All posts by jmoellerwriter

a short thought on Kindle Unlimited

Recently, Amazon changed its terms of payment for the Kindle Unlimited subscription program. Previously, an author got paid if someone read to 10% of the borrowed book, and usually that payment was about $1.30 to $1.40 per borrow. Now Amazon has changed the pricing scheme so that the author gets paid per page actually read of the book, and estimates for the payment per page vary from $0.0025 to $0.0057 per page. Since that money comes out of fund that will be divided out by the number of pages read, we won’t know the exact number until mid-August.

$0.0025 to $0.0057 doesn’t seem like a lot, but Amazon seems to define “page” very generously. My book SOUL OF TYRANTS is about 260 pages in trade paperback, but that comes to about 900 Kindle Unlimited pages, and SOUL OF SWORDS weighs in at a whopping 1,140 Kindle Unlimited pages. Under the old payment system, I would get about $1.30 to $1.40 per borrow of SOUL OF TYRANTS, and $2 for each copy actually sold. Under the new payment system (depending on where the rate per page lands), for a borrow of SOUL OF TYRANTS I would get between $2.25 to $5.04, assuming the book is read in its entirety. I should point out that amount is actually more than what I would get from a straight sale of the book, assuming the per-page rate doesn’t drop below $0.0025. The difference is even more pronounced for SOUL OF SWORDS – at $3.99, I get $2.70 per sale, but with a borrow and a full read, I would get between $2.86 and $6.40.

So I don’t have an opinion on the new version of Kindle Unlimited until I see how it actually performs in the field, and I suspect Amazon will adjust the formula it uses to calculate page counts. That said, I do think a lot of press coverage of the change has been histrionic (at best), hyping up the “Amazon only pays half a penny a page!” angle without displaying any understanding of what is actually happening. One quote from a particular Guardian article caught my eye:

“Since the overall amount paid out to writers is intended to remain the same, there will be winners – mainly those who write longer books that are read in full.”

That’s a relief – I’ve been trying to write longer books that are read in full for almost twenty years now!



another GHOST IN THE SEAL snippet

I’ll be editing GHOST IN THE SEAL all weekend, so let’s have another snippet!

“Do you know what your error was?” said Kalgri.

Cassander sighed. “I suspect you are about to enlighten me.”

“You’re too young,” said Kalgri.

Cassander laughed, startled. “I beg your pardon?”

“Don’t be a fool,” said Kalgri. “This face might look young, but I’m not. I’m so old, and I’ve killed so many people I can’t remember them all.” She shivered, giggled, and looked at him, the tip of her tongue sliding over her lips. “Do you know what I learned? The method doesn’t matter. Only the result. Only the corpse at your feet. It doesn’t matter whether you cheated, whether you fought fairly or stabbed your enemy in the back. Only the corpse at your feet matters.” She made an exasperated sound. “You…you think like an Imperial magus.”

“That is because I am an Imperial magus,” said Cassander, amused. “Or I will be, once the Umbarian Order assumes its proper role over the entirety of the Empire.”

“You think like a magus,” said Kalgri, “so you think in terms of grand gestures, and battles and lords and crushing your enemies with spells. No. Better to pour a little poison in their glasses. Better to kill them and never let them know that you were the one who killed them…


a short excerpt from GHOST IN THE SEAL

Editing, so let’s have a short GHOST IN THE SEAL excerpt:

“Tomorrow,” said Caina. “We’ll meet at the Shahenshah’s Seat tomorrow night. Apparently Nasser had to call in quite a few favors.” 

Kylon snorted. “I’ve met the man. He likely has favors in every tavern and town from here to Anshan.”

“You can’t be a legendary master thief for a century and a half without making a few friends,” said Caina. 

“Probably not, no,” said Kylon. “Which means you need my help with something tonight.”

She raised one eyebrow. “Did you sense that in my emotions?”

“No,” said Kylon. “I figured it out by myself. You’re not the only one who can employ logic from time to time.” 

