Amazon Kindle Unlimited was worth a try. But after 12 months, I probably have to say, thank you but no.
Like all new ideas, it takes some time to decide if it works or not. But after trying it, here is my Kindle Unlimited review from a self-publishing author’s perspective.
Is Kindle Unlimited worth it for authors? The answer depends on many factors, so there is no way I can give a definitive yes or no.
Kindle Unlimited (KU) uses the KENPC page reads scale to calculate the royalty that Amazon pays to authors. I have to say that compared to a regular ebook sale, the return is quite modest.
The Kindle Unlimited library of cheap reads
The fundamental problem I have with KU is that it undervalues the price of an ebook.
If a reader completes a full ebook, the return is approximately fifty-percent or even less compared to a standard ebook sale.
Avid KU readers have unlimited access to so many books per month. So, of course, they can save a lot of money by reading from the selection of one million books or so that are available to them.
Yes, it’s a great deal for avid readers with a Kindle device or app, but what about a published author?
For an ebook that retails at say, $3.99, the return to an indie author for a full read on KENPC is somewhere around $1.35.
Also, keep in mind that this return can vary each month depending on how much money Amazon allocates to the KDP Select Global Fund for KU.
All of this means that Amazon will heavily discount your ebook.
How readers use KU
So many of the page reads I obtained were for only a few pages of a Kindle book. You might think that readers could easily have read these few pages for free in the preview read or with Prime reading.
But KU has over a million titles, so for a KU reader, it is easier to flit from one book to another and take a quick bite before deciding to read on.
Quite honestly, can you give back a hamburger after two bites and only pay for what you ate?
From my experience, having my books included in KU was not far removed from offering free ebooks.
But then again, I suppose I have to add some balance here. I got paid a very small commission for those few pages that could have been read for free.
Do you want real ebook sales?
Amazon has around a million ebooks available for its Kindle Unlimited subscription service of $9.99 per month. There is also a 30 day free trial period. It is close to free access to as many ebooks as one can try.
A few pages here, a few pages there, until a reader finds a book they like.
As an author, I have to say no to this pick and choose, because I can, way of reading ebooks. But I might be old-fashioned in my thinking.
A reader has plenty of opportunities to assess an ebook before purchase through reviews and preview reads.
Buying an ebook should not be a ‘try before you buy’ or ‘take one bite’ experience.
I’m sorry, but if a reader wants to read one of my ebooks, paying for it on the Amazon Kindle Store is the customary way to reward my efforts.
From this, you will understand why I exited KDP Select and Amazon exclusivity and returned all my ebooks to open publishing.
If Amazon gave me a choice to opt-out of Kindle Unlimited but to stay in KDP Select, I might have taken a different approach.
But clearly, Amazon needs cheap KU ebooks for avid readers.
I said goodbye
Kindle Unlimited is great for a voracious reader who likes to read on the cheap. But for an author, I’m still not sure it’s such a great deal.
But I said goodbye to KDP Select and went back to open publishing on all available retailers.
It took a couple of months to get all my ebooks out of Amazon exclusivity, but I was heartened by the fact some real ebook sales from Amazon continued.
For my ebooks that I returned to being available through Draft2Digital on Apple B&N, Kobo, and others, I started to see some sales again after a slow restart.
Thank you Kindle Unlimited, it was nice knowing you, but you were not my cup of tea.
But it is not so simple
For authors, there is no perfect world. In fact, book publishing is a very tough business now.
The ebook market is over-supplied, and compared to a few years ago, sales are much harder to get. It applies not only to self-publishers but traditional publishers as well.
I am sure you have noticed that in recent times, some of the big publishers now have titles in KU. It is a sign of the times.
Sometimes you have to bow to market forces and go to where the market is most active right now.
If you are not getting a lot of regular ebook sales, is it worth accepting that the smaller return from Kindle Unlimited is the best bet right now?
It’s a difficult decision. But it is one that authors, including me, will have to make.
Perhaps, for now, I have said au revoir to KU instead of a definite goodbye.
Further reading: Kindle Unlimited Has A Problem – It Can’t Count