You know, I don't blog often, but when I do, I generally have something to say. And today, I have something to say about Kindle Unlimited.
I love this program! And since they made their Internet-shattering announcement 10 days ago, I love it even more. That's the short version. For the long version, keep reading. I'm about to dissect a rather misleading report on the subject that has raised more than a few eyebrows and plenty of ire in the Netosphere for the past week or so.
Here is the link to the article we'll be discussing:
The First Sentence
"If you are an author whose book fails to grip in the opening chapter, it could prove costly."
She says this like it's a bad thing. Like everyone who has ever published anything is entitled to earn money from it. As though simply gracing Amazon with the presence of your novel means they owe you a living. Really look at what she's saying here. She is saying that if you write a really bad books that people (that is: paying customers) don't find interesting, you could lose money.
And what, exactly, is wrong with that? Authors of books that fail to entertain shouldn't earn any money at all. Amazon doesn't owe them a living. The reader's don't owe them a living.
But until now, until these changes are/were implemented, authors whose stories "fail to grip in the opening chapter," but were read past the 10% mark earned as much in fund payouts as books that gripped so well they climbed the bestseller charts. Add to this the very real instances of people writing sub-par garbage on purpose purely to get folks to read a single page of a 10-page story (see what I did there? 1 page of 10 pages is 10% and the scam-author just got paid the same as I did for my 350 page best-seller.)
As a businesswoman, I can tell you that Amazon has realized they were being gamed and they have changed to rules to protect their millions upon millions of investment dollars.
The First Big L-Word
"Amazon is to begin paying royalties to writers based on the number of pages read by Kindle users, rather than the number of books downloaded. If a reader abandons the book a quarter of the way in, the author will get only a quarter of the money they would have earned if the reader stuck it out to the end."
There is just enough truth in this statement to make the author of the wannabe-expose innocent of lying. By omission, however, she has created an enormous panic among some authors. Let me be very, very, very clear about this:
IF AN AUTHOR IS ENROLLED IN KDP SELECT AND THEIR BOOK IS BORROWED VIA THE AMAZON PRIME OR KINDLE UNLIMITED PROGRAM, they will be paid based on the number of pages read vs. how many books are downloaded.
Simply publishing using Kindle Direct Publishing does not enroll one's book into Kindle Select. Therefore, any authors who have not opted into KDP Select are not subject to pay-per-page payouts. They are paid their royalties of 35% for each sale just like they always have been.
Authors who are enrolled in the Select program will see differences in their payouts. I write novels. I also write shorter works. Readers read at different paces. Some prefer longer works. Some prefer shorter works.
If I earn 1 penny per page instead of the 1.35 (average) I've been earning per book, I will be getting a nice raise. If an author only writes 10 pagers? Well, they are going out of business, most likely.
Most of the article then goes on to talk about how big authors would find their incomes reduced under this type of arrangement. (Check out the referenced to Kobo readers in the article.) I don't believe that author would actually have noticed because her books were purchased. She got her royalty. Even if she were paid per page, chances are the 56% who did not read to the end did read further than page 50. At a penny per page, that's 50c per read and more than mainstream, trad published authors earn per copy anyway!
So, my short version advice here is to not panic. Write your stories well. Engage and entertain your readers. Let the pennies fall where they may.
A writer on a forum recently asked about whether she should be concerned about stealing other writers' ideas. She expressed concern over beta reading for others, or even watching programs on TV or movies because she might inadvertently steal an idea and run with it. She thought that would be terrible. I can remember a time when I thought the same way. So, the question is: Should we be worried about other writer's stealing our ideas, or should we squirrel ourselves away in a vacuum until we have no ideas left?
The truth of the matter is that ideas are not tangible. They are free flowing and ever evolving. This is why they cannot be copyrighted, in fact. Two writers (or even 100 writers) could sit down in a room and one person could say, "I have a great idea! What if the main character in my book is a space-traveling werewolf who crash lands in Scotland, Planet Earth in the middle ages and falls in love with the daughter of the local Laird?"
You can be sure that, if every writer in the room ran with that idea, you would wind up with 100 very different stories.
There are so many unanswered questions! Why was the werewolf/alien traveling through space? Was he or she going somewhere really important so that the rest of the book centers on getting off the planet with new-love-interest in tow? Was the alien/werewolf on the run and perhaps was shot down by a nefarious enemy so that the rest of the book centers on the alien/werewolf/hero saving the human race, and new-love-interest, from certain demise at the hands of an evil empire or space alien vampires? You can probably count on a percentage of the stories including an element of time travel; perhaps the alien/werewolf is an Earthling after all, and his or her ship was damaged going through a worm hole into the past.
The point is that from a single idea, many, many other ideas grow and evolve. So what if you're reading a book and you are suddenly inspired by the thought, "I would have done this differently." Good! Sit at your writing station and start doing it differently.
What you can't do is copy the plot points form beginning to end and simply change the wording. You'd have to ask an attorney if that would actually be copyright infringement (particularly with romance novels where there is a tried and true "formula" of two characters meeting, falling in love, facing conflicts that will tear them apart and then finding a happily-ever-after.) However, copying identical plot points and "re-working" someone else's story is just plain bad form, no matter who you are, regardless of copyright laws around the world.
If we don't read in our genre, if we are not surrounding ourselves with the elements of our craft and the telling of really great stories -- if we exist in that self-imposed vacuum -- then our own creativity will dry up. When that happens, no idea will be good enough whether we think of it ourselves or not.
Let your inspiration reign!
Amazon Best Selling Author Marjorie Jones is an accomplished romance novelist and professional writer. Born in Rhode Island to a Naval Aviator and a proud Homemaker, she currently resides in Utah with her wife, Becky, and the last of their shared seven children; the twins, Thing One and Thing Squared. The others have all flown the coop.