KU pages read stats – a new obsession

reading-over-shoulder

image source: bookriot.com

When Amazon announced they were changing their Kindle Unlimited payment scheme from ‘flat rate per loan’ to a payment for each page read there was a lot of debate about its impact on publishing. One thing missed, however, was its impact on authors themselves, specifically being able to ‘see’ people read your work.

When Amazon KDP launched their new scheme they also launched a report allowing authors to see how many page reads were captured per day, and like KDP’s other reports, this one is updated on a regular (hourly?) basis. For many authors, especially those selling at reasonable volumes, the report will show the thousands or tens of thousands of pages read per day in a steady stream. For those of us with more modest sales, the experience is very different.

It took a couple of days before I received my first KU download under the new system. I’d seen the sales rank bump – because I monitor my sales more often than is healthy – and waited with excitement to see the pages read appear on the new report.

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing happened. Perhaps the report has a few teething problems, I thought, or the reader is finishing another book before starting on mine. I tried not to let the lack of activity bother me, but the lack of activity needled me more than I wished to admit. Then, on the second day, the graph had changed. It registered 51 pages read from the day before. Somebody was reading my book!

The most logical thing to do at this point would have been to close the report and get on with my life, but no, I had to know more. So I tried to work out the exact point they had read up to. The Kindle Edition Normalized Page Count (KENPC) for Second Chance is 524 pages. The print book has 305 pages so at roughly 1.72 KENPC per print page I deduced that the reader had stopped at page 30 or the start of chapter 5. I was thrilled, it’s the point where the multiple threads of the opening chapters start to pull together. They were clearly enjoying the story.

At the same time, another emotion surfaced, one I hadn’t expected. Most authors will recognise the emotional rollercoaster when somebody you know reads your book. On the one hand you’re desperate to find out if they like it but you know it’s bad form to ask – there’s nothing worse than a needy author badgering you for your thoughts on the mine of their book to put you off a story. So whenever you meet your friend you deliberately don’t mention the book but at the same time you hope they bring it up in conversation to satisfy your need for validation.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Anyway, watching somebody read my book remotely elicited similar emotions, but this time I had both more and less information to go on. I believed I knew exactly where they’d read up to but had no visual signals, no reassuring smile to comfort me. All I had was the data, so being a story-teller I built my own narrative. In my head they’d loved the book so far and couldn’t wait to read on.

The next day I registered a KENPC of four, the day after that eleven and then a big fat zero. I was mortified. What had gone wrong? My imagination went into overdrive. When I’d first published Second Chance, a number of friends mentioned that it took four or five chapters to get into the story and then boom, everything started to fit together and they were hooked. Yet this reader had got that far and stopped. Did that mean they hated what I’d written? Had they given up and moved onto another book? Had they found it – god forbid – boring? It was torture. What had started as a wonderful new experience to remotely bond with my audience had turned into ego death by a thousand cuts.

Before the new payment process was introduced, all I had to worry about was whether I sold (or rented out) a book or not. Clearly I wanted the reader to enjoy what they’d bought as I had another book for sale and a third on the way, but once a sale was registered, it was a sale. It was a small piece of success, a balm for my ego.

Not any more.

Now I had the agony of watching somebody dump my novel for something more interesting. It took me back to my youth, bringing back feelings of dating the most beautiful girl in high school only to lose them to the football team captain the very next day.*

I woke the next morning and immediately checked my report. I had a KENPC of 485. Woo hoo! The football team captain was clearly a jerk and she loved me all along. I knew it. I’d always had faith in the wonderful, anonymous reader. Doubts? Pah!

Since then my KENPC graph has taken along the look of the Himalayas, with high peaks of many hundreds of pages read to low troughs of none. And it makes sense. For a start, many people don’t read every day, and even if they do they may not necessarily connect their Kindle to the internet until they’re ready to download their next book, only then passing on the data of where they’ve read up to. At the same time I’ve picked up more KU downloads, so it’s become almost  impossible to build a narrative as I’ve no idea whether I’m seeing one person reading 300 pages or one hundred people reading 3 pages (actually, I know it’s not one hundred people at a time – I wish – but you get the point). The point is, my short-term obsession has waned, settling down to monitoring my KENPC score as often as I do my sales (which is still far too frequent than is healthy).

