How Can Kindle Unlimited Improve Your Sales?

More Sales

Kindle Unlimited

For $9.99 per month, customers can check out up to 10 Kindle e-books from an extensive library of 600,000 titles at Amazon. All books enrolled in KDP Select are participating (plus 100,000 others from mostly small presses). Authors will receive royalties in the form of KDP Select borrows. The July, 2014 KDP Global Fund has been increased to $2,000,000. You can read more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Authors need to decide whether to opt in or opt out of KDP Select. The big question to ask is whether or not participation in Kindle Unlimited will improve the book’s sales.

Obviously, some books will thrive in this program, others will not. The difficult question is predicting how your book will do. I will discuss the pros and cons of Kindle Unlimited by focusing on how it could improve sales, and then I will discuss the opposite.

How Can Kindle Unlimited Improve Your Sales?

  • Kindle Unlimited customers can download KDP Select books for free. They can store up to 10 borrowed books on their devices, then download more once they return any of those 10. Every time a customer downloads a book and reads past the 10% point, you receive a royalty. For Kindle Unlimited customers, your book is permanently free (well, they do pay $9.99 per month for the privilege) AND you earn a royalty when it’s read. Customers are looking for books to download.
  • Kindle Unlimited offers customers the opportunity to try newbie authors or indie authors without risk. Bad book? Doesn’t cost a penny. Just get a new one. There are hundreds of thousands of indie authors, though, so just because many customers will be trying out indie authors doesn’t mean you’ll be one of those authors. As always, you need good content, good packaging, and effective marketing to make the most of the opportunity.
  • KDP Select books that succeed in getting numerous downloads will have an advantage over books that aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. It allows indie books to compete with traditionally published book more than ever. Every download improves your sales rank. That improved sales rank helps you generate even more sales. Books that thrive in the program can reap many benefits. Not all books will thrive; the better your book, packaging, and marketing, the better your chances (but that’s true even if you opt out of KDP Select).
  • Another benefit of frequent downloads is more exposure through customers-also-bought lists. Kindle Unlimited naturally helps books that help themselves through good content and marketing.
  • More downloads also leads to more reviews. Some books won’t get additional downloads, so none of this will help those books (but for those books, opting out might not be any better). Kindle Unlimited puts a premium on writing the best book you can.
  • The best benefit of more downloads is for books with excellent word-of-mouth potential. Here is where Kindle Unlimited can really favor fantastic books. Succeed in getting frequent downloads in Kindle Unlimited, and if you also have great content, you may see a very significant long-term growth through word-of-mouth sales. Many books don’t succeed in generating word-of-mouth recommendations, but those that do can really take off.
  • If your book is perceived as a great value, Kindle Unlimited subscribers might be attracted to your book. Since they can get any book free, they aren’t shopping for the cheapest book—they’re shopping for the best value. Suddenly, a higher price seems like a better value (since it’s free, why not read higher-priced books?). In addition to price, they will look at the length of the book and the quality (it could be that longer books are a better value; time will tell). But with a higher list price comes higher expectations, and your book better deliver on those heightened expectations to thrive in the long run.
  • If you have a great book that customers want to keep, the customer might want to keep it permanently. The customer can only store up to 10 borrowed books on the device. When a customer cancels Kindle Unlimited, all the books disappear. So the customer might want to buy your book—as a sale through Kindle, or as a paperback. This way, in time, outstanding books may actually sell two copies to some customers (once as a KDP Select borrow, once as a sale).
  • Thousands of customers are using the free 30-day trial. When the trial ends, some will cancel their subscriptions. Now suppose they downloaded your book during the free trial period and wished they could continue reading it. Well, they can. Now they just have to buy it. Many books will actually earn two royalties in the first couple of months of the program because of this.
  • Like any tool, the tool itself might not have much value to you, but if you do effective marketing with the tool, it can pay significant dividends. Kindle Unlimited seems like it may be just like such tools. The more sales you drive through effective marketing, the more sales rank, reviews, and word-of-mouth sales can help your book. The quality of the book and packaging are important, too. For example, try using the #Free with #KindleUnlimited hashtags, or look for Facebook groups specifically for Kindle Unlimited, or show parents what a value Kindle Unlimited can be for their kids. Where there is a will…

Remember, just because it can improve sales doesn’t mean it will. Some books will thrive in the program, but others won’t.

