Copying Google’s advertising model of pay for performance Amazon changes publishing again
The Atlantic explains:
“When I recently learned of Amazon’s new plan to pay some authors for each page that a Kindle user reads, I remembered an editor who looked at my one of my book proposals and said something along the lines of, “It feels like you’ve only got 20,000 words of material. You need at least 80,000 words for a book. Can you pad it?”
This was when books were printed on paper and sold in stores. My editor explained that readers wanted to feel like they got some heft, both physical and intellectual, for their money, and no one wanted a scrawny featherweight of book. Big thoughts were heavy and thick tomes telegraphed just how much work went into writing a book—and reading it. I’m slightly embarrassed to report that one of my early books included a fat appendix just so its thickness would stand out on the shelf.
Tablets, such as the Kindle, have started to change that system. Not only did they make it possible to read 50 Shades of Grey on the subway with no one the wiser, but the same is true of reading something thick and important, such as War and Peace.
Amazon’s letter to writers who publish through its Kindle Select program explained that the formula was changing because of a concern “that paying the same for all books regardless of length may not provide a strong enough alignment between the interests of authors and readers.” Amazon is being clever: While the authors of big, long, and important books felt that they were shortchanged by a pay-by-the-borrow formula, they probably didn’t expect that Amazon would take their proposal a step further. Instead of paying the most ambitious, long-winded authors for each page written, Amazon will pay them for each page read.
Book length is still going to matter under the new system, but in a slightly more nuanced way. On the one hand, authors will have more incentive than ever to keep their work from growing tediously (an unreadably) long. But on the other, the author of an action-packed, 100 page novella might stand to earn more if he can stretch his book out without letting the pace suffer.
One way or another, it seems, some authors are about to bid farewell to the old publishing saying, “It doesn’t matter how many people read your book, only how many buy it.”
Top image: Zhao / Flickr