Although it’s early days, I’m finding the new KU payment scheme is much better for me than the old one. I’m only halfway through the month, have had similar downloads than previous months but have made over three times as much money (if the $o.oo6 per KENPC figure widely publicised is correct). I’ve no doubt things will change as the scheme settles down but for the moment I’m happy.

The best part, though, was seeing my first reader, having enjoyed Second Chance so much they’d read it in three days, move on to Absent Souls and do the same thing. At least, that’s the narrative I’ve built in my head and it’s one delusion I’m happy to maintain.

So what about you? Are any of your books in Kindle Unlimited and have you had similar experiences? What are your thoughts about authors being able to remotely look over your shoulder and see what you and other readers have read? I’d love to hear from you.

*This never actually happened in real life, but I’ve seen enough movies to empathise.

 

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39 thoughts on “KU pages read stats – a new obsession

  1. This really made me laugh, Dylan. I haven’t looked at KU stats and for the sake of my sanity, don’t intend to. Like you, I already have an unhealthy obsession with my sales figures. But what amused me most was your response to friends reading your book. I’m exactly the same. It’s agonizing if they don’t mention it – have they not had time to read it yet or do they hate it and want to spare my feelings? So far, the former has always proven true but when will we get over this ridiculous need for validation?

    • Thanks, Kat! I think the true question is not ‘when” will we get over this need for validation but will we ever get over this ridiculous need for validation? 😉

  2. My latest novel, “Gingerbread Wolves” has been stalled at 10 pages read for about a week. By my calculations, that means the reader gave up at the end of the prologue. Now, in this particular book the prologue gives some background on one of my characters, while the main story picks up in the first person with a different character.

    People who have read the first three shouldn’t have any problem with that, since they would already know both of the characters in question, but for someone who is entering my series with that book, I can see how it might be confusing.

    Damn.

    • Or it could be they flicked to the end of the prologue while still connected via wifi having read the first three and haven’t connected back since?
      That’s the trouble with having a little data, you end up filling the gaps yourself and we know how imaginative us authors can be.

  3. Oh Gawd… I hadn’t noticed that report’s availabilty yet. So far, my Kindle sales have been straight sales since he new system came in… Ater reading this, Dylan, I hope they stay that way 🙂

  4. Glad to hear you beat the Captain of the Football Team. God, that guy’s a jerk.

    I’m glad to hear the new plan has been working for you. On the surface, it sounded like a scheme for Amazon to save money but I’ve been trying to hold back judgment until hearing from authors how it has worked for them and it sounds positive in your case.

    • There will be some authors losing out with the new scheme. I write full length novels 300 + pages so the new way of calculating the book’s length plus the rate Amazon have initially set means I make more than I did in the past. Authors of short stories, or those that broke their stories into short serialisations may well be losing out.
      And the big question mark is what Amazon decide to pay out in the future. They set the pool of money and if they decide to reduce it, the only option we have is to accept it or leave the program.

      • I don’t know if the figures are available but I have a hunch that Amazon sat down, figured it out, and realized they’d shell out less money to authors if they went by pages read than books borrowed.

        I hope it works out for everyone. On the one hand, Amazon is like this magical company that has helped many authors achieve their dreams.

        On the other hand, authors need that income stream to continue if they’re to be expected to keep churning out those books we love so much.

      • The Amazon lending pool (the amount they give out each month) is published monthly. To my best knowledge, this amount has increased as the KU program has grown so they are shelling out more in overall dollars each month than when the program started. Whether the pool has increased at the same level the program has grown is another question.

  5. Ah, the new stats. The actual sales for my book reached the peak some months ago so these days I get the occasional purchase, sometimes even a few in one day, but mostly I follow how many people loan the book. Well, how many pages they read now.

    The daily amounts so far have been odd. One day people read nearly a thousand pages in total, the next it was zero. Then it was around ten for a few days, and then suddenly over a hundred. I’m not even trying to figure out who read what and who gave up when. Perhaps in time it’ll be easier to identify how far people got and use that to diagnose problems with the book. But I definitely hear you. Here I thought following sales and loans was addicting enough but nooo…

  6. The extra statistical information seems like a potentially useful side effect of the change to KDP lending, though I’m going to wait for more seasoned stats heads than me to work out how to make best use of it. I’ve avoided obsessing so far, but I can totally understand the temptation.

