15 Questions & Answers about the new Kindle Unlimited policy effective July 1

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


Kindle Unlimited is changing its policy effective July 1, 2015.

Books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited will now be paid by the number of pages read.

Following are 15 questions and answers about this policy change with Kindle Unlimited.

(Of course, this change only affects borrows through Kindle Unlimited. Ordinary sales are unaffected.)

1 How will this change affect Kindle Unlimited readers?

The change doesn’t directly impact readers, but there may be indirect effects.

  • Customers shouldn’t feel guilty about borrowing too many books. Especially, if you read short books or children’s books, it’s easy to feel guilty about reading one or more books a day. This is no longer an issue. Read as many books as you want. Amazon isn’t losing money if you read 30+ books a month on your $9.99 subscription, and all the authors will get paid based on how many pages you read.
  • The other possible impact depends on which books, if any, enter or exit the Kindle Unlimited library. Some authors of shorter books may pull their books out. Some authors of longer books may put theirs back in. There probably won’t be too much change in the first few months. Historically, books in KDP Select have had a 95% renewal rate, so if much more than 5% of the books drop out, that would be a big surprise. What’s more likely is that authors will wait a few months to see how the new program goes.

2 How will Amazon determine how many pages are read?

Amazon will use a KENPC (Kindle edition normalized page count), which will probably differ from the page count listed on the product page.

You won’t know what your book’s KENPC is until July 1. Then you can find it on the Promote and Advertise page from your Bookshelf.

Amazon will count pages read from your book’s start reading location. (Pages that are reread will only count the first time they are read.)

3 Will longer books have an advantage?

Longer books have more pages, so if a customer reads the whole book, it will pay a higher royalty than a short book.

However, it doesn’t really matter whether you write ten 50-page books or one 500-page book. Once a customer reads all of it, you get paid for the same 500 pages.

What Amazon has really done is remove the advantage that some short books used to have.

If authors of short books compare their new royalties to their old royalties, they are likely to see a significant drop.

However, that’s in the past. The current program treats both short and long books on a more equal footing, rather than giving short books a significant advantage.

4 Will illustrated children’s books and photography books have a disadvantage?

Images will count toward a book’s KENPC, so this should help books that have illustrations, photographs, and charts.

How many words one image will be worth is unknown at this point.

5 Which books will do best in the new Kindle Unlimited program?

What really matters most is content engagement.

That is, does the writing compel most readers to continue reading to the end, and then to want to read more of your books after that?

It doesn’t matter how long the book is. Whether you write four 50-page books or one 200-page book, you get paid the same so long as readers read all of the pages.

Rewarding content engagement is a good thing, surely.

6 How will Kindle Unlimited borrows be reported?

You’ll be able to see the number of pages read in your report.

That’s cool. That’s helpful data that we’ve never had before. Knowing how many pages your customers are reading can help you assess how engaging your content is.

A few authors who are on the fence about this policy change are staying in it initially just for this new data.

Will you be able to see both the number of books borrowed and the number of pages read? I hope so, but this is unknown at this point. (Feel free to place a request with KDP.)

7 What if the customer doesn’t finish your book in one month?

Evidently, you’ll get paid for the pages read each month (even if the customer temporarily stops reading your book and begins reading another, finishing your book later).

There is a neat effect here. Suppose you have a 300-page book. Starting in July, every month 100 customers begin reading your book, but read at a rate of 50 pages per month.

You’ll get paid for 5000 pages read in July, 10,000 pages read in August, 15,000 pages read in September, 20,000 pages read in October, 25,000 pages read in November, 30,000 pages read in December, and 30,000 pages read every month after that.

(Obviously, it’s not realistic that the same number of customers will borrow your book each month and all read at the same rate. It also assumes that every customer will read your complete book.)

But this shows the potential for growth that longer books have.

8 Is Amazon’s example of how the royalties will work realistic?

You can find the example here.

In the example, Amazon assumes a $10,000,000 payout and 100,000,000 pages read.

The payout may be closer to $11,000,000. That part seems reasonable, but was reduced to $10,000,000 to get round numbers.

The 100,000,000 pages read is probably not realistic. With that figure, Amazon would pay about 10 cents per page read.

Amazon probably chose these numbers so they could use nice round numbers in the example, not because it was realistic.

