Friday, April 1, 2016

Kindle Power Bucks Solves Book Marketing Challenge (April Fools Satire)

Spoof of ficticious Kindle Power Bucks service
Note to readers: this post is satire.  It was our April Fools post.  Whether it's plausible (or already happening as some might argue) I leave you to decide.

Amazon today announced Kindle Power Bucks, a powerful new ebook marketing program for indie authors.

Kindle Power Bucks solves an age-old problem faced by indie authors – most book marketing doesn't work.

If you're tired of wasting money on advertising, or sick of prostituting yourself on social media, read on.

With Kindle Power Bucks, authors pay only if readers read their books. It’s the most accountable paid marketing tool I’ve ever seen.

Here's how it works:

To enroll your ebooks, go to your KDP dashboard, click on the new KPB bidding tool, register your credit card or direct bank account for auto-billing, and then click to the book you want to promote.

Next, enter the bounty you're willing to pay for each page the reader reads.  Amazon calls this the PPP, which stands for Payment Per Page.  Rates start at one penny per page.  Similar to Google Adwords, the PPP tool will suggest appropriate bids that will get you the best results.  As the final step, enter your daily marketing budget for the campaign.

Now grab a bowl of popcorn, sit back and watch the real-time graphs flicker and unfold before your very eyes as your ebook earns page-reads in real time.

Do angles exist?  Yes, right angles.
Real time Kindle Power Bucks Chart
Readers per Hour

It’s almost too good to be true. The catch is that this is a paid marketing program.  You're paying readers to read your book.  But at least you know you're getting read.  You're building readership.

Based on early indications, readers and indie authors alike are responding with enthusiasm to the new program.

Amazon reports that indie authors enrolled over 250,000 books into the Kindle Power Bucks program in the first few hours.

The first authors to enroll are already seeing incredible results.

As I write this (early morning April 1), 85 of the top 100 best-selling books in the Kindle Store are Kindle Power Bucks books.

The program makes free books look expensive by comparison.

Kindle Power Bucks offers multiple exclusive program benefits that give you an advantage over authors who choose not to enroll, such as sales rank triple credits.  This makes KPB books more discoverable and more desirable to Kindle customers, and earn them more exposure in the also bought recommendations.

Amazon counts each completed book as if it's a full sale to a verified customer, and reports this data to the bestseller lists.  This all but ensures the most popular KBP books will earn spots in next week’s New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists.

In another innovative twist, partial reads accrue credit toward full reads.  For example, let’s say your book is 200 pages and the first 100 readers quit after two pages.  That would equal 200 pages read so you'd earn a full read credit and the triple credit toward sales rank. 

This means you can start supercharging your sales rank within minutes of enrolling your book in KPB, even if readers never finish your book.

To further help drive discovery, Amazon makes it easy for readers to search for the highest-paying books in their favorite genres.

Participating authors are reporting that KPB books are earning better reviews than they did prior to enrollment.  Perhaps this is because paid readers are happier readers.

Bids Topping $1.00 Per Page

Early bidding is heated as authors compete for readers.  Authors in competitive categories are bidding up to $1.00 per page for the highest visibility spots, which means some readers are earning over $300 per book.

It'll be interesting to see how KBP influences reading behavior.  Will readers of drier subject categories demand higher payments?

To prevent program abuse and help authors stretch their marketing budgets, Amazon caps the monthly earnings for each individual reader at $10,000.  I've heard rumblings that some romance readers have complained this cap discriminates against them since romance readers are known to read multiple books per day.

If your book's popularity exhausts your marketing budget to the point your credit card is maxed out or the available cash in your bank account is consumed, no problem.

Write. Publish. Spend!
Amazon has you covered with an innovative new financing option called KDP Mortgage.  Authors can apply online for instant home equity credit lines of up to $500,000.

As with all new changes to the KDP Select program, there will be winners and losers.

“I’m winning,” said Hugh Barnacle, a writer of dystopian fiction.  “For my book launch this morning, I set my marketing budget at $250,000.  Within minutes I topped the charts.  It’s so easy - anyone with enough home equity can become a bestselling author if they’re committed.  If I were a lap-sized poodle, I’d be humping Jeff Bezos’ leg right now.”

Invest more money.  Reach more readers.
Authors with smaller marketing budgets may find their books disadvantaged in the Kindle store as readers modify their reading habits and decide it’s more profitable to read books than to purchase books.

Authors may also decide that reading is more profitable than writing.

“I love the new program as a reader, but I hate it as an author,” said April Sunshine, a writer of New Age fiction.  “First Kindle Unlimited devalued my books by paying only $1.40 per qualified read. Then they devalued my writing further by paying me less than a half penny per page, which means my earnings dropped to $1.00 for full reads in the US and only 25 cents for my books in India.  Then they redefined how they define a page and my earnings dropped again.  And now Amazon wants me to pay my readers to read my books?!?!  Who’s going to feed my children?  I’m quitting writing to become a full-time KPB reader instead. It pays better.  Please tell me this an April Fools joke.”

