Kindle Unlimited: A Blessing or a Curse?

 

Kindle Unlimited post image

As the publication of my first novel draws near, I thought I would have a  look at Amazon’s Kindle Unlimited. I’ve read a lot of news articles and blogs concerning the pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited, so I thought I would summarise my findings in order to help other new indie authors decide whether or not it’s in their best interests to use it. Is it a blessing, or is it simply something that’s a decent marketing tool for established authors?

On Amazon’s help pages it states: If you have a book enrolled in KDP Select, it will automatically be enrolled in Kindle Unlimited. It will also remain enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library, which is currently available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., UK, Germany, France, and Japan.

Wow! All that exposure looks good enough to eat. But how does it digest? At first glance, it seems that more readers will get access to your books and you will still get royalties. Win-win. Sign me up, quick! But hold on a minute. Here’s something to consider before you sign your book away! Although the exposure may well be useful, your earnings might be considerably lower than the normal royalty rates of 35% and 70% (dependent on the price you set your book at).

Why?

Because once a reader has read 10% or more of your book, you will receive a share of the KDP Select Global Fund. This fund is affected by how many authors decide to enroll in Kindle Unlimited – the more authors, the smaller the share of the fund is. It’s a bit like winning the lottery, and then realising that a million others have also bought a winning ticket. Amazon monitor the fund and announce each month how much is available. The number of times readers read more than 10% of your books also affects how much of the fund you receive. On the plus side though, both bought and borrowed books are included, so if your book does prove popular, you will get a bigger share, even if the number of authors enrolling increases.

After reading the help pages in depth, and what other authors have had to say about it, I don’t see how Kindle Unlimited can be of any benefit to new indie authors. It just doesn’t seem to be a viable option for new indie authors who are selling and marketing their first, or even second or third book. If you are not well known, there is less chance of being seen, bought or borrowed among the many established authors using Kindle Unlimited.

Not looking very good for someone like me, then, is it? Not when I consider the small amount of exposure I might get from signing up against the unreliability of earning from the Select Fund.It seems to me that it would be better to write a quality book, have it professionally edited and then try to sell it at a reasonable price.

What do you think? Any new Indie authors out there who have used Kindle Unlimited to good effect? Am I right or wrong to dismiss it?

As always, I would love to hear from you.

All the best

Mark

 

27 thoughts on “Kindle Unlimited: A Blessing or a Curse?

  1. An interesting and timely article – thank you, Mark. I recently withdrew all my titles from Select, after great success with the programme last year. The introduction of Kindle Unlimited has adversely affected many authors, and some well-known names, such as Joe Konrath, have pulled out. Removal from Select means an author is free to sell his/her books via a website, Google Play, Apple, Barnes and Noble, etc. I’ll see how things go, but for now Select is in the past for me.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to comment on this post, Maggie. I think Kindle Unlimited should perhaps be re-titled ‘Kindle Limited’. It seems such a shame that Amazon have spoiled a reasonably good idea.

      Thanks again,

      Mark

  2. My thoughts exactly! I just launched my debut fantasy novel a week ago, and chose not to go the exclusive route. Though there are a few alleged benefits to visibility, the hard data is lacking and it didnt make sense to me to limit my overall exposure or take low payouts for borrows. Who knows, maybe iBooks will turn out to be my biggest platform! (Uh, yeah, not happening yet, lol).

    • Thank you for your comment, Megan. From my own research, Kindle Unlimited seems far too restrictive to be of any real benefit. Good luck with your novel, I hope all goes well with it.
      All the best.
      Mark.

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  3. Thank you for sharing with others the fruits of your research, Mark; your article has given me a lot of food for thought. Unlike you, I haven’t studied the relevant bumf, and, even if I had, I might not have grasped the salient points and been able to analyse them as well as you have done. But I will definitely re-think my strategy; thanks again.

    • Thank you for the comment Anna.
      There are lot of opinions about Kindle Unlimited at the moment as well as a lot of bumf to read on Amazon itself.
      I wanted to examine everything before publication to better understand it, and I’m glad you found this post useful.

      All the best,

      Mark.

  4. I can only speak from the POV of a reader. The books I buy for my Kindle are usually not very expensive. So theoretically I could buy many books / month until I exceed the monthly fee of Kindle Unlimited. Problem is, I can never actually read all these books. When Kindle Unlimited started a few months ago in Germany I checked some of the books from my wish list that had a high price, and none of them were available.
    No Kindle Unlimited for me 🙂

    • Thanks for the comment Matt.
      It’s interesting to get the perspective of someone from a readers point of view only.
      I had noticed whilst doing my research that it tended to be cheaper books that
      were available with Kindle Unlimited.

      Regards,

      Mark.

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  7. I have two books enrolled in KDP Unlimited. So far I have not seen any real benefit from having them enrolled there. There are several other promotion sites (i.e. promo cave, wattpad) which will promote your book for free without having to involve Amazon. I think there will be even more opportunities for indie authors as the independent publishing storm continues to rage.

    • Hi Rodger,

      Thank you for leaving a comment. I have heard of Wattpad, but not Promocave so will go and take a look at what is offered there.
      I agree that there will be a growing number of resources for indie authors and maybe one day Amazon won’t have the monopoly.