Even if the KDP Select per-borrow royalty goes way down (it’s usually around $2), if you have more customers than usual, it may be a fair trade-off. Additional readers gives you:

  • Long-term potential for valuable word-of-mouth sales.
  • Improved sales rank.
  • More reviews, on average.
  • Greater exposure.

If your book enjoys any of these benefits, in the long run, it may even be worth staying in KDP Select even if your net income diminishes slightly.

And if you opt out, there’s no guarantee that will turn out to be any better. But it could be, so let’s look at the other side of the coin.

Could Kindle Unlimited Hurt Your Sales?

  • Well, if you choose to opt out KDP Select, any customers in Kindle Unlimited may be reluctant to buy your book when there are 600,000 others that they can get for free. But for the remaining bullet points, let me focus on how staying in KDP Select may actually hurt your sales, or where opting out may be the better option.
  • The biggest drawback of KDP Select still is, and always has been, exclusivity. You’re not allowed to publish the e-book edition of your book (or one similar to it) on Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, or anywhere else. Some books sell primarily on Amazon; those books will probably be better off in KDP Select than not. Other books sell 25% or more through other sales channels; for these books, it’s possible that exclusivity isn’t worth the sacrifice. Though Kindle Unlimited may squeeze Kindle’s competition, reducing the potential to draw sales from other channels.
  • If your book doesn’t thrive in Kindle Unlimited, your sales rank will slip and that will in turn deter sales somewhat. You can actually get a few downloads every day and slip in sales rank because so many other KDP Select books are getting more downloads than you are. This will in turn diminish your prospects for reviews and word-of-mouth sales.
  • If Kindle Unlimited readers perceive that your book doesn’t have enough value, that may deter sales. They may deem that the price is too low (it would take 10 99-cent books just to make the $9.99 per month fee pay off), maybe the book is too short, or maybe they will scrutinize the Look Inside and pass on anything that doesn’t seem to be high in quality.
  • One of the bad things about freebies may be true of Kindle Unlimited: When customers can get something for free, they don’t always read the description or check the Look Inside carefully (or even at all!). Then they leave bad reviews because the book didn’t turn out as they had imagined. Sometimes bad reviews actually improve sales (especially, when it’s clear the customer made a mistake), but sometimes they do hurt sales, too. You won’t have to worry about customers hoarding books and not reading them, though, because they can only store 10 on the device.
  • If you’re used to stimulating sales through promotional strategiesfreebies, 99-cent prices, BookBub, etc.—these marketing tools may become less effective. What will a Kindle Unlimited customer care about freebies or low prices? They can get $9.99 books for free!
  • Series authors are impacted by Kindle Unlimited. It may be wise to remove the omnibus from KDP Select (but you’re probably still bound by the exclusivity terms if your individual volumes are in KDP Select). The omnibus will lose its effectiveness with Kindle Unlimited readers (though this may help the sales ranks of your individual volumes). If you ordinarily make the first volume free or 99 cents, or price all of your books at 99 cents, this strategy may not be appealing to Kindle Unlimited readers looking for a good value. Maybe a higher price would appeal to these readers more. (Or if all your volumes are cheap, maybe it does make sense to leave the omnibus in KDP Select—that volume may offer enough value to receive a download, if the individual volumes don’t.)
  • Mismatched value could lead to frustrated buyers and negative reviews. For example, if you take a book that’s really not perceived to be worth more than $2.99 and raise its price to $6.99, customers hoping to get a $6.99 value may be disgruntled. Higher-priced books are only favored if they deliver on the higher expectations.
  • If you have a long book and customers aren’t enjoying the beginning enough to reach 10%, you could potentially receive a bunch of downloads, but never see the royalties. More than ever, it’s important to engage the reader immediately and hold the reader’s attention.

Additional Notes

  • If your book wasn’t selling to begin with, Kindle Unlimited probably isn’t the answer to your sales woes. It could be the cover, the blurb, the Look Inside, reviews (maybe even the good ones), the idea, the lack of marketing… Don’t expect Kindle Unlimited to be that magic wand you were hoping for.
  • It doesn’t make any sense to compare July, 2014 to June, 2014, i.e. to compare your income with Kindle Unlimited to your income the way things used to be. The way things used to be just isn’t an option. What you really want to know is, will you be better off in KDP Select, or out of it?

