If you’re a writer, I’ll bet you didn’t know Kindle came out with an all new KENPC or Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts on February 1, did you? Like a lot of things, they just, “slipped it under the door.”
My last blog post took up the subject of the Kindle Unlimited program, which I consider to be the most dramatic change the book publishing since the paperback book. You can find that piece on my blog, if you are interested. Not that anyone really understands Kindle or Amazon to begin with, but one thing I know for an absolute, moral certainty is that as soon as you think you understand what Amazon is doing, they up and change everything again. Well, that’s what they just did with the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts (the KENPC to us e-book pros.)
I have all eight of my books exclusively on Kindle and enrolled in Kindle Select, which allows them to be listed on Kindle Unlimited. It’s a monthly subscription system which Kindle launched in July, 2014, initially to compete with Scribd and Oyster from HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster. For $9.99 per month, you can download all the books you want from the Kindle Unlimited library. It doesn’t include everything on Kindle, but it’s not bad. And for ten bucks? All the books you want? That’s a no-brainer for anyone who reads more than two or three books a month. It’s a great deal. Period.
That said, the question from the beginning has been how they handle author’s royalties when there isn’t really a unit sale. The simplest thing would have been to pay the authors the same 70% net, as if it were a sale. Obviously that was too simple, because that isn’t what they did. The problem first arose with the earlier Amazon Prime. Amazon decreed that the author would receive X dollars per download. The X ended up being roughly two thirds of what the author would have gotten from the sale of the same book. Not quite fair? Probably. Then again, it was a new system that they were piggybacking onto free deliveries of their other merchandise, and the downloads represented “sales” and income the author would not have otherwise gotten.
That brings us up to the launch of Kindle Unlimited and the all can download a month for $10 program. Using a variation on Kindle Prime, they began by establishing a pot of monthly cash. For the sake of argument, let’s say $1million. Each month, they then divided that by the number of books downloaded by their subscribers, and you again got that number per book. After a month or two, it was okay by me. My royalty checks about doubled from what I was getting from my book sales alone, so I couldn’t argue.
That system rumbled along through the fall and winter of 2014 – 2015, but you know how Amazon likes to tinker. In June they announced that effective July 1 last year, KU would no longer pay on a per book basis. They decided it was unfair to pay people the same amount “per book,” regardless of whether it was a 120-page book or a 320-page book. There’s some logic to that. And the replacement for that was the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts. Somehow, the Great God Amazonia knows how many pages people read of a book they download, and Amazon would pay the author an amount of money per page read. As with Kindle Prime, they established a pot of money each month and provided that by the total number of page turns, system-wide. This way, they said the author of a long book will make proportionately more than the author of a short book. Of course, e-books don’t really have “pages,” and the “length” depends on the specific device the reader is using, how the book was uploaded, the print size the reader is using, and the amount of “front” and “back” matter in the book, such as preview chapters and other things the author added. Since my books average about 380 pages typed, the text only, it was okay by me. That was the July 1, 2015 KENPC Version 1.0.
Unfortunately, the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts didn’t match anything else. It wasn’t the same as a book’s “print length” in the Kindle Product Details, or the number of typed pages in a Word manuscript. For my 7 Kindle e-books, KNEPC V 1.0 averaged 4% more than my Word manuscripts and 17% more than the “print length.”
Kindle gives us access to a lot of monthly sales numbers. Again for MY books, for the 7 months from July 2015 through January 2016 when V 1.0 ruled, I averaged $2.40 in net royalty income per book sale. That includes a range of book prices, discounted sales, promotions, countdowns, and all the rest, and I received the equivalent of $1.78 per “book” through KU, dividing my page turns by the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts of my books, or 75% of what I got from a sale. Interesting, and I think I understood the system.
Then… about two weeks ago, I discovered that they had quietly revised the system again and come out with a “new and improved KENPV Version 2.0. If you go to your KDP Bookshelf, look at the book title, and click on the “Promote and Advertise” tab, about two thirds of the way down the page that comes up, you will see, “‘Earn royalties from the KDP Select Global Fund.” At the bottom of that section you will see a very small three-digit number which is your new Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts V 2.0, and it doesn’t bear any resemblance to the old ones.
The Kindle pronouncement about the new Kindle Edition Normalized Page Counts system says that they were trying to equalize page counts across all the different reader platforms people use. Okay, but they are much higher numbers. In fact, for my 7 books, the V 2.0 page counts average 48% higher than V 1.0, and I am showing substantially higher page count numbers in my daily Kindle sales statistics. What does that mean? Probably nothing. If the pot of money has not increased, or they haven’t skewed the counts to a higher increase too some books over others, then all that these higher page counts do is dilute the fund, and we will end up receiving the same payment as we did under the old system. On March 15 we can see the February sales detail, and the picture should begin to clear. I’ll let you what I learn, and look again over the following 2-3 months.
William F. Brown, is the author of 8 action, adventure, suspense novels on Kindle, Kindle Select, and Kindle Unlimited. To read about them or subscribe to the blog, go to my web site, http://box5462.temp.domains/~billbro4