July 16th, 2021

New Programs on Amazon - Do They Help Authors?

by John Peragine

 Amazon can be sneaky sometimes and add new features with little lead time nor explanation. In the past few weeks, some new features have appeared to help authors and potentially harm them. The Big A is a company that wants to keep every cent it makes, hurting authors’ bottom lines. Being aware of new features and how they impact authors is important to be mindful of.

Buy for Others

On the right side of the page on Amazon is a box that reads “Buy for Others.” This is exclusively for Kindles. It allows customers to buy multiple copies of books for a group of people.

PROS

It allows authors to send multiple emails (with a link to an eBook) in one transaction with a note sent to each of them. This is great to send to groups like a book club, a library, or an event like a book reading.

CONS

There is no discount for multiple copies. This does not create much of an incentive for customers. I’d rather take a little less on each sale as an author and sell ten copies in one transaction. This not only helps with sales, but it pushes your book up in the algorithms.

Amazon Book Club

You can find a link to this in the right column. It allows people with similar interests to connect and read books together. You can join a club or create one of your own. Clubs are categorized by genre.

PROS

You can comment and talk about books together. You can find people who have similar interests to you.

CONS

That is about it because there are many more ways this is not good for authors.

  1. You can’t discuss the books. So what’s the point? It is a way for authors to get people to read their books. Stay with me; I will explain why this is only for the elite.
  2. The biggest clubs have tens of thousands of members. You are letting Amazon know what books and genres you like.
  3. How are books chosen? This is where things get dicey. Administrators make the choice of the book of the month for that group. There are two choices for clubs- private and public. The largest clubs are what you can see as a reader. The ones with tons of members. So who runs those big clubs? Amazon. They are listed as Amazon Reviewers. Books are suggested, and the administrator picks the book from those suggestions. The game is rigged. You can’t even find the smaller clubs unless you do searches. Under the featured book clubs are the featured books. Again this is way up on the food chain.

This service does very little for indie authors. It seems it is trying to pull people from Goodreads, which seems odd since Goodreads is owned by Amazon. (How old were you when you discovered that?) The only way I can see an indie author using this program is to search for clubs that read their genre and then suggest their book as a recommended read for that month. Even as I type that, it feels spammy and a whole lot of work for little return. Suggestions of titles are not public. (I believe only administrators can see them).

Kindle Vella

This new service has been highly anticipated. I have spoken about Vella in two previous posts Serialization Storytelling Part 1 and Serialization Storytelling Part 2. Vella has launched this week, and I have to say, it is a bit confusing for both authors and customers.

PROS

It is a platform that allows you to create serialized stories that help build a larger fanbase. You can create side stories and try out new characters and book ideas. You can make a little bit of money on each download. You can share stories with direct links to social media. (this is new). You can get 200 free keys. Each key is worth 100 words. So that is about 20K words.

Kindle Vella token prices and value
Number of tokensPricePrice of each tokenRough word count
200$1.99$0.0120,000
525$4.99$0.009552,500
1100$9.99$0.009110,000
1700$14.99$0.0088170,000

CONS

The dashboard for Vella contains very little except a place to add or edit stories. On the KDP dashboard, there is no way to track downloads or sales. People can leave an Amazon review like other books. It was not clear before the platform launched how that would work.

There is a fave’s function. This is what Amazon has to say about this function:

When you unlock episodes, you will receive one Favea week that you can award to the story you’re enjoying most that week. We’ll feature Top Faved stories so other readers can find them too.”

This means that readers can only like one series a week. My feeling is that this function will favor popular writers, not lesser-known ones, which means they won’t be very visible.

They do not link Author Central to Vella, and so you can’t connect the Kindle Vella series to your other books. This defeats the purpose of building an audience. You have to search for an author name or series name under the “Kindle Vella” tab.

If a customer buys a larger package of tokens, the author is paid less per token because the tokens cost less. Again, this is not an advantage to authors.

The biggest question mark is how authors will get paid. It is not showing up on the Kindle dashboard. If it does, will it show as a Kindle? Hard to say.

Hopefully, Vella will be doing updates. As of right now, it does not seem to offer authors, especially new ones, any advantage. You can’t post the series anywhere else, nor could it be a previously published book. This means, like KDP Select, Amazon has a lock on where you can sell your stories.

Kindle Summer Reads

This was a sneaky little addition. Under the price of the book is a You Earn: (points number). This seems to be a summer promotion - a beta test. Here is what Amazon says about the program:

"Earn Kindle Points, redeem for eBook credit.

Earn Kindle Points for every book you purchase July 7 - September 22, 2021, and redeem them for eBook credit. 

How it works:
Earn 5 pts per dollar on eBooks and 2 pts per dollar on print books. Earn bonus Kindle Points from occasional special offers. Visit Kindle Summer Rewards to see your Kindle Points balance and available offers. Kindle Points expire on Sept 22, 2021.

Redeem 400 pts for a $4 eBook credit.

Collect fun badges for reading and more.

Kindle Summer Rewards is a limited-access beta program open to select customers in the U.S.”

PROS

It adds an incentive to buy books. It provides points for both physical and eBooks. Although, it can only be redeemed for eBooks. It gives you a bonus of 100 points to join their mailing list.