When KDP Select was first announced back in December, 2011, Amazon used a $5 royalty in their example, but in the first month KOLL paid less than $2. So it’s not uncommon for Amazon to overestimate in their example. (It probably has good marketing value for them, too.)

9 How will KDP Select All-Star bonuses be paid beginning July 1, 2015?

The top books and top authors will be awarded based on the total number of pages read through Kindle Unlimited, based on the KENPC (see Question 2).

10 Does the 10% mark matter any more?


11 What about an omnibus or boxed set?

It used to make sense to not include the boxed set in KDP Select because you make more money when customers borrow them individually. (The boxed set must still be exclusive to Amazon if any of the individual volumes are in Select.)

Now it virtually doesn’t matter. If customers read the whole story, you get paid the same whether they borrow the boxed set or the individual volumes.

12 Will authors start padding their stories to make them longer?

Not if they’re smart!

Will people read pages just because they’re there? (And even if they do, will they want to read your next book?)

Pages are more likely to be read if they’re engaging.

If you can add engaging content, well, that’s not quite padding, is it?

13 Should you write short books or long books?

You should write (A) what’s most likely to sell, (B) what’s most likely to get read, and (C) what you’re a good fit to write.

If you write shorter books, you get paid less per book than if you write longer books, but through Kindle Unlimited, either way, it’s how many pages get read that really matters.

If you write a long book, but little of it gets read, those extra pages don’t help.

If you write a short book that gets fully read quite often, the pages will add up.

What length is more likely to sell and then more likely to engage the customer varies widely depending on the genre, category, and specific target audience.

There is no single size that optimizes success across the board. (Some lengths are also much harder to write well than others.)

14 How much will books make in Kindle Unlimited?

That’s the ten million dollar question! Nobody knows.

Amazon paid $10,800,000 in May, 2015, which led to a KOLL payment of $1.35 per book.

When a Kindle Unlimited customer borrows a book, how many pages does that customer read on average?

That’s the real question. If most of your Kindle Unlimited customers read more pages than that, you’ll probably see an improved per-book royalty. If most of your Kindle Unlimited customers read fewer pages than that, you’ll probably see a diminished per-book royalty.

And if your book is 5 pages long, you’re probably not going to be a happy camper no matter what.

15 Should you drop out of KDP Select?

Amazon will pay out more than $100 million dollars in royalties for KDP Select borrows (both Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited combined) in 2015.

That’s a huge share of the 2015 e-book market. If you walk out of KDP Select, your book is missing out on this market.

But if you stay in KDP Select, your book is missing out on the Nook, Kobo, Apple, Smashwords, etc. market.

Which market is better for your book? Good question! It varies from one book to another.

Some authors try out KDP Select for 90 days. If unhappy, they opt out. Occasionally that pays off; sometimes it ends up being worse; sometimes it doesn’t make much difference.

The only way to know is to try.

But if you opt out of KDP Select, your sales rank at Amazon may slide (as some authors have experienced) because those KDP Select borrows will no longer help. (Presently, you have more help than you realize, since you get a bump in rank when customers borrow your book but don’t reach the 10% mark.)

Write happy, be happy. πŸ™‚

Chris McMullen

CopyrightΒ Β© 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
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  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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23 comments on “15 Questions & Answers about the new Kindle Unlimited policy effective July 1

  1. Great answers, thanks! I only have a short story in there, so it’s not a huge deal to me, but it may affect future releases. Good to know what’s happening.

    And I really do hope this has a positive effect on what’s being released by authors. If keeping readers engaged through the whole book is now more important than just getting them to 10%, maybe we’ll see more emphasis on higher-quality books.

    One can hope, anyway. πŸ™‚

  2. Honestly, I rarely pay attention to things like this. As an author, I write what thrills me to write be it for 5 pages or a 1000. If people read it great, if not, so be it. I really don’t think I will get rich on Amazon. However, I don’t do it for that. I do my job to entertain and engage readers. Great post. Thanks for simplifying this up for me.

  3. Pingback: Breaking down the new Kindle Unlimited payout terms | Tracing the Stars

  4. Thank you for breaking it down. Many in the urban fiction genre are panicking. I did at first until I read what was going to happen. I think it’s great and it’s actually going to force many of us to write longer books, more interesting books. I see so many authors pulling their books off Amazon. Doesn’t that mean more money for those still in?

  5. Pingback: Into Kindle Publishing? Under New Payment Rules, You Should Write Longer Books

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