Is Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited the right platform for you? Today, I’m looking at the pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited for self-published authors. Let’s dive in!
If you’re an author who’s self-publishing, you know that Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited has become extremely popular with soaring numbers of readers signing up as subscribers. And, increasingly, with so many books offered for free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers, it’s getting more and more difficult for non-KU authors to thrive outside of the service. And so, if there’s one question that will impact your marketing and book sales the most, it’s this: will you sell your book on Kindle Unlimited?
What’s Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited (KU) is a catalog of more than 1 million ebooks and audiobooks. Think of it like Netflix: for a small monthly fee, Kindle Unlimited subscribers gain access to a huge library of titles and audiobooks that can be read across devices as Kindle books. If you choose to work with Kindle Unlimited, you can self-publish and reach a large number of Amazon readers. Far and away, the most powerful incentive is that your book will be available to subscribers in Kindle Unlimited. However, once you sign on with KU and the KDP Select program, you won’t be able to give away or sell your book on any other platform.
– Ease and usability for writer/publishers
– Authors access a powerful network on a popular platform
– Potentially promote your title to readers through KU’s influential email list
– Readers can assess your ebook, read reviews, and preview before purchase
– Possibility to earn royalties
– Undervalues the price of an ebook
– Exclusivity means you cannot simultaneously run open publishing on other markets
– Royalties are contingent on how much money Amazon allocates to the pool for KU
– Readers can skim and/or drop your book at a whim, leaving you only a small tally of your pages read for profit
– Authors do not get paid for books that readers borrow and never read
– Amazon can change rules and vary royalty rates without warning
How do royalties work for authors on Kindle Unlimited?
Every month, Amazon releases a statement that describes the size of the previous month’s KDP Global Fund. This summer (June, 2018) the Amazon fund distributed a total of $22.6 million to authors and publishers enrolled in the Kindle Unlimited program. That month payments were made to authors at $0.0046 per page. Following this formula, book retail prices are irrelevant. Instead, Kindle Unlimited authors get paid every time a page of their book is read. If you do the math, that means that a Kindle Unlimited author whose 300-400 page book is read to completion earns just $1.38 – $1.84. Meanwhile, digital downloads of a book count as 1/100th of a sale.
For example, here is the most-recent email I received including the Fund Update:
How Book Recommendations work on Kindle Unlimited?
Kindle Unlimited sends emails containing special recommendations to KU readers. It’s essentially a daily average that measures popularity by sales. Because the KU network is a closed loop, sales on Amazon generate more sales on Amazon. So, when your book sells, it climbs the Amazon popularity list, improves ranking, gets recommended, and sells again. However, an increasing number of pages read will not generate more page reads (as they are not a factor in the Amazon recommendation/popularity algorithm.)
For all it’s value, a successful run on Kindle Unlimited will not replace your need to market your book to non-KU readers. Many do so by offering a free 5-day promotion for their book. After generating a large number of downloads (+5,000), you get nudged you up the popularity list. And downloads will increase your pages read within a few days.
So, will you publish exclusively with Kindle Unlimited? Or will you offer your book in wide release across platforms?
Whatever you choose, take the time to learn more about Kindle Unlimited, its rules, ranking system, and author royalties.