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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#Free #ebook w/ #KindleUnlimited (**New** Twitter Amazon Hashtags for Kindle Unlimited) #AmazonCart

Kindle Unlimited Hashtags

Amazon recently launched Kindle Unlimited, a subscription service where customers can access 600,000 titles (including all 500,000 KDP Select tiles plus 100,000 more from small presses, with some popular series like Harry Potter in the mix) for $9.99 per month. A customer can borrow up to 10 books on the device (which doesn’t have to be a Kindle) before needing to return one to make room for another. Authors receive a royalty in the form of a KDP Select borrow for each Kindle Unlimited download after the customer passes the 10% mark. You can read more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Like it or hate it, neither praising nor complaining are marketing strategies. If you enroll in KDP Select, you want to find marketing strategies that help you benefit from the program; if you opt out of KDP Select, the presence of Kindle Unlimited still impacts how to market your book effectively. Adapting to change and finding effective marketing strategies are proactive ways to reap benefits while others idly watch, wait, and remark.

For example, you could be using hashtags to help with your Twitter marketing. If you have already built a large fan base and release a new book, Twitter can help with that, but some authors use Twitter effectively to do far more than that. For one, you can use hashtags effectively. For another, if you become an active, appreciated member of a Twitter network, you can garner much support for your occasional promotions in the form of retweets, for example.

Here are some hashtags that you might be using to market your KDP Select e-books in the Kindle Unlimited era:

  • Hashtag #KindleUnlimited. Make it easy for Kindle Unlimited customers to see that they can get your Kindle e-book for free.
  • Hashtag #Free. Like the example I made with the title of this article, you can combine these hashtags (#Free with #Kindle Unlimited). You might also include Reg. $5.99 (or whatever the list price is).
  • Hashtag #AmazonCart. This new feature helps Twitter customers quickly add your Kindle e-book to their carts to buy later, and offers you the ability to monitor the effectiveness of your promotional tweets. Click here to learn more.

You don’t want to spam your followers to death, but if you learn to use Twitter effectively, build a following, and become a respected member of your network, it is possible to use Twitter effectively to promote your e-book.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Kindle Unlimited & Marketing Strategies (for A-L-L Authors)

Unlimited Books

Kindle Unlimited Affects Every Author

Whether or not your books participate in Kindle Unlimited, this new Amazon program impacts how you should market your books.

Kindle Unlimited allows Amazon customers to read an unlimited number of books—with 600,000 to choose from—for a monthly fee of $9.99. You can learn more about Kindle Unlimited by clicking here.

Some authors are for it; others are against it. Either way, it changes the effectiveness of traditional marketing strategies, and will bring about new marketing opportunities.

Complaining doesn’t help. Cheering only helps a little. Realizing how this impacts marketing, planning for it, and making the most of it right out of the box—that can give you a marked advantage.

When a new and big program comes out, there are always some authors who take advantage of it. Months later, you hear success stories. Then many other authors try those things, but it doesn’t work quite as well.

It isn’t months later yet (unless you happen to be reading this post many months after it was written). Here is your opportunity.

Changes to Marketing Strategies

Part of your potential readership will be in Kindle Unlimited, but part won’t be. That’s why every author will be affected by this.

Some marketing strategies that used to be effective may become less effective now.

Here are some book marketing strategies that may lose their effectiveness:

