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There are reasons to be positive about Kindle Unlimited:
- The per-page rate is $0.00454 for May, 2018 for books borrowed through Kindle Unlimited and Amazon Prime, which is almost identical to what it was ($0.00456) in April, 2018.
- The per-page rate has been quite stable this year, very close to $0.0045 each month since January, 2018.
- The KDP Select Global Fund made a significant jump, climbing to $22.5 million for May, 2018 (compared to $21.2 million for April, 2018).
- The KDP Select Global Fund has steadily risen for years: $22.5 million is a new high. (Many people argued with me when the per-page concept was introduced, saying it would quickly drop down way below $10 million.)
- The Kindle Unlimited market is significant. Amazon is on pace to pay $250,000,000 in royalties for KDP Select eBooks borrowed through Kindle Unlimited (and also Amazon Prime, though Prime is far less significant). That’s in addition to All-Star bonuses and whatever Amazon pays the traditionally published books that participate in the program. That’s a significant share of the eBook market, and since many of the books are KDP Select eBooks, this is a fairly indie-friendly market.
TRY TO STAY POSITIVE
As a general rule, people who are upset about something are more likely to express their opinions (especially strong opinions).
(Beware also that some people who complain loudly have ulterior motives.)
This can make it a challenge to remain positive.
But if you want to remain motivated and improve your chances of reaching your long-term goals, you need to stay hopeful.
(And avoid getting sucked into black holes of complaining and despair.)
If you do get upset about something, channel your feelings and passion into something productive. Find a way to help it motivate yourself, as some successful authors have done by posting rejection letters on their walls.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT KINDLE UNLIMITED
It’s too easy to get negative.
For example, you could look at the total number of books in Kindle Unlimited, or just the massive number added in the last 30 days.
But every negative has a positive. Instead of thinking of the large number of books as competition, think of how beneficial this is to help attract readers and keep them in the program (which if Amazon can continue to pay $20M per month in royalties and steadily growing, this is obviously working well).
Just like the big mistake that the “foolish” author who bashes the competition makes, similar books really don’t compete against one another. They are really complementary books that can thrive together. Customers read one good book, then want to find similar books. If an author persuades customers not to read similar books, many customers won’t discover that author’s books through those other books.
So here are a few things that I like about Kindle Unlimited (as both an author and a reader):
- It’s affordable. Many of the books that I read in Kindle Unlimited sell for $5 and up. If I read a mere two books per month, I actually save money. When I’m not super busy with editing my own books, I easily read more than two books per month.
- Recently, my daughter dragged me into a physical bookstore. I spent more money buying one ordinary novel than it would have cost for my entire monthly subscription to Kindle Unlimited.
- For the nonfiction and educational books that participate, Kindle Unlimited is a convenient digital library. I wish there was more nonfiction content in the program. My nonfiction books participate, and the amount of nonfiction and educational books in the program is growing. Just imagine if someday, it were more convenient to look something up in a book in Kindle Unlimited than to use a search engine. (With search engines, very often one of the top search results has a nag screen to subscribe to their site. I haven’t even used the site yet to see if it’s worth subscribing to. If it were convenient to look to Kindle Unlimited for the answer, I could bypass some of those nag screens and advertisements, and I would be far less worried about getting a virus or spyware while searching for the answer.) It’s great when Kindle Unlimited has the nonfiction information I’m looking for, and sometimes it does.
- As an author, I appreciate that each Kindle Unlimited (and Amazon Prime) borrow helps with sales rank (just as much as an ordinary paid sale). Occasionally, a book where sales are starting to taper off sees much extended life through regular borrows. A book with several daily borrows can compete with a book that has several daily sales.
- I love seeing the number of pages read in my KDP royalty reports. I love knowing that not only did people borrow the book, but they are actually reading much of it, too. With math workbooks, I sometimes worry that people will start solving problems, but then give up. With Kindle Unlimited, sometimes the page count is a pleasant surprise, and shows me that people really are using my workbooks.