She smiled wider at that and leaned closer. “If you’re so clever, what do I want you to do?” 

A dozen different answers came to Kylon’s mind, ranging from humorous to serious…


Yet Another Argument That Self-Publishing Is Superior To Traditionally Publishing

Recently I was reading a self-published book. You could tell that it had been the writer’s first book – there were many excellent sections, but there were parts that were pretty rough in a structural sense – like, long infodumps, out of character plot twists, wholly gratuitous sex scenes, the sort of things you see in new-ish writers who haven’t quite yet found their voice. Yet there was definite potential there, and I would be willing to bet that the writer in question will continue to get better with every book. Additionally, I have also read many tradpub books that were worse than this book.

The book was the first of a series that has reached its fifth volume. The series had good reviews that got better with every volume, and a pretty good Amazon sales ranking. Like, the kind of sales ranking that comes from at least a couple thousand sales a month. It seems safe to assume that the writer did indeed improve with every book.

So what would have happened, I wonder, if this writer had decided to try and traditionally publish his book? There would have been one of three potential outcomes.

OUTCOME 1: The writer sends his books to agents, who respond by ignoring his query, or issuing form rejections after twelve to twenty-four months. The writer, discouraged, tries writing an entirely different kind of book in hopes of attracting an agent’s notice, to the same result. Eventually, the writer becomes discouraged and stops writing.

OUTCOME 2: The writer, believing there is something wrong with his book that needs fixing, decides to rewrite it from the beginning. Or he takes it to a writers’ group for workshopping. Typically, a writers’ group will have people who know even less about writing than he does, so the writer will end up with a book that’s a mess, or one that is polished to bland dullness. Discouraged, the writer gives up and stops writing.

OUTCOME 3: The writer publishes with a small-press “publisher” that is a one-person shop. The publisher goes under when the owner takes the royalty money to pay for gall bladder surgery on three of her cats or spends it on paying off her credit cards, and everything dissolves into a mess of lawsuits. Discouraged by the chaos, the writer gives up and stops writing.

Pretty depressing, huh? Up until about 2009, that would have been the likely fate of our writer’s first book. But now, of course, there are different options. Such as what actually happened:

THE ACTUAL OUTCOME: The writer self-published his book. A few people read it, and some like it, some don’t. The writer, heartened by this reaction (and the little bit of money from the book sales), writes a sequel, and then another one. He gets better with every book, and grows his audience with each volume. That first book turns into an ongoing series, a series that literally would not have existed in any of the previous three scenarios.

Definitely a better outcome!

As for the first book…it doesn’t have to be perfect. Somewhere there was an audience for it, and thanks to self-publishing, the book found its audience, something that would have never happened with traditional publishing.


a suggested reading order for the FROSTBORN series

Here is a suggested reading order for the FROSTBORN books and short stories (so far).  The short stories are all prequels of one kind or another, and usually they’re the origin stories for Ridmark’s companions. That said, if you wanted to read all the novels and short stories in one go, I think this would be the best order:



Kindle Unlimited and DEMONSOULED, Part I – a 56% successful experiment

(Today I’m going to ramble a bit about the business of self-publishing. Feel free to skip if it’s not a topic of interest!)

Recently, I decided to do an experiment with the DEMONSOULED series and Kindle Unlimited. DEMONSOULED will be in Kindle Unlimited for May, June, and most of July.

Kindle Unlimited (KU), if you haven’t heard of it, is basically Amazon’s version of Netflix for ebooks. Basically, you pay $9.99 a month in the US and £7.99 in the UK, and you can read all the ebooks you want from Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited catalog. For readers, especially the sort of power readers who can get through multiple books a day, this is a pretty good deal.

