There has been much grumbling about the Kindle Unlimited payment terms change, though folks like author Hugh Howey have pointed out that it probably didn’t affect the payout by a huge amount in the grand scheme of things. But now that it’s been around for a month or so, there’s been time for people to do the math, and on IndieReader, author Lynn Messina does just that.
As a champion grumbler, I’ve spent months wanting to get in on the grumbling action over the Kindle Unlimited program, which from the very beginning paid authors less per book than an actual sale. In the subscription service’s first ten months, it paid an average of approximately $1.40 per book, a considerable drop from the $2 dollars an author would make on a $2.99 sale. Clearly, this was an issue rife with unfairness. Oh, the injustice!
To my regret, I just couldn’t work up the indignation. As a refugee from traditional publishing, I’m too in awe of the $1.40 royalty to grumble about it. $1.40 is almost three times what I earned for my last traditionally published novel—a paperback original for teens released in 2010. The book sold for $8.99, and I earned a 6 percent royalty. That came out to 54 cents per copy.
She also points out that the payment per page is normalized to what the Kindle considers a page, not the actual page-count of the hardcover book. She refers to a book of hers that was 278 pages in paper, but 535 on the Kindle. If she was being paid 6/10 of a cent per book, that meant she was earning 1.2 cents per page, or $3.12 per book—60% more than she would make in royalties from a $2.99 sale.
This means that where a reasonable human being would look and see a 220-page novel, the Kindlebot looks and sees a 440-page epic worth about $2.60. Oh, the ka-ching!
Of course, whether this payment rate continues relies on Amazon continuing to fund the lending service with the same amount of money. As to that, we’ll just have to wait and see. But I think it’s safe to say that the payment rate change is probably not as bad as people fear.