There was an interesting kerfuffle recently as Amazon began transitioning some royalties over to pages read, as opposed to downloads. Will Oremus is one who thinks it makes sense.
It got me thinking. How should authors be paid?
What about all those used book sales that authors aren’t compensated for? Library borrowings? Back to the patronage system?
Anyone got some creative ideas?
Art: Money to Burn by Victor Dubreuil
Matt Borgard says
"How should authors be paid?"
Melanie Schulz says
I don't see how that works with Amazon, since they're getting the same amount regardless.
Tim Richards says
Actually here in Australia authors are compensated for library borrowings of their books, via the Public Lending Right scheme: https://arts.gov.au/literature/lending-rights/guidelines
daniel t. radke says
Erotica and short romance writers are moaning the loudest about this change, and with good reason. There are a lot of great indie authors out there making a living writing to market. Now a great deal of them are projecting losses of up to 80%. That's a lot of missed mortgage payments.
Now, the old way wasn't all that fair. Someone's 5,000 word short smut book shouldn't get the same Kindle Unlimited money as someone's 65,000 novel. But I don't think this is all that fair either. Children's and cookbook authors are getting screwed. Plus, there really should be a premium on erotica. You don't get The Playboy Channel alongside Comedy Central. There's a lot of free porn on the internet, but you gotta pay for the best stuff.
With payout estimates of $0.005 – $0.007 per page (we'll all find out in 2 weeks!), money is getting vacuumed from shorter works and thrown at longer works (works by people that are likely already making a lot). But I think it's safe to say Amazon didn't really want all that erotica on their shelves anyway.
This is my favorite take on the whole thing: https://captiongenerator.com/46584/Jeff-Bezos-Reacts-to-Kindle-Unlimited-Changes
There's no logic to somebody being paid more because they write erotica. That is a conclusory argument. This pertains to Kindle Unlimited, and authors have the choice not to sell. If you write well, you get paid for doing so by readers finishing your story. If you write poorly, then the market speaks.
Besides, Amazon has shown wisdom in adjusting prices when it seemed unfair to writers.
John Levins says
I agree with Will Oremus' point in the article. It's a confusing debate but I think he makes a good case for the change.
Elizabeth Cooper says
I see will Oremus' point in the page by page royalty payment. My problem is that they are acting like it is "no cost" to the author to sell an ebook. They forget that as a self published author we pay for our own editing, book covers and cost to put the ebook together, it's far from no cost to the author.
Ebook or not the author deserves to be payed for the hard work and money they have out j to the ebook, just another good reason why building an email list and selling directly to your audience is the best market instead of building an fan base on one site.
Bill Swan says
Simplest perhaps is best: you have a product (a book, even e-book), put a price on it and reap the riches.
Now libraries: there's an issue. Recently at the Toronto Public Library launched a scheme offering to buy pristine condition best-sellers for $5 so they can keep stocked up with high demand items. Gone are the days when libraries were a repository of hard-to-find items. Now libraries want to be able to serve their "customers". It confuses the whole issue of literacy (good thing) and making books available (also good thing), since reading of any kind develops the skill of reading (also good thing). But you don't see NHL, NFL, Olympic sports, giving away tickets because, dadgumit, watching sports is inspirational and wonderful and all.
So how should we get paid? Lots. % of sale price, regardless of customer. Those involved in children's literature suffer from this thing called "educational sales" — which means we get paid less because it is "for a good cause." (By the same people who want children's authors to visit schools to talk literacy — for free.
Marilynn Byerly says
In the US, authors will probably never see any money from libraries beyond the original sale of the book. Free books and libraries go all the way back to the founding fathers so it's more than entrenched in American thought.
Unfortunately, librarians have become entrenched in the belief that everyone should have free books, and they consider themselves morally above silly things like copyright so we will see even more fighting over copyright issues.
The used book situation is taking care of itself as more books go directly to ebooks so there's less paper books available to stock those used shelves, and the paper has become so shoddy and cheap that books are disintegrating after a few reads.
Some will fight over ebook resale, but I doubt "The Doctrine of First Sale" will be tossed away.
Instead of complaining about Amazon's changes in payments, some writers are changing the length of what they write by writing long instead of short.
Quality writing, instead of fast regurgitation of words, will become the norm to keep readers flipping those pages.
I mostly agree with Will Oremus' point of view.
Paying by the read pages is a smart decision as it shows the real success of the book.
I take issue with the comments on libraries. (I am a county library trustee.) First, there is a big distinction between public libraries and research/academic libraries. They have completely different goals. Research libraries are repositories for researchers. Public libraries provide the books our patrons want. Most public libraries have to remove a book from their shelves to make space for each book they add to their collection.
Our patrons, the taxpayers who pay for public libraries, want current books, and we are glad to supply them. To a certain extent, we keep the books we think they need, but generally, if a book is not checked out for a few years, it disappears from the shelves. Our circulation software has some sophisticated algorithms that we use to suggest which books to weed, but there is a lot of human judgement there too.
Libraries generally do not get discounts on books. We pay full price. An eBook costs roughly $80 for 12 borrows, then we have to buy it again. We are licensed to lend eBooks to only one patron at a time, so we have to buy multiple licenses. And we do buy because our electronic circulation is rising and our paper circulation is declining.
Now, back to how authors are paid. First, authors get full royalties (unless their publisher shorts them) for each book we purchase and each time we purchase an eBook license.
I write myself and I have talked my editor about libraries. He said that in his organization, they see a net gain in sales when their books go on library shelves. Some patrons buy the books they borrow when they like them. And they tell their friends who also buy books. We work with the book stores in our county in joint literacy campaigns and other events to encourage reading.
We try consider ourselves as an entry point to reading, not a competitor with book stores and the Zon, and I think we succeed in increasing author's income.
By the way, I love your word choice – kerfuffle. I haven't heard that in years. Delightful.