For writers, this can be a variable deal. Basically, once 10% of a borrowed book has been read, the writer receives a payment. The payment comes out of a fund of money Amazon sets aside each month for KU, which is then divided by the number of borrows total across Amazon for the month. The fund is typically set at $3 million, so the payment per borrow will be $3 million divided by the total number of borrows. So far, this has been about $1 to $2 per borrow. That said, Amazon seems to have stabilized the rate at around $1.30 per borrow by adding additional money to the fund every month, since (so far) Amazon seems unwilling to allow the borrow rate to drop below $1.30. It looks the rate for May came to about $1.34.

(ADDENDUM: The day I typed this, 6/15/2015, Amazon changed the payment structure for KU starting in July. It looks like instead of paying at 10%, KU will now pay roughly $0.01 for every page a reader actually reads. So July’s post will have to reflect that, though it doesn’t apply to May or to June.)

There’s a catch, though – to be in KU, a book has to be in Amazon’s Kindle Select program, which confers a number of benefits (you can set a book to free for 5 days every 90 days), but a book can only be on Amazon – no Barnes & Noble, no Kobo, no iBookstore, no Google Play, no Scribd, nothing. It has to be only in Amazon.

This wasn’t something I was willing to do. On any given month, about 75% to 80% of my sales are on Amazon, which means to do KU, I would have had to walk away from about 25% of my monthly book sales. I wasn’t willing to do that with my novels or technical books.

That said, I’ve written a lot of books – over forty novels and a bunch of shorter things, for a total of over 100 different ebooks available. So I have some room to experiment. I’ve also noticed that some writers do really, really well off Kindle Unlimited. Granted, a lot of these writers seem to write romance novels where the female protagonist is in a love triangle with a vampire and a werewolf (or, depending on genre, a werebear or weredragon), or in a love triangle with a 21st century billionaire and a 12th century Scottish lord, and I don’t write books like that. That’s not to knock romance books – I simply don’t write them. (I usually get four or five books into a series before the protagonist gets a love interest.) So I was curious whether KU only worked for romance writers, or if it would work for fantasy writers as well.

MASK OF SWORDS was what finally prompted me to try the experiment. That book didn’t sell terribly well compared to my other books. Typically, a new GHOSTS novel or a new FROSTBORN book will clear 1,000 copies its first month, and it took MASK OF SWORDS six months to get that far. I would like to do two other MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED books, but pausing on FROSTBORN and THE GHOSTS to write them would take a hit to my book sales.

So what to do? Perhaps if I put the first seven DEMONSOULED books into Kindle Unlimited, I could promote them and get more readers into the DEMONSOULED series, and then I could finish MASK OF THE DEMONSOULED.

I did some math, and between the seven books in the DEMONSOULED series, I typically sold about 100 a month on all the non-Amazon ebook platforms – Barnes  & Noble, Kobo, iBookstore, Google Play, and Smashwords. Since KU pays about $1.30 a borrow, and a DEMONSOULED novel generally nets between $2 and $2.65 per sold copy, I would need to have about 200 borrows per month to cover the removal of the DEMONSOULED series from the other platforms.

So with that in mind, how did DEMONSOULED do in Kindle Unlimited in May?

In May, the DEMONSOULED series had 112 borrows, and sold 281 full copies. So if my goal was 200 borrows to replace the 100 sales DEMONSOULED would have had on all other platforms, the experiment was 56% successful.

Tune in next month for a discussion of June’s borrows – I tried some new marketing tactics in June, and I think it shall have some interesting results.



GHOST IN THE SEAL is a lot like FROSTBORN: THE DARK WARDEN, in that it’s very difficult to quote from the book because the entire book is a giant spoiler! But this little excerpt should be spoiler-free:

Caina turned towards the street and then hesitated.


“Yes?” he said.

“Thank you.”

He nodded, and they walked in silence toward the Anshani Quarter. Kylon would find a way to protect her, he vowed. He would find a way to save Caina’s life.

A dark voice in the back of his head pointed out that he had vowed to save his sister and his wife, and both women were now dead because of his failures.

Kylon shoved aside the thought and kept walking.