Tag Archives: Kindle Unlimited

A Chronicle of the Amazon Page Flip Controversy: Or, how to piss off a ton of your vendors all at once

For the past several weeks (and in some case months), authors publishing through KDP Select have been noticing a massive decrease in pages read (KENP = Kindle Edition Normalized Pages). I blogged about his before here and here, mostly about how it has hit me personally. In this post I would like to attempt a summary of what’s been going on and what the authors affected think might be causing it.

Most of what I know comes from a discussion thread on Kboards, a forum for indie authors. The thread was started on Oct. 2, and authors quickly began chiming in with information on decreasing numbers of pages read on Amazon. A few authors said they had seen no decrease, but the vast majority have observed decreases of between 30% – 90%.

Naturally, once we noticed that we weren’t the only ones taking a huge hit to the pocketbook — and it wasn’t just because everyone who borrowed our books had started hating them after reading the first page — we started to collectively look for answers. We also started writing Amazon Support to complain and try to find out what was going on. In the new KDP Select system, authors have no information on how often their books are actually borrowed, only how many pages are read. But all of us keep records of sales and income, including KENP, which makes it easier to compare notes.

Soon, authors began narrowing in on the new “Page Flip” mode as a possible culprit. Page Flip was announced on June 28, but it was several weeks later before it was available on most newer Kindle devices. This fits with many authors noticing a decrease in pages read beginning in around August. If you don’t know what Page Flip is, here’s an article about it in TechTimes.

Once Page Flip was identified as at least one possible reason for the decreases authors were seeing, a number of those on Kboards tested it for themselves, including David VanDyke, whom I reblogged a couple of days ago. But in this context, it’s important to take a look at one of the passages in that post again:

“Using my KU account, I borrowed one of my own low-selling books that gets fewer than 100 page reads per day, normally zero. I used my iPhone and the Kindle app, so that the book opened automatically in Page Flip mode and kept it there. I paged through the entire book. Result? One (1) page read exactly, up from zero (0). Yup. One. Just as many others are reporting on KBoards and elsewhere.”

Now, all this time, Amazon is apparently getting a deluge of complaints from angry authors. Since we were sharing things in the discussion thread on Kboards, we were all well aware that we were getting the same canned responses. Here is the first one a number of authors received, starting on about Oct. 4:

“I understand you are concerned about lower than expected pages read in your reports. We’ve thoroughly reviewed all of your KU/ KOLL borrows and can confirm that the pages read displayed in your dashboard are accurate.”

On Oct 5, Amazon posted this announcement on the KDP support forum:

We’ve recently received a number of contacts regarding KENPC counts and have been investigating each case to make sure our KENPC reporting is timely and accurate. We regularly monitor pages-read systems for accuracy and to ensure we are recording all legitimate reading activity, including a month-end audit. In the past week, we uncovered one timing-based reporting issue affecting less than 0.2% of pages read which we fixed on 9/28. We are also now in the process of completing our September month-end audit.

Should you have specific questions about your account, please contact us at https://kdp.amazon.com/self-publishing/contact-us.

Followed on Oct. 6 by this announcement:

We have completed our monthly audit of September pages-read data. We regularly monitor pages-read systems for accuracy with a particular focus on making sure we have correctly filtered out fraudulent reading activity, while including all legitimate customer behavior. Total audit adjustments for the month were an increase of roughly 2% of pages read (though the amount will vary from author to author). We are currently updating reports and changes should be visible within the next day.

We expect the September fund to increase again compared to August and will release the new figure by mid-month as usual.

Thanks for the recent questions from some authors about how Page Flip is being used by customers and its possible impact to pages read. Page Flip is designed to make it easy to explore and navigate in books while automatically saving your place, and that is how customers are using it. We checked for effects on pages read before launching Page Flip, and investigated it again to re-confirm that there is no impact. We do not see any material reading volume happening within this feature, but we will continue to monitor it closely.

And this on Oct. 12:

Some authors have asked questions about Page Flip’s usage not counting towards page counts. Page Flip is a navigational tool. By design, using it for navigation does not count toward pages read. We are monitoring Page Flip usage data and it is not being used for reading in any material way. We will continue to monitor for any changes in reader behavior.

