Sell Books on Amazon? How to Cash In on Their New Payment Rules

The hands of a woman wearing blue jeans hold a Kindle e-book reading tablet in her lap.
Chris Zuppa/The Penny Hoarder.
Some of the links in this post are from our sponsors. We provide you with accurate, reliable information. Learn more about how we make money and select our advertising partners.

If you’re an author of a 200-page book, should you get paid twice as much as the author of a 100-page book?

How about if people only read the first 10 pages or your book? Should you only be paid for those 10 pages of value? Amazon thinks so, and they’re changing some of their payment terms as of July 1.

Now, authors who participate in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) and Kindle Unlimited (KU) will be paid according to the number of pages their readers view instead of earning money for each download. If you’ve published or are thinking about publishing an ebook through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform, here’s what you should expect — and how to maximize your profits.

Who Will Be Affected?

The changes only affect books in KOLL and KU, both part of KDP Select, a special segment of the platform where authors promise to sell their books exclusively through Amazon. So if you’ve published through regular KDP and also sell your books through other online platforms, you don’t have to worry about these changes.

How Does It Work?

Writers with books in KDP Select used to earn a portion of each month’s pool of cash (called the KDP Select Global Fund) based on the number of readers who downloaded their books through KOLL and KU. Under the new system, earnings will be determined by the author’s share of total pages read that month, according to Amazon.

Since readers can change font size and other characteristics on their Kindles, Amazon developed a system to keep the playing field level. The company will determine payouts based on the Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count, a system that analyzes each book’s text using a common font, line spacing, line height and other factors in order to fairly determine how many pages are in each book.

The new system will also include a “pages read” statistic in participating authors’ Sales Dashboard reports so they can keep an eye on how many pages in their books readers are actually viewing.

Amazon said this change is in response to author feedback and requests for payouts to be aligned with the length of each book and how much content readers actually view. Some felt that authors of short books were unfairly gaming the system by receiving payment for each download. Many authors even broke their books up into several books in order to cash in as much as possible.

However, as children’s book author A.J. Cosmo points out, not all short books are written as cash grabs. His stories, such as My Babysitter is a Monster and The Monster That Ate Our Keys, are bedtime stories aimed at young readers, and as such are only 20-25 pages long.

How to Cash In on the Changes

If you’re an Amazon author who participates in KDP Select, it makes sense to tweak your business and writing plans to maximize your profit potential. These techniques can help you increase your bottom line while keeping your readers happy, engaged and hopefully coming back for more from their favorite author.

Write Longer Books

Since you’ll be paid for each page read, it makes sense to offer more content. The trick is to make sure this is high-quality content so people keep reading. You could write a 2,000 page book, but if people get bored on the fifth page, you won’t make any extra money from the hulking manuscript.

Bulking up your books and adding more content can increase value for your readers and it can also increase your payments. It also cuts down on expenses such as cover design and formatting, since you might publish one long book rather than three or four shorter ones.

Update and Bulk Up Your Nonfiction Titles

While adding new chapters can harm the flow of a fictional story and be quite difficult, many nonfiction books can benefit from updates.

If you have one or more nonfiction titles on Amazon, consider adding an update and releasing a new edition. Additional chapters, new content, more information about existing content, case studies or real life examples could bulk up your title while creating quality content that readers will enjoy.

Create a Prologue or Epilogue for Fiction Titles

While it’s pretty difficult to increase the length of a novel once you have your story down, why not consider adding a prologue or epilogue? Let your readers have further insight into your characters and the story.

Or offer a behind-the-scenes peek, Q&A with the author or any other little extras you think readers will appreciate. This will add more pages to your book, build your brand and further engage readers.

Consider providing the new chapters as a freebie to repeat customers to increase reader engagement with your brand and refresh their memories about your story. Then, when your next book comes out, your series will be fresh on their minds.

Write Engaging Content

This is a no-brainer and should be your most important goal. The more engaging your content, the more people will cruise straight through your book.

Every author wants their masterpiece to be a page turner that people stay up all night reading because they just can’t put it down. And, if you’re participating in one of these Amazon programs, that can also earn you some extra cash.

Consider Switching Platforms

Some authors are prepared to move to other platforms if KDP Select isn’t bringing in the profits they’re used to.

“I imagine that writers who see a big negative drop on earnings will switch to one of the many competitor platforms that have emerged recently or focus on places like Google Books, iTunes or many other platforms that will be more suited for their particular needs,” said author Eder Holguin, who writes books about business and his entrepreneurial journey.

Your Turn: Do you have a book in KDP Select? What do you think about the changes?

Disclosure: We have a serious Taco Bell addiction around here. The affiliate links in this post help us order off the dollar menu. Thanks for your support!

Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.