Amazon Caught Me Gaming the System

imagesA funny thing happened to my royalties from Amazon after I put a few of my short stories on KDP Select. They went up. I didn’t pay much attention at first, but I always seemed to be making more than I expected each month. I knew people were borrowing my short stories through Kindle Unlimited, but it wasn’t until I scrutinized the royalty statements that I understood what was going on.

Amazon pays for each borrowed book out of its global fund, divided among all the borrowed books that were read beyond the ten percent mark. But Amazon’s fund doesn’t distinguish between short stories and novels. Your book is borrowed, you get your cut, usually around $1.80-$2.00.

My short stories retail at 99 cents, which means I get a 35 cent royalty when someone purchases a copy, but until July 1st of this year, if someone borrowed my book through Kindle Unlimited, I got my share of the global fund. That’s right: I was getting about $1.80 for every borrow. I was making more if someone borrowed my short story than if someone purchased my short story.

But Amazon caught on to me and the thousands of others who had tumbled into this loophole, whether by accident like me or by design. Since July 01, 2015, the global fund pays based on the number of pages that a Kindle Unlimited client reads. So full length novels will still pay out at about $1.80, but my little short stories will probably only pay out about $0.35.

Obviously I enjoyed the ride while it lasted, and it was fun to see the monthly beer money trickling in just from my short stories, but in the long run I think it’s a fair change. A short story that took me a couple of weeks to write shouldn’t be earning the same amount as a novel that took someone a year to crank out. It’s just not fair.

So my royalty direct deposits will go down a bit, but whenever someone borrows one of my novels, I’ll be on the other side of that coin, and I’ll be very happy that some little short story isn’t earning as much as my novel.

Bad Plots and Scary Fish


The Ocean Trench Plot. You need eyes like this to find your way through the story.

I saw the new Mad Max movie the other day, and while I really liked the movie, there were a couple of times when I thought about Plot Fail #4 according to author Therin Knite: The Plot That Never Slows Down. The relentless action of Mad Max did finally take a long deep breath before rushing back to an intense pace, which it sustained for pretty much the rest of the movie.

I like Knite’s blog about The Nine Worst Types of Plot Fails, because it reminds me how far I’ve come in my writing. Looking back at my unpublished work, I can see short stories and novels that have all suffered tragic deaths due to one of these plot fails. My greatest error was the Ocean Trench Plot. My first novel was so deep and impenetrable that I found myself confused and lost in my own story. Even after gutting the novel and fighting to simplify it, I still found threads that while interesting, only distracted and confused.

After that debacle, I spent a few years with a writers group pumping out a short story per month, and the critiques from my fellow authors cured me of all of these nine plot fails.

While I’m not a big fan of lists—and there could well be more than nine plot fails—I think I’ll book mark Knite’s post and check it out half-way through every story I write. It never hurts to step back and think about where a story is going.


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