How Much Do KDP Select Borrows Pay?
With the introduction of Kindle Unlimited (read more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here), many authors are wondering how much Amazon will pay for each qualifying download (i.e. where the customer passes the 10% mark).
Although that’s a complicated question (since customers can download several books through Kindle Unlimited, whereas Amazon Prime customers were only able to read one free KDP Select book per month), we do have data for KDP Select going back to the launch of the program in December 2011.
So I went through my KDP monthly royalty reports for 2011, 2012, 2013, and thru June of 2014 to tabulate the KOLL per-borrow payments by month.
You can see this displayed graphically above. Below, you will find the data in a table.
Notes regarding KDP Select with Amazon Prime:
- The lowest KOLL payments were December, 2011 ($1.70) and January, 2012 ($1.60), when KDP Select was first introduced.
- The lowest KOLL payment was $1.60 (December, 2011) and the highest was $2.51 (October, 2013).
- The most recent KOLL payment was $2.24 (June, 2014).
- Most months, KOLL payments were $2 and a little change.
- The average KOLL payment since December, 2011 has been $2.15.
- The average in 2012 was $2.10, in 2013 it was $2.23, and so far in 2014 it has been $2.15.
Notes regarding Kindle Unlimited:
- If it’s like the beginning of KDP Select, the first two months of Kindle Unlimited will have lower KOLL payments than in subsequent months. (But perhaps it will be different.)
- Kindle Unlimited offers unlimited downloads, whereas Amazon Prime only permitted one free borrow. This may cause the Kindle Unlimited data to be considerably different from prior KDP Select data.
- Amazon has already added $800,000 to the KOLL Global Fund for July, 2014 (and Kindle Unlimited was only introduced with two weeks left in the month), bringing the total fund to $2,000,000 for July. Will this be enough to maintain per-borrow payments of about $2? That’s the million-dollar question.
- Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.
- Update: More results: Kindle Unlimited paid $1.54 and $1.52 in August and September, 2014, respectively.
- Update: In October, 2014, Kindle Unlimited payments dropped down to $1.33.
Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers
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Reading this, I just realized something about that 10% payment thing. Larger books will have a harder time earning money from this program. A person can reach 10% on a novella or short story a lot easier than a full-length novel before they decide to quit. I know some readers who check out the first few pages of a book to figure out if it’s a ‘read now’ or ‘read later’. Doing that with something like a poetry book will set off the 10% payment, but you probably wouldn’t get that far with a novel.
My point here is that we might see an influx of shorter KDP works to increase chances of getting those $2 royalties.
That’s possible. For those customers who browse on Amazon and check the Look Inside, short books won’t gain a thing. It’s only for customers downloading short books and then checking them out where they may pass 10% while still evaluating.
We know from freebies that if customers don’t like the sample, they may post bad reviews. We also have data that suggests that customers prefer longer books.
I can see many authors putting out short works because it’s easy, but short books are a hard sell. Plus, KU customers will want a good value. A bunch of short stories for $9.99 won’t satisfy most readers.
Forgot about the ‘Look Inside’, but I don’t run into many people who use that. I wonder if it’ll be used even less when you can read a blurb, grab for free, and toss away if you don’t like it. Kind of like only reading a movie description and not checking out the trailer.
I was hearing that customers are leaning toward shorter books. Though it might have been that authors were writing shorter books to get things out quicker and handle a lowering of public attention span. As for the bad reviews, that is a definite risk, but I don’t think people who purposely put out unedited books for a quick buck are concerned. Maybe. It’s really a mentality that I have yet to understand.
Putting out some novellas and full-length novels might be a good practice. It shows variety and people seeing a new author might want something short to get a feel for them.
There is a small trend toward flash fiction (I like the sound of commuter fiction better for marketing), and with KU readers may be more willing to try a short sample from a new author. But if short fiction does take off and authors become aware of this, just imagine how many short books authors will put out in no time if they think it can sell. There would be a lot of competition in no time. As you’re an established author, you have an advantage if you try some shorter works. Newbie authors hoping to get in on the short story sales may have a much harder time breaking through.
True. My fear is more about the quality of those short works. Think about how people were complaining about the low quality of indie authors before.
I don’t think that will change. Poor quality falls out of the way quickly, customers learn to screen books, and people will always complain about the books at the bottom.
On my way!! 😀
Where to? 🙂
Thanks for all the data. I was on the fence at first, but now I’m in the process of pulling my novel from the other channels and will join KU. A brief cursory look didn’t reveal much in the way of the Big 5 traditional publishers. I wonder if this will end up being a channel for smaller presses and indies.
Personally, I would rather see firsthand what KU is like, then reconsider later if necessary, than be on the other side of the fence in the beginning. Not an easy choice, though. I hope it works out for you. 🙂
Very interesting! Do you know if all Amazon books, only Amazon Select books, or only a smaller number of Amazon books are included in Unlimited? If it’s all Select, that would explain for the sharp increase I’ve seen lately in borrows.
600,000 books are participating in Kindle Unlimited. This includes all 500,000 KDP Select books plus 100,000 more (like Harry Potter).
Thanks for all your work on this Chris! Very helpful to the Indie and hybrid authors. Seems like this will really hurt the other sellers since the programs requires exclusivity. Jim
It may. Amazon plays this exclusivity card effectively.