced, and you’ll get paid for those during the next payment period.
  • The 10% rule applies no longer. Pages are pages. They click into it and back out? One page. Click in and swipe left? Two pages. Swipe all the way through the backmatter? You get paid for all the pages.
  • There will be an SRL (Starting Read Location) determined by Amazon (start of Chapter 1). The ERL (end read location) defaults to the end of the Amazon book. If someone flips all the way to the end, you’ll get paid for backmatter pages. However, linking from the TOC to the end of the book? That would be two pages, no matter how many there were in between.
  • They do not have “average number of pages read” information up to this point (yeah, sure) and cannot provide that information currently.
  • Page averages will be done using the new “KENPC” system. The current page estimation system will change to the new (KENPC) one once the new KU rolls out in July.
  • You only get paid for pages once. If they read the page again, it doesn’t count.
  • Rank – ghost borrows for rank will still have the same effect. A person borrows, rank goes up, but they may never open or read the book, meaning you may never get paid for it. But authors will still get the same rank boost for being in Select.
  • For the first 90 days, everyone enrolled in KU will be able to opt out AT ANY TIME. You are NOT TIED TO THE 90 DAY PERIOD. This is the best and most important news (which is why I saved it for last? heh) This will apply for at least the first 90 day period of the new system.

So authors, if you’re thinking of jumping ship, Amazon wants you to stay. They’ll let you opt out as you wish for the first ninety days. Clearly, they’re trying to prevent a mass exodus here. That, of course, will depend on how much a “page” ends up being worth. And we’ll have to wait until mid-August to find that out…

Ooooo a cliffhanger! I see what you did there, Bezos…! Curses!


After getting such conflicting information about whether or not we were going to get just the metric, “borrowed pages read” replacing the number currently in the “borrows” column, or whether or not we were going to get “borrowed pages read” AND “number of borrows,” I asked Amazon to clarify.

I was told that they have been getting an overwhelming amount of feedback (you go guys! 😉 ) about not getting BOTH the number of borrows AND the number of borrowed pages read.

In light of that, they are CONSIDERING this as an option. They cannot say that it will be out by the time the program is implemented in July, nor can they say that they will ever give both numbers (number of borrows AND number of pages read).

But they have heard the outcry from authors, which has been far bigger and more vehement than they expected, and they may introduce both numbers in the future.

For now, we’re going to have to deal with “borrowed pages read” replacing the number currently in the “borrow” column.

P.S. EROM and EROTICA AUTHORS: When KU stops paying you, come to the dark side. We have cookies! 😀

Selena Kitt
Erotic Fiction You Won’t Forget
LATEST RELEASE: Highland Wolf Pact: Compromising Positions

37 comments to The New Kindle Unlimited – What It Means for Authors & Readers

  • Kelli Wolfe  says:

    I’m opting out. It’s just not worth dealing with CarlosF Amazon for 1 cent per page (or less) on borrows.

  • Drew  says:

    Seems like this will cut down on ultra-short serial pieces. There won’t be much of a benefit to cutting a 35k story into 7k chunks if the payment is based on pages read. I suppose several different titles getting downloaded will still provide ranking boosts, but you’ll have to weigh that against the likelihood of a reader continuing on in the story because the entire thing is already on their kindle.

  • Amelia  says:

    Thank you very much for this great commentary Selena – as usual you hit the nail on the head 🙂

  • M. R. Mathiad  says:

    I actually know how many read to the end of my 500 + page tome. How? They read books two and three, as well as my other four lengthy fantasy series. I am just glad I can publish my 2100 page omnibus on kindle unlimited now and make more than a guy with just a 15 page short story. Just my view on it. MR

  • K.D. West  says:

    Thanks (as always), Selena.

    There has been much hand-wringing and “sky is falling”-ing, and I understand it, but it seems to me that, just as the new regime created a new opportunity last year (and yeah, the old system is one that has done very well by me), there will be ways of maximizing your profit out of this system. Don’t know what they are yet, mind, but I would bet my bottom Bezos that there are some.

    Thanks too for this: However, linking from the TOC to the end of the book? That would be two pages, no matter how many there were in between. Neither Amazon’s release nor any of the panicked posts I’ve seen have made this clear.

    I’ve been trying to figure out if that were true or not — it makes sense that it is, but ScribD, for example, triggers payments based on where in the book the person has reached, not number of swipes. So in my books, for example, where the ToC is at the back….

