Business & Economics

Is Amazon’s New Self-Publishing Pay-By-Page Policy Good For Writers?

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Digital books have proliferated with the invention of e-readers and e-reading apps over the last decade. Many of these books come from self-publishing–authors who write and publish the books themselves, eschewing traditional publishing houses and print copies. Some people do it as a way to get their words out there, while others use it as a way to make money on the side.

Either way, it is a market that is quickly becoming oversaturated with books that aren’t always of the highest quality, and often contain typos, inaccurate information, and in many cases, are plagiarized from other sources. Facing negative feedback, Amazon is changing the way people pay for their books by creating a by-page payment system. Read on to learn more about Amazon’s latest self-publishing policy.

Self-Publishing on Amazon

Self-publishing represents a huge part of Amazon’s profits–nearly 31 percent of e-book sales come from self-publishing. Books start at just $0.99 and jump up from there, with many books offering free promotions or BOGO opportunities for serialized works, though most works hover around $2.99-$3.99. In Amazon’s current model, readers generally buy the books outright–that won’t change; however, what will change is the way the Amazon Lending Library works.

It isn’t just a huge opportunity for Amazon, but rather a huge opportunity for the writing and reading communities. People who may not have been able to find publishers or agents are now able to at least get their words out there. And who knows what will happen? Self-publishing was E.L. James’ first step toward huge success.


Amazon has said that the program wasn’t actually for the readers, but instead came from the outcries of writers, who previously were paid $1.29-$2.88 every time that their books were borrowed through Amazon’s Lending Library program.

We’re making this switch in response to great feedback we received from authors who asked us to better align payout with the length of books and how much customers read. Under the new payment method, you’ll be paid for each page individual customers read of your book, the first time they read it.

But certainly there were readers involved in the complaints as well. Many were complaining that books weren’t to the level they were expecting or that they weren’t quality publications. Many thought that the books were just packed with “key words” that would simply rank high on the search, but that the actual quality of the pages wasn’t high.

Pay by Page

The idea behind Amazon’s new policy of pay by the page is simple: authors will get paid simply for the number of pages that a person actually reads. The thought behind it is that books that aren’t quite up to the standards readers expect won’t have as many people reading them cover to cover, so authors are incentivized to raise their games. It also offers a great chance for writers to get feedback and see where people are leaving their work–which is great because authors can edit anything they’ve posted to Amazon.

Starting on July 1, authors who specifically publish through something called the KDP Select Program will start getting paid per page, which is quite a large change from what they used to do. With the old method of payment, Amazon would simply split up the money that they made among authors based on the number of times their books were borrowed through one of Amazon’s Kindle options–either Kindle Unlimited, which is a sort of library subscription that costs $9.99 a month, or the Kindle Lending Library, which is available to Amazon Prime members.

Now, however, authors are paid for the amount of time the screen remains up. Amazon isn’t forcing authors into the program, but they can choose to opt in.

Amazon has had to do some work to get everything ready for the new program, which is only available through the Kindle Lending Library, including a standardization of page lengths and text sizes. TechCrunch warns that long dedication pages or quotes at the start of your book won’t help earn you money, either:

We calculate KENPC (Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count) 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.

The program, which does cap the amount of money an author can make at $3 million per month, is currently in the first few weeks of testing, and there have been few initial reactions.

Criticism of Pay by Page

The idea hasn’t exactly gone over well with some authors. Hari Kunzru, author of “The Impressionist,” revealed his thoughts that the new payment system “feels like the thin end of a wedge.” He later went on to explain that he felt like Amazon was trying to assert its dominance over small-time writers.

Peter Maass, author of “Love Thy Neighbor” and “Crude World,” offered up a valid point, writing, “I’d like (the) same in restaurants — pay for how much of (a) burger I eat.”

Authors may be making less per book. Inquisitr explains: “That means if a book has a KENPC of only 100 and someone reads it from front to back, an author make 60 cents for the entire download. If they only read the first 10 KENPs, then the author makes six cents.”

A nameless literary agent explained to the Guardian why this could be a problem: “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. People are shedding a lot of tears over this.” The new model could very well mean that these people will get paid less, especially as they tend to be the people who writer longer, novel-length books instead of “how to” guides that many “Professional Self Publishers” work on.

Just like any other situation, there are likely to be people who are going to take advantage of the system. People may make books that are significantly longer to take advantage of the money, or they may post shorter chapters that have fewer words per page. Running with that thought, the Guardian highlights an interesting problem:

But now we’re getting into murky territory. It is impossible to write a book that every reader will enjoy. Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” close to 800 pages long, failed to keep many Kobo readers engaged all the way through; data showed that around 55 percent of readers did not finish it. Yet “The Goldfinch” won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Do the figures prove that Tartt needs to learn from her readers and write a “better” book next time, despite being awarded one of the highest literary honours? Should she follow the numbers, or write the books she wants to?

Which leads us right into another problem: Do certain books have an advantage over other books under Amazon’s new policy? It would appear so as it not only has to do with length, but also with the genre of story. Memoirs and thrillers–known as page turners–would have a clear advantage over historical books or criticism, as they tend to entice readers to stick around the longest.


So will Amazon’s newest system benefit writers and readers? It truthfully depends on who you are and your writing style. Readers have the most to benefit from the system, especially if they use the Lending Library and can just return the book. However, it could also push writers to become more serious about what they do.

As the program is still in its infancy, there is no data that can explain how the system is fairing for authors or Amazon; however, Amazon is likely not willing to give up a large piece of profit, so if there are problems, changes will be swift.


Inquisitr: Kindle Unlimited KENPC Explained: Self-Published Authors Could be Looking at Massive Pay Cut

Kindle Direct Publishing: Kindle Unlimited Pages Read

Live Mint: Thrillers at an Advantage in New Amazon Royalties System

Tech Crunch: Amazon Tweaks Kindle Publishing Royalties to Encourage Page Turners

Guardian: Pay-Per-Page: Amazon to Align Payment With How Much Customers Read

Business Journal: Self-Published Authors Hoping For a Real Page-Turner

Gizmodo: Amazon Will Soon Start Paying Authors Based on e-Book Pages Read

New Republic: Amazon’s Pay Per Page Deal is No Big Deal

Publishers Weekly: Surprising Self-Publishing Statistics

Reuters: Amazon to Pay Self-Published Authors Based on Pages Read

Smashwords: 2014 Smashwords Survey Reveals New Opportunities for Indie Authors

Atlantic: What If Authors Were Paid Every Time Someone Turned a Page?

Reader’s Digest: How Can the Average Writer Make Money Self-Publishing e-Books?

Noel Diem
Law Street contributor Noel Diem is an editor and aspiring author based in Reading, Pennsylvania. She is an alum of Albright College where she studied English and Secondary Education. In her spare time she enjoys traveling, theater, fashion, and literature. Contact Noel at



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