Charles Dickens wrote so many weighty texts that it's often rumored he was paid by the word. In fact, high school kids often dread reading his work in English classes, because the renowned author is known for creating lengthy novels like the massive, 135,420-word "A Tale of Two Cities." Dickens wasn't actually paid by the word, but now modern-day writers can cash in on their huge books thanks to Amazon's new payment plan.
Under new guidelines, Amazon will pay some authors every time a Kindle reader turns the page. So, the longer the eBook, the bigger the payout the author receives, right? Not so fast. The new structure will only reward authors when pages are turned and viewed long enough to read, so writing a huge novel isn't quite good enough. Buyers have to actually read it, too.
Under the old system, Amazon paid authors based on the number of downloads. The new system is designed to reward authors who create more interesting and engaging content.
"We think this is a solid step forward," a spokesperson for Amazon told me in an email. "Our goal, as always, is to build a service that rewards authors for their valuable work, attracts more readers, and encourages them to read more and more often."
Until this new payment system goes into effect in July, it's unclear how it will affect Kindle eBooks. It could lead to more compelling cliffhangers that keep you on the edge of your seat, because authors are incentivized more than ever to convince you to turn the page. But, quality could also suffer. For example, writers could now try to add fluff to shorter pieces just to lengthen an eBook and potentially earn more money.
But there may not be many rewards for the people who are writing short either. If I work hard to be pithy and crisp in order to keep the reader’s skittish attention, there will be fewer pages to read, and less money to be earned.
Apparently photos and illustrations will also count toward total pages read. So perhaps authors will pad their page counts by including more pictures to push their words on to more pages. This change won't affect all authors. The new payment model only applies to books read through Kindle Unlimited and the Kindle Online Lending Library.
By the way, Amazon provided some sample calculations of the value of each page read. According to the memo sent to writers, we can guesstimate how much Dickens would earn under Amazon's new payment formula. Based on an "A Tale of Two Cities" spanning about 500 pages, if every page were read 100 times in a single month, Dickens could earn $5,000. Apparently being wordy can be profitable.