Thursday, June 25, 2015

How Kindle Direct Publishing’s Royalty Payout Changes Can Affect You, And What You Can Do about It

The new Kindle royalty system will reward authors for publishing content people actually read.

Beginning July 1, 2015, Amazon will be changing the way it pays out royalties to authors who participate in its Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. Kindle Unlimited is a subset of the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, which typically gives authors the advantage of extra royalties. By enrolling in KDP, authors receive royalties whenever a reader, who is a Kindle Unlimited subscriber, downloads your book and reads at least 10 percent of it. Starting on July 1, authors will receive royalties on downloaded titles through KU based on the total number of pages a KU member reads, “the first time they read it.”
For many authors who participate in KDP, the extra money from KU royalties can provide a big boost financially. Many self-publishing authors participate in promotional opportunities that KDP offers. KDP allows authors to list their titles for free for up to five days per ninety-day period. Authors who are able to attract readers, who then download their books for free, can increase Amazon rankings, which in turn can boost exposure for a title. And, if that increased interest in your book leads Amazon Kindle users to download your book as a member of KU, it means your marketing efforts are working.
There are some good reasons for Amazon to make these changes, despite what authors may think of them. For one thing, there are lots of people publishing content on Amazon these days, some of it we could certainly say is substandard. With clever marketing, some of these ebook publishers are able to convince large numbers of people to download and buy their books. Those same people, who are far less serious about producing a high-quality book that people will love, are profiting off of the KDP system. When the readers of these books determine that the ebooks are, in fact, substandard, they stop reading them. Meanwhile, the publisher is still collecting a royalty for producing a substandard book. The new system rewards authors for publishing content people actually read.
At the very least, this means authors must devote the proper time and energy to their titles, to assure that they are high-quality reads people will enjoy. It’s not enough to merely slap something together and post it online; now authors have to think more like publishers, in that they must ask themselves how much readers will enjoy their work.
Here are some suggestions for making sure your book is in the best shape possible:
  1. Proofread, proofread, proofread. An author who is familiar enough with publishing standards might be able to get away with proofreading his or her work, but that accounts for a very small percentage of authors who publish on KDP. Don’t be afraid to spend a little money to make sure your book is truly ready for publishing. If you can hire a copyeditor, you can also hire a proofreader to look everything over one last time before you post it. Look for someone with a book publishing background and who knows how to conform your content to the publishing industry standard.
  2. Hire a professional cover designer. Books that appear in the search results on Amazon are much smaller than what you might expect to see in the bookstore. That little thumbnail image of your cover is what attracts people to check it out; it has to be compelling enough to urge a reader’s curiosity forward.
  3. Learn how to format your book for Kindle. If your book is formatted improperly for Kindle readers, your customers are less likely to continue reading it. The same readers who download your book also download books from traditional publishers—meaning they, your readers, know what a Kindle ebook is supposed to look like, even if you don’t. There are lots of great resource guides out there, including one I have published. If that’s too much to handle, hire someone who knows what he or she is doing.
  4. Are you sure your book is ready? While this may be an author’s biggest nightmare, neglecting it in an attempt to get a book out there can now cost you dearly. While you may have hired a copyeditor and/or proofreader for your title, neither of these services specifically addresses how awesome or how terrible your book may be. If you’ve received feedback from readers that is lackluster or less than desirable, perhaps it’s time to revisit the drawing board. This certainly doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel where writing and publishing are concerned; rather, it means that you should work with someone who specializes in manuscript development. At the very least, a critique from a publishing professional, who specializes in your particular genre, can provide insights and direction where development is concerned.
The new Amazon royalty rules mean authors will have to step up their game and compete with traditionally published books. Without knowing much about the way the industry works, this can seem like an insurmountable challenge. Through the end of June, I am offering a special rate on consultations for development, formatting, and publishing, including a $299 Finishing Touches special (proofreading and Kindle formatting). Please click the link to register.
You can continue to keep up with current news and events affecting authors and the self-publishing world by visiting this blog. If you have questions about the new KDP developments or other self-publishing topics, please feel free to reach out to me.
Thomas M. Hill is an author, book shepherd, and publishing consultant. His latest release, The Author Toolkit: Publishing Strategies for the Passionate Author, is a motivational and practical resource guide to successful self-publishing and book promotion. He is humbled to have played a small part in the success of his bestselling author clients’ titles. He enjoys meeting new authors and offers free consultations on all services. Follow (or engage with) Thomas @launchpadpress.

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