  • Promotional prices. Whether it’s a Kindle freebie, permanent free price-match, Kindle Countdown Deal, MatchBook offer, temporary price change, or a Smashwords discount code, it won’t look attractive to thousands of readers who have access to Kindle Unlimited. Even if you aren’t in Kindle Unlimited, some of your potential readership is. Thus, Kindle Unlimited may dampen the effectiveness of promotional pricing.
  • Omnibus. A boxed set won’t have the same value to a customer with a subscription for unlimited reading. Kindle Unlimited authors should remove the omnibus from KDP Select; it only has value to readers who aren’t in the program. Again, since thousands of your potential customers are now in Kindle Unlimited, it will impact the effectiveness of the boxed set.
  • Series. Many series authors make the first book free or 99 cents. That’s not such a good value in the Kindle Unlimited program. If the series isn’t in Kindle Unlimited, a low price of the first book won’t appeal to as many readers as it has in the past. If the series is in Kindle Unlimited, a higher price may seem like a better value to those customers.
  • Low prices. Many 99-cent, $1.99, and $2.99 books have appealed to readers through low prices. They’re cheap, so it’s easier to take a chance on them. But in Kindle Unlimited, higher price-points may be more attractive, as more expensive books won’t cost customers more money; they want to get a better value. Some of your potential readers are in Kindle Unlimited, others aren’t. Fewer customers overall will now be attracted to lower prices.
  • Advertising. In the past, you could advertise a promotional price effectively through BookBub, E-reader News Today, and many other paid and free advertising services. These may lose their effectiveness with many customers moving to subscription pricing. Higher prices may be perceived as a greater value, without the added cost, to Kindle Unlimited customers. There will be fewer customers attracted to promotional pricing.
  • Sales rank. Books in the Kindle Unlimited program that are receiving downloads will benefit in terms of sales rank. This gives books that thrive in the Kindle Unlimited program an advantage over books that aren’t in the program.
  • Reviews. You might think that Kindle Unlimited customers will tend to be more satisfied, since a book that doesn’t suit their needs won’t be a waste of money—just go out and get another book. However, like KDP Select freebies, many customers will stop reading the blurbs and Look Insides and just download books without knowing what to expect, and, unfortunately, Kindle Unlimited books will occasionally receive some crazy reviews from these customers. Every book eventually gets some crazy reviews; maybe reviews where the customer clearly didn’t pay attention are better than some other critical reviews. And once a bad review is posted, it sometimes deters other would-be reviewers from piling it on.
  • Traffic. Kindle Unlimited books may take away traffic from books that aren’t in the program, in addition to helping to boost the sales ranks of books that are in the program. Books that aren’t in Kindle Unlimited need to become more effective at reaching customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.
  • Print books. Customers who prefer print books are less likely to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited. Authors who aren’t in KDP Select may now want to market their print books somewhat more.

Kindle Unlimited Marketing Opportunities

Once you understand how marketing strategies are impacted by Kindle Unlimited, you can take this into consideration with your planning.

Here are some suggestions for how to market books enrolled in KDP Select in the Kindle Unlimited era:

  • New groups. Start a new group on Facebook in your genre specifically for Kindle Unlimited readers and/or authors. Or join a new group. There is a new Kindle Unlimited target audience. You want to find ways to reach this audience. Be among the first to do this effectively and it will be a sweet advantage for you.
  • Advertising. Look for new clubs and advertising services specifically geared toward Kindle Unlimited. It won’t be about sale prices, it will be about matching books to readers. It might be a new release email newsletter for Kindle Unlimited customers. Perhaps editors selectively screen submissions for quality content. There are many possibilities. You could even start such a service yourself (which gives you added publicity). The time is ripe.
  • Children’s books. Children’s authors should be marketing the potential of Kindle Unlimited to parents and teachers. Parents may not have realized how easy it would be to read a different bedtime story every night from a huge collection for just $9.99 per month. That’s a steal. Since kids’ books tend to be short (but not cheap), parents and children (and teachers) can really get their money’s worth out of Kindle Unlimited. Parents are likely to read books by authors who help them realize what a value this is.
  • Holiday gifting. This is one promotion that will still appeal to Kindle Unlimited customers. Since they still have to buy gifts for friends and family, promotional pricing for gifts will entice all readers. So you can still market promotional pricing toward gifts. Be sure to mention the gift part in your promotions. Kindle Unlimited subscribers will see the promotional price and think, “No big deal,” until the gift part reminds them, “Oh, yeah, that will cost me money.” Check out Read Tuesday, a Black Friday type of event just for books. This will be a great opportunity to gift e-books for the holidays.
  • Pricing. Consider raising your price. It won’t deter Kindle Unlimited customers; it may help establish higher value. However, keep in mind that if the price seems higher than the book is worth, customers (even in Kindle Unlimited) are more likely to feel dissatisfied (i.e. they didn’t receive the expected value), perhaps leaving a critical review. Rather, if your book is currently priced lower than it’s value based on how the market has been prior to Kindle Unlimited, you may want to reconsider this. Remember that you will still have readers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. Also, any downloads you get through Kindle Unlimited will help your sales rank, so you may not have to sweat your sales rank with a higher list price. There are a lot of things to consider regarding price (you can always try out a price change temporarily to see how it works). You might keep your UK and other countries’ prices low, since Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers.
  • Paperbacks. A higher Kindle price may make your paperback look somewhat more enticing, too. Previously, a low Kindle price versus a high paperback price made the Kindle edition seem like a better deal—and it still will to customers who aren’t in the program—but the lower price won’t attract Kindle Unlimited customers. For some books, this might be a good time to push more paperback sales to customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited. In fact, some of the readers who won’t be joining Kindle Unlimited are those who prefer print books.
  • Opportunity. Kindle Unlimited is new. There are many opportunities to creatively market your book specifically to these customers. My list may help you get started, but surely I haven’t thought of everything. Put your thinking cap on and you may be among the first to try out and effectively use a new book marketing strategy.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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How Much Will Authors Make w/ Kindle Unlimited?

Unlimited Reading

Read All You Want!

Now readers can, using Amazon’s new Kindle Unlimited. For $9.99 a month, customers in the United States can download and read as many Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select books as they want. There are presently 600,000 titles from which to choose.

The two-million dollar question is: How much money will authors make when a customer downloads their book?

The first part of this answer is ZERO, unless the customer reads past 10% of the book. This is an important point, as many customers will think they are supporting authors they know just by downloading their books. But if they don’t read more than 10% of those books, the author won’t earn any royalty for the trouble.

What about when customers pass the 10% mark—how much will authors make then?

Well, nobody knows for sure. Amazon can’t tell us up front. Amazon is telling us how they will determine this. And we have some data to judge by, such as prior experience with Amazon Prime borrows.

Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.

Amazon Prime Borrows

Let’s take Amazon Prime as a starting point:

  • Historically, KDP Select authors have received about $2 per borrow.
  • The first month of KDP Select was closer to $1.50, and the same for the following holiday season. Amazon created a lot of buzz for Amazon Prime and KDP Select for the first two holiday seasons, and as a result there were more downloads than usual.
  • However, when the per-borrow royalty was low, Amazon increased the KDP Select Global Fund for other months to bring the per-borrow royalty above $2.
  • Thus, for most months, authors have received $2 and change for KDP Select borrows in the Amazon Prime program.

Extrapolating to Kindle Unlimited

Based on this, here is what I expect with Kindle Unlimited:

  • The first month or two of Kindle Unlimited will feature an incredible number of downloads. There will be many new memberships. Customers will be exploring the program. They will want to get their money’s worth. Authors will be helping to promote the program, hoping to get their share of the $2,000,000 KDP Select Global Fund.
  • Thus, I won’t be surprised if, for the first month or two, the per-download royalty is significantly lower than the $2 per-borrow royalty KDP Select authors are accustomed to with Amazon Prime.
  • However, it’s in Amazon’s interest to monitor this closely. If it looks like the per-download royalty will be too low, Amazon may add additional money to the KDP Select Global Fund. Otherwise, many authors may opt out of the program at their earliest opportunity. (Current KDP Select authors can opt out immediately, regardless of when their current 90-day enrollment period ends. Go to your KDP bookshelf, click Learn More, then Learn More again to find a form specifically for this purpose.)
  • So I will be surprised if the per-download royalty gets too low (whatever that may be). Maybe it will be somewhat low the first month, but, if so, I suspect that Amazon would greatly increase the KDP Select Global Fund, trying to reassure authors that it will be much higher in the future. Time will tell.
  • Keep in mind that Amazon has already added $800,000 to the KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2014. This will help to compensate for the additional downloads coming through the new Kindle Unlimited program. The big question is: Will it be enough? My feeling is: Probably not enough to reach $2 per book, but the overall royalties could be higher than usual, depending. (In a moment, we’ll get into the math.)
  • I think it was wise of Amazon to introduce Kindle Unlimited about halfway through July. This first month will be limited in downloads, as half the month was already gone when this began. It also gives Amazon some valuable data to help project the KDP Select Global Fund for August.
  • There is another big difference. With Amazon Prime, customers can only borrow one book per month. Now, with Kindle Unlimited, each customer will be downloading multiple books per month. This will have a profound influence on the total number of downloads.

Kindle Unlimited Math

Now we’ll have some fun with numbers. 🙂

First off, the July, 2014 KDP Select Global Fund was originally $1.2 million. Amazon added $800,000 to the fund to make it $2,000,000. There will be many more downloads through Kindle Unlimited than there have ever been borrows through KDP Select, but the global fund is also larger, which helps to compensate to some extent.

Here is how Amazon will figure the per-borrow (or per-download) royalty:

Borrow Royalty

Note that borrows (through Prime) and downloads (through Kindle Unlimited) are treated equally, so we can use these words interchangeably in the math.

Note also that what I’m calling a ‘download’ is really a download where the customer reads more than 10% of the book. If the customer doesn’t reach 10%, that doesn’t qualify.

Example: The KDP Select Global Fund for July, 2014 is $2,000,000. If there are 1,000,000 downloads in July (including both Kindle Unlimited downloads and Amazon Prime borrows), then the per-download royalty will be $2.00. But if there are 4,000,000 downloads in July, the per-download royalty will be 50 cents (unless Amazon chooses to increase the global fund as a result of more downloads than anticipated).

Amazon is receiving $9.99 per customer per month through Kindle Unlimited. Each additional member provides $10 more that Amazon could use, potentially, to increase the KDP Select Global Fund. So if Kindle Unlimited turns out to be incredibly popular among buyers, all these customers will be providing additional revenue, and Amazon could choose to share some of that revenue with the global fund. If the per-download royalty is too low, many authors will be thinking about opting out. Amazon has good incentive to make the per-download enticing to authors, and Amazon knows that authors are used to making about $2 per borrow through KDP Select.

On the other hand, if an author receives many more downloads than usual, the per-download royalty could be somewhat lower than the traditional $2 and the author could still be earning more royalties overall. Amazon may consider this, so it’s possible for the per-download royalty to be significantly less than $2. Amazon may choose to look at the cumulative royalties that the average KDP Select author is earning, rather than what the per-download royalty is.

Many authors would be okay with having more readers, but making a smaller royalty per book, especially if the overall royalties are greater than normal.

Another important figure is what Amazon is making. Amazon is charging $9.99 per month per customer. The following equation will be highly important to Amazon, and so it will also impact authors:

Selling Price

Again, by ‘download,’ I mean a download where the customer reads more than 10% of the book. Amazon only pays a royalty through Kindle Unlimited when the customer passes the 10% mark.

Example: If the average customer downloads 4 books per month through Kindle Unlimited, Amazon is essentially charging $2.50 per book. In this case, Amazon could afford to pay authors $2 per download and still make a profit of 50 cents per download. But if the average customer downloads 20 books per month, Amazon is effectively charging just 50 cents per book. Amazon isn’t likely to pay authors $2 per download, while only receiving 50 cents per book; they would be losing money.

Amazon might be willing to suffer a short-term loss for long-term gain. But my feeling is, the greater the average number of downloads by customers, the less money authors will make per download.

But at the same time, the greater the average number of downloads by customers, the more each author’s book is likely to be downloaded. It works both ways.

It Really Comes Down to Percentages

More downloads means Amazon will likely pay less money per download.

But more downloads also means that most authors will have more customers than normal.

These two effects will compensate somewhat.

What really matters to an author is each book’s percentage of downloads:

Percentage 2

Remember, the download only counts when the reader gets beyond 10% of the content.

Example: Suppose there are 1,000,000 downloads in the month of July (including Amazon Prime borrows), and suppose your book is downloaded 50 times. Then you would get 0.005% of the July global fund. Since the July, 2014 global fund is presently set at $2,000,000, this book would earn a total royalty of $100 for downloads for the month. (Note that this agrees with a $2.00 per-download royalty.)

Update: The results are in now. Kindle Unlimited paid $1.81 per borrow/download in July, 2014, much higher than I was expecting.

Good for Indie Authors?

Looking at this from the perspective of percentages, this may be good for indie authors who are enrolled in KDP Select.

Probably not all indie authors, but many may benefit from this.

Kindle Unlimited customers may be more willing to try an indie book, since it won’t cost extra money to do so. The $9.99 monthly fee has already been paid, so if the book doesn’t turn out to suit the reader, the customer can easily find another book.