CONS

This, on the surface, sounds like a great promotion, but they're all sorts of problems and questions.

  1. This seems to be a grab for more emails so that they can spam you with “offers.”
  2. What is the compensation for authors for the $4.00 credit? Does Amazon pay their regular rate? I am asking you, WITS Readers, to help me find any explanation of this program for authors. I can’t find anything.
  3. It is time-limited. How many credits can a person earn? If they don’t use it by September, the credit vanishes.
  4. By the numbers- how many books does a person have to read for a credit. My book is $3.99 (20 credits). A person would have to purchase- not read- 20 books at that rate. So to earn a $4.00 credit, you have to spend $80.00
  5. This program price fixes eBooks. It forces authors to drop their eBooks to $4.00 or less because most people would want a free book (or two) when using their credit. Most people would not want to use credit and still have to pay more money to buy yet another eBook in a short amount of time.

This program and Kindle Vella are Amazon’s attempt at gamifying book buying. You earn virtual badges for achievements and microtransactions to buy more content. This pushes authors to set their books at .99 or for free and rely on these micro-transactions to make their money. This is pennies on the dollar. This is an extension of KDP select. Authors are forced to create a ton of content (not necessarily polished content) to compete. Those with 100 books make a lot more money than a person who might only have 1-3 books. It becomes quantity over quality.

What are your thoughts? Have you tried these new programs? Do you see them as beneficial? (Why, or why not?) Please share your thoughts with us down in the comments!

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About John

John Peragine has published 14 books and ghostwritten more than 100 others. He is a contributor for HuffPostReuters, and The Today Show. He covered the John Edwards trial exclusively for Bloomberg News and The New York Times. He has written for Wine EnthusiastGrapevine MagazineRealtor.comWineMaker magazine, and Writer's Digest.

John began writing professionally in 2007, after working 13 years in social work and as the piccolo player for the Western Piedmont Symphony for over 25 years. Peragine is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors. You can learn more about his books at JohnPeragineBooks.com

His newest book, Max and the Spice Thieves, is available for purchase. Click Here!


Stories on Kindle Vella

As Evaline Hudson stands at the grave of her beloved husband Leonard, she knows someone among the large crowd of mourners murdered him. After her husband's partner's sudden and mysterious death, Evaline sets in motion events that will make an empire crumble and will bring the shocking truth of the town's true nature to light. In the most brilliant acting of her long career, Evaline Hudson brings her revenge to a stunning finish, marking the end of a long wait and the end of an era. Click Here!

Captain Cinn is in search of a sea plant he wants to harvest and recreate a stew made for the funeral feast of a long-dead king. Click Here

18 responses to “New Programs on Amazon - Do They Help Authors?”

  1. Great post--thanks for all this information. I had just noticed those credits the other day but not had time to look into them.

    It's funny; if Amazon actually talked to people who are closest to their audience of reader -authors- together they would be able to come up with an effective plan that would probably benefit all three sides of the equation much more than the programs they come up with on their own now.

    • John Peragine says:

      I'm not holding my breath on that- even though that would make sense. Indie authors have these platforms that are often crushed by the Big A and their practices.

  2. lrtrovi says:

    An excellent recap of what Amazon is up to (not always transparent!) and analysis of how it will impact indies. Thanks.

  3. Great post! Thanks for the handy pro and con lists, and help deciphering non-transparent new Amazon policies and features.

  4. Actually, you access your download/reading/royalty information on the KDP beta report dashboard. The link for Vella data is on the side.

    • John Peragine says:

      Aha- This just appeared today. Thanks!! It's not like its buried in the Beta Dashboard or notices went out to authors. I will be curious to see how this progresses. For me- is it going to be worth spending the time to create a ton of content people cannot easily access and are not connected to my Author Central Page?

  5. Rick George says:

    Wow. Thank you, John, for sharing with us your examination of these new and, ahem, wonderful new features. I can't say I'm surprised that the game is rigged.

  6. John N PERAGINE says:

    You’re welcome! Once you know the game then you know better how to play and what to expect

  7. Ellen says:

    Valuable information, John. Thank you!

  8. bethovermyer says:

    I'm tempted to try Vella, but I'm going to see what other authors say first. Great blog post!

  9. Terry Odell says:

    Thanks for this information. As a non-Kindle person, it reeks of more ways they're trying to monopolize the book-selling business. I'll stick to my Nook for my reading, thank you very much. Not to say I don't publish on Amazon--that's where most of my royalties come from--but it doesn't mean I have to like their business practices.

  10. It's like Amazon is against the indie reader or at least, those of us that don't have a large readership, smh.

  11. Valerie says:

    Thank you for taking the time to review these new features.

  12. JL Nich Author SFF says:

    Im not liking the gamifying aspect. It is going to lowball the pricing and whose benefiting that? Amazon really. The lowball price makes your books more tatalizing so you offer your email to Amazon not the author. Boo Hiss.

  13. dholcomb1 says:

    The thing with Amazon is it's like Big Brother, and it tracks everything you do, and everyone with whom you interact. And, in the past, Amazon, at times, has used that against authors. Those algorithms know if you give books away, and to whom, and if/when they leave reviews, it's in the gray area of a TOS violation. Keep that in mind.

    denise

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