- Conversely, if you’re not getting many pages read, this provides valuable marketing insight. Either your content isn’t as engaging as it could be, or your cover, description, and marketing are attracting the wrong audience for your book. Try changing things up until you finally get more pages read.
- As I mentioned earlier, Kindle Unlimited is a very large, fairly indie-friendly market. Of course, with a couple million books to choose from, your book might not be among the popular reads, but the potential is certainly there (and not being among the popular reads is problematic with ordinary sales, too: if you can learn to write engaging content and a few effective marketing strategies, Kindle Unlimited can be helpful).
- Although I don’t believe that KDP Select books are shown any direct favoritism, there appear to be indirect benefits: sales rank (as I mentioned earlier), the Kindle Unlimited filter (so that Kindle Unlimited customers can quickly find participating books: to these customers, many other books don’t even exist), etc.
- For authors who write longer books, the KENPC is sometimes generous compared to the actual paperback page count, such that if a single customer reads the entire book, the Kindle Unlimited royalty may be higher than the royalty for a paid sale. This is the case with my longer books. (For authors of shorter books, this might seem unfair. But again, I’m trying to find ways to look at the positive, not the negative. I’d rather not open that can of worms—again—right now.)
I try to be pragmatic:
- Is my experience as a reader better with Kindle Unlimited or without it? In my case, it’s much better. It’s affordable, I have fewer books to search through (I use the Kindle Unlimited filter), and I use it avidly.
- Do I think that the millions of customers who use Kindle Unlimited are better off because of it? For most of them, I do. It’s affordable, it encourages them to read regularly, and if they are wise in searching for books, there is plenty of engaging content to be found.
- As an author, do I feel that my books are doing better because of Kindle Unlimited than they would be doing if Kindle Unlimited didn’t exist? Absolutely. My Kindle Unlimited royalties themselves aren’t all that significant: I sell more paperbacks, and actually earn more through Kindle sales than through Kindle Unlimited. Yet I’m convinced of several benefits to Kindle Unlimited, like remaining relevant in sales rank through borrows, the fairly indie-friendly readership, and the help that the Kindle Unlimited filter offers in search results.
- If you can’t answer yes to the previous question, being pragmatic, the next thing to ask is: As an author, do you feel that your books are doing better in Kindle Unlimited than they would do outside of Kindle Unlimited? Looking at the large number of books already in the program (in most categories), and the large number added to the program each day, it appears that many authors answer yes to this question. (If not, they should pull their books out of the program and publish on other platforms in addition to Kindle. Some do, of course, but the number who don’t is overwhelming.)
A few years ago, many people said that the KDP Select Global Fund would only temporarily be in the $10 million range, and that it would quickly drop down to the $3 million mark. But instead it has steadily risen, and is now up to $22.5 million.
Every time the per-page rate has taken a dip, numerous people have predicted the end of the world, saying that the per-page rate would drop below $0.04 and never return. However, the per-page rate has never dropped below $0.04 in the United States. The couple of times that it has gotten close, it has rebounded. It has fluctuated both up and down several times, it has spent a little time over $0.05, and this year it has been quite stable near $0.045. (Just recently, I read an article about how we’re “lucky” if Kindle pays $0.03 per page read, but that’s a mistake: In the United States, it has never dipped below $0.04 per page.) I’m not saying that it won’t ever drop below $0.04, but several people have been “positive” in the past that it was going to, and that it would never return to its current level, but each time it rose back up instead of falling below this threshold, and we have a couple of years of data now.
Kindle Unlimited appears to be doing much better than some “experts” have claimed it would.
Sure, it would be great if the Global Fund were $30 million and if the page rate were $0.06. But could Amazon afford to pay that? Let’s remember, Amazon collects a small monthly fee, offers free trials, and lets customers read as much as they want. It’s easy to propose the subscription service of your dreams, but much harder for that service to continue long-term and not go out of business. Amazon has a fairly stable per-page rate, a growing Global Fund, a growing number of participating books, and a subscription service that has lasted for a few years. It appears to be a viable program. Viability is important to me.
Write Happy, Be Happy
Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides