Are Authors Leaving Kindle Unlimited? (Actual Data)

Images from ShutterStock.

Images from ShutterStock.


With the July 1, 2015 changes to Kindle Unlimited comes much anxiety among KDP Select authors.

But before you press your PANIC button, maybe you should consider this novel idea: Check the numbers.

That’s exactly what I did, and you can, too:

  • Visit Amazon’s homepage.
  • Hover your mouse over Shop by Department, then hover over Books, and select Kindle Books.
  • See the number listed with the Kindle Unlimited filter.
  • Click the Kindle Unlimited filter. Now check the numbers in the categories.
  • Copy/paste the numbers of interest into Microsoft Word, for example.

I did that on July 1, and I’ve done that periodically for several months so that I can compare the numbers.

There is a lot of talk about authors possibly leaving Kindle Unlimited, but you don’t have to guess. The data is in plain sight.


There were about a million books in Kindle Unlimited heading into July, and there are approximately 1,015,000 today (July 3). Of course, this figure is constantly changing.

It’s gone down by about 4,000 (out of over 1,000,000) since July 1. That’s 0.4%. A few authors are taking advantage of the early opt-out opportunity, but 0.4% doesn’t constitute a mass exodus.

In comparison, over 40,000 books were added to Kindle Unlimited in the past 30 days, and the overall number of 1,000,000 is way up from 600,000 when Kindle Unlimited made its debut one year ago. Throughout the program, KDP Select books have had a 95% (or greater) renewal rate, and overall number of participating books has steadily grown every month.

If indeed authors are pulling their books from KDP Select, which books do you think are leaving?

Are children’s books leaving Kindle Unlimited?

There are 104,441 children’s books in the program as of July 3.

There were 104,374 children’s books in the program on July 1.

Wait a minute! This number has actually increased.

Although some illustrated children’s authors have complained about the recent changes to Kindle Unlimited, books don’t seem to be dropping from the children’s category.

Are short reads leaving Kindle Unlimited?

There are 354,000 books in the program with 100 pages or less.

There were 302,000 in mid-February and 314,000 in mid-March. It has steadily increased.

4% of Kindle Unlimited books had 11 pages or less in February and March, and that’s still true in July.

Are self-help books leaving Kindle Unlimited?

There were exactly 38,276 self-help books on July 1, and this number is exactly the same on July 3.

Are romance books leaving Kindle Unlimited?

This number has dropped slightly from 89,179 to 88,314. (It’s probably changed since I last looked, too.)

That’s 865 books out of 89,000 (about 1%). There are still plenty of romance books in the program, of all lengths and subgenres.

Over 6,000 new romance books have been added to Kindle Unlimited in the last 30 days.

However, Scribd recently announced cuts to romance and erotica titles. Maybe some of those books looking for a new home will try Kindle Unlimited.

Looking at all of the genres, I see no significant changes between July 1 and July 3.

Will that change? Maybe. But we won’t have to guess. Anyone can visit Amazon and check the numbers.


With the Kindle Unlimited policy change comes concern:

  • What if a huge number of books pull out of KDP Select?
  • What if a huge number of books pull out of the children’s, erotica, or other categories?
  • What if subscribers cancel their Kindle Unlimited subscriptions because they can’t find the books they want?

These are valid concerns. But it hasn’t happened yet.

You should keep an eye on the numbers. Then you won’t have to guess or worry. You’ll know.

If any of those things happen, you can be aware of it, plan for it, react to it.

So far, they haven’t happened, so you don’t need to pull the plug prematurely on your own books.

What if the number of books in Kindle Unlimited stays roughly the same? What if the number of subscribers remains roughly the same?

What if you earn more money with the policy change than you had been?

You should plan for these cases, too.

You’d hate to pull out, then find out later that books very much like yours are thriving with the change.

Keep in mind that there are about 100,000 traditionally published books in Kindle Unlimited, including Amazon’s own imprints. These books attract readers, and since they don’t adhere to the terms of KDP Select, they will likely stay in the program.


Every book is different, so there is no one-size-fits-all answer.

First, you shouldn’t compare what you make with the new terms to the $1.35 per borrow read to 10% that you had been earning previously. That’s in the past.

The wise thing is to look at what you’re making with the new Kindle Unlimited policy, and compare that with how much you might be losing due to exclusivity.

Short books may actually do quite well in the new program.

The new terms appear to reward reader engagement.

Short, engaging books may be more likely to get read to 100%.

Just because a book is short doesn’t mean you should pull it from KDP Select.

Here are some things you should consider to help with your decision:

Kindle Unlimited helps sales rank

Every borrow helps your sales rank (whether or not it’s read to 10%).

If you leave KDP Select, you lose this sales rank benefit.

Some authors who leave Kindle Unlimited see their sales rank slip and blame Amazon for favoring KDP Select books.

But Amazon doesn’t need to do anything special to favor KDP Select books.

Since every Kindle Unlimited borrow helps sales rank, the benefit is built-in.

How much money will you earn with the new Kindle Unlimited policy?

According to Amazon, 1.9 billion pages were read through Kindle Unlimited in June, 2015.

Amazon is paying $11 million for Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrows in July and August, 2015.

If the number of pages read remains relatively constant…

…the new program will pay approximately $0.0058 per page.

Visit your KDP Bookshelf. Click the Advertise & Promote button. Check what your KENPC is. That tells you how many pages your book is (it’s not the same as what’s listed on your product page, and may be somewhat larger).

Multiply your page count by $0.0058. That’s how much you will earn if a customer reads 100% of your book.

Multiply this by the number of times your book was borrowed in June. That’s how much you will earn if (A) customers read 100% of your book, (B) you have as many borrows in July as you did in June, and (C) the actual payout turns out to be $0.0058.

Since these are three big unknowns, this is just an estimate.

The only way to know for sure is to wait until August 15.

But keep in mind that many books won’t be read to 100%. If you have engaging content, this gives you an edge and you may make more than this simple projection gives. (Every book that averages much less than 100% read helps you.)

Another way to estimate this is to look at the average number of pages read per day on your Sales Dashboard (add up the numbers for each day and divide by the number of days), then multiply by 31 (for 31 days in July), and then multiply by $0.0058. However, your numbers are likely to grow for the first several days, in which case the first few days may under-project. If so, it’s better to wait until your numbers stabilize and only use those numbers to project.

How engaging is your content?

More engaging content is more likely to thrive in the new program.

Are customers very likely to read 100% of your book? Maybe it’s a captivating read, or maybe it’s short enough not to demand too long of an attention span.

Nonfiction content where customers are more likely to read just a chapter or two will have much lower percentages read.

High content engagement may help to offset a shorter page count.

A longer page count doesn’t help at all if the readers aren’t finishing the book.

What if other authors in your subgenre pull their books out of Kindle Unlimited?

Then their readers will be looking for other books to read.

Maybe yours.

If a small percentage pull out of your subgenre, this may help more than it hurts.

If there is a mass exodus, well, that might cause readers to look elsewhere.

So keep an eye on the number of Kindle Unlimited books enrolled in your subgenre.

Then you won’t have to guess whether or not there is a mass exodus. You’ll know.

Will your book sell elsewhere?

Now this is a tough question, but it’s very important.

If you pull out of KDP Select, you’re going to lose the income from Kindle Unlimited borrows.

And you’re going to lose the favorable effect that those borrows have on your Amazon sales rank.

So you need to sell enough books at other retailers to make up the difference.

There is no guarantee that you’ll sell enough books elsewhere to compensate.

You might do a little research, visiting Nook, Kobo, Apple, etc. Check out your subcategory there. Especially, how are indie authors faring there? Not all sites are as indie-friendly as Amazon (well, Smashwords may be one exception).

Marketing your book at other venues is a different art. Before you embark on this, you want to have a solid marketing plan in place.

How much trouble will it be to publish elsewhere?

It’s generally not too much trouble if you publish with an aggregator like Smashwords or Draft 2 Digital.

Do you have an image-heavy book, such as an illustrated children’s book? If so, you might find that most other sites don’t have such generous limits as KDP has on maximum file size, and formatting may be a little different. If you have a Mac, formatting a picture book for Apple is one option.

At least look into the formatting before you make the plunge.

What if it doesn’t work out elsewhere?

It happens. A few authors leave KDP Select and sell well elsewhere, but many find that their books don’t sell much elsewhere.

You might make less elsewhere than you would have earned from pages read.

And your Amazon sales rank might slide because you’re not getting those borrows.

If you get back into KDP Select a few months later, in the meantime, your sales rank may have slid considerably.

I don’t know if it will happen to your book. But it is something you should consider before you make your decision.


If you’re going to sit down right now and write 120,000 pages, it doesn’t really matter whether you write 3 short books of 40,000 pages each or 1 long book of 120,000 pages. In the end, if a customer reads 100% of what you write, you earn the same amount of money.

It also doesn’t make sense to pad or reformat your book. That nonsense is likely to cause readers to stop reading your book, in which case fewer pages will be read.

Here’s what does make sense:

  • Write a book that’s more likely to get borrowed.
  • Write a book that’s more likely to get finished.
  • Write a book that’s more likely to compel the reader to read your other books, too.

Whatever length of book does those three things best, that’s the length that will be most profitable.

Whether that length is 10,000 words, 40,000 words, or 100,000 words, it’s not the length that counts, but those three points above.

You should also consider such things as:

  • What length story can you tell well?
  • What kind of story are you interested in telling?

Just because a particular length turns out to be most profitable in general doesn’t mean that every author will succeed at writing a story of that length. Some lengths are quite challenging to pull off.


Historically, KDP Select has had a 95% or greater renewal rate every month.

Over the past year, many authors have complained about scamphlets receiving the same royalty for a borrow as full-length novels.

Despite all those loud complaints about shorter books in Kindle Unlimited receiving the same pay, 95% of authors were content enough with those terms to leave their books enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.

With the new Kindle Unlimited policy, different authors are complaining loudly. The only difference really is who’s complaining. The complaints have always been there.

So it would surprise me if there were a mass exodus now, since there wasn’t one before. Rather, over the past year, the number of Kindle Unlimited books grew from 600,000 to 1,000,000.

I expect it to keep growing. But I’ll keep an eye on the number, just in case I’m wrong.

Of course, Amazon is watching the enrollment numbers carefully.

So if a cause for concern does develop, Amazon will be in a position to act on it and try to keep the program successful.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

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
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

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