Through Amazon Prime, customers could only borrow one book per month, so they had to choose wisely. Many have favored a book with a higher list price and more pages, and an author they were already familiar with.

Now Kindle Unlimited customers don’t need to choose just one book. This could be a game-changer for some indie authors.

What About Good, Old-Fashioned Sales?

The more customers who join Kindle Unlimited, the fewer customers will be buying books the old-fashioned way.

Once a customer invests $9.99 for monthly reading, the customer may feel less inclined to spend additional money on books that aren’t in the program. Why do that when you can choose from 600,000 books without spending an extra penny? Kindle Unlimited subscribers may occasionally buy a book that’s not in the program, but it will take a compelling reason.

Thus, as more customers join Kindle Unlimited, authors may be receiving more of their revenue through downloads and less revenue through good, old-fashioned purchases. If so, the numbers may compensate. Kindle Unlimited could potentially make up for any lack of sales and then some. The only way to know for sure will be to wait and see.

The number of traditional sales might not even diminish. First, not everyone will join Kindle Unlimited. $120 per year is more than many readers want to commit to for reading.

Also, if Kindle Unlimited succeeds in getting a book more downloads, this may actually lead to improved sales, too. There is such a thing as word-of-mouth publicity. More readers, even with lower royalties, sometimes leads to greater success in the long run. The potential is there.

Another consideration is list price. A higher list price may actually make the book more enticing to Kindle Unlimited, and downloads through Kindle Unlimited will improve the sales rank. This might lead to more ‘sales’ at a higher list price, earning a higher royalty than usual.

It will sure be interesting to see how Kindle Unlimited turns out.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 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

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.

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Kindle Unlimited—Good or Bad for Authors?

Read Me

Read Unlimited Kindle E-books

Today, Amazon introduced Kindle Unlimited:

  • For $9.99 per month, a customer can now read (and listen to) an unlimited number of Kindle e-books.
  • There are 600,000 books to choose from. The books are enrolled in KDP Select.
  • All KDP Select books are automatically included. (But authors can opt out of KDP Select by completing a form. See below.)
  • Customers don’t need to be in Amazon Prime to enjoy the benefits of Kindle Unlimited.

You can read more about it at Amazon, including the terms of use: https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_left_v4_sib?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201550610.

Authors can learn more about it at Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), where there is also a new form for those who wish to opt out of KDP Select: https://kdp.amazon.com/help?topicId=AA9BSAGNO1YJH.

Is Kindle Unlimited Good for Authors?

In order to participate in Kindle Unlimited, an e-book must be enrolled in KDP Select.

Here are some advantages of enrolling in KDP Select:

  • You will be paid the equivalent of one ‘borrow’ when a customer (A) downloads your Kindle e-book and (B) reads past 10% of the e-book as part of the Kindle Unlimited Program. Historically, a borrow has equated to approximately a $2 royalty.
  • Many customers will be trying out Kindle Unlimited in the coming months. These customers probably won’t be buying books any other way except through Kindle Unlimited for as long as they remain in the program.
  • You can use either Kindle Countdown Deals or free promos (but not both) as a promotional tool. The value of these promotional tools will probably be diminished as any customer who has Kindle Unlimited won’t gain anything from Countdown Deals or freebies. However, there will still be many customers who aren’t in Kindle Unlimited.

The main disadvantage of enrolling in KDP Select is that you must make the e-book edition of your book exclusive to Kindle:

  • Your e-book can’t be published through Nook, Kobo, Smashwords, your own website in PDF, or anywhere else in electronic format as long as your book is enrolled in KDP Select. Amazon is very strict about this and does automatic checks to find e-books violating the terms and conditions.
  • This exclusivity persists for 90-day periods. If you decide to opt out of KDP Select, you must go to your KDP bookshelf and uncheck the box for automatic renewal. Then you must still wait for the 90-day period to end before you’re eligible to publish your e-book elsewhere. (But if you’re presently in KDP Select, there is an immediate opt-out option available right now. See below.)

Is it worth enrolling in KDP Select? That’s the million-dollar question. This was a heated debate prior to Kindle Unlimited.