    • If Amazon made it available to authors to interrogate, I think the information could prove invaluable, but as one lump of data where it’s difficult to tell just how many KU loans are active at one time and no way to split by reader, it’s almost impossible to make sense of it once multiple readers are involved.
      The obsession comes when it’s one reader at a time. That’s the true killer … 🙂

  7. Nearly seven hundred pages across the three parts of a serial read in two days, in Germany. Now if I could just convince everybody else to do the same thing I’d be a happy camper.

    • And that’s another little torture, when you see somebody race through you book and onto the next (and then the next), it only increases your bafflement as to why others aren’t doing the same. Still, at least you know somebody is enjoying your work. 🙂

  8. I have kind of been stalking my KENPC stats, yes. I think it’s fabulous — but thanks for pointing out how people might not have their stats updated every day, if they’re not constantly internet-connected. I think it’s a lot more fun to watch then typical sales stats, just because, like you, I can imagine what point in the books these anonymous readers have gotten to, and kind of cheer them on. Goooo!

    • If only we could send them a message of encouragement. Then again, perhaps not. I can’t think of anything that would weird me out more than have messages from the author every five minutes saying “hope you’re enjoying it so far” or “did you see what I did there?”

  9. The Himalayas? Page reads in the hundreds? Oh, Dylan…. I can only dream of this! For when one person has read just 15 KENPC’s of your one and only novel and then seems to have abandoned it…. the paranoia is almost unbearable. They must have got to, what, page… 10? I want to say, ‘give it a chance, will you… keep going… keep going!’ but instead I stare every day at the flatline, and silently weep.

    I like the idea of KENPC, but it comes with a payload of angst, to be sure.

    • If its any consolation, my graph now resembles a topological view of the US, with the Rocky Mountains a distant memory as I cross the great plains.
      My guess is the reader is offline and once they come online again t download the next book you’ll see a mountain of your very own 🙂

      • I’m choosing to imagine my 15-page reader is devouring the remaining 300 or 400 pages on a remote beach holiday, somewhere where there’s no wifi. The author must be allowed to dream.

  10. A fascinating insight into what it’s like to get Author TMI, Dylan. I’d be a quivering mess with this sort of data. There’s probably another money-making racket in this, you know. Watch this space for a self-help book for writers who can’t stop checking their stats (if there isn’t one already – digital publishing might be moving that quickly)

  11. To be honest, this system sounds like a much more accurate way of reporting on an author’s success. I only read books the old-fashioned way but when an author sold a physical book, that was it….a sale!. However, how many of us have actually read those books? I have shelves overflowing with unread books, which with this new system, would not be taken into account. Sounds better to me.
    That said, I could feel your angst watching that one reader pause just when you expect their interest to spike. Ouch! That does sound nerve-wracking. Mind you, I get excited and then disappointed, excited etc when I post on my blog. Watched stats never spike! xx Rowena

    • “Watched stats never spike” – love it!
      I prefer the new system to a one off payment once a customer has read 10% regardless of book size. It’s fair to all authors. It doesn’t stop the angst of seeing the pages trickle in, though 🙂

      • I’ve been thinking too about what you said in your other post about marketing your books. I work in markjeting and have done a lot of work with database marketing etc. It takes a lot of work to develop and maintain a database as well as doing your writing, and getting out there. MOreover, it must get annoying for the people contacted by 50 authors. You’d just feel bombarded. If everybody has a story and they all publish, where is the market? In marketing we talk about having a Unique Selling Point. You need something different to help you stand out from the crowd. My husband is a great reader because he catches the train to and from work and goes through 2 books a week. Another friend goes through the same volume but she’s injured her back and both of them are also fast readers. I might read a book a month but do read a lot of blog posts. I like something I can start and stop, which can be problematic with novels.
        Anyway, just a biot of feedback. xx Rowena

      • The point you make shows why there will never be a universally loved book. We all have different likes and dislikes, even down to how we read. It’s important for us to remember that everybody has their own way.

      • So true. My kids’ school is part of the Dymock’s Book Bank Project and every term the children get to choose a book of their choice which they get to keep. Apparently, being able to choose their own books is an important part of developing a lifelong love of reading. On Monday maths geek/guru Adam Spencer came to the school and dazzled my son and a wrote this post, which I thought you might enjoy xx Rowenahttps://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/the-journey-of-a-thousand-books-sets-sail/

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