Last month the self-publishing community had a little freak out over Amazon’s new payment model for books borrowed through its Kindle Unlimited and Kindle Owners Lending Library schemes. The initial backlash was disproportionate, due mainly to media outlets failing (accidentally on purpose?) to make clear that it only applied to lending and not retail. Once that was cleared up, attention turned to the implications of the change.
Put simply, Amazon moved from a model based on the number of downloads, to one based on the number of pages read.
It’s worth noting that the original model did require the reader to open the book and read 10% of the way into the book before it counted for payment, but, after that point, the author got the full payment.
It favoured shorter books for two reasons; firstly, the payment received was not proportional to the length of the work, and secondly, hitting the 10% trigger point was easier and more likely.
The new model attempts to proportionately reward authors of different length works by paying them per page. Thus a longer book will be worth more than a shorter one, provided the reader slogs their way to the end. Because authors are only paid for the pages read, it in theory also rewards quality over quantity.
The issues that this change raised fell into four broad themes:
Complaints from those who publish with Amazon focused on the idea of penalising the writer if the reader fails to complete the book. There were a lot of analogies about cake and burgers and other things it would be ridiculous to pay for based on the proportion consumed.
Those whose approach is to work the system for as much profit as possible may very well fall foul of this new model. Using cheap marketing tactics to pitch a lot of quickly-written, mediocre books to a broad, vague market in order to get as many sales (or loans) as possible would no longer be a profitable strategy.
But, for writers passionate about their art, creating stories that engage people and hold their attention to the end is the goal anyway, isn’t it? It’s true, not every book will be right for everyone, but you’d like to think, that if you’re getting the marketing right, you’re targeting the people who will like it. If a small proportion don’t stick it out that’s not the end of the world.
It’s true that a lot of people buy and/or download books they want to read but then don’t get round to them, but this is about loans and subscription services; by definition people use these to choose something from those available to start reading there and then. Of course, I may be underestimating the number of people who stop reading books once they have started them. It’s not something I tend to do… which is the subject of my blog this week.
Is proportional consumption is a fair way to judge the worth of a piece of content at all? People seem to struggle with assigning value to digital content at the best of times. As mentioned in April’s Fiction News, authors often feel pressured into giving their work away for free because consumers are so reluctant to pay for digital content.
As we discussed in Episode 3 of Breakout on crowdfunding, subscription models in general appeal to those consumers who want as much for their money as possible. Once you’ve paid the subscription fee you then experience the illusion that the content is free.
From the consumer perspective the mechanism by which the content producer is paid is irrelevant, so it’s hard to say what effect the pay per page model will have on the stripping of value that is the hallmark of current trends.
People are inclined towards a certain moral outrage about the idea of profitability shaping art, but it always does and always will.
Jump back a decade or so to before the onset of digital publishing and the landscape was very different. Between short story and novel was a wide trench of unpublishable lengths. Getting your book out there meant getting it into book shops which meant writing what publishers wanted, not necessarily what you wanted to write.
What influences could a pay per page model have have on the choices writer’s make?
For one it could put writer’s off short fiction; the format which has seen a new resurgence recently. As mentioned above, Amazon’s old model favoured short books, and encouraged authors to churn out as many short titles as they could. It lead to a pattern of authors publishing serialised “chapter-books” less than 10k words in length, in order to take advantage of the system. Indeed it was in response to complaints about this that they introduced the new system to make things fairer.
Clearly this new system is hardly shaping writers choices more than it’s predecessor. But, the removal of an incentive doesn’t necessarily mean the creation of a disincentive.
The advent of digital publishing removed many of the divides between creativity and profitability by making a wider choice of formats, genres and topics viable. This is still the case, regardless of whether royalties are paid per page or per download.
Secondly the pay per page model potentially discriminates against more challenging literary fiction. Evidence suggests readers are less likely to get through a challenging literary work than an easier genre read. This might put writers off writing powerful literature in favour of the fiction equivalent of click bait; fast paced pulp fiction with high entertainment value but less in the way of literary merit.
This is a serious concern, because this suggests the pay per page model could and would stifle the top end of the fiction spectrum. But, let’s keep this in perspective; we’re talking about one retailer and one platform here.
Amazon is a true giant in the world of books, especially digital books. The policies they make can have a massive influence over the market, but they are not the only controlling factor out there.
There was the initial fear that Amazon intended to apply this pay per page model to retail of books, and that fear is still there; what if they did decide to roll out this model to retail books?
If they did choose to do so, the reader would have to be charged proportionately, which would be a logistical nightmare for Amazon, and they too would be loosing a lot of money. If Amazon took the full payment for the book at purchase but only passed on the royalties when or if it the book was read there would be major uproar. I doubt even the readers would let them get away with that; no one likes the idea of the corporate giant taking all the profit and refusing the pass it on to the artist.
The idea of pay per page for individual retail sales is impractical and highly unlikely. However that doesn’t rule out the idea of Amazon switching to a purely subscription model for Kindle, following the trend in TV and music. I still think this is unlikely, but far more possible.
Are you a book lover, either as a writer, reader or both? What are your thoughts on Amazon’s new model? Leave a comment below or drop us an email using our Contact Form.
Read more about this issue:
“Amazon’s ‘pay-per-page’ plan could alter writing as well as royalties”
Continuing our podcast themed Follow Fridays for August, today we’re recommending The Awesome Comics Podcast!
New on the podcast scene (epidode 1 came out in July), The Awesome Comics Podcast charts the quest of Vince Hunt (The Red Mask From Mars), Dan Butcher (Vanguard) and Tony Esmond (Down the Tubes) “to make a big noise of small press comics and have a good laugh while they do it!”
They’ve already put out six episodes. with guests including Tom Ward (Writer: The Sensational Elephant Man), Marc Laming (Artist: Planet Hulk, Kings Watch), Chris Wildgoose (Artist: Porcelain: A Gothic Fairy Tale) and Jon Lock (Creator: Afterlife Inc).
Their episodes are long, averaging out at about 1hr 40mins, so you might want to save them for a long drive or nibble at them in a few chunks, but they are packed full of indie comics news and recommendations, and even advice for small press comic creators.
We’re quite a small team here at The Great Escape and sometimes we do overcommit ourselves. While we were deep in pre-production and production phases of Gabriel Cushing at the Carnival of Sorrows, other areas of the site did get shoved onto the back burner more than we’d hoped.
Among them was our publishing arm, which kind of stalled back in late 2013.
With the big film project nearing it’s final stages, we’re re-booting our submission call and getting things back on track with the books. Even better news is that Chrissey, our fiction editor and in house author is now freed up from film producing to give her full attention to the book projects (more or less).
If you’re a writer and you’d like to see your fiction here on The Great Escape, or in our next (much delayed) anthology Great Escapes: Volume 2, check out our newly updated Fiction Submissions Page!
We’ve also created a new page where you can find out about submitting comics, artwork and films – Submissions.
If you’ve submitted in the past and not heard back from us we are really, really sorry. If you’d still like us to consider your work, just drop us an email or use our Contact Form, we promise we’ll reply this time!
We look forward to reading your stories!
Our third episode of Breakout is coming out next week! To celebrate that our contribution to the podcast world is finding its feet, our August Follow Friday posts will all be about other podcasts we follow. Today Chrissey recommends Writing Excuses.
“Fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry, and we’re not that smart.”
Writing Excuses has been going a long time! (Since 2008). This year, for their 10th season, they’ve decided to do something a little different and present the season as a masterclass in writing, from concept to completion. Each week they build on the week before and set optional writing exercises for their listeners to join in with, to guide you through the process of writing a book. Each episode is only fifteen minutes, which makes it easy to take one in while you fold the laundry, or on the drive to work.
The podcast features best selling fantasy author Brandon Sanderson, award winning novellist, puppeteer and voice artist Mary Robinette Kowal, comic writer and illustrator Howard Tayler and horror writer Dan Wells, who surely between them cover the full breadth of the writing scene. They share personal experiences, anecdotes and advice, as well as examples from other writers.
You can listen to, or read the transcripts of, all their previous episodes, and find links to all their recommendations on their website.
Follow Friday is our weekly featurette where we highlight people and sites we think are worth following. Take a look at our past suggestions here.
Coming up in August on The Great Escape:
Wednesday 8th August – Short Story – “Defective” – Young sorcerer Peter faces a daunting challenge when he’s expected to demonstrate powers he doesn’t have in this new flash fiction story from TGE author Chrissey Harrison.
Wednesday 15th August – Breakout: Is Crowdfunding the best thing since sliced bread? – In the third episode of our monthly podcast, we discuss our experiences of crowdfunding and ask whether it’s the ultimate solution to funding indie projects. Is it really all it’s cracked up to be? Plus find out about our TGE Breakout Giveaway! You can join in by simply spreading the word about the podcast.
Wednesday 22nd August – Gabriel Cushing at the Carnival Of Sorrows – Update – find out all about our latest big project, on going since early 2014 and now progressing into it’s final phase. We have behind the scenes pictures and announcements here on TGE.
Wednesday 29th August – Faith Healers: The Flesh Angel – a new instalment in our continuing tale of the nephilim nurses’ investigation of the mysterious flesh crafter. Read the story from the beginning.
Friday Follows – every Friday we’ll be featuring a site, service or person we think is worth following. Check out our past suggestions here.
Monday is News day – Every Monday our blog will feature news and updates from the worlds of indie films, fiction and comics.
Follow Friday is our weekly look at Twitter accounts that have followed us recently or we have followed, and deserve a shout-out for offering something a little bit different. This week, we’re giving a shout-out to Zooppa!
Zooppa is a creative community where brands and agencies provide creative briefs for filmmakers, animators and graphic designers, and award prizes for the best ads made.
There are some big names involved over the years, with WB Games, Universal Studios, Amazon, Google, Samsung, Unilever, Crayola and many more having submitted project briefs since Zooppa’s launch in 2007.
However, the momentum of the site has not slowed down, with 421 projects currently listed on the site, with currently featured briefs having prize pots of tens-of-thousands of dollars. In some cases, companies will even provide props and items for your advert, and collaborate with other companies to give you discounts on music, effects and other production items to help you win!
With over 335 thousand members worldwide, the competition is fierce, but you won’t be alone – within Zooppa is a network of content creators and collaborators who work together to produce content, and some of the awards are dictated by the community of creators within the site.
And of course, every contest that you enter grows your portfolio of content, helping you up on the ladder to creator stardom!
Welcome to August’s installment of our guide to what’s happening in the world of films, fiction, comics and arts outside of the world of The Great Escape.
The Adventure Travel UK Film Festival, London (14th-16th August 2015) – devoted to the art of documentary filmmaking, this 3-day film festival is devoted to films both old and new on the topic of adventure!
Film4 Summer Screen at Somerset House, London (6 – 19 August 2015) – the quintessential outdoor film festival returns for it’s 2-week stint, showcasing both brand-new films, people’s choices and absolute classics. They also run a companion event of workshops and talks, Behind The Screen, with events catering for all tastes (including how Somerset House has been used as many a filming location!)
Film4 FrightFest 2015, London (27th-31st August 2015) – Back once again and expanded to four screens of terror, gore and dark comedy, FrightFest is the go-to event for the best in new, classic and cult horror film!
Preston Comic Con, Preston Guild Hall (1st August 2015) – A one-dayer up in Lancashire, this is the 2nd ever Preston Comic Con and with a packed list of attendees, looks to be worth visiting!
Dublin Comic Con, Dublin (8th-9th August 2015) – Set across 3 floors of The Convention Centre, there is an excellent mix of Comics, Cosplay, Panels and TV and Movie stars in attendance (Billy West, Gates McFadden and Michael Rooker are just a few).
DemonCon X, Maidstone, Kent (23rd August 2015) – Back for it’s 10th year and in the new venue of the Royal Star Arcade, this well regarded and constantly expanding comic convention is one event you won’t want to miss!
Melksham Comic Con, Melksham (29th-30th August 2015) – One of the best shows on the comic book circuit, it’s no surprise that both ourselves and Hellbound Media (Table 38, both days) will be in attendance at this one. Come see us on Table 2 on Sunday!
Happy Days Enniskillen International Beckett Festival, Enniskillen, Northern Ireland (23rd July-3rd August 2015) – The first annual festival to ‘celebrate the work and influence of Nobel Prize-winning writer Samuel Beckett’, and now in it’s 4th year, there are many events about the man and his works over the one-and-a-half weeks.
Beyond Borders International Festival of Literature & Thought 2015, Innerleithen (22nd-23rd August 2015) – Both a political and geographical festival of wrting, Beyond Borders offers a fair selection of events on the topics of documentary and historical writing.
Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh (15th-31st August) – The event of the month is Edinburgh’s annual festival devoted to all topics – from discussions on art and design to workshop events for kids. With over 700 events happening across the latter half of the month, there is an endless supply of things to do there from the world of writing – far more than you’ll ever manage to do!
Keep an eye out on the site next Monday, where we’ll tell you what’s coming up in the world of The Great Escape over the coming month!
Site creator Shannon started writing 101-word stories for their site back in 2005, but it wasn’t until 2007 when the site really came into its own, publishing regular pieces of microfiction from a wide range of contributors.
New stories are posted frequently, and there is always something fresh to read. In addition, their submission guidelines means that the stories on the site are new and never been seen before. Alternatively, you can have the stories delivered straight to your inbox through their ’email subscription’ service.
In addition, this month 101 Words took over the operation of Flash Fiction Magazine, which allows submission of longer short stories which don’t fall into the remit of the original site.
You can find out more about 101 Words on their website, http://www.101words.org/, or get regular updates of new content via their Twitter, @101words. In addtion, you can submit stories at http://www.101words.org/submit-your-stories/.
Follow Friday is our weekly look at Twitter accounts that have followed us recently or we have followed, and deserve a shout-out for offering something a little bit different. Want to be considered for our Follow Friday post? Follow @thegreatesc on Twitter!
Mark Adams and Matt Warner of Hellbound Media took their comics to Horror Con just over a week ago and while they were there they captured the event to share with us. Check out some of their photos!
There’s more photos from Horror Con and Hellbound Media on their Facebook page facebook.com/hellboundmedia
All photos are reproduced with permission from Matt Warner and Hellbound Media © 2015
ComicsAlliance is a website devoted to all things comics – serials, graphic novels, online content and more!
Covering news, reviews, interviews and opinions on everything from the latest issues of DC comics to bizarre manga from yesteryear, they take a broad-brush approach to content – which means you’ll always find something good to read.
They also cover the latest in comic book films, TV series, cartoons, toys, conventions, cosplay events – in fact, most anything related, they’ve covered at some point over their 8 year history.
In addition to a frequently updated site and Twitter feed, they also produce series such as ‘You Think You Know Comics?‘ on YouTube, which gives you the facts you might not know about your favourite comic series.