Poll

Should long-book writers be forced to sacrifice KU income to benefit shorter-book writers (by lowering the KENP cap)?

Yes. It's OK to take from the minority to benefit the majority.
No. A solution to the bookstuffing problem should be fair to all legitimate authors.

Author Topic: Poll:Should long-book writers sacrifice KU income to benefit short-book writers?  (Read 3346 times)  

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Offline TimothyEllis

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If they can binge through the whole series, sure! But if the series isn't finished and hasn't even reached a natural breaking point, and they have to wait for the next book...

They still get that problem, in exactly the same place.


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I don't think the issue with page stuffing really has to do with length as much as what that length consists of. I think a page cap treats a symptom, not the underlying cause.

Forcing writers or readers to "adapt" makes no sense to me. But I've never been one for punishing people for the actions of others.
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Online PhoenixS

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KU should never have been put into the bought ranking system. It should always have been built separately. And it's not too late to separate them out. But no-one will agree to it, because KU boosts their sales rank, and everyone wants that boost. But that boost is exactly what is wrong with the whole system. But if the ranks are separate, your book ranks based on performance in 2 separate forums according to how they do there.

That won't happen so long as Amazon imprint books are taking advantage of the perks, too. And if overall rank isn't affected, what real perk will there be then in exchange for exclusivity?

But it isn't a fair system. It is a completely artificial system.

This is the thing:
...

The entire notion of what is or isn't fair is based on a flawed, artificial, and economically-unsustainable-thus-used-as-a-loss-leader gimmick Amazon cooked up to drive people into the ecosystem at the expense of authors. And the more we whine at each other about what is or is not fair, the more they simply abuse all of us.

I actually do agree with you on many things, Julie, but I think in this case you're debating the subscription issue from the subscriber's POV, not the content provider's. Since from the subscriber's POV, KU is operated just like a newspaper subscription or cable TV subscription or phone data -- where the subscriber pays a fixed amount no matter how much content they consume within the subscription tier they purchase -- then KU is, indeed, fair. But we're the content providers. We need to look at the issue from that perspective.

Offline TimothyEllis

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And if overall rank isn't affected, what real perk will there be then in exchange for exclusivity?

I was talking to Michael Anderle and Craig Martelle in London in Feb. Both of them said the same thing to me. "Why did you leave KU?"

Once upon a time, Amazon needed a carrot to entice all us suckers into KU. So they offered a rank boost for exclusivity.

Now? KU is a force of nature, and being in it has its own rewards. The trick now is, having an effective ad which generates both sales and reads.

I dont think we need rank boosts anymore. KU is KU, and for the people who stay in it, or have returned to it, it's not the rank boost which convinces us, it's the readers who would never have bought, who now read us. Yes, the cannibalization of sales is still there, but the extra readers brought in by KU, when you get your ads right, which make $.

Having separate rank charts, where sales rank is based on actual sales, and KU rank is based solely on borrows, would solve a lot of problems, by removing the motivation to manipulate ranks through KU.

With separate ranks, a book making it on its own merits, will do good ranks in both charts. But a botted book will show a high KU rank, and a really bad sales rank, and be so obviously scammer, people will be able to tell at a glance.


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Online PhoenixS

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But a botted book will show a high KU rank, and a really bad sales rank, and be so obviously scammer, people will be able to tell at a glance.

We have a book with 7 sales and 304,000 reads this month. Last month, we had a book with 86 sales and 1.25M reads. Overall, since we've been in KU, 75% of our income is from KU. I think that profile would fit your "obvious scammer."

Bots are a big problem, yes. But not AS big as it once was because Amazon actually has been shutting down those who are exclusively using bots.

The bigger problem now is incentivized buys, borrows and reads on top of using botting services and large ad campaigns, along with authors/publishers who are purchasing large numbers of their own books via gifts and giveaways. The problem books will not surface as easily as you think they will.

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This poll is not only biased, it assumes that if "we" (meaning the like-minded authors here on KB that vote in this poll and apparently side with the OP) come up with a "solution" for the issued being discussed that Amazon will embrace that solution with open arms. This is a truly flawed assumption/premise because Amazon does not take its marching orders from indie authors.