      Regards,

      Mark

  8. To be honest, I’ve had more success using KDP Select than not. It’s different for everyone, but the free days do help in getting the books out there and if they’re reviewed, they get an extra push from Amazon forbeing verified purchases. Getting the copies out and verified purchase reviews are difficult to get, but they’re just as tough without the Select benefits.

    As far as Kindle Unlimited hurting sales, I can understand why, but I also look at the loans as impulse buys. If the reader picks it up and reads, great. If not, then they wasted a loan and I’m no worse off. I prefer readers that will read and want to check out my other books instead of one time impulse buys. I think it’s really up to our personal desires on how to look at it and accept the pros and cons.

    • Hi CP,

      Thanks for giving a balanced view on the debate.
      You’re absolutely right to point out that different people will get different things from Kindle Unlimited.
      I’m still unsure if I’ll use it or not.

      Best wishes,

      Mark

      • You’re welcome. It’s one of the toughest decisions to make. It’d be so much easier if it was a clear cut “Yes, it works”or “No, it doesn’t” instead of the mixed experiences. The plus side is we can opt out after 90 days if it doesn’t help.

        Good luck! Hope whichever you decide works out for you. 🙂

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  10. Hi, Mark. I just saw your link to this article on Twitter today, so I hope you don’t mind a late comment. I indie published my mystery novel on February 4th, and I opted for Kindle Select (and Kindle Unlimited, by default). I just received my first royalty payments at the end of April, but I don’t believe any of that came from the KU program. It’s all kind of cloudy, but I did see one big benefit. On April 10th I ran a $0.99 promotion at the same time I listed on two popular book promo blogs. Being in Kindle Select allows you to retain a higher royalty even if your price drops below their required limit for that royalty percentage. Amazon lists such deals on their site as well, I believe. Sales were awesome that weekend – my book’s ranking reached the high 200’s overall and spent time on three bestseller lists (it’s still on two of them, five weeks later). And since my royalty stayed at the higher level, I obviously benefited. As for KU units – I heard somewhere they affect your overall ranking. So even if KU readers don’t even open the book, a higher ranking makes your book more visible. Someone correct me if I’m wrong about that.
    I’ve decided to stick with Kindle Select for now. I do plan to withdraw at some point, however, to allow my book to be available in more outlets.

    • Hi Allison,

      Thank you for your comment. Your experiences of KU have been the most positive I’ve read. It’s interesting to see that you can retain the higher royalty even when a book price is below the threshold.
      After reading some more negative experiences here and on Twitter it’s good to have a balanced mix and see that KU can be of benefit to some authors.

      All the best with your novel,

      Mark.

  11. It’s frustrating to me that, when people talk about Kindle Unlimited, it seems to be under the assumption that they’re the only e-book subscription model available.

    It’s worth pointing out that both Scribd and Oyster started their subscription services LONG before Amazon did. I’m on both (through Smashwords), and I must say I’ve been doing very well on Scribd (Oyster, not so much).

    If your book is on the expensive side, you get more money out of Scribd than Kindle Unlimited – 0.6% of list when someone reads 10% of your book, which increases to 60% of list when they get to 30%.

    Scribd is also available worldwide, as opposed to Amazon, which is only available in certain countries, and they don’t require exclusivity.

    Plus, if you’re on Smashwords in the first place, you get to make use of coupon codes, which in my opinion is the single best feature of the platform! And you can market those coupon codes using services like Book Coupon News (bookcouponnews.blogspot.com).

    In short, I am very much against Kindle Unlimited, for the single reason that it requires exclusivity. Making your book exclusive at Amazon denies readers on other platforms access to your book – particularly the significant number of readers who happen to live in a country where Amazon doesn’t have a physical presence, which is a lot of countries!

    That’s akin to censorship, in my mind, and censorship is something that I am against in any way, shape or form.

    If Kindle Unlimited didn’t require exclusivity, then sure, why not, *I* would enrol. For as long as it does, though, there’s just no way I would ever consider it.

    • Hi Graham,
      Thank you for taking the time to comment.
      I’m currently looking into how to get the most out of Smashwords – including the coupons, so thank you for the information about them.
      I agree with you about the exclusivity. Not everyone has a Kindle or like you say, Amazon in their country.
      I’m going to continue using KDP but in a way that allows me to reach as many people as possible without the censorship of KU.

      All the best with you books,

      Mark.

      • Thank you.

        About KDP in general: Yes, my books ARE all in KDP. You have to publish there seperately if you go through Smashwords for everything else, since Smashwords doesn’t ship to Amazon (unless you’re one of their highest earners). It’s got to do with the fact that KDP doesn’t have an API that allows distributors to bulk-upload books, or something.

        And that’s another thing, come ot think of it. I still see many authors in my writing groups, especially newer authors, who don’t know that you can publish your books to KDP without having to enrol in KDP Select. They think it’s an “all-or-nothing” scenario, when it’s not.

        Amazon could do a better job to making that clearer, IMO… which they probably won’t, because it’s their best interest for authors to enrol in Select. 🙁

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