    Actually, that’s not why we put it at the back — that’s because we want previews to contain more, you know, preview and less frontmatter. But I’m actually glad that it’s this way: seems fairer, and less open to abuse (whole-page buttons on the title that send you to the last page, for example). The whole point here is that some of our number have been feeling cheated. Let’s see if we can avoid that.

  • Zora Nyxx  says:

    I took all my novels under all my pen names out of the KU system. Some novels are shorts, tightly written, emotional and intense. There is no way to get those shorts to 100 pages to get paid in the KU system. My full length novels are much longer but hence, I still have to wait for the reader, to read through the full story before I get paid. Almost all my other author friends are removing their books or will be soon. Amazon KY’d our asses as Indie short story writers, they will also get a rim job as Indie’s remove all their books from the KY’d/KU program, not just their shorts under pen names. A smart move might be for Ellora’s Cave and Samhain to open up their submissions for authors. They might cash in big from Amazon’s anal fuck of Indies.

  • Jacob D,  says:

    I understand the distress of short story authors, but I can you understand the distress of the novelists? This will, of course, cause short story writers to withdraw their novellas and Amazon may even loose some KU customers. BUT, they will also gain more authors that join the program now because the playing field is leveled for their long and hard work. I decided to put my first novel on KU because I wanted it to spread faster. But until now, I already made the decision not to put the rest on. It was a matter of principle. A 400 page book making the same as something I could write in a couple hours just didn’t seem right. This may also draw more notable authors into KU, knowing that their royalty share may be higher.

    I may understand the distress, but I do not agree. I think it is right that Amazon is leveling the playing field.

  • Diana  says:


    Are you aware that Selena Kitt has her own website for books? Check out Excitica

    I wish Amazon would give us some data- like page numbers read and books borrowed so we can figure out the percent read. As someone mentioned above- we can still tell because happy customers move from book 1 to book 2 etc.

    I’m not worried. But I’m not all in KU, either.

  • Kathy Crouch  says:

    This is really confusing. I’ve never as a reader done unlimted. It didn’t seem worth the extra money. I haven’t published anything either.

  • Ebook Bargains UK  says:

    !) How long before Amazon rolls this out for all KDP sales? By Amazon’s logic, if it’s not fair to pay an author the same pot payout for a 10 page short story and a 500 page saga, why is it fair to pay the same 35% or 70% royalty?

    2) Amazon have made clear the page count on the product page and the page count they will pay us by are two different things. We can be sure the difference won;t be in our favour.

    3)The Amazon example payouts are so far removed from reality as to be criminal.

  • Stephanie  says:

    I get a lot of people are for this in a way because you get paid by the page and all, which means those writing several hundred page novels will actually make their money’s worth. However, I have a question: isn’t it more important to have QUALITY over QUANTITY? I’ve always believed the QUALITY of a novel/novella is what REALLY made it worth buying and recommending. I’ve read some novels that were entirely too drawn out and lost my interest through several pieces of it. Basically, it droned on and on about the same character trait or what not–essentially beating the dead horse. While some novels are GREAT and are able to maintain interest through the entire thing, not all are.

    Isn’t this, in a way, discriminating slightly against the novella itself? Some authors write novellas to keep people reading their work in between releasing major novels. This has been a very wise tactic because it keeps that author’s name in the mouth of the reader. Amazon should simply just do away with the KU plan altogether. Many authors of both novellas AND novels have lost so much money with KU. I would think that the KU program itself is a reason to run off many indie authors. Then again, just my two cents.

  • Sessha Batto  says:

    I have never bought into the whole subscription service idea as a reader or a writer, and I doubt I ever will. I certainly wouldn’t do it with Amazon, as I despise putting all my eggs in one basket so, for me, the demise of KU altogether would be nothing but win!

  • Mark Taylor  says:

    You really should watch Pumpkinhead. It’s actually quite good.

    Good article, btw, and I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I’ve never been a fan of KU, so I think that says it all.

  • Dionne Lister  says:

    Oh what a shame, Amazon is failing again. They have always been out to screw everyone and create a monopoly. Looks like it didn’t work. I’m sorry for all the authors who were relying on the old system to pay their bills – I know a few – but never trust a monopoly. Once they have you where they want you, they stick the knife in. I won’t say I saw this coming but….

  • Kedwin  says:

    I very much agree with Jacob D. My novels are long & it took me a very long time to write them. Months to draft. More months to revise. Still more months to polish/ re-revise/ etc. I take pride in every word & I genuinely try to produce a high quality product. Yet I’ve been getting paid the same amount per download as people who slap together a simple idea in a matter of days. Understand I don’t knock the value of short works… I have a couple of short story collections & even one solo short story as well… Some of my favorite stoeies of all time (“The Lottery”, “The Last Question”, “The Raven”) are short. But I’ve always known my novels (where the overwhelming bulk of my energies have gone) have been getting the shaft & I’ve seen authors deliberately publish short, low-brow drivel in order to make a quick buck. And it’s been working. They’ve not only been collecting the same $ as me but also diluting the KU/KOLL pool in both volume & quality.
    I predict that this change will encourage authors to put an effort into writing better quality books of all lengths since page turning will be the new gold standard rather than one-click wonders. Content, not marketing, will determine your paycheck. And better content means happier readers, which in turn means *more* readers. There is a reason indie authors have a reputation for poor quality, & this move will definitely help thin the herd. I’m sure this sounds harsh, even greedy, but I say good riddance to the shorty scam-artists & hello to my bigger piece of the pie. Yet I don’t want more than my fair share. I just want my *actual* fair share for once.

  • Gail Gober  says:

    I never got into KU because I just didn’t trust that it would do any good for the inde authors that I read. I knew from all I’d read about the CEO that it was too good to be true. Amazon isn’t going to do anything that makes them lose money, or not make the most money. Good luck all, we readers will find you.

  • John Doppler  says:

    To my surprise, Amazon confirmed the information Selena was given: they will track each individual page, and will pay on a page-by-page basis, not by the last page read.

    “You will be paid for the pages read. In this case, you’ll be paid for only one page and not 100 as the customer has already read one page and skipped the earlier ones. However, once she reads the earlier ones, you’ll be paid for them as well.

    We will track each of the pages and depending upon the book, this information will be updated in the ‘Sales Dashboard’ report in your account.”

    While I believe the change is, overall, a positive one, this presents clear problems for authors of non-linear works such as dictionaries, cookbooks, and other reference works. It renders KDP Select a poor option for those works.

    For more conventional literature, KDP Select (with KU and KOLL) remains a solid option.

  • […] Go read this Selena Kitt article. […]

  • Kathleen Rovner  says:

    Quick question: Does anyone actually know how Amazon is calculating words per page. They are not paying by words, but PAGE. It doesn’t affect me right now since I am not in Select with my one book, but I am curious. The description feature on Amazon places it at 217 pages for a 75,000k book. That’s about 350 words/page. If I have something for select I want to know that value — no matter the word count. In print the page count would probably be closer to 250 words/page right? I’m new at this, so just looking for feedback.

  • […] no longer earn the same amount as a full length novel. Is this royal decree a good thing for you?  Here’s author Selena Kitt’s take on this new shift in policy from Amazon.  (And let us know your thoughts/experiences on the […]

  • […] the way authors in their Kindle Unlimited program are being paid (you can read more about this Selena Kitt, from my good friend and fellow erotica author Selena Kitt). The long and the short of it? Authors […]

  • Guido Henkel  says:

    To throw a completely different angle into the ring on this, I am constantly surprised that everyone always seems to assume that everyone is connected. While this may, or may not be true, how can Amazon go with such a system when it cuts out the reporting of an entire market segment?

    Imagine you are using the Kindle software reader on a laptop that is never being connected to the Internet. I know, but just run with me for a moment. You download the eBooks you bought on Amazon and you transfer them to that laptop using a USB stick, let’s say. Because the laptop is never online, amazon has no way of tracking how much of any book on that laptop has been reader. Ever!

    Essentially, in a scenario like this, they are cheating authors out of royalties they should deserve, based on the presumption that people always use connected devices.

    I am not saying this is realistically happening a lot, but it’s clearly a flaw in Amazon’s system.

  • Trent Evans  says:

    Great post, Selena.

    I have a (slightly) less negative take on the roll-out of these changes. I blogged about this in more detail, but the more I analyze these changes, the more I see these directed almost solely at combating the ridiculously large amount of gaming that had been going on with KU.

    The original (and current, at least until July 1st) iteration of KU was/is laughably vulnerable to scams and gaming, and I believe Amazon when they said their customers were increasingly pissed off by the oceans of scamlets and ghost-written crap flooding KU.

    Yes, the amount of this crap as an actual percentage of content was/is undoubtedly quite low (I’d bet low single digits), but Amazon is well aware that perception is too often reality. If enough readers perceive KU as a cesspool of “porn”, scams, and shitty ghost-written dreck, and tell all their friends same, then eventually the reality won’t matter anymore — the perception will. Sad, but true.

    As far as I can tell, these changes are (at least in the short run) intended to make life a shit-ton harder for ghost farm operations, scamlet slingers, and borrow rings.

