Is Kindle Unlimited Worthwhile For Self-Publishing Authors And Their Ebooks?

Is kindle Unlimited Worth It

Is Amazon Kindle Unlimited worth it for authors. After twelve 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 than 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. 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 too dissimilar to offering free ebooks.

But then again, I suppose I have to add some balance here. I got paid a tiny royalty payment 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 it was heartening to see that there were still real ebook sales from Amazon.

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 sales are much harder to get compared to a few years ago. 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 

Derek Haines

A Cambridge CELTA English teacher and author with a passion for writing and all forms of publishing. My days are spent writing and blogging, as well as testing and taming new technology.

Avatar for Derek Haines

15 thoughts on “Is Kindle Unlimited Worthwhile For Self-Publishing Authors And Their Ebooks?

  • Avatar for H L Wegley
    November 28, 2020 at 7:24 am

    I write high-action, suspense stories. Once I had published about 10 (300-400-page) novels, I started to earn enough money to supplement my retirement income. I publish my ebooks for Kindle, exclusive to Amazon, and I put my ebooks in KU. About 10% of my income comes from sales and 90% comes from pages read. As long as I write good page turners, I can’t complain about my earnings.

  • Avatar for Christopher David Knox
    August 22, 2019 at 2:06 am

    Thanks for the update. Hard to find much news on the Kindle Unlimited and Amazon outside the wave of get rich schemes from con artist these days. I put a lot of thought into it and expected as much. The market has been crushed by a flood of cheap and readers are willing to pay much of anything right now.

  • Avatar for R Writer
    June 1, 2019 at 5:19 pm

    I once was exclusive with a Publisher. The Publisher decided to list all titles available on KU. This 6 month test reduced royalties by 56% from previous 6 months. They decided to exit program. Now I self publish almost exclusively. New work and rights regained work. Regained work exclusively published on KU and 2 year old work KU listed. It’s not because I’m greedy that I offer new work for $3.99 it’s just economics. On my last published work 5/1 book 4 in series it cost me $900 to publish and if it were KU after tax adjustment I would need 1206.5 KU full reads before I made a penny. I need the revenue from each new book to pay production costs on on the next one. With Amazon paying like they do the quickest I can publish is once every 4 months without going out of pocket. At $3.99 on Amazon I have to sell 703 ebooks before I make a penny above production and tax expenses…..and I have to do that within 60 days to pay for the next one. So for me, it’s not an option to be exclusive KU. Maybe as I grow my readership it would make sense…and I would love to be rewarded with bonus KU royalty incentives but right now I have to write and publish. Best Wishes

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