Kindle Unlimited Myths

Kindle Myths


There are many myths about KDP Select floating around.

We now have several months of data, including data released directly from KDP.

In some cases, these facts debunk popular myths.

Let me begin by answering a question that may be on many authors’ minds, and then I’ll get to the myths vs. facts about Kindle Unlimited.


Kindle Unlimited paid $1.43 per download read to 10% in December, 2014.

This brings me to the first myth.


Actually, it’s gone up a little the past two months.

In October, 2014, it was $1.33. It climbed up to $1.39 in November, 2014, and again to $1.43 in December, 2014.

Despite the extra holiday traffic in December—especially, the after-Christmas traffic with people who received new Kindles—the Kindle Unlimited payments went up.

I think that’s a great sign.


Amazon released data today (January 15, 2015) that contradicts this myth.

According to Amazon’s announcement, the renewal rate for KDP Select has remained above 95% each month in 2014.

Have you heard that 25%, 50%, or even 70% of KDP Select authors are dropping out of Select? Have you heard that soon there won’t be any good books to read in Kindle Unlimited? Wrong!

Fewer than 5% are dropping out.

This also shows that the vast majority of KDP Select authors are content (at least) with the KOLL payments.

At least, many feel that the benefits of staying in outweigh the cons of leaving, or continue to wait one more month to see which way things are headed.

With another month of the KOLL payments increasing, they’re headed in a positive direction.


In an announcement released by Amazon today (January 15, 2015):

  • KDP Select authors have seen faster “a la carte sales growth” than both KDP overall and Kindle overall during the five full months of Kindle Unlimited.
  • The total royalties paid to KDP Select authors for the full five months of Kindle Unlimited “more than doubled” in comparison to the same data from 2013.

No wonder there is a 95% renewal rate.

For every author who is losing money with Kindle Unlimited, there are several others whose books are thriving in the program.


This myth comes from the notion that 99-cent e-books earn the same Kindle Unlimited royalty as $9.99 e-books. In fact, for a 99-cent e-book, the KOLL payment actually exceeds the list price. Imagine earning $1.43 for a 99-cent book, instead of the usual 34 cents.

The worry is that more authors will put out less effort, writing shorter and shorter books.

But wait! That doesn’t mean that Kindle Unlimited subscribers are suddenly going to start preferring e-books that reflect less effort! Most authors who write shorter e-books will discover that the shorts market isn’t easy to crack.

Here’s the FACT:

According to Amazon’s announcement today, “total earnings on titles priced $2.99 or greater are growing faster than the overall average. The same is true for titles 150+ pages in length.”

Aha! Kindle Unlimited subscribers aren’t diving down for shorter e-books after all. They’re looking for a good value, just as might be expected.

A related worry is that authors of $2.99 and higher e-books will put out of the program, so all that will be left are shorter e-books.

But here’s another FACT: There is a 95% renewal rate. With KDP Select authors seeing the fastest Kindle growth, many will be staying in the program.


Back in the days where there was only Prime, the KDP Global Select Fund was around $1,000,000.

This jumped up to a few million when Kindle Unlimited came out.

In December, 2014, the KDP Global Select Fund started at $3,000,000.

Amazon added another $4,250,000 on top of this.

This brings the December, 2014 KDP Global Select Fund up to $7,250,000.

They more than doubled the three-million dollar starting value.

That’s a lot of money.

Amazon paid a huge sum of money, much more than originally announced.

Amazon did this to raise the KOLL payments up to $1.43 from November.

They could easily have dropped it down to the $1.20’s, not much lower than it had been, and this small difference would have saved Amazon a very large sum of money.

To me, this shows that Amazon wants to retain the authors who’ve remained in KDP Select, by trying to prevent the KOLL payments from dropping too low.


I know, Amazon is first and foremost a business. The number one priority is profit, right?

But the customer is paramount toward long-term profit, and Amazon has proven itself to be focused more on long-term gains than short-term gains (sometimes to the dismay of its investors).

Amazon has also demonstrated itself to be strongly oriented toward customer satisfaction.

Amazon rolled out its red carpet to indie authors who were being rejected time and again. Amazon has thrived from this decision, and continues to do so.

Amazon pays upwards of 70% royalties to indie authors for sales.

Kindle Unlimited is benefiting indie authors. KDP Select authors are seeing faster growth than non-Select Kindle authors. Amazon released data to support this today.

In Amazon’s announcement today, they specifically mentioned great feedback that they have received from authors, and that they are considering this feedback and how to continue to improve Kindle Unlimited for both authors and readers.

Amazon needs the support of both authors and readers to make Kindle Unlimited work.

Amazon just poured $7.25 million into the KDP Global Select Fund for December to raise the KOLL payments to $1.43 per borrow. That’s a big investment in the program.


If your book is priced $2.99 or higher, your royalty is $2 or more (unless you have a huge delivery fee).

Some argue that if a customer borrows your book through Kindle Unlimited and you earn, say, $1.43, you’re losing money because a sale pays $2 or more.

But here’s the thing: The customer who borrowed the book probably wouldn’t have bought the book.

I’m a Kindle Unlimited subscriber myself. In the past month, I turned down several books that I was strongly considering, but which weren’t in Kindle Unlimited. If they had been in Kindle Unlimited, I would have borrowed them. But they weren’t and I passed.