This statement is patently misleading. Either Page Flip does record pages read and Amazon just isn’t including any reading done in this mode as counting towards KENP, or it doesn’t “by design”, and Amazon doesn’t have any data on which to base any assumptions regarding reader behavior when using Page Flip. But as you can see from this promotional Amazon video, it is quite possible to read in this mode:

Kindle Page Flip mode

Amazon’s argument is essentially that since Page Flip wasn’t designed to be used for reading, using it that way doesn’t count toward pages read, whether they are actually recorded or not.

Finally, here is the answer email most authors are getting when complaining that since the introduction of Page Flip, their pages read have taken a nosedive:

Thanks for providing these details. The business team audited our systems using the specific information you shared regarding pages read and sales and did not find any systematic issues impacting your results.

Once again — how can they really know? Are they interviewing their KU customers to find out how they are using Page Flip? Do they even have data on the number of pages “navigated” rather than read?

Page Flip does not seem to the be the only cause of the huge losses many authors are seeing in their income from Amazon, but speculation regarding other things like another change in algorithms computing rankings, or some new policy to combat scammers and fraud, or the effects of the new “Prime Reading” program (you can read about this here and here) can remain only that — speculation. Eventually, with more data, Kindle authors will probably have a better grasp of how sales and pages read in the new Kindle environment translate into rank, but whatever is going on right now is just too new for any realistic conclusions. By contrast, Kindle authors have proven by testing it on themselves that reading a whole book in Page Flip mode only results in one page read. Searching for “Page Flip” either on Google or Twitter is all that is necessary to see that readers ARE using it to read books.

So why is Amazon not addressing this problem, and basically telling us authors that we are suffering from a collective hallucination? Speculation on Kboards is rife about that as well. It’s been pointed out that Amazon has been taking a beating financially after introducing Kindle Unlimited in Japan. A number of people think KU has become too expensive for Amazon and they want to phase it out. But why then not just do it, rather than making a huge number of your authors angry at you first? We will probably never know.

Anyway, to get back to me, after I received the (very insulting) email about the page reads in my dashboard being accurate, I sent them this very angry email:

Given the admission by Amazon that Page Flip does not count pages, combined with extensive evidence on the Internet and Kboards (among others) that readers are using Page Flip to read ebooks — not to mention that Page Flip is the default mode on a number of devices — Amazon is guilty of breach of contract regarding my books that are in Kindle Unlimited, by which I am to be paid for each page read for borrowed books. Since that is not possible with Page Flip, I hereby regard the exclusivity required by Kindle Unlimited as null and void. If I am not being paid for pages read, I see myself as free to publish elsewhere, seeing as Amazon broke the contract they had with me.

The next day, I received notification that the last four books I still had in Select had been removed. Now I no longer have to sell my books for one KENP — or half-a-cent — each. I just have to learn how to sell on other platforms. 🙂

Wish me luck!

Jutoh Page-Flip Hack

If you need to make your books non-page flip compliant in Jutoh, here’s a quick lesson.

Source: Jutoh Page-Flip Hack

Note: I haven’t tried this myself, since I don’t have Jutoh, but I have unpublished Yseult for now, since Amazon hasn’t allowed me to get out of KDP Select. I can’t do that with Shadow of Stone, since I have a promo I’ve committed to coming up. But for me, Yseult is the main culprit for lost pages, since it is over 900 KENP long. That’s a lot of money lost when reads only count for one page. 😦

My emails to Amazon still haven’t garnered any more than canned responses, and I haven’t yet decided what else to do, other than go wide when my books are freed up from Kindle Unlimited.

Bye, Bye, KDP Select; Or, How I Got Screwed by Amazon (and You May Have Been Too)

I blogged a couple of days ago about how some kind of software glitch seems to be swallowing authors’ pages read, and posted the email I sent to Amazon about it.

Well, two days later, still no answer. Two days with a total of 24 pages read, when my daily average is closer to 1000. For all of October, I have have had less than half the pages read that I usually have in a single day. My pages read have flatlined, my rankings have tanked, and my sales have come to a halt. It looks like I’m going to have to start all over again — all over again.

I have since learned that the problem of the missing pages is probably connected to Amazon Kindle’s new feature, Page Flip, a navigational tool meant to be used to search books for specific passages. Unfortunately for authors, Amazon does not seem to have included a function to register pages flipped through. So if a reader who borrows a book from Amazon uses this function to read the book, it only counts as one page read — even if that reader reads all 900 pages of Yseult. (As a side note: today, the ranking of Yseult went from 200,000-something to 79,000 — with no sales and only 20 pages read. That makes absolutely no sense at all, unless at least half of those pages read are borrows, and all of those people borrowing the book only read one page. Go figure.)

Amazon is logically more concerned with providing an ideal experience for readers, their customers, rather than addressing the concerns of vendors, especially if they are such prawny content providers as I am. (“prawny” = opposite of big fish)

As a result, I sent Amazon an email today, requesting to have all my books still in Select removed as soon as possible, before the end of the three month period. KDPS has been good to me over the years, but I’ve realized now how Amazon truly feels about me, so it’s time to say goodbye to Select.

I can only suggest that everyone else with books in Select take a good look at their numbers for the last few months and decide what they want to do. Page Flip was introduced on June 28, but for most authors on Kboards, it has only become a serious problem in about the last month. And for readers, all I can do is ask you not to use Page Flip to read the books you borrow from Amazon.

Some authors on Kboards have suggested that Amazon is deliberately trying to lower the payout for authors, or get rid of those of us who aren’t successful enough, but I doubt it. I think instead that this is a prime example of Hanlon’s Razor: never attribute to malice that which can adequately be explained by stupidity. And here, add disinterest to the mix.

So, for now at least, I’m out. Bye, bye, KDP Select.


Been nice knowing you. Maybe we’ll see each other again someday.

Possible glitch in pages read (KENP) for Kindle Unlimited books

Since the beginning of the month, the numbers of pages read of my Kindle Select titles has gone from a daily average of about 800 to a measly 50. Okay, it’s only one week, I kept trying to tell myself, it will pick up again — and then I read this thread on the Kboards: http://www.kboards.com/index.php/topic,242225.0.html

It looks like it’s an actual glitch on the part of Amazon, and one that they’re denying, to boot. Which means that a lot of us may be out of a lot of money, and no way to fix it or be reimbursed for our losses.

So instead of writing, I composed a letter to Jeff Bezos and KDP Support:

Hello,

Since the beginning of the month, I have a seen a dramatic drop in the number of pages read (KENP) of my books that are in Kindle Unlimited. My averages vary widely, from a few hundred pages on a slow day to several thousand pages on a good day. Since the beginning of the month, however, my best day was 123 pages, with most days being below 50. (See attached screenshot of my dashboard.) This is a particularly strange development for my long fantasy novels: several days in a row one page read per day, when I usually have several hundred pages read a day.

I would greatly appreciate it if you could look into this for me. Pages read are a significant percentage of my writing income, and without them, KDP Select would no longer be interesting for me financially.

Thanks in advance,

Ruth Nestvold

Amazon Author Page:

https://www.amazon.com/Ruth-Nestvold/e/B0045AWCHU/

KENP Nestvold

If you are a Kindle author with books in KDP Select, I strong recommend taking a look at your KENP averages for the last couple of months. A number of authors on the Kboards have been seeing problems since September and even earlier. The only way to get this fixed is for all of us speak up.

St. Patrick’s Day Promo: Free, or Free with Kindle Unlimited!

St. Patrick's Day Promo

** THE ST.PATRICK’S DAY MEGA SALE & GIVEAWAY **
All books are FREE or FREE with Kindle Unlimited! Multiple retailers, multiple genres, fabulous authors! Grab ’em now while the deals are HOT, then enter the giveaway for a chance to win a Kindle or Amazon gift certificate!

My contribution to the promo is Yseult, Part I: Two Women, which takes place in ancient Ireland. Thought that would be appropriate. 🙂

NOTE: A number of the books in this promo are only free if you have Kindle Unlimited, so do be careful when clicking on the links!

Have fun browsing. 🙂

Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

Another important article by David Gaughran:

Amazon is an extremely innovative company – and usually quite responsive to self-publisher’s concerns – but sometimes it gets things very wrong too. Today is one of those times. I’ve received…

Source: Amazon Takes Aim At Scammers But Hits Authors

Starting out as an indie author: To KDP Select or to not KDP Select

Starting out as an indie author

Recently, a friend of mine expressed surprise that when you publish through Amazon (KDP or Kindle Direct Publishing), it is also possible to generate income when someone borrows your book. I’ve been aware of this for so long, it never even occurred to me to point it out in this series. The possibility of making money from borrows is just one of the ways Amazon tries to entice authors to make a book exclusive with their platform.

And since they introduced Kindle Unlimited, borrows have gone way up. Maybe too much for comfort, but it’s just something we authors have to take into consideration when deciding where and how to sell (or loan) our books.

Why there is money in borrows

The thing about the borrows is, if you commit a book to KDP Select, they have to give you something more for that than promotional opportunities, since you are theoretically giving up potential income through other sales channels. So every month they announce a big pot of money, which at the end of the month gets divvied up among all the borrows. In December 2014, for example, I was paid $1.43 for every borrow I had. And it ended up being a significant percentage of my income for that month, since I had over 50% more borrows than sales. And while the income per borrow might be less than it would be for a sale at $2.99, it is significantly more than for a book selling below that.

Naturally, it makes no sense to go for the borrows when you are selling books priced at 4.99 hand over fist. A borrow would make you less than half what a sale would at that price. Or if you are selling like gangbusters on Barnes & Noble or Kobo, going exclusive with Amazon makes little sense either. But for someone like me, still struggling to get this indie career thing seriously profitable, a borrow (which the customer doesn’t have to pay for after all) might be the reason a reader takes a chance on a writer (me) she doesn’t know yet.

If you do sign up for KDP Select for a book you publish, it is only for a period of 3 months. You are not signing away your rights to Amazon in perpetuity. Personally, I consider it a very good way to go for a new book, in order to get some eyeballs on it. Because not only might you be able to generate income from borrows, you also have a couple of additional promo opportunities at your fingertips.

Promotional opportunities: Free runs and Countdown Deals

If you’ve enrolled your book in KDP Select, you have two options for promoting your book per enrollment period: Kindle Countdown Deals or Free Book Promotions. You may only choose one promotion per book per 3 months, but you can use them in many different ways.

Free Book Promotions:

Any book enrolled in KDP Select can be offered free for up to five days, consecutive or non-consecutive, during each 90-day enrollment period. That means you can choose one day at a time, or offer your book free for multiple days in a row. You can also stop a free promotion in progress, but it may take several hours for your book to go off free.

So why would anyone want to give their books away for free? We want to make money on this business, right?

As I’ve mentioned before in this series, one of the biggest challenges facing a new indie author is visibility. Done right, a free promotion can help create visibility for a book. But the free run itself needs to be promoted or it will have little effect. I maintain a regularly updated list of places where a free run can be announced here.

Countdown Deals:

In 2013, Amazon introduced “Countdown Deals” to make Select more attractive to writers again. This is how it works:

– Your book can be discounted for up to seven days. The duration of the sale is visible on the book’s page on Amazon, as well as the regular price, so that readers can see that they really are getting a “deal.”

– Your royalty rate remains the same even while the book is on sale. So instead of getting only 35% on a book marked down to 99c, you get 70%. The income is still naturally quite a bit less, but if it results in increased exposure, it might well be worth it.

Amazon has set up a dedicated “Kindle Countdown Deals” page at www.amazon.com/kindlecountdowndeals – but of course there is no guarantee your Countdown Deal will get listed.

In my experience, while you still make money when doing a Countdown Deal, the promotion doesn’t generate as much interest as a free run, and once your promotion is over, the effect vanishes again pretty quickly. I’ve talked more about some of my results here. Of course, if you shell out the big bucks for a Bookbub ad during your sale, your results could be very different. OTOH, given the high cost of a Bookbub ad, it might be more likely to be worth it if your book *isn’t* in Select and is available through multiple channels.

