Self-published authors could be paid as little as $0.006 per page read under new rules planned by Amazon.
Writers who make their works available through Amazon’s Kindle Owners Lending Library, and a similar service called Kindle Unlimited, will no longer be paid per copy downloaded following a move announced last week.
Instead, they would receive a payment based on how many pages had actually been read, with longer books receiving a higher potential payment than shorter works.
In an email to authors, sent on Wednesday, Amazon revealed exactly how little that payment would be.
The company said that customers of its two services read nearly 1.9bn pages in June, while it expected to pay at least $11m a month for June, July and August.
That means the payment per page read could be as low as $0.006, meaning that an author will have to write a 220-page book – and have every page read by every person downloading it – to make the same $1.30 they currently get from a book being downloaded.
Casey Lucas, a literary editor who works with self-publishing authors, says she has lost six clients already. They have decided tostop writing after “estimating a 60–80% reduction in royalties”.
“A lot of self-published romance authors are disabled, stay-at-home mums, or even a few returned veterans who work in the field because a regular job just isn’t something they can handle,” she says. “People are shedding a lot of tears over this.”
Rachel Manija Brown, who publishes on the platform as Lia Silver, is one. Brown volunteers as a therapist, working with PTSD sufferers and as a crisis counsellor for the police.
“I can afford to do this work for free because up until today, I was earning a living writing paranormal romance,” she says.
“If I can no longer make a living writing, I’ll either have to take a paid internship which would not be serving the same population, or find some other day job which wouldn’t be as flexible and would mean I’d have to cut back my hours at the agency I’m at now. I would also have less availability as a crisis counsellor.”
Not every author will lose out, however. Since the overall amount paid out to writers is intended to remain the same, there will be winners - mainly those who write longer books that are read in full.
That has led some to argue that Amazon intends to reduce the income of authors of shorter works in an effort to alter the composition of the library. If that is the company’s intention, Lucas argues that Amazon is missing the point.
“By placing the emphasis on length of book rather than quality of book, Amazon is shutting out more than just erotica authors. Nonfiction authors and especially children’s book authors – whose works tend toward the shorter side – are also going to be hard hit by this change.
“The author of a cookbook used to receive a flat fee anytime someone borrowed one of their books. Now, they will receive a pittance unless the reader scrolls all the way through to the end of their book. And even then, they might not make much unless their book is long. And who reads cookbooks beginning to end?”
Amazon did not respond to a request for comment before publication.
This article was written by Alex Hern, for theguardian.com on Thursday 2nd July 2015 10.48 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010