    In the long-term though, yes, I agree with you that this new system does open up troubling new ways for authors to potentially be paid even less for the same work.

    Insightful analysis, as always. Thank you for sharing it with us!

  • Susan Tarr  says:

    Now what if an author were to publish their book with excessively wide margins, headers and footers? And of course larger fonts (reading for the visually impaired) equals many more pages. There will always be those who can work anything to their better advantage. Interesting!

  • Irony came to slap me | Unsilenced  says:

    […] In a nutshell, this is going to suck so hardcore for erotica writers who capitalized on KU to catapult them into the financial stratosphere. The New Kindle Unlimited – What It Means for Authors & Readers. […]

  • Geri Foster  says:

    I have a Serial out and I received emails from several readers who complained about having to BUY the next book, saying they’re in KU and they only read FREE books. I reminded then, those aren’t free books. You pay to be in that program. Why not take your money and buy whatever books you want. Stop letting Amazon decided what you can get your hands on.

  • John Doppler  says:

    Susan, wide margins, larger fonts, etc. will not change your payment. Keep in mind that the “NPC” in KENPC stands for “normalized page count”. The page count is determined by stripping away formatting and excess whitespace, then calculating the number of pages the book would consume under the Kindle’s default settings with a uniform font and formatting.

    However, what will affect page count is text-based padding in the back matter, such as author’s notes, appendices, “bonus” content, previews of other works, etc. I think we may see a lot more filler of that sort in future KU titles.

  • Eliza from Happy Simple Living  says:

    I can appreciate how this system makes sense for novels and certain types of nonfiction, but what about cookbooks (my genre)? People don’t generally read through all of the pages in a cookbook – they skip around, and come back to recipes they want to try. This system penalizes authors whose books aren’t read in a linear fashion, which isn’t fair.

  • […] important to note that Amazon has provided an emergency escape route. Authors will be allowed to opt out of Kindle Unlimited at any time within the first 90 days if […]

  • Tammy Lovemore  says:

    Here’s my $0.02…

    First, Amazon will probably initially pay more per page than expected. Sure, they’re into making money, but they’re also willing to bleed it for a while in exchange for market share. To get it, they need to show authors that having their books in KU is a “good” thing, and will thus hike the payouts to ensure that everyone raves about it for at least three or four months. Those who left as well as new authors will come knocking. I also think that they will change their algorithms again to make KU books more visible during that period so that they can create the illusion that the system actually “works”.

    Remember that this is just my opinion, and I could be wrong.

    Authors of shorter works should also keep in mind that it’s a numbers game. Not all full-length novels get tons of borrows. However, if you have ten 30-page Erotica books on your shelf, and each one receives 50 borrows, you have 15 000 pages that you could potentially get paid for. The odds of a reader finishing a 30-page Erotica is much higher than someone hitting a 200-pager.

    One last thing to consider… readers pay $9.99 per month for KU. To get some sort of value for their money, they would need to read “more” than $9.99 in books. In general, that means that most average readers (with social lives, jobs, kids, etc) would rather read more, but shorter works, so that they can get value from their monthly subscriptions. Reading 10x 30-page books at $2.99 books a month makes more financial sense than reading 1x 200-pager at $6.99. Sure, some people can rip through a novel in a day, but those are exceptions. I’m talking about the general Joe Public here with everyday distractions and whatnots.

    Bottom line is that it’s not all doom and gloom. We can all speculate until the world ends, or we can do what we do best… write!


  • […] Erotica authors were impatiently waiting for July 1, for a look at the new dashboard and the opportunity for a glimpse into the Bezos crystal ball at what they might be paid for the month of July, when the Kindle Unlimited changes took place. […]

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  • Authors Pull-Out on Amazon KU! #ReleaseTheRate - »  says:

    […] Erotica authors were impatiently waiting for July 1, for a look at the new dashboard and the opportunity for a glimpse into the Bezos crystal ball at what they might be paid for the month of July, when the Kindle Unlimited changes took place. […]

  • Pornocalypse 2015 is Upon Us!  says:

    […] well. Or their white-collar employees either, for that matter. Now that Amazon has decided to pay their content providers half-a-cent a page, I’m starting to feel like I’m working in some sort of digital sweatshop. They expect […]

  • Bill Wilson  says:

    Excellent post! The real obscenity in this world is the unbridled greed of Bezos and his ilk. It makes me long for Klaatu to show up with Gort and take over – or at least the good Michael Rennie version of the character from 1950. The Keanu Reeves remake was wrong on more levels than I can count. Long live the dark side!

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