Yes, it is.  Sorry.

Here are links to my prior April First posts:

2015 - New Amazon Service Eliminates the Need for Authors
2013:  New Smashwords WEED Service Treats Common Author Ailments
2011:  Smashwords Acquires Amazon, New Company Called Smashazon
2009:  JK Rowling Publishes Harry Potter Ebooks at Smashwords

32 comments:

J. D. Brink said...

You dirty...
:)

Joel Puga said...
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Joel Puga said...

Quite funny. Two thumbs up. ;)

But I don't know if giving Amazon more ideas to screw with authors is a good thing, though ;)

Sam Russell said...

Hilarious, and I was horrified whilst reading it so you got me.

Dana E. Donovan said...

Nice, now Amazon is actually looking into doing this. KDP has always stood for Kindle Doesn't Pay, and now it's official.

Pamela's Cummins said...

I remember you did this last year and wasn’t fooled, but I still felt horrified and sorry for the poor poodle humping Mr. Amazon’s leg! Sadly, the last paragraph is not an April Fools’ joke.

Rachel Morgan said...

I remember being horrified last year while reading your post -- only to find out it was an April Fools joke ;-) So this year I remembered the date and came to the Smashwords blog SPECIFICALLY to see what story you'd cooked up this time! Well done ;) (And please pay no attention to this, dear Amazon!)

Lady Gina Kincade said...

You're bad. So very bad. ;)

Gabriella West said...

Mark, you bastard.

You're good. This came in my email, so I wasn't focusing on the date. I got a third of the way down before I realized!

Jason Matthews said...

Brilliant, Mark. I need to wake up a little earlier and drink stronger coffee on this April morning. You almost had me rushing to KDP to see what the hell is going on and how much can I afford to pay!

Lea Tassie said...

I was about 4 paragraphs in and thinking, "this is just nuts!" when I realized what day it is. Thanks, Mark! You gave me the best LOL I've had in a couple of weeks.

Horror author Vivid Mind said...

I seriously LOL'd at this and almost spat my coffee across the room at one of my cats: "If I were a lap-sized poodle, I’d be humping Jeff Bezos’ leg right now.”

Good one, Mark! :-D

Richard Finney said...

Very Clever and well written piece. But now two years in a row you've used amazon as the butt of an april fool's joke. If I was your therapist, I would say there might be something significant in your choices.

widdershins said...

Bwhahahahahaha :D

LC_Cooper said...

Bite me, Mark. I'm not as dumn as you look. Because you got me the last 3 April 1sts, my calendar reminds me every year to beware of your practical joke. Last year, you got me so bad that I spent the morning furiously grinding out a reply to KDP's-AI-author post-- to the wildly palpitating cadence of my adrenaline-soaked heart. You darn near gave me a stroke, old chum. One day, soon after I make my millions writing novels, I'm going to tell my limo driver to send your Prius into a guard rail.

Mark Coker said...

Hey everyone, thanks for your comments! This was a fun one. I tried to find that common intersection between absurdity and truth, and I'm glad to hear most readers discovered the hoax before they reached the very end. I know my post last year traumatized a lot of people so I tried to make this one a little kinder gentler.

Underlying the silly fun of this spoof is a very real concern if we were to chart over time how Amazon's payment policies are impacting the per-page rates that authors earn on their books, it would be a downward sloping chart of devaluation.

So I imagined what would it take for that graph to continue its downward trajectory? Obviously, in an environment where there's a glut of high-quality content which forces authors to compete on price (and where Amazon can exploit this glut to extract concessions from authors desperate to reach readers), it's quite likely there will be forces that conspire to continue that downward trajectory.

So I wondered, would it be possible to hit zero and then keep progressing in the negative direction, so that rather than authors earning money from readers they're paying readers to read?

So I imagined what would that negative direction look like, and what those forces might be, and then I realized there are already ample examples where this is already happening. Any time an author invests more in marketing than they earn in book sales, authors are essentially paying those readers to read. Any time an author pays to advertise, they're essentially paying a toll that comes out of their bottom line. As long as the toll yields more benefit than it consumes, the author can live with it, but in overly competitive markets there are usually forces that conspire to strip out profitability when an alternate provider is willing to take the business (or deliver the product) at less profit.

In Europe, for the first time possibly ever, it's in the news that interest rates have gone so low that they've actually gone negative. That's right, investors are willingly lending money with the expectation they'll be paid back less than they loaned. That's deflation. So the big question in my mind (please discuss!) is whether a large segment of writers would continue writing if reader expectations shifted to the point that many readers expected to be paid for reading? Because the opposite of readers paying is for authors to pay. Already, as I mentioned in one of my prior posts, you've got great writers like Randolph Lalonde receiving emails from Kindle readers who refuse to buy books anymore - they want to read them for what feels like free as part of their KU subscription.