The only way to really know for sure is to try it both ways. (Note that you can experience lengthy delays and problems trying to unpublish your e-book from other retailers in order to switch back into KDP Select.)

Kindle Unlimited may be a compelling reason to enroll in KDP Select. There will be many authors returning to KDP Select to try it out. There are also authors opting out with the introduction of KDP Select. Everyone is trying to decide which side of the fence has the greener grass. By the way, I’m staying in KDP Select.

  • Many customers will be trying out Kindle Unlimited, so the program will be popular during the early months.
  • Customers in Kindle Unlimited won’t be buying any books that aren’t in the program.

Want out of KDP Select?

Suppose you’re already in KDP Select and you’re thinking, “They didn’t ask me if I wanted to participate in Kindle Unlimited.”

Not a problem. Visit your KDP bookshelf. Click the Learn More link where it mentions Kindle Unlimited. Then there is yet another Learn More link to click. Then you can click the link entitled, “Complete this Contact Us form.”

Complete that form to opt out immediately. You don’t need to wait until your 90-day period ends, but only if you complete and submit this form (so don’t use the usual method of unchecking the box for automatic renewal).

You might want to consider this choice carefully before you opt out.

What about Amazon Prime?

Amazon Prime charges a hefty annual fee (though it turns out to be a little cheaper than 12 months of Kindle Unlimited) and only allows one borrow per month.

Kindle Unlimited costs $9.99 per month, but allows unlimited reading of KDP Select titles.

That one borrow per month pales in comparison. However, there are still many other benefits of Amazon Prime, such as free 2-day shipping.

Customers who bought Amazon Prime primarily to borrow books for free are likely to switch to Kindle Unlimited when their Prime memberships run out.

Customers who bought Amazon Prime for other reasons will probably keep it, whether or not they join Kindle Unlimited.

More Notes about Kindle Unlimited

  • How many books can you really read in a month? That comes out to $120 per year. Would you spend that much in a year on books? $9.99 is a great deal for those who read avidly, but not very enticing for those who don’t.
  • You can’t just horde books. If you cancel your Kindle Unlimited membership, you automatically lose access to all the books you downloaded through the program.
  • Amazon has added $800,000 to the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) fund for July, 2014, bringing the total July fund up to $2,000,000. This will help to compensate for the additional downloads through Kindle Unlimited.
  • Borrows usually pay a little over $2 each per month. When Amazon launches a new program, borrows usually pay $1.50 or less per book for the first month or so, but then Amazon has historically been pretty good at adjusting the KOLL fund so that they pay $2 or more per borrow. However, there will be many more downloads through Kindle Unlimited than there ever were borrows through Amazon Prime, so borrows might pay significantly less than normal, at least in the early months.
  • Kindle Unlimited is presently only available to US customers, but there appear to be plans to expand.
  • You won’t receive any payment for downloads through Kindle Unlimited until a customer passes the 10% mark. Just downloading your book isn’t sufficient. So your friends and family, for example, might think they’re supporting you through the download, whereas they won’t be supporting you at all if they don’t pass the 10% point.
  • Unlike Amazon Prime, you don’t have to return your book before you can start reading another one. However, the terms of use do include a paragraph entitled Restrictions, where Amazon will clearly monitor abuse of the download privilege. Customers must not only download the e-book, but must also pass the 10% point before the book will receive a royalty from the KDP Select Global Fund.
  • Amazon is promoting Audible Audiobooks through Kindle Unlimited. Not only do you get free downloads of KDP Select books, you also get free audiobooks. This will entice audiobook customers to try out Kindle Unlimited.
  • What about those really short books? Now customers can read short books for free (but they can read long books for fee, too), provided the books are in KDP Select and they customer has Kindle Unlimited. A customer might read 2 paragraphs of a very short story and that author will earn just as much of a royalty as if a customer read several chapters of an epic fantasy or perhaps a whole book of an omnibus. But will customers be buying short stories? They might feel it’s a better value to shop for books that are ordinarily priced $5.99 and up and have hundreds of thousands of words. Time will tell.
  • This may be great for children’s books. You can read your child 30 different stories in a month for $9.99, reading one bedtime story every night. Children’s authors should be advertising this benefit to customers. It can help children’s authors sell more e-books through Kindle Unlimited.

What do you think about Kindle Unlimited?

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2014 Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

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