Offline MaryMcDonald

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I think a 1000 KENPC is plenty long enough even for very long books. I have a boxed set that used to be in KU. It has three novels of 90k each, and one novella of 46k, so over 306k and I think it clocked in around 1200 KENPC (I actually lost KENPC as a set vs individually)


But, to be fair to outliers, even 1500 KENPC is plenty long enough. That should accommodate books up to 400k. To put that in perspective, James Michener wrote really long books. One of his longest was about 436k. I don't think there are many people writing books of that length.
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Offline SeanHinn

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I also dont see the problem. If the 3000 page limit comes down to 1000 or 750, then anyone with a bigger book just breaks it into several, and takes the original out of KU, re-badging it as a box set.


Write the doorstop. Release it as a 3 novel trilogy (and use part 1, part 2, part 3 instead of the normal book 1 etc), all at the same time if you want, and put them in KU. At the same time you release the doorstop as a sale only full version. You dont even need 3 covers. You use the part number or 'full version' in the titling, and all 4 books look the same, except for which bit it is.
 
The writing is the same. The release takes a small amount of extra work.

Nothing is lost. And probably a great deal gained.

This just dawned on me - if what you say above is true, then you've put the entire argument to bed - because you've proven that this won't harm the bookstuffers a bit.

Offline AnnaB

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Not a KU subscriber because I tend to have a teetering enough TBR pile at any one time as it is, but definitely a lover of epic fantasy or sci-fi door-stoppers.

I don't see why they should be rewarded less per word than authors of shorter stories, or encouraged toward lesser word-counts, or to split their works or stay out of KU.

If there's a problem with other long books full of dubious content then target that sort of content, not just the length of the book.

Offline JulesWright

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This just dawned on me - if what you say above is true, then you've put the entire argument to bed - because you've proven that this won't harm the bookstuffers a bit.

Lol exactly.  Scammers indeed can adjust.  I would support a lower cap if I thought it would do anything substantial to address the problem and thought Amazon would listen.

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The bigger problem now is incentivized buys, borrows and reads on top of using botting services and large ad campaigns, along with authors/publishers who are purchasing large numbers of their own books via gifts and giveaways. The problem books will not surface as easily as you think they will.

Phoenix, do you think there are particular changes the author community could push for that would help make KU, or KDP more broadly, more resistant to these tactics, or that would lessen their effect on the many authors who are not using them?


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Offline RScott

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I actually do agree with you on many things, Julie, but I think in this case you're debating the subscription issue from the subscriber's POV, not the content provider's. Since from the subscriber's POV, KU is operated just like a newspaper subscription or cable TV subscription or phone data -- where the subscriber pays a fixed amount no matter how much content they consume within the subscription tier they purchase -- then KU is, indeed, fair. But we're the content providers. We need to look at the issue from that perspective.

Agreed. You can't compare apples and oranges like that. The system for authors is probably as fair as it can get. You and amazon are sharing the risk and Amazon is giving you almost complete control to mitigate it. If people like your book, it sells, if they don't it wont. What's the alternative? Amazon becoming more selective and offering royalty contracts to authors individually based on the work? Sounds like traditional publishing. It's okay to gripe about something, but what's the solution or recommendation to "fix" it?
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Offline SeanHinn

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We have a book with 7 sales and 304,000 reads this month. Last month, we had a book with 86 sales and 1.25M reads. Overall, since we've been in KU, 75% of our income is from KU. I think that profile would fit your "obvious scammer."

Bots are a big problem, yes. But not AS big as it once was because Amazon actually has been shutting down those who are exclusively using bots.

The bigger problem now is incentivized buys, borrows and reads on top of using botting services and large ad campaigns, along with authors/publishers who are purchasing large numbers of their own books via gifts and giveaways. The problem books will not surface as easily as you think they will.

PhoenixS, you are SO educated on this issue. We could really use your help. Would you consider joining the FB group for this and adding your expertise to the conversation?

