Amazon changes Kindle Unlimited payment policy


Authors can’t make people read their books after they buy them — all they can do is work hard to make sure their books get bought. They have no control over what happens after the purchase.

That used to be okay, but not anymore. Amazon is changing that for some authors with new terms for the Kindle Unlimited payment policy.

In a letter sent to authors enrolled in the KDP Select e-book publishing program, Amazon said, “Beginning July 1, 2015, we’ll switch from paying Kindle Unlimited (KU) and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) royalties based on qualified borrows, to paying based on the number of pages read.”

You read that correctly. Now KDP Select authors with books in the Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners’ Lending Library will have to care about whether book buyers actually do read their books.

Payment for pages read

When the KU program was introduced, authors were told that borrowers had to read at least 10 percent of the book for authors to be paid (see “Attention book lovers: Read at least 10% of your Kindle Unlimited books“).

The new model bases author payments on the number of pages read. Authors of long books that get read will earn more than authors of short books that get read. Authors of books that don’t get read at all will suffer — but that was the case when the KU program was introduced, too.

This approach rewards good stories and good writing in fiction because if you’ve hooked someone, they’ll keep reading. It also rewards those who provide good, useful content in nonfiction.

Still, remember that this applies only to authors enrolled in the KDP Select program.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out for prolific authors over time. Will they earn more or less with this model, and what decisions will they make based on their sales tracking? Will they opt out of these lending programs, or will the numbers show that it’s better for their bank accounts than not participating in the program?

It’s definitely a story to follow.

What do you think of this new payment policy? Fair or unfair? Please comment below. 


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  1. It is awkward this one, but I am not against it as such, bearing in mind that this applies to the Kindle Unlimited side of life and not to itemised book sales.

    I would debate whether it really shows whether people like the book or not. Not finishing a book might be because you don’t like it, ran out of time or all kinds of other reasons.

    For instance, if you buy a recipe book, you might absolutely adore it, but you only read the 20% of the book that contained recipes that you wanted to try, or had the ability to try.

    This might also be problematic for compilations of short stories. I have plenty of old books (paper things) where I never read all the stories because some I was not interested in, or I never got round to them.

    So, like any systems, there are up sides and down sides. How like life!


    1. All good points, CC. I’d argue against enrolling a cookbook in the KU lending program since most of us want to hang on to our cookbooks, but yes, they’re a good example of the type of books you don’t read from cover to cover. And…I’ve bought nonfiction books only to read maybe half of the chapters because I didn’t need what was in the other half for one reason or another. Great point on the short story collections, too. These are the types of things authors need to think about before enrolling in this program.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts — I appreciate that.


  2. Why does it even matter when a majority of authors sell their books for .99 or give countless copies away for free?

    Why do authors expect anyone to value what they have written? It is like they are desperate to get on one of AMAZON’s best selling lists and cheapen the gift of written expression.

  3. Seems we’ve gotten so used to Amazon calling the shots that now it’s become acceptable for authors to be paid only if someone who buys their book actually reads it! Talk about undervaluing our work.

    1. John, this policy only applies to borrowed books, not purchased books.

      Here’s another way to look at it: When you sell a book to a library, you’re paid only once, no matter how many people borrow it. If you’re in the KDP Select program and are enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited lending program (it’s automatic for KDP Select books — you have to opt out), you’re paid according to how many pages are read total — among all borrowers. You won’t get that at your library. It’s something to think about.


      1. Hi Sandra,

        Just specifically relating to library lending – under PLR (Public Lending Right) in the UK & Ireland (run by the British Library) authors (and collaborators e.g. narrators for audio etc.) are paid for *every* loan of their books (including electronic and audio). If UK & Ireland authors haven’t signed up for PLR and had books in libraries for loan in the last year, the deadline for applications in 30th June, and you must have registered books on by then! http://www.plr.uk.com


    1. Ah, but imagine how much you wouldn’t earn if Amazon didn’t exist at all. Just a thought….


      1. Very good point, Sandy

        At the end of the day, Bezos opened up a market that was very closed off with lots of pricing deals and so on. It is the only market I know where price fixing was made legal!

        It has always been a lottery getting an agent (and it still is) and even more so a publisher and in the old days Self publishing was very accurately described as “vanity publishing.”

        Now, although still very, very hard, anyone has a chance to write a book and get it out there, and it does not have to cost them a penny up front. Although a lot of companies now supply the service, it only exists because Amazon broke the publishing cartels, even if they had to rein back because of government protectionism.

        That does not make this particular initiative good or bad, but at the end of the day, Amazon is a private company there to make money. There is nothing wrong with that at all, but authors who sell via Amazon or anyone else, have to remember that – Amazon is not there to do us favours, but to sell books.

        1. I completely agree, CC. Here’s what I commented about this on Facebook yesterday: [“Amazon is in the business to make $$, not solicit and use input from just one subset of vendors.”]