Maria Romana said...

Ha, well done! I got all the way to the part about the home equity loans before I realized I'd been punked.

Mark Coker said...

@Richard Finney. And don't forget about the Smashazon post several years back when we acquired Amazon! :) If you were my therapist, you'd be on to something. My current therapy surrogates who helped edit this post (my wife Lesleyann and Jim our marketing director) would probably agree with you as well. FWIW, they convinced me to tone a few aspects down. My virtual cutting room floor is littered with some tasty morsels I wanted to share! :) Do you have ideas of who or what I should skewer next year?

@L.C. glad to hear you were emotionally prepared for this one! Romance author Jennifer Senhaji tweeted yesterday that tickled me pink. She tweeted, "Spoiler alert! Don't believe anything @markcoker @Smashwords posts tomorrow. He got me last year. This year, I'm ready. #amwriting #NotAFool"

LC_Cooper said...

Mark, my inner idiot is screaming, "he's gigging you again, LC! Don't fall for it!" How can I not respond to another Amazon FTA (F**k The Author)? I'm not in KDP Select or any of their FTAs, and I never will be. Sure, I'm resigned to say that as long as the global culture of the internet is heavily slanted toward "free" for consumers, some moron will likely create such an offering at Amazon. I agree that when costs-to-produce outweigh the economic benefits of writing, then continuing to write becomes a hobby and a labor of love ... My doctor calls it "therapy." Having published 7 novels, I can proudly state that I am the Big Kahuna Hobbyist. Pay directly for readership? It already exists inside FanStory. Used to be a free-to-publish site, and I was addicted. I immediately dropped out when they began charging authors a monthly subscription fee. FS has been doing this for a few years now. Sorry, buddy, but they scooped you.

Richard Finney said...

Mark,

I'm glad we agree that often times, when we face a beast who is scary both in our nightmares... and in our waking dreams, our pre-occupation reveals itself in patterned ways. I'm pleased to hear you are mentally self-editing and/or have a support group helping you cope with this situation.
I liked the trip to Cuba for you. And all the other different places you’ve gone to publically share your insight about what you've learned and achieved during your journey. I love how it has helped you achieve a voice in the bigger picture.
But at the same time, I’m definitely concerned about the timing.
If I was your therapist, I would say that the question you pose for me about what I would poke fun of next April fool’s day is you attempting to get me off an uncomfortable subject. Let’s not do that.
We should use the time left in our session to discuss how best to tackle this beast that keeps haunting you. Maybe veiled attacks are not strategic, but only reveal the frustration you have bottled up in you. Perhaps the energy you are using toward april fools jokes could me more constructively directed. This is what I would say if I was your therapist.

Pamela's Cummins said...

Mark Coker, if I were your therapist, I would remind you that the bigger they are, the harder they fall ~ Crash, Boom! Gotta love karma :)

Linda Banche said...
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RKB Kirin said...

Darn it! I wasn't able to check my email for the past few days so I didn't realize this was from April 1st! Curse you Mark! :)

Harclubs said...

Damn! I was about to complain that, yet again, Amazon was showing their US bias by excluding us outsiders...

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

Brilliant!

Mark Coker said...

I updated the title to warn readers that this is an April Fools satire. Thanks everyone for being such great sports! The non-fiction posts will commence from here on out ...

Hannah More said...

EVIL! Soooooo evil. I never liked pranks. Still don't. You really had me patting myself on the back for staying out of kindle/amazon publishing. How do you think up these things? It was very believable.

Mark Coker said...

Sorry, Hannah! I take it you missed the notation in the title that it's a satire? I'll add a note at the start of the post too just to be safe!

LC_Cooper said...

Mark, don't you dare cave and carve up your intro & subject to water down your jokes! You'll diminish your effectiveness as your rapier wit dulls to produce predictable pablum. Don't edit, encourage and challenge us! "Lions aren't concerned with the opinions of sheep." The rest of the year's subject matter is usually so serious and dire, the occasional prank is a refreshing change of pace. Besides, now that April 15 is two days away, most of us publishing on Smashwords have massive tax bills to fret about --you know, from having to pay gobs of taxes from all that money we're raking in from writing.

Rick Pruden said...

I'm reading this for the third time, and it still fuels my rage against Amazon. What I find frustrating is how many authors still buy into KDP Select, this making themselves unavailable to those of us who refuse to buy books from Amazon. I'm proud to say I've never given Amazon one red cent, and I never will.

Rick Pruden said...

I'm reading this for the third time, and it still fuels my rage against Amazon. What I find frustrating is how many authors still buy into KDP Select, this making themselves unavailable to those of us who refuse to buy books from Amazon. I'm proud to say I've never given Amazon one red cent, and I never will.

NagaRaj Raj said...

nice blog