Kindle Unlimited KENPC Explained: Self-Published Authors Could Be Looking At Massive Pay Cut

Kindle Unlimited is now featuring a new payment system based on KENPC, or “Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count.”

What this means is that Amazon will take an ebook’s “standard settings (e.g. font, line height, line spacing, etc.),” and use their KENPC algorithm to measure “the number of pages customers read” in a book starting with “the Start Reading Location (SRL)” and continuing through to the end of the book.

According to the official explanation — found here — “Amazon typically sets SRL at chapter 1 so readers can start reading the core content of your book as soon as they open it.”

Until July 1, Amazon paid authors based on downloads, which meant that if the money pot for the month was set at $11 million (as it is, minimum, for July and August) and there were 11 million total downloads that reached the 10 percent mark of the book, then said download would be worth $1. If that happened to a book 1,000 times, then the author made $1,000 for the month. If it happened once — as it does for most self-published authors — then the author made $1.

Now Amazon’s model has changed in a big way. Moving forward, they will only pay for pages read. To use real numbers, the company sent out an email to KDP authors earlier this week.

In the email, Amazon said that “during the month of June, KU [Kindle Unlimited] and KOLL [Kindle Owners Lending Library] customers read nearly 1.9 billion Kindle Edition Normalized Pages (KENPs) of KDP Select books.” Doing the math, that would mean that each page is worth.005789474, or.006 cents.

That means if a book has a KENPC of only 100 and someone reads it from front to back, an author make 60 cents for the entire download. If they only read the first 10 KENPs, then the author makes six cents.

To give an idea of page count to KENPC comparisons, I’ll use my own book as an example. Not because I want all of you to rush out and buy it, but because you can only tell what your KENPC is in the KDP Bookshelf on the back end of the platform.

(It isn’t visible to customers, in other words.)

My book has an estimated length of 172 pages, according to its product page, (which I won’t link to because it’s not my intent to promote). But when you look at it in the back end, its KENPC is 292 pages. That means the most I could make from my book via the Kindle Unlimited platform is $1.752 per read. Selling at its normal price, which I set, would earn a profit of $2.093 per copy, and I would get that whether the buyer ever read my book or not.

“So just don’t put your book in Kindle Unlimited,” has been one argument I’ve seen when you do the apples-to-apples comparison, but here’s why that is problematic for self-published authors.

Amazon has an exclusivity clause to be in the KDP Select program. You can sell on Amazon without being in the program, but your book gets pushed to the back of the line visibility-wise, while KDP Select authors are favored and get a “push” from the company.

Many authors had been able to earn a good living from that push, which was nonexistent on platforms like Barnes & Noble’s Nook and Apple’s iBooks.

Now that the change has been enacted — even though it’s only been a few days — some authors feel like their careers are heading down the drain, as reported in a recent article on The Guardian.

Literary editor Casey Lucas, who works largely with self-publishing authors, told the news site she has lost six clients thus far. Her clients decided to hang it up after “estimating a 60–80 percent reduction in royalties,” she said.

“A lot of self-published romance authors are disabled, stay-at-home mums, or even a few returned veterans who work in the field because a regular job just isn’t something they can handle…. People are shedding a lot of tears over this,” she said.

Amazon’s reason for changing Kindle Unlimited was that a lot of authors were complaining that shorter books were getting the same payment rate as longer works. Some authors were even said to be “gaming” the system, breaking up whole novels into chapters and making each chapter an individual “book.” If the chapter was 2,000 words long, it could still earn the same amount per download as a 100,000-word novel.

What do you think about the change, readers and writers? Will this ultimately be a good thing for the integrity of the Kindle Unlimited system, or did Amazon just turn into the indie author bad guy? Sound off in the comments section.

[Image via The Independent Publishing Magazine]