    1. Thanks, Kerry. Yes, it seems like a “wait & see” development. Many authors pay close attention to their Amazon income and will be able to compare “before” and “after” numbers, which will help others, I think.


  4. I think the change makes total sense.

    Back in the olden days, a book used to be long. Now a book can be any length, perhaps only 5,000 words. And there’s no reason it can’t be even shorter than that.

    I’d guess that authors were taking what would be a multi-chapter book in the past and restructuring it so that each chapter was now a separate book in a series. Then they’d end each chapter with a cliff-hanger so readers would buy the entire series, book after book.

    The new plan encourages authors to take the same content and structure it as a single, longer book. That way when someone starts reading, they are more likely to keep going and read more pages without having to stop and download the next book in the series.

    The new plan should result in both fiction and nonfiction that gets into greater depth. Fiction should be more richly developed to merit the additional length and improved continuity, and nonfiction writers should integrate multiple, related topics into a more substantial book rather than publishing a large number of what are essentially long blog posts.


    Diana Schneidman, author, Real Skills, Real Income: A Proven Marketing System to Land Well-Paid Freelance and Consulting Work in 30 Days or Less

    1. Thanks, Diane. With each chapter as a separate book, an author would get paid per chapter, basically, rather than per book. Now the payment will be pages read rather than books borrowed — so will those authors who have been “gaming” the system make more, less, or the same as before? I guess that remains to be seen, but if all of the books in the chapter series were getting borrowed (rather than just the first one or two), they will probably come out of this fine, because that would indicate that their content was getting read.


      1. If all the books in a series are borrowed and read, the author probably comes out ahead or at least even.

        However, if the book is divided into smaller “books,” the reader has to go to amazon and borrow each “book” separately.

        Writers will find that more pages are read if it is presented as a single book so that readers maintain momentum and keep reading without having to stop to access the next book and consciously make a decision to keep reading.


    1. Karl, I’m not sure you’ll find an answer to that. It will be interesting to see where things stand in a few months.


  5. I would say, lets wait and watch and follow the discussion with Amazon. Finally, they are reader conscious as much as author focussed. In case they fail the author, there are other platforms we can chose to belong to, but as of now, I can’t see anything that surpasses Amazon.com KDP. It is a wait and watch for me.

  6. The stats show that the average novel has become much shorter in recent years. I wonder how this will affect the way we write and publish. For example padding our pages to add to the length. Also, I wonder just how Amazon counts pages in E-book format. There are no pages, as such, but just one long continuous page. What happens if I double space everything and add a “page break” after each paragraph or two? Perhaps Amazon hasn’t thought this through.

  7. Dorothy, they’re ahead of you. If you click through on the Amazon link above, you’ll find this explanation: [To determine a book’s page count in a way that works across genres and devices, we’ve developed the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC). We calculate KENPC based on standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.), and we’ll use KENPC to measure the number of pages customers read in your book, starting with the Start Reading Location (SRL) to the end of your book. Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it. ]


  8. As a reader, I’m going to hope that this will get rid of the endless serials that are currently glutting the market. Having to wade through ten pages of serial titles just to find one or two long novels will hopefully be a thing of the past.

    As a writer, I hope the same thing. It’s really hard to maintain new title visibility when serial titles can push your title down to the second or third page within hours if not a day or two.

    As for the fairness, assuming (big assume, granted) that the payout per page read is fair, I don’t know why so many people are screaming about the fact that Amazon is paying for page read. If what an author wrote isn’t useful or interesting enough to keep the reader engaged, why should the author be paid disproportionately for the borrow? This is actually better for most authors, because rather than getting the same $1.50 (random ass number) for a 100k novel as a 10k story, they get paid for the work done in a fairer fashion.

    As someone who writes both shorts and novels, the novels take way more time, effort, and planning. The amount of investment is simply different and it is only fair it should be rewarded as such.

    1. Well put, Katje. That’s an interesting point about serial titles pushing others down the list — totally makes sense and has to be frustrating! Thanks for weighing in.


  9. It is an established fact that 60% to 90% of sales are impulse buys. So the author is being deprived immediately of a large volume of sales that have been turned into lending and hoping the borrowers get around to reading the book. Payment is made on some unknown formula(money contributed into a fund?) that is obviously to Amazon’s benefit. The delays on the payments are at least 90 days (or more?) after. The authors I communicate with say their income is down and I have to agree. They also say they have raised the price on their books. While Amazon is a publishing opportunity it remains to be seen whether Kindle Unlimited enrollment is beneficial or not. I have one novel that is currently selling well and being read thru Kindle Unlimited – but I have no idea how much I am going to be paid for those reads. It bothers me to sell my work for an unknown price.

    1. Thanks for weighing in, Barbara. It’s unfortunate that authors you know are making less with this model. Amazon is in business to make money, so it makes sense that the formula works in Amazon’s favor if, in fact, it does. The good news is that authors who don’t like this new approach have an option: They can opt out of KDP Select, which removes them from the lending program. There’s that, at least!


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