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  • Grant Handgis ~ Author/Poet

Writing & Royalties


A recent query by a fellow author concerning the updated pay arrangement for royalties through the Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL), left me with little to say predictably about how this change might impact royalty payments for authors. As I wrote in the last post on this topic, the change appears, at first glance, as a more accurate means of assessing reader's response to an author's work. This metric is based upon actual pages read from any given book, not simply an accounting of how many readers selected a particular book to read.

As noted in the earlier article, there is the two-hand analogy. On the one hand, this new system will certainly have the effect of offering a truer accounting of an author's ability to hold the reader's attention, to the conclusion of the book. The inference being that a better written book will hold the reader's attention to the end of the book. Ergo, poorly written books will not do so with the results showing up with the page count method. Inferences are extensions of inductive reasoning, which can be beneficial in some cases, however, inductive reasoning has its limits and its problems.

Every author I know, fully realizes the importance to the opening of any story, in grabbing the reader's attention and keeping them turning pages. There are authors who's style of writing does just that, with the first sentence, first paragraph. There are also some superlative writers who style eases the reader into the story more subtly, or sometimes with a complexity that necessitates opening the story without fanfare or shock value in the opening lines. The question was asked, in a related article I recently read on the subject of this new policy, if William Faulkner's book “The Sound and the Fury” were being rated by page count, would his royalties and ratings actually suffer due to the story's slower beginning, in today's standards? As the article noted, his writing style was complex and the story unfolds over time.

This question brings up another. Being Amazon is the largest bookstore in the world, hosting thousands of independent authors via their other business side, Create Space, will this new policy shape the way writers approach their genre? It would be my observation that there will be authors who will write for the buck, shaping their work to conform to and better fit the royalty return, over a more natural and personal approach to writing. I also believe that for the most part, writers who become independent authors, work very hard over many years to realize literary quality books. For them, questions regarding royalty payments are secondary to writing quality. This has been my experience working with a number of independent authors.

For serious authors, I believe this new policy change will have no real affect upon their approach to writing. It may likely skew the outcome of their royalty payments over time, if they are enrolled in the Kindle Select programs mentioned above, depending on their genre, and writing style. For me, this brings up another very important variable to the calculous; book genre has much to do with readership popularity. A perspective of readership not normally discussed in open forum. It is simple. There are genres which garner huge readership popularity and loyalty. There are other genres which simply do not. I haven't made a study of it, and don't have charts and figures to throw out, for an empirical scientific analysis in an anova table. I have, however, been around awhile.

The simple case being that when considering total population of readership as the sample, a large bulk of readers gravitate towards Science Fiction, Thrillers, Horror and Fantasy, to name a few. This is not a good or bad or right or wrong situation, but simply identifying current reader interest. If you happen to have written, say, memoirs.... and you don't have a name draw like David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs, you won't likely see your books flying off the cyber shelves anytime soon. That is all part of the writer's life. Choices.

There are many variables involved when considering writing as a craft, independent author's choices in POD publishing, and the book market in general, when they all come together in today's marketplace. They constitute multiple layers of interconnectivity that creates an ever changing tapestry representing a dynamic marketplace. As it has always been, within a different dynamic framework. I believe, over time, readers will continue to drive book sales by their reading preferences, as well as author choices within any given genre, as always. To the authors, whose books represent the reading material, I say write on! To the readers who support the authors through their buying power, I say, give the author a chance to tell their story, in their own unique way. You just might be reading a literary talent that takes further reading to arrive at the fuller extent of their story.


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