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This just dawned on me - if what you say above is true, then you've put the entire argument to bed - because you've proven that this won't harm the bookstuffers a bit.

Multiple people explained why this was not the case in the other thread. Nothing short of Amazon policing bot accounts will stop actual scammers. But lowering the cap will drastically hurt marketing machines who are publishing crappy stuffed books and throwing money at them, because they'll make less per borrow. If they make less, they won't be able to afford as many ads, their visibility will sink, romance will be less cluttered with stuffed .99 books, All Star thresholds will fall, the rate will increase.

A very small percentage of authors write books over 1k KENPC, so very few authors will be hurt. If your books are drastically higher than 1k KENPC, you may have to look into alternative strategies like publishing trilogies. Though, IME, publishing three 100k books is going to make you not money than publishing one 300k book.

Or, you can keep publishing doorstoppers and accept that you'll make $5/borrow max.

I'm sympathetic to the issue, but, Sean, you not making your position sympathetic with the kind of loaded wording in that poll.

Offline SeanHinn

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A very small percentage of authors write books over 1k KENPC, so very few authors will be hurt.


...

I'm sympathetic to the issue, but, Sean, you not making your position sympathetic with the kind of loaded wording in that poll.

That's why the wording of the poll is what it is. Because that is the issue - there are people who think that harming a few to benefit the many is OK. It's not. And if you think that artificially breaking up an epic into 3 parts will not harm an epic author, then it would not harm a bookstuffer, either.

Offline AWritersLife

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Wrote long books when I started. Write long books now.

Didn't "adapt" when KU1 came around. Didn't "adapt" when KU2 came around either. Won't be adapting when KUxxx rears its head.

Will make 6 figures EASILY again this year.

But by all means, keep chasing that big whale. You'll catch it sooner or later.

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The system for authors is probably as fair as it can get.

KU is a purely artificial and arbitrary system, which is why it suddenly makes sense for writers to stuff ten novels into one 'book', when they would never have done that otherwise. It's also why there's no reason for Amazon not to change the system to disadvantage book-stuffers if that benefits Amazon. Because KU is there to bring people to Amazon to buy toilet-paper, not to link up writers with readers who want to read their books.

If you want a fair system for authors, it's easy. Authors set a price for their book, and readers either buy it or don't. Job done.

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I don't think the issue with page stuffing really has to do with length as much as what that length consists of. I think a page cap treats a symptom, not the underlying cause.

I'm not a fan of more regulations.  Making the current rules clear and stating exactly how much of a previously published work is allowed in any other books would be a good start.

If Amazon doesn't care or remains vague about what the rule is, then are authors really violating the rules?  Waiting to see if readers complain makes this a gray area.  If Amazon stated only 1k, 5k, 10k (whatever the amount) words from another work can be included in a book, then it would be clear. 

Personally, I don't see the point of more regulations until Amazon clarifies the ones they already have.

ETA: I don't stuff books and I don't make enough money yet to notice a big difference in KU payouts.  It would just be nice to have some clarity on this situation.
« Last Edit: April 16, 2018, 10:04:39 AM by Lorri Moulton »

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Offline MmmmmPie

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And if you think that artificially breaking up an epic into 3 parts will not harm an epic author, then it would not harm a bookstuffer, either.

Wrong. Because a trilogy is promoted by advertising the first book and hooking people with the compelling story and characters. In contrast, advertising three stuffed books requires three separate campaigns.

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Wrote long books when I started. Write long books now.

Didn't "adapt" when KU1 came around. Didn't "adapt" when KU2 came around either. Won't be adapting when KUxxx rears its head.

Will make 6 figures EASILY again this year.

But by all means, keep chasing that big whale. You'll catch it sooner or later.

Thanks for popping by and offering no insight into this thread whatsoever.


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Offline Rick Gualtieri

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While I voted that the system should be fair to everyone, personally I'd be willing to take a small hit if it cracked down on some of the scamming, stuffing, and other shenanigans.  I'd say at this point the majority of my books are over 100K in size.  My longest breaks 1000 KENP.  Personally, I'd be okay with 1) A rule banning all box sets and/or bonus content from KU and 2) a rule bringing the limit down to 1000.  That said, I do know this will hurt some legit writers (epic fantasy etc).  The problem is 1 by itself is simply not enough.  The scammers will figure out whatever filter Amazon is automatically using to determine end of book and find a way around it and suddenly we'll end up with tons of 3000 page long "single" stories.


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Offline Rick Gualtieri

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Wrong. Because a trilogy is promoted by advertising the first book and hooking people with the compelling story and characters.

The problem there is the "artificially" mentioned in the quoted post. Some stories can be broken up into parts without anyone being the wiser.  Others, it'll stand out like a sore thumb.  A good way to tick people off is to make them think you're only "selling" them half a story. 


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Offline JulesWright

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There was one hell of a cliffhanger after Book 2 (Frodo captured by the Orcs). I'm really glad I didn't have to wait for Book 3 to come out and could read them all at once. 


You still haven't quite convinced me of this dire threat, Sean. The Lord of the Rings was written as a single complete novel of many hundreds of thousands of words, but Tolkien was forced by the economics of publishing in his day to break it up into three parts. He did so with, as I recall, fairly minor revisions. Yeah, it's hard to imagine an already published mega-book divided into two or three shorter books, but we'd probably feel that way about LotR if it had never been divided. And yet it was divided -- successfully. I suspect authors have often had to work around annoying and artificial impositions and restrictions of that sort, and being inventive types, they've managed. There's no particular reason such restrictions should lead to the death of a genre or any one author's dream, IMO.

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if you think that artificially breaking up an epic into 3 parts will not harm an epic author, then it would not harm a bookstuffer, either.

Sean, I'm not fully sold on the KENP cap idea myself, as of yet, but the fact that you keep saying the above suggests to me that you're not understanding the economic reasoning behind the proposal. If you want to convince people that they're wrong to support the proposal, I think you need to tackle the rationale behind it convincingly, instead of seeming not to get it.

The idea is that these heavily stuffed books don't sell particularly well on their own. They need a very strong advertising push. (Some people think they need more underhanded kinds of pushing as well, but let's leave that to the side.)

Let's say the folks publishing these stuffed books know that (I'm just making up an example, so these are not real numbers) they'll need to get, on average, 100,000 AMS ad clicks to generate 10,000 complete read-throughs of a particular book. Let's say they pay a dollar a click. They've spent $100,000. The book is 3,000 KENP, so 10,000 full read-throughs = 30,000,000 pages read. At .00449/page, they would gross $134,700 and net $34,700 on the book. They publish four of those a month and take home $138,800/month net.

Then a 1,000-KENP cap goes into effect. Well, these authors *still* need to get 100,000 AMS ad clicks to generate 10,000 complete read-throughs. But now a complete read-through brings in $44,900 gross, not $134,700. They're spending $100,000 to make $44,900 -- fail. Yes, they can publish three 1,000-KENP books instead of one 3,000-KENP book, but *each* of those books will require the $100,000 ad spend. They're spending $300,000 and netting $134,700. Furthermore, with three times as many books being advertised within these circles, their cost per click might go up. Maybe they have to spend $400,000 to generate 10,000 full read-throughs.

Whether the above is actually how it'd play out, I don't know, but I believe that's the dollars-and-cents reasoning behind the proposal. Someone please correct me if *I'm* the one who's not getting it!

Looking at the stuffer versus the epic fantasy author ...

The stuffer would be breaking one book containing six disconnected novels into three books containing two disconnected novels each. Since the three books would not be connected to one another by a single story, there's no driving reason for someone who reads one of them to go looking for the others. That's why each of the shorter books will need its own separate advertising.

In contrast, an epic fantasy author would be breaking one cohesive and, hopefully, addictive story into three books. The fantasy author would not have to advertise Books 2 and 3, the way the stuffer would have to advertise each of their three collections equally. The fantasy author would just advertise Book 1 and depend on sell-through to bring a good portion of readers through the entire story.

Therefore, the stuffer's advertising costs would triple, crippling their net income, while the fantasy author's would not.