Conclusion:

This may sound like I’m a huge proponent of KDP Select. That is not the case. At the moment, 9 of my 22 ebooks are enrolled in the program, mostly short story collections that don’t sell all that well anyway, but that I can use to promote my novellas and novels. The thing is, I take a very pragmatic approach to where and how I sell my books. When sales on B&N, Kobo and other channels dwindle to nothing, then I’m quite willing to pull them there and put them back into KDP Select for a while to see if I can get more traction that way.

But I do think that going exclusive with Amazon can be a very effective tool for a new ebook without reviews that readers might be skeptical of taking a chance on. Free runs can generate reviews as well as visibility. And reviews are not only necessary for readers to have something besides “look inside the book” to decide if they want to spend MONEY on your brilliant work of staggering genius, they are also necessary for promoting your book on other sites. In addition, for readers enrolled in Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime, the possibility of being able to borrow your book for free rather than plopping down 99c for it just might make a couple more readers take a chance on it. Might sound harsh, but it’s true — even 99c is too high a price to pay for some readers if they don’t already know the author. Which is why a 90 day enrollment in KDP Select is worth at least considering if you are just starting out as an indie author.

Important info: How Amazon’s sales algorithms work

Probably the biggest German site for indie authors, Die Self-Publisher-Bibel, recently did an extensive test of sales rankings on Amazon with books published deliberately for that purpose. They wanted to test three basic assumptions about sales algorithms used by Amazon:

– Price influences sales rank
– Enrolling in KDP Select influences sales rank
– The dynamics of sales influence sales rank

The results are eye-opening. Fortunately, they have also published an English version on their site. I highly recommend it to anyone involved in self-publishing:

http://www.selfpublisherbibel.de/test-how-amazons-algorithms-really-work-myth-and-reality/

Shadow of Stone on sale for 99c through Dec. 19 – and testing ad sites

In my on-going attempt to get back into the swing of things marketing-wise — and figure out what works in this new self-publishing era of Kindle Unlimited and various other changes — I set up a sale this week for Shadow of Stone, the second book in The Pendragon Chronicles.

Shadow of Stone on Amazon

For over ten years, there has been peace in Britain after Arthur and his warriors soundly defeated the Saxons at the battle of Caer Baddon. But sometimes peace is deceptive …

After a series of hard winters and famine, an alliance of dissatisfied northern kings attack the rich cities of Southern Britain. But in the years of peace, Arthur’s army has grown soft; jealousies and trivialities rip once strong alliances apart. Cador, who is mockingly referred to as “farmer king,” must go to war again. The threat to their way of life throws him together with Yseult, the woman he has secretly loved since he was a youth.

But can their politically expedient marriage help bring peace to Britain again? Or will it only lead to further conflict?

As betrayals both real and imagined shake the foundations of former British unity, Cador and Yseult must try to negotiate their own personal peace. Who will survive the upheavals to come? Will Britain rally once more behind a common leader to fight off the common threat?

For the purpose, I found a few sites that will advertize 99c sales for free, as well as several cheaper ad options, which I have staggered throughout the week to test their effectiveness. It is well known by now that a Bookbub ad will get you hundreds of sales, but it can be very difficult to get a slot with them because of all the competition. Besides, placement in their newsletter costs hundreds of dollars. And while most books with a Bookbub ad earn the expense back, not everyone has that kind of ready cash up front.

So I am testing various options so you don’t have to! *g* Next week, I will summarize the results and put together a list of the advertizing sites I’ve found.

In the meanwhile, feel free to take a look at Shadow of Stone. And if you have Kindle Unlimited, you can now borrow it for free, since it is back in KDP Select. Just for the record, that is not because I am an Amazon fanatic, it is because my sales on other sites were so abysmal, the advantage of making money through borrows on Amazon just amounted to the better deal for me. When and if any other market seems to be developing more potential, I will add more of my books to other sites.