There are now three main markets:

  • Customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited who buy Kindle e-books.
  • Customers who subscribe to Kindle Unlimited who borrow Kindle e-books.
  • Customers who buy non-Kindle e-books.

KDP Select authors reach two of these markets.

The Kindle Unlimited market is a huge potential asset for indie authors. Customers might be willing to try a book they normally wouldn’t have read because they incur no additional cost to take a chance on that book.


The KOLL payments were higher when it was only Amazon Prime. The KOLL payment was usually $2 or a little more.

But Amazon Prime customers can only borrow one free book per month.

This means that most books didn’t receive many borrows when it was only Prime.

Kindle Unlimited is paying about 30% less, presently, than in the days of only Amazon Prime.

But there are many, many more borrows through Kindle Unlimited than there ever were through Amazon Prime.

Many KDP Select books are benefiting from these additional borrows. Not everyone, of course.

But according to Amazon’s announcement today, KDP Select authors are seeing the fastest growth, and most authors are content or happy enough to renew their enrollment.


Amazon just put $7.25 million into the KDP Select Global Fund for December, 2014.

Yet the KOLL payment was $1.43 per download read to 10%.

That’s a very large customer base. There are millions of downloads read to 10% each month.

The KDP Select Global Fund continues to rise, a sign of a growing customer base.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

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46 comments on “Kindle Unlimited Myths

  1. “But here’s the thing: The customer who borrowed the book probably wouldn’t have bought the book.”

    That’s what I was hoping to see because I rarely see it mentioned. Honestly, I’ve seen a lot of authors crying foul on KU since the year began. Some have even tried to leave Amazon completely because they feel like they’re being taken advantage of. I think the landscape changed and sales aren’t as numerous as they once were, so people are looking for something to blame. Sure, there might be some people who would have bought the book instead borrowed it, but I think that would be a minority. After all, how many people jump at books during a free period and claim that the price makes it worth the risk?

  2. Very detailed report. Thank you for sharing this. Being new to KDP Select and Kindle Unlimited, I have no idea. This helps a ton! Sharing on Twitter!

  3. Thanks for this post. I’ve been researching various aspects of independent publishing — including Kindle Unlimited. Mostly, I’ve come across negative views of it. But I like that you’ve included data to back up your myth-busting. Thanks!

  4. As someone who is preparing to publish their first novel (full-length, 1st February) this is very useful information. Its great to get the facts – thank you.

  5. Thank you for this post! I have considered joining KDP Select for a while, but I’ve also read so many remarks, many negative, that I’ve hesitated. Your post has convinced me to go for it with one of my books. I’m hoping that if readers ‘borrow’ that book, they’ll want to go on and buy/read my other books.

  6. Thank you so much for posting this. I am a happy KDP author. My only wish is that I could advertise/sell my book on other sites as well. Then again, I just may not be correctly understanding the terms and conditions. I will keep my novel in KDP, and at some point hope to have them also publish it in print form. (Available for free and $.99) Mending Fences by Aleta Kay

    • That’s correct, and that’s the one drawback and factor that makes enrolling a tough decision. It’s hard to get data for how well an e-book would do at other venues, while we now have some idea of the potential of Kindle Unlimited. I think this will work in Amazon’s favor, in general, with authors making this big decision.

      Thank you for sharing your experience and for the reblog. Good luck with your book. 🙂

  7. A breath of fresh air, Chris. Sanity and numbers. Bookmarked, as usual: I’m getting very close to publishing (first novel), and your data are always relevant and timely.

    It sounds like you would recommend KDP and KU over not using them, and distributing more widely. Is that a fair conclusion for now? I intend to start that way – and see what happens from there.

    • Yes, that’s what I would do, and for a few more reasons, also. For one, it’s much easier to opt out of Select and expand your market than it is to get back in. (Though you do have to uncheck the auto-renewal box and you do have to wait for the 90-day enrollment period to end.) With some of the other retailers, when you unpublish, there can sometimes be a lengthy delay for the product page to reflect the lack of availability. This can pose a problem getting back into Select, since Amazon tends to find the other listing and notify the author that the other version needs to be unpublished by such and such date. If I were to try one first (i.e. KDP Select or publishing everywhere), that’s a possible hassle I’d prefer to avoid.

      Another factor is that we have more data regarding the potential benefits of KDP Select, and less data regarding the potential benefits of publishing elsewhere. What data I do see appears to be positive enough to give KDP Select a shot, if I were deciding.

      New authors hope to lure Kindle Unlimited customers to try their books. Since they incur no additional expense to read Kindle Unlimited books, this removes some of the risk of trying something new (though there is still the investment of time and the issue of standing out in the crowd). Not every book will benefit from this, but the potential brings hope.

      It’s also convenient to publish with Kindle first. Then if you start leaning toward opting out, you can use part of that 90 days to learn how to format your book properly for other platforms. If you want to publish everywhere in the beginning, you have more work to do up front. This 90-day waiting period while you decide can be handy.

      Good luck with your book. 🙂

  8. Hi! Good info. I’m a KDP author, just signed up in March. I know they figure out the fund amount on the 15th of every month, but when do we see the borrows reflected in the royalty report? I have had plenty of borrows, but these have not been added into my royalty amount for March. Anyone know the date I’ll see the figures? Thanks.

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