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.

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.

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).

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 tokens Price Price of each token Rough word count
200 $1.99 $0.01 20,000
525 $4.99 $0.0095 52,500
1100 $9.99 $0.009 110,000
1700 $14.99 $0.0088 170,000

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 Fave a 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.

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 P

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