How Amazon pays you to sell a book depends on whether you are publishing through its self-publishing platform and in which plan you select, or whether you have an agent and have sold to Amazon’s own publishing unit which operates more on the lines of a traditional publisher.
It is easy to open a self-publisher account on their Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform. There you can choose whether you want to be paid 70 percent of the retail price of the book and sell exclusively on Amazon, or whether you choose to be paid 35 percent with the freedom to sell through other resellers.
In signing up, if you click certain boxes to participate in their Kindle Select program, you are joining a pool of writers where the royalty is not based on 70 percent or 35 percent but on your share of the number of pages read of your book divided by the number of pages read across the entire pool of the writers that month. Amazon offers this massive pool of content to its Prime subscribers “free”, but Prime membership costs $119 per year. The company also offers a separate Kindle Unlimited reading subscription for $9.99/month, but subscribers can only check out ten book titles at a time. Note that the Kindle Lending Library was discontinued in early 2021.
Amazon doesn’t fully explain how its Global Fund (currently valued at $36.5 million) works for paying authors nor do they reveal the actual amounts they payout. Instead, they advertise that millions of dollars are waiting in the pool to be scooped up by the Select writers.
But how much does an author typically earn from the pool?
Here is an example posted on the Amazon site of how you would be paid in the Kindle Select program from the Global Fund.
“For example, we’d calculate royalty payout if $10 million in funds were available in a given month with 100 million total pages read (Note: Actual payouts vary and may be less;check your Prior Month’s Royalty Report to see your earnings):
- Author with a 100-page book that was read completely 100 times would earn $1,000 ($10 million multiplied by 10,000 pages for this author divided by 100,000,000 total pages).”
“If you make your eBook exclusive to the Kindle Store, which is a requirement during your book’s enrollment in KDP Select, the book will also be included in Kindle Unlimited (KU). You can earn a share of the KDP Select Global Fund based on how many pages KU customers read of your book. Learn how payments are calculated.”how much
Enrolling your eBook in Amazon’s optional KDP Select program reportedly gives you the opportunity to reach more readers and earn more money. However, the scant feedback from authors on the Internet shows most writers earn a pittance in the shared Select program.
Written Word Media – Book Promotion for Self-Published Authors(no affiliation) keeps a running tally on the size of Amazon’s Global Select Fund. In August 2019 the pot was $25.8 million. They calculated that one page read that month is worth $0.004387.
Applying the Amazon example, if we assume a 100-page book is completely read one hundred times in a pool of 100,000,000 pages read, and we use Word’s per page calculation, the author would earn about 43.8 cents (.00438 * 100). However, If the author sold the book in the non-Select 70 percent plan at $2.99 per copy they would earn $2.09 ($2.99 * 100/70 percent).
Furthermore, the Global Fund calculation assumes Amazon is paying out 100 percent of the pool each month, but the tricky part of all this is that no one knows for sure how much Amazon is actually paying out every month. They admit in their public notes that they may be distributing fewer funds to authors than they advertise in the pool.
Thus, there are some good reasons not to choose the exclusive Kindle Select program. It may be possible to earn more from Amazon by choosing the 35 percent plan and going wide, meaning selling through many other outlets as well as Amazon.
In 2016 we wrote to Amazon asking them how many titles they offered in the Kindle Unlimited catalog and how many authors were enrolled in Kindle Select. We also asked about the average number of pages read and the average collective payout to authors. The PR department responded on March 22, 2016, that “Some of the data you’ve asked for we do not share, but data regarding size of the pool is public knowledge….”
Lack of transparency might be another good reason to avoid signing